The End of History and the Last Man

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The End of History and the Last Man is a 1992 book by Francis Fukuyama, expanding on his 1989 essay "The End of History?", published in the international affairs journal The National Interest. In the book, Fukuyama argues that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government.

"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."[1]

Some see his thesis conflicting with Karl Marx's version of the "end of prehistory".[2]. Some scholars identify the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel as the source of Fukuyama's language, by way of Alexandre Kojève. Kojeve argued that the progress of history must lead toward the establishment of a "universal and homogenous" state[3], most likely incorporating elements of liberal or social democracy; but Kojeve's emphasis on the necessarily "post-political" character of such a state (and its citizens) makes such comparisons inadequate, and is irreducible to any mere "triumph" of capitalism.[4] It is conjectured that Fukuyama learned of Kojève through his teacher Allan Bloom.



Highlights of Fukuyama's thought

Fukuyama's thesis

Fukuyama's thesis consists of two main elements.[5]


According to Fukuyama, since the French Revolution, democracy has repeatedly proven to be a fundamentally better system (ethically, politically, economically) than any of the alternatives.

The most basic (and prevalent) error in discussing Fukuyama's work is to confuse 'history' with 'events'. Fukuyama does not claim at any point that events will stop happening in the future. What he is claiming is that all that will happen in the future (even if totalitarianism returns) is that democracy will become more and more prevalent in the long term, although it may have 'temporary' setbacks (which may, of course, last for centuries).

"The End of History was never linked to a specifically American model of social or political organization. Following Alexandre Kojève, the Russian-French philosopher who inspired my original argument, I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States. The EU's attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a "post-historical" world than the Americans' continuing belief in God, national sovereignty, and their military."[6]

Arguments in favor of Fukuyama's thesis

This graph shows the number of nations in the different categories given by Freedom House in their survey Freedom in the World for the period for which there are surveys, 1972-2005. Nations are categorized as "Free", "Partly Free", and "Not Free". Freedom House considers "Free" nations to be liberal democracies.

Criticisms of Fukuyama's thesis

There have been many criticisms of the "end of history" thesis. Some of these include:

For it must be cried out, at a time when some have the audacity to neo-evangelize in the name of the ideal of a liberal democracy that has finally realized itself as the ideal of human history: never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth.[10]
Derrida's contention is not directed to the relative number of poor which is declining worldwide. Some researchers have found empirical evidence that democracies are better at reducing poverty as compared with non-democracies.[11]
Derrida goes on to analyze Fukuyama's book as taking part in the intellectual branch of current Western Hegemony and the spreading its "New Gospel": "This end of History is essentially a Christian eschatology. It is consonant with the current discourse of the Pope on the European community: destined to become a Christian State or Super-State, this community would still belong therefore to some Holy Alliance." He claims that the book uses a 'sleight-of-hand trick' of making use of empirical data whenever it seems to suit its message, while appealing to an ideal whenever the empirical data contradicts it.[10]

Democracy's only real competitor in the realm of ideas today is radical Islamism. Indeed, one of the world's most dangerous nation-states today is Iran, run by extremist Shiite mullahs. But as Peter Bergen pointed out in these pages last week, Sunni radicalism has been remarkably ineffective in actually taking control of a nation-state, due to its propensity to devour its own potential supporters. Some disenfranchised Muslims thrill to the rantings of Osama bin Laden or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the appeal of this kind of medieval Islamism is strictly limited.

Posthuman future

See also: Transhumanism

Fukuyama himself later conceded that his thesis was incomplete, but for a different reason: "there can be no end of history without an end of modern natural science and technology" (quoted from Our Posthuman Future). Fukuyama predicts that humanity's control of its own evolution will have a great and possibly terrible effect on the liberal democracy.

Publication history

See also


  1. ^ The End of History and the Last Man. (Fukuyama, 1992.)
  2. ^ "This social formation constitutes, therefore, the closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society." Preface to 'A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy' (1859)
  3. ^ Strauss's term, from the Strauss-Kojeve correspendence, published in Leo Strauss, On Tyranny (University of Chicago Press, 1961).
  4. ^ Alexandre Kojeve, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, (Basic Books, 1969), "Note to the Second Edition," p. 159.
  5. ^ It has been suggested, somewhat implausibly, that the origins for the term "end of history" (though not the thesis) might lie with 1066 and all that by WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman (copyright 1930). Chapter 62 describes how history comes to an end when America becomes 'top nation' and refers to this point as 'The End of History'. Sellar and Yeatman's book is a unique parody of history books and was not meant to be taken seriously.
  6. ^ Francis Fukuyama. (2007-04-03). The history at the end of history. The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-18
  7. ^ Democracy's Century: A Survey of Global Political Change in the 20th Century. Freedom House, Inc. (2003). Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  8. ^ Global Conflict Trends. Center for Systemic Peace. (2007-09-26). Retrieved 2008-06-18. Archived version
  9. ^ Human Security Report
  10. ^ a b Derrida, 1994.
  11. ^ Halperin, Myers, Siegle, Weinstein. (2005).
  12. ^ A. GAT, "The End of the End of History" in Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007.
  13. ^ Text of Hugo Chávez's address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 2006
  14. ^ Francis Fukuyama. (2006-08-06). "History's Against Him". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-18.


External links

Sociocultural evolution

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In the unilineal evolution model at left, all cultures progress through set stages, while in the multilineal evolution model at right, distinctive culture histories are emphasized.

Sociocultural evolution(ism) is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societies have changed over time. Note that "sociocultural evolution" is not an equivalent of "sociocultural development" (unified processes of differentiation and integration involving increases in sociocultural complexity), as sociocultural evolution also encompasses sociocultural transformations accompanied by decreases of complexity (degeneration) as well as ones not accompanied by any significant changes of sociocultural complexity (cladogenesis).[1] Thus, sociocultural evolution can be defined as "the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form ... Evolutionism then becomes the scientific activity of finding nomothetic explanations for the occurrence of such structural changes".[2] Although such theories typically provide models for understanding the relationship between technologies, social structure, the values of a society, and how and why they change with time, they vary as to the extent to which they describe specific mechanisms of variation and social change.

Sociocultural modeling[3] is an umbrella term for theories of cultural and social evolution, which aims to describe how cultures and societies have developed over time. Such theories typically provide models for understanding the relationship between technologies, social structure, the beliefs, values and goals of a society, and how and why they change with time[4]. Such models are of particular interest to the military in helping unstable regions transition to more stable sustainable states. Most 19th century and some 20th century approaches aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a whole, arguing that different societies are at different stages of social development. At present this thread is continued to some extent within the World System approach. Many of the more recent 20th-century approaches focus on changes specific to individual societies and reject the idea of directional change, or social progress. Most archaeologists and cultural anthropologists work within the framework of modern theories of sociocultural evolution. Modern approaches to sociocultural evolution include neoevolutionism, sociobiology, theory of modernization and theory of postindustrial society.




Anthropologists and sociologists often assume that human beings have natural social tendencies and that particular human social behaviours have non-genetic causes and dynamics (i.e. they are learned in a social environment and through social interaction). Societies exist in complex social (i.e. with natural resources and constraints) environments, and adapt themselves to these environments. It is thus inevitable that all societies change.

Specific theories of social or cultural evolution are usually meant to explain differences between coeval societies, by positing that different societies are at different stages of development. Although such theories typically provide models for understanding the relationship between technologies, social structure, or values of a society, they vary as to the extent to which they describe specific mechanisms of variation and change.

Early sociocultural evolution theories—the theories of Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and Lewis Henry Morgan—developed simultaneously but independently of Charles Darwin's works and were popular from the late 19th century to the end of World War I. These 19th-century unilineal evolution theories claimed that societies start out in a primitive state and gradually become more civilized over time, and equated the culture and technology of Western civilization with progress. Some forms of early sociocultural evolution theories (mainly unilineal ones) have led to much criticised theories like social Darwinism, and scientific racism, used in the past to justify existing policies of colonialism and slavery, and to justify new policies such as eugenics.

Most 19th-century and some 20th-century approaches aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a single entity. Most 20th-century approaches, such as multilineal evolution, however, focused on changes specific to individual societies. Moreover, they rejected directional change (i.e. orthogenetic, teleological or progressive change). Most archaeologists work within the framework of multilineal evolution. Other contemporary approaches to social change include neoevolutionism, sociobiology, dual inheritance theory, theory of modernisation and theory of postindustrial society.

Classical social evolutionism


Organic society

The 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Khaldun concluded that societies are living organisms that experience cyclic birth, growth, maturity, decline, and ultimately death due to universal causes several centuries before the Western civilisation developed the science of sociology. Nonetheless, theories of social and cultural evolution were common in modern European thought. Prior to the 18th century, Europeans predominantly believed that societies on Earth were in a state of decline. European society held up the world of antiquity as a standard to aspire to, and Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome produced levels of technical accomplishment which Europeans of the Middle Ages sought to emulate. At the same time, Christianity taught that people lived in a debased world fundamentally inferior to the Garden of Eden and Heaven. During The Age of Enlightenment, however, European self-confidence grew and the notion of progress became increasingly popular. It was during this period that what would later become known as "sociological and cultural evolution" would have its roots.

Stadial theory

The Enlightenment thinkers often speculated that societies progressed through stages of increasing development and looked for the logic, order and the set of scientific truths that determined the course of human history. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, for example, argued that social development was an inevitable and determined process, similar to an acorn which has no choice but to become an oak tree. Likewise, it was assumed that societies start out primitive, perhaps in a Hobbesian state of nature, and naturally progress toward something resembling industrial Europe.

While earlier authors such as Michel de Montaigne discussed how societies change through time, it was truly the Scottish Enlightenment which proved key in the development of sociocultural evolution. After Scotland's union with England in 1707, several Scottish thinkers pondered what the relationship between progress and the 'decadence' brought about by increased trade with England and the affluence it produced. The result was a series of "conjectural histories". Authors such as Adam Ferguson, John Millar, and Adam Smith argued that all societies pass through a series of four stages: hunting and gathering, pastoralism and nomadism, agricultural, and finally a stage of commerce. These thinkers thus understood the changes Scotland was undergoing as a transition from an agricultural to a mercantile society.

Philosophical concepts of progress (such as those expounded by the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel) developed as well during this period. In France authors such as Claude Adrien Helvétius and other philosophes were influenced by this Scottish tradition. Later thinkers such as Comte de Saint-Simon developed these ideas. Auguste Comte in particular presented a coherent view of social progress and a new discipline to study it—sociology. The founders of sociology attempted to define their new discipline. In the course of this effort they tried several highly divergent pathways, some suggested by methods and contents of other sciences, others invented outright by the imagination of the scholar. Comte most famously defined his "law of three stages".

These developments took place in a wider context. The first process was colonialism. Although imperial powers settled most differences of opinion with their colonial subjects with force, increased awareness of non-Western peoples raised new questions for European scholars about the nature of society and culture. Similarly, effective administration required some degree of understanding of other cultures. Emerging theories of sociocultural evolution allowed Europeans to organise their new knowledge in a way that reflected and justified their increasing political and economic domination of others: colonised people were less evolved, colonising people were more evolved. When the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described primeval man as living in conditions in which there are "no arts, no letters, no society" and his life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short", he was very much proclaiming a popular conception of the "savage." Everything that was good and civilized resulted from the slow development out of this lowly state. Even rationalistic philosophers like Voltaire implicitly assumed that enlightenment gradually resulted in the upward progress of humankind.

The second process was the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism which allowed and promoted continual revolutions in the means of production. Emerging theories of sociocultural evolution reflected a belief that the changes in Europe wrought by the Industrial Revolution and capitalism were improvements. Industrialisation, combined with the intense political change brought about by the French Revolution and the U.S. Constitution, which were paving the way for the dominance of democracy, forced European thinkers to reconsider some of their assumptions about how society was organised.

Eventually, in the 19th century three great classical theories of social and historical change were created: sociocultural evolutionism, the social cycle theory and Marxist historical materialism. Those theories had one common factor: they all agreed that the history of humanity is pursuing a certain fixed path, most likely that of social progress. Thus, each past event is not only chronologically, but causally tied to the present and future events. Those theories postulated that by recreating the sequence of those events, sociology could discover the laws of history.

Sociocultural evolutionism and the idea of progress

While sociocultural evolutionists agree that an evolution-like process leads to social progress, classical social evolutionists have developed many different theories, known as theories of unilineal evolution. Sociocultural evolutionism was the prevailing theory of early sociocultural anthropology and social commentary, and is associated with scholars like Auguste Comte, Edward Burnett Tylor, Lewis Henry Morgan, Benjamin Kidd, L.T. Hobhouse and Herbert Spencer. Sociocultural evolutionism represented an attempt to formalise social thinking along scientific lines, later influenced by the biological theory of evolution. If organisms could develop over time according to discernible, deterministic laws, then it seemed reasonable that societies could as well. They developed analogies between human society and the biological organism and introduced into sociological theory such biological concepts as variation, natural selection, and inheritance—evolutionary factors resulting in the progress of societies through stages of savagery and barbarism to civilization, by virtue of the survival of the fittest. Together with the idea of progress there grew the notion of fixed "stages" through which human societies progress, usually numbering three—savagery, barbarism, and civilization—but sometimes many more. The Marquis de Condorcet listed 10 stages, or "epochs", the final one having started with the French Revolution, which was destined, in his eyes, to usher in the rights of man and the perfection of the human race. Some writers also perceived in the growth stages of each individual a recapitulation of these stages of society. Strange customs were thus accounted for on the assumption that they were throwbacks to earlier useful practices. This also marked the beginning of anthropology as a scientific discipline and a departure from traditional religious views of "primitive" cultures.

The term "Classical Social Evolutionism" is most closely associated with the 19th-century writings of Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer (who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest") and William Graham Sumner. In many ways Spencer's theory of "cosmic evolution" has much more in common with the works of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Auguste Comte than with contemporary works of Charles Darwin. Spencer also developed and published his theories several years earlier than Darwin. In regard to social institutions, however, there is a good case that Spencer's writings might be classified as 'Social Evolutionism'. Although he wrote that societies over time progressed, and that progress was accomplished through competition, he stressed that the individual (rather than the collectivity) is the unit of analysis that evolves, that evolution takes place through natural selection and that it affects social as well as biological phenomenon. Nonetheless, the publication of Darwin's works proved a boon to the proponents of sociocultural evolution. The world of social science took the ideas of biological evolution as an attractive solution to similar questions regarding the origins and development of social behaviour and the idea of a society as an evolving organism was a biological analogy that is taken up by many anthropologists and sociologists even today.

Both Spencer and Comte view the society as a kind of organism subject to the process of growth—from simplicity to complexity, from chaos to order, from generalisation to specialisation, from flexibility to organisation. They agreed that the process of societies growth can be divided into certain stages, have their beginning and eventual end, and that this growth is in fact social progress—each newer, more evolved society is better. Thus progressivism became one of the basic ideas underlying the theory of sociocultural evolutionism.

Auguste Comte, known as father of sociology, formulated the law of three stages: human development progresses from the theological stage, in which nature was mythically conceived and man sought the explanation of natural phenomena from supernatural beings, through metaphysical stage in which nature was conceived of as a result of obscure forces and man sought the explanation of natural phenomena from them until the final positive stage in which all abstract and obscure forces are discarded, and natural phenomena are explained by their constant relationship. This progress is forced through the development of human mind, and increasing application of thought, reasoning and logic to the understanding of the world.[5]

Herbert Spencer, who believed that society was evolving toward increasing freedom for individuals; and so held that government intervention ought to be minimal in social and political life, differentiated between two phases of development, focusing on the type of internal regulation within societies. Thus he differentiated between military and industrial societies. The earlier, more primitive military society has a goal of conquest and defence, is centralised, economically self-sufficient, collectivistic, puts the good of a group over the good of an individual, uses compulsion, force and repression, rewards loyalty, obedience and discipline. The industrial society has a goal of production and trade, is decentralised, interconnected with other societies via economic relations, achieves its goals through voluntary cooperation and individual self-restraint, treats the good of individual as the highest value, regulates the social life via voluntary relations, values initiative, independence and innovation.[6]

Regardless of how scholars of Spencer interpret his relation to Darwin, Spencer proved to be an incredibly popular figure in the 1870s, particularly in the United States. Authors such as Edward L. Youmans, William Graham Sumner, John Fiske, John W. Burgess, Lester Frank Ward, Lewis H. Morgan and other thinkers of the gilded age all developed similar theories of social evolutionism as a result of their exposure to Spencer as well as Darwin.

Lewis H. Morgan, an anthropologist whose ideas have had much impact on sociology, in his 1877 classic Ancient Societies differentiated between three eras: savagery, barbarism and civilization, which are divided by technological inventions, like fire, bow, pottery in the savage era, domestication of animals, agriculture, metalworking in the barbarian era and alphabet and writing in the civilization era. Thus Morgan introduced a link between social progress and technological progress. Morgan viewed technological progress as a force behind social progress, and any social change—in social institutions, organisations or ideologies have their beginning in technological change.[7] Morgan's theories were popularised by Friedrich Engels, who based his famous work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State on it. For Engels and other Marxists, this theory was important as it supported their conviction that materialistic factors—economic and technological—are decisive in shaping the fate of humanity.

Émile Durkheim, another of the "fathers" of sociology, developed a similar, dichotomal view of social progress. His key concept was social solidarity, as he defined social evolution in terms of progressing from mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity. In mechanical solidarity, people are self-sufficient, there is little integration and thus there is the need for use of force and repression to keep society together. In organic solidarity, people are much more integrated and interdependent and specialisation and cooperation is extensive. Progress from mechanical to organic solidarity is based first on population growth and increasing population density, second on increasing "morality density" (development of more complex social interactions) and thirdly, on the increasing specialisation in workplace. To Durkheim, the most important factor in the social progress is the division of labour.

Anthropologists Sir E.B. Tylor in England and Lewis Henry Morgan in the United States worked with data from indigenous people, whom they claimed represented earlier stages of cultural evolution that gave insight into the process and progression of evolution of culture. Morgan would later have a significant influence on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who developed a theory of sociocultural evolution in which the internal contradictions in society created a series of escalating stages that ended in a socialist society (see Marxism). Tylor and Morgan elaborated the theory of unilinear evolution, specifying criteria for categorising cultures according to their standing within a fixed system of growth of humanity as a whole and examining the modes and mechanisms of this growth. Theirs was often a concern with culture in general, not with individual cultures.

Their analysis of cross-cultural data was based on three assumptions:

  1. contemporary societies may be classified and ranked as more "primitive" or more "civilized";
  2. There are a determinate number of stages between "primitive" and "civilized" (e.g. band, tribe, chiefdom, and state),
  3. All societies progress through these stages in the same sequence, but at different rates.

Theorists usually measured progression (that is, the difference between one stage and the next) in terms of increasing social complexity (including class differentiation and a complex division of labour), or an increase in intellectual, theological, and aesthetic sophistication. These 19th-century ethnologists used these principles primarily to explain differences in religious beliefs and kinship terminologies among various societies.

Lester Frank Ward developed Spencer's theory but unlike Spencer, who considered evolution to be general process applicable to the entire world, physical and sociological, Ward differentiated sociological evolution from biological evolution. He stressed that humans create goals for themselves and strive to realise them, whereas there is no such intelligence and awareness guiding the non-human world, which develops more or less at random. He created a hierarchy of evolution processes. First, there is cosmogenesis, creation and evolution of the world. Then, after life develops, there is biogenesis. Development of humanity leads to anthropogenesis, which is influenced by the human mind. Finally, when society develops, so does sociogenesis, which is the science of shaping the society to fit with various political, cultural and ideological goals.

Edward Burnett Tylor, pioneer of anthropology, focused on the evolution of culture worldwide, noting that culture is an important part of every society and that it is also subject to the process of evolution. He believed that societies were at different stages of cultural development and that the purpose of anthropology was to reconstruct the evolution of culture, from primitive beginnings to the modern state.

Ferdinand Tönnies describes evolution as the development from informal society, where people have many liberties and there are few laws and obligations, to modern, formal rational society, dominated by traditions and laws and people are restricted from acting as they wish. He also notes that there is a tendency of standardisation and unification, when all smaller societies are absorbed into a single, large, modern society. Thus Tönnies can be said to describe part of the process known today as globalization. Tönnies was also one of the first sociologists to claim that the evolution of society is not necessarily going in the right direction, that social progress is not perfect, and it can even be called a regression as the newer, more evolved societies are obtained only after paying a high cost, resulting in decreasing satisfaction of individuals making up that society. Tönnies' work became the foundation of neoevolutionism.

Although not usually counted as a sociocultural evolutionist, Max Weber's theory of tripartite classification of authority can be viewed as an evolutionary theory as well. Weber distinguishes three ideal types of political leadership, domination and authority: charismatic domination (familial and religious), traditional domination (patriarchs, patrimonalism, feudalism) and legal (rational) domination (modern law and state, bureaucracy). He also notes that legal domination is the most advanced, and that societies evolve from having mostly traditional and charismatic authorities to mostly rational and legal ones.

Critique and impact on modern theories

The early 20th century inaugurated a period of systematic critical examination, and rejection of the sweeping generalisations of the unilineal theories of sociocultural evolution. Cultural anthropologists such as Franz Boas, along with his students, including Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, are regarded as the leaders of anthropology's rejection of classical social evolutionism.

They used sophisticated ethnography and more rigorous empirical methods to argue that Spencer, Tylor, and Morgan's theories were speculative and systematically misrepresented ethnographic data. Theories regarding "stages" of evolution were especially criticised as illusions. Additionally, they rejected the distinction between "primitive" and "civilized" (or "modern"), pointing out that so-called primitive contemporary societies have just as much history, and were just as evolved, as so-called civilized societies. They therefore argued that any attempt to use this theory to reconstruct the histories of non-literate (i.e. leaving no historical documents) peoples is entirely speculative and unscientific.

They observed that the postulated progression, which typically ended with a stage of civilization identical to that of modern Europe, is ethnocentric. They also pointed out that the theory assumes that societies are clearly bounded and distinct, when in fact cultural traits and forms often cross social boundaries and diffuse among many different societies (and is thus an important mechanism of change). Boas introduced the culture history approach, which concentrated on fieldwork among native peoples to identify actual cultural and historical processes rather than speculative stages of growth. This "culture history" approach dominated American anthropology for the first half of the 20th century and so influenced anthropology elsewhere that high-level generalization and "systems building" became far less common than in the past.

