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date: 19 October 2017

Summary and Keywords

Much of the literature on international democratic diffusion appeals to mechanisms—competition, learning, emulation or socialization, and coercion—that typically are treated as competing and theoretically separate. All four, however, fit within a co-evolutionary framework, that is, one integrating the concepts of variety, retention, and selection of traits (in this case, regime type). Competition, learning, and emulation are not mutually exclusive and all find support in the large literature on cultural and social evolution. Coercion may seem anti-evolutionary, inasmuch as it implies design and implementation by a powerful rational actor (state, international institution, etc.), but co-evolution can accommodate coercion as well. In co-evolution, agent and environment evolve together: an agent shapes its environment (engages in niche construction), and that reshaped environment alters the fitness of the agents’ traits. A powerful democracy can alter its social and material environment so as to increase the fitness of its own regime. Co-evolution can provide a framework to integrate mechanisms by which democracy and other regime types spread and contract across time and space, and hence can aid empirical research on the effects of global power shifts, including the rise of China, on the fate of democracy in various regions around the world.

Keywords: diffusion, democratization, evolution, learning, hegemony, socialization, empirical international relations theory

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