Jack Snyder
Jack Lewis Snyder

(1951-02-06) February 6, 1951 (age 73)
AwardsKarl Deutsch Award (1991)
Academic background
EducationHarvard University (A.B.)
Columbia University (PhD)
Academic work
DisciplineInternational relations
School or traditionNeoclassical realism[1]
InstitutionsColumbia University
Notable ideasOffensive and defensive realism

Jack Lewis Snyder (born February 6, 1951) is an American political scientist who is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Columbia University, specializing in theories of international relations.

Snyder's research centers around the relationship between violence and government. He is known for introducing the distinction between offensive and defensive realism into the international relations literature in his 1991 book Myths of Empire.[1][3]

Early life and education

Snyder was born in February 1951 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate, receiving a B.A. in government in 1973. From 1973 to 1975 he was on the research staff of the Wednesday Group (a grouping of liberal Republicans), and later the foreign policy staff of Illinois senator Charles H. Percy.[4]

He pursued graduate studies at Columbia University, first receiving a certificate from the Harriman Institute (then known as the Russian Institute) in 1978 before receiving his PhD in international relations in 1981.[4] He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard's Center for International Affairs before returning to teach at Columbia.

Academic career

It was in his Myths of Empire that Snyder first drew a distinction between offensive and defensive realism.

Much of Snyder's work presents challenges to the fundamental assumption of democratic peace theory: that democracies do not go to war with each other and that, therefore, democratization leads to a reduction in interstate conflict. In From Voting to Violence he argues that, rather than encourage peace, poorly managed democratization processes have often produced upsurges in nationalism and ethnic violence, as threatened political elites seek to thwart moves towards popular rule. He cites as examples Weimar Germany and the internationally sponsored 1993 presidential elections in Burundi (which led to the outbreak of a civil war later that year).[5]

In Electing to Fight, Snyder and Mansfield argue emerging democracies with weak political institutions are more rather than less likely to go war, as their leaders often seek to rally support by invoking external threats and employing belligerent, nationalist rhetoric. Mansfield and Snyder demonstrate this pattern in a number of cases, ranging from revolutionary France to contemporary Russia under Putin.[6] Snyder suggests that the way to avoid nationalist conflict is to promote the growth of robust civic institutions and a solid middle class prior to democratization.[7]

His students at Columbia included Colin Kahl, current U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Other activities

Snyder was Director of Columbia's Institute of War and Peace Studies from 1994 to 1997[8] and chair of Columbia's political science department from 1997 to 2000.[9]

Selected bibliography


Edited volumes

Selected journal articles and chapters

Other works


  1. ^ a b Taliaferro, Jeffrey W. (2001). "Security Seeking under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Revisited". International Security. 25 (3): 128–161. doi:10.1162/016228800560543. S2CID 57568196.
  2. ^ "Snyder, Jack 1951–". Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  3. ^ Rose, Gideon (October 1998). "Neoclassical Realism and Theories of International Relations". World Politics. 51 (1): 44–72. doi:10.1017/S0043887100007814. S2CID 154361851.
  4. ^ a b "Jack Snyder". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  5. ^ Ikenberry, G. John. "From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist Conflict". Foreign Affairs. No. May/June 2000. Council on Foreign Relations.
  6. ^ McFaul, Michael (April 2007). "Books In Review: Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War". Journal of Democracy. 18 (2): 160–166. doi:10.1353/jod.2007.0029. S2CID 153767044.
  7. ^ Walker, Martin (Autumn 2000). "Review: From Voting to Violence". Wilson Quarterly. 24 (4): 134–136.
  8. ^ "Snyder, Jack 1951– | Encyclopedia.com".
  9. ^ "Snyder, Jack 1951– | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2022-05-29.