Later critics observed that this assumption of firmly bounded societies was proposed precisely at the time when European powers were colonising non-Western societies, and was thus self-serving. Many anthropologists and social theorists now consider unilineal cultural and social evolution a Western myth seldom based on solid empirical grounds. Critical theorists argue that notions of social evolution are simply justifications for power by the elites of society. Finally, the devastating World Wars that occurred between 1914 and 1945 crippled Europe's self-confidence. After millions of deaths, genocide, and the destruction of Europe's industrial infrastructure, the idea of progress seemed dubious at best.

Thus modern sociocultural evolutionism rejects most of classical social evolutionism due to various theoretical problems:

  1. The theory was deeply ethnocentric—it makes heavy value judgements on different societies; with Western civilization seen as the most valuable.
  2. It assumed all cultures follow the same path or progression and have the same goals.
  3. It equated civilization with material culture (technology, cities, etc.)
  4. It equated evolution with progress or fitness, based on deep misunderstandings of evolutionary theory[citation needed].

Because social evolution was posited as a scientific theory, it was often used to support unjust and often racist social practices—particularly colonialism, slavery, and the unequal economic conditions present within industrialized Europe. Social Darwinism is especially criticised, as it led to some philosophies used by the Nazis.

Max Weber, Disenchantment, and Critical Theory

Max Weber in 1917

Weber's major works in economic sociology and the sociology of religion dealt with the rationalization, secularisation, and so called "disenchantment" which he associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity.[8] In sociology, rationalization is the process whereby an increasing number of social actions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality, emotion, custom, or tradition. In this sense it is a central aspect of modernity, manifested especially in Western society; as a behaviour of the capitalist market; of rational administration in the state and bureaucracy; of the extension of modern science; and of the expansion of modern technology.

Weber's thought regarding the rationalizing and secularizing tendencies of modern Western society (sometimes described as the "Weber Thesis") would blend with Marxism to facilitate critical theory, particularly in the work of thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas. Critical theorists, as antipositivists, are critical of the idea of a hierarchy of sciences or societies, particularly with respect to the sociological positivism originally set forth by Comte. Jürgen Habermas has critiqued the concept of pure instrumental rationality as meaning that scientific-thinking becomes something akin to ideology itself. For theorists such as Zygmunt Bauman, rationalization as a manifestation of modernity may be most closely and regrettably associated with the events of the Holocaust.

Modern theories

Composite image of the Earth at night, created by NASA and NOAA. The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanized, but not necessarily the most populated. Even more than 100 years after the invention of the electric light, most regions remain thinly populated or unlit.

When the critique of classical social evolutionism became widely accepted, modern anthropological and sociological approaches changed respectively . Modern theories are careful to avoid unsourced, ethnocentric speculation, comparisons, or value judgements; more or less regarding individual societies as existing within their own historical contexts. These conditions provided the context for new theories such as cultural relativism and multilineal evolution.

In the 1920s and 30s, Gordon Childe revolutionized the study of cultural evolutionism. He conducted a comprehensive pre-history account that provided scholars with evidence for African and Asian cultural transmission into Europe. He combated scientific racism by finding the tools and artifacts of the indigenous people from Africa and Asia and showed how they influenced the technology of European culture. Evidence from his excavations countered the idea of Aryan supremacy and superiority. Childe explained cultural evolution by his theory of divergence with modifications of convergence. He postulated that different cultures form separate methods that meet different needs, but when two cultures were in contact they developed similar adaptations, solving similar problems. Rejecting Spencer's theory of parallel cultural evolution, Childe found that interactions between cultures contributed to the convergence of similar aspects most often attributed to one culture. Childe placed emphasis on human culture as a social construct rather than products of environmental or technological contexts. Childe coined the terms "Neolithic Revolution", and "Urban Revolution" which are still used today in the branch of pre-historic anthropology.

In 1941 anthropologist Robert Redfield wrote about a shift from 'folk society' to 'urban society'. By the 1940s cultural anthropologists such as Leslie White and Julian Steward sought to revive an evolutionary model on a more scientific basis, and succeeded in establishing an approach known as neoevolutionism. White rejected the opposition between "primitive" and "modern" societies but did argue that societies could be distinguished based on the amount of energy they harnessed, and that increased energy allowed for greater social differentiation (White's law). Steward on the other hand rejected the 19th-century notion of progress, and instead called attention to the Darwinian notion of "adaptation", arguing that all societies had to adapt to their environment in some way.

The anthropologists Marshall Sahlins and Elman Service prepared an edited volume, Evolution and Culture, in which they attempted to synthesise White's and Steward's approaches.[9] Other anthropologists, building on or responding to work by White and Steward, developed theories of cultural ecology and ecological anthropology. The most prominent examples are Peter Vayda and Roy Rappaport. By the late 1950s, students of Steward such as Eric Wolf and Sidney Mintz turned away from cultural ecology to Marxism, World Systems Theory, Dependency theory and Marvin Harris's Cultural materialism.

Today most anthropologists reject 19th-century notions of progress and the three assumptions of unilineal evolution. Following Steward, they take seriously the relationship between a culture and its environment to explain different aspects of a culture. But most modern cultural anthropologists have adopted a general systems approach, examining cultures as emergent systems and argue that one must consider the whole social environment, which includes political and economic relations among cultures. There are still others who continue to reject the entirety of the evolutionary thinking and look instead at historical contingencies, contacts with other cultures, and the operation of cultural symbol systems. As a result, the simplistic notion of "cultural evolution" has grown less useful and given way to an entire series of more nuanced approaches to the relationship of culture and environment. In the area of development studies, authors such as Amartya Sen have developed an understanding of "development" and 'human flourishing' that also question more simplistic notions of progress, while retaining much of their original inspiration.


Neoevolutionism was the first in a series of modern multilineal evolution theories. It emerged in the 1930s and extensively developed in the period following the Second World War and was incorporated into both anthropology and sociology in the 1960s. It bases its theories on empirical evidence from areas of archaeology, palaeontology and historiography and tries to eliminate any references to systems of values, be it moral or cultural, instead trying to remain objective and simply descriptive.

While 19th-century evolutionism explained how culture develops by giving general principles of its evolutionary process, it was dismissed by the Historical Particularists as unscientific in the early 20th century. It was the neoevolutionary thinkers who brought back evolutionary thought and developed it to be acceptable to contemporary anthropology.

Neoevolutionism discards many ideas of classical social evolutionism, namely that of social progress, so dominant in previous sociology evolution-related theories. Then neoevolutionism discards the determinism argument and introduces probability, arguing that accidents and free will greatly affect the process of social evolution. It also supports counterfactual history—asking "what if" and considering different possible paths that social evolution may take or might have taken, and thus allows for the fact that various cultures may develop in different ways, some skipping entire stages others have passed through. Neoevolutionism stresses the importance of empirical evidence. While 19th-century evolutionism used value judgments and assumptions for interpreting data, neoevolutionism relied on measurable information for analysing the process of sociocultural evolution.

Leslie White, author of The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome (1959), attempted to create a theory explaining the entire history of humanity. The most important factor in his theory is technology: Social systems are determined by technological systems, wrote White in his book,[10] echoing the earlier theory of Lewis Henry Morgan. He proposes a society's energy consumption as a measure of its advancement. He differentiates between five stages of human development. In the first, people use the energy of their own muscles. In the second, they use the energy of domesticated animals. In the third, they use the energy of plants (so White refers to agricultural revolution here). In the fourth, they learn to use the energy of natural resources: coal, oil, gas. In the fifth, they harness nuclear energy. White introduced a formula, P=E*T, where E is a measure of energy consumed, and T is the measure of efficiency of technical factors utilising the energy. This theory is similar to Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev's later theory of the Kardashev scale.

Julian Steward, author of Theory of Culture Change: The Methodology of Multilinear Evolution (1955, reprinted 1979), created the theory of "multilinear" evolution which examined the way in which societies adapted to their environment. This approach was more nuanced than White's theory of "unilinear evolution." Steward on the other hand rejected the 19th-century notion of progress, and instead called attention to the Darwinian notion of "adaptation", arguing that all societies had to adapt to their environment in some way. He argued that different adaptations could be studied through the examination of the specific resources a society exploited, the technology the society relied on to exploit these resources, and the organization of human labour. He further argued that different environments and technologies would require different kinds of adaptations, and that as the resource base or technology changed, so too would a culture. In other words, cultures do not change according to some inner logic, but rather in terms of a changing relationship with a changing environment. Cultures therefore would not pass through the same stages in the same order as they changed—rather, they would change in varying ways and directions. He called his theory "multilineal evolution". He questioned the possibility of creating a social theory encompassing the entire evolution of humanity; however, he argued that anthropologists are not limited to describing specific existing cultures. He believed that it is possible to create theories analysing typical common culture, representative of specific eras or regions. As the decisive factors determining the development of given culture he pointed to technology and economics, but noted that there are secondary factors, like political system, ideologies and religion. All those factors push the evolution of a given society in several directions at the same time; hence the application of the term "multilinear" to his theory of evolution.

Marshall Sahlins, co-editor with Elman Service of Evolution and Culture (1960), divided the evolution of societies into 'general' and 'specific'. General evolution is the tendency of cultural and social systems to increase in complexity, organization and adaptiveness to environment. However, as the various cultures are not isolated, there is interaction and a diffusion of their qualities (like technological inventions). This leads cultures to develop in different ways (specific evolution), as various elements are introduced to them in different combinations and at different stages of evolution.

In his Power and Prestige (1966) and Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology (1974), Gerhard Lenski expands on the works of Leslie White and Lewis Henry Morgan. He views technological progress as the most basic factor in the evolution of societies and cultures. Unlike White, who defined technology as the ability to create and utilise energy, Lenski focuses on information—its amount and uses. The more information and knowledge (especially allowing the shaping of natural environment) a given society has, the more advanced it is. He distinguishes four stages of human development, based on advances in the history of communication. In the first stage, information is passed by genes. In the second, when humans gain sentience, they can learn and pass information through by experience. In the third, humans start using signs and develop logic. In the fourth, they can create symbols and develop language and writing. Advancements in the technology of communication translate into advancements in the economic system and political system, distribution of goods, social inequality and other spheres of social life. He also differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication and economy: (1) hunters and gatherers, (2) simple agricultural, (3) advanced agricultural, (4) industrial, and (5) special (like fishing societies).

Talcott Parsons, author of Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives (1966) and The System of Modern Societies (1971) divided evolution into four subprocesses: (1) division, which creates functional subsystems from the main system; (2) adaptation, where those systems evolve into more efficient versions; (3) inclusion of elements previously excluded from the given systems; and (4) generalization of values, increasing the legitimization of the ever more complex system. He shows those processes on 4 stages of evolution: (I) primitive or foraging, (II) archaic agricultural, (III) classical or "historic" in his terminology, using formalized and universalizing theories about reality and (IV) modern empirical cultures. However, these divisions in Parsons theory is the more formal ways in which the evolutionary process is conceptualized and should not be mistaken for with Parsons' actual theory. Parsons develops a theory, where he tries to reveal the complexity of the processes which take form between two points of necessity, the first is the cultural "necessity," which is given through the values-system of each evolving community; the other is the environmental necessities, which most directly is reflected in the material realities of the basic production system and reflected in the relative capacity of each industrial-economical level at each window of time. Generally, Parsons highlights that the dynamics and directions of these process is shaped by the cultural imperative embodied in the cultural heritage and more secondary an outcome of sheer "economic" conditions.


Sociobiology departs perhaps the furthest from classical social evolutionism. It was introduced by Edward Wilson in his 1975 book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis and followed his adaptation of evolutionary theory to the field of social sciences. Wilson pioneered the attempt to explain the evolutionary mechanics behind social behaviours such as altruism, aggression, and nurturance. In doing so, Wilson sparked one of the greatest scientific controversies of the 20th century.

Sociobiologists have argued for a dual inheritance theory, which posits that humans are products of both biological evolution and sociocultural evolution, each subject to their own selective mechanisms and forms of transmission (i.e. in the case of biology, genes, and cultural evolutionary units are often called memes). This approach focuses on both the mechanisms of cultural transmission and the selective pressures that influence cultural change. This version of sociocultural evolution shares little in common with the stadial evolutionary models of the early and mid-20th century. This approach has been embraced by many psychologists and some cultural anthropologists, but very few physical anthropologists.[citation needed]

The current theory of evolution, the modern evolutionary synthesis, explains that evolution of species occurs through a combination of Darwin's mechanism of natural selection and Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics as the basis for biological inheritance and mathematical population genetics. Essentially, the modern synthesis introduced the connection between two important discoveries; the units of evolution (genes) with the main mechanism of evolution (selection).

Due to its close reliance on biology, sociobiology is often considered a branch of the biology and sociology disciplines, although it uses techniques from a plethora of sciences, including ethology, evolution, zoology, archaeology, population genetics, and many others. Within the study of human societies, sociobiology is closely related to the fields of human behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology.

Sociobiology has remained highly controversial as it contends genes explain specific human behaviours, although sociobiologists describe this role as a very complex and often unpredictable interaction between nature and nurture. The most notable critics of the view that genes play a direct role in human behaviour have been biologists Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould.

Since the rise of Evolutionary psychology, another school of thought, Dual Inheritance Theory, has emerged in the past 25 years that applies the mathematical standards of Population genetics to modeling the adaptive and selective principles of culture. This school of thought was pioneered by Robert Boyd at UCLA and Peter Richerson at UC Davis and expanded by William Wimsatt, among others. Boyd and Richerson's book "Culture and the Evolutionary Process" (1985)[1] was a highly mathematical description of cultural change, later published in a more accessible form in "Not by Genes Alone" (2004) [2]. In Boyd and Richerson's view, cultural evolution, operating on socially learned information, exists on a separate ground from genetic evolution, and while the two are related, cultural evolution is more dynamic, rapid, and influential on human society than genetic evolution.[11]

Theory of modernization

Theories of modernization have been developed and popularized in 1950s and 1960s and are closely related to the dependency theory and development theory. It combines the previous theories of sociocultural evolution with practical experiences and empirical research, especially those from the era of decolonization. The theory states that:

Developing from classical social evolutionism theories, theory of modernization stresses the modernization factor: many societies are simply trying (or need to) emulate the most successful societies and cultures. It also states that it is possible to do so, thus supporting the concepts of social engineering and that the developed countries can and should help those less developed, directly or indirectly.

Among the scientists who contributed much to this theory are Walt Rostow, who in his The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (1960) concentrates on the economic system side of the modernization, trying to show factors needed for a country to reach the path to modernization in his Rostovian take-off model. David Apter concentrated on the political system and history of democracy, researching the connection between democracy, good governance and efficiency and modernization. David McClelland (The Achieving Society, 1967) approached this subject from the psychological perspective, with his motivations theory, arguing that modernization cannot happen until given society values innovation, success and free enterprise. Alex Inkeles (Becoming Modern, 1974) similarly creates a model of modern personality, which needs to be independent, active, interested in public policies and cultural matters, open for new experiences, rational and being able to create long-term plans for the future. Some works of Jürgen Habermas are also connected with this subfield.

Theory of modernization has been subject to some criticism similar to that levied on classical social evolutionism, especially for being too ethnocentric, one-sided and focused on the Western world and culture.

Prediction for a stable cultural and social future

Cultural evolution follows punctuated equilibrium which Gould and Eldredge developed for biological evolution. Bloomfield[12][13] has written that human societies follow punctuated equilibrium which would mean first, a stable society, a transition resulting in a subsequent stable society with greater complexity. Using these guidelines, mankind has had a stable animal society, a transition to a stable tribal society, another transition to a stable peasant society and is currently in a transitional industrial society.

The status of a human society rests on the productivity of food production. Deevey[14] reported on the growth of the number of humans. Deevey also reported on the productivity of food production, noting that productivity changes very little for stable societies, but increases during transitions. When productivity and especially food productivity can no longer be increased, Bloomfield has proposed that man will have achieved a stable automated society.[15] Space is also assumed to allow for the continued growth of the human population, as well as provide a solution to the current pollution problem by providing limitless energy from solar satellite power stations.

Theory of postindustrial society

Scientists have used the theory of evolution to analyze various trends and to predict the future development of societies. These scientists have created the theories of postindustrial societies, arguing that the current era of industrial society is coming to an end, and services and information are becoming more important than industry and goods.

In 1974, sociologist Daniel Bell, author of The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, introduced the concept of postindustrial society. He divided the history of humanity into three eras: pre-industrial, industrial and postindustrial. He predicted that by the end of the 20th century, United States, Japan and Western Europe would reach the postindustrial stage. This "post-industrial" stage would be demonstrated by:

From the 1970s many other sociologists and anthropologists, like Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, 1970), and John Naisbitt (Megatrends 2000: The New Directions for the 1990s, 1982) have followed in Bell's footsteps and created similar theories. John Naisbitt introduced the concept of megatrends: powerful, global trends that are changing societies on the worldwide scale. Among the megatrends that he mentions was the process of globalization. Another important megatrend was the increase in performance of computers and the development of the World Wide Web. Marshall McLuhan introduced the concept of the global village (The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962), and this term was soon adapted by the researchers of globalization and the Internet. Naisbitt and many other proponents of the theory of postindustrial societies argues that those megatrends lead to decentralization, weakening of the central government, increasing importance of local initiatives and direct democracy, changes in the hierarchy of the traditional social classes, development of new social movements and increased powers of consumers and number of choices available to them (Toffler even used the term "overchoice").

Logarithmic plot, according to Ray Kurzweil showing an exponential shortening trend in evolution of humanity, basis for the technological singularity theory.

Some of the more extreme visions of the postindustrial society are those related to the theory of the technological singularity. This theory refers to a predicted point or period in the development of a civilization at which due to the acceleration of technological progress, the societal, scientific and economic change is so rapid that nothing beyond that time can be reliably comprehended, understood or predicted by the pre-Singularity humans. Such a singularity was first discussed in the 1950s, and vastly popularized in the 1980s by Vernor Vinge.

Critics of the postindustrial society theory point out that it is very vague and as any prediction, there is no guarantee that any of the trends visible today will in fact exist in the future or develop in the directions predicted by contemporary researchers. However, no serious sociologist would argue it is possible to predict the future, but only that such theories allow us to gain a better understanding of the changes taking place in the modernised world.

Contemporary discourse over sociocultural evolution

The Cold War period was marked by rivalry between two superpowers, both of which considered themselves to be the most highly evolved cultures on the planet. The USSR painted itself as a socialist society which emerged out of class struggle, destined to reach the state of communism, while sociologists in the United States (such as Talcott Parsons) argued that the freedom and prosperity of the United States were a proof of a higher level of sociocultural evolution of its culture and society. At the same time, decolonization created newly independent countries who sought to become more developed—a model of progress and industrialization which was itself a form of sociocultural evolution.

There is, however, a tradition in European social theory from Rousseau to Max Weber that argues that this progression coincides with a loss of human freedom and dignity. At the height of the Cold War, this tradition merged with an interest in ecology to influence an activist culture in the 1960s. This movement produced a variety of political and philosophical programs which emphasised the importance of bringing society and the environment into harmony.

Current political theories of the new tribalists consciously mimic ecology and the life-ways of indigenous peoples, augmenting them with modern sciences. Ecoregional Democracy attempts to confine the "shifting groups", or tribes, within "more or less clear boundaries" that a society inherits from the surrounding ecology, to the borders of a naturally occurring ecoregion.

Progress can proceed by competition between but not within tribes, and it is limited by ecological borders or by Natural Capitalism incentives which attempt to mimic the pressure of natural selection on a human society by forcing it to adapt consciously to scarce energy or materials. Gaians argue that societies evolve deterministically to play a role in the ecology of their biosphere, or else die off as failures due to competition from more efficient societies exploiting nature's leverage.

Thus, some have appealed to theories of sociocultural evolution to assert that optimising the ecology and the social harmony of closely knit groups is more desirable or necessary than the progression to "civilization." A 2002 poll of experts on Nearctic and Neotropic indigenous peoples (reported in Harper's magazine) revealed that all of them would have preferred to be a typical New World person in the year 1491, prior to any European contact, rather than a typical European of that time.

This approach has been criticised by pointing out that there are a number of historical examples of indigenous peoples doing severe environmental damage (such as the deforestation of Easter Island and the extinction of mammoths in North America) and that proponents of the goal have been trapped by the European stereotype of the noble savage.

Today, postmodernists question whether the notions of evolution or society have inherent meaning and whether they reveal more about the person doing the description than the thing being described. Observing and observed cultures may lack sufficient cultural similarities (such as a common foundation ontology) to be able to communicate their respective priorities easily. Or, one may impose such a system of belief and judgment upon another, via conquest or colonization. For instance, observation of very different ideas of mathematics and physics in indigenous peoples led indirectly to ideas such as George Lakoff's "cognitive science of mathematics", which asks if measurement systems themselves can be objective.

See also

Evolutionary biology portal


  1. ^ See, e.g., Korotayev, Andrey (2004). World Religions and Social Evolution of the Old World Oikumene Civilizations: A Cross-cultural Perspective (First ed.). Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0-7734-6310-0.  P.1-8.
  2. ^ Claessen H.J.M. Problems, Paradoxes, and Prospects of Evolutionism. In Alternatives of Social Evolution. Ed. by N.N. Kradin, A.V. Korotayev, Dmitri Bondarenko, V. de Munck, and P.K. Wason (p. 1-11). Vladivostok: Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. P.2.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Geddes, N. and Atkinson, M. (2008). An approach to modeling group behaviors and beliefs in conflict siturations. In Social Computing, Behavioral Modeling, and Prediction. Eds. H. Liu, JJ Salerno, MJ Young; Springer, New York, pp. 46-56.
  5. ^ "The Philosophy Of Positivism". Adventures in Philosophy.
  6. ^ "Herbert Spencer". Sociological Theorists Page.
  7. ^ Morgan, Lewis H.(1877) "Chapter III: Ratio of Human Progress". Ancient Society.
  8. ^ Habermas, Jürgen, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Polity Press (1985), ISBN 0-7456-0830-2, p2
  9. ^ Evolution and culture. Ed. by Marshall David Sahlins and Elman Service. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1960.
  10. ^ The Evolution of Culture, Leslie White
  11. ^ Boyd, Robert; Richerson, Peter J.; Peter J. Richerson (1985), Culture and the Evolutionary Process, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-2260-6933-8 
  12. ^ Bloomfield, Masse.Mankind in Transitio, Masefield Books, 1993.
  13. ^ Bloomfield, Masse.The Automated Societ, Masefield Books, 1995.
  14. ^ Deevey, E. S., The Human Population, Scientific American 203, September 1960, p.226.
  15. ^ See also, e.g., Korotayev A., Malkov A., Khaltourina D. Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends. Moscow: URSS, 2006. ISBN 5-484-00559-0. P.5-36.


