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The State and the Nation: Changing Norms and the Rules of Sovereignty in International Relations Author(s):g anization, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Winter, 1994), pp. 107-130 Published b y : The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2706916 . Accessed: 25/04/2012 02:21 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates y our acce p tance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. The MIT Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to International Organization. http://www.jstor.org " id="pdf-obj-0-2" src="pdf-obj-0-2.jpg">

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The State and the Nation: Changing Norms and the Rules of Sovereignty in International Relations Author(s):g anization, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Winter, 1994), pp. 107-130 Published b y : The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2706916 . Accessed: 25/04/2012 02:21 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates y our acce p tance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. The MIT Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to International Organization. http://www.jstor.org " id="pdf-obj-0-36" src="pdf-obj-0-36.jpg">

The MIT Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to International Organization.


The stateand the nation:changing normsand therules ofsovereignty in internationalrelations

J.Samuel Barkin and BruceCronin

The internationalrelations literature regularly embraces sovereigntyas the primaryconstitutive rule of internationalorganization.' Theoretical traditions that agree on littleelse all seem to concur that the definingfeature of the moderninternational system is the divisionof the worldinto sovereignstates. Despite differencesover the role of the state in internationalaffairs, most scholarswould accept John Ruggie's definition of sovereignty as "the institution- alizationof public authority within mutually exclusive jurisdictional domains."2 Regardless of the theoreticalapproach however,the concept tends to be viewed as a static,fixed concept: a set of ideas that underliesinternational relations but is not changed along with them. Moreover, the essence of


rarelydefined; while legitimateauthority and territorialityare

the keyconcepts in understandingsovereignty, international relations scholars rarelyexamine how definitionsof populationsand territorieschange through-

out historyand howthis change alters the notionof legitimateauthority.3

Definitionsof sovereigntytend to focus on its legal

content;this content

changeslittle, therefore sovereignty is seen as fixed.4The institutionalizationof

We thankMlada Bukovansky,James McAllister, Kathleen McNamara, Patricia Moynagh, John Odell, Jack Snyder,Hendrik Spruyt,Tami Stukey,and two anonymousreviewers for their comments.An earlierversion of thisarticle was presentedat the annual meetingof the Northeast InternationalStudies Association, Providence, RI., 5-7 November1992.

  • 1. Constitutiverules can be definedas conceptsthat create and definenew formsof behavior(x

countsas y in contextc). They are standardized,relatively unchanging practices that constitute a vocabularyfor international communication. See p. 455 of David Dessler, "What's at Stake in the Agent-StructureDebate?" IntemationalOrganization 43 (Summer1989), pp. 441-73.

  • 2. See p. 143 of JohnRuggie, "Continuity and Transformationin the World Polity:Toward a

NeorealistSynthesis," in Robert0. Keohane, ed., Neorealismand Its Critics(New York: Columbia

UniversityPress, 1986), pp. 131-57.

  • 3. Lipset defineslegitimacy as the capacityof the systemto engenderand maintainthe belief

thatthe existingpolitical institutions (and institutionalforms) are the most appropriateones for

society.See SeymourMartin Lipset, Political Man (Garden City,N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960),p. 77.

  • 4. Even legal conceptsof sovereigntydo changeover time.For example,the conceptof human

rightsas definedin the United NationsCharter and thevarious Helsinki accords does diminishthe legal rightsof sovereignstates with respect to theircitizens, though this is a separateissue fromthe one beingaddressed here.

IntemationalOrganization 48, 1, Winter1994, pp. 107-30 ? 1994 byThe 10 Foundationand the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology

108 InternationalOrganization

authoritywithin mutually exclusive domains is, however,as mucha functionof its legitimacyas of its legal content.Thus an institutional,as opposed to a purelylegal, understandingof sovereigntymust address the legitimizationof the nation-statesystem as well as its formaldefinition. As we argue below, understandingsof legitimacytend to change from era to era. This study examinesthe concept of sovereigntyas a variable by exploringsome of the circumstancesunder which the political legitimationof the nation-state changesover time.In doing so we will argue thatthe rules of sovereigntyare neitherfixed nor constant,but ratherare subjectto changinginterpretations.5 Specificallywe hold there has been a historical tension between state sovereignty, which stresses the linkbetween sovereign authority and a defined territory, and nationalsovereignty, which emphasizes a linkbetween sovereign authorityand a definedpopulation. The two typesfundamentally differ in the source of their legitimationas independent entities,thereby altering the environmentthrough which states relate to each other. During periods when internationalnorms legitimize state rather than nationalsovereignty, the internationalcommunity and its institutionswill tend to defendthe rightsof establishedstates against nationalist claims of domestic ethnicgroups. On the otherhand, when the normsof the internationalorder favornational over state sovereignty, the internationalcommunity will be more sympatheticto pleas fornational self-determination, often at the expense of establishedstates. The legitimizingprinciples are called into question during major systemiccrises, such as world wars or widespreadpolitical upheavals,


the new dominantcoalition often sees the previousemphasis on one


sovereigntyas the cause of the crisis.The coalition then creates a

postwar order that reflectsthis belief. This dynamicoccurs because it is impossibleto completelysatisfy the statistand nationalistprinciples simulta- neously.Therefore, the new systemtends to generateits own crisis, leading to a reevaluationof the normativeprinciple. This argumentwill be highlightedin fourbrief plausibility probes, ranging in time fromthe post-Napoleonicsettlement to the present.We argue conse- quentlythat sovereigntyshould be viewed as a variable rather than as a

constant and thereforethat the state as a basic analyticunit should be scrutinizedin internationalrelations theory.6

Sovereigntyas a variable

For realism, sovereigntyis a necessary constant; it is the fundamental assumptionfrom which the realistnotion of anarchyis derived.7Institutional

  • 5. The "rules of sovereignty"are defined as a set of principlesby which the international

communityrecognizes the legitimacyof authoritativecontrol over a specifiedpopulation and territory.

  • 6. We are not suggestingthat the state/nationaldistinction is the only or even the most

importantelement of change in the legitimationof sovereignty.We suggestonly that it

is an

importantone thatcan illustrateone wayin whichunderstandings of sovereigntycan change.

Stateversus nation 109

approachessimilarly take sovereigntyas a given.According to StephenKrasner forexample, the "historicallegacy of the developmentof the state systemhas left a powerfulinstitutional structure (sovereignty), one that will not be dislodged easily, regardless of changed circumstances in the material environment."8Janice Thomson and Krasnerfurther argue thatsovereignty is

not only a constantbut is unlikelyto change at all in the near future.9Even

those theoreticaltraditions that focus on the

role of rules and norms in

providingorder to the internationalsystem tend to approach sovereigntyin a

staticway. Hedley Bull, for example, argues that "an independentpolitical communitywhich merely claims a rightto sovereignty(or is judged byothers to have such a right),but cannot assert this right in practice,is not a stateproperly so-called."10The questions of the basis upon which such a rightis asserted, what constitutesa legitimateclaim, and how this standardhas been applied throughouthistory are all leftunexplored. From this briefoverview it is apparent that the bulk of the international

relations literaturegenerally does not account for any

variation in the

legitimationof sovereigntythrough the courseof modern history. It is oftennot appreciated fullythat sovereigntyis a social construct,and like all social institutionsits location is subjectto changinginterpretations. In otherwords, whilethe specificexpression of sovereigntymay remain constant, that which is consideredto be sovereignchanges. This inflexibilityin the studyof sovereignty has undulyconstrained the usefulnessof the concept fortheories of interna- tional organization.The way in whichpolitical actors define the politicaland geographicboundaries of legitimateauthority over territoryand populations stronglyaffects the principleson whichthe internationalsystem will function. At a minimumit stipulateshow sovereigntymay be created or transferred, historicallythe primaryissue followinga worldwar or othermajor upheaval in the system.In particularit defineshow statesuccession is to be regulated,such

its legitimation.Sovereignty is supreme authorityto create and enforce laws withina given

territory. Therefore for Morgenthau sovereignty is conceptuallyfixed and indivisible.See Hans J. Morgenthau,Politics Among Nations: The Strugglefor Power and Peace, 6thed. (New York: Alfred

  • A. Knopf,1985). For Waltz the relevantissue concerningsovereignty is whetherstates remain

independent;the principleson whichstate authority is legitimizedare notimportant. See Kenneth Waltz, Theoryof Intemational Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley,1979), especiallychap. 5. For Gilpin sovereignauthority is derivedfrom one's abilityto maintainorder and controlwithin stable borders. "Within the territoryit encompasses," Gilpin argues, "the state exercises a monopolyof the legitimateuse of forcesand embodies the idea thateveryone in the territoryis

subject to the same law or set of rules." Robert Gilpin, War and Change in WorldPolitics (Cambridge,England: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1981), p. 17.

