The International System in Europe: Westphalian Anarchy or Medieval Chaos?

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Series Details Vol.35, No.1, January 2013, p1-18
Publication Date January 2013
ISSN 0703-6337
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Outbursts of nationalism and partisan squabbles generated by the current economic and migration crisis in Europe suggest an unraveling of the integration project and a resurgence of the international anarchy associated with the Westphalian system. However, this article will show that the evolving system bears a closer resemblance to the Europe of the Middle Ages than to the Europe that followed the Treaties of Westphalia. In contemporary Europe we have overlapping authority, multiple loyalties and fuzzy borders. Conflicts are primarily about exclusion from the European core and abuse of agreed procedures rather than borders and territorial gains. Institutional forms of collective bargaining have replaced balance of power politics. Order is maintained not by the sword, but by norms cultivated by two imperial powers, the EU and the US. This medieval system is neither conflict free nor stable, but generates a pattern of international relations fundamentally different from the old Westphalian anarchy. This article will try to comprehend the evolving pattern of cooperation and conflict in Europe and assess its implications.

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