political revue


Year XLVII, 2005, Number 2, Page 68



Peace as a Condition of Democracy*
Immanuel Kant and Alexander Hamilton’s contributions to clarifying the still crucial question of the link between peace and democracy are among the high points of their political thought. Consideration of them brings out the considerable convergence and complementarity of the political theory of these two scholars, first highlighted by Albertini.[1] In this paper, I intend to reconstruct Kant and Hamilton’s basic arguments about the relationship between peace and democracy, and then make some brief observations to highlight the validity of their theories in the light of historical experience.
The teachings of Kant and Hamilton on this topic can be summarised as follows.
— Their advocation of the republican regime can be equated, in modern terms, with an essentially liberal democratic orientation. They do not view the republic as opposed to the monarchy, but as a constitutional system characterised by representation and the separation of powers, which are, of course, the very pillars of the liberal democratic system. The fact that they do not explicitly link the principle of representation to an immediate demand for universal suffrage indicates a gradualistic stance on their part (universal suffrage was introduced in the United States in 1828), certainly not a refusal. So, when we talk about democracy and republic in reference to Kant and Hamilton, we mean liberal democracy.
— This democratic orientation goes hand in hand with a view of international relations, and of the causes of war in particular, that converges with realist political thought. At the time of our two scholars, the principal exponents of this line of thought were Machiavelli, the raison d’état theorists, Hobbes, and Hume. Later, it would develop primarily in the German doctrine of power politics (in particular Hegel, Ranke, Hintze and Meinecke), and in the realist current that developed in the contemporary theory of international relations (from Niebuhr to Waltz).[2] The basic conceptual model that our authors share with political realism is the sovereign state/international anarchy dichotomy. In short, they believe that state sovereignty, or rather the placing of a monopoly on force in the hands of a supreme political authority, has been responsible for removing violence from the domestic life of states: the state, granted the capacity to make the members of society respect laws, has been able to eliminate their recourse to force in order to resolve their disputes.
However, while sovereignty may guarantee peaceful or legal relations within the state, it is the cause of war in relations between states. Indeed, in the international context, state sovereignty means that the state is not subject to laws imposed by a higher authority with a monopoly on force, and this results in a situation of international anarchy. Since disputes that arise in international relations cannot be resolved by the decisions of a sovereign power able to impose an effective legal system, states ultimately resort to acts of force and, ever aware of this possibility, are compelled to arm themselves. Aside from any contingent motivations, herein lies the structural cause of wars.
This idea is the opposite of the theory of the primacy of domestic politics, which, in 1800, was set to become the conceptual basis of liberal democratic internationalism and was already present when Kant and Hamilton were writing. In general terms, the primacy of domestic politics means the conviction that the aggressive and warlike tendencies of states depend mainly on their domestic structures and would consequently be eliminated if these structures were changed. At the time of our authors, many of those with liberal democratic leanings were convinced that wars had their structural root in despotic regimes, and that they would therefore be eradicated once the states became liberal and democratic.[3] Our authors counter the primacy of domestic politics with the thesis that war is inevitable in an anarchic system of states, founded on absolute state sovereignty.
— While Kant and Hamilton converge with political realism in their view of international anarchy as the structural cause of wars, they clearly part company with it when they claim that federalism can overcome anarchy. As we shall see, the two authors differ in their conception of federalism and whether it would become a system that embraces the entire world. However, they both seem to see federalism as the instrument for overcoming absolute state sovereignty, which guarantees peaceful relations within the state but, at the same time, is also the cause of wars between states. Therefore, they go beyond a belief largely characteristic of the theory of political realism, i.e., the belief that international anarchy is a natural situation rather than an historically determined and thus surmountable one. One point should be stressed in this regard. The refusal, on principle, to acknowledge that it is possible to overcome international anarchy — which differs from stressing the enormous difficulty of such a design, which must be considered a gradual and long-term one — reflects a nationalist ideological choice and is contrary to the universalism that so profoundly inspired the Enlightenment.[4]
— As these brief observations show, our two authors express the conviction that the liberal democratic system can be fully achieved and endure only in a context of structural international peace. This is because in a situation of structural war, in which war is always possible and must constantly be prepared for, even when it is not actually taking place, security needs take precedence over the needs of freedom and democracy, thus favouring authoritarian tendencies. Once again, the contrast with the theory of the primacy of domestic politics is obvious. In order to achieve structurally peaceful relations between states, it is not merely a question of turning the states into liberal democracies. It is one of overcoming absolute sovereignty so as to eradicate war and create the context in which freedom and democracy may prosper.
Now let us examine the specific contributions made by our two authors. Although they are part of an essentially convergent point of view, there are certain differences that should be pointed out. For the purposes of this analysis, it is best to start with Hamilton.
The basic texts to look at are essays n. 6, n. 7, n. 8 and n. 9 from The Federalist (although the subject is taken up again in other writings that are not cited here).