  • 8. See p. 90 of Stephen D. Krasner,"Sovereignty: An InstitutionalPerspective," Comparative

PoliticalStudies 2 (April 1988), pp. 66-94.

  • 9. Janice E. Thomson and Stephen Krasner,"Global

Transactionsand the Consolidationof

Sovereignty,"in Ernst-OttoCzempiel and JamesN. Rosenau, eds., Global Changesand Theoretical Challenges:Approaches to WorldPolitics for the 1990s (Lexington,Mass.: LexingtonBooks, 1989),

pp. 195-219.

  • 10. Hedley Bull, TheAnarchicalSociety:A Study of Order in WorldPolitics (New York: Columbia



as when large statesbreak apart into smallerunits or when severalsovereign unitscombine into one. How importantare rulesof sovereigntyin creatingand maintainingorder in the internationalsystem? A realistmay argue that sovereignty is based less on a set of principlesthan on the abilityof a politicalgroup to establishdomestic controlover its territory and defendit fromexternal attack. As RobertArt and RobertJervis point out, the anarchicenvironment of internationalpolitics not onlyallows every state to be thefinal judge of itsown interestsbut also requires thateach providethe means to attainthem.1" Yet the veryfoundation of the nation-statesystem-its diplomaticprocedures, treaties, international laws, wars,and all otherinstitutions that provide for communication and interaction amongstates-rests on the mutualrecognition among government leaders that theyeach representa specificsociety within an exclusivejurisdictional domain. Diplomaticrecognition and legitimationare prerequisitesfor participation in the systemas a full member.The type of legitimacy,Inis Claude argues,is essentiallya politicalrather than a legal or moralfunction.12 Thus a nationalist group claimingto representa population and territorythat takes military action in supportof its claim is consideredterrorist; as such, it is generally condemned and opposed (often militarily)by the world community.At the same timea state,however much it is disliked,is recognizedas havingthe right to defendits claims with military force. Changes in the contentand understandingof sovereigntycan greatlyaffect theways in whichstates are constrainedor enabled to act in theirinternational relations.As AnthonyGiddens pointsout, the sovereigntyof the nation-state does not precede the developmentof the state system.State authoritieswere not originallyempowered with an absolute sovereigntydestined to become confinedby a growingnetwork of internationalconnections. Rather, the developmentof statesovereignty depended (and stilldepends) on a monitored set of relationsbetween states. " 'Internationalrelations' are not connections set up betweenpreestablished states," Giddens argues,"which could maintain theirsovereignty without them: theyare the basis upon which nation-states existat all."'13

Sovereignty: the stateand thenation

Sovereigntyin internationalrelations has been ascribedto two differenttypes of entities:states, defined in termsof the territoriesover whichinstitutional

  • 11. See p. 3 of RobertArt and Robert Jervis,"The Meaning of Anarchy,"in RobertArt and

RobertJervis, eds., IntemationalPolitics: Anarchy, Force, Political Economy, and DecisionMaking, 2d ed. (Boston: Little,Brown, and Company,1985).

  • 12. See p. 370 of Inis L. Claude, Jr.,"Collective Legitimization as a Political Functionof the

United Nations,"Intemational Organization 20 (September1966), pp. 367-79.

  • 13. AnthonyGiddens, The Nation-Stateand Violence(Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress,

1987), p. 263.

Stateversus nation 111

authoritiesexercise legitimatecontrol, and nations, defined in terms of "communitiesof sentiment"that form the political basis on which state authorityrests.14 While theyare institutionallyand structurallyalike, these two ideal typesdiffer fundamentally in the sourceof theirlegitimation as sovereign entities.In thisarticle we presentthe conceptsof "state" and "nation" as ideal typesto examinethe ramificationsof differinginterpretations of the source of legitimateauthority within a definedpolitical boundary. In practicethere is a continuumfrom statist to national legitimationof sovereignty,and nation- statesalways show some characteristicsof both. Since the seventeenthcentury the statehas been recognizedas the supreme power within a definedjuridical border.15This ended both the Church's transnationalclaims to politicalauthority and the overlappingjurisdictions of nobles, kings,and clerics that characterizedthe late medieval system.As Ruggie points out, the distinctionbetween internaland externalpolitical realms,separated by clearly demarcated boundaries, is a modernphenomenon; it is the constitutivebasis of the nation-statesystem.16 State sovereignty- institutionalauthority within a set of clearly demarcated boundaries-is self-justifying; historical possession legitimates continued jurisdiction. In much

of Europe, its originscan be traced to the legal titlesand dynasticties that

providedmonarchs with a

claim to the territorythat eventuallyprovided the

basis for the modern state. In this way state legitimationis similarto the legitimationof propertyin manysystems of law; possession,in the absence of claimsby others, leads to ownership. Modernconcepts of the nationbegan to developa centuryafter this juridical understandingof the state.17The distinguishingfeature of modernnationalism is the claim thatnations should be politicallyself-determining and thatgroup sentiment(national solidarity) should serve as the sole criterionin definingthe nation.18The nation-stateis accordinglylegitimated to the extent that it

representsthe politicalaspirations of a particularnation. Legitimation stems notfrom the boundariesbut fromthe communityof sentiment.

  • 14. The quotationis fromWeber, who definesa nation as "a communityof sentimentwhich

would adequately manifestitself in a state of its own; hence, a nation is a communitywhich normallytends to produce a state of its own." See Max Weber, From Max Weber:Essays in

Sociology,Hans H. Gerthand C. WrightMills, eds. (New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1981), p.


  • 15. The term"juridical" is being used here to referto a formallystated and definedterritorial

boundarysanctioned by international law.

  • 16. Ruggie,"Continuity and Transformationin theWorld Polity," pp. 142-43.

  • 17. There is some historiographicdebate as to whetherterritorial states as currentlyunderstood

preceded the communitiesof sentimenton which nations are based. See, for example, M. S.

Anderson,TheAscendency of Europe (Totowa,N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield,1972), p. 161.

  • 18. For furtherdiscussions of nationalismand itsdevelopment, see ErnestGellner, Nations and

Nationalism(Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UniversityPress, 1983); Eric J. Hobsbawm, Nations and NationalismSince 1780 (Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1990); Benedict Anderson, ImaginedCommunities: Reflections on theOrigins and Spreadof Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983); and AnthonySmith, Theories of Nationalism (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1983).

112 InternationalOrganization

Since theevolution of modern nationalism, there has been a tensionbetween two opposing principles:state sovereignty,which stressesthe link between sovereignauthority and a definedset of exclusivepolitical institutions,and nationalsovereignty, which emphasizes a linkbetween sovereign authority and a definedpopulation.19 State sovereigntyemphasizes the integrityof borders based on historicalpossession, national frontiers,and viability.20If we follow thislogic, the viability of a stateis based on the abilityof established institutions to exerciseauthority over the population.This controlis best assuredby stable, effectivestates with stronginstitutions rather than by newlydefined nations that may lack administrativecompetence and social stability.Thus fromthe perspectiveof the stabilityof the internationalsystem, international norms should favor the stabilityof sovereignstates over the unpredictabilityof sovereign nations. Since most countries contain some type of minority population,a sovereigntybased on nationalclaims can be seen as potentially destabilizingfor all states.In addition,since thereis no internationalauthority capable of enforcingtreaties and agreements,long-standing states based on stableinstitutions and historiccontrol of territory can betterensure compliance thanthose based on principlesof nationality.This is reinforcedby the fact that juridicalborders can be fixedobjectively, whereas national identification, being inherentlysubjective, cannot be fixedin the same way. The resistanceof stateswithin an anarchicalsystem to changes of borders withinit can be derived throughbalance-of-power considerations as well. Accordingto such an approach,any change of borders,inasmuch as it benefits one state over another,affects the equilibriumand thereforeshould lead to balancingbehavior by other states. Consequently, there is a systemictendency forany putative change of bordersto be balanced againstby some coalitionof

thosewho standto lose

fromthe change.21 Thus, in a stateof anarchywe should

expectstates to oppose borderalterations made to conformwith nationalities.22

  • 19. The idea of "national" sovereigntyas it is used here should not be confusedwith ideas of

"popular" sovereignty.National sovereigntyis in fact a subset of popular sovereignty;it is a particulardefinition of who the people in "popular" are. There are two predominantways of understandingpopular sovereignty.One is that it means that the state should ultimatelybe


the people as individualpolitical beings. This has its roots in Lockean political

theoryand can resultin such requirementsof governmentas democracyand civilrights. The other wayof understandingthe conceptis thatit refersto the rightsof a self-identifyinggroup to govern

itselfas a separatepolitical entity. This idea

has itsroots in differentways in bothRousseauian and

Hegelian politicaltheory and need notbe as democraticallyoriented as thefirst understanding. It is

thisapproach to popular sovereigntythat is compatiblewith national sovereignty as it is used here. This distinctionfollows the distinctionbetween internal and externalself-determination discussed by Lee Buchheit in Secession: The Legitimacyof Self-Determination(New Haven, Conn.: Yale UniversityPress, 1978), pp. 13-16.

  • 20. See Hobsbawm,Nations and Nationalism,pp. 31-32.

  • 21. For

the logicof balance-of-powertheory, see

Waltz,Theory of Intemational Politics, chap. 6;

EdwardV. Gullick,Europe 's ClassicalBalance ofPower: A Cast Historyof the Theory and Practiceof One of theGreat Concepts of EuropeanStatecraft (Westport, Conn.: GreenwoodPress, 1982); and Arnold Wolfers,Discord and Collaboration:Essays on IntemationalPolitics (Baltimore: Johns HopkinsUniversity Press, 1962), chap. 12.

Stateversus nation 113

On the other hand, states also relate

to each other in termsof common

practices,norms, and rules where such rules provide the basis for making judgmentsof just and unjust internationalconduct, for advancingclaims of rights,and forseeking redress when rules are violated.23States are concerned

with their social as well as their physical well-being,in particular the legitimationof theirown authorityand of the systemas a whole. As Claude argues,legitimation requires that "power be convertedinto authority,compe- tencebe supportedby jurisdiction, and possessionbe validatedas ownership."24 The maintenanceof legitimacyrequires that states conform with the interna- tionalcommunity's conception of justice. This conceptionchanges from era to

era, and thusthere can be no singlestandard from which to judge whatis just. Accordingto Claude, however,there is a tendencyfor a single concept of legitimacyto become generallydominant in a particularera. Statistprinciples, reflectinga legitimationthat is foundedon bases rangingfrom the balance of power to dynasticconservatism, have dominated at times. However, "the modernera has also seen the establishmentof nationalself-determination as the basis of legitimatestatehood, and the global extensionof the reach of this

legitimizingprinciple has been one of the

most significantdevelopments of

recent decades."25To the extentthat this is true, modern states should be

expected to be sympatheticto the idea of internationalborders based on nationality,as thishelps to legitimizethe state systemand by extensiontheir ownrole withinit. Consequently,when disjunctures become apparentbetween juridicalboundaries and nationalistsentiments, a societyof nation-statesin whichlegitimation derives primarily from nationalist principles should support altering those borders to better reflect the principle of national self- determination. These two ideals clearlycannot be simultaneouslyfulfilled in all circum- stances,particularly when national claims infringe on the currentlyrecognized bordersof existingsovereign states. Should the stateemphasis predominate in the understandingof sovereigntyover the national emphasis,then interna- tional borderswill be seen as territoriallydetermined, and the international communitycan be expectedto defendthe interestsof establishedstates over nationalistaspirations. On the other hand, should the national emphasis predominate,then states will be seen as tied to specificallydefined populations and territoriallymalleable to suit the evolutionof nations.The international communitywill then be more sympatheticto nationalistclaims, often at the

example,in the seventeenthand eighteenthcenturies it was notuncommon practice for sovereigns to redistributeterritory among themselves, often in theinterest of preserving the balance ofpower. These redistributions,rarely regarded the wishes of the populations of the territoriesbeing

redistributed;they were undertakenpurely for raisonsd'etat. As such, theycan be seen as a stabilizingmechanism from a balance-of-powerperspective.

  • 23. Terry Nardin, Law, Morality,and the Relations of States (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton

UniversityPress, 1983), p. 34.

  • 24. Claude, "CollectiveLegitimization as a PoliticalFunction of theUnited Nations,"p. 367.

114 InternationalOrganization

expense of established states. This tension is always present within the internationalsystem, but itbecomes particularly acute duringperiods when the internationalorder undergoes rapid change.26 Historically,understandings of sovereigntytend to be redefinedduring and followingthe conclusion of major wars or in the aftermathof widespread political upheavals. Such understandingsare a reflectionof the norms and principles that underlay the legitimationof the nation-statefollowing a particularera. Accordingto Robert Gilpin, a necessary"component of the governanceof an internationalsystem is a set of rightsand rulesthat govern or at least influencethe interactionsamong states."27 These rules,Gilpin argues, are negotiatedat the conclusionof greatwars, where the negotiatedtreaties serveas the constitutionof the statesystem.28 It is our contentionthat the legitimationof the nation-statein a particular era is determinedlargely by the principlesaround which the winningcoalition unites duringthe course of a great war, as well as in its aftermath,as the dominantcoalition constructsa new internationalorder. These principles cannot be objectivelydeduced solely fromthe nature of the states and the distributionof capabilities,29but must also be induced fromthe process of buildingthe coalition and the intersubjectiveconsensus among the members of the coalition as to the cause of the war.30We base this propositionon the premise that norms and principles are at least partiallyderived through political interaction,rather than froman objectivenotion of self-interest.31 Since the verynature of the nation-statesystem contains elementsof both nationalismand statism,one cannot know a prioriwhich principlewill be adopted bya particularcoalition.

  • 26. As Kissingerargues, a stable social order lives with an intuitionof permanence,and

oppositionto it is eitherignored or assimilated,while a revolutionaryperiod is characterizedby its self-consciousness,because political life loses its spontaneityonce the existingpattern of obligationshas been challenged.See HenryKissinger, A WorldRestored: Mettemich, Castlereagh and theProblems of Peace, 1812-1822 (Boston: HoughtonMifflin, 1958), p. 192.

  • 27. Gilpin,War and Changein WorldPolitics, p. 34.

  • 28. Ibid.,p. 36.

  • 29. This runscontrary to Waltz's argument.See his Theoryof Intemational Politics.

  • 30. There is a growingliterature on

internationalrelations. The school of

the effectsof intersubjectiveunderstandings on agencyin thoughtthat stressesthe importanceof examiningthese

understandingsis sometimesreferred to as "constructivist"or "reflectivist."For an introductionto

thisliterature, see, interalia, AlexanderWendt, "Anarchy Is

What States Make of It: The Social 391-426; Robert

Constructionof Power Politics,"Intemational Organization 46 (Spring1992), pp.

Keohane, "InternationalInstitutions: Two Approaches,"Intemational Studies Quarterly 32 (Decem-

ber 1988), pp. 379-96; Nicholas Onuf, Worldof Our Making (Columbia: Universityof South

Carolina Press, 1989); Alexander Wendt, "The

Agent-StructureProblem in International

RelationsTheory," International Organization 41 (Summer1987), pp. 335-71; Dessler, "What's at Stake in the Agent-StructureDebate?"; FriedrichKratochwil and JohnRuggie, "International Organization:A State of the Art on the Art of the State," IntemationalOrganization 40 (Autumn

1986), pp. 753-75; and FriedrichKratochwil, Rules, Norms,Decisions (Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1989).

  • 31. There is a growingliterature on the relationshipbetween political process and political

outcomes.See, forexample, Wendt, "Anarchy Is What States Make of It."

Stateversus nation 115

Furthermore,we argue that this consensus is itselfpartially created as a reactionto a perceivedoveremphasis on eitherthe state or the nationduring the previous period. The tension between state legitimationand national legitimationcan neverbe completelyresolved; as discussedabove, the ideals of stateand nationare oftencontradictory, and the realizationof bothcan rarely be simultaneouslyachieved. When an internationalorder focuses legitimacy on one, tensionsoften arise in the other.Thus, postwarsettlements will tend to favorone over the other,and the emphasis is oftenreevaluated during the creation of a new internationalorder. Consequently,we suggest that the resolutionof the state/nationtension depends on whichemphasis is seen as more destabilizingduring the constructionof an internationalorder. The precisecontent of postwarsettlements cannot be determinedthrough general theory; they are historicallyunique. Rather, we argue that the general emphasisof legitimacy oscillates between state and nation.Stated in dialectical terms,the legitimacyof the nation-stateis a synthesisof statistand nationalist formsof legitimation.The potentialcontradictions of these two formsdrive a process in whichthe contentof legitimacydevelops in a crisisand changesto favorone formover the other. We will now brieflyexamine four historical cases as a plausibilityprobe for this approach. The four eras examined are ones in which definitionsof sovereigntywere focused alternately on the stateand thenation. In doingso we will highlighthow the relevantactors viewed the natureof the international system at the time, their concept of a legitimatenation-state, and the determinationof state borders.The periods thatwill be studied include the aftermathof the followingwars: the Napoleonic Wars, World War I, World War II, and the cold war.

