Rudolph Rummel

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R. J. Rummel
Rudolph Joseph Rummel

(1932-10-21)October 21, 1932
DiedMarch 2, 2014(2014-03-02) (aged 81)
OccupationPolitical scientist
Known forResearch on war and conflict resolution

Rudolph Joseph Rummel (October 21, 1932 – March 2, 2014)[1] was professor of political science who taught at the Indiana University, Yale University, and University of Hawaii. He spent his career studying data on collective violence and war with a view toward helping their resolution or elimination. Rummel coined the term democide for murder by government (compare genocide), such as the Stalinist purges and Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Rummel estimated the total number of people killed by all governments during the twentieth century at 212 million, and he estimated that 148 million were killed by communist regimes from 1917 to 1987.[2][3] To give some perspective on these numbers, Rummel pointed out that all domestic and foreign wars during the twentieth century killed in combat around 41 million. His figures for Communist regimes are higher than those given by most other scholars, which range from 60 to 100 million.[4] In his last book, Rummel increased his estimate to over 272 million innocent, non-combatant civilians who were murdered by their own governments during the twentieth century.[5] However, Rummel noted that his 272 million death estimate was his lower, more prudent figure, stating that it "could be over 400,000,000."[6] He concluded that democracy is the form of government least likely to kill its citizens and that democracies do not wage war against each other.[7] This is known as the democratic peace theory.

Rummel was the author of twenty-four scholarly books, and published his major results in Understanding Conflict and War (1975–81). He spent the next fifteen years refining the underlying theory and testing it empirically on new data, against the empirical results of others, and on case studies. He summed up his research in Power Kills (1997). Other works include Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocides and Mass Murders 1917–1987[8] (1990); China's Bloody Century: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900[9] (1991); Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder[10] (1992); Death by Government[11] (1994); and Statistics of Democide[12] (1997). Extracts, figures, and tables from the books, including his sources and details regarding the calculations, are available online on his website. Rummel also authored Factor Analysis[13] Understanding (1970) and Understanding Correlation[14] (1976).

In addition to his extensive research and data analysis, Rummel wrote the Never Again[15] series of alternative-history novels, in which a secret society sends two lovers armed with fabulous wealth and modern weapons back to 1906 with orders to create a peaceful century.

Early life and education[edit]

Rudolph Rummel was born in 1932 in Cleveland, Ohio to a family of German descent. A child of the Great Depression and World War II, he attended local public schools. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Hawaii in 1959 and 1961, respectively, and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University in 1963.

Academic career[edit]

Rummel began his teaching career at Indiana University. In 1964 he moved to Yale University, and in 1966 returned to the University of Hawaii. He taught there for the rest of his active career. In 1995 he retired and became Professor Emeritus of Political Science. His research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, DARPA, and the United States Peace Research Institute.[7] In addition to his books, Rummel wrote more than 100 professional articles.

He was a member of the advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.[16]



Rummel was the creator of the term democide: "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder". He has further stated: "I use the civil definition of murder, where someone can be guilty of murder if they are responsible in a reckless and wanton way for the loss of life, as in incarcerating people in camps where they may soon die of malnutrition, unattended disease, and forced labor, or deporting them into wastelands where they may die rapidly from exposure and disease."

In his book, Death by Government published in 1987, Rummel estimated that 148 million were killed by communist governments from 1917 to 1987. These numbers should not be considered factual, Rummel himself as described his figures as "little more than educated guesses[17]". The list of communist countries with more than 1 million estimated victims included the following:

Location Dates Est. Deaths
Cambodia 1975–1979 2,035,000
China (PRC) 1949–1987 77,277,000
Poland 1945–1948 1,585,000
North Korea 1948–1987 1,563,000
Vietnam 1945–1987 1,670,000
Yugoslavia (Tito) 1944–1987 1,072,000
U.S.S.R. 1917–1987 61,911,000

His research concluded that the death toll from democide is far greater than the death toll from war. After studying over 8,000 reports of government-caused deaths, he estimated that there have been 262 million victims of democide in the 20th century[18] and that six times as many people have died at the hands of people working for governments than have died in battle. His later estimates put the death toll of colonialism at 262,000,000. He argued that there is a relation between political power and democide. Political mass murder grows increasingly common as political power becomes unconstrained. At the other end of the scale, where power is diffuse, checked, and balanced, political violence is a rarity. "The more power a regime has, the more likely people will be killed. This is a major reason for promoting freedom." He concluded: "Concentrated political power is the most dangerous thing on earth."[19]

Democratic peace[edit]

Rummel was one of the early researchers on democratic peace theory, after Dean Babst.[20] He found that in the period between 1816 and 2005 there were 205 wars between non-democracies, 166 wars between non-democracies and democracies, and no wars between democracies.

