This Means War. Or Does It?

February 22, 2017

Dale Copeland’s new book, Economic Interdependence and War has received the Best Book Award from the International Studies Association. Professor Copeland will receive his award at the 2017 ISA meeting on February 23. This is Copeland’s second book, and is spurring international relations experts to the use of words such as magisterialbold and original, and a landmark study. Grand statements for an important book.

“An extraordinary accomplishment. This magisterial work, by one of the leading scholars of international relations, brings together theory, history, and quantitative data to demonstrate the critical role economic relations play in the ‘high politics’ of war and peace. The evidence Copeland produces is fascinating and his argument is provocative and forceful.” -Michael Mastanduno, Dartmouth College

The book examines the key cases from the last two hundred years of great power politics, including the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War, the two World Wars in Europe, the Pacific War, and the Cold War and its crises.  It also supports its historical work with a rigorous examination of the quantitative literature that has tended to dominate the study of trade and war up until now. The book ends with an examination of the book’s implications for current affairs, particularly U.S.-China relations.

Professor Copeland’s book shows how changing expectations of future trade drive great power interactions and the likelihood of war from the 1790s to the end of the 20th century. Copeland views liberal & economic realist theories as insightful but incomplete. Great powers, in calculating their long-term security interests, consider both the gains in power accruing from trade as well as the increased vulnerability to cut-off that such interdependence entails. When they have positive expectations about the commercial environment, they will see the gains as outweighing the risks, and will thus tend toward peaceful policies. Consider China’s relatively moderate behavior after 1985 as it became integrated into the global economy. When expectations of the future become negative, however, and great powers worry about their ability to access key raw materials and markets, they tend to see hard-line policies and even war as necessary means to their long-term survival. Japan’s increasingly aggressive behavior in East Asia from 1930 to 1941 is a sobering reminder of this dynamic.

Professor at the University of Virginia, Dale Copeland is recipient of numerous awards, including MacArthur and Mellon Fellowships and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University.

Professor Copeland will present at this year’s ISA conference on February 25, 2017 at 1:45 PM in the Hilton Baltimore. His paper is “America on the Brink: Systemic Theory and the Future of Great Power War and Peace.”

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