The line of reasoning that is developed in the first two essays regards the inevitability of anarchy (conflicts conducted through acts of force, i.e., wars) should the American states refuse to move from a confederation, which does not undermine absolute state sovereignty, to a federation, which involves overcoming it. The reasons for the hostilities that generally emerge in relations between nearby states are identified, and the specific motives for the conflicts that are bound to surface in relations between the American states and fuel a situation of permanent war are consequently underscored within this theoretical context. These considerations are summed up in a famous passage: “To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties situated in the same neighborhood would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages”.[5]
This reasoning incorporates a criticism of the basic argument used by the opponents of the federal constitution “to advocate the paradox of perpetual peace between the States, though dismembered and alienated from each other”.[6] This is precisely the theory of the primacy of domestic politics, which Hamilton presents in this way: “The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men, and to extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into wars. Commercial republics, like ours, will never be disposed to waste themselves in ruinous contentions with each other. They will be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of mutual amity and concord.”[7] Hamilton’s challenge to this argument is based mainly on the consideration that history has plainly shown that democratic governments are as prone to war as monarchies, and that commerce has been the cause of innumerable wars.
The theory that the federation will guarantee perpetual peace among the American states is further strengthened by the claim that peace is a condition of democracy. This claim is specifically articulated in essay n. 8, whose central idea can be summarised as follows: the federation is necessary to ensure that a system of sovereign states like the one in Europe does not arise in North America. Not only would such a system mean perpetual war, but in terms of relations within the states it would also create a situation like that of the European Continental powers. In essence, American liberties “would be a prey to the means of defending ourselves against the ambition and jealousy of each other.”[8]
In this essay, the analysis of the European system of states contains a lucid view of the extent to which international relations affect the internal evolution of states. Hamilton understood that the European system was always poised on a knife-edge between the next wave of hegemony and a stability preserved only through constant vigilance, and that this led to the creation of a centralised and authoritarian bureaucratic military apparatus within the Continental states, which was a response to the need for a rapid and flexible means of defence and offence. Constant international tensions on the Continent and the need to defend extensive terrestrial borders had made it necessary to give priority to security and defence needs. On the other hand, the influence of the means for defence and offence, above all the impact of large permanent armies, had shifted the axis that determines the domestic evolution of the state away from those factors in society that develop freely and spontaneously, and towards political factors that lead to centralisation and absolutism.
Hamilton understood that America could avoid this fate if the formation of sovereign states were impeded. “If we are wise enough to preserve the Union we may for ages enjoy an advantage similar to that of an insular situation”.[9] Moreover, to illustrate the advantages of this insularity, he described certain characteristics of the English state with these words, a distinguished example of genuine political thought: “An insular situation, and a powerful marine, guarding it in a great measure against the possibility of foreign invasion, supersede the necessity of a numerous army within the kingdom… No motive of national policy has demanded, nor would public opinion have tolerated, a larger number of troops… This peculiar felicity of situation has, in a great degree, contributed to preserve the liberty which that country to this day enjoys, in spite of the prevalent venality and corruption. If, on the contrary, Britain had been situated on the continent, and had been compelled, as she would have been, by that situation, to make her military establishments at home coextensive with those of the other great powers of Europe, she, like them, would in all probability be, at this day, a victim to the absolute power of a single man.”[10]
Thus Hamilton, with great authoritativeness, becomes part of the tradition of realist political thought. Not only does he see that international anarchy is the structural cause of war, he also lucidly perceives how international relations affect the internal evolution of states, anticipating the teachings of Ranke,[11] Seeley,[12] Hintze[13] and Dehio[14] on the differences between the insular and the Continental states in the European system. On these grounds, he overturns the primacy of domestic politics argument. It is not the affirmation of democracy in the states that automatically gives rise to perpetual peace. On the contrary, it is perpetual peace that is the irreplaceable condition for the success of democracy, and it can be guaranteed only by overcoming absolute state sovereignty through federalism.
Clearly, Hamilton does not explore the question of how federalism, and hence perpetual peace, might be extended on a global scale. Federalism is conceived of as the instrument for achieving perpetual peace between the American states, and for obtaining a condition of insularity that would protect American democracy from the negative influence of international tensions. By explaining in the most precise and thorough terms, and among the founding fathers of the American Constitution, the nature of the federal state, Hamilton nevertheless made a crucial contribution to efforts to tackle effectively the question of universal peace. Particularly relevant in this regard is essay n. 9, which looks at how the federal system makes it possible to broaden the sphere of democratic government. Here, Hamilton points out that while direct democracy has made it possible to achieve freedom in the city-state, and representative democracy and the separation of powers have made it possible to achieve it in the modern state, the federal structure makes it possible to unify groups of states, thereby avoiding a centralism that is incompatible with effective democratic participation. The federal arrangement allows the organisation of democratic participation on a continental scale. From this argument stems the global potential of the federal state. If the federal system of powers, of representation, and of checks and balances makes it possible to achieve democratic statehood on a continental scale, then surely the development and perfecting of this system, through coordination of the continental, national, regional and local communities in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, can allow its application on a global scale. Therefore, the invention of the federal state is also the invention of a constitutional system that can achieve perpetual peace on the basis of a global democratic system.[15]
Let us now examine the theories of Kant, starting with the aspects that essentially converge with Hamilton’s thought, and then shed some light on the contributions through which the German philosopher substantially enriched the arguments proposed by the American theorist of the federal state.