The definition of democracy used is "where those who hold power are elected in competitive elections with a secret ballot and wide franchise (loosely understood as including at least 2/3 of adult males); where there is freedom of speech, religion, and organization; and a constitutional framework of law to which the government is subordinate and that guarantees equal rights". In addition, it should be "well-established". He stated "enough time has passed since its inception for peace-sufficient democratic procedures to become accepted and democratic culture to settle in. Around three years seems to be enough for this".[21] Regarding war, he adopted the definition of a popular database: War is a conflict causing at least 1,000 battle deaths.

The peace is explained thus: "Start with the answer of the philosopher Immanuel Kant to why universalizing republics (democracy was a bad word for Classical Liberals in his time) would create a peaceful world. People would not support and vote for wars in which they and their loved ones could die and lose their property. But this is only partly correct, for the people can get aroused against nondemocracies and push their leaders toward war, as in the Spanish–American War. A deeper explanation is that where people are free, they create an exchange society of overlapping groups and multiple and crosschecking centers of power. In such a society a culture of negotiation, tolerance, and splitting differences develops. Moreover, free people develop an in-group orientation toward other such societies, a feeling of shared norms and ideals that militates against violence toward other free societies"[22]


According to Rummel, democide requires governmental intention. But he was also interested in analyzing the effects of regimes that unintentionally, yet culpably, cause the deaths of their citizens through negligence, incompetence or sheer indifference. An example is a regime in which corruption has become so pervasive and destructive of a people's welfare that it threatens their daily lives and reduces their life expectancy. Rummel termed deaths of citizens under such regimes as mortacide. He argued that democracies have the fewest of such deaths.[23]

Famine, economic growth, and happiness[edit]

Rummel included famine in democide if he deemed it the result of a deliberate policy, as he and most academics have concluded about the Holodomor. He has said that there have been no famines in democracies, deliberate or not.[24] He also argued that democracy is an important factor for economic growth and for raising living standards.[25][26] He has noted research showing that average happiness in a nation increases with more democracy.[27]

According to Rummel, the continuing increase in the number of democracies worldwide will lead to an end to wars and democide. He believed that goal might be achieved by the mid-21st century.[28]

Political views[edit]

Rummel was a strong supporter of spreading liberal democracy, although he did not support invading another country solely to replace a dictatorship.[29]

He was critical of past American foreign policy: for example, the Philippine War, involvement in the 1900 Battle of Peking, and the bombing of civilians during World War II.[30] He believed that the U.S. under Woodrow Wilson was a domestic tyranny.[31]

He strongly supported the War on Terror and the Iraq War initiated by the George W. Bush administration. He argued for an intergovernmental organization of all democracies outside of the United Nations to deal with issues about which the UN cannot or will not act, but particularly to further the promotion of peace, human security, human rights, and democracy—an Alliance of Democracies.[32]

He also argued that there was a leftist bias in some parts of the academic world that selectively focused on problems in nations with high political and economic freedom and ignored much worse problems in other nations. Related to this, he also criticized the tenure system.[33][34]


Democratic peace theory[edit]

The democratic peace theory is now one of the great controversies in political science and one of the main challenges to realism in international relations. More than a hundred different researchers have published multiple articles in this field, according to an incomplete bibliography.[35] Some critics argue that there have been exceptions to the democratic peace. Rummel discussed some claimed exceptions in his FAQ[36] and he has referred to books by other scholars such as Never at War. There are also various other criticisms as discussed in the democratic peace theory article.

Rummel's first work on democratic peace received little attention. His results were incorporated in a "gigantic philosophical scheme" of 33 propositions in a 5-volume work. It was reviewed in 1992 as having "immoderate pretensions", and demonstrated Rummel's "unrelenting" economic liberalism and "extreme" views on defense policy. Nils Petter thought these elements may have distracted readers from Rummel's more conventionally acceptable propositions.[37] (Quotations from Nils Petter Gleditsch: "Democracy and Peace" (1995), a paper that warmly defends the existence of democratic peace, and asserts that it, and the difficulty distant states have in waging war against each other, fully account for the phenomena.)[37]

Rummel's version of the democratic peace theory has some distinctive features disputed by some other researchers who support the existence and explanatory power of the democratic peace:

