Uniting States: Voluntary Union in World Politics

Uniting States: Voluntary Union in World Politics

by Joseph M. Parent
     
 

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Ever since the birth of the modern nation-state at the Peace of Westphalia, the essential lodestars for governments have been sovereignty (including of a monopoly over the use of force) and territorial integrity. Given how elemental sovereignty and territorial integrity are to states, why would a government ever willingly disintegrate or give up its sovereignty to

Overview

Ever since the birth of the modern nation-state at the Peace of Westphalia, the essential lodestars for governments have been sovereignty (including of a monopoly over the use of force) and territorial integrity. Given how elemental sovereignty and territorial integrity are to states, why would a government ever willingly disintegrate or give up its sovereignty to unite with another state as the junior partner?

Despite such a considerable intellectual barrier, modern history features many examples of states that have either broken apart voluntarily or merged into others. In Unifying States, International Relations scholar Joseph Parent focuses on the latter phenomenon: voluntary unions. As he stresses, they occur rarely, but they do in fact happen. Indeed, the most famous example is the United States itself, in the Articles of Confederation era. Neither constructivists nor liberals, both of whom stress the positive benefits of economic convergence, can explain why union occurs so rarely. Nor can realists—who hold that in an anarchic world order, states must prize their autonomy above all else—explain why states enter into larger unions that erode their sovereignty. Parent begins from a realist perspective, yet realizes that traditional realist theory cannot account for this very real phenomenon. Instead, he contends that voluntary unions can—and do—occur in extreme circumstances. When states are painted into the same corner by events, they can balance against a threatening power by uniting with each other. Parent applies his thesis to a series of important historical cases—passage of the US Constitution, Swiss unification, the semi-merger of Sweden and Norway, and Bolivar's failed attempt to unite 'Gran Colombia'—before examining the grandest unification effort ever, the European Union. After explaining how this happened, Parent utilizes his theory to show the limits that the EU now faces as it struggles to extend the scope of unification. In sum, Uniting States is an authoritative account of a historical phenomenon that scholars have been unable to adequately explain via the main schools of international relations thought.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"How do little states become big ones? The question is rarely asked and never answered with the compelling logic and the wealth of cases that Joe Parