The Westphalian Conception of International Society

David Armstrong

in Revolution and World Order

Published in print June 1993 | ISBN: 9780198275282
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598739 | DOI:
 The Westphalian Conception of International Society

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‘International society’ is a term that has been used in several different senses, three of which are considered here: ‘universal society’, ‘great community of mankind’ (as elaborated by Grotius), and ‘society of states’ as elaborated by Hedley Bull in Anarchical Society. The approach adopted here draws upon the last of these conceptualizations but sees sovereignty as the fundamental shared norm of the society of states and consent as the basis of the principle of obligation in a society of states. Variants of the ‘universal society’ idea may be found in the Chinese and Roman empires and early Christendom. The ‘great Community’ idea is to be found in natural law doctrines and in the writings of jurists such as Suarez and Vitoria. The notion of a ‘society of states’ and the various institutions (notably ‘balance of power’ and the principle of non‐intervention) are associated with the Peace of Westphalia of 1648.

Keywords: balance of power; Hedley Bull; consent; Hugo Grotius; international society; natural law; Peace of Westphalia; sovereignty; Francisco Suarez; Francisco de Vitoria

Chapter.  12175 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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