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The modern state system emerged in Europe between the start of the 12th century and the end of the 17th

The modern state system emerged in Europe between the start of the 12th century and the end of the 17th

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Published by Umar Rana

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Published by: Umar Rana on Mar 25, 2011
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The modern state system emerged in Europe between the start of the 12th century and the end

of the 17th. States began to replace existing forms of political organization in the late Middle Ages in Europe when key actors, responding to a diverse set of political and economic incentives, formed coalitions that undermined one set of political arrangements, feudalism, and gradually replaced it with another, the sovereign state. The state was not the only available alternative to feudalism; and it took centuries for the state to emerge as the winning alternative.  The political arrangements in feudalism were very different from the modern state system. Feudal arrangements were personal commitments by individual lords and vassals. Public power and authority – including the military – were held by private individuals. Because feudal arrangements were not based on territorially defined political boundaries, the modern distinction between domestic and international politics has little meaning in a feudal context. During the Middle Ages most of the key actors in Europe thought of themselves as part of a single society defined by their allegiance to the Catholic Church and a shared heritage dating back to the Roman Empire. The close connections between the Church and the secular nobility further increased the cross-territorial nature of political institutions in the Middle Ages and greatly complicated the structure of medieval linkage politics.  Two internal sources of pressure destabilized the feudal system. The first was a centuries-long conflict between the pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, which exhausted the only two claimants to universal authority in medieval Europe. The second was a large and sustained increase in trade, which led to an increase in the number of new actors: the merchants and craftsmen who made up the burghers. They had both the ability and the desire to seek coalition partners who could help them challenge existing political and economic arrangements.  The large territorial state won as the successor to feudalism because it was better than the two other principal alternatives to feudalism – city leagues and city states – at organizing the economy, mobilizing internal resources in support of preferred policy outcomes, and creating a set of mutually acceptable, longterm relationships that could manage how the political units in Europe interacted with each other.  The first European states emerged during the Renaissance. Initially there were no agreed-upon norms that could legitimize either their domestic political arrangements or the relationships among states. The conflicts produced by the Reformation (the Protestant challenge to the hegemony of the Catholic Church) and the Counter-Reformation (the Catholic attempt to reassert the Church's dominant position) greatly worsened this problem, producing a century of war from the mid-1500s to the mid-1600s.  In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War, created a set of agreed-upon principles for legitimate rule that provided the first normative basis for the modern state system. War would continue, but (with one major exception) it was war for incremental advantage within a system, not war about the system. As a result, wars were usually fought for limited aims, and

were considered expendable. The French Revolution also generated a drive for preponderance. The small states.1648-c. including especially the many principalities in central Europe. There were supposed to be no permanent friends or enemies. and social changes. where the major powers (with the exception of Great Britain) replaced the decentralized approach of classical balance of power with a standing alliance designed to enable them to act in concert. Wars of containment were a central mechanism for achieving that goal.  The classical balance of power system (c. Classical balance of power principles called for defeated states to be rehabilitated. The French Revolution signaled the beginning of the end of the classical balance of power system. It was simultaneously innovative and profoundly conservative. the growth of nationalism. thereby directly attacking one of the most cherished goals of classical balance of power. It was also designed to prevent the creation of reinforcing grievances and antagonistic blocs while simultaneously isolating France and preserving German preeminence on the European continent. He then built a network of alliances that were qualitatively different from those in the balance-of-power system. not destroyed. and the demand for democratic governments. all the major powers had to be available as potential alliance partners for one another. political. the diplomatic coalition of major powers established after the Napoleonic wars.treaties were negotiated with an eye toward compromise and jointly acceptable outcomes that would last over a long period of time. was an effort to restore the old order and the balanceof-power system. The conservative dimensions of the Concert were in the domestic arena.  Between 1863 and 1890. Bismarck demolished what remained of the balance-of-power system.  The Concert of Europe. The Westphalian norm that sanctioned dynastic rule was directly threatened not only by the demand for democratic representation that was at the center of the French Revolution but also by the nationalism it unleashed. so that they would be available as potential alliance partners against any new threats in the future.  The efforts by the states in the Concert of Europe to restore the old order failed.  All of the prerequisites for an effective balance-of-power system that existed between the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the French Revolution of 1789 gradually disappeared under the combined pressures of the Industrial Revolution. After exploiting German nationalism to unify the German states in a series of three wars. largely because the legitimizing principles established at Westphalia – and the goals and methods of the classical balance of power – were incompatible with fundamental economic. The Bismarckian security system was a complex web of alliances designed to deter the strong and restrain the weak. The innovations were in the international arena. where monarchs tried to save the legitimizing principles of the old order by suppressing domestic coalitions that supported social and political change. . he scrapped the idea in the Westphalian system that a regime's legitimacy was based on interstate agreements ratified by treaty.1789) had a simple goal: to preserve the independence of the key states by preventing any one state from becoming so powerful militarily that it could dominate all the others.

the only way they could see to do that required starting a war as soon as any of their neighbors mobilized their armies. France. That put the German military on a hair trigger in any crisis. . After 1890. German policy makers developed a defense strategy – called the Schlieffen Plan – that was designed to win a two-front war. Unfortunately. In response. his successors’ decision to use power politics to demand a global role for Germany led to the collapse of Bismarck's intricate web of alliances and the diplomatic encirclement of Germany by Britain. and Russia. Bismarck’s post-unification alliance system was designed to preserve the status quo.

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