The Moral Purpose of the State: Culture, Social Identity, and Institutional Rationality in International Relations / Edition 1

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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.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Christian Reus-Smit is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. He is the editor, with Albert Paolini and Anthony Jarvis, of "Between Sovereignty and Global Governance: The United Nations, the State, and Civil Society".

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Table of Contents

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

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