global but divided
By the late nineteenth century, international lawyers and diplomats considered it perfectly reasonable that there should be one kind of political and legal order for the 'family of civilized nations' and another for the uncivilized world beyond. No such distinction is made by diplomats and lawyers today, at least not in public; it is generally assumed that a single, global pattern of political and legal order exists, which should be indiscriminately applied to all peoples. Of course, that is not to say that there are no controversies about the fundamental principles on which this global order is based, or about how it operates in practice. There is a profound tension, for example, between state sovereignty and human rights, since the assertion of individuals' rights in international law and the protection of those rights by international organizations can be seen as compromising the principle that each state possesses an inviolable domestic jurisdiction by virtue of its sovereignty. That, moreover, is but one of several ways in which the sovereign independence of states is perceived to be threatened by the increasingly centralized, even supranational, authority of international organizations at both the global and regional levels. In this chapter, I want to explain how this global order was constructed, and why it suffers from such serious dilemmas about the relationship between state sovereignty and other aspects of the political and legal structure of international relations today.
The crucial step towards the construction of a single political and legal order for the entire world was the abandonment of the discriminatory way in which the concept of civilization had previously been employed. We have already seen that, in its nineteenth-century version, the concept was bound up with various theories explaining the relative backwardness of non-European peoples, especially a form of natural scientific argument about the impact of factors like geography or race on social and political evolution. European states, and the white race more generally, were therefore presumed to have a special responsibility to civilize those backward peoples who had come under their administration during the previous 200 years. During the first half of the twentieth century, that position
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Publication information: Book title: Beyond the Anarchical Society: Grotius, Colonialism and Order in World Politics. Contributors: Edward Keene - Author. Publisher: Cambridge University Press. Place of publication: Cambridge, England. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 120.
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