Kant’s view of interstate relations, like Hamilton’s, is in line with the theory of political realism. He alleges that the interstate society founded on the absolute sovereignty of the state, existing in a condition of “wild freedom”, is inevitably dominated by relations of pure force, since the states , by virtue of their freedom, are foes. In his view, the society of states is in essentially the same condition of uncontrolled freedom that human society was in before, once organised into states, it submitted itself to coaction, that is to a civil constitution, in an attempt to put an end to the situation of war of all against all. In this situation, in which the ultimate way to solve conflicts is through a trial of strength between sides, war is a routine occurrence and always possible. Therefore, even when it is not actually being fought, war is an ever-present reality, because in the periods between one war and the next — these are periods of truce and not of peace — men must always bear in mind the possibility of war and adapt both their feelings and attitudes and the structures of their states accordingly.
According to Kant, peace cannot depend on good will, by which he means the unilateral intention not to subject others to violence, because there is an objective correlation between the organisation of relations among sovereign states and the tendency of states to exercise power politics. Peace must instead be the definitive elimination of any real or potential threat of war, so that men may be free to act without being influenced by the possibility of war. Peace must therefore coincide with a system that has the power to prevent men, whether alone or in groups, from using violence to resolve their disputes and that compels them to solve their differences through law instead. “There is no possible way of counteracting this except a state of international right, based upon enforceable public laws (Universal Federation), which each state must submit to (by analogy with a state of civil or political right between individual men). For a permanent universal peace by means of a so-called European balance of powers is simply an illusion, like that house of Swift’s that was built so perfectly according to all the laws of equilibrium that it collapsed as soon as a sparrow alighted upon it.”[16]
Leaving aside the idea of universal peace (beyond Hamilton’s horizon and something I shall examine specifically further on), Kant clearly converges with the Hamiltonian idea of federalism as the indispensable tool for ensuring permanent peace among states. He also agrees with Hamilton’s ideas about the negative effect of perpetual war on the domestic situation of states, and on the need for structural peace if democracy is fully to develop and to endure.
The title of the seventh thesis in Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose is of key importance in this regard: “The problem of establishing a perfect civil constitution is subordinate to the problem of a law-governed external relationship with other states, and cannot be solved unless the latter is solved”.[17] Kant, setting out three considerations, develops this affirmation.
First, he explains in general terms how the state of permanent war decisively impedes the moral progress of mankind:[18] “So long as states waste their forces in vain and violent self-expansion, and thereby constantly thwart the slow efforts to improve the minds of their citizens by even withdrawing all support from them, nothing in the way of a moral order is to be expected. For such an end, a long internal working of each political body toward the education of its citizens is required. Everything good that is not based on a morally good disposition, however, is nothing but pretense and glittering misery. In such a condition the human will no doubt remain until, in the way I have described, it works its way out of the chaotic conditions of its international relations.”[19]
Second, he sets out the authoritarian implications of international anarchy: “Nowhere does human nature appear less admirable than in the relationships which exist between peoples. No state is for a moment secure from the others in its independence and its possessions. The will to subjugate the others or to grow at their expense is present, and the armaments for defence, which often make peace more oppressive and more destructive of internal welfare than war itself, can never be abandoned.”[20]
In his third consideration, Kant does not refer explicitly to the distinction between continental and insular states, but — in terms that recall Seeley — that security is all the more pressing a concern the greater the threats to a state become: “But as for the external relationship between states, no state can be required to relinquish its constitution, even if despotic (and hence stronger in relation to external enemies), so long as this state is in danger of being engulfed by other states”.[21] Therefore, “politics and morality can only be in agreement within a federal union… And the rightful basis of all political prudence is the founding of such a union in the most comprehensive form possible.”[22]
Having made the convergence with Hamilton clear, we can now examine two aspects of Kant’s political thought which considerably extend Hamilton’s theoretical horizon.
The first is the notion of a universal federation. This means seeing the pacification of relations between states as a plan not limited to one area of the world, but as one that can and must, ultimately, embrace the entire world. It is important to point out here that the Kantian project of perpetual peace cannot be regarded merely as an expression of utopian thought. It is based on the clear awareness that its realisation will require a very long process of maturation on the part of mankind, and that this maturation has concrete bases of development. On the one hand, historically, anarchic relations between individuals have been overcome through the creation of a state authority capable of enforcing the law in domestic relations. Given this historical advance, we should not exclude a priori — as the realists generally do — the possibility that further advances will be made and lead, eventually, to the end of international anarchy too. On the other hand, such advances will be fostered by the combined thrust of two powerful historical forces: the first is the development of trade, which will make humanity more and more interdependent, and increase the occasions for conflict, but at the same time also the need to find ways to resolve disputes peacefully, i.e., to extend statehood, in order not to lose the benefits of trade. The second, due to technical and scientific progress, is the growing deadliness of warfare, which makes it all the more imperative to find ways of overcoming war, and thus of avoiding our collective self-destruction.
