After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars

By G. John Ikenberry | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
THE SETTLEMENT OF 1815

THE PEACE settlement that ended the Napoleonic wars in 1815 gave Europe the most elaborately organized political order yet. Led by Great Britain, the European states mounted a sustained effort to find a mutually agree/ able, comprehensive, and stable order; this effort culminated in the cele/ brated Congress of Vienna. By most measures the order was, in fact, quite successful. War among the great powers ceased for forty years and an entire century would pass before the international order was again consumed by a general European war.1

The Vienna settlement departed from earlier postwar settlements in the way the leading state attempted to use institutions to manage relations among the great powers.2 In the last years of the war and during the peace

____________________
1
Scholars differ as to how long the concert system lasted. Some argue that it was in decline or ended in the early or mid-1820s. See Inis Claude, Jr., Swords into Plowshares (New York: Random House, 1956); F. H. Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963); and Harold Nicolson, The Congress of Vienna: A Study in Allied Unity: 1812–1822 (New York: Viking, 1961 edition). Others argue that it lasted until the Crimean war (1854–1856) or until World War I. See Paul W. Schroeder, Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972); Gordon A. Craig and Alexander L. George, Force and Statecraft (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983); and Kal J. Holsti, “Governance without Government: Polyarchy in Nineteenth/ Century European International Politics,” in James N. Rosenau and Ernst-Otto Czempiel, ed., Governance without Government: Order and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 30–57.
2
Scholars have long debated the Vienna settlement's logic and significance, particularly the issue of whether the concert system constituted simply a modification and refinement of the balance of power or a much more fundamental departure from the balance. See the debate in the American History Review forum, centered around Paul W. Schroeder, “Did the Vienna Settlement Rest on a Balance of Power?” American History Review, Vol. 97, No. 3 ( June 1992), pp. 683–706. The leading view of the Vienna settlement has been that it was fundamentally a reestablishment of the balance of power. As Edward Gulick argues: “When the time came to discuss preliminary plans for peace, the statesmen flew as straight as bees toward the hive of balance of power. The state system was to be restored; Prussia was to be increased in order to stabilize north-central Europe; and France was to be reduced to a size compatible with the secure independence of other states.” Gulick, Europe's Classical Balance of Power (Ithaca: Cor/ nell University Press, 1955), p. 121. The balance-of-power system after 1815 might not have been as unvarnished as in the eighteenth century, but its fundamentals were the same. Others have argued that the balance of power was refined and socialized in Vienna; the operation of balance was more self-conscious and rooted in a mutual recognition of the necessities and virtues of “equilibrium” among the European powers. See Henry Kissinger, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812–1822 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973). Others have gone still further and argued that the Vienna settlement constituted a more fundamental break with older forms of European balance-of-power politics. In this view, Vienna represented the rejection of the classical balance in favor of a quasi-institutional/ ized concert system of great-power cooperation. See Charles A. Kupchan and Clifford A. Kupchan, “Concerts, Collective Security, and the Future of Europe,” International Security, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Summer 1991), pp. 114–61; Robert Jervis, “Security Regimes,” International Organization, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Spring 1982), pp. 173–94; Jervis, “From Balance to Concert: A Study of International Security Cooperation,” World Politics, Vol. 38, No. 1 (October 1985), pp. 58–79; Richard Elrod, “The Concert of Europe: A Fresh Look at an International Sys/ tem,” World Politics, Vol. 28, No. 2 ( January 1976), pp. 159–74; and Paul Gordon Lauren, “Crisis Prevention in Nineteenth-Century Diplomacy,” in Alexander George, ed., Managing U.S.-Soviet Rivalry: Problems of Crisis Prevention (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1983), pp. 31–64. Building on this view, the historian Paul Schroeder has led a reconsideration of the sources of order in post-Napoleonic Europe that emphasizes the transformations in the institutions and practices of European security. In this view, the settlement did not rest only (or even fundamentally) on the balance of power but was built on a mix of power and institutional constraint arrangements. See Paul W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).

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