Kristian Skrede Gleditsch


All International Politics Is Local: The Diffusion of Conflict, Integration, and Democratization. By Kristian Skrede Gleditsch. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. 280p. $47.50.

Paul Huth, University of Michigan

This recent book represents an ambitious effort to convince international relations and comparative politics scholars that political behavior is heavily conditioned by the larger regional context within which states are located. As such, fundamental patterns of war and peace, democratic development, and political stability are shaped by regional relationships and strategic interactions.

The layout is as follows. In Chapter 1, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch argues that patterns of military conflict and democratic development cluster regionally and that primary causal influences on these political outcomes are to be found within regions as well. As a result, a regional perspective is critical to improving theoretical analysis and empirical testing. The author then introduces spatial statistics as a tool for empirically measuring and determining the extent of regional patterns and relationships. He then utilizes spatial statistics to demonstrate empirically that there is substantial evidence of regional clustering in terms of international conflict, trade relations, democracy, and regime change. In Chapter 2, the author reviews existing scholarly literatures, on international integration, the democratic peace, and the causes of democracy and regime change. In a thoughtful survey and critique of the theoretical literatures, he recasts existing arguments and hypotheses in regional terms. For example, the conflict behavior of individual states within regions should be strongly influenced by how many neighboring democratic states there are, or by patterns of regional trade. In Chapter 3, he carefully discusses the operational measures for the variables to be tested and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the data sets relied upon.

In the next three chapters (4-6), the author presents a series of statistical tests and, in the process, compares and contrasts his findings to important bodies of existing scholarship in order to clarify which findings are new and how they relate to existing debates. In Chapter 4, the analysis centers on the impact of democracy and democratization on war, while in Chapter 5, the author examines the importance of regional integration on conflict behavior. Finally, in Chapter 6, the empirical analysis concludes with tests on the causes of democracy and regime change.

Across these three chapters the author reports a number of interesting findings that highlight the importance of the regional context. For example, patterns of state involvement in war and conflict are influenced much more by the number of democratic neighbors than by how democratic individual states are. He also finds that democratization is only associated with increased civil war, but even that relationship is conditioned by the number of democratic neighbors in the region. Interestingly, he argues that bilateral trade relations have much weaker effects on conflict behavior than do regional trade relations. Finally, in an analysis of democracy and regime change, the author finds once again that the extent of democracy within the region is strongly associated with how democratic an individual state is. He also reports that transitions to democracy are unlikely to succeed unless most neighboring states are democratic as well. In the concluding chapter, he draws out the contributions of his regional perspective to existing scholarship, as well as some broad policy implications.

There are several strengths to this book. On the theoretical side, the author is to be commended for integrating the study of comparative and international politics. For example, democracy is argued to be a central cause of regional conflict and cooperation, but in turn, democracy and regime survivability are shaped by patterns of regional conflict and the extent of regional democratization. The author also presents a smart and sophisticated effort to recast democratic peace, trade interdependence, integration, and democratization literatures in a regional context. He generally makes a persuasive case that dependent variables are best conceptualized regionally and that causal relationships are likely to operate in powerful ways within regions.

On the empirical side, the book is an excellent example of the higher standards now employed in the best quantitative studies of international relations. The author gives particular attention to the fit between theoretical concepts and their operational measurement. An innovative feature is the use of spatial statistics to measure variables in a regional context. Another strength of the empirical work is the systematic attention given to the robustness of estimated results. For example, through a series of careful reanalyses, the author in Chapter 5 determines that the strongest impact of trade on war and conflict is clustered among European states. Finally, in Chapter 6, he presents a thorough reevaluation of prior statistical studies on democracy and regime change, which points toward the important conclusion that domestic-level influences on democratic transitions and survivability are strongly conditioned by the larger regional political context.

There are, however, some weaknesses in this book, too. Conceptually, the role played by actors outside regions, such as major powers or international institutions in influencing conflict, integration, or democratization, is not addressed very well. As a result, the impact of outside parties that provide extended deterrence, intervene in regional wars, or conduct peacekeeping or peace-building operations is not accounted for. Similarly, the importance of the economic and financial ties of states to such global institutions as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank is left out of the analysis. A second point is that while the authorís recasting of existing theoretical literatures in regional terms is well done, more attention could have been devoted to explicating the causal mechanisms linking the regional context to state-level behavior and then devising more specific tests of those causal links. For example, how does having more democratic neighbors promote democracy within individual individual states? How does more democratic neighbors in the region reduce the conflictual behavior of individual states? In the absence of more fully developed theoretical arguments and tests, the strong empirical findings on the importance of the regional context are intriguing but call out for more research.

On balance, this is an excellent piece of work that combines theoretical synthesis and integration with first-rate statistical analysis. There is much to be learned by picking up All International Politics Is Local and carefully reading it.

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