Revolution and World Order: The Revolutionary State in International Society

By David Armstrong | Go to book overview
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5 The Revolt Against the West and International Society

Introduction: International Society from the First to the Second World War

The Bolshevik Revolution and the new approach promised by Woodrow Wilson had both appeared to portend radical changes to the international society of 1914. In the event, the essential Westphalian edifice survived intact, inasmuch as its constituents remained sovereign states and its institutions, rules, and norms were still those that could be accommodated within the confines of an anarchic, decentralized society, with authority distributed horizontally, on the basis of legal equality, rather than vertically, according to some hierarchical principle. However, just as the deliberations after the French revolutionary wars had given rise to a subtly amended international society, with a new category of great powers deemed to have special responsibility for the maintenance of international order, an increasing emphasis on nationality as the basis for statehood, and later a certain reformulation of the criteria for membership of the international society in the shape of a 'standard of civilization', so too did the aftermath of the First World War leave its mark. As with the post-Napoleonic order, this affected the primary attributes of the Westphalian system less than its secondary features: the cluster of ideas and assumptions that underpinned the array of legal instruments and informal mechanisms through which the members of international society went about their increasingly complex business. The most concrete expression of these secondary features was the League of Nations. It was inevitable that a deliberate endeavour by international society to reconstitute itself should be accompanied by a greater self-consciousness about its underlying principles as well as an awareness of the need to formulate them in ways that would be

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