A particularly apt example of this reasoning is provided by the following passage: “The friction among men, the inevitable antagonism, which is a mark of even the largest societies and political bodies, is used by Nature as a means to establish a condition of quiet and security. Through war, through the never-ending accumulation of armament, through the want which any state, even in peacetime, must suffer internally, Nature forces them to make at first inadequate and tentative attempts; finally, after devastations, revolutions, and even complete exhaustion, she brings them to that which reason could have told them at the beginning and with far less sad experience, to wit, to step from the lawless condition of savages into a federation of peoples. In a federation of peoples, even the smallest state could expect security and justice, not from its own power and by its own decrees, but only from this great federation… from a united power acting according to decisions reached under the laws of their united will. However fantastical this idea may seem — and it was laughed at as such by the Abbé de St. Pierre and by Rousseau, perhaps because they believed it was too near to realisation — it is certain that this is the inevitable way out from the ills that men mutually provide.”[23]
Clearly, then, Kant, writing at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, had an exceptional capacity to anticipate the growing interdependence that was destined to occur on a Continental and a global scale. He also immediately understood the existential challenges arising from this and their bearing on supranational integration.[24] This great vision obviously renders relative the notion of a separate perpetual peace that can be guaranteed indefinitely by insularity, and also represents a significant leap forwards in Kant’ s political thought compared to that of Hamilton. Against this, it should be stressed that the Kantian plan for perpetual peace fails to define the institutional structure — federalism — crucial to the future pacification of mankind. These imprecisions and ambiguities have led many scholars to view Kant as a confederalist.[25] I believe, instead, that he does desire the global republican state, and that his uncertain definition of the universal federation depends on a failure to appreciate the ability of the federal state to extend statehood on an increasingly grand scale without compromising democracy and thereby benefiting despotism. Hamilton’s extraordinary remarks about extending the sphere of democratic government could later be seen to complement, crucially, Kant’ s call for perpetual peace. At the time they were expressed, however, these ideas were not only little known, they were also still to be borne out by experience. In other words, the world had yet to witness the permanent and sound workings of the federal state model.[26]
The second aspect of Kant’ s political thought that, compared to Hamilton’s, adds something to our analysis, is his view of democracy as a structural stimulus for interstate pacification, and thus for the federalisation of international relations. This is implicit in Hamilton, if you look closely enough. He strongly emphasises that an internal democratic order alone is not an adequate foundation on which to build permanent peace, and at the same time very convincingly points out that the federation of states fulfils a vital need of democracies: democracies need peace like living things need air to breathe. Kant, however, in the First Definitive Article for Perpetual Peace, spells this out when he indicates the republican regime as the basic premise for building structural peace. Here, he specifies that bellicose tendencies are objectively hindered in political systems founded on democratic governments as it is the citizens, not the sovereigns, who decide. Furthermore, it is the citizens who directly pay the price of war.
This argument has been the subject of misinterpretations that have led many scholars — the very same ones who interpret Kant in a confederalist sense — also to consider him an adherent of the theory of the primacy of domestic politics. In other words, they view him as an ante litteram liberal democratic internationalist.[27] In truth, this interpretation is plainly challenged by the fact that Kant sees absolute state sovereignty rather than despotism as the structural cause of war. He also maintains that there is a need to overcome absolute sovereignty through federalism in order to achieve perpetual peace. I therefore feel that it is far more in keeping with the overall framework of Kant’s political thought to interpret his considerations in the First Definitive Article for Perpetual Peace in the following terms:
— the republic, unlike the despotic regime, is characterised by a power that is limited through the combined mechanisms of representation and the separation of powers. As a result, it objectively hinders bellicose tendencies;[28]
— precisely because it is a power system limited by liberal democratic mechanisms, the republic relies crucially on the structural pacification of interstate relations, whereas despotism works better in war;
— only political systems founded on the limitation of power are prepared to accept the limitations of sovereignty on which the supranational federal system is founded; despotic regimes, on the other hand, are suited only to unifications of an imperial type.[29]
What ultimately emerges from Kant’s discussion is that the historical force that nourishes democracy also contains the stimulus to pacify relations between states on a global level.
Now that I have reconstructed Kant and Hamilton’s convergent and complementary contributions to the question of peace as a condition of democracy, I wish to make some observations about the validity of these contributions in the light of historical experience.
