Long wars foster democratic freedom in strong states


Warfare in Europe contributed to the development of the modern state. In response to external conflict, state leaders raised armies and defended borders. The centralization of power, the development of bureaucracies, and the integration of economies all maximized revenue to support war. But how does a persistent external threat affect the development of a strong state? The “Garrison State” hypothesis argues that states that face a severe security threat will become autocracies. Conversely, the “Extraction School,” argues that warfare indirectly promotes the development of democratic institutions.

Execution of large-scale war requires the mobilization of resources and usually reluctant populations. In most cases, leaders must extend economic or political rights in exchange for resolving the crisis. Large-scale warfare thus expands political participation in the long run. The authors use empirical statistical modeling to show that war decreases rights in the short term, but the longer and bigger a war gets, the rights of the citizenry expand with the conflict. The authors test this argument through historical case studies—Imperial Russia, Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, African Americans in World War I and II, and the Tirailleurs Senegalese in World War I—through the use of large-N statistical studies—Europe 1900–50 and Global 1893–2011—and survey data. The results identify when, where, and how war can lead to the expansion of political rights.

David L. Rousseau is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at SUNY Albany.

“Rousseau argues that international conflict may lead to short-term retrenchments in civil and political rights, especially for minority groups, but that conflict accompanied by mass mobilization generates pressures for expanding rights, long-term. Rousseau admirably combines various historical and recent case studies, methodological approaches, and types of data to assess the validity and general applicability of this ‘J-curve argument.’”
—Carl Henrik Knutsen, University of Oslo

- Carl Henrik Knutsen, University of Oslo

“In well-analyzed case studies and careful assessments of data, David Rousseau and his colleagues tell a sophisticated and persuasive story showing that wars can have not one but two effects: short run militarization and longer run enfranchisement and empowerment. This book is a superb complement to all the studies of how democracy and autocracy shape the decision of whether to go to war.”
—Michael Doyle, Columbia University

- Michael Doyle

“In War and Rights, David Rousseau takes a big swing at a big question: What is the relationship between war and political rights? Employing varied methods, relying on diverse forms of data, and exploring wide-ranging evidence, Rousseau makes a powerful case that the effects of war are, when it comes to political rights, complex and cross-cutting—and often (but not always) more salutary and expansive than we typically think.”
—Ronald R. Krebs, Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in the Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota

- Ronald R. Krebs

“This fine volume collects collaborative research testing the dominant theories about the complex relationship between war and rights. Rousseau helps us to understand when military mobilization contributes to or thwarts rights advances, and what causal mechanisms lie behind these developments. A must read for both security scholars and scholars of civil rights.”
—Julie Novkov, Professor of Political Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University at Albany, SUNY

- Julie Novkov

“Addressing a classical question with new historical data and state-of-the-art methods, David Rousseau and his colleagues show that, while war may thwart political rights in the short run, warring states often end up making concessions at a later stage. This important finding is of great policy relevance in today's world.”
—Lars-Erik Cederman, Professor of International Conflict Research, ETH Zürich

- Lars-Erik Cederman