State sovereigntyand thepost-Napoleonic order

One of the earliestchallenges to the Westphalianconcept of sovereigntycame about in theyears following the Frenchrevolution. From 1792 to 1815,France attemptedto exportits revolution (and territorialcontrol) throughout Europe, bringingwith each conquest the ideas of nationhood,republicanism, and liberty.These ideas directlythreatened the principles on whichmost European monarchieswere based. In addition,following the Frenchwithdrawal from the territoriesconquered duringthe Napoleonic Wars, more than halfof Europe was withoutgovernment. The Hapsburg dynastythat had ruled much of the regionwas reorganizedinto a modernstate. Consequently, the old continental systemof principalities,dynasties, and stateswas replacedby a more rational- ized systemof modern states. The principleson whichthis new system would be legitimizedwere therefore of utmostimportance. Followingthe defeatsof Napoleon in 1814 and 1815,an internationalorder was constructedby the victorious coalition that lasted at least until1848 and to

116 InternationalOrganization

a lesser extent through1856. This order was based in large part on the principles that united a rather diverse group of states in opposition to Napoleon: theparliamentary monarchy of Britain and the absolutemonarchies of Austria,Prussia, and Russia. Althoughthe membersof the Grand Alliance had conflictinginterests, both geopolitical and military,they eventually agreed to a set of principlesthat defined and legitimizedtheir war againstNapoleon.32 These principlesdefined how sovereigntywould be interpretedafter the war. Furthermore,as will be shownbelow, it was throughinteraction among the victoriousstates and France that the "legitimist"principle was developed, favoringdynastic claims of territoryover national claims by newlyliberated peoples throughoutEurope. British Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh's stated objective was the liberationof Europe fromFrench control and a returnto a continentalbalance of power.33He believedthat the cause of the Napoleonic Wars was a coupling ofnationalism with Jacobinism (a formof Frenchradicalism that advocated the spread of liberty,equality, and nationhood by force of arms and internal repression).34Austrian minister Klemens von Metternichalso saw republican- ism and nationalismas the causes of the war. Unlike Castlereaghhowever, he soughtto definethe war aims of the anti-Frenchcoalition based on two key conservativeprinciples: the sanctityof treatiesand the legitimacyof sover- eigns.35French nationalism contained several elementsthat threatened these aims. First,the Jacobinconcept of nationincluded the idea of citizenshipand peoplehood. Accordingto the Declaration of the Rightsof Man and Citizen, "the source of all sovereigntyresides essentiallyin the nation."36This was partiallyreflected in Napoleon's use of a conscriptarmy, rather than a professionalaristocratic military, something that was unheardof in even the mostautocratic states. Second, Jacobinismwas militantlypatriotic; the French language,flag, and nationalanthem were incorporatedinto a seriesof domestic ritualsdesigned to rallythe nationaround Jacobin ideals. As historianCarlton Hayes explains, "To the Jacobins 'the people' has become 'the nation,' a mysticalentity, an absolutesovereign."37 While the nationalismof the FrenchRevolution was based moreon historic

ties than on

a sense of ethnicor linguisticsolidarity, the French Revolution

added to the traditionaldefinition of the nationthe requirementof citizenship

rights.38Thus whileFrench nationalism did not requirea commonlanguage, it

  • 32. See Paul W. Schroeder,"The Collapse of the Second Coalition,"Joumal of Modem History

59 (June1987), pp. 244-90.

  • 33. See FranklinL. Ford,Europe, 1780-1830 (London: Longman,1970), chap. 30.

  • 34. Kalevi Holsti, Peace and War:Armed Conflicts and IntemationalOrder 1648-1989 (Cam-

bridge:Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 117.

  • 35. Kissinger,A WorldRestored, p. 82.

  • 36. The declarationis quoted in Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution:1789-1848 (New

York: Mentor,1962), p. 81.

  • 37. CarltonJ. Hayes, The HistoricalEvolution of Modem Nationalism(New York: Russell and

Russell,1968), p. 69.

  • 38. Hobsbawm,Nations and Nationalism,p. 86.

Stateversus nation 117

did instill a conception of Frenchness throughoutthe population. This populationwas nowloyal to "France" as an abstractionrather than to thestate, whichwas previouslysynonymous with the monarchy.Consequently the notion of nationality,if not specificallyof ethnicity,was introduced.It is tellingthat thisnotion affected even the loyalists;in 1789,twelve hundred members of the French National Guard took an oath declaringthat they were no longer Dauphinois,Provencaux, or Languedociens,but onlyFrenchmen.39 Both Austriaand Russia agreed thatthe war was a strugglefor equilibrium, thatsuch an equilibriumwould be based on a European societyof states,and thatthe order would essentiallybe conservativein character.40In short,the war againstNapoleon had threespecific aims: to restorea balance ofpower, to stop the spread of French radical ideas, and to preventliberal revolutionsin


AlthoughCzar Alexanderwas moresympathetic to the ideas of constitution- alism and self-determination, in the end Metternich'slegitimizing principle was accepted by all as the raison d'etre of the coalition.42It favoredthe state overthe nation.There would be a conservativeEuropean societyof states,not nations,in whichall postwarborders would be defendedby collectiveforce. Unlike the aftermathof WorldWar I (see below), the post-Napoleonicperiod saw a decrease in the numberof statesin Europe, broughtabout throughthe incorporationof smaller territoriesinto existingstates. Even France was allowedto retainsome of the non-Frenchterritories it had acquiredduring the war.43The views of AustrianEmperor Francis II on how a new legitimate nation-statecould be createdis containedin his statementto Czar Alexander:

"A Princecan, ifhe wishes,cede a partof his countryand all of his people" to create such a state. "If he abdicates then his rightsare passed on to his


The peace settlementsconcluded at the firstPeace of Paris (1814) and the Treatyof Vienna (1815) clearlyreflected the value of the stateover the nation. The claims of ancient nations, such as Poland, were all but ignored. The Belgians,Norwegians, and Poles were placed underforeign rule; Belgiumwas incorporatedinto Holland and Norway,into Sweden. Germany and Italy remainedfragmented and disunitedby design, even thoughBritain preferred a unitedGermany to help maintaina balance of power in CentralEurope.45 In resolvingthe Polish question, Austria retained Galicia and Tarnopol and

  • 39. Ibid.

  • 40. Kissinger,A WorldRestored, p. 56.

  • 41. As Metternichstated, "There is only one real problemin Europe, the Revolution."See

InternationalCommission for the Teaching of History,The Congressof Viennaand Europe (New

York: PergamonPress, 1964), p. 29.

  • 42. See Kissinger,A WorldRestored, p. 56.

  • 43. Ford,Europe, 1780-1830, p. 298.

  • 44. See GuglielmoFerrero, The Reconstruction of Europe: Talleyrandand theCongress of Vienna,

1814-1815(New York: G. P. Putnamand Sons, 1941), p. 261.

  • 45. Sir CharlesWebster, The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1812-1815: Britain and theReconstruc-

tionof Europe (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1931), p. 393.

118 InternationalOrganization

Prussiawas givenPosen and Thorn. The remainderof the Duchy of Warsaw came under the authorityof the czar of Russia. In addition,Prussia obtained two-thirdsof Saxony.46During the Congress of Vienna, territorieswere barteredamong the sovereigns.When one sovereignlost a contestedterritory, he was "compensated"with another. The use of the term"souls" ratherthan "citizens"to describethe populationsa sovereignwould receivein compensa- tionsymbolized the view that states existed apart from their people.47 While manypolitical scientists have come to view this simplyas balancing dynamicsat work,it is apparentthat the territorialbalance of powerwas in fact onlyone of the principlesfor which the war was fought.48The creationof the Holy Alliance in 1815 and the adoptionof "legitimist"principles articulated by Metternichand French MinisterTalleyrand-Perigord demonstrated that the principle of the "legitimate state" was as importantas the principle of maintaininga balance. Czar Alexander proposed a fraternalassociation of sovereignsguided by the preceptsof Christianityand dynasticsolidarity rather thanby traditionaldiplomacy.49 The importantpoint for our purposes here is thefact that the associationwas a compactamong rulers, not amongnations or peoples. The Britishposition also reflectedthe legitimizingprinciples of the war at least as muchas itsown securityinterests. If one evaluatedBritish interests on the basis of securityalone, therewould be littlereason forthem to supporta territorialsettlement that denied nationhoodto the dispossessedpeoples of Europe. Britain had no territorialambitions on the Continent;in Europe, British interestsmerely required that no single power be too strong.50 Metternich'sassertion that Europe was a societyof stateswas the basis forhis belief that communityinterests made the notion of sovereigntyless than absolute. According to Metternich,when domestic social unrest makes it impossiblefor a governmentto meet its treatyobligations that bind it to other countries,"the rightto intervenebelongs as clearlyand indisputablyto every governmentwhich finds itself in dangerof being drawninto the revolutionary maelstrom,as it does to anyindividual who mustput out a firein his neighbor's house if it is not to spread to its own."51This principlewas put into force a numberof times,as the Holy Alliance subsequentlyintervened to prevent liberalrevolution throughout Europe.