The first observation concerns the history of the United States of America. The teachings of Hamilton and Kant are an essential guide to fully understand the domestic evolution and international politics of this country. Three points should be emphasised in this regard.
— The Federal Constitution of 1787 really did prove capable of pacifying relations between the American states that were united under it. There was, it is true, the terrible experience of the War of Secession, caused by the need to preserve the federal union. Yet this exception apart, the United States’ history has been one of more than two hundred years of structural peace between the states, and it is this that has allowed the USA to become the foremost nation in the world. On the other hand, the European system of states has been characterised by continuous wars and the constant preparation for wars and, it is this circumstance that ultimately led to the collapse of European centrality in the world system.
— American insularity failed much sooner than Hamilton expected, and we can say that Kant had the better grasp of the powerful dynamics of the growing interdependence produced by the Industrial Revolution. America’s total involvement, from the two World Wars in the world’s power struggles, and the fact that the USA gradually became the greatest power in the world system of states, have favoured this country’s internal evolution, which bears out our two authors’ teachings on the effect that international relations have on the domestic evolution of states. We are all familiar with the abnormal strengthening, in the United States both of the central government at the expense of the power of the member states (which leads one to question the federal nature of the USA) and of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative and judicial branches (which reminds one an imperial republic). And it is difficult to deny that the growing involvement of the USA on the international scene and the consequent creation of an enormous military-industrial apparatus is a decisive factor in this involution.[30]
— The process of globalisation is linked to the emergence of existential challenges for mankind, which has now become a community of destiny. There is no need to explain here the importance of issues such as non-governed economic interdependence (with all its implications in terms of catastrophic financial-economic crises, the gap between the rich and the poor, emigrations of biblical proportions), the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and transnational organised crime, and the crisis of the ecological equilibrium. The point is that these challenges can find a valid response only in the gradual but effective creation of Kantian perpetual peace. The historical topicality of this project allows us to understand (beyond what the news tells us) the basic trends that are emerging in the political life of the world’s greatest power: clear leanings towards a move from power politics to a policy for a more just and more peaceful world (also to help reverse the above-mentioned involutional tendencies) that therefore accept the prospect of restrictions on American sovereignty.[31] However, since it is clearly difficult for a country whose power is not adequately counterbalanced at international level to accept the price to be paid for giving up its enormous economic privileges and limiting its sovereignty, the problem of how to govern the world continues, for the time being, to be dominated by imperial, hegemonic tendencies.[32]
The second observation concerns the European experience after 1945. In this regard too, our two authors’ teachings are extraordinarily illuminating. I draw your attention to four points.
— The material and spiritual destruction of war, which peaked at the time of the two World Wars, paved the way for the crucial historical change that followed in their wake. In other words, it set the stage for the process of peaceful integration that gradually drew in the whole of Europe. That this process got under way at all can, to a great extent, be attributed to the driving force of America and the fear of Soviet domination. But, the fact that it continued to advance even when these two factors were no longer relevant is an indication that the process of peaceful integration of the European states is really rooted, deeply and enduringly, in the Europeans’ understanding of the “unite or perish” alternative before them.[33]
— The process of integration has not yet reached the federative goal recommended by the Schuman Declaration of May 9th, 1950, and consciously and resolutely desired by European federalist organisations in particular. Nevertheless, the European institutions go far beyond the confederal ties typical of international organisations that are purely intergovernmental. The process has a federal vocation in the sense that if it does not make progress in this direction, it is destined to fail and jeopardise the great advantages that have been acquired because of it. Integrated Europe has thus become the world’s leading region in terms of interstate pacification, social and economic progress and, as a result, democratic development, which is no longer impeded by power struggles between European states. The European Community (later the European Union) has therefore become a pole of attraction, and been decisive in the peaceful overcoming of the right-and left-wing authoritarian regimes in Europe. The dissolution of Yugoslavia is an exception to this rule, and is clearly linked to the EU’s inability — this may be attributed to its failure, to date, to achieve federation — to work as a single entity at international level.
— On the basis of its experience of pacification through the limiting of state sovereignty, the European Union has tended to encourage global pacification. This orientation is manifested, in particular, by: its strong stance in favour of the International Criminal Court and the Tokyo Protocol; its support for a stronger UN and the globalisation of human rights; its policy aimed at encouraging regional integrations; the fact that the European Union and its member states provide most of the resources for aid and development; and the fact that Europe is home to the world’s largest peace and solidarity movements.[34] That said, it is also clear that the EU, because its federalisation is incomplete, has failed to transform its calling into an effective and systematic strategy for world unification.
