The following review by Erik Gartzke appeared in International Studies Review 5: 371-373, 2003.
All International Politics Is Local: The Diffusion of Conflict, Integration, and Democratization. BY KRISTIAN SKREDE GLEDITSCH. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002, 200 pp. $47.50 (ISBN: 0-472-11267-8).
International politics is intimately linked to geography. States are defined in terms
of borders, and conflict often involves competing claims to territory. It is surprising,
then, that modern social scientific studies of international conflict have shown
relatively little interest in spatial variables, at least until recently. Political geography
has been mostly the purview of geographers rather than political scientists.
All International Politics Is Local by Kristian Skrede Gleditsch joins an important
movement to bring geography into the quantitative analysis of international affairs.
In the book, Gleditsch seeks to bring together three elements: the democratic peace
proposition, secular trends toward democratization and interdependence, and
theoretical insights such as Deutschian integration theory. What is unique about his
approach is that he does all this within the setting of ‘‘political neighborhoods.’’ In
short, he asserts that states exist in context with one anotherFgeographically,
politically, and economicallyFand that this setting cannot be ignored. What he
achieves through his research is exciting, both because of the immediate insights
gained and because of the future potential of his approach as part of international
All International Politics Is Local is organized into seven chapters. Chapters 1 and 2
discuss the empirical motivation for the project (namely, an interest in ‘‘zones of
peace’’), review appropriate literature, lay out the theoretical framework, and
introduce some basic methodological issues of spatial analysis. Chapter 3 defines
terms, describes the data, and applies the discussion of spatial methodology to the
particular concerns of this project. Chapters 4 through 6 address a series of
questions about the spatial relationships among three key variables: democracy,
economic interdependence, and conflict. The three core chapters build on one
another, relaxing assumptions and adding variables or analysis to ensure the
robustness of the findings and to identify the dynamic relationships between two of
the key variables: democratization and development. Chapter 7 summarizes the
findings and offers additional insights and implications.
One way to place All International Politics Is Local within the international relations
literature is in terms of the levels of analysis debate. For much of the post-World
War II period, students of international relations concentrated on systemic
explanations of war and peace. The distribution or concentration of power and
other system variables were thought to explain state behavior. The introduction of
quantitative analysis has provided substantial reason to doubt the explanatory
power of systemic variables (and thus systemic theories), at least in isolation. Almost
synonymously with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, however, scholarship in
international relations began to shift to the dyadic level of analysis and to pay
attention to domestic political variables (Bremer 1992; Bueno de Mesquita and
Lalman 1992; Lake 1992; Maoz and Russett 1993; Russett 1993). Long thought
to be largely irrelevant because of the Hobbesian imperative of international
competition, domestic politics has proven to be an important determinant of
conflict, at least dyadically (Waltz 1954; Organski 1968; Goemans 2000; Russett and
Oneal 2001; Schultz 2001; Reiter and Stam 2002). Gleditsch’s approach offers a
context for the dyad, extending the unit of analysis to include third-party states that
are proximate (that is, neighbors). By itself, this contribution is significant and
useful. Although systems analysis erred in ignoring more immediate determinants
of conflict, current dyadic analysis certainly has overcompensated for past errors by
failing to incorporate extra-dyadic effects.
Another key contribution of All International Politics Is Local lies in its analysis of
the relationship among its principal variables. Students of international relations
have generally not made good use of the insights of political geographers or
sociologists, who emphasize the consequences of the interplay of actors (for
example, in networks). Borrowing from these literatures, Gleditsch shows that the
effects of democracy and democratization on conflict are linked spatially. States are
more likely to democratize if their neighbors are democratic, leading to zones of
relative peace. Gleditsch shows that zones of peace are stable; peaceful neighborhoods
tend to remain peaceful over time. In addition, zones of peace tend to be
zones of prosperity. The effects of interdependence on conflict cannot be treated in
isolation from the effects of interdependence on development or democratization.
The consequences of these empirical insights suggest important ties among
theories, combining the democratic peace with Deutschian integration theory
(Deutsch 1978) and linking developmental arguments with those from the
literature on democratization. These ties are explored throughout the book,
although it is difficult to identify a particular synthesis given Gleditsch’s exploratory
orientation and the need for additional study.
Room for refinement and additional research also exists, of course. One area of
concern involves the concept of ‘‘neighborhoods.’’ Most of the analysis assesses the
effects of national neighbors in a given radius around a state (say, 950 kilometers).
This means that as a construct a neighborhood is largely assumed rather than
demonstrated. Whether all (or some, or most) international politics is local thus
remains to be resolved. Similarly, some of the reported results raise questions about
the claimed symbiosis between domestic and international conflict. The monadic
effect of regime type, for example, although significant for the sample of all
conflicts (domestic and international), is generally much less robust when looking
just at international wars. Moreover, the effect of democracy on conflict does appear
to differ in important ways at the domestic and international levels. Analysis at the
international level (dyadic or above) appears to remain sufficient in some contexts,
even though an explanation sufficient to account for the democratic peace requires
attention to the special dyadic observation.
Gleditsch has achieved something special and innovative. All International Politics
Is Local reminds us that international politics often involves more than simply the
pairing of states, and that the conduct of nations must necessarily involve their
physical proximity and interdependencies. Gleditsch does much to chart an
alternative somewhere between systemic and dyadic analysis. This alone is valuable.
In addition, the book helps link domestic and international conflict and clarifies the
role of key processes such as development and democratization in promoting
peace. It remains a task for future research to better explain the relationships that
Gleditsch identifies. Still, it is likely that, having identified these linkages in a novel
and thought provoking manner, All International Politics Is Local will stimulate much
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