The States System of Europe, 1640-1990: Peacemaking and the Conditions of International Stability

The States System of Europe, 1640-1990: Peacemaking and the Conditions of International Stability

The States System of Europe, 1640-1990: Peacemaking and the Conditions of International Stability

The States System of Europe, 1640-1990: Peacemaking and the Conditions of International Stability

Synopsis

This work provides a novel analysis of the evolution of the states system of Europe since the mid-seventeenth century. The author looks at the four major European congresses: Munster and Osnabruck, Utrecht, Vienna, and Paris, and shows how a prevailing consensus on certain structural concepts, such as the balance of power or national self-determination, has influenced the evolution of the system and determined its stability (or imbalance). The author argues that the structure of the international system is neither a given quantity nor determined primarily by conflict between international actors, but is essentially the result of a general agreement expressed in "consensus principles." His approach provides a more plausible analysis of international relations and the causes of conflict than traditional theories, and the study concludes with an interpretation of the period since 1920. The work will be of great interest to scholars and students of international relations, European history, and European politics.

Excerpt

The purpose of this introductory chapter is to point out various aspects of the problem of stability in international politics, and to explain my approach to this problem. I make no claim to sophistication. I will avoid any form of specialist terminology other than the simple terminology that I will explain in this chapter. Much of what I wish to point out, in this chapter as well as in this book as a whole, is really obvious; all of it, I hope, stands to reason.

I must ask the reader to bear with me if the next few pages are a little arid. They will be given over to an exposition of the theoretical approach adopted in this book. The chapters that follow will, I hope, make up for the rather abstract nature of this exposition, by giving concrete illustrations of what I mean.

Politics is determined extensively by the framework of terms of reference used by the decision-makers. Indeed, politics has no reality apart from the way in which it is thought, talked, and written about. I will try to show in this book that international dealings in the states system of Europe during the period covered can be accounted for in a more plausible way than has been done so far if they are explained, not in terms of the (often anachronistic) assumptions made by historians and political analysts, but in terms of the assumptions held by the decision-makers themselves. As far as I am aware, no systematic research has so far been conducted on what these assumptions actually were.

1. THE NATURE OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS AND THE PROBLEM OF STABILITY

Before we go any further, let me say a word on an expression that will recur frequently in this book. In line with established usage in international relations theory, I will refer to autonomous centres of decision-making in international affairs as 'international actors'.

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