— Full federalisation of the European Union means having a single foreign (including development aid) and security and defence policy. This does not mean increasing overall military spending, but rather concentrating the currently inefficient military spending of individual nations into much more efficient military spending at European level. Full federalisation also means having a supranational power of taxation and of constitutional revision that cannot be vetoed by individual nations. These are necessary choices to ensure that European integration endures and that the European Union can act autonomously at international level and, as a result, counterbalance the excessive power of the USA and become its equal partner. Such a partnership could thus become the driving force of a policy of worldwide unification and democratisation which, in a world threatened by existential challenges, responds to the vital interests of people everywhere, but needs the priority commitment of the democracies.[35]
My final observation regards the theory of democratic peace. This theory is the most modern interpretation of liberal democratic internationalism based on the theory of the primacy of domestic politics. In essence, it argues that history shows us that wars with, or between, non-democratic states are far more common than wars between democratic states. This tendency has, since 1945, become so marked that there is even talk of a separate perpetual peace among democracies, founded precisely on the structurally peaceful orientation of these forms of government.[36] This point of view is definitely not in tune with the teachings of Kant and Hamilton in that, essentially, it denies the basic link between peace, democracy and the limiting of state sovereignty. In my opinion, the relationships between the democracies after 1945 can be convincingly explained bearing in mind several factors, whose crucial relevance is not made sufficiently clear in the standard conceptual frameworks of the theory of democratic peace.
First, America’s hegemony over the rest of the democratic world that was established during the Cold War (and to a lesser degree still exists in the post-bipolar system) has clearly performed a peacekeeping function, although one that is by and large imperialistic. Second, having undermined the structural foundations of power politics by limiting state sovereignty, European integration, with its federal vocation, constitutes a decisive factor in the pacification of the European nations and in their general democratisation. There would have been fewer democracies and greater tensions, even among the democracies themselves, in a non-integrated and thus structurally underdeveloped and unstable Europe. Third, since 1945, the presence of weapons of mass destruction, combined with increasing economic interdependence, has meant that war between advanced countries is tantamount to collective suicide. This situation has affected all of the technologically advanced states but has had a particular impact on the democratic ones, which are more highly developed and more deeply entrenched in the system of economic interdependence. Moreover, conflicts have primarily involved underdeveloped countries and have chiefly taken the form of civil war.
The theory that organically links democracy, peace, and the limitation, through federalism, of state sovereignty is therefore the more convincing. We can say, in conclusion, that a number of factors have created the right conditions for democratic nations to launch a great plan of global pacification and democratisation: the existence of numerous democracies; the depth of their economic interdependence; the vital interest they have in peace; and the threats to the very survival of mankind. The best way to accomplish this plan is through the creation of federal ties, given that the federation is the only instrument that can manage interdependence democratically, and is thus the alternative to imperial relations. Europe, through its full federalisation, is called upon to play a leading role in this process.

* This paper was delivered at the international congress entitled “Immanuel Kant and Alexander Hamilton, founders of federalism. The topicality of a political theory”. The meeting, which took place in Turin on November 26th-27th, 2004, was organised by the Centro Studi sul Federalismo to mark the 200th anniversary of their deaths. The aim was to compare the political theories of these two scholars who both contributed to founding a new vision of history, politics, the state, law and international relations, and who both gave the world a new definition of peace. Through their thought, which emerges as complementary, they were the genuine founders of the modern doctrines of federalism.
[1] Mario Albertini was the first scholar to emphasise this complementarity. See M. Albertini, Il federalismo e lo stato federale. Antologia e definizione, Giuffré, Milan, 1963 (reprinted and expanded under the title Il federalismo, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1993). For Albertini’s place in the history of federalist thought, see Lucio Levi, Il pensiero federalista, Laterza, Bari, 2002 and Corrado Malandrino, Federalismo. Storia, idee, modelli, Carocci, Rome, 1998.
[2] For Kant and Hamilton’s relationship to realistic political theory see L. Levi, La federazione: costituzionalismo e democrazia oltre i confini nazionali, introductory essay to the reprinting of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, Il Federalista, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1997; Sergio Pistone, Friedrich Meinecke e la crisi dello Stato nazionale tedesco, Giappichelli, Turin, 1969; ID. in “Il federalismo, la ragion di Stato e la strategia federalista” in M. Albertini, S. Pistone, Il federalismo, la ragion di Stato e la pace, Altiero Spinelli Institute for Federalist Studies, Pi.Me Editrice, Pavia, 2001; ID. “Imperialismo, Ragion di stato, Relazioni internazionali, Storicismo”, in Norberto Bobbio, Nicola Matteucci, Gianfranco Pasquino, Il Dizionario di Politica, UTET, Turin, 2004.
[3] On internationalism and the theory of the primacy of domestic politics, see S. Pistone (ed.), Imperialismo e politica di potenza. L’analisi dell’imperialismo alla luce della dottrina della ragion di stato, F. Angeli, Milan, 1973, and L. Levi, “Internazionalismo”, in Enciclopedia delle Scienze Sociali, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome, 1966. In the book by Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, Newberry Award Records, New York, 1979, the theory of the primacy of domestic politics is considered as one of the reductionist theories of international politics, focusing on the individual and national level, while the systemic theories focus on the causes operating at international level.
