Democratic Peace

A Political Biography
Piki Ish-Shalom

The so-called ivory tower is not—and never has been—isolated from real-world politics


The Democratic Peace Thesis holds that democracies rarely make war on other democracies. Political scientists have advanced numerous theories attempting to identify precisely which elements of democracy promote this mutual peace, with the hope that Democratic Peace could be the final and ultimate antidote to war. However, as these theories were taken up by political leaders, the immediate outcomes were war and the perpetuation of hostilities.

Political theorist Piki Ish-Shalom sketches the origins and early academic development of the Democratic Peace Thesis. He then focuses on the ways in which various Democratic Peace Theories were used by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both to shape and to justify U.S. foreign policy, particularly the U.S. stance on the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the War in Iraq. In the conclusion, Ish-Shalom boldly confronts the question of how much responsibility theoreticians must bear for the political uses—and misuses—of their ideas.

"Clearly written, empirically rich, and politically sophisticated, Ish-Shalom invites IR theorists of all stripes and backgrounds—positive and normative, realist and liberal, rationalist and constructivist, policy wonks and denizens of the 'ivory tower'—to consider both the political consequences of scholarship and their personal obligations in light of them. Not all will agree with his conclusions, but we will think better individually, and do better collectively, for having read and discussed them."
—Daniel Levine, University of Alabama

"This book shows that ideas can migrate to political contexts and shape political behavior even when the political entrepreneur is skilled at manipulation, application, and practice rather than the development of ideas . . . Ish-Shalom demonstrates that the work of critical theorists is actually vitally important both to lay bare the distortions of public debate and to suggest meaningful pathways to address the systematic warping of political theories in public debate."
—Rodger A. Payne, University of Louisville

“This new book by Ish-Shalom . . . examines the [democratic peace] theory in more depth than any single work so far.”

"This will no doubt be an important study and part of the trend challenging the assumptions of the democratic peace theory."
—Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, University of Copenhagen

Cover photo: © rorem/Veer

Piki Ish-Shalom is Associate Professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 280pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2013
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11876-2

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  • $74.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03629-5

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  • $40.95 U.S.

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  • Democratic Peace Thesis, International Relations, US foreign policy, political theory, critical studies