Further reading

Readings from an evolutionary anthropological perspective

External links


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Stonehenge, England, erected by Neolithic peoples ca. 4500-4000 years ago. Archaeology is an important discipline for understanding prehistory.
Human history and prehistory
before Homo (Pliocene)
Three-age system prehistory
>> Lower Paleolithic: Homo, Homo erectus,
>> Middle Paleolithic: early Homo sapiens
>> Upper Paleolithic: behavioral modernity
>> Neolithic: civilization
>> Near East | IndiaEuropeChinaKorea
>> Bronze Age collapseAncient Near EastIndiaEuropeChinaJapanKoreaNigeria
see also: Modernity, Futurology

Prehistory (Latin, præ = before; Greek, ιστορία = history) is a term used to describe the period before recorded history. Paul Tournal originally coined the term Pré-historique in describing the finds he had made in the caves of southern France.[citation needed] It came into use in France in the 1830s to describe the time before writing, and the word "prehistoric" was introduced into English by Daniel Wilson in 1851.[1][2]

The term "prehistory" can be used to refer to all time since the beginning of the universe, although it is more often used in referring to the period of time since life appeared on Earth, or even more specifically to the time since human-like beings appeared.[3][4] In dividing up human prehistory, prehistorians typically use the Three age system, whereas scholars of pre-human time periods typically use the well defined Rock record and its internationally defined stratum base within the geologic time scale. The three-age system is the periodization of human prehistory into three consecutive time periods, named for their respective predominant tool-making technologies; the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age.

The occurrence of written materials (and so the beginning of local "historic times") varies generally to cultures classified within either the late Bronze Age or within the Iron Age. Historians increasingly do not restrict themselves to evidence from written records and are coming to rely more upon evidence from the natural and social sciences, thereby blurring the distinction between the terms "history" and "prehistory."[citation needed] This view has recently been articulated by advocates of deep history.




Because, by definition, there are no written records from human prehistory, dating of prehistoric materials is particularly crucial to the enterprise. Clear techniques for dating were not well-developed until the 19th century.[5] The primary researchers into Human prehistory are prehistoric archaeologists and physical anthropologists who use excavation, geologic and geographic surveys, and other scientific analysis to reveal and interpret the nature and behavior of pre-literate and non-literate peoples.[3] Human population geneticists and historical linguists are also providing valuable insight for these questions.[4] Cultural anthropologists help to provide context of marriage and trade, by which objects of human origin are passed among people, thereby allowing for a rich analysis of any article that arises in a human prehistoric context.[4] Therefore, data about prehistory is provided by a wide variety of natural and social sciences, such as paleontology, biology, archaeology, palynology, geology, archaeoastronomy, comparative linguistics, anthropology, molecular genetics and many others.

Human prehistory differs from history not only in terms of its chronology but in the way it deals with the activities of archaeological cultures rather than named nations or individuals. Restricted to material processes, remains and artifacts rather than written records, prehistory is anonymous. Because of this, the reference terms used by prehistorians such as Neanderthal or Iron Age are modern labels, the precise definition of which is often subject to discussion and argument.

The date marking the end of prehistory, that is the date when written historical records become a useful academic resource, varies from region to region. For example, in Egypt it is generally accepted that prehistory ended around 3200 BC, whereas in New Guinea the end of the prehistoric era is set much more recently, at around 1900 AD.

Stone Age


Map of early human migrations, according to mitochondrial population genetics. Numbers are millennia before the present (accuracy disputed).

"Paleolithic" means "Old Stone Age," and begins with the first use of stone tools. The Paleolithic is the earliest period of the Stone Age.

The early part of the Paleolithic is called the Lower Paleolithic, which predates Homo sapiens, beginning with Homo habilis (and related species) and with the earliest stone tools, dated to around 2.5 million years ago.[citation needed] Homo sapiens originated some 200,000 years ago, ushering in the Middle Paleolithic. Anatomic changes indicating modern language capacity also arise during the Middle Paleolithic.[citation needed] The systematic burial of the dead, the music, early art, and the use of increasingly sophisticated multi-part tools are highlights of the Middle Paleolithic.

Throughout the Paleolithic, humans generally lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gatherer societies tended to be very small and egalitarian, though hunter-gatherer societies with abundant resources or advanced food-storage techniques sometimes developed sedentary lifestyles with complex social structures such as chiefdoms, and social stratification. Long-distance contacts may have been established, as in the case of Indigenous Australian "highways."


The "Mesolithic," or "Middle Stone Age" (from the Greek "mesos," "middle," and "lithos," "stone") was a period in the development of human technology between the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods of the Stone Age.

The Mesolithic period began at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, some 10,000 BP, and ended with the introduction of agriculture, the date of which varied by geographic region. In some areas, such as the Near East, agriculture was already underway by the end of the Pleistocene, and there the Mesolithic is short and poorly defined. In areas with limited glacial impact, the term "Epipaleolithic" is sometimes preferred.

Regions that experienced greater environmental effects as the last ice age ended have a much more evident Mesolithic era, lasting millennia. In Northern Europe, societies were able to live well on rich food supplies from the marshlands fostered by the warmer climate. Such conditions produced distinctive human behaviours which are preserved in the material record, such as the Maglemosian and Azilian cultures. These conditions also delayed the coming of the Neolithic until as late as 4000 BC (6,000 BP) in northern Europe.

Remains from this period are few and far between, often limited to middens. In forested areas, the first signs of deforestation have been found, although this would only begin in earnest during the Neolithic, when more space was needed for agriculture.

The Mesolithic is characterized in most areas by small composite flint tools — microliths and microburins. Fishing tackle, stone adzes and wooden objects, e.g. canoes and bows, have been found at some sites. These technologies first occur in Africa, associated with the Azilian cultures, before spreading to Europe through the Ibero-Maurusian culture of Northern Africa and the Kebaran culture of the Levant. Independent discovery is not always ruled out.

Though mesolithic culture is normally associated with the homo-sapiens, there were other groups of humans alive at the same time, such as Neanderthals, and it is not sure that all mesolithic remains belong to homo-sapiens.


Entrance to the Ġgantija phase temple complex of Hagar Qim, Malta[6]

"Neolithic" means "New Stone Age." This was a period of primitive technological and social development, toward the end of the "Stone Age." Beginning in the 10th millennium BCE (12,000 BP), the Neolithic period saw the development of early villages, agriculture, animal domestication, tools and the onset of the earliest recorded incidents of warfare.[7] The Neolithic term is commonly used in the Old World, as its application to cultures in the Americas and Oceania that did not fully develop metal-working technology raises problems.


A major change, described by prehistorian Vere Gordon Childe as the "Agricultural Revolution," occurred about the 10th millennium BC with the adoption of agriculture. The Sumerians first began farming ca. 9500 BC. By 7000 BC, agriculture had been developed in India and Peru separately; by 6000 BC, to Egypt; by 5000 BC, to China. About 2700 BC, agriculture had come to Mesoamerica.

Although attention has tended to concentrate on the Middle East's Fertile Crescent, archaeology in the Americas, East Asia and Southeast Asia indicates that agricultural systems, using different crops and animals, may in some cases have developed there nearly as early. The development of organised irrigation, and the use of a specialised workforce, by the Sumerians, began about 5500 BC. Stone was supplanted by bronze and iron in implements of agriculture and warfare. Agricultural settlements had until then been almost completely dependent on stone tools. In Eurasia, copper and bronze tools, decorations and weapons began to be commonplace about 3000 BC. After bronze, the Eastern Mediterranean region, Middle East and China saw the introduction of iron tools and weapons.

The technological and social state of the world, circa 1000 BC.

The Americas may not have had metal tools until the Chavín horizon (900 BC). The Moche did have metal armor, knives and tableware. Even the metal-poor Inca had metal-tipped plows, at least after the conquest of Chimor. However, little archaeological research has so far been done in Peru, and nearly all the khipus (recording devices, in the form of knots, used by the Incas) were burned in the Spanish conquest of Peru. As late as 2004, entire cities were still being unearthed.

The cradles of early civilizations were river valleys, such as the Euphrates and Tigris valleys in Mesopotamia, the Nile valley in Egypt, the Indus valley in the Indian subcontinent, and the Yangtze and Yellow River valleys in China. Some nomadic peoples, such as the Indigenous Australians and the Bushmen of southern Africa, did not practice agriculture until relatively recent times.

Before 1800 AD, most populations did not belong to states. Scientists disagree as to whether the term "tribe" should be applied to the kinds of societies that these people lived in. Some tribal societies transformed into states when they were threatened, or otherwise impinged on, by existing states.[citation needed]

Agriculture made possible complex societies — civilizations. States and markets emerged. Technologies enhanced people's ability to harness nature and to develop transport and communication.

Bronze Age

Ox-drawn plow, Egypt, ca. 1200 BC.

The term Bronze Age refers to a period in human cultural development when the most advanced metalworking (at least in systematic and widespread use) included techniques for smelting copper and tin from naturally-occurring outcroppings of copper ores, and then smelting those ores to cast bronze. These naturally-occurring ores typically included arsenic as a common impurity. Copper/tin ores are rare, as reflected in the fact that there were no tin bronzes in Western Asia before 3,000 BC. The Bronze Age forms part of the three-age system for prehistoric societies. In this system, it follows the Neolithic in some areas of the world.

The Bronze Age is the earliest period of which we have direct written accounts, since the invention of writing coincides with its early beginnings.[citation needed]

Iron Age

In archaeology, the Iron Age refers to the advent of ferrous metallurgy. The adoption of iron coincided with other changes in some past cultures, often including more sophisticated agricultural practices, religious beliefs and artistic styles, which makes the archaeological Iron Age coincide with the "Axial Age" in the history of philosophy.

Timeline of human prehistory

All dates are approximate and conjectural, obtained through research in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, genetics, geology, or linguistics. They are all subject to revision due to new discoveries or improved calculations. BP stands for "Before Present."

Lower and Middle Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic

By region

Old World
New World

See also


  1. ^ Simpson, Douglas (1963-11-30). "Sir Daniel Wilson and the Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, A Centennial Study". Proceedings of the Society, 1963-1964. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  2. ^ Wilson, Daniel (1851). The archaeology and prehistoric annals of Scotland. p. xiv. 
  3. ^ a b Fagan, Brian. 2007. World Prehistory: A brief introduction New York:Prentice-Hall, Seventh Edition, Chapter One
  4. ^ a b c Renfrew, Colin. 2008. Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind." New York: Modern Library
  5. ^ Graslund, Bo. 1987. The birth of prehistoric chronology. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Perfect Gift: Prehistoric Massacres. The twin vices of women and cattle in prehistoric Europe
  8. ^ Shea, J. J. 2003. Neanderthals, competition and the origin of modern human behaviour in the Levant. Evolutionary Anthropology 12: 173-187.
  9. ^ "Mount Toba Eruption - Ancient Humans Unscathed, Study Claims". Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  10. ^ a b This is indicated by the M130 marker in the Y chromosome. "Traces of a Distant Past," by Gary Stix, Scientific American, July 2008, pages 56-63.
  11. ^ Gene S. Stuart, "Ice Age Hunters: Artists in Hidden Cages." In Mysteries of the Ancient World, a publication of the National Geographic Society, 1979. Pages 11-18.
  12. ^ James Trager, The People's Chronology, 1994, ISBN 0-8050-3134-0
  13. ^ Stuart, Gene S. (1979). "Ice Age Hunters: Artists in Hidden Cages". Mysteries of the Ancient World. National Geographic Society. p. 19. 
  14. ^ Encyclopedia Americana, 2003 edition, volume 6, page 334.
  15. ^ Stuart, Gene S. (1979). "Ice Age Hunters: Artists in Hidden Cages". Mysteries of the Ancient World. National Geographic Society. pp. 8-€“10. 
  16. ^ "Shift from Savannah to Sahara was Gradual," by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, May 9, 2008.
  17. ^ Kiple, Kenneth F. and Ornelas, Kriemhild Coneè, eds., The Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 83
  18. ^ "No-Till: The Quiet Revolution," by David Huggins and John Reganold, Scientific American, July 2008, pages 70-77.
  19. ^ Fagan, Brian M, ed. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1996 ISBN 978-0-521-40216-3 p 363
  20. ^ Caroline Alexander, "Stonehenge," National Geographic, June 2008.

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Alexandre Kojève

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Alexandre Kojève

Alexandre Kojève
Full name Alexandre Kojève
Born 28 April 1902(1902-04-28)
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died 4 June 1968 (aged 66)
Brussels, Belgium
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Hegelianism
Main interests Idealism

Alexandre Kojève (Russian: Александр Владимирович Кожевников, Aleksandr Vladimirovič Koževnikov; April 28, 1902 – June 4, 1968) was a Russian-born French Hegelian philosopher and statesman whose philosophical seminars had an immense influence on twentieth-century French philosophy, and on his student the American philosopher Allan Bloom. As a statesman in the French government, he was instrumental in the creation of the European Union.




Kojève was born in Russia to a wealthy and influential family. He was educated in Berlin and Heidelberg, Germany. He completed his Ph.D., on the Russian religious philosopher Vladimir Soloviev's views on the union of God and man in Christ, under the direction of Karl Jaspers. Early influences included the philosopher Martin Heidegger and the historian of science Alexandre Koyré. Kojève spent most of his life in France, and in 1933-1939 he delivered in Paris a series of lectures on Hegel's work Phenomenology of Spirit. After World War II, Kojève worked in the French Ministry of Economic Affairs as one of the chief planners of the European Common Market.

Kojève was an extraordinarily learned man. It is said that he was fluent in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan dialects as well as in French, German, Russian, English, Hebrew, Latin and classical Greek.[citation needed] He was interested in art, and corresponded with his uncle, the abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky, about whose work he wrote an influential essay in 1936.

Kojève died in Brussels in 1968, shortly after giving a talk at the European Economic Community (now European Union) on behalf of the French government. In his later years he had repeatedly expressed the position that what had, in Marx's time and afterward, been known as a European proletariat, no longer existed, and the wealthy West sorely needed to help developing countries to overcome widespread poverty through large monetary gifts (in the mold of the Marshall Plan).


Despite not being a Marxist[1], Kojeve was known as an influential and idiosyncratic reader of Hegel through the lens of both Marx and Heidegger. The well-known "End of History" thesis advanced the idea that ideological history in a limited sense had ended with the French Revolution and the regime of Napoleon and that there was no longer a need for violent struggle to establish the "rational supremacy of the regime of rights and equal recognition." Kojeve's "End of History" is more nuanced than Francis Fukayama's later thesis of the same name and points as much to a socialist-capitalist synthesis as to a triumph of liberal capitalism.[2][3]

Some of Kojève's more important lectures on Hegel have been published in English in Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on Phenomenology of Spirit. Kojève's interpretation of Hegel has been one of the most influential of the past century. His lectures were attended by intellectuals including Raymond Queneau, Georges Bataille, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, André Breton, Jacques Lacan and Raymond Aron. His interpretation of the master-slave dialectic was an important influence on Jacques Lacan's mirror stage theory. Other French thinkers who have acknowledged his influence on their thought include the post-structuralist philosophers Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. His most influential work was Introduction à la lecture de Hegel (1947), which summarized many of his lectures and included, in full, some others.

Kojève also had a close and lifelong friendship with Leo Strauss, who he first met as a student in Berlin; their correspondence has been published along with a critique Kojève wrote of Strauss's commentary on Xenophon.[4] The two shared a boundless philosophical respect for each other. Kojève would later write that, without befriending Strauss, "I never would have known[...] what philosophy is."[5] Several of Strauss's students were sent to Paris to study under Kojève in the 1950s and 1960s. Included in those was Allan Bloom, who endeavored during his lifetime to make Kojève's works available in English, and Stanley Rosen. In the 1950s, Kojève also met the rightist legal theorist (and former Nazi) Carl Schmitt, whose "Concept of the Political" he had implicitly criticized in his analysis of Hegel's text on "Lordship and Bondage." Another close friend was the Jesuit Hegelian philosopher Gaston Fessard.

In addition to his lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, Kojève has published other articles and books in French, a book on Kant, and articles on the relationship between Hegelian and Marxist thought and Christianity. A book Kojève wrote in 1943 was published posthumously in 1981 by the French publisher Gallimard under the title Esquisse d'une phenomenologie du droit in which he contrasts the aristocratic and bourgeois views of right. Le Concept, le temps et le discours, also published by Gallimard, further extrapolate on the Hegelian notion that wisdom only becomes possible in the fullness of time. Kojève's response to Leo Strauss, who disputed this notion, can be found in Kojève's article "The Emperor Julian and his Art of Writing".[6] Kojève also challenged Strauss' interpretation of the classics in the voluminous book Esquisse d'une histoire raisonnée de la pensée païenne, that includes one volume on the pre-Socratic philosophers, one on Plato and Aristotle, and one on Neoplatonism. His posthumously published book on Immanuel Kant received little attention. Recently, three more books have been published: a 1932 thesis on the physical and philosophical importance of quantum physics, an extended 1931 essay on atheism ("L'athéisme"), and a 1943 work on "The Notion of Authority;" like "Le Concept, le temps et le discours" these have not been published in English translation.

Kojève and the USSR

In 1999 Le Monde published an article reporting that a French intelligence document showed that Kojève had spied for the Soviets for over 30 years. The claims of this document (and even its existence) are disputed, and it has never been released. Kojève's supporters tend to believe that if it were true, it was probably unsubstantial as spying per se and a result of his megalomaniacal personality, a pretense to be a philosopher at the end of history influencing the course of world events.

In any case, Kojève's contribution to international French economic policy was more than substantial. Though Kojève often claimed to be a "Stalinist"[citation needed], he largely regarded the Soviet Union with contempt, calling its social policies disastrous and its claims to be a truly classless state ludicrous. (Kojève's cynicism towards traditional Marxism as an outmoded philosophy in industrially well-developed capitalist nations prompted him to go as far idiosyncratically referring to capitalist Henry Ford as "the one great authentic Marxist of the twentieth century."[7]) He specifically and repeatedly called it the only existing country in which 19th-century capitalism still existed. His "Stalinism" was ironic to the extent Stalin had no political chance to lead the Weltgeist; yet, he was serious about Stalinism to the extent that he regarded the utopia of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the willingness to purge unsupportive elements in the population, as evidence of a desire to bring about the end of history, and as a repetition of the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Kołakowski, Leszek. Main Currents of Marxism. Trans. P. S. Falla. New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 2005. ISBN 0-393-06054-3. P. 929.
  2. ^ Kojeve, Alexandre (Spring 1980), ""Capitalisme et socialisme: Marx est Dieu; Ford est son prophète." ("Capitalism and socialism : Marx is God; Ford is his prophet")", Commentaire 9 
  3. ^ Howse, Robert (2004), "Kojeve's Latin Empire", Policy Review (126), ISSN 0146-5945,, retrieved 2008-04-14, "The End of History does not itself resolve the tension within the idea of equality — the ideal of equal recognition that is rationally victorious with the End of History embodies elements of market justice, equal opportunity, and "equivalence" in exchange (the "bourgeois" dimension of the French Revolution). But it also contains within it a socialist or social democratic conception of equality of civic status, implying social regulation, welfare rights, and the like." 
  4. ^ Strauss, Leo, Gourevitch, Victor; Roth, Michael S., eds., On Tyranny 
  5. ^ Lilla, The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics: p.131.
  6. ^ published in Cropsey, Joseph, ed. (1964), Ancients and Moderns: Essays on the Tradition of Political Philosophy in Honor of Leo Strauss, Basic Books , as well as in the above-mentioned edition of Strauss's On Tyranny
  7. ^ Nichols, James H. Alexandre Kojève: Wisdom at the End of History. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. ISBN 0742527778, ISBN 9780742527775. P. 90.

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ill to power

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The will to power (German: "der Wille zur Macht") is a prominent concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The will to power describes what Nietzsche believed to be the main driving force in man; achievement, ambition, the striving to reach the highest possible position in life, these are all manifestations of the will to power.

Alfred Adler incorporated the will to power into his individual psychology. This can be contrasted to the other Viennese schools of psychotherapy: Sigmund Freud's pleasure principle (will to pleasure) and Victor Frankl's logotherapy (will to meaning). Each of these schools advocate and teach a very different main driving force in "man". The relevance of gender and cultural differences in the application of these theories to universal humanity and non-human life is a source for serious concern among many scholars. The "will to power" has been "identified" in nature in the dominance hierarchies studied in many living species.




Friedrich Nietzsche found early influence from Schopenhauer, whom he first discovered in 1865. Schopenhauer puts a central emphasis on will and in particular has a concept of the "will to live". Writing a generation before Nietzsche, Schopenhauer explained that the universe and everything in it is driven by a primordial will to live, which results in all living creatures' desire to avoid death and procreate. For Schopenhauer, this will is the most fundamental aspect of reality—more fundamental even than being.

Another important influence is Roger Joseph Boscovich, whom Nietzsche discovered and learned about through his reading of Friedrich Albert Lange's 1865 Geschichte des Materialismus (History of Materialism), which Nietzsche read in 1866. As early as 1872, Nietzsche went on to study Boscovich’s book Theoria Philosophia Naturalis for himself.[1] Nietzsche makes his only reference in his published works to Boscovich in Beyond Good and Evil where he declares war on "soul-atomism"[2] Boscovich had rejected the idea of "materialistic atomism" which Nietzsche calls "one of the best refuted theories there are."[3] The idea of centers of force would become central to Nietzsche's later theories of will to power.

Nietzsche began to speak of the "Desire for Power" (Machtgelüst), which appeared in The Wanderer and his Shadow (1880) and Daybreak (1881). Machtgelüst, in these works, is the pleasure of the feeling of power and the hunger to overpower.

