The Causes of Peace: What We Know Now

  • Asle Toje, Bard Nikolas Vik Steen (eds.)
2019 | Norwegian Nobel Institute (external site)
Edition: 1
Pages: 438
ISBN: 9781544505046

The Causes of Peace is an edited volume focusing broadly on the determinants of war and peace. The fifteen chapters offer an exposition on the influence of deterrence, ideology, institutions, and hegemony, among others. The editors' goal is to provide an overview of the state of the art. But given the contents this seems to be too generous a description. A main shortcoming is that many chapters are very narrowly focused and often deviate from the book's central theme. If it were an exam, I would be tempted to respond, ‘Answer the question asked’. The contributions are heavily skewed towards political science, and in particular international relations. As such, there is a strong focus on interstate wars and the role and influence of the US during the Cold War. If one is interested in US hegemony or diplomacy, there is plenty on offer. There is however little attention towards other developments, such as the reduction of violent armed conflict in East Asia. Contributions from academic disciplines like anthropology, economics, psychology, and sociology are largely absent. As such, there is little on the microdynamics of war and peace, an area that has gained prominence in recent years. There are nonetheless some interesting chapters. Chapter 5 offers a fresh perspective on Kissinger's contributions to peace; there is an interesting debate on the evidence for the democratic peace hypothesis in chapters 7 and 8; chapter 13 on nuclear deterrence presents a compelling argument; and chapter 15 gives a concise discussion on the decline of violence. However, as a whole, the book fails to engage.
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