Kristian Skrede Gleditsch


The ‘‘Neighborhood Effect’’ in International Politics
Department of Political Science, Columbia University

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 relations scholarship.

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 innovation.


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BUENO DE MESQUITA, BRUCE, AND DAVID LALMAN. (1992) War and Reason: Domestic and International Imperatives. New Haven: Yale University Press.

DEUTSCH, KARLW. (1978) The Analysis of International Relations. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

GOEMANS, H. E. (2000) War and Punishment: The Causes of War Termination and the First World War. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

LAKE, DAVID. (1992) Powerful Pacifists: Democratic States and War. American Political Science Review 86:24-37.

MAOZ, ZEEV, AND BRUCE RUSSETT. (1993) Normative and Structural Causes of the Democratic Peace, 1946-1986. American Political Science Review 87:624-638.

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REITER, DAN, AND ALLAN C. STAM. (2002) Democracies at War. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

RUSSETT, BRUCE. (1993) Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for the Post-Cold War World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

RUSSETT, BRUCE, AND JOHN ONEAL. (2001) Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations. New York: W.W. Norton.

SCHULTZ, KENNETH A. (2001) Democracy and Coercive Diplomacy. London: Cambridge University Press.

WALTZ, KENNETH. (1954) Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Columbia University Press.

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