Wilhelm Roux published his The Struggle of Parts in the Organism (Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus) in 1881, which Nietzsche first read the same year.[4] The book was a response to Darwinian theory, proposing an alternative mode of evolution. Roux was a disciple of and influenced by Ernst Haeckel[5] who believed the struggle for existence occurred at the cellular level. The various cells and tissue struggle for finite resources, so that only the strongest survive. Through this mechanism, the body grows stronger and better adapted. Lacking modern genetic theory and assuming a lamarckian or pangenetic model of inheritance, the theory had plausibility at the time.[citation needed]

Nietzsche began to expand on the concept of Machtgelüst in The Gay Science (1882), where in a section titled “On the doctrine of the feeling of power,”[6] he connects the desire for cruelty with the pleasure in the feeling of power. Elsewhere in The Gay Science,[7] he notes that it is only “in intellectual beings that pleasure, displeasure, and will are to be found,”[8] excluding the vast majority of organisms from the desire for power.

Léon Dumont (1837-77), whose 1875 book Théorie Scientifique de La Sensibilité, le Plaisir et la Peine Nietzsche read in 1883,[9] seems to have exerted some influence on this concept. Dumont believed that pleasure is related to increases in force.[10] In Wanderer and Daybreak, Nietzsche earlier had speculated that pleasures such as cruelty, are pleasurable because of exercise of power. But Dumont, in 1883, provided a physiological basis for Nietzsche’s speculation. Dumont’s theory also would have seemed to confirm Nietzsche’s theory that pleasure and pain are reserved for intellectual beings, since, according to Dumont, pain and pleasure require a coming to consciousness and not just a sensing.

In 1883 Nietzsche coined the phrase “Wille zur Macht” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The concept, at this point, is no longer limited to only those intellectual beings that can actually experience the feeling of power; it applies to all life. The phrase Wille zur Macht first appears in part 1, "1001 Goals" (1883), then in part 2, in two sections, “Self-Overcoming” and “Redemption” (later in 1883). “Self-Overcoming” describes it in most detail, saying it is an “unexhausted procreative will of life.”[11] There is will to power where there is life and even the strongest living things will risk their lives for more power. This suggests that the will to power is stronger than the will to survive.

Schopenhauer's "Will to life" thus became a subsidiary to the will to power, which is the stronger will. Nietzsche thinks his notion of the will to power is far more useful than Schopenhauer's will to live for explaining various events, especially human behavior—for example, Nietzsche uses the will to power to explain both ascetic, life-denying impulses and strong, life-affirming impulses in the European tradition, as well as both master and slave morality. He also finds the will to power to offer much richer explanations than utilitarianism's notion that all people really want to be happy, or the Platonist's notion that people want to be unified with the Good.[citation needed]

Nietzsche read William Rolph’s Biologische Probleme probably in mid 1884 and it clearly interested Nietzsche;[12] his copy is heavily annotated[13] and he made many notes concerning Rolph. Rolph was another evolutionary anti-Darwinist like Roux, who wished to argue for evolution by different mechanism than the struggle for existence. Rolph argued that all life seeks primarily to expand itself. Organisms fulfill this need through assimilation, trying to make as much of what is found around them into part of themselves, for example by seeking to increase intake and nutriment. Life forms are naturally insatiable in this way.

Nietzsche's next published work is Beyond Good and Evil (1886), where the influence of Rolph seems apparent. Nietzsche writes, "Even the body within which individuals treat each other as equals ... will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant—not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power."[14] The influence of Rolph and its connection to “will to power,” also continues in book 5 of Gay Science (1887) where Nietzsche describes will to power as the instinct for “expansion of power,” fundamental to all life.[15]

Beyond Good and Evil has the most references to “will to power” in his published works, appearing in eleven aphorisms[16] and this was the time of greatest development of the idea.

Karl Wilhelm von Nägeli's 1884 book Mechanisch-physiologische Theorie der Abstammungslehre, which Nietzsche acquired probably in 1886 and subsequently read closely,[17] had considerable influence on his theory of will to power. Nietzsche wrote a letter to Franz Overbeck about it, noting that it has “been sheepishly put aside by Darwinists”.[18] Nägeli believed in a “perfection principle,” which led to greater complexity. He called the seat of heritability the idioplasma, and argued, with a military metaphor, that a more complex, complicatedly ordered idioplasma would usually defeat a simpler rival.[19] In other words, he is also arguing for internal evolution, similar to Roux, except emphasizing complexity as the main factor instead of strength.

Thus, Dumont’s pleasure in the expansion of power, Roux’s internal struggle, Nägeli’s drive towards complexity, and Rolph’s principle of insatiability and assimilation are fused together into the biological side of Nietzsche’s theory of will to power, which is developed in a number of places in his published writings.[20] Having derived the “will to power” from three anti-Darwin evolutionists, as well as Dumont, it seems appropriate that he should use his “will to power” as an anti-Darwinian explanation of evolution. He expresses a number of times[21] the idea that adaptation and the struggle to survive is a secondary drive in the evolution of animals, behind the desire to expand one’s power—the will to power.

Nonetheless, in his notebooks he continues to expand the theory of the will to power.[22] Influenced by his earlier readings of Boscovich, he began to develop a physics of the Will to Power. The idea of matter as centers of force is translated into matter as centers of will to power. Nietzsche wanted to slough off the theory of matter, which he viewed as a relic of the metaphysics of substance.[23]

These ideas of an all inclusive physics or metaphysics built upon the will to power does not appear to arise anywhere in his published works or in any of the final books published posthumously, except in the above mentioned aphorism from Beyond Good & Evil, where he references Boscovich (section 12). It does recur in his notebooks, but not all scholars want to consider these ideas as part of his thought.[24]

Throughout the 1880s, in his notebooks, Nietzsche also developed an equally elusive theory of the “eternal recurrence of the same” and much speculation on the physical possibility of this idea and the mechanics of its actualization recur in his later notebooks, which becomes tied with his theory of will to power as a potential physics integrated with the “eternal recurrence of the same.” Nietzsche appeared to imagine a physical universe of perpetual struggle and force, which successively completes its cycle and returns to the beginning again and again.[25]


In contemporary Nietzschean scholarship, some interpreters have emphasized the will to power as a psychological principle, because Nietzsche applies it most frequently to human behavior. However, Nietzsche sometimes seems to view the will to power as a more general force, underlying all reality not just human behavior—thus making it more directly analogous to Schopenhauer's will to live. For example, Nietzsche claims the "world is the will to power—and nothing besides!".[26] Nevertheless, in relation to the entire body of Nietzsche's works, many scholars have insisted that Nietzsche's principle of the will to power is less metaphysical and more pragmatic than Schopenhauer's will to live: while Schopenhauer thought the will to live was what was most real in the universe, Nietzsche can be understood as claiming only that the will to power is a particularly useful principle for his purposes.

Some interpreters also upheld a biological interpretation of the Wille zur Macht, making it equivalent with some kind of social Darwinism. For example the concept was appropriated by some Nazis like Alfred Bäumler, etc., who may have drawn influence from it or used it to justify their expansive quest for power and world domination.

This reading was criticized by Martin Heidegger in his 1930s courses on Nietzsche—suggesting that raw physical or political power was not what Nietzsche had in mind. This is reflected in the following passage from Nietzsche's notebooks:

I have found strength where one does not look for it: in simple, mild, and pleasant people, without the least desire to rule—and, conversely, the desire to rule has often appeared to me a sign of inward weakness: they fear their own slave soul and shroud it in a royal cloak (in the end, they still become the slaves of their followers, their fame, etc.) The powerful natures dominate, it is a necessity, they need not lift one finger. Even if, during their lifetime, they bury themselves in a garden house![27]

Opposed to a biological and voluntary conception of the Wille zur Macht, Heidegger also argued that the will to power must be considered in relation to the Übermensch and the thought of eternal recurrence—although this reading itself has been criticized by Mazzino Montinari as a "macroscopic Nietzsche".[28] Gilles Deleuze also emphasized the connection between the will to power and eternal return.

Opposed to this interpretation, the "Will To Power" can be understood (or misunderstood) to mean a struggle against one's surroundings that culminates in personal growth, self-overcoming, and self-perfection, and assert that the power held over others as a result of this is coincidental. Thus Nietzsche wrote:

My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on.[29]

It would be possible to claim that rather than an attempt to 'dominate over others', the "will to power" is better understood as the tenuous equilibrium in a system of forces' relations to each other. While a rock, for instance, does not have a conscious (or unconscious) "will", it nevertheless acts as a site of resistance within the "will to power" dynamic. Moreover, rather than 'dominating over others' (a misinterpretation by Deleuze et al.), "will to power" is more accurately positioned in relation to the subject (a mere synecdoche, both fictitious and necessary, for there is "no doer behind the deed," (see On the Genealogy of Morals) and is an idea behind the statement that words are "seductions" within the process of self-mastery and self-overcoming. The "will to power" is thus a "cosmic" inner force acting in and through both animate and inanimate objects. Not just instincts but also higher level behaviors (even in humans) were to be reduced to the will to power. In fact, Nietzsche considered consciousness itself to be a form of instinct[citation needed]. This includes both such apparently harmful acts as physical violence, lying, and domination, on one hand, and such apparently non-harmful acts as gift-giving, love, and praise on the other—though its manifestations can be altered significantly, such as through art and aesthetic experience. In Beyond Good and Evil, he claims that philosophers' "will to truth" (i.e., their apparent desire to dispassionately seek objective, absolute truth) is actually nothing more than a manifestation of their will to power; this will can be life-affirming or a manifestation of nihilism, but it is the will to power all the same.

Other Nietzschean interpreters (e.g. Abir Taha) dispute the suggestion that Nietzsche's concept of the will to power is merely and only a matter of narrow, harmless, humanistic self-perfection. They suggest that, for Nietzsche, power means self-perfection as well as outward, political, elitist, aristocratic domination. Nietzsche, in fact, explicitly and specifically defined the egalitarian state-idea as the embodiment of the will to power in decline:

To speak of just or unjust in itself is quite senseless; in itself, of course, no injury, assault, exploitation, destruction can be 'unjust,' since life operates essentially, that is in its basic functions, through injury, assault, exploitation, destruction and simply cannot be thought of at all without this character. One must indeed grant something even more unpalatable: that, from the highest biological standpoint, legal conditions can never be other than exceptional conditions, since they constitute a partial restriction of the will of life, which is bent upon power, and are subordinate to its total goal as a single means: namely, as a means of creating greater units of power. A legal order thought of as sovereign and universal, not as a means in the struggle between power complexes but as a means of preventing all struggle in general perhaps after the communistic cliché of Dühring, that every will must consider every other will its equal—would be a principle hostile to life, an agent of the dissolution and destruction of man, an attempt to assassinate the future of man, a sign of weariness, a secret path to nothingness.[30]

Individual psychology

Alfred Adler borrowed heavily from Nietzsche's work to develop his second Viennese school of psychotherapy called individual psychology. Adler (1912) wrote in his important book Über den nervösen Charakter (The Neurotic Constitution):

Nietzsche's "Will to power" and "Will to seem" embrace many of our views, which again resemble in some respects the views of Féré and the older writers, according to whom the sensation of pleasure originates in a feeling of power, that of pain in a feeling of feebleness (Ohnmacht).[31]

Adler's adaptation of the will to power was and still is in contrast to Sigmund Freud's pleasure principle or the "will to pleasure", and to Viktor Frankl's logotherapy or the "will to meaning".[32] Adler's intent was to build a movement that would rival, even supplant, others in psychology by arguing for the holistic integrity of psychological well-being with that of social equality. His interpretation of Nietzsche's will to power was concerned with the individual patient's overcoming of the superiority-inferiority dynamic.[33]

In Man's Search for Meaning, Frankl compared his third Viennese school of psychotherapy with Adler's psychoanalytic interpretation of the will to power:

... the striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man. That is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle (or, as we could also term it, the will to pleasure) on which Freudian psychoanalysis is centered, as well as in contrast to the will to power stressed by Adlerian psychology.[34]
—Viktor E. Frankl, M.D., Ph.D.

See also

Democratic peace theory

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Democratic peace theory (or liberal democratic theory[1] or simply the democratic peace) holds that democracies, for some appropriate definition of democracy,[2] rarely go to war with one another.

The wording "democratic peace theory" is often disputed since, even if the theory is accepted, it does not imply that the "peace" has the key characteristics of a "democracy" among countries. Some critics argue that it will be more accurate to label it the "democracies do not fight each other" hypothesis [3].

The democratic peace theory discusses the fact that democracies simply don't war with each other, but the issue of why will give you a better understanding of the theory. The most significant rationale for why democracies don't war is accountability. In a liberal democratic government elected officials must answer to the people in the form of free elections, which forces officials to consider alternatives to war.

The original theory and research on wars has been followed by many similar theories and related research on the relationship between democracy and peace, including that lesser conflicts than wars are also rare between democracies, and that systematic violence is in general less common within democracies.




Immanuel Kant

Although the philosophical idea has circulated since Immanuel Kant, it was not scientifically evaluated until the 1960s. Kant foreshadowed the theory in his essay Perpetual Peace written in 1795, although he thought that constitutional republics was only one of several necessary conditions for a perpetual peace. Kant's theory was that a majority of the people would never vote to go to war, unless in self defense. Therefore, if all nations were republics, it would end war, because there would be no aggressors. Other explanations have been proposed since, but the modern theory is principally the empirical claim that democracies rarely or never fight (Ray 1998). Dean Babst, a criminologist, was the first to do statistical research on this topic. He wrote an academic paper supporting the theory in 1964 in Wisconsin Sociologist; he published a slightly more popularized version, in 1972, in the trade journal Industrial Research. Both versions initially received little attention. Melvin Small and J. David Singer (1976: 50—69) responded; they found an absence of wars between democratic states with two "marginal exceptions", but denied that this pattern had statistical significance, starting the academic debate. This paper was published in the Jerusalem Journal of International Relations which finally brought more widespread attention to the theory, as did Michael Doyle's (1983) lengthy discussion of the topic. Rudolph J. Rummel was another early researcher and drew considerable lay attention to the subject in his later works. Maoz & Abdolali (1989) extended the research to lesser conflicts than wars. Bremer (1992) and Maoz & Russett (1993) found the correlation between democracy and peacefulness remained significant after controlling for many possible confounding variables. This moved the theory into the mainstream of social science. Supporters of Realism in international relations and others responded by raising many new objections. Other researchers attempted more systematic explanations of how democracy might cause peace (Köchler 1995), and of how democracy might also affect other aspects of foreign relations such as alliances and collaboration (Ray 2003). There have been numerous further studies in the field since these pioneering works.[4] Most studies have found some form of democratic peace exists, although neither methodological disputes nor doubtful cases are entirely resolved (Kinsella 2005).


Research on the democratic peace theory has to define "democracy" and "peace" (or, more often, "war"). Similarly, the main criticism contends that the theory is an example of equivocation, particularly, No true Scotsman fallacy.


Political ratings of countries according to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World survey, 2008:
     Free, electoral countries      Partially free, electoral countries      Partially free, not electoral countries      Not free, not electoral countries

Democracies have been defined differently by different theorists and researchers; this accounts for some of the variations in their findings. Some examples:

Kant (1795) opposed direct democracy since it is "necessarily despotism, as it establishes an executive power contrary to the general will; all being able to decide against one whose opinion may differ, the will of all is therefore not that of all: which is contradictory and opposite to liberty." Instead, Kant favors a constitutional republic where individual liberty is protected from the will of the majority.

Small and Singer (1976) define democracy as a nation that (1) holds periodic elections in which the opposition parties are as free to run as government parties, (2) allows at least 10% of the adult population to vote, and (3) has a parliament that either controls or enjoys parity with the executive branch of the government.

Doyle (1983) requires (1) that "liberal régimes" have market or private property economics, (2) they have polities that are externally sovereign, (3) they have citizens with juridical rights, and (4) they have representative governments. Either 30% of the adult males were able to vote or it was possible for every man to acquire voting rights as by attaining enough property. He allows greater power to hereditary monarchs than other researchers; for example, he counts the rule of Louis-Philippe of France as a liberal régime.

Ray (1995) requires that at least 50% of the adult population is allowed to vote and that there has been at least one peaceful, constitutional transfer of executive power from one independent political party to another by means of an election.

Rummel (1997) states that "By democracy is meant liberal democracy, where those who hold power are elected in competitive elections with a secret ballot and wide franchise (loosely understood as including at least 2/3rds of adult males); where there is freedom of speech, religion, and organization; and a constitutional framework of law to which the government is subordinate and that guarantees equal rights."

Non-binary classifications

The above definitions are binary, classifying nations into either democracies or nondemocracies. Many researchers have instead used more finely grained scales. One example is the Polity data series which scores each state on two scales, one for democracy and one for autocracy, for each year since 1800; as well as several others.[5] The use of the Polity Data has varied. Some researchers have done correlations between the democracy scale and belligerence; others have treated it as a binary classification by (as its maker does) calling all states with a high democracy score and a low autocracy score democracies; yet others have used the difference of the two scores, sometimes again making this into a binary classification (Gleditsch 1992).

Young democracies

Several researchers have observed that many of the possible exceptions to the democratic peace have occurred when at least one of the involved democracies was very young. Many of them have therefore added a qualifier, typically stating that the peacefulness apply to democracies older than 3 years (Doyle 1983), (Russett 1993), (Rummel 1997), (Weart 1998). Rummel (1997) argues that this is enough time for "democratic procedures to be accepted, and democratic culture to settle in." Additionally, this may allow for other states to actually come to the recognition of the state as a democracy.

Mansfield and Snyder (2002, 2005), while agreeing that there have been no wars between mature liberal democracies, state that countries in transition to democracy are especially likely to be involved in wars. They find that democratizing countries are even more warlike than stable democracies, stable autocracies or even countries in transition towards autocracy. So, they suggest caution in eliminating these wars from the analysis, because this might hide a negative aspect of the process of democratization.[6] A reanalysis of the earlier study's statistical results (Braumoeller 2004) emphasizes that the above relationship between democratization and war can only be said to hold for those democratizing countries where the executive lacks sufficient power, independence, and institutional strength. A review (Ray 2003) cites several other studies finding that the increase in the risk of war in democratizing countries happens only if many or most of the surrounding nations are undemocratic. If wars between young democracies are included in the analysis, several studies and reviews still find enough evidence supporting the stronger claim that all democracies, whether young or established, go into war with one another less frequently (Ray 1998), (Ray 2003), (Hegre 2004), while some do not (Schwartz & Skinner 2002).

Economic Peace Theory

A derivative of the democratic peace theory that a semi-autonomous territory uses to ameliorate a potential occupying power’s aggression through increased economic exchange in the hopes that these efforts will lead to political results. The whole relationship between the newly elected president of Taiwan Ma Ying Jeou and Chinese president Hu Jintao negotiating increased economic exchange through their respective representative bodies SEF and ARATS is contingent upon this theory.[7]

Wars and lesser conflicts

Quantitative research on international wars usually define war as a military conflict with more than 1000 killed in battle in one year. This is the definition used in the Correlates of War Project which has also supplied the data for many studies on war. It turns out that most of the military conflicts in question fall clearly above or below this threshold (Ray 1995, p. 103).

Some researchers have used different definitions. For example, Weart (1998) defines war as more than 200 battle deaths. Russett (1993, p. 50), when looking at Ancient Greece, only requires some real battle engagement, involving on both sides forces under state authorization.

Militarized Interstate Disputes (MIDs), in the Correlates of War Project classification, are lesser conflicts than wars. Such a conflict may be no more than military display of force with no battle deaths. MIDs and wars together are "militarized interstate conflicts" or MICs. MIDs include the conflicts that precede a war; so the difference between MIDs and MICs may be less than it appears.

Statistical analysis and concerns about degrees of freedom are the primary reasons for using MID's instead of actual wars. Wars are relatively rare. An average ratio of 30 MIDs to one war provides a richer statistical environment for analysis.[8]

Monadic vs. Dyadic peace

Most research is regarding the dyadic peace, that democracies do not fight one another. Very few researchers have supported the monadic peace, that democracies are more peaceful in general. There are some recent papers that find a slight monadic effect. Müller and Wolff (2004), in listing them, agree "that democracies on average might be slightly, but not strongly, less warlike than other states," but general "monadic explanations is neither necessary nor convincing". They note that democracies have varied greatly in their belligerence against non-democracies.

Wars cited as evidence against

Historically, cases commonly cited as exceptions include the Spanish-American War, the Continuation War and more recently the Kargil War.[9]

Some theorists cite these or other exceptions, but nevertheless regard them as marginal cases.[10]


Advocates of the theory who describe war between democracies only as "rare", "very rare", "rare or non-existent" account for the possibility of a very few or marginal exceptions, while undercutting their significance.[11]

Some advocates also minimize the significance of any exceptions by stating the theory in a probabilistic form: since such a very great many wars have been fought since democracies first arose, we might expect some proportionately large number of wars to have occurred between democracies; however the historical record reveals this number to be either at or near zero, depending on interpretation[12], with the finding that no wars at all have taken place between well-established liberal democracies being common[13]. One review (Ray 1998) found that, in probabilistic terms, the correlation between democracy and peace is statistically significant. In broader terms, Jack Levy has famously characterized the strength of this correlation as being "as close as anything we have to an empirical law in international relations" (Levy 1988).

Bremer (Bremer 1992, 1993), a strong advocate of the theory, notes this issue of interpretation, but questions its relevance. He argues that it is "fruitless to debate the question of whether democracies never or only very rarely fight one another," since in either case, the central insight of the theory is valid. Most researchers incline to this view (Gleditsch 1992); an exception is Rummel (Rummel 1983).

Lesser conflicts

Number of nations 1800-2003 scoring 8 or higher on Polity IV scale. There have been no wars and in Wayman's (2002) listing of interliberal MIDs no conflict causing any battle deaths between these nations.

One problem with the research on wars is that, as the Realist Mearsheimer (1990, p. 50) put it, "democracies have been few in number over the past two centuries, and thus there have been few opportunities where democracies were in a position to fight one another". Especially if using a strict definition of democracy, as by those finding no wars. Democracies have been very rare until recently. Even looser definitions of democracy, such as Doyle's, find only a dozen democracies before the late nineteenth century, and many of them short-lived or with limited franchise (Doyle 1983), (Doyle 1997, p. 261). Freedom House finds no independent state with universal suffrage in 1900.[14]

Wayman (1998), a supporter of the theory, states that "If we rely solely on whether there has been an inter-democratic war, it is going to take many more decades of peace to build our confidence in the stability of the democratic peace".

