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Russett and Oneal: Triangulating peace

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Russett and Oneal. 2001. Triangulating peace: Democracy, interdependence, and international organizations. New York: W. W. Norton.


There are three variables (X) which produce peace (Y). Each X also helps produce the other two. In addition, peace helps produce the three Xs. The three Xs are democracy, econonmic interdependence, and membership in IGOs. These are basically Kant's variables. All these variables strengthen one another in a "virtuous cycle."

These variables have both dyadic affects and systemic affects. Dyadic effects means that a dyad is more peaceful if it has democracy, economic interdependence, and IGO membership. Systemic effects means that the level of democracy, interdependence, and IGO membership in the system has an independent effect on each dyad, regardless of the individual states' democracy, interdependence, and IGO membership.

Thus, there is systemic evolution.

However, this evolution is the result of states making strategic choices. They can choose to reverse the virtuous cycles and engage in vicious cycles of warfare. Either one is an equilibrium.


The authors base their argument on a hodgepodge of constructivist and rationalist mechanisms. Jacob's handout summarizes them nicely (there's lots of them). Here's a sampling:

  • Interdependence can create peace by (1) Creating commercial interests averse to war (rationalist) and (2) helping develop a more accepting international community with common values and a shared sense of identity (constructivist).
  • Similarly, IGOs contribute to peace by (1) Coercing norm-breakers (rationalist); (2) Mediating among conflicting parties (rationalist); (3) Arbitration decreases transaction costs (contracting, monitoring, etc.) (rationalist); (4) Reducing uncertainty by conveying information (rationalist); (5) Altering perceptions and preferences of expected payoffs (e.g. of trade and/or conflict) (constructivist?); (6) Facilitating norm dispersion (constructivist); (7) Building shared values and identities (constructivist); and (8) Increasing democracy and economic interdependence (indirect effect).