Introduction: The International Diffusion of Liberalism

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Political scientists, sociologists, and economists have all sought to analyze the spread of economic and political liberalism across countries in recent decades. This article documents this diffusion of liberal policies and politics and proposes four distinct theories to explain how the prior choices of some countries and international actors affect the subsequent behavior of others: coercion, competition, learning, and emulation. These theories are explored empirically in the symposium articles that follow. The goal of the symposium is to bring quite different and often isolated schools of thought into contact and communication with one another, and to define common metrics by which we can judge the utility of the contending approaches to diffusion across different policy domains.For helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article, the authors wish to thank Barry Eichengreen, Lisa Martin, and John Meyer. Nancy Brune and Alexander Noonan provided excellent research assistance. The authors also wish to acknowledge and thank the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, the UCLA International Institute, and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University for funding conferences at which this collection of symposium papers were discussed.


liberalism, diffusion

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International Organization