Many researchers reacted to this limitation by studying lesser conflicts instead, since they have been far more common. There have been many more MIDs than wars; the Correlates of War Project counts several thousand during the last two centuries. A review (Ray 2003) lists many studies that have reported that democratic pairs of states are less likely to be involved in MIDs than other pairs of states.

Another study (Hensel, Goertz & Diehl 2000) finds that after both states have become democratic, there is a decreasing probability for MIDs within a year and this decreases almost to zero within five years.

When examining the inter-liberal MIDs in more detail, one study (Wayman 2002) finds that they are less likely to involve third parties, the target of the hostility is less likely to reciprocate, if the target reciprocates the response is usually proportional to the provocation, and the disputes are less likely to cause any loss of life. The most common action was "Seizure of Material or Personnel".

Studies find that the probability that disputes between states will be resolved peacefully is positively affected by the degree of democracy exhibited by the lesser democratic state involved in that dispute. Disputes between democratic states are significantly shorter than disputes involving at least one undemocratic state. Democratic states are more likely to be amenable to third party mediation when they are involved in disputes with each other (Ray 2003).

In international crises that include the threat or use of military force, one study finds that if the parties are democracies, then relative military strength has no effect on who wins. This is different from when nondemocracies are involved. These results are the same also if the conflicting parties are formal allies (Gelpi & Griesdorf 2001). Similarly, a study of the behavior of states that joined ongoing militarized disputes reports that power is important only to autocracies: democracies do not seem to base their alignment on the power of the sides in the dispute (Werner & Lemke 1997).

Conflict initiation

Most studies have looked only at who is involved in the conflicts and ignored the question of who initiated the conflict. In many conflicts both sides argue that the other side was initiator. Several researchers, as described in (Gleditsch, Christiansen & Hegre 2004), have argued that studying conflict initiation is of limited value, because existing data about conflict initiation may be especially unreliable. Even so, several studies have examined this. Reiter and Stam (2003) argue that autocracies initiate conflicts against democracies more frequently than democracies do against autocracies. Quackenbush and Rudy (2006), while confirming Reiter and Stam's results, find that democracies initiate wars against nondemocracies more frequently than nondemocracies do to each other. Several following studies (Peceny & Beer 2003), (Peceny & Butler 2004), (Lai & Slater 2006) have studied how different types of autocracies with different institutions vary regarding conflict initiation. Personalistic and military dictatorships may be particularly prone to conflict initiation, as compared to other types of autocracy such as one party states, but also more likely to be targeted in a war having other initiators.

Internal violence and genocide

Most of this article discusses research on relations between states. However, there is also evidence that democracies have less internal systematic violence. For instance, one study finds that the most democratic and the most authoritarian states have few civil wars, and intermediate regimes the most. The probability for a civil war is also increased by political change, regardless whether toward greater democracy or greater autocracy. Intermediate regimes continue to be the most prone to civil war, regardless of the time since the political change. In the long run, since intermediate regimes are less stable than autocracies, which in turn are less stable than democracies, durable democracy is the most probable end-point of the process of democratization (Hegre et al. 2001). Abadie (2004) study finds that the most democratic nations have the least terrorism. Harff (2003) finds that genocide and politicide are rare in democracies. Rummel (1997) finds that the more democratic a regime, the less its democide. He finds that democide has killed six times as many people as battles.

Davenport and Armstrong (2004) lists several other studies and states: "Repeatedly, democratic political systems have been found to decrease political bans, censorship, torture, disappearances and mass killing, doing so in a linear fashion across diverse measurements, methodologies, time periods, countries, and contexts." It concludes: "Across measures and methodological techniques, it is found that below a certain level, democracy has no impact on human rights violations, but above this level democracy influences repression in a negative and roughly linear manner." Davenport and Armstrong (2003) states that thirty years worth of statistical research has revealed that only two variables decrease human rights violations: political democracy and economic development.


These theories have traditionally been categorized into two groups: explanations that focus on democratic norms and explanations that focus on democratic political structures (Gelpi & Griesdorf 2001), (Braumoeller 1997). Note that they usually are meant to be explanations for little violence between democracies, not for a low level of internal violence in democracies.

Several of these mechanisms may also apply to countries of similar systems. The book Never at War finds evidence for an oligarchic peace. One example is the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in which the Sejm resisted and vetoed most royal proposals for war,[15] like those of Władysław IV Vasa.

Democratic norms

One example from the first group is that liberal democratic culture may make the leaders accustomed to negotiation and compromise (Weart 1998), (Müller & Wolff 2004). Another that a belief in human rights may make people in democracies reluctant to go to war, especially against other democracies. The decline in colonialism, also by democracies, may be related to a change in perception of non-European peoples and their rights (Ravlo & Gleditsch 2000).

Bruce Russett (1993, p. 5-11, 35, 59-62, 73-4) also argues that the democratic culture affects the way leaders resolve conflicts. In addition, he holds that a social norm emerged toward the end of the nineteenth century; that democracies should not fight each other, which strengthened when the democratic culture and the degree of democracy increased, for example by widening the franchise. Increasing democratic stability allowed partners in foreign affairs to perceive a nation as reliable democratic. The alliances between democracies during the two World Wars and the Cold War also strengthened the norms. He sees less effective traces of this norm in Greek antiquity.

Hans Köchler (1995) relates the question of transnational democracy to empowering the individual citizen by involving him, through procedures of direct democracy, in a country's international affairs, and he calls for the restructuring of the United Nations Organization according to democratic norms. He refers in particular to the Swiss practice of participatory democracy.

Mousseau (2000, 2005) argues that it is market-oriented development that creates the norms and values that explain both democracy and the peace. In less developed countries individuals often depend on social networks that impose conformity to in-group norms and beliefs, and loyalty to group leaders. When jobs are plentiful on the market, in contrast, as in market-oriented developed countries, individuals depend on a strong state that enforces contracts equally. Cognitive routines emerge of abiding by state law rather than group leaders, and, as in contracts, tolerating differences among individuals. Voters in marketplace democracies thus accept only impartial ‘liberal’ governments, and constrain leaders to pursue their interests in securing equal access to global markets and in resisting those who distort such access with force. Marketplace democracies thus share common foreign policy interests in the supremacy — and predictability — of international law over brute power politics, and equal and open global trade over closed trade and imperial preferences. When disputes do originate between marketplace democracies, they are less likely than others to escalate to violence because both states, even the stronger one, perceive greater long-term interests in the supremacy of law over power politics.

(Braumoeller 1997) argues that liberal norms of conflict resolution vary because liberalism takes many forms. By examining survey results from the newly-independent states of the former Soviet Union, the author demonstrates that liberalism in that region bears a stronger resemblance to 19th-century liberal nationalism than to the sort of universalist, Wilsonian liberalism described by democratic peace theorists, and that, as a result, liberals in the region are more, not less, aggressive than non-liberals.

Democratic political structures

The case for institutional constraints goes back to Kant (1795), who wrote:

"[I]f the consent of the citizens is required in order to decide that war should be declared (and in this constitution it cannot but be the case), nothing is more natural than that they would be very cautious in commencing such a poor game, decreeing for themselves all the calamities of war. Among the latter would be: having to fight, having to pay the costs of war from their own resources, having painfully to repair the devastation war leaves behind, and, to fill up the measure of evils, load themselves with a heavy national debt that would embitter peace itself and that can never be liquidated on account of constant wars in the future"

Democracy thus gives influence to those most likely to be killed or wounded in wars, and their relatives and friends (and to those who pay the bulk of the war taxes) Russett (1993, p. 30). This monadic theory must, however, explain why democracies do attack non-democratic states. One explanation is that these democracies were threatened or otherwise were provoked by the non-democratic states. Doyle (1997, p. 272) argued that the absence of a monadic peace is only to be expected: the same ideologies that cause liberal states to be at peace with each other inspire idealistic wars with the illiberal, whether to defend oppressed foreign minorities or avenge countrymen settled abroad. Doyle also notes (p. 292) liberal states do conduct covert operations against each other; the covert nature of the operation, however, prevents the publicity otherwise characteristic of a free state from applying to the question

Studies show that democratic states are more likely than autocratic states to win the wars. One explanation is that democracies, for internal political and economic reasons, have greater resources. This might mean that democratic leaders are unlikely to select other democratic states as targets because they perceive them to be particularly formidable opponents. One study finds that interstate wars have important impacts on the fate of political regimes, and that the probability that a political leader will fall from power in the wake of a lost war is particularly high in democratic states (Ray 1998).

As described in (Gelpi & Griesdorf 2001), several studies have argued that liberal leaders face institutionalized constraints that impede their capacity to mobilize the state’s resources for war without the consent of a broad spectrum of interests. Survey results that compare the attitudes of citizens and elites in the Soviet successor states are consistent with this argument (Braumoeller 1997). Moreover, these constraints are readily apparent to other states and cannot be manipulated by leaders. Thus, democracies send credible signals to other states of an aversion to using force. These signals allow democratic states to avoid conflicts with one another, but they may attract aggression from nondemocratic states. Democracies may be pressured to respond to such aggression — perhaps even preemptively — through the use of force. Also as described in (Gelpi & Griesdorf 2001), studies have argued that when democratic leaders do choose to escalate international crises, their threats are taken as highly credible, since there must be a relatively large public opinion for these actions. In disputes between liberal states, the credibility of their bargaining signals allows them to negotiate a peaceful settlement before mobilization.

An explanation based on game theory similar to the last two above is that the participation of the public and the open debate send clear and reliable information regarding the intentions of democracies to other states. In contrast, it is difficult to know the intentions of nondemocratic leaders, what effect concessions will have, and if promises will be kept. Thus there will be mistrust and unwillingness to make concessions if at least one of the parties in a dispute is a nondemocracy (Levy & Razin 2004).

The risk factors for certain types of state have, however, changed since Kant's time. In the quote above, Kant points to the lack of popular support for war - given that the populace will directly or indirectly suffer in the event of war - as a reason why republics will not tend to go to war. The number of American troops killed or maimed versus the number of Iraqi soldiers and civilians maimed and killed in the American-Iraqi conflict is indicative. This may explain the relatively great willingness of democratic states to attack weak opponents: the Iraq war was, initially at least, highly popular in the United States. The case of the American-Vietnamese war might, nonetheless, indicate a tipping point where publics may no longer accept continuing attrition of their soldiers (even while remaining relatively indifferent to the much higher loss of life on the part of the populations attacked).


There are several logically distinguishable classes of criticism. Note that they usually apply to no wars or few MIDs between democracies, not to little systematic violence in established democracies.

Statistical significance

Only one study (Schwartz & Skinner 2002) appears to have argued that there have been as many wars between democracies as one would expect between any other couple of states. However, its authors include wars between young and dubious democracies, and very small wars.

Others (Spiro 1994), (Gowa 1999), (Small & Singer 1976) state that, although there may be some evidence for democratic peace, the data sample or the time span may be too small to assess any definitive conclusions. For example, Gowa finds evidence for democratic peace to be insignificant before 1939, because of the too small number of democracies, and offers an alternate explanation for the following period (see the section on Realist Explanations). Gowa's use of statistics has been criticized, with several other studies and reviews finding different or opposing results (Gelpi & Griesdorf 2001), (Ray 2003). However, this can be seen as the longest-lasting criticism to the theory; as noted earlier, also some supporters (Wayman 1998) agree that the statistical sample for assessing its validity is limited or scarce, at least if only full scale wars are considered.

It can be interesting to consider the question of "how much" significance the evidence has. One study (Ray 2003) tries to answer this question in a straightforward way. According to Ray, who uses a rather restrictive definition of democracy and war, there have been no wars between jointly democratic couples of states in the period from 1816 to 1992. Assuming a purely random distribution of wars between states, regardless of their democratic character, the predicted number of conflicts between democracies would be around ten. So, Ray argues that the evidence is statistically significant, but that it is still conceivable that, in the future, even a small number of inter-democratic wars wipes out such evidence.[16]

Definitions, methodology and data

Some authors criticize the definition of democracy by arguing that states continually reinterpret other states' regime types as a consequence of their own objective interests and motives, such as economic and security concerns (Rosato 2003). For example, one study (Oren 1995) reports that Germany was considered a democratic state by Western opinion leaders at the end of the 19th century; yet in the years preceding World War I, when its relations with the United States, France and Britain started deteriorating, Germany was gradually reinterpreted as an autocratic state, in absence of any actual regime change. Shimmin (Shimmin 1999) moves a similar criticism regarding the western perception of Milosevic's Serbia between 1989 and 1999. Rummel (Rummel 1999) replies to the above criticism by stating that, in general, studies on democratic peace do not focus on the "western" perception of democracy; and in the specific case of Serbia, by arguing that the limited credit accorded by western democracies to Milosevic in the early '90s did not amount to a recognition of democracy, but only to the perception that possible alternative leaders could be even worse.

Some democratic peace researchers have been criticized for post hoc reclassifying some specific conflicts as non wars or political systems as non democracies without checking and correcting the whole data set used similarly. Supporters and opponents of the democratic peace agree that this is bad use of statistics, even if a plausible case can be made for the correction (Bremer 1992), (Gleditsch 1995), (Gowa 1999). A military affairs columnist of the newspaper Asia Times has summarized the above criticism in a journalist's fashion describing the theory as subject to the no true Scotsman problem: exceptions are explained away as not being between real democracies or being real wars.[17]

However, most researchers agree that an objective working definition of "democracy" and "war" can be given[citation needed]. Even so, democracy is an evolving concept which has meant different things at different times, but in almost all cases researchers apply the same criteria to all history.[citation needed]

Definitions of democracy that require an actual transfer of power between different political parties sometimes exclude long periods often viewed as democratic. For example, the United States until 1800, India from independence until 1979, and Japan until 1993 (Ray 1995, p. 100).

Some democratic peace researchers require that the executive result from a substantively contested election. This may be a restrictive definition: For example, the National Archives of the United States notes that "For all intents and purposes, George Washington was unopposed for election as President, both in 1789 and 1792". (Under the original provisions for the Electoral College, there was no distinction between votes for President and Vice-President: each elector was required to vote for two distinct candidates, with the runner-up to be Vice-President. Every elector cast one of his votes for Washington,[18] John Adams received a majority of the other votes; there were several other candidates: so the election for Vice President was contested.)

Spiro (1994) made several other criticisms of the statistical methods used. Russett (1995) and a series of papers described by Ray (2003) responded to this, for example with different methodology.

Sometimes the datasets used have also been criticized. For example, some authors have criticized the Correlates of War data for not including civilian deaths in the battle deaths count, especially in civil wars (Sambanis 2001). Weeks and Cohen (2006) argue that most fishing disputes, which include no deaths and generally very limited threats of violence, should be excluded even from the list of military disputes. Gleditsch (2004) made several criticisms to the Correlates of War data set, and produced a revised set of data. Maoz and Russett (1993) made several criticisms to the Polity I and II data sets, which have mostly been addressed in later versions. These criticisms are generally considered minor issues.

Other explanations

If phenomenon A is found to be correlated with phenomenon B, there are in principle several possibilities regarding the origin of such correlation: A may cause B, B may cause A, both A and B may be caused by a third phenomenon C, or they may be caused by two different phenomena which are themselves correlated, and other, more complex, combinations. Many researchers, while accepting the empirical findings of democratic peace, have looked for different or complementary explanations, connections, and statistical variables which may account for such evidence.

Political similarity

One general criticism motivating research of different explanations is that actually the theory cannot claim that "democracy causes peace", because the evidence for democracies being, in general, more peaceful is very slight or non existent; it only can support the claim that "joint democracy causes peace". According to Rosato (2003), this casts doubts on whether democracy is actually the cause because, if so, a monadic effect would be expected.

Perhaps the simplest explanation to such perceived anomaly (but not the one the Realist Rosato prefers, see the section on Realist explanations below) is that democracies are not peaceful to each other because they are democratic, but rather because they are similar. This line of thought started with several independent observations of an "Autocratic Peace" effect, a reduced probability of war (obviously no author claims its absence) between states which are both non-democratic, or both highly so (Raknerud & Hegre 1997), (Beck & Jackman 1998), This has led to the hypothesis that democratic peace emerges as a particular case when analyzing a subset of states which are, in fact, similar (Werner 2000). Or, that similarity in general does not solely affect the probability of war, but only coherence of strong political regimes such as full democracies and stark autocracies.

Autocratic peace and the explanation based on political similarity is a relatively recent development, and opinions about its value are varied. Henderson (2002) builds a model considering political similarity, geographic distance and economic interdependence as its main variables, and concludes that democratic peace is a statistical artifact which disappears when the above variables are taken into account. Werner (2000) finds a conflict reducing effect from political similarity in general, but with democratic dyads being particularly peaceful, and noting some differences in behavior between democratic and autocratic dyads with respect to alliances and power evaluation. Beck, King and Zeng (2004) use neural networks to show two distinct low probability zones, corresponding to high democracy and high autocracy.[19] Petersen (2004) uses a different statistical model and finds that autocratic peace is not statistically significant, and that the effect attributed to similarity is mostly driven by the pacifying effect of joint democracy. Ray (2005) similarly disputes the weight of the argument on logical grounds, claiming that statistical analysis on "political similarity" uses a main variable which is an extension of "joint democracy" by linguistic redefinition, and so it is expected that the war reducing effects are carried on in the new analysis. Bennett (2006) builds a direct statistical model based on a triadic classification of states into "democratic", "autocratic" and "mixed". He finds that autocratic dyads have a 35% reduced chance of going into any type of armed conflict with respect to a reference mixed dyad. Democratic dyads have a 55% reduced chance. This effect gets stronger when looking at more severe conflicts; for wars (more than 1000 battle deaths), he estimates democratic dyads to have an 82% lower risk than autocratic dyads. He concludes that autocratic peace exists, but democratic peace is clearly stronger. However, he finds no relevant pacifying effect of political similarity, except at the extremes of the scale.

To summarize a rather complex picture, there are no less than four possible stances on the value of this criticism:

  1. Political similarity, plus some complementary variables, explains everything. Democratic peace is a statistical artifact. Henderson subscribes to this view.
  2. Political similarity has a pacifying effect, but democracy makes it stronger. Werner would probably subscribe to this view.
  3. Political similarity in general has little or no effect, except at the extremes of the democracy-autocracy scale: a democratic peace and an autocratic peace exist separately, with the first one being stronger, and may have different explanations. Bennett holds this view, and Kinsella mentions this as a possibility
  4. Political similarity has little or no effect and there is no evidence for autocratic peace. Petersen and Ray are among defendants of this view.

Economic factors

World GDP/capita 1-2003 AD. The increase in the number of democratic nations has occurred at the same time as the increase in economic wealth.

A majority of researchers on the determinants of democracy agree that economic development is a primary factor which allows the formation of a stable and healthy democracy (Hegre, 2003; Weede, 2004). This in itself is not in contradiction with democratic peace theory; it is just a statement about the nature of democracy; however, if a causal link between some economic factor and peace could be found, one could hope to explain the findings of the theory on a purely economical basis.

Mousseau argues that a culture of contracting in advanced market-oriented economies may cause both democracy and peace (2000; 2002; 2003; 2005). These studies indicate that democracy, alone, is an unlikely cause of the democratic peace. A low level of market-oriented economic development may hinder development of liberal institutions and values. Hegre (2000) and Souva (2003) confirmed these expectations. Mousseau (2005) finds that democracy is a significant factor only when both democracies have levels of economic development well above the global median. In fact, the poorest 21% of the democracies studied, and the poorest 4-5% of current democracies, are significantly more likely than other kinds of countries to fight each other. Mousseau, Hegre & Oneal (2003) confirm that if at least one of the democracies involved has a very low level of economic development, democracy is ineffective in preventing war; however, they find that when also controlling for trade, 91% of all the democratic pairs had high enough development for the pacifying effect of democracy to be important during the 1885–1992 period and all in 1992. The difference in results of Mousseau (2005) and Mousseau, Hegre & Oneal (2003) may be due to sampling: Mousseau (2005) observed only neighboring states where poor countries actually can fight each other. In fact, fully 89% of militarized conflicts between less developed countries from 1920 and 2000 were among directly contiguous neighbors (Mousseau 2005:68-69). He argues that it is not likely that the results can be explained by trade: Because developed states have large economies, they do not have high levels of trade interdependence (2005:70 and footnote 5; Mousseau, Hegre & Oneal 2003:283). In fact, the correlation of developed democracy with trade interdependence is a scant 0.06 (Pearson's r - considered substantively no correlation by statisticians)(2005:77).

Both World Wars were fought between countries which can be considered economically developed. Mousseau argues that both Germany and Japan - like the USSR during the Cold War and Saudi Arabia today - had state-managed economies and thus lacked his market norms (Mousseau 2002-03:29). Hegre (2003) finds that democracy is correlated with civil peace only for developed countries, and for countries with high levels of literacy. Conversely, the risk of civil war decreases with development only for democratic countries.

Gartzke (2005) argues that economic freedom (a quite different concept from Mousseau's market norms) or financial dependence (2007) explains the developed democratic peace, and these countries may be weak on these dimensions too.[20] Rummel (2005) criticizes Gartzke's methodology and argues that his results are invalid.[21]

Several studies find that democracy, more trade causing greater economic interdependence, and membership in more intergovernmental organizations reduce the risk of war. This is often called the Kantian peace theory since it is similar to Kant's earlier theory about a perpetual peace; it is often also called "liberal peace" theory, especially when one focuses on the effects of trade and democracy. (The theory that free trade can cause peace is quite old and referred to as Cobdenism.) Many researchers agree that these variables positively affect each other but each has a separate pacifying effect. For example, in countries exchanging a substantial amount of trade, economic interest groups may exist that oppose a reciprocal disruptive war, but in democracy such groups may have more power, and the political leaders be more likely to accept their requests. (Russett & Oneal 2001), (Lagazio & Russett 2004), (Oneal & Russett 2004). Weede (2004) argues that the pacifying effect of free trade and economic interdependence may be more important than that of democracy, because the former affects peace both directly and indirectly, by producing economic development and ultimately, democracy. Weede also lists some other authors supporting this view. However, some recent studies find no effect from trade but only from democracy (Goenner 2004), (Kim & Rousseau 2005).