  • Rummel's early research found that democracies are less warlike, even against non-democracies. Many other researchers hold only that democracies are far less warlike with one another.
  • Rummel held that democracies (properly defined) never go to war with each other; and this is an "absolute or (point) claim." Other researchers find that it is a chance, or stochastic, matter; Bremer 1992; Rummel was deterministic.[37][clarification needed] Many other researchers have also stated no wars.[38][39][40][41][42][43][full citation needed]

Rummel did not always apply his definition of democracy to governments under discussion; nor did he always clarify when he did not. The opening paragraphs of an appendix from his book Power Kills[44] adopt Michael Doyle's lists of liberal democracies for 1776–1800 and 1800–1850.[45] Doyle uses a much looser definition: The secret ballot was first adopted, by Tasmania, in 1856, and Belgium had barely 10% adult male suffrage before 1894.

Awards and nominations[edit]

In 1999, Rummel was awarded the Susan Strange Award of the International Studies Association.[46] This award recognizes a person "whose singular intellect, assertiveness, and insight most challenge conventional wisdom and intellectual and organizational complacency in the international studies community."[47]

In 2003, Rummel was given The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Conflict Processes Organized Section of the American Political Science Association for "scholarly contributions that have fundamentally improved the study of conflict processes."[48]

Never Again Series[edit]

Rummel wrote the Never Again Series of alternative-history novels. According to the series' website,[15] Never Again is "a what-if, alternative history... [in which] two lovers are sent back in time to 1906 with modern weapons and 38 billion 1906 dollars" in order to prevent the rise of totalitarianism and the outbreak of world war.

What if there were a solution to war and genocide? What if a secret society sent back to 1906 two lovers, Joy Phim, a gorgeous warrior, and John Banks, a pacifist professor of history, and gave them the incredible wealth and weapons necessary to create a peaceful alternative universe—one that never experienced the horrors of world war, the Holocaust, and the other atrocities of the twentieth century? And what if, at great personal cost, they succeed too well and create a peaceful world of complacent democracies? In Book 2, the clock is turned back to their arrival in 1906. They receive a message from the future of the universe they will create – Islamic fundamentalists have attacked the unarmed democracies with nuclear weapons and enslaved them. It is now up to these lovers to prevent this horrible future.[15]

Published works[edit]

  • Most books and articles by Rummel are available for free download at Rummel's website, including those not listed here.[49][50]


  • Dimensions of Nations, Sage Publications, 1972
  • Wilkenfeld, J., ed. Conflict Behavior & Linkage Politics (contributor), David McKay, 1973
  • Peace Endangered: Reality Of Détente, Sage Publications, 1976
  • Understanding Conflict and War, John Wiley & Sons, 1976
  • Conflict in Perspective (Understanding Conflict and War), Sage Publications, 1977
  • Field Theory Evolving, Sage Publications, 1977
  • Der gefährdete Frieden. Die militärische Überlegenheit der UdSSR ("Endangered Peace. The Military Superiority of the USSR"), München, 1977
  • with Rhee, Omen & Sybinsky. National Attitudes and Behaviors, Sage Publications, 1979
  • In the Minds of Men. Principles Toward Understanding and Waging Peace, Sogang University Press, 1984
  • Applied Factor Analysis, Northwestern University Press, 1988
  • Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder since 1917, Transaction Publishers, 1990
  • China's Bloody Century: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900, Transaction Publishers, 1991
  • The Conflict Helix: Principles & Practices of Interpersonal, Social & International Conflict & Cooperation, Transaction Publishers, 1991
  • Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder, Transaction Publishers, 1992
  • Death by Government, Transaction Publishers, 1997
  • Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900, Lit Verlag, 1999
  • Power Kills: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence, Transaction Publishers, 2002
  • Never Again (series)
  1. War and Democide, Llumina Press, 2004
  2. Nuclear Holocaust, Llumina Press, 2004
  3. Reset, Llumina Press, 2004
  4. Red Terror, Llumina Press, 2004
  5. Genocide, Llumina Press, 2005
  6. Never Again?, Llumina Press, 2005
Never Again: Ending War, Democide, & Famine Through Democratic Freedom, Nonfiction supplement, Llumina Press, 2005
  • The Blue Book of Freedom: Ending Famine, Poverty, Democide, and War, Cumberland House Publishing, 2007

Scholarly articles[edit]

Rummel had approximately 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals, including:[49][50]

