Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations

Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations

Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations

Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations

Synopsis

How did the world come to be organized into sovereign states? Daniel Philpott argues that two historical revolutions in ideas are responsible. First, the Protestant Reformation ended medieval Christendom and brought a system of sovereign states in Europe, culminating at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Second, ideas of equality and colonial nationalism brought a sweeping end to colonial empires around 1960, spreading the sovereign states system to the rest of the globe. In both cases, revolutions in ideas about legitimate political authority profoundly altered the "constitution" that establishes basic authority in the international system.Ideas exercised influence first by shaping popular identities, then by exercising social power upon the elites who could bring about new international constitutions. Swaths of early modern Europeans, for instance, arrived at Protestant beliefs, then fought against the temporal powers of the Church on behalf of the sovereignty of secular princes, who could overthrow the formidable remains of a unified medieval Christendom. In the second revolution, colonial nationalists, domestic opponents of empire, and rival superpowers pressured European cabinets to relinquish their colonies in the name of equality and nationalism, resulting in a global system of sovereign states. Bringing new theoretical and historical depth to the study of international relations, Philpott demonstrates that while shifts in military, economic, and other forms of material power cannot be overlooked, only ideas can explain how the world came to be organized into a system of sovereign states.

Excerpt

Scholars easily underestimate the dependence of knowledge upon community and friendship. In publishing this first book, I want to acknowledge the fellowship that prepared me for it and accompanied me in writing it. It was a high school teacher, Sally Durrant, who first showed me that studying politics could be rigorous and exuberant. I am ever awed by her passion for the polis and her courage against adversity—intimations of Socrates. Two professors at the University of Virginia then inspired me to study and teach politics as a vocation. Michael Joseph Smith's kind mentorship and commitment to the study of ethics in international relations were formative. Kenneth Elzinga's example of teacher as servant proposed an attractive vision, too. My advisers in graduate school at Harvard University inspired me both through their own formidable scholarship and their conscientious commitment to my project. Stanley Hoffmann's humanistic learning, Robert Keohane's methodological rigor, Andrew Moravcsik's tenacity, and Bryan Hehir's leadership in integrating faith, learning, and politics all shaped the endeavor. Deeply formative, too, were my friendships in the Graduate Christian Fellowship at Harvard, and in the national graduate ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It was there that I gained my deepest sense of vocation. I thank, too, my unusually supportive colleagues and friends in the Political Science Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I especially appreciate the help of our chair, Stephen Weatherford, in securing for me an early sabbatical leave.

Many colleagues read and commented upon some portion of the manuscript. I am grateful to them all: Samuel Barkin, Aaron Belkin, Sheri Berman, Allan Castle, Vikram Chand, Houchang Chehabi, Jarat Chopra, Benjamin Cohen, Bruce Cronin, Michael Desch, George Downs, Michael Doyle, Sally Durrant, Colin Elman, Martha Finnemore, Gregory Fox, Aaron Friedberg, Michael Gordon, Rodney Bruce Hall, Chris Hardy, Sohail Hashmi, Kevin Hula, Samuel Huntington, Andrew Hurrell, Robert Jackson, Gary King, Stephen Kocs, Stephen Krasner, Friedrich Kratochwil, William Roger Louis, Kate McNamara, John Mearsheimer, Henry Nau, Brent Nelson, John Owen, Dani Reiter, Timothy Shah, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Daniel Thomas, Stephen Van Evera, Barbara Walter, Alexander Wendt, William Wohlforth, Patrick Wolf, Stewart Wood, Phoebe Yang, and two anonymous reviewers for Princeton University Press. Even where these interlocutors have disagreed with my arguments, I have profited enormously from their reactions. All are responsible for some of the book's insights, none for any of its errors.

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