None of the authors listed argues that free trade alone causes peace. Even so, the issue of whether free trade or democracy is more important in maintaining peace may have potentially significant practical consequences, for example on evaluating the effectiveness of applying economic sanctions and restrictions to autocratic countries.

It was Michael Doyle (1983, 1997) who reintroduced Kant's three articles into democratic peace theory. He argued that a pacific union of liberal states has been growing for the past two centuries. He denies that a pair of states will be peaceful simply because they are both liberal democracies; if that were enough, liberal states would not be aggressive towards weak non-liberal states (as the history of American relations with Mexico shows they are). Rather, liberal democracy is a necessary condition for international organization and hospitality (which are Kant's other two articles) — and all three are sufficient to produce peace. Other Kantians have not repeated Doyle's argument that all three in the triad must be present, instead stating that all three reduce the risk of war.

Other explanations

Many studies, as those discussed in (Ray 1998), (Ray 2005), (Oneal & Russett 2004), supporting the theory have controlled for many possible alternative causes of the peace. Examples of factors controlled for are geographic distance, geographic contiguity, power status, alliance ties, militarization, economic wealth and economic growth, power ratio, and political stability. These studies have often found very different results depending on methodology and included variables, which has caused criticism. It should be noted that DPT does not state democracy is the only thing affecting the risk of military conflict. Many of the mentioned studies have found that other factors are also important. However, a common thread in most results is an emphasis on the relationship between democracy and peace.

Several studies have also controlled for the possibility of reverse causality from peace to democracy. For example, one study (Reuveny & Li 2003) supports the theory of simultaneous causation, finding that dyads involved in wars are likely to experience a decrease in joint democracy, which in turn increases the probability of further war. So they argue that disputes between democratizing or democratic states should be resolved externally at a very early stage, in order to stabilize the system. Another study (Reiter 2001) finds that peace does not spread democracy, but spreading democracy is likely to spread peace. A different kind of reverse causation lies in the suggestion that impending war could destroy or decrease democracy, because the preparation for war might include political restrictions, which may be the cause for the findings of democratic peace. However, this hypothesis has been statistically tested in a study (Mousseau & Shi 1999) whose authors find, depending on the definition of the pre-war period, no such effect or a very slight one. So, they find this explanation unlikely. Note also that this explanation would predict a monadic effect, although weaker than the dyadic one.

Weart (1998) argues that the peacefulness appears and disappears rapidly when democracy appears and disappears. This in his view makes it unlikely that variables that change more slowly are the explanation. Weart, however, has been criticized for not offering any quantitative analysis supporting his claims (Ray, 2000).

Wars tend very strongly to be between neighboring states. Gleditsch (1995) showed that the average distance between democracies is about 8000 miles, the same as the average distance between all states. He believes that the effect of distance in preventing war, modified by the democratic peace, explains the incidence of war as fully as it can be explained.

Realist explanations

Supporters of realism in international relations in general argue that not democracy or its absence, but considerations and evaluations of power, cause peace or war. Specifically, many realist critics claim that the effect ascribed to democratic, or liberal, peace, is in fact due to alliance ties between democratic states which in turn are caused, one way or another, by realist factors.

For example, Farber and Gowa (1995) find evidence for peace between democracies to be statistically significant only in the period from 1945 on, and consider such peace an artifact of the Cold War, when the threat from the communist states forced democracies to ally with one another. Mearsheimer (1990) offers a similar analysis of the Anglo-American peace before 1945, caused by the German threat. Spiro (1994) finds several instances of wars between democracies, arguing that evidence in favor of the theory might be not so vast as other authors report, and claims that the remaining evidence consists of peace between allied states with shared objectives. He acknowledges that democratic states might have a somewhat greater tendency to ally with one another, and regards this as the only real effect of democratic peace. Rosato (2003) argues that most of the significant evidence for democratic peace has been observed after World War II; and that it has happened within a broad alliance, which can be identified with NATO and its satellite nations, imposed and maintained by American dominance (see Pax Americana). One of the main points in Rosato's argument is that, although never engaged in open war with another liberal democracy during the Cold War, the United States intervened openly or covertly in the political affairs of democratic states several times, for example in the Chilean coup of 1973, the 1953 coup in Iran and 1954 coup in Guatemala; in Rosato's view, these interventions show the United States' determination to maintain an "imperial peace".

The most direct counter arguments to such criticisms have been studies finding peace between democracies to be significant even when controlling for "common interests" as reflected in alliance ties (Gelpi & Griesdorf 2001), (Ray 2003). Regarding specific issues, Ray (1998) objects that explanations based on the Cold War should predict that the Communist bloc would be at peace within itself also, but exceptions include the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, and the Sino-Vietnamese War. Ray also argues that the external threat did not prevent conflicts in the Western bloc when at least one of the involved states was a nondemocracy, such as the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus (against Greek Junta supported Cypriot Greeks), the Falklands War, and the Football War. Also, one study (Ravlo & Gleditsch 2000) notes that the explanation "goes increasingly stale as the post-Cold War world accumulates an increasing number of peaceful dyad-years between democracies". Rosato's argument about American dominance has also been criticized for not giving supporting statistical evidence (Slantchev, Alexandrova & Gartzke 2005).

Some realist authors also criticize in detail the explanations given by supporters of democratic peace, pointing to supposed inconsistencies or weaknesses.

Rosato (2003) criticizes most explanations to how democracy might cause peace. Arguments based on normative constraints, he argues, are not consistent with the fact that democracies do go to war no less than other states, thus violating norms preventing war; for the same reason he refutes arguments based on the importance of public opinion. Regarding explanations based on greater accountability of leaders, he finds that historically autocratic leaders have been removed or punished more often than democratic leaders when they get involved in costly wars. Finally, he also criticizes the arguments that democracies treat each other with trust and respect even during crises; and that democracy might be slow to mobilize its composite and diverse groups and opinions, hindering the start of a war, drawing support from other authors. Another realist, Layne (1994) analyzes the crises and brinkmanship that took place between non-allied democratic great powers, during the relatively brief period when such existed. He finds no evidence either of institutional or cultural constraints against war; indeed, there was popular sentiment in favor of war on both sides. Instead, in all cases, one side concluded that it could not afford to risk that war at that time, and made the necessary concessions.

Rosato's objections have been criticized for claimed logical and methodological errors, and for being contradicted by existing statistical research (Slantchev, Alexandrova & Gartzke 2005), (Kinsella 2005). Russett (1995) replies to Layne by re-examining some of the crises studied in his article, and reaching different conclusions; Russett argues that perceptions of democracy prevented escalation, or played a major role in doing so. Also, a recent study (Gelpi & Griesdorf 2001) finds that, while in general the outcome of international disputes is highly influenced by the contenders' relative military strength, this is not true if both contenders are democratic states; in this case the authors find the outcome of the crisis to be independent of the military capabilities of contenders, which is contrary to realist expectations. Finally, both the realist criticisms here described ignore new possible explanations, like the game-theoretic one discussed below.[22]

A different kind of realist criticism (see (Jervis 2002) for a discussion) is centered around the role of nuclear weapons in maintaining peace. In realist terms, this means that, in the case of disputes between nuclear powers, respective evaluation of power might be irrelevant because of Mutual assured destruction preventing both sides from foreseeing what could be reasonably called a "victory". An obvious rebuttal is that nuclear powers have been too few to account for the evidence in favor of democratic peace, except a very small part of it. The rebuttal remains valid even considering the mitigating argument that some advanced democracies, for example Germany and Japan, would be able to complete a nuclear program in a very brief period of time if a possible nuclear menace arose. The 1999 Kargil War between India and Pakistan has been cited as a counterexample to this argument (Page Fortna, 2004).

Some supporters of the democratic peace do not deny that realist factors are also important (Russett 1995). Research supporting the theory has also shown that factors such as alliance ties and major power status influence interstate conflict behavior (Ray 2003).

Marxist explanations

Immanuel Wallerstein has argued that it is the global capitalist system that creates shared interests among the dominant parties, thus inhibiting potentially harmful belligerence.[citation needed]

Negri and Hardt take a similar stance, arguing that the intertwined network of interests in the global capitalism leads to the decline of individual nation states, and the rise of a global Empire which has no outside, and no external enemies. As a result, they write, "The era of imperialist, interimperialist, and anti-imperialist wars is over. (...) we have entered the era of minor and internal conflicts. Every imperial war is a civil war, a police action." (Hardt & Negri 2000).

Limited consequences

The peacefulness may have various limitations and qualifiers and may not actually mean very much in the real-world.

Democratic peace researchers do in general not count as wars conflicts which do not kill a thousand on the battlefield; thus they exclude for example the bloodless Cod Wars. However, as noted earlier, research has also found a peacefulness between democracies when looking at lesser conflicts.

Democracies were involved in more colonial and imperialistic wars than other states during the 1816-1945 period. On the other hand, this relation disappears if controlling for factors like power and number of colonies. Liberal democracies have less of these wars than other states after 1945. This might be related to changes in the perception of non-European peoples, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Ravlo & Glieditsch 2000).

Related to this is the human rights violations committed against native people, sometimes by liberal democracies. One response is that many of the worst crimes were committed by nondemocracies, like in the European colonies before the nineteenth century, in King Leopold II of Belgium's privately owned Congo Free State, and in Stalin's Soviet Union. The United Kingdom abolished slavery in British territory in 1833, immediately after the Reform Act 1832 had significantly enlarged the franchise. (Of course, the abolition of the slave trade had been enacted in 1807; and many DPT supporters would deny that the UK was a liberal democracy in 1833 when examining interstate wars.)

Hermann and Kegley (1995) argue that interventions between democracies are more likely to happen than projected by an expected model.[23] They further argue (1996) that democracies are more likely to intervene in other liberal states than against countries that are non-democracies.[24] Finally, they argue that these interventions between democracies have been increasing over time and that the world can expect more of these interventions in the future.[23][24][25] The methodology used has been criticized and more recent studies have found opposing results (Gleditsch, Christiansen & Hegre 2004).

Rummel argues that the continuing increase in democracy worldwide will soon lead to an end to wars and democide, possibly around or even before the middle of this century.[26] The fall of Communism and the increase in the number of democratic states were accompanied by a sudden and dramatic decline in total warfare, interstate wars, ethnic wars, revolutionary wars, and the number of refugees and displaced persons.[27] One report claims that the two main causes of this decline in warfare are the end of the Cold War itself and decolonization; but also claims that the three Kantian factors have contributed materially.[28]

Academic relevance and derived studies

Democratic peace theory is a well established research field with more than a hundred authors having published articles about it.[29] Several peer-reviewed studies mention in their introduction that most researchers accept the theory as an empirical fact.[30]

Imre Lakatos suggested that what he called a "progressive research program" is better than a "degenerative" one when it can explain the same phenomena as the "degenerative" one, but is also characterized by growth of its research field and the discovery of important novel facts. In contrast, the supporters of the "degenerative" program do not make important new empirical discoveries, but instead mostly apply adjustments to their theory in order to defend it from competitors. Some researchers argue that democratic peace theory is now the "progressive" program in international relations. According to these authors, the theory can explain the empirical phenomena previously explained by the earlier dominant research program, realism in international relations; in addition, the initial statement that democracies do not, or rarely, wage war on one another, has been followed by a rapidly growing literature on novel empirical regularities. (Ray 2003), (Chernoff 2004), (Harrison 2005). Many of these derived studies have been mentioned above, for example those examining lesser conflicts and minor incidents.

Other examples are several studies finding that democracies are more likely to ally with one another than with other states, forming alliances which are likely to last longer than alliances involving nondemocracies (Ray 2003); several studies including (Weart 1998) showing that democracies conduct diplomacy differently and in a more conciliatory way compared to nondemocracies; one study finding that democracies with proportional representation are in general more peaceful regardless of the nature of the other party involved in a relationship (Leblang & Chan 2003); and another study reporting that proportional representation system and decentralized territorial autonomy is positively associated with lasting peace in postconflict societies (Binningsbø 2005).

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas L. Friedman coins the "Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention" - that no two countries that both have a McDonald's franchise would be likely to fight a war. The 2008 South Ossetia war, however, is a counterexample.


The democratic peace theory has been extremely divisive among political scientists. It is rooted in the idealist and classical liberalist traditions and is opposed to the previously dominant theory of realism. However, democratic peace theory has come to be more widely accepted and has in some democracies effected policy change[citation needed]

Presidents of both the major United States parties have expressed support for the theory. Former President Bill Clinton of the Democratic Party: "Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other."[31] Former President George W. Bush of the Republican Party: "And the reason why I'm so strong on democracy is democracies don't go to war with each other. And the reason why is the people of most societies don't like war, and they understand what war means.... I've got great faith in democracies to promote peace. And that's why I'm such a strong believer that the way forward in the Middle East, the broader Middle East, is to promote democracy."[32][33]

Former European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten: "Inevitable because the EU was formed partly to protect liberal values, so it is hardly surprising that we should think it appropriate to speak out. But it is also sensible for strategic reasons. Free societies tend not to fight one another or to be bad neighbours."[34] The A Secure Europe in a Better World, European Security Strategy states: "The best protection for our security is a world of well-governed democratic states."[35] Tony Blair has claimed the theory is correct.[36]

As a pretense for initiating war

Some fear that the democratic peace theory may be used to justify wars against nondemocracies in order to bring lasting peace, in a democratic crusade (Chan 1997, p. 59). Woodrow Wilson in 1917 asked Congress to declare war against Imperial Germany, citing Germany's sinking of American ships due to unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmermann telegram, but also stating that "A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic nations" and "The world must be made safe for democracy."[37] R. J. Rummel is a notable proponent of war for the purpose of spreading democracy, based on this theory.

Some point out that the democratic peace theory has been used to justify the 2003 Iraq War, others argue that this justification was used only after the war had already started (Russett 2005). Furthermore, Weede (2004) has argued that the justification is extremely weak, because forcibly democratizing a country completely surrounded by non-democracies, most of which are full autocracies, as Iraq is, is at least as likely to increase the risk of war as it is to decrease it (some studies show that dyads formed by one democracy and one autocracy are the most warlike, and several find that the risk of war is greatly increased in democratizing countries surrounded by nondemocracies). According to Weede, if the United States and its allies wanted to adopt a rationale strategy of forced democratization based on democratic peace, which he still does not recommend, it would be best to start intervening in countries which border with at least one or two stable democracies, and expand gradually. Also, research shows that attempts to create democracies by using external force has often failed. Gleditsch, Christiansen and Hegre (2004) argue that forced democratization by interventionism may initially have partial success, but often create an unstable democratizing country, which can have dangerous consequences in the long run. Those attempts which had a permanent and stable success, like democratization in occupied Japan after World War II, mostly involved countries which had an advanced economic and social structure already,[38] and implied a drastic change of the whole political culture. Supporting internal democratic movements and using diplomacy may be far more successful and less costly. Thus, the theory and related research, if they were correctly understood, may actually be an argument against a democratic crusade (Weart 1998), (Owen 2005), (Russett 2005).

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Schwartz, Thomas; Skinner, Kiron K. (2002), "The Myth of the Democratic Peace", Orbis (Foreign Policy Research Institute) 46 (1): 159 

Shimmin, Kevin (1999), "Critique of R. J. Rummel's "Democratic Peace" Thesis", Peace Magazine 15 (5), 

Slantchev, Branislav L.; Alexandrova, Anna; Gartzke, Erik (2005), "Probabilistic Causality, Selection Bias, and the Logic of the Democratic Peace", American Political Science Review 99 (3): 459–462, 

Small, Melvin; Singer, David J. (1976), "The War Proneness of Democratic Regimes, 1816-1965", Jerusalem Journal of International Relations 1: 50–69 

Souva, Mark (2004). "Institutional Similarity and Interstate Conflict". International Interactions 30 (3): 263–281. doi:10.1080/03050620490492213. 

Spiro, David E. (1994). "Give Democratic Peace a Chance? The Insignificance of the Liberal Peace". International Security 19 (Vol. 19, No. 2. (Autumn, 1994)): 50–86. doi:10.2307/2539196. 

Wayman, Frank (2002), "Incidence of Militarized Disputes Between Liberal States, 1816-1992", Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, La., Mar. 23-27, 2002, 

Weede, Erich (2004), "The Diffusion of Prosperity and Peace by Globalization", The Independent Review 9 (2), 

Weart, Spencer R. (1998), Never at War, Yale University Press 

Werner, Suzanne; Lemke, Douglas (1997), "Opposites Do Not Attract: The Impact of Domestic Institutions, Power, and Prior Commitments on Alignment Choicesl", International Studies Quarterly 41 (3): 529–546, 

Werner, Suzanne (2000), "The Effect of Political similarity on the Onset of Militarized Disputes, 1816-1985", Political Science Quarterly 53 (2): 343–374 


  1. ^ Michael Doyle in his pioneering work, "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs", Philosophy and Public Affairs (1983) 205, 207-208, applied the theory to what he called "Liberal states" which he defined as "States with some form of representative democracy, a market economy based on private property rights, and constitutional protections of civil and political rights." The theory is sometimes called the "Liberal peace theory" For example, Clemens Jr., Walter C. Complexity Theory as a Tool for Understanding and Coping with Ethnic Conflict and Development Issues in Post-Soviet Eurasia. International Journal of Peace Studies.[1]
  2. ^ Doyle uses the phrase liberal democracy for those states which meet his definition; several other authors call the qualifying states democracies. This may induce a no true Scotsman problem.
  3. ^ Daniele Archibugi, The Global Commonwealth of Citizens. Toward Cosmopolitan Democracy, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2008
  4. ^ See the bibliography on Rummel's website. Rummel is partisan, and the bibliography lacks some recent papers, but is nonetheless one of the better introductions to the subject.
  5. ^ Other such rankings have made by Steve Chan and by Ze'ev Maoz (Maoz 1997). See also "Conflict Data Set". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved October 3, 2005.  and "Data". Peter D. Watson Center for Conflict and Cooperation. Retrieved October 3, 2005. 
  6. ^ See (Owen 2005) for an online description.
  7. ^}
  8. ^ Reverse Causality, Mosseau and Shi, 1999
  9. ^
  10. ^ Doyle (1983); but his only exceptions are the Paquisha War and the Lebanese air force's intervention in the Six Day War, both of which he dismisses as technical. Gleditsch (1995) and Bremer (1993) each discuss one or two marginal exceptions; but neither of them find this an obstacle to supporting the existence and force of the democratic peace. The data set Bremer happened to be using showed one exception, the French-Thai War of 1940, which is spurious; it happened after the setting up of the Vichy régime. Gleditsch sees the (somewhat technical) state of war between Finland and the Western Allies during World War II, as a special case, which should probably be treated separately: an incidental state of war between democracies during large multi-polar wars, which are fortunately rare. The importance of this exception depends on what forms of hostility you regard as serious. (Gowa 1999) (Maoz 1997, p.165). Page Fortna (2004) discusses the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the Kargil War as exceptions, finding the latter to be the most significant.
  11. ^ See Gleditsch (1995), Chan (1998)
  12. ^ There are a couple of exceptions, studies which find several or many wars, which will be discussed in the section on criticism
  13. ^ [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], (Rummel 1997), (Ray 1995), (Weart 1998)
  14. ^ Freedom House. 1999. "Democracy’s Century: A Survey of Global Political Change in the 20th Century."
  15. ^ For a description, see Frost, Robert I.. The northern wars: war, state and society in northeastern Europe, 1558-1721. Harlow, England; New York: Longman's.  2000. Especially Pp. 9-11, 114, 181, 323.
  16. ^ Note that in the future evidence will accumulate more rapidly, due to the increased number of democracies. However, note also that the 1999 Kargil War, subsequent to the period considered, satisfies the objective requirements for democracy and war set in Ray's study.
  17. ^ No true Scotsman fights a war Asia Times 31 January 2006, by their military affairs columnist
  18. ^ [7], [8]
  19. ^ Although not discussed in the text, the figure they show (Figure 2) suggests that the democratic peace is stronger.
  20. ^ Economic Freedom of the World 2005
  21. ^ Rummel's blog
  22. ^ Democratic Peace – Warlike Democracies? A Social Constructivist Interpretation of the Liberal Argument
  23. ^ a b Hermann, Margaret G.; Charles W. Kegley, Jr. (1995). "Military Intervention and The Democratic Peace". International Interactions 21 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1080/03050629508434857. 
  24. ^ a b Hermann, Margaret G.; Charles W. Kegley, Jr. (1996). "How Democracies Use Intervention: A Neglected Dimension in Studies of the Democratic Peace". Journal of Peace Research 33 (3): 309–322. doi:10.1177/0022343396033003005. 
  25. ^ Hermann, Margaret G.; Charles W. Kegley, Jr. (February 1997). "Putting Military Intervention into the Democratic Peace: A Research Note". Comparative Political Studies 30 (1): 78–107. doi:10.1177/0010414097030001004. 
  26. ^ Rummel's Power Kills website, viewed February 10, 2006
  27. ^ "Global Conflict Trends". Center for Systematic Peace. Retrieved October 1, 2005. 
  28. ^ Human Security Report 2005 p.148-150.
  29. ^ Rummel, R. J. "Democratic Peace Bibliography Version 3.0". Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, and War. Retrieved October 2, 2005. 
  30. ^ For example: [9] [10] [11] [12],[13].
  31. ^ Clinton, Bill (2000-01-28). "1994 State Of The Union Address". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-01-22. 
  32. ^ "President and Prime Minister Blair Discussed Iraq, Middle East". Retrieved October 3, 2005. 
  33. ^ "History has taught us democracies don't war. Democracies -- you don't run for office in a democracy and say, please vote for me, I promise you war. (Laughter.) You run for office in democracies, and say, vote for me, I'll represent your interests; vote for me, I'll help your young girls go to school, or the health care you get improved." "President Thanks U.S. and Coalition Troops in Afghanistan". Retrieved December 26, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Human Rights Discussion Forum; Speech by The Rt Hon Chris Patten, CH. Plenary Session Brussels - Charlemagne building - 30 November 1999 - SPEECH/99/193". Retrieved August 19, 2006. 
  35. ^ "A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security Strategy. Brussels, 12 December 2003". Retrieved August 19, 2006. 
  36. ^ Interview in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 18 September 2008
  37. ^ Wilson, T. Woodrow: Message to Congress April 2, 1917 According to Richard Nixon, Wilson also stated "a war to end war"Nixon, Richard M.: Televised speech, November 3, 1969 Wilson's vision for the world after World War I, his Fourteen Points(1918), did not mention democracy, but in other aspects "sound almost as though Kant were guiding Wilson's writing hand." They included both Kant’s cosmopolitan law and pacific union. The third of the Fourteen Points specified the removal of economic barriers between peaceful nations; the fourteenth provided for the League of Nations (Russett 1993).
  38. ^ It is probably fair to say that a majority of authors agree that economic wealth is an important prerequisite for full democratization, while a significant minority does not.

