Aug 7, 2020 in Analysis

Perpetual Peace: Can Liberal Democracy Warrant Perpetual Peace?

Immanuel Kant’s article ‘Perpetual Peace’ establishes a basis of a rather extensive division in political philosophy whereby there is some urge to form or develop lasting liberal democracies. This is done to ensure maintenance or preservation of everlasting peace within societies. Issues of peace and war have always been of key political significance in regards to the armed conflicts existing as a widespread norm in the human history. Dawning of nuclear ages and the huge wars experienced in the past centuries have really threatened the future existence of the human society. Due to this, there is a need to establish peace that would be everlasting and perpetual. According to Kant, peace can end any kind of hostility; however, it cannot be regarded valid if that peace is actually embedded in worries of a future war. Thus, the relevance of political philosophy by Kant and his search for peace would be eternal through constitutional systems and international law. This essay discusses whether liberal democracy can bring perpetual peace in relation to Kant’s article.


What is the idea of perpetual peace?

The notion or the idea of perpetual peace portrays a state or a nation whereby there is a permanent peace and no worry that war or any kind of conflict would ever erupt. For Kant and some political theorists, the concept of political peace is actually embedded in the thought of constitutional republics whereby they act as an essential condition for this kind of peace. In his essay, Kant points outs several articles that are essential for the implementation or initiation of the perpetual peace. In addition to this, he calls for the establishment of this peace without future war reservations. One of the preliminary articles by Kant calls for the abolishment of the standing armies. The second one is about independent states that are not purchased or inherited. The third is the prevention of contraction of the national debt outside state affairs. The forth is the prevention of other states from interfering with the constitutions of another state. The final one is the prevention of hostility acts against the other nations so as to render mutual confidence that is difficult in times of perpetual peace. These articles present nature laws as they are supposed to help a society experience perpetual peace.


Which is the best way to institute perpetual peace?

According to Kant, this state of being at peace has to be instituted formally since the articles do not guarantee peace. He adds that a more advanced approach whereby perpetual peace may be guaranteed is via the definitive articles which introduce the notion of liberal democracy as well as federal republic. These definitive articles clearly stipulate that all the states should be republican. They are supposed to be established upon free states’ federation and be limited to universal hospitality conditions. 

Liberal democracies and perpetual peace

The basis of arguments of Immanuel Kant on this kind of peace is decisively rooted in liberal democracy ideals. It presents the foundation of the theory of democratic peace. It is also the basis of the philosophy which stipulates that the liberal democracies will never at any given time involve in war against one another. This peace theory calls for responsible governments to incline more towards promoting peace as well as commerce rather than war. Obeying the principles of liberal democracy as well as republican state renders the possibility of waging wars arguably more terrible as compared to the monarchy wars. A state may introduce war, but it may also bring about the possibility of peace somewhat near fruition. This theory of democratic peace appears compatible with the thesis of Kant presented in his article. Kant also argues that through categorical imperative’s dictates, nations can actually spread the republican constitutions throughout the entire community of the world. The republics bring about end point of political evolution and are regarded as the highest task that nature has actually set to individuals to ensure liberal peace.     

Effects of judiciary and other state organs to ensure perpetual peace

Kant argues that republican states have the capability of ensuring perpetual peace. These states have an elected government that exists within their constitutions’ framework which is subjected to a constant judicial review. By republican, he means those states which in modern democracy are known to be constitutional, their legislative powers is totally separated from the executive, and they are guarded by the constitution. This republican definition is appealing to the modern perspective on the liberal democracy whereby the representatives are an issue of the rule of law. In this rule, the constitution emphasizes the rights of an individual as well as constraints rulers. The constitution is then protected by a judiciary that is always independent. 

Liberal democracies, republican governments and perpetual peace

Liberal democracies and republican governments themselves may find difficulties in ensuring peace. This state of peace ought to be established via a league of several nations that should guarantee the enforcement of the definitive and preliminary articles of Kant. In liberal democracies according to Kant, peace may be secured via an agreement among the nations, lawless freedom renunciation, and establishment of an international state that is based upon the public law. Kant suggests that a thought of world-republic is better than an idea of nations-united and is attainable. The idea of union of nations values individual state’s freedoms and issues a structure to the global community via treaties among the independent states. 

Effects of international rights on perpetual peace

Presence of international rights as well as the manner in which states exist separately, naturally cause a state of conflict unless there is establishment of federal unions to avert an eruption of hostility. It is via the state federation that the liberal democracies may consent to the civil laws. This hinders the power balance within the global community that is becoming very precarious which previously had the capabilities of causing war. Kant argues that organizations do not preserve peace. The acceptance of the states’ roles as well as voluntary acceptance or approval of the rule of laws does preserve peace. Through this, he concludes that the combination of state federation and the liberal democracy may help in assuring perpetual peace. He continues by arguing that modern war threats lie not within liberal democracies but rather between these liberals and their counterparts who are also communists as witnessed during Cold War.

Crisis during perpetual peace process

The major crisis experienced in an attempt to ensure this kind of peace lies within the liberal democracy’s nature and the notion of the theory of democratic peace. Although the liberal democracies avoid waging war against each other, not every state that is within the global community can brag of being liberal democratic. Escalation of current conflict has been brought about by this kind of struggle between illiberals and liberals. The ideologies of Kant may back up the argument that combined democracies ensure peace while liberal democracies are not at peace with each other since these states are democratic because of their similarity. Doyle echoes this notion by claiming that “peace holds only in the interaction between liberals but not in relations between liberal and non liberal states”. Ideologies that ensure peace among liberal democracies are basically the same ideas or notions that inspire idealistic conflicts with nations regarded illiberal. This consequently draws aggression from seemingly non-democratic nations. 

How constitutions help in ensuring perpetual peace

Constitutions under the republicans and the liberals bring perpetual peace via institutional constraints process. In this process, the influence is accorded to society members who are likely to feel the effect of atrocities of conflicts or war. Here, the citizens are accorded the rights to run key political decisions affecting them. The citizens of the liberal as well as republican democracies possess the same ideologies of trying to avoid conflicts among themselves that would lead to war calamities. However, to Kant, liberal constitutions are more likely to do justice to human rights as compared to the republican constitutions . 


From Kant’s argument, it clearly appears that perpetual peace may be best achieved through the definitive articles he stipulates and through the republican constitutions as foundation of the civil society, a rule that has been assumed by the theory of contemporary democratic peace. It is also evident from his arguments that for international communities to experience the perpetual peace, this rule has to be based upon the urge for the liberal democracies to introduce civil law and state of right so as to replace peace treaties. However, the argument persists that peace is arguably more complex than war. 

While it is not deniable that state federation and liberal democracy when combined are the key conditions of perpetual peace assurance, the extent to which they warrant perpetual peace is actually questionable. The assumption made by many that republics will at all times take correct actions to avoid any conflict becoming endemic is leading to several individuals suggesting that perpetual peace would be more or less an absurd dream. The difficulties experienced in preserving peaceful relationship among nations leads to the query whether perpetual peace is actually an achievable reality or just a faint hope.


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