Sir Charles Webster,The Congressof Vienna,1814-1815 (London: Thames and Hudson,

1934), p. 140.


For an excellentaccount of the discourseduring the congress,see

Webster,The Foreign

Policyof Castlereagh.


See, forexample, Gullick, Europe's Classical Balance ofPower.


CharlesBreunig, The Age ofRevolution and Reaction,1789-1850 (New York: W. W.


and Company,1977), p. 17.



Hobsbawm,The Age ofRevolution, pp. 128-29.

Metternichis quoted in Kalevi Holsti, "Governance WithoutGovernment: Polyarchy in

Nineteenth-centuryEuropean InternationalPolitics," in

James N. Rosenau and Ernst-Otto

Czempiel,eds., GovernanceWithout Government: Order and Changein WorldPolitics (Cambridge, England: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1992), p. 28.

Stateversus nation 119

As a resultof thissettlement, there were fewinterstate wars between 1815 and 1856 and none involvingmore than one greatpower. On the otherhand, rebellions, mostlynationalist in character,occurred regularlywithin the German principalities,the Netherlands,the Italian states, Greece, Poland, France, Spain, and ultimatelywithin the AustrianEmpire itself.At the same time,until after the CrimeanWar the greatpowers allowed onlytwo border changes in the European state system:the independence of Belgium and Greece. All otherrebellions were put downby collectively sanctioned force.

WorldWar I and thetriumph of the nation

While the structuralconditions of the internationalsystem during and after World War I were quite similarto those of the earlynineteenth century, the internationalorder constructedat the end of the Napoleonic Wars differed

considerablyfrom that of the post-Versaillesperiod. In both

cases empires

collapsed,territories were redistributed, and thevictorious states were commit- ted to restoringa balance of poweron the Continentby reducingthe strength of the enemy.52In addition,the end of both conflictswas followedby domestic unrest that spread throughoutthe Continent. Rioting and revolutionary agitationthreatened a numberof well-establishedregimes in Europe during both eras. While the feared ideology of the early nineteenthcentury was French liberalism/Jacobinism, after World War I socialism, in particular Bolshevism,played this role. Yet althoughboth the Congressof Vienna and the conferenceat Versailles dealt to a large degree with the question of a European balance, the nineteenth-centurysettlement resulted in a reductionof countries and a restorationof traditionalgreat power borders,while the post-WorldWar I orderled to an increasein countriesand a breakupof traditionalempires. The question of what to do with the territoriesconquered by France a century earlierwas resolvedby restoringsovereignty to traditionalauthorities, yet the collapse of the post-WorldWar I empiresled to a proliferationof new state formationsbased largelyon the principleof nationality.One factorthat can explainthis difference is thevarying conceptions of sovereigntyand nationhood broughtabout by competingbeliefs over the causes of war and the basis of orderin the internationalsystem. Althoughnone of the mainantagonists entered the war with a set of political principlesin mind, the analysis and programof U.S. PresidentWoodrow

Wilsonpredominated by the end ofthe war. During the course of World War I, there was little discussion about goals and principlesother than military

objectives.In fact,apart fromterritorial questions, there was littleto


52. The conclusion of World War I saw the collapse of four empires: German, Austro- Hungarian(Hapsburg), Ottoman, and Russian.

120 InternationalOrganization

guishthe two sides, particularlyif one considerstheir views of what a postwar internationalorder would look like.Within the allied coalition,agreement was restrictedprimarily to militaryquestions. Animositiesbetween Britain and France, whichdated back to the era of Louis XIV, remainedstrong.53 Italy's membershipin the alliance was primarilyopportunistic; Britain and France simplyoffered Italy a betterdeal. FrenchPrime Minister Clemenceau clearly wantedGermany rendered incapable of fightinganother large-scale war, much as the Grand Alliance wished to stripFrance of thatability a centuryearlier. Clemenceau arguedthat the cause of the war was Germanpower and thatthe containmentof Germanyafter the war was France's chiefgoal.54 British Prime MinisterLloyd George's primaryinterest was in dividingup the remnantsof the German and Hapsburg empiresand ensuringthat neitherGermany nor France dominatedthe Continent. It was not untilthe interventionof Woodrow Wilson that the Allied cause developed a unifiedpurpose. A statementof principlesbecame necessaryfor the Allies to differentiatethemselves from the Central Powers, particularly since the rationale behind the war was not immediatelyclear to eitherthe Russian or U.S. populations.According to Wilson,this was a war to end all wars. The purpose of fightingthe war was to eliminatethe verycauses of war itself: the balance of power, the systemof alliances, and the denial of self-determinationand democracyto peoples throughoutthe world.55He diagnosed as a major cause of World War I the lack of congruencebetween nationsand states and the existenceof autocraticgovernments. For Wilson a legitimatenation-state was one thatrepresented a definednational population and whose governmentwas accountableto itspeople. In hiswell-known Fourteen Points address to Congress,Wilson articulated a raisond'etre for the Allied coalition.While the firstfive points dealt primarily withgeneral diplomatic principles, points six throughthirteen were addressed to specificterritorial questions, all of whichwere applicationsof the principle of self-determination.56 In addition to thesefourteen points, Wilson added four principleswhich included the tenetsthat "people and provincesmust not be barteredabout from sovereignty to sovereigntyas ifthey were chattelsor pawns in a game" and thatall territorialquestions had to be settled"in theinterests of the populations concerned."57These statementscan be seen as a direct reference to how the Congress of Vienna bartered the newly liberated territoriesamong the victoriousstates withouttaking into considerationthe

  • 53. Robert H. Ferrell,Woodrow Wilson and WorldWar One: 1917-1921 (New York: Harper &

Row, 1985), p. 118.

  • 54. WalterMcDougall, France'sRhineland Diplomacy, 1914-1924: TheLast Bid fora Balance


Powerin Europe (Princeton,N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1978), p. 16.

  • 55. CharlesMee, TheEnd ofOrder (New York: E. P. Dutton,1980), p. 11.

  • 56. Ferrell,Woodrow Wilson and WorldWar One, pp. 125-26.

  • 57. Ray StannardBaker, WoodrowWilson and WorldSettlement, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday,

Stateversus nation 121

principleof nationality.58One could argue that the intensityof nationalist feelingsthat developed in the latterpart of the nineteenthcentury could be traceddirectly to the overemphasison creatinga perfectequilibrium following the defeatof Napoleon. While Wilson'sidealism was not necessarilyshared by eitherBritain or France,they eventually agreed to accept his principlesas the basis on whichto build an internationalorder followingthe end of the war. Clemenceau initiallyattacked Wilson as hopelesslynaive, holding to his belief in the balance of power. However in 1918 the Frenchposition changed when the foreignministry issued a proposal fora postwarsettlement agreeing that peace mustrest on threeprinciples, including national self-determination and theprotection of minorityrights.59 LloydGeorge also came to acceptWilson's basic principlesduring the course of the war. In 1918 he spoke at a London trade union conferenceand argued that a just and lasting peace would require the restorationof sanctityof treaties, the settlementof territorialdisputes on the basis of national self-determination, and the creationof an internationalorganization to limit armamentsand diminishthe probabilityof war.60 Even Germany,on theverge of defeat, turned to the United States rather than Britain or France to negotiatepeace based on Wilsonianprinciples. In a note sent to the United


7 October 1918,Germany said, "The Germangovernment accepts as

the basis forits negotiations,the programlaid down by the Presidentof the United States."'61 Althoughthe firstfive of Wilson's fourteenpoints were essentiallyelimi- nated in secrettalks between Wilson, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George priorto the conferenceat Versailles,those that dealt primarilywith the principleof nationalism,including Wilson's four principles,were left intact.62Like the Congressof Vienna a centuryearlier, the conferenceat Versailles dividedup historicallydisputed territories among the victors: France was givenAlsace and Lorraine,Britain and France were granted"mandates" over Germancolonies and the territoriesof the formerOttoman Empire, and Italy received some islands offthe Dalmatian coast. Yet unlike at Vienna, the conferenceat Versailleswas attendedby representatives from dozens of dispossessednations and peoples who were allowed to press their claims before the assembled powers.63Additionally, in resolvingthe dispositionof the Austrian,German,

  • 58. This was of course trueonly to a matterof degree.One of the principalpoints of contention

at the Congress was the dispositionof Poland and Saxony. While the conflictwas not over

nationalistsentiments, it did involvethe legitimistprinciple, which recognizedthat sovereigns

could notbe deprivedof theirdynastic rights. See Le Duc de Broglie,ed., Memoirsof the Prince de Talleyrand,vol. 2 (New York: AMS Press,1973), part8.