  • International Journal on World Peace, October–December 1986 (Vol. III, No. 4), contributor
  • Journal of International Relations, Vol. 3 No 1, Spring, 1978, contributor
  • REASON magazine; July 1977; Volume 9, Number 3. "The Problem of Defense", contributor

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Star-Advertiser, Honolulu. "Rudolph Joseph Rummel « Honolulu Hawaii Obituaries - Hawaii Newspaper Obituaries".
  2. ^ "Democratic Peace: Reevaluating China's Democide to be 73,000,000". Archived from the original on November 1, 2007. Retrieved 2006-03-03.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. ^ R. J. Rommel, The Blue Book of Freedom: Ending Famine, Poverty, Democide, and War, Nashville, Tennessee, Cumberland House Publishing, 2007, p. 99
  4. ^ Valentino, Benjamin A. Valentino (2004). Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the twentieth Century. Cornell University Press. p. 275. ISBN 978-0801439650.
  5. ^ R.J. Rummel, The Blue Book of Freedom: Ending Famine, Poverty, Democide, and War, Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House Publishing, 2007, p. 11
  6. ^ R.J. Rummel, The Blue Book of Freedom: Ending Famine, Poverty, Democide, and War, Nashville, TN: Cumberland House Publishing, 2007, p. 75
  7. ^ a b About R.J. Rummel – Freedom, Democide, War
  8. ^ "USSR--Genocide and Mass Murder".
  9. ^ "China's Bloody Century".
  10. ^ "Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder".
  12. ^ "Statistics of Democide".
  15. ^ a b c "Freedom, Democide, War: An Alternative History Series".
  16. ^ "National Advisory Council". Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2011-05-20.
  17. ^
  18. ^ 20th Century Democide,
  19. ^ Totten, Samuel (2013). Pioneers of Genocide Studies. Transaction Publishers. p. 170.
  20. ^ DOES DEMOCRACY CAUSE PEACE? Archived 2008-02-17 at the Wayback Machine James Lee Ray -Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 1998. 1:27–46.
  21. ^ POWER KILLS Appendix 1.1 – Q And A On The Fact That Democracies Do Not Make War On Each Other – By R.J. Rummel – Q AND A ON DEMOCRACY AND WAR – Freedom, Democide, War
  22. ^ Democratic Peace Q&A
  23. ^ "Defining Mortacracies".
  24. ^ Democratic Peace Q&A Version 2.0 – Freedom, Democide, War
  26. ^ "Democratic Peace: Global Corruption and Democracy 2006". Archived from the original on May 19, 2007. Retrieved 2006-03-23.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  27. ^ "Democratic Peace: Happiness – This Utilitarian Argument For Freedom Is True". Archived from the original on November 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-02-13.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  29. ^ Democratic Peace Q&A Version 2.0 – In the Fostering Democracy section, Rummel writes, "I am opposed to invading a country to democratize it." – Freedom, Democide, War
  30. ^ STATISTICS OF DEMOCIDE Chapter 13 Death By American Bombing And Other Democide * By R.J. Rummel
  31. ^ Rummel, R. j (18 July 2009). "A Freedomist View: So What If A Lie?--It Is The Politics of Power".
  32. ^ Eliminating Democide and War Through An Alliance of Democracies* By R.J. Rummel
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 6, 2007. Retrieved 2005-05-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 19, 2007. Retrieved 2006-03-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  35. ^ "Democratic Peace Bibliography".
  36. ^ Democratic Peace Q&A
  37. ^ a b c Gleditsch, Nils Petter (1992). "Democracy and Peace". Journal of Peace Research. 29 (4): 369–76. doi:10.1177/0022343392029004001. ISSN 0022-3433. JSTOR 425538.
  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-02-17. Retrieved 2008-02-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  39. ^
  40. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-06-25. Retrieved 2005-08-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  41. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-12-21. Retrieved 2005-12-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-02-13. Retrieved 2005-08-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  45. ^ Doyle, Michael W. (1983). "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs". Philosophy & Public Affairs. 12 (3): 205–35. ISSN 1088-4963. JSTOR 2265298.
  46. ^ AWARD RECIPIENTS Archived 2013-02-08 at the Wayback Machine
  47. ^ Susan Strange Award Archived 2013-02-08 at the Wayback Machine
  48. ^ "Conflict Processes Organized Section Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients". American Political Science Association (APSA). Archived from the original on 2013-05-10.
  49. ^ a b LIst of Documents, University of Hawaii, retrieved 2018-10-25
  50. ^ a b Thematic List of Documents, University of Hawaii, retrieved 2018-10-25

External links[edit]