External links


European Union

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Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background.
MottoUnited in diversity[1][2][3]
AnthemOde to Joy[2] (orchestral)
An orthographic projection of the world, highlighting the European Union and its Member States (green).
Political centres Brussels
Official languages
Demonym European[4]
 -  Commission José Manuel Barroso
 -  Council of Ministers Spain
 -  European Council Herman Van Rompuy
 -  Parliament Jerzy Buzek
 -  Paris Treaty 23 July 1952 
 -  Rome Treaty 1 January 1958 
 -  Maastricht Treaty 1 November 1993 
 -  Lisbon Treaty 1 December 2009 
 -  Total 4,324,782 km2 
1,669,807 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 3.08
 -  2010 estimate 501,259,840[5] 
 -  Density 115.9/km2 
300.2/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 (IMF) estimate
 -  Total $14.793 trillion 
 -  Per capita $29,729 
GDP (nominal) 2009 (IMF) estimate
 -  Total $16.447 trillion 
 -  Per capita $33,052 
Gini (2009) 30.7 (EU25)[6] (High) 
HDI (2007) 0.937 (High) 
Time zone (UTC+0 to +2)
 -  Summer (DST)  (UTC+1 to +3[7])
Internet TLD .eu[8]
Calling code See list

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union between 27 member countries,[9] located primarily in Europe. Committed to regional integration, the EU was established by the Treaty of Maastricht on 1 November 1993 upon the foundations of the European Communities.[10] With over 500 million citizens,[11] the EU combined generates an estimated 28% share (US$ 16.45 trillion in 2009) of the nominal gross world product and about 21.3% (US$14.8 trillion in 2009) of the PPP gross world product.[12]

The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all member states, ensuring the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital.[13] It maintains common policies on trade,[14] agriculture, fisheries[15] and regional development.[16] Sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro, constituting the Eurozone. The EU has developed a limited role in foreign policy, having representation at the World Trade Organization, G8, G-20 major economies and at the United Nations. It enacts legislation in justice and home affairs, including the abolition of passport controls by the Schengen Agreement between 22 EU and 3 non-EU states.[17]

As an international organisation, the EU operates through a hybrid system of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism.[18][19][20] In certain areas, decisions are made through negotiation between member states, while in others, independent supranational institutions are responsible without a requirement for unanimity between member states. Important institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the European Central Bank. The European Parliament is elected every five years by member states' citizens, to whom the citizenship of the European Union is guaranteed.

The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community formed among six countries in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome formed in 1957 by the same states. Since then, the EU has grown in size through enlargement, and in power through the addition of policy areas to its remit.




After World War II, moves towards European integration were seen by many as an escape from the extreme forms of nationalism which had devastated the continent.[21] One such attempt to unite Europeans was the European Coal and Steel Community which, while having the modest aim of centralised control of the previously national coal and steel industries of its member states, was declared to be "a first step in the federation of Europe".[22] The originators and supporters of the Community include Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Paul Henri Spaak, and Alcide de Gasperi. The founding members of the Community were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany.[23]

In 1957, these six countries signed the Treaties of Rome which extended the earlier cooperation within the European Coal and Steel Community and created the European Economic Community, (EEC) establishing a customs union and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for cooperation in developing nuclear energy.[23] In 1967 the Merger Treaty created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities (EC), although commonly just as the European Community.[24]

In 1973, the Communities enlarged to include Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.[25] Norway had negotiated to join at the same time but Norwegian voters rejected membership in a referendum and so Norway remained outside. In 1979, the first direct, democratic elections to the European Parliament were held.[26]

Greece joined in 1981, and Spain and Portugal in 1986.[27] In 1985, the Schengen Agreement led the way toward the creation of open borders without passport controls between most member states and some non-member states.[28] In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the Community[29] and the Single European Act was signed.

The Iron Curtain's fall enabled eastward enlargement. (Berlin Wall)

In 1990, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the former East Germany became part of the Community as part of a newly united Germany.[30] With enlargement towards Eastern and Central Europe on the agenda, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the European Union were agreed.

The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993,[10] and in 1995 Austria, Sweden, and Finland joined the newly established EU. In 2002, euro notes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. Since then, the eurozone has increased to encompass sixteen countries. In 2004, the EU saw its biggest enlargement to date when Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, and Hungary joined the Union.[31]

On 1 January 2007, Romania and Bulgaria became the EU's newest members. In the same year Slovenia adopted the euro,[31] followed in 2008 by Cyprus and Malta, and by Slovakia in 2009. In June 2009, the 2009 Parliament elections were held leading to a renewal of Barroso's Commission Presidency, and in July 2009 Iceland formally applied for EU membership. On 1 December 2009, the Lisbon Treaty came into force after a protracted and controversial birth. This reformed many aspects of the EU but in particular created a permanent President of the European Council, the first of which is Herman van Rompuy, and a strengthened High Representative, Catherine Ashton.

Treaties timeline

In force
Brussels Treaty
Paris Treaty
Modified Brussels Treaty
Rome Treaties
Merger Treaty
European Council conclusion
Single European Act
Maastricht Treaty
Amsterdam Treaty
Nice Treaty
Lisbon Treaty
Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif
Three pillars of the European Union:  
European Communities:  

European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)

European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty expired in 2002
European Union (EU)

European Economic Community (EEC)
European Community (EC)
    TREVI Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)  
  Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)
  European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Unconsolidated bodies Western European Union (WEU)    
Treaty terminated in 2010  

Member states

The European Union is composed of 27 sovereign Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.[32]

The Union's membership has grown from the original six founding states–Belgium, France, (then-West) Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands–to the present day 27 by successive enlargements as countries acceded to the treaties and by doing so, pooled their sovereignty in exchange for representation in the institutions.[33]

To join the EU a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria, defined at the 1993 Copenhagen European Council. These require a stable democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law; a functioning market economy capable of competition within the EU; and the acceptance of the obligations of membership, including EU law. Evaluation of a country's fulfilment of the criteria is the responsibility of the European Council.[34]

No member state has ever left the Union, although Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark) withdrew in 1985. The Lisbon Treaty now provides a clause dealing with how a member leaves the EU.

There are three official candidate countries, Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Iceland are officially recognised as potential candidates.[35] Kosovo is also listed as a potential candidate but the European Commission does not list it as an independent country because not all member states recognise it as an independent country separate from Serbia.[36]

Four Western European countries that have chosen not to join the EU have partly committed to the EU's economy and regulations: Iceland, which has now applied for membership, Liechtenstein and Norway, which are a part of the single market through the European Economic Area, and Switzerland, which has similar ties through bilateral treaties.[37][38] The relationships of the European microstates, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican include the use of the euro and other areas of co-operation.[39]


Mont Blanc in the Alps is the highest peak in the EU.

The territory of the EU consists of the combined territories of its 27 member states with some exceptions, outlined below. The territory of the EU is not the same as that of Europe, as parts of the continent are outside the EU, such as Switzerland, Norway, European Russia, and Iceland. Some parts of member states are not part of the EU, despite forming part of the European continent (for example the Isle of Man and Channel Islands (two Crown Dependencies), and the Faroe Islands (a territory of Denmark)). The island country of Cyprus, a member of the EU, is closer to Turkey than to continental Europe and is often considered part of Asia.[40][41]

Several territories associated with member states that are outside geographic Europe are also not part of the EU (such as Greenland, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles, and all the non-European British overseas territories). Some overseas territories are part of the EU even though geographically not part of Europe, such as the Azores, the Canary Islands, Madeira, Lampedusa, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Saint Barthélemy, Martinique, Réunion, Ceuta and Melilla. As well, although being technically part of the EU,[42] EU law is suspended in Northern Cyprus as it is under the de facto control of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, a self-proclaimed state that is recognised only by Turkey.

The EU's climate is influenced by its 65,993 km (41,006 mi) coastline. (Crete)

The EU's member states cover an area of 4,422,773 square kilometres (1,707,642 sq mi).[43] The EU is larger in area than all but six countries, and its highest peak is Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps, 4,807 metres (15,771 ft) above sea level. The landscape, climate, and economy of the EU are influenced by its coastline, which is 65,993 kilometres (41,006 mi) long. The EU has the world's second-longest coastline, after Canada. The combined member states share land borders with 19 non-member states for a total of 12,441 kilometres (7,730 mi), the fifth-longest border in the world.[19][44][45]

Including the overseas territories of member states, the EU experiences most types of climate from Arctic to tropical, rendering meteorological averages for the EU as a whole meaningless. The majority of the population lives in areas with a Mediterranean climate (Southern Europe), a temperate maritime climate (Western Europe), or a warm summer continental or hemiboreal climate (Eastern Europe).[46]

The EU's population is also highly urbanized, with some 75% of people (and growing, projected to be 90% in 7 states by 2020) living in urban areas. Cities are largely spread out across the EU, although with a large grouping in and around the Benelux and a large amount of urbanization in Spain since it joined the EU[citation needed]. An increasing percentage of this is due to low density urban sprawl which is extending into natural areas. In some cases this urban growth has been due to the influx of EU funds into a region.[47]


European Union
Flag of the European Union

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
the European Union

 v  d  e 

The institutions of the EU operate solely within those competencies conferred on it upon the treaties and according to the principle of subsidiarity (which dictates that action by the EU should only be taken where an objective cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states alone). Law made by the EU institutions is passed in a variety of forms, primarily that which comes into direct force and that which must be passed in a refined form by national parliaments.

Legislative competencies are divided equally, with some exceptions, between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union while executive tasks are carried out by the European Commission and in a limited capacity by the European Council (not to be confused with the aforementioned Council of the European Union). The interpretation and the application of EU law and the treaties are ensured by the Court of Justice of the European Union. There are also a number of ancillary bodies which advise the EU or operate in a specific area.

European Council

The EU receives its political leadership from the European Council, which usually meets four times a year. It comprises one representative per member state—either its head of state or head of government—plus its President as well as the President of the Commission. The member states' representatives are assisted by their Foreign Ministers. The European Council uses its leadership role to sort out disputes between member states and the institutions, and to resolve political crises and disagreements over controversial issues and policies. The European Council should not be mistaken for the Council of Europe, an international organisation independent from the EU.

On 19 November 2009, Herman Van Rompuy was chosen as the first President of the European Council and Catherine Ashton was chosen as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. They both assumed office on 1 December 2009.


The Council (also called "Council of the European Union"[48] and sometimes referred to as the "Council of Ministers"[49]) forms one half of the EU's legislature. It consists of a government minister from each member state and meets in different compositions depending on the policy area being addressed. Notwithstanding its different compositions, it is considered to be one single body.[50] In addition to its legislative functions, the Council also exercises executive functions in relations to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.


The European Commission acts as the EU's executive arm and is responsible for initiating legislation and the day-to-day running of the EU. It is intended to act solely in the interest of the EU as a whole, as opposed to the Council which consists of leaders of member states who reflect national interests. The commission is also seen as the motor of European integration. It is currently composed of 27 commissioners for different areas of policy, one from each member state. The President of the Commission and all the other commissioners are nominated by the Council. Appointment of the Commission President, and also the Commission in its entirety, have to be confirmed by Parliament.[51]


The European Parliament forms the other half of the EU's legislature. The 736 (soon to be 750) Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected by EU citizens every five years. Although MEPs are elected on a national basis, they sit according to political groups rather than their nationality. Each country has a set number of seats and in some cases is divided into sub-national constituencies. The Parliament and the Council of Ministers pass legislation jointly in nearly all areas under the ordinary legislative procedure. This also applies to the EU budget. Finally, the Commission is accountable to Parliament, requiring its approval to take office, having to report back to it and subject to motions of censure from it. The President of the European Parliament carries out the role of speaker in parliament and represents it externally. The president and vice presidents are elected by MEPs every two and a half years.[52]


The judicial branch of the EU—formally called the Court of Justice of the European Union—consists of three courts: the Court of Justice, the General Court, and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal. Together they interpret and apply the treaties and the law of the EU.[53]

The Court of Justice primarily deals with cases taken by member states, the institutions, and cases referred to it by the courts of member states.[54] The General Court mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU's courts,[55] and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal adjudicates in disputes between the European Union and its civil service.[56] Decisions from the General Court can be appealed to the Court of Justice but only on a point of law.[57]

Legal system

The Court of Justice in Luxembourg can judge member states over EU law.

The EU is based on a series of treaties. These first established the European Community and the EU, and then made amendments to those founding treaties.[58] These are power-giving treaties which set broad policy goals and establish institutions with the necessary legal powers to implement those goals. These legal powers include the ability to enact legislation[59] which can directly affect all member states and their inhabitants.[60] Under the principle of supremacy, national courts are required to enforce the treaties that their member states have ratified, and thus the laws enacted under them, even if doing so requires them to ignore conflicting national law, and (within limits) even constitutional provisions.[61]

The main legal acts of the EU come in three forms: regulations, directives, and decisions. Regulations become law in all member states the moment they come into force, without the requirement for any implementing measures,[62] and automatically override conflicting domestic provisions.[59] Directives require member states to achieve a certain result while leaving them discretion as to how to achieve the result. The details of how they are to be implemented are left to member states.[63]

EU member states have a standardised passport design, burgundy coloured with the name of the member state, Coat of Arms and with the words "European Union" given in their official language(s) at the top; in this case those of Ireland.

When the time limit for implementing directives passes, they may, under certain conditions, have direct effect in national law against member states. Decisions offer an alternative to the two above modes of legislation. They are legal acts which only apply to specified individuals, companies or a particular member state. They are most often used in Competition Law, or on rulings on State Aid, but are also frequently used for procedural or administrative matters within the institutions. Regulations, directives, and decisions are of equal legal value and apply without any formal hierarchy.

One of the complicating features of the EU's legal system is the multiplicity of legislative procedures used to enact legislation. The treaties micro-manage the EU's powers, indicating different ways of adopting legislation for different policy areas and for different areas within the same policy areas.[64] A common feature of the EU's legislative procedures, however, is that almost all legislation must be initiated by the Commission, rather than member states or European parliamentarians.[65] The two most common procedures are co-decision, under which the European Parliament can veto proposed legislation, and consultation, under which Parliament is only permitted to give an opinion which can be ignored by European leaders. In most cases legislation must be agreed by the council.[66]

National courts within the member states play a key role in the EU as enforcers of EU law, and a "spirit of cooperation" between EU and national courts is laid down in the Treaties. National courts can apply EU law in domestic cases, and if they require clarification on the interpretation or validity of any EU legislation related to the case it may make a reference for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice. The right to declare EU legislation invalid however is reserved to the EU courts.

Fundamental rights

As a product of efforts to establish a written fundamental rights code, the EU drew up the Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2000. The Charter is legally binding since the Lisbon Treaty has come into force.[67] Also, the Court of Justice gives judgements on fundamental rights derived from the "constitutional traditions common to the member states,"[68] and may even invalidate EU legislation based on its failure to adhere to these fundamental rights.[69]

Although signing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a condition for EU membership,[70] the EU itself is not covered by the convention as it is neither a state[71] nor, prior to the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, had the competence to accede.[72] Lisbon Treaty and Protocol 14 to the ECHR have changed this: the first binding the EU to accede to the Convention and the second formally allowing this. Nonetheless the Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights co-operate to ensure their case-law does not conflict.[73] The EU opposes the death penalty and promotes its world wide abolition.[74] Abolition of the death penalty is a condition for EU membership.[75]

Foreign relations

Catherine Ashton is the EU's High Representative in foreign policy.

Foreign policy cooperation between member states dates from the establishment of the Community in 1957, when member states negotiated as a bloc in international trade negotiations under the Common Commercial Policy.[76] Steps for a more wide ranging coordination in foreign relations began in 1970 with the establishment of European Political Cooperation which created an informal consultation process between member states with the aim of forming common foreign policies. It was not, however, until 1987 when European Political Cooperation was introduced on a formal basis by the Single European Act. EPC was renamed as the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by the Maastricht Treaty.[77]

The Maastricht Treaty gives the CFSP the aims of promoting both the EU's own interests and those of the international community as a whole. This includes promoting international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.[78]

The Amsterdam Treaty created the office of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (currently held by Catherine Ashton) to co-ordinate the EU's foreign policy.[79] The High Representative, in conjunction with the current Presidency, speaks on behalf of the EU in foreign policy matters and can have the task of articulating ambiguous policy positions created by disagreements among member states. The Common Foreign and Security Policy requires unanimity among the now 27 member states on the appropriate policy to follow on any particular issue. The unanimity and difficult issues treated under the CFSP makes disagreements, such as those which occurred over the war in Iraq,[80] not uncommon.

The EU participates in all G8 summits. (Heiligendamm, Germany)

Besides the emerging international policy of the European Union, the international influence of the EU is also felt through enlargement. The perceived benefits of becoming a member of the EU act as an incentive for both political and economic reform in states wishing to fulfil the EU's accession criteria, and are considered an important factor contributing to the reform of former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe.[81] This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as "soft power", as opposed to military "hard power".[82]

In the UN, as an observer and working together, the EU has gained influence in areas such as aid due to its large contributions in that field (see below).[83] In the G8, the EU has rights of membership besides chairing/hosting summit meetings and is represented at meetings by the presidents of the Commission and the Council.[84] In the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where all 27 member states are represented, the EU as a body is represented by Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.[85]

Military and defence

The Eurofighter is built by a consortium of four EU countries.

The predecessors of the European Union were not devised as a strong military alliance because NATO was largely seen as appropriate and sufficient for defence purposes.[86] Twenty-one EU members are members of NATO[87] while the remaining member states follow policies of neutrality.[88] However the compatibility of their neutrality with EU membership, specifically the CFSP and CSDP, is questioned (including by the Prime Minister of Finland)[89] and with mutual solidarity in the event of disasters, terrorist attacks and armed aggression covered by TEU Article 42 (7) and TFEU Article 222 of the EU treaties; the Western European Union, a military alliance with a mutual defence clause, was disbanded in 2010 as its role had been transferred to the EU.[90]

CSDP forces are peacekeeping in parts of the Balkans and Africa.

Following the Kosovo War in 1999, the European Council agreed that "the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and the readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO". To that end, a number of efforts were made to increase the EU's military capability, notably the Helsinki Headline Goal process. After much discussion, the most concrete result was the EU Battlegroups initiative, each of which is planned to be able to deploy quickly about 1500 personnel.[91]

EU forces have been deployed on peacekeeping missions from Africa to the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East.[92] EU military operations are supported by a number of bodies, including the European Defence Agency, satellite centre and the military staff.[93] In an EU consisting of 27 members, substantial security and defence cooperation is increasingly relying on great power cooperation.[94]

Humanitarian aid

Collectively, the EU is the largest contributor of foreign aid in the world.

The European Commissions Humanitarian Aid Office, or "ECHO", provides humanitarian aid from the EU to developing countries. In 2006 its budget amounted to €671 million, 48% of which went to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.[95] Counting the EU's own contributions and those of its member states together, the EU is the largest aid donor in the world.[96]

The EU's aid has previously been criticised by the eurosceptic think-tank Open Europe for being inefficient, mis-targeted and linked to economic objectives.[97] Furthermore, some charities have claimed European governments have inflated the amount they have spent on aid by incorrectly including money spent on debt relief, foreign students, and refugees. Under the de-inflated figures, the EU as a whole did not reach its internal aid target in 2006[98] and is expected not to reach the international target of 0.7% of gross national income until 2015.[99]

However, four countries have reached that target, most notably Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Denmark.[96] In 2005 EU aid was 0.34% of the GNP which was higher than that of either the United States or Japan.[100] The previous commissioner for aid, Louis Michel, has called for aid to be delivered more rapidly, to greater effect, and on humanitarian principles.[101]

Justice and home affairs

The Schengen Area comprises most member states ensuring open borders.

Since the creating of the EU in 1993, it has developed its competencies in the area of justice and home affairs, initially at an intergovernmental level and later by supranationalism. To this end, agencies have been established that co-ordinate associated actions: Europol for co-operation of police forces,[102] Eurojust for co-operation between prosecutors,[103] and Frontex for co-operation between border control authorities.[104] The EU also operates the Schengen Information System[17] which provides a common database for police and immigration authorities. This cooperation had to particularly be developed with the advent of open borders through the Schengen Agreement and the associated cross border crime.

Furthermore, the Union has legislated in areas such as extradition,[105] family law,[106] asylum law,[107] and criminal justice.[108] Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties.[109] In more recent years, these have been supplemented by powers to legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation.[110] By virtue of these powers, the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination, and racial discrimination.[111] By virtue of the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU is now bound by its Charter of Fundamental Rights which consolidates a large array of citizens rights.[112]


The EU and the next five largest economies in the
world by nominal GDP (IMF, 2009)[113]

Since its origin, the EU has established a single economic market across the territory of all its members. Currently, a single currency is in use between the 16 members of the eurozone.[114][115] If considered as a single economy, the EU generated an estimated nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of US$16.45 trillion (14.794 trillion international dollars based on purchasing power parity) in 2009, amounting to over 21% of the world's total economic output in terms of purchasing power parity,[12] which makes it the largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and the second largest trade bloc economy in the world by PPP valuation of GDP. It is also the largest exporter ,[116] and largest importer[117] of goods and services, and the biggest trading partner to several large countries such as China and India.[118][119][120]

178 of the top 500 largest corporations measured by revenue (Fortune Global 500) have their headquarters in the EU.[121]

In May 2007 unemployment in the EU stood at 7%[122] while investment was at 21.4% of GDP, inflation at 2.2% and public deficit at −0.9% of GDP.[123] There is a great deal of variance for annual per capita income within individual EU states, these range from US$7,000 to US$69,000.[124]

Single market

The European Central Bank in Frankfurt governs the eurozone's monetary policy.