[4] See. M. Albertini, La stato nazionale, Giuffré, Milan, 1960 and reprinted by Il Mulino, Bologna, 1997; and ID., Nazionalismo e federalismo, edited by Nicoletta Mosconi, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1999.
[5] See A. Hamilton, J. Madison, and J. Jay, The Federalist Papers (1788), Penguin, London, 1987, § 6, p. 104.
[6] Ibid., p. 106.
[7] Ibid., p.106. The most authoritative advocates of this theory include Benjamin Constant, De l’esprit de la conquête et de l’usurpation, 1814, Oeuvres, Paris, 1957 and Joseph A. Schumpeter, “Zur Soziologie der Imperialismen”, in Aufsätze zur Soziologie, J.C.B. Mohr, Tübingen, 1953.
[8] See The Federalist Papers, cit., p. 117.
[9] Ibid., p. 117.
[10] Ibid., p. 117.
[11] Among Leopold von Ranke’s work, two exceptional papers must, in particular, be recalled, Le grandi potenze (1833) and Dialogo politico (1836), collected in S. Pistone (ed.), Politica di potenza e imperialismo, cit. It should be pointed out that Ranke’s heuristically valid explanation of the differences between insular states and continental states was accompanied by an ideological concept that justified the authoritarian regime of Prussia and later of united Germany.
[12] John Robert Seeley, whose most important work is The Expansion of England, wrote the famous phrase: “The domestic freedom of a state is inversely proportional to the pressure exerted on its borders” (Introduction to Political Science, Macmillan, London, 1902, Lecture VI). We need to emphasise that in Seeley the realist theoretical orientation goes hand in hand with an ideological orientation in favour of interstate pacification through federalism. See his paper “The United States of Europe”, published in 1871 in Macmillan’s Magazine, London, vol. XXIII (republished in The Federalist, 1989, n. 2 with an introductory essay by Luigi Vittorio Majocchi). Also see S. Pistone “Le critiche di Luigi Einaudi, Giovanni Agnelli e Attilio Cabiati alla Società delle Nazioni nel 1918”, in ID. (ed.), L’idea dell’unificazione europea dalla prima alla seconda guerra mondiale, Fondazione Luigi Einaudi, Turin, 1975, and ID. “Il pensiero federalistico in Piemonte e il federalismo internazionale”, in C. Malandrino (ed.), Alle origini dell’europeismo in Piemonte. La crisi del primo dopoguerra, la cultura politica piemontese e il problema dell’unità europea, Fondazione Luigi Einaudi, Turin, 1993. These papers explain how Seeley’s work influenced the stances in favour of European unity taken by L. Einaudi (see La guerra e l’unità europea, edited by Giovanni Vigo, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1986) and by ,G. Agnelli and A. Cabiati (Federazione europea o Lega delle Nazioni?, Bocca, Turin, 1918, reprint ed. by S. Pistone, Edizione E.T.L., Turin, 1979).
[13] See Otto Hintze, Staat und Verfassung. Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur allgemeinen Verfassungsgeschichte, Vandenhoeck/Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1970; and also, Pierangelo Schiera, Otto Hintze, Guida, Naples, 1974.
[14] See Ludwig Dehio, The Precarious Balance. Four Centuries of European Power Struggle, New York, Knopf, 1962; and also S. Pistone, Ludwig Dehio, Guida, Naples, 1977.
[15] See M. Albertini, “Unire l’Europa per unire il mondo”, in ID., Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit.
[16] See I. Kant, “On the common saying: This may be true in theory, but it does not apply in practice”, in Kant (Hans Reiss ed.), Political Writings, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991, p. 92. All quotations from Kant’s works are taken from this edition.
[17] I. Kant, “Idea for a universal history with a cosmopolitan purpose”, in Kant (Hans Reiss ed.), Political Writings, cit., p. 47.
[18] It should be remembered that Kant viewed the republic as a crucial moment in the moral progress of mankind inasmuch as it is founded on autonomy, i.e., the possibility for men to obey law made by themselves.
[19] I. Kant, “Idea for a universal history with a cosmopolitan purpose”, in Kant (Hans Reiss ed.), Political Writings, cit., p. 49.
[20] I. Kant, “On the common saying: This may be true in theory, but it does not apply in practice”, in Kant (Hans Reiss ed), Political Writings, cit., p. 91.
[21] Ibid., p. 319.
[22] Ibid., p. 334.
[23] Ibid., pp. 132-133. With reference to this argument, treated in Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View, and taken up again in Perpetual Peace and other writings, Antonello Gerbi (La politica del romanticismo, Laterza, Bari, 1932, pp. 191-236) has clearly shown that Kant introduces a dialectic conception of historical development, albeit rudimentary. He sees a driving force of history in the struggles between men, and therefore also in wars, and even goes so far as to say that wars have fostered freedom because the sovereigns had to make concessions to the people to get them to accept the burdens of power politics. This notion goes beyond the idea of progress understood as a linear improvement of humanity, which was very widespread during the Enlightenment. But it is in keeping with the conviction of progress towards a full deployment of reason and morality, albeit through dynamic and radical upheaval. It therefore differs markedly from the Rankian and Hegelian conception of perpetual war, which fails to grasp the implications of its increasing destructiveness and thus considers impossible the elimination of violence in interstate relations.
