Revolution and World Order: The Revolutionary State in International Society

By David Armstrong | Go to book overview
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4 State and Class the Russian Revolution

The Development of International Society in the Nineteenth Century

One of the implications of the Westphalian system, and its sanctification of the state, was that an individual's membership of his state overrode competing aspects of his social identity: his duties as a citizen were greater than his obligations as a human being (or worker, artist, intellectual, etc.). 1 The continuing fascination of natural law doctrines for philosophers tended to obscure this central fact in much discussion of international relations until the early nineteenth century. Some contractarian theorists, for instance, represented state sovereignty as primarily an internal matter, involving a state authority's relationship with its citizens, with natural law providing some constraint upon the powers of sovereigns within their own domain and, by extension, in the state's foreign relations. The idea of a society of sovereign states, constrained mainly by such rules and obligations as could be derived from its own inner logic, as an association of independent entities which acknowledged no moral, political, or legal superior, was slow to take hold, even in the writings of Vattel, who had the clearest insight into the nature of the 'anarchical international society' of the eighteenth century.

The American Revolution, to some degree, and the French Revolution, to a considerable extent, were influenced by the conception of a 'great community of mankind', which derives from natural law. However, the most serious challenge posed by the French Revolution to the international system came not from the idealistic advocacy of the breaking down of national frontiers that

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