Two of the original core objectives of the European Economic Community were the development of a common market, subsequently renamed the single market, and a customs union between its member states. The single market involves the free circulation of goods, capital, people and services within the EU,[115] and the customs union involves the application of a common external tariff on all goods entering the market. Once goods have been admitted into the market they cannot be subjected to customs duties, discriminatory taxes or import quotas, as they travel internally. The non-EU member states of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland participate in the single market but not in the customs union.[37] Half the trade in the EU is covered by legislation harmonised by the EU.[125]

Free movement of capital is intended to permit movement of investments such as property purchases and buying of shares between countries.[126] Until the drive towards Economic and Monetary Union the development of the capital provisions had been slow. Post-Maastricht there has been a rapidly developing corpus of ECJ judgements regarding this initially neglected freedom. The free movement of capital is unique insofar as that it is granted equally to non-member states.

The free movement of persons means citizens can move freely between member states to live, work, study or retire in another country. This required the lowering of administrative formalities and recognition of professional qualifications of other states.[127]

The free movement of services and of establishment allows self-employed persons to move between member states in order to provide services on a temporary or permanent basis. While services account for between sixty and seventy percent of GDP, legislation in the area is not as developed as in other areas. This lacuna has been addressed by the recently passed Directive on services in the internal market which aims to liberalise the cross border provision of services.[128] According to the Treaty the provision of services is a residual freedom that only applies if no other freedom is being exercised.

Monetary union

16 EU countries have introduced the euro as their sole currency.

The creation of a European single currency became an official objective of the EU in 1969. However, it was only with the advent of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 that member states were legally bound to start the monetary union no later than 1 January 1999. On this date the euro was duly launched by eleven of the then fifteen member states of the EU. It remained an accounting currency until 1 January 2002, when euro notes and coins were issued and national currencies began to phase out in the eurozone, which by then consisted of twelve member states. The eurozone has since grown to sixteen countries, the most recent being Slovakia which joined on 1 January 2009.

All other EU member states, except Denmark and the United Kingdom, are legally bound to join the euro[129] when the convergence criteria are met, however only a few countries have set target dates for accession. Sweden has circumvented the requirement to join the euro by not meeting the membership criteria.[130]

The euro is designed to help build a single market by, for example: easing travel of citizens and goods, eliminating exchange rate problems, providing price transparency, creating a single financial market, price stability and low interest rates, and providing a currency used internationally and protected against shocks by the large amount of internal trade within the eurozone. It is also intended as a political symbol of integration and stimulus for more.[114] Since its launch the euro has become the second reserve currency in the world with a quarter of foreign exchanges reserves being in euro.[131]

The euro, and the monetary policies of those who have adopted it in agreement with the EU, are under the control of the European Central Bank (ECB).[132] There are eleven other currencies used in the EU[114] with all but two legally obliged to be switched to the euro. A number of other countries outside the EU, such as Montenegro, use the euro without formal agreement with the ECB.[39]


The total expenditure of the European Union in 2006[133]

The twenty-seven member state EU had an agreed budget of €120.7 billion for the year 2007 and €864.3 billion for the period 2007–2013,[134] representing 1.10% and 1.05% of the EU-27's GNI forecast for the respective periods. By comparison, the United Kingdom's expenditure for 2004 was estimated to be €759 billion, and France was estimated to have spent €801 billion. In 1960, the budget of the then European Economic Community was 0.03% of GDP.[135]

In the 2006 budget, the largest single expenditure item was agriculture with around 46.7% of the total budget.[136] Next came structural and cohesion funds with approximately 30.4% of the total.[136] Internal policies took up around 8.5%. Administration accounted for around 6.3%. External actions, the pre-accession strategy, compensations and reserves brought up the rear with approximately 4.9%, 2.1%, 1% and 0.1% respectively.[136] .


The EU operates a competition policy intended to ensure undistorted competition within the single market.[137] The Commission as the competition regulator for the single market is responsible for antitrust issues, approving mergers, breaking up cartels, working for economic liberalisation and preventing state aid.[138]

The Competition Commissioner, currently Joaquín Almunia, is one of the most powerful positions in the Commission, notable for the ability to affect the commercial interests of trans-national corporations.[139] For example, in 2001 the Commission for the first time prevented a merger between two companies based in the United States (GE and Honeywell) which had already been approved by their national authority.[140] Another high profile case against Microsoft, resulted in the Commission fining Microsoft over €777 million following nine years of legal action.[141]

In negotiations on the Treaty of Lisbon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy succeeded in removing the words "free and undistorted competition" from the treaties. However, the requirement is maintained in an annex and it is unclear whether this will have any practical effect on EU policy.[142]



EU farms are supported by the CAP, the largest budgetary expenditure. (Vineyard in Spain)

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the oldest policies of the European Community, and was one of its core aims.[143] The policy has the objectives of increasing agricultural production, providing certainty in food supplies, ensuring a high quality of life for farmers, stabilising markets, and ensuring reasonable prices for consumers.[144] It was, until recently, operated by a system of subsidies and market intervention. Until the 1990s, the policy accounted for over 60% of the then European Community's annual budget, and still accounts for around 35%.[143]

The policy's price controls and market interventions led to considerable overproduction, resulting in so-called butter mountains and wine lakes. These were intervention stores of produce bought up by the Community to maintain minimum price levels. In order to dispose of surplus stores, they were often sold on the world market at prices considerably below Community guaranteed prices, or farmers were offered subsidies (amounting to the difference between the Community and world prices) to export their produce outside the Community. This system has been criticised for under-cutting farmers in the developing world.[145]

The overproduction has also been criticised for encouraging environmentally unfriendly intensive farming methods.[145] Supporters of CAP say that the economic support which it gives to farmers provides them with a reasonable standard of living, in what would otherwise be an economically unviable way of life. However, the EU's small farmers receive only 8% of CAP's available subsidies.[145]

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the CAP has been subject to a series of reforms. Initially these reforms included the introduction of set-aside in 1988, where a proportion of farm land was deliberately withdrawn from production, milk quotas (by the McSharry reforms in 1992) and, more recently, the 'de-coupling' (or disassociation) of the money farmers receive from the EU and the amount they produce (by the Fischler reforms in 2004). Agriculture expenditure will move away from subsidy payments linked to specific produce, toward direct payments based on farm size. This is intended to allow the market to dictate production levels, while maintaining agricultural income levels.[143] One of these reforms entailed the abolition of the EU's sugar regime, which previously divided the sugar market between member states and certain African-Caribbean nations with a privileged relationship with the EU.[146]


EU energy production
46% of total EU primary energy use
Nuclear energy[147] 29.3%
Coal & lignite 21.9%
Gas 19.4%
Renewable energy 14.6%
Oil 13.4%
Other 1.4%
Net imports of energy
54% of total primary EU energy use
Oil & petroleum products 60.2%
Gas 26.4%
Other 13.4%

In 2006, the 27 member states of the EU had a gross inland energy consumption of 1,825 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe).[148] Around 46% of the energy consumed was produced within the member states while 54% was imported.[148] In these statistics, nuclear energy is treated as primary energy produced in the EU, regardless of the source of the uranium, of which less than 3% is produced in the EU.[149]

The EU has had legislative power in the area of energy policy for most of its existence; this has its roots in the original European Coal and Steel Community. The introduction of a mandatory and comprehensive European energy policy was approved at the meeting of the European Council in October 2005, and the first draft policy was published in January 2007.[150]

The Commission has five key points in its energy policy: increase competition in the internal market, encourage investment and boost interconnections between electricity grids; diversify energy resources with better systems to respond to a crisis; establish a new treaty framework for energy co-operation with Russia while improving relations with energy-rich states in Central Asia[151] and North Africa; use existing energy supplies more efficiently while increasing use of renewable energy; and finally increase funding for new energy technologies.[150]

The EU currently imports 82% of its oil, 57% of its gas[152] and 97.48% of its uranium[149] demands. There are concerns that Europe's dependence on Russian energy is endangering the Union and its member countries. The EU is attempting to diversify its energy supply.[153]


The Öresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden is part of the Trans-European Networks.

The EU is working to improve cross-border infrastructure within the EU, for example through the Trans-European Networks (TEN). Projects under TEN include the Channel Tunnel, LGV Est, the Fréjus Rail Tunnel, the Öresund Bridge and the Brenner Base Tunnel. In 2001 it was estimated that by 2010 the network would cover: 75,200 kilometres (46,700 mi) of roads; 78,000 kilometres (48,000 mi) of railways; 330 airports; 270 maritime harbours; and 210 internal harbours.[154][155]

The developing European transport policies will increase the pressure on the environment in many regions by the increased transport network. In the pre-2004 EU members, the major problem in transport deals with congestion and pollution. After the recent enlargement, the new states that joined since 2004 added the problem of solving accessibility to the transport agenda.[156] The Polish road network in particular was in poor condition: at Poland's accession to the EU, 4,600 roads needed to be upgraded to EU standards, demanding approximately €17 billion.[157]

Another infrastructure project is the Galileo positioning system. Galileo is a proposed Global Navigation Satellite System, to be built by the EU and launched by the European Space Agency (ESA), and is to be operational by 2010. The Galileo project was launched partly to reduce the EU's dependency on the US-operated Global Positioning System, but also to give more complete global coverage and allow for far greater accuracy, given the aged nature of the GPS system.[158] It has been criticised by some due to costs, delays, and their perception of redundancy given the existence of the GPS system.[159]

Regional development

EU funds finance infrastructure such as the motorway PragueBerlin (D8/A17) pictured near Lovosice, Czech Republic

There are substantial economical disparities across the EU. Even corrected for purchasing power, the difference between the richest and poorest regions (271 NUTS-2 regions of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) ranged, in 2007, from 26% of the EU27 average in the region of Severozapaden in Bulgaria, to 334% of the average in Inner London in the United Kingdom. On the high end, Inner London has €83,200 PPP per capita, Luxembourg €68,500, and Bruxelles-Cap €55,000, while the poorest regions, are Severozapaden with €6,400 PPP per capita, Nord-Est and Severen tsentralen with €6,600 and Yuzhen tsentralen with €6,800.[160] Compared to the EU average, the United States GDP per capita is 35% higher and the Japanese GDP per capita is approximately 15% higher.[161]

There are a number of Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds to support development of underdeveloped regions of the EU. Such regions are primarily located in the new member states of East-Central Europe.[162] Several funds provide emergency aid, support for candidate members to transform their country to conform to the EU's standard (Phare, ISPA, and SAPARD), and support to the former USSR Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS). TACIS has now become part of the worldwide EuropeAid programme. The EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) sponsors research conducted by consortia from all EU members to work towards a single European Research Area.[163]


The first environmental policy of the European Community was launched in 1972. Since then it has addressed issues such as acid rain, the thinning of the ozone layer, air quality, noise pollution, waste and water pollution. The Water Framework Directive is an example of a water policy, aiming for rivers, lakes, ground and coastal waters to be of "good quality" by 2015. Wildlife is protected through the Natura 2000 programme and covers 30,000 sites throughout Europe.[164] In 2007, the Polish government sought to build a motorway through the Rospuda valley, but the Commission has been blocking construction as the valley is a wildlife area covered by the programme.[165]

The Commission have managed to protect the Rospuda valley in Poland.

The REACH regulation was a piece of EU legislation designed to ensure that 30,000 chemicals in daily use are tested for their safety.[166] In 2006, toxic waste spill off the coast of Côte d'Ivoire, from a European ship, prompted the Commission to look into legislation regarding toxic waste. With members such as Spain now having criminal laws against shipping toxic waste, the Commission proposed to create criminal sentences for "ecological crimes". Although the Commission's right to propose criminal law was contested, it was confirmed in this case by the Court of Justice.[167]

In 2007, member states agreed that the EU is to use 20% renewable energy in the future and that is has to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels.[168] This includes measures that in 2020, 10% of the overall fuel quantitiy used by cars and trucks in EU 27 should be running on renewable energy such as biofuels. This is considered to be one of the most ambitious moves of an important industrialised region to fight global warming.[169]

The EU is the most ambitious player and self-proclaimed leader in international climate policy.[170] At the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference, dealing with the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has proposed at 50% cut in greenhouse gases by 2050.[171] The EU's attempts to cut its carbon footprint appear to have also been aided by an expansion of Europe's forests which, between 1990 and 2005, grew 10% in western Europe and 15% in Eastern Europe. During this period they soaked up 126 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 11% of EU emissions from human activities.[172]

Education and research

Renewable energy is one priority in transnational research activities such as the FP7.

Education and science are areas where the EU's role is limited to supporting national governments. In education, the policy was mainly developed in the 1980s in programmes supporting exchanges and mobility. The most visible of these has been the Erasmus Programme, a university exchange programme which began in 1987. In its first 20 years it has supported international exchange opportunities for well over 1.5 million university and college students and has become a symbol of European student life.[173]

There are now similar programmes for school pupils and teachers, for trainees in vocational education and training, and for adult learners in the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013. These programmes are designed to encourage a wider knowledge of other countries and to spread good practices in the education and training fields across the EU.[174] Through its support of the Bologna process the EU is supporting comparable standards and compatible degrees across Europe.

Student from five European countries using the EU's Erasmus Programme to take part of their studies in the Netherlands.

Scientific development is facilitated through the EU's Framework Programmes, the first of which started in 1984. The aims of EU policy in this area are to co-ordinate and stimulate research. The independent European Research Council allocates EU funds to European or national research projects.[175] The Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) deals in a number of areas, for example energy where it aims to develop a diverse mix of renewable energy for the environment and to reduce dependence on imported fuels.[176]

Since January 2000 the European Commission has set its sights on a more ambitious objective, known as the European Research Area, and has extensively funded research in a few key areas. This has the support of all member states, and extends the existing financing structure of the frameworks. It aims to focus on co-ordination, sharing knowledge, ensuring mobility of researchers around Europe, improving conditions for researchers and encouraging links with business and industry as well as removing any legal and administrative barriers.[177]

The EU is involved with six other countries to develop ITER, a fusion reactor which will be built in the EU at Cadarache. ITER builds on the previous project, Joint European Torus, which is currently the largest nuclear fusion reactor in the world.[178] The Commission foresees this technology to be generating energy in the EU by 2050.[150] It has observer status within CERN, there are various agreements with ESA and there is collaboration with ESO.[179] These organisations are not under the framework of the EU, but membership heavily overlaps between them.


Population of the 5 largest cities in the EU[180]
City↓ City limits
(city limits)
/sq mi
(city limits)
Urban area
Berlin 3,410,000 3,815 9,880 3,761,000 4,971,331
London 7,512,400 4,761 12,330 9,332,000 11,917,000
Madrid 3,228,359 5,198 13,460 4,990,000 5,804,829
Paris 2,153,600 24,672 63,900 9,928,000 11,089,124
Rome 2,708,395 2,105 5,450 2,867,000 3,457,690

The combined population of all 27 member states has been forecast at 501,259,840 as of January 2010.[11][5]

The EU's population is 7.3% of the world total, yet the EU covers just 3% of the Earth's land, amounting to a population density of 113 km2 (44 sq mi) making the EU one of the most densely populated regions of the world. One third of EU citizens live in cities of over a million people, rising to 80% living in urban areas generally.[181] The EU is home to more global cities than any other region in the world.[182] It contains 16 cities with populations of over one million.

Besides many large cities, the EU also includes several densely populated regions that have no single core but have emerged from the connection of several cites and now encompass large metropolitan areas. The largest are Rhine-Ruhr having approximately 11.5 million inhabitants (Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf et al.), Randstad approx. 7 million (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht et al.), Frankfurt/Rhine-Main approx. 5.8 million (Frankfurt, Wiesbaden et al.), the Flemish diamond approx. 5.5 million (urban area in between Antwerp, Brussels, Leuven and Ghent), the Upper Silesian Industrial Region approx. 3.5 million (Katowice, Sosnowiec et al.), and the Öresund Region approx. 2.5 million (Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden).[183]


European official languages report (EU-251)
Language↓ Native Speakers↓ Total↓
English 13% 51%
German 18% 32%
French 12% 26%
Italian 13% 16%
Spanish 9% 15%
Polish 9% 10%
Dutch 5% 6%
Greek 3% 3%
Czech 2% 3%
Swedish 2% 3%
Hungarian 2% 2%
Portuguese 2% 2%
Catalan 1% 2%
Slovak 1% 2%
Danish 1% 1%
Finnish 1% 1%
Lithuanian 1% 1%
Slovene 1% 1%

1Published in 2006, before the
accession of Bulgaria and Romania.
Native: Native language[184]
Total: EU citizens able to hold a
conversation in this language[185]

Among the many languages and dialects used in the EU, it has 23 official and working languages: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish.[186][187] Important documents, such as legislation, are translated into every official language. The European Parliament provides translation into all languages for documents and its plenary sessions.[188] Some institutions use only a handful of languages as internal working languages.[189] Language policy is the responsibility of member states, but EU institutions promote the learning of other languages.[190][191]

German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (about 88.7 million people as of 2006), followed by English, Italian, and French. English is by far the most spoken foreign language at over half (51%) of the EU population, with German and French following. 56% of EU citizens are able to engage in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue.[192] Most official languages of the EU belong to the Indo-European language family, except Estonian, Finnish, and Hungarian, which belong to the Uralic language family, and Maltese, which is an Afroasiatic language. Most EU official languages are written in the Latin alphabet except Bulgarian, written in Cyrillic, and Greek, written in the Greek alphabet.[193]

Besides the 23 official languages, there are about 150 regional and minority languages, spoken by up to 50 million people.[193] Of these, only the Spanish regional languages (i.e., Catalan/Valencian, Galician, and the non-Indo-European Basque), Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh[194] can be used by citizens in communication with the main European institutions.[195] Although EU programmes can support regional and minority languages, the protection of linguistic rights is a matter for the individual member states. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ratified by most EU states provides general guidelines that states can follow to protect their linguistic heritage.

Besides the many regional languages, a broad variety of languages from other parts of the world are spoken by immigrant communities in the member states: Turkish, Maghrebi Arabic, Russian, Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Ukrainian, Punjabi, and Balkan languages are spoken in many parts of the EU. Many older immigrant communities are bilingual, being fluent in both, the local and their ancestral language. Migrant languages have no formal status or recognition in the EU or in the EU countries, although from 2007 they are eligible for support from the language teaching section of the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013.[193]


Percentage of Europeans in each member state who believe in "a God"[196]

The EU is a secular body with no formal connection with any religion, but Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises the "status under national law of churches and religious associations" as well as that of "philosophical and non-confessional organisations".[197] The preamble to the Treaty on European Union mentions the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe".[197] Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon included proposals to mention Christianity or God, or both, in the preamble of the text, but the idea faced opposition and was dropped.[198] This emphasis on Christianity stems from it being by far the largest religion in Europe as well as a cultural marker for, and vastly influential on, Europe and Western/European civilization. Other significant religions present in the EU are Islam and Judaism.

Christians in the EU are divided among followers of Roman Catholicism, numerous Protestant denominations (especially in northern Europe), and Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic (in south eastern Europe). Other religions, such as Islam and Judaism, are also represented in the EU population. As of 2009, the EU had an estimated Muslim population of 13 million,[199] and an estimated Jewish population of over a million.[200]

Eurostat's Eurobarometer opinion polls show that in 2005 the majority of EU citizens (52%) believed in a god, and that a majority had some form of belief system, with 21% seeing it as important. Many countries have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years.[201] The 2005 Eurobarometer showed that of the European citizens (of the 25 members at that time), 52% believed in a god, 27% in "some sort of spirit or life force", and 18% had no form of belief. The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were the Czech Republic (19%) and Estonia (16%).[202]

The most religious countries are Malta (95%; predominantly Roman Catholic), and Cyprus and Romania both with about 90% of the citizens believing in God (both predominantly Eastern Orthodox). Across the EU, belief was higher among women, increased with age, those with religious upbringing, those who left school at 15 with a basic education, and those "positioning themselves on the right of the political scale (57%)."[202]

Culture and sport

Pécs, the Hungarian city is one of the three European Capitals of Culture in 2010.

Policies affecting cultural matters are mainly set by individual member states. Cultural co-operation between member states has been a concern of the EU since its inclusion as a community competency in the Maastricht Treaty.[203] Actions taken in the cultural area by the EU include the Culture 2000 7-year programme,[203] the European Cultural Month event,[204] the Media Plus programme,[205] orchestras such as the European Union Youth Orchestra[206] and the European Capital of Culture programme – where one or more cities in the EU are selected for one year to assist the cultural development of that city.[207]

In addition, the EU gives grants to cultural projects (totalling 233 in 2004) and has launched a Web portal dedicated to Europe and culture, responding to the European Council's expressed desire to see the Commission and the member states "promote the networking of cultural information to enable all citizens to access European cultural content by the most advanced technological means".[208]

Sport is mainly the responsibility of individual member states or other international organisations rather than that of the EU. However, some EU policies have had an impact on sport, such as the free movement of workers which was at the core of the Bosman ruling, which prohibited national football leagues from imposing quotas on foreign players with European citizenship.[209] Under the Treaty of Lisbon sports were given a special status which exempted this sector from many of the EU's economic rules. This followed lobbying by governing organisations such as the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, due to objections over the applications of free market principles to sport which led to an increasing gap between rich and poor clubs.[210]

See also

European Union portal


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  43. ^ Figure including the four French overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion), which are an integral part of the EU, but excluding the French overseas collectivities and territories, which are not part of the EU.
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  62. ^ See: Case 34/73, Variola v. Amministrazione delle Finanze [1973] ECR 981.
  63. ^ To do otherwise would require the drafting of legislation which would have to cope with the frequently divergent legal systems and administrative systems of all of the now 27 member states. See Craig and de Búrca, p. 115
  64. ^ For a good example of this see Title IV of Part Three of the Treaty of Rome, Council Decision (2004/927/EC) of 22 December 2004 providing for certain areas covered by Title IV of Part Three of the Treaty establishing the European Community to be governed by the procedure laid down in Article 251 of that Treaty and the Protocol on Article 67 of the Treaty establishing the European Community attached to the Nice Treaty.
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