[24] See M. Albertini, Introduzione a I. Kant, La pace, la ragione e la storia, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1985; L. Levi, “World Unification as a Project and as a Process”, in The Federalist, 1999, n. 3; F. Rossolillo, “Popular Sovereignty and the World Federal People as its Subject” in The Federalist, 1995, n. 3; G. Montani, Il governo della globalizzazione economica e politica dell’integrazione sovranazionale, Lacaita, Manduria, 1999; ID., Ecologia e federazione. La politica, la natura e il futuro della specie umana, Altiero Spinelli Institute for Federalist Studies, Pi.Me Editrice, Pavia, 2004; S. Pistone, “L’unificazione europea e la pace nel mondo”, in Umberto Morelli (ed.), L’Unione Europea e le sfide del XXI secolo, Celid, Turin, 2000.
[25] For the confederalist interpretation of Kant see, among others: Paul Riley, Kant’s Political Philosophy, Rowman and Littlefield, Totowa, 1983; Massimo Mori, “Pace perpetua e pluralità degli stati in Kant”, in Studi Kantiani, 1995, VIII; Daniele Archibugi, “Immanuel Kant e il diritto cosmopolitico”, in Teoria Politica, 1993, n. 2; Arthur Leslie Mulholland, Kant’s System of Rights, Columbia University Press, New York, 1990; Pier Paolo Portinaro, “Foedus pacificum e sovranità degli stati”, in Iride, 1996, IX.
[26] For the federalist interpretation of Kant see, in particular: M. Albertini, Introduzione a I. Kant, La pace, la ragione e la storia, cit.; Y. Yovel, Kant and the Philosophy of History, Princeton University Press, New Jersey and Oxford, 1980; L. Levi, Federalismo e integrazione europea, Palumbo, Palermo, 1978; Anna Loretoni, Pace e progresso in Kant, ESI, Naples, 1996; Giuliano Marini, Tre studi sul cosmopolitismo Kantiano, Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, Pisa, 1998.
[27] See note 25.
[28] In this regard, Bruce Russet’s observations are helpful (Grasping the Democratic Peace, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1993) when he explains that the international behaviour of the old democracies differs a great deal from that of liberal democracies because representation and a separation of powers were lacking. Less convincing are his conclusions about the relationship between peace and liberal democracies, whose basic point of reference is the theory of the primacy of domestic politics.
[29] This does not mean there is no structural resistance to limiting sovereignty in democratic regimes as well. The law of the self-preservation of power, explained by Machiavelli, is also true for these regimes, the difference being that tendencies towards interstate pacification are more likely. As Altiero Spinelli explained in Una strategia per gli Stati Uniti d’Europa (edited by S. Pistone, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1989), democratic governments are instruments and impediments vis-à-vis federal unification.
[30] See M. Albertini and F. Rossolillo, “La decadenza del federalismo negli Stati Uniti d’America”, in M. Albertini, La politica e altri saggi, Giuffré, Milan, 1963; S.Pistone, “Fattori internazionali e fattori interni della politica estera americana”, in Il Politico, 1972, n. 1; F. Rossolillo, “How Europe can help the United States”, in The Federalist, 1999, n. 3; Franco Spoltore, “The War on Terror and the Future of the United States” in The Federalist, 2004, n. 3.
[31] See Michael Walzer, Arguing about war, Yale University Press, New Havenl London, 2004.
[32] See Luisa Trumellini, “The New American Policy for Defence and Security”, in The Federalist, 2002, n. 1 and S. Pistone, “La doctrine Bush et l’alternative européenne”, in Fédéchoses, 2003, n. 110.
[33] The rallying cry of Aristide Briand when he presented his plan for a European union to the United Nations Assembly in 1929. See M. Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica. Dalle nazioni all’Europa, edited by N. Mosconi, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1999 and S. Pistone, L’integrazione europea. Uno schizzo storico, UTET, Turin, 1999.
[34] See Secure Europe in a Better World. European Strategy in the Field of Security, the document prepared by the High Representative for the CFSP, Javier Solana, and approved by the European Council in Brussels on 12 December 2003.
[35] See Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, Europa forza gentile. Cosa ci ha insegnato l’avventura europea, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2001; Tzvetan Todorov, Il nuovo disordine mondiale. Le riflessioni di un cittadino europeo, Garzanti, Milano, 2003; S.Pistone, “The Aims of European Foreign Policy and the Features of Europe’s Defence System”, in The Federalist, 2004, n. 2.
[36] A clear, in-depth presentation of the theory of democratic peace contained in Angelo Panebianco, Guerrieri democratici, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1997.




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