  • 59. Holsti,Peace and War,p. 192.

  • 60. LloydAmbrosius, Wilsonian Statecraft: Theory and Practiceof Liberal Internationalism During

WorldWarI (Wilmington,Del.: ScholarlyResources, 1991), p. 110.

  • 61. Ibid., p. 12.

  • 62. Ibid.,p. 52.

  • 63. Ferrell,Woodrow Wilson and WorldWar One, p. 140.

122 InternationalOrganization

and Russian empires,the principleof national sovereigntywas clearlythe

guide. The various Balkan Yugoslavia.64Romania was

Slavic groups were united to forma new state,

expanded to include those

parts of the Austrian

Empire where a majorityof Romanians lived, and Hungary became an independentstate. The Czechs and Slovakswere unitedinto the new nationof Czechoslovakia, and what was left of the old Hapsburg Empire became independentAustria. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were grantedindepen-

dence. Istriaand Trentino,both Italian-speaking areas, were brought into Italy. Finally,plebiscites were held in a numberof smallregions, including Schleswig- Holstein,Upper Silesia, and Saarland,so thatthe inhabitantscould decide for themselveswhat country they wanted to join. The principleof self-determinationwas put to its greatesttest over the questionof how to deal withGermany's former colonies and Turkey'sformer territories.While the Britishwere leeryabout settinga precedentthat could threatentheir empire by grantingcolonial independence,Wilson stood by his

wartimeprinciple that people shouldnot be

barteredabout fromsovereignty to

sovereignty. The victoriouspowers struck a compromisesolution in the Treaty ofSevres: the colonies would be freedfrom colonial control by the great powers

by placing them under the protectivewing of the League of Nations. The League of Nationsin turnwould appointvarious nations as guardians.

WorldWar II and its aftermath

The accepted interpretationof the main cause of World War II was very differentfrom that of World War I. Whereas World War I was seen afterthe factas old alliance politicsgone out of control,World War II was viewedboth during its course and after as a fightagainst fascism.There are several componentsof fascistideology, but one crucial componentthat serves to differentiatefascism from other totalitarianisms is a particularlyvirulent strain of nationalism.Opposition to such expansionistnationalism served as an effectivebanner under which to unite the Allies for two reasons. First, it matchedthe popular impressionof the primecause of the war. Second, it was

acceptable to all of the ideologieshad littleelse

Allies, a group of states whose politicalsystems and in common.

Nationalismwas perceivedas a primarycause of thewar; it had providedthe pretextfor the German occupationsof Austria,Czechoslovakia, and Poland

thatled to

the outbreakof war. It was seen as one of the mostobjectionable

aspects of

fascistideology. While self-determinationremained a legitimate

politicalgoal, nationalismsthat were xenophobicand expansionistcame to be seen as an unacceptable threat to internationalpeace. Nationalism had

  • 64. At thatpoint in timepan-Slavism was as potenta nationalistforce as the self-identification

of suchgroups as the Serbs,Croats, and Slovenes.

Stateversus nation 123

previouslybeen associated with the desire of people to be free. Fascism associatednationalism with the desireof some people to dominateor dislocate others. This led to a conceptual separation of "the self-determinationof peoples" fromnationalism as the legitimatebasis forthe state.65 The self-determinationof peoples impliesthat everyone as an individualhas a rightto hisor herown government and to participatein thatgovernment. The term "peoples" does not, however,imply any specificbasis for delineating nationalboundaries.66 As long as all of the people withinthe boundarieshave equal access to the governmentand the governmentdoes nottry to controlany peoples outside of those boundaries,the requirementsof self-determination have been fulfilled.Nationalism, on the otherhand, does implya specificbasis for delineatingstate boundaries.The state should matchthe nation. Should membersof the nation live outside of the state, an expansionistnationalism would have the state expand to whereverthose nationalslive. In areas where membersof more than one nationalitylive, interstateconflict becomes both likelyand virulent.The normativeacceptance by the winningcoalition, the Allies,of the self-determinationof peoples as the legitimatebasis forthe state reflectedtheir perception that it was nationalismthat had caused thewar in the firstplace. This normativeacceptance is reflectedin the documentintended to be the primarybasis forpostwar international relations, the Charterof the United Nations (UN). The charter affirmsas the firstpurpose of the UN the maintenance of internationalpeace and security.67It defines this as the preventionof the violationof establishedstate bordersby the forcesof other states.68This clearlyestablishes the priorityof the integrityof establishedstate bordersover the integrityof national or nationalistgroups. The charteralso affirmsthe principleof the self-determinationof peoples, but not of nations, and the principleof noninterferencein the domesticaffairs of otherstates.69 This suggeststhat it is their people as individuals,not the "nation" as a separate entity,that states represent. As long as a state adequatelyrepresents its people as individuals,other states cannot legitimatelyclaim to represent some of thesepeople as membersof its"nation."70 The emphasisin the UN Charteron noninterferencein the domesticaffairs of otherstates is markedlydifferent from the emphasison internationaljustice

  • 65. The quoted termis used throughoutthe Charterof the United Nations(UN).

  • 66. Of thisdilemma Sir IvorJennings said, "On the surfaceit seems reasonable: let the people

decide. It was in factridiculous because the people cannotdecide untilsomeone decides who are

the people." Jenningsis quoted in Buchheit,Secession, p. 9.

  • 67. This is stated in the firstparagraph of the firstarticle of the charter.See United Nations

Officeof Public Information,Charter of theUnited Nations and Statuteof theInternational Court of

Justice(New York: United Nations,1974), p. 3.

  • 68. Ibid., article2, paragraph4, and article51.

  • 69. Ibid., article1, paragraph2, and article2, paragraph7.

  • 70. There is of course a tensionhere inasmuchas self-determinationmay serve in cases

as an

expressionof nationalistsentiment. This tensionis recognizedin practiceby the UN but is often

124 InternationalOrganization

to be found in the League of Nations Charter.71This is reflectedin the academic response to internationalrelations to be found in the periods followingWorld Wars I and II. The dominanttrend in the studyof interna- tionalrelations after World War I, idealism,stressed the value of international equityand justicein the longterm over the value of stabilityand raisond'etat in the shortterm. Nationalism was seen as the source of the legitimacyof states, and thereforestates mightbe changed to betterreflect the ideal of state as nation.The dominanttrend in the same fieldof studyfollowing World War II, realism,was in some waysthe opposite.It arguedfor the returnof Realpolitik.

States were seen as legitimizedby the representationof theirpopulations, whoevermade up thatpopulation. It thereforewas therole of thestate to act in the interestof itself and its population, rather than to act toward some long-terminternationalist ideal in a manner that might rebound to the detrimentof the immediatenational interest.72 The intersubjectiveunderstanding of thewinning coalition that state borders had a legitimacyapart from national groups had a markedeffect on thepattern ofborders in Europe followingthe war. Despite the animositiesshown by many Sovietnationalities to Russian dominationduring the war, the Sovietstate was

allowed to grow.At the same

time,the German nationwas dividedinto two

statesin orderto ease interstateconflict, a patternthat was soon to be repeated in Korea and Vietnam.73Many borders in Eastern Europe, such as those between the Soviet Union and Poland, Czechoslovakia,and Romania, were alteredin waysthat were politicallyconvenient but ethnicallynonrepresenta- tive. These changes were officiallyrecognized by the internationalcommu- nity.74Finally, the emphasison juridicalborders rather than the populations withinthem is stronglysuggested by the solutionto theproblem that had led to the war in the firstplace: German ethnicallymotivated expansionism in Eastern Europe. Instead of expandingthe borders of the German state to encompass ethnicGermans in Eastern Europe, millionsof ethnic Germans were evicteden masse fromPoland and Czechoslovakiaso thattheir borders withGermany would no longerbe threatened. The understandingof the winningcoalition as to the legitimatebasis of sovereigntyhad a distincteffect on postwarinternational relations as well. One

  • 71. For example,the Covenantof the League of Nations stipulatesthat "the Membersof the

League reserveto themselvesthe rightto take such actionas theyshall considernecessary for the

maintenanceof rightand justice"

(article15, paragraph7). This referenceto rightand justice as a

legitimatebasis forstate action is in markedcontrast to the emphasison internationalpeace and

securityin the Charterof theUN.

