Speaker: Sirianne Dahlum, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, International Security Program

A long-standing debate revolves around business elites and their role in states' war behavior. Some arguments imply that when business elites have a large influence on policymaking, states turn more belligerent, as business elites encourage military expeditions to open up or protect markets. Contrasting perspectives in the liberal tradition, such as "capitalist-peace" arguments, emphasize that business elites have strong economic incentives to avoid war and thus will have a pacifying effect when they hold political power. Comprehensive tests of these arguments are scarce, and those that exist do not account for the degree to which business elites hold sway over policymaking.

Drawing on new global data on the social composition of regime-support coalitions covering more than 200 years from 1789–the present, the speaker presents evidence on the war behavior of regimes supported by business elites. Drawing on assumptions of profit-maximizing business owners and detailing how they expectedly influence politics under different scenarios, a synthesis between capitalist-peace and imperialist arguments is proposed. One core finding is that business-elite supported regimes are, generally, more belligerent, although not against other business-elite supported regimes. This has implications for scholars' and policymakers' understanding of how war behavior is shaped by economic interests as well as the internal dynamics of political regimes.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.