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Moral Purpose of the State: Culture, Social Identity, and Institutional Rationality in International Relations

by Christian Reus-Smit Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 216 pages
AU$52.99 NZ$55.64
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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This book seeks to explain why different systems of sovereign states have built different types of fundamental institutions to govern interstate relations. Why, for example, did the ancient Greeks operate a successful system of third-party arbitration, while international society today rests on a combination of international law and multilateral diplomacy? Why did the city-states of Renaissance Italy develop a system of oratorical diplomacy, while the states of absolutist Europe relied on naturalist international law and 'old diplomacy'? Conventional explanations of basic institutional practices have difficulty accounting for such variation. Christian Reus-Smit addresses this problem by presenting an alternative, 'constructivist' theory of international institutional development, one that emphasizes the relationship between the social identity of the state and the nature and origin of basic institutional practices.

Reus-Smit argues that international societies are shaped by deep constitutional structures that are based on prevailing beliefs about the moral purpose of the state, the organizing principle of sovereignty, and the norm of procedural justice. These structures inform the imaginations of institutional architects as they develop and adjust institutional arrangements between states. As he shows with detailed reference to ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy, absolutist Europe, and the modern world, different cultural and historical contexts lead to profoundly different constitutional structures and institutional practices. The first major study of its kind, this book is a significant addition to our theoretical and empirical understanding of international relations, past and present.

List of Table and Figures ix

Preface xi

Introduction 3

Chapter One: The Enigma of Fundamental Institutions 12

Fundamental Institutions Defined 12

Existing Accounts of Fundamental Institutions 15

Summary 24

Chapter Two: The Constitutional Structure of International Society 26

Communicative Action and Institutional Construction 27

Sovereignty, State Identity, and Political Action 29

Constitutional Structures 30

Fundamental Institutional Production and Reproduction 33

The Purposive Foundations of International Society 36

Summary 39

Chapter Three: Ancient Greece 40

Ancient Greece as a State of War 41

Extraterritorial Institutions in Ancient Greece 44

The Constitutional Structure of Ancient Greece 45

The Practice of Interstate Arbitration 49

Hegemonic Power, Rational Choice, Territorial Rights? 52

Rereading Thucydides 54

Conclusion 61

Chapter Four: Renaissance Italy 63

The Italian City-States 65

Images of Renaissance Diplomacy 67

The Constitutional Structure of Renaissance Italy 70

The Practice of Oratorical Diplomacy 77

Conclusion 84

Chapter Five: Absolutist Europe 87

Westphalia and the Genesis of Modern Institutions? 89

Absolutism, Political Authority, and State Identity 92

The Constitutional Structure of the Absolutist Society of States 94

The Fundamental Institutions of Absolutist International Society 101

Generative Grammar, Institutional Practices, and Territoriality 110

Conclusion 120

Chapter Six: Modern International Society 122

From Holism to Individualism 123

The Constitutional Structure of Modern International Society 127

The Fundamental Institutions of Modern International Society 131

Conclusion 152

Chapter Seven: Conclusion 155

The Nature of Sovereignty 157

The Ontology of Institutional Rationality 159

The Dimensions of International Systems Change 162

The Richness of Holistic Constructivism 165

The Contribution to Critical International Theory 168

A Final Word on Aristotle 170

Bibliography 171

Index 193

Christian Reus-Smit is Professor and Head of the Department of International Relations at Australian National University. He is the editor, with Albert Paolini and Anthony Jarvis, of 'Between Sovereignty and Global Governance: The United Nations, the State, and Civil Society'.