  • 72. See, for example, Edward Hallet Carr, The TwentyYears Crisis,1919-1939 (London:

Macmillan,1946), chap. 5.

  • 73. In all threeof these examples,"nations" were dividedinto two states, each in the sphereof

influenceof a differentsuperpower. This willingnessto subordinatenational unity to superpower

spheresof influenceindicates that the terminationof internationalconflicts was consideredmore

importantthan national self-determination in thesecases.

  • 74. See, for example, Gordon Craig, Europe Since 1815, alternateedition (New York: Holt,

Rinehartand Winston,1974), pp. 506-10.

Stateversus nation 125

particulararea in whichthis effect can be seen is theprocess of decolonization. The normof the self-determinationof peoples clearlyspeaks againstcolonial


these came to be seen as increasinglyillegitimate and unaccept-

able throughthe late 1940s and 1950s.For the mostpart however, decoloniza- tion did not proceed along nationalistlines. Rather,the bordersof new states tended to matchthe arbitrarilychosen bordersof colonial territories.This is particularlyclear with respect to the decolonizationof Africa.By retaining colonial ratherthan traditionalborders as the basis for the creationof new states,the colonial powersand the UN soughtto maximizethe viabilityof the new states,rather than ethnic or tribalties. In so doingit reflectedthe accepted norm that the legitimacyof states was based on good government,75not


Once again,the reificationof stateborders in Europe and the ThirdWorld provideda basis forthe "rules of the game" thathelped to stabilizerelations amongstates, particularly between the twoblocs.77 Despite greatdifferences in ideologyand domesticinstitutions, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the European statesrarely supported secessionist movements either in Europe or in the ThirdWorld.78

Sovereigntyafter the cold war

AfterWorld War II, realismseemed an appropriateresponse to the excessesof nationalism.However, as the cold warprogressed and thebalance of terrorand the concept of mutuallyassured destructiondeveloped, the dangers of nationalismreceded in both popular perceptions and the perceptions of decision makers. The cold war was a war about legitimatingpolitical and economicideologies, not one about legitimatingthe state.The end of the cold war has seen a reactionagainst realpolitik and againstnoninterference in the domesticaffairs of otherstates, and forthe role of the West in promotingits politicaland economicideals internationally. This has led to a change in both the discourse concerninglegitimacy in foreignaffairs and the conduct of foreignaffairs.

  • 75. This is not meantto implythat there was any sortof consensuson what constituted"good

government."The Westernview of good governmentwas based on individualwelfare and political

rights,whereas the communist view stressed social welfareand economicrights. The keypoint here

is thatboth the individualistview and the class vieware markedlydifferent from a nationalistview,

understoodin the fascistsense.

  • 76. Once again this refersto the view that sees the "nation" as somethingapart fromthe

aggregateof the people thatrequires representation in itsown right.

  • 77. See Raymond L. Garthoff,Detente and Confrontation(Washington, D.C.: Brookings

Institution,1985), chap. 1.

  • 78. For the Sovietview on secession,see Bruce Porter,The U.S.S.R. in ThirdWorld Conflicts:

SovietArms and Diplomacyin Local Wars,1945-1980 (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,

1984),p. 220.

126 InternationalOrganization

The internationalnorm following World War II as discussed above was to

reifythe state in its existingborders. This allowed for gross abuses by

governmentsof theirpopulations, including in extremeinstances a country

committingethnic genocide without a substantiveresponse from the interna-


Internal imperialism-the dominationof one ethnicgroup

also tacitlyaccepted by other

over otherswithin an establishedstate-was

statesdue to the emphasison the integrityof juridical borders and the normof

nonintervention.80 While the internationalcommunity may not have condoned

these actions,neither did it advocate restructuringborders to preventit. The

predominanceof raison d'etat that resulted from this reification led to a popular

discontentwithin the "winningcoalition" with an internationalmilieu that was

perceivedas increasinglyunable to cope withthe threats of nuclear weapons on

the one hand and loomingenvironmental disaster on the other.81These factors

increasinglyweakened the legitimacyof sovereigntyunderstood as the inviola-

bilityof states.As the politicaldiscourse in internationalrelations increasingly

reflectsthis change, foreign policies are beginningto reflectit as well.

The end of the cold war has not to date resulted in the sort of official

documentationby the winningcoalition that marked the end of previous

hegemonicconflicts. There is thereforeno formaldocument that expresses the

understandingof thiscoalition as to the natureof the legitimacyof sovereignty.

However, there have been substantialchanges in the formsof

discourse in

whichdiscussions of internationalrelations have takenplace. As

littleas four

or fiveyears ago, alterationsin the bordersof EasternEurope were perceived,

both popularlyand officially,as potential threatsto the peace. Now such

changes are consideredeither neutrally, as in the case of Czechoslovakia,or

positively,as in the case of the formerSoviet Union or Yugoslavia.The recent

action of the UN in excommunicatingYugoslavia for somethingthat twenty

years ago may have been consideredpurely domestic actions exemplifies this


The increasingdegree to whichsome Westerncountries, such as Belgium,

Canada, and Spain, feel that theymust make concessionsto domesticethnic

minoritiesalso reinforcesthe contention that the understandingof the

legitimatebasis of the state is changing.If these concessionsare to be found

withinthe winning as well as the losingcoalitions, they cannot be explainedby

referenceto powerpolitics. Some of these alterations,such as the reunification

of Germanyand the breakup of the Soviet Union, may reflectthe changed

securityenvironment after the end of the Soviet militarythreat to Western

  • 79. Examplesof thisinclude ethnically motivated genocides in Ethiopia and East Timor.

  • 80. Internalimperialism refers to such obvious cases as the Soviet Union, South Africa,and

Yugoslaviabut also includessome Westerncountries such as Spain.

  • 81. For the purposesof thisarticle, it is reasonable to definethe winningcoalition of the cold

warin the same wayas was done forthe cases discussedabove: themembers of themilitary alliance

thattriumphed. In thiscase, the coalitionwould includethe membersof suchgroups as the North

Atlanticand South East Asia TreatyOrganizations.

Stateversus nation 127

Europe. Others,however, do not. The unificationof Yemen and the recent

talks by the Korean governmentssuggest that afterdecades of ideological

animosity,they have abruptlycome to viewthe "nation" as havingpriority over

the "state." The demise of Yugoslavia certainlyowes as much to a relatively

sudden loss of perceived legitimacy,both in the eyes of the international

communityand in the eyes of Yugoslavia's constituentpopulations, as to the

changedsecurity environment.

The reactionin theUnited Statesand WesternEurope to thebreakup of the

Soviet Union also cannot convincinglybe traced strictlyto securityconsider-

ations.American and Allied policytoward the SovietUnion until1989 was to

firmlysupport the central governmentfor both securityand ideological

reasons.82The securityreason was thata strongcentral government would be

necessaryto preside over troop withdrawalsand arms reductionseffectively,

and the ideological reason was support for President Gorbachev and his

reforms.This policychanged rather abruptly to supportfor the breakupof the


intoits constituentrepublics; the internationalperception of the

centralgovernment devolved from that of a forcefor the maintenanceof order

to an institutionof ethnicimperialism. This perceptualshift can be explained

betterthrough an examinationof changesin understandingsof statelegitima-

tionthan changes in the securityenvironment.

There are exceptionsto the resurgencein the legitimacyof nationalism.Two

in particularare usefulfor illustrative purposes, South Africaand Iraq. The

internationalcommunity is explicitlycommitted to majorityrule in a united

SouthAfrica.83 There are tworeasons for this. The firstis thatthis commitment

predatesby decades the end of the cold war, and thereforethe international

discourseon SouthAfrica is to some extentfixed in thenorms of thecold war.84

In otherwords, because this discoursehas been stronglyinstitutionalized, it

displayssome of the stickinessand continuitycharacteristic of formalinstitu-

tions.85The second reason is the perceptionthat a breakup of South Africa

would not servethe purposeof nationalself-government generally so muchas

thepurposes of thewhite minority specifically.

