Synopses & Reviews
The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 is widely interpreted as the foundation of modern international relations. Benno Teschke exposes this as a myth. In the process he provides a fresh re-interpretation of the making of modern international relations from the eighth to the eighteenth century.
Inspired by the groundbreaking historical work of Robert Brenner, Teschke argues that social property relations provide the key to unlocking the changing meaning of ‘international’ across the medieval, early modern, and modern periods. He traces how the long-term interaction of class conflict, economic development, and international rivalry effected the formation of the modern system of states. Yet instead of identifying a breakthrough to interstate modernity in the so-called ‘long sixteenth century’ or in the period of intensified geopolitical competition during the seventeenth century, Teschke shows that geopolitics remained governed by dynastic and absolutist political communities, rooted in feudal property regimes.
The Myth of 1648 argues that the onset of specifically modern international relations only began with the conjunction of the rise of capitalism and modern state-formation in England. Thereafter, the English model caused the restructuring of the old regimes of the Continent. This was a long-term process of socially uneven development, not completed until World War I.
"A truly first-rate piece of work … he completely demolishes a reigning consensus." Robert Brenner
This book rejects a commonplace of European history: that the treaties of Westphalia not only closed the Thirty Years' War but also inaugurated a new international order driven by the interaction of territorial sovereign states. Benno Teschke, through this thorough and incisive critique, argues that this is not the case. Domestic 'social property relations" shaped international relations in continental Europe down to 1789 and even beyond. The dynastic monarchies that ruled during this time differed from their medieval predecessors in degree and form of personalization, but not in underlying dynamic. 1648, therefore, is a false caesura in the history of international relations. For real change we must wait until relatively recent times and the development of modern states and true capitalism. In effect, it"s not until governments are run impersonally, with no function other than the exercise of its monopoly on violence, that modern international relations are born.
Winner of the 2003 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize, a fresh reinterpretation of the origins of modern international relations.
About the Author
Benno Teschke is Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the University of Sussex. He was previously a Lecturer in the Department of International Relations & Politics at the University of Wales, Swansea, and Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA. Benno received his PhD from the Department of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science.