The currentpolicy of the United States and its allies towardIraq displaysa

commitmentto maintainingthe integrityof the countryeven thoughthere are

active secessionistmovements within it.86 This policy resultsexplicitly from

  • 82. See JohnLewis Gaddis, "The Long Peace: Elementsof Stabilityin thePostwar International

System,"in Sean M. Lynn-Jones,ed., The Cold War and After.Prospects for Peace (Cambridge,

Mass.: MIT Press,1991), pp. 1-44 and pp. 33-34 in particular.

  • 83. See, for example,Yearbook of the UnitedNations, 1986, vol. 40 (Dordrecht,Netherlands:

MartinusNijhoff, 1990), pp. 124-25.

  • 84. Ibid. The continuityin the texts of these resolutionssupports the suggestionthat the

discoursehas become fixedaround the establishedgoal.

  • 85. On the subjectof thecontinuity of formalinstitutions in internationalrelations, see Krasner,

"Sovereignty:An InstitutionalPerspective," pp. 67 and 74.

  • 86. Michael Gordon,"British, French, and U.S. Agree to Hit Iraqi Aircraftin the South," The

New YorkTimes, 12 August1992, p. Al.

128 InternationalOrganization

balance-of-powerconsiderations, an indicationthat while recent changes in the

interpretationof sovereigntyhave alteredthe realpolitikof the cold war,they

have not eliminatedit entirely.87It is worthnoting, however, that the U.S.

governmenthas explicitlyaddressed the issue of the integrityof Iraq.88During

the cold war itwould likelyhave been simplyassumed that this integrity would

be maintained.The fact that the U.S. governmenthas felt it necessaryto

address the issue at all, and its effortsto demonstratethat most Iraqis do not

wanttheir country broken up, indicatesthat the change in theunderstanding of

sovereigntyunderlying discourse in internationalrelations has indeed taken



A briefexamination of how politicalactors have definedsovereign authority

throughthe course of modernhistory demonstrates that the rules of sover-

eigntyvary, and thus the concept is neitherfixed nor constant.Rather it is

subjectto changinginterpretations that alter the environmentin whichstates

relate to each other.These changesin turnaffect the waysin whichstates are

constrainedand enabled to act in theirinternational relations. The case studies

stronglyindicate that while some internationalorders emphasize the state,

othersemphasize the nationand thatthis emphasis tends to oscillatebetween

the two. We find that structuralvariables alone cannot account for these

differences. The GrandAlliance operatedwithin an internationalenvironment

in 1815 similarto thatfaced by the Allies in 1919. Yet theirsolutions to the

dilemmasdiffered considerably. Twenty-five years later,the winningwartime

coalitionadopted territorialpolicies similarto those embracedby the Grand

Alliance a centuryearlier. Now thereare strongindications that the emphasis

has swungtoward the nationallegitimation of sovereigntyand away fromthe

sovereigntyof the state. We have triedto show that this occurs because our

understandingof sovereignauthority is intersubjective,largely based on the

principlesand beliefsthat a dominantcoalition comes to adopt in the process

of constructingan internationalorder.

One of the problemsfaced by political leaders is that state and national

sovereigntycan be internallycontradictory. The stabilityof a systemof

sovereignstates rests on the adherenceby most states most of the timeto a set

of rules and commonpractices.89 It also relies on a formof legitimacythat

allows formutual expectations.While stabilityis best assured throughfixed,

competentstates with entrenchedauthoritative institutions, legitimacy re-

  • 87. Michael Gordon,"A Shield forIraq," TheNew YorkTimes, 20 August1992, pp. Al.

  • 88. Ibid.

  • 89. Stabilitydoes not referhere to the absence of conflictbut to the maintenanceof the system

intactwithout drastic changes in itsform. This usage followsthat of Waltz in Theoryof International

Politics,pp. 161-63.

Stateversus nation 129

quires a beliefthat the institutionalforms are appropriateand right;in short,

that they are just. Legitimacyis eroded when people no longer accept the

principlesthat suggest why they ought to obeythe existingauthorities.

The dilemma arises when political leaders consider how the principleof

self-determinationwould be put intopractice: at whatpoint is a people capable

of organizingand administeringa governmentthat can ensure domestic

welfareand guaranteecompliance with international rules? As Kalevi Holsti

argues,self-determination applied universallycould resultin

the proliferation

of conditionallyviable and ineffectivestates.90 It could also ignitedomestic and

regional confrontationsin cases where conflictsof state interestsdo not

necessarilyexist. As nationalistnorms expand their role as a legitimatebasis of

conflictresolution, such conditionallyviable statesand regionalconfrontations

are appearingwith increasing frequency. This can raise some importantpolicy

questionsthat are currentlybeing discussed only in an ad hoc fashion:where to

draw the line betweenlegitimacy and viabilityand when nationallymotivated

regional confrontationconstitutes an unacceptable threat to stabilityelse-


Fromthis pliable understanding of sovereignty, one can arguethat "objective"

materialfactors, such as polarity,are by themselvesinsufficient to understand

the stabilityof the internationalsystem. Understandings as to whatconstitutes

the legitimatebasis of sovereigntyhave a significantimpact on the patternsof

global conflict.When an understandingpredominates that sovereignty is based

on the principleof nationality,efforts to alter state boundaries to reflect

nationalistsentiments have a certainlegitimacy. Wars mayresult from efforts

to coordinatestate boundaries with national groups when such a coordination

wouldcome at the expenseof anotherstate. For example,the Germaninvasion

of Czechoslovakia in 1938 was seen as having some legitimacyby the

internationalcommunity, but

that was seen by the losing state, in this case

Czechoslovakia,as beingat its expense.When an understandingpredominates

that sovereigntyis of a more juridical nature,then states are less likelyto

attemptto alter nationalborders in response to national or ethnicconflicts.

These conflictsdo not necessarilydisappear, but theyare more likelyto be

played out withincountries than between them.Since juridical states cannot

legitimatelyinterfere in the domesticaffairs of otherstates, ethnic conflicts will

more oftenbe decided by internalviolence-the use of violence by states

againstelements of theirown populations. Bosnia is a good example.As longas

the internationalcommunity recognized an intact Yugoslavia, any ethnic

conflictbetween Serbs and membersof otherethnicities in Bosnia was a


internalYugoslav affair.Once the internationalcommunity recognized Bosnia

as a separate state underthe bannerof nationalself-determination, the same

conflictbecame an interstatewar.

  • 90. Holsti,Peace and War,p. 352.

130 InternationalOrganization

The degree of violence-defined as the total physicalharm that comes to

people-is notnecessarily greater with any given understanding of sovereignty.

However,when sovereignty is understoodto stemfrom the nation, this violence

is more likelyto occur between and among states than when sovereigntyis

understoodto be morejuridical, in whichcase stateviolence is morelikely to be

internalthan interstate.This affectsthe legitimationand thus the practiceof

externalintervention, which can in turnaffect the outcome.This can be clearly

seen when comparingthe actions of the internationalcommunity to Iraq's

violentsuppression of Kurdishnationalism in the 1980swith its declarationof

so-calledsafe zones in 1991.

As thecontemporary world shifts from bipolarity,91

neorealists would suggest

that some change should be expected in the degree of stabilityof the

internationalsystem.92 The analysisof sovereigntysuggested here indicates

that the contemporaneousshift in the predominantunderstanding of sover-

eigntywill also serve to destabilizethe system.This does not mean that the

overall level of violence to whichthe people of the world are subjectedwill

necessarilyincrease. It does mean, however,that a new categoryof causes of

interstateconflict has been legitimated.

Finally,in arguingthat sovereigntyshould not be understoodas a strictly

staticconcept, this article suggests that the stateas a basic analyticunit should

be scrutinizedmore than has oftenbeen the case in the internationalrelations

literature.The sovereignstate has oftenbeen seen as a fixedentity, both from

withoutand fromwithin. From without, neorealists and neoliberalinstitution-

alists alike take the sovereignstate as a given.From within,theories of the

domesticsources of foreignpolicy often assume a fixedsovereignty as the

backdropfor domestic political activity. However, both structuraltheories and

theoriesof domesticsources might benefit by allowing that sovereignty itself, as

a basic unit of internationalrelations theory,changes over time and that

changing understandingsof sovereigntycan and do affect international


  • 91. It is beyond the scope of this article to suggest whether it is shiftingmore toward

multipolarityor unipolarity.

  • 92. Waltz,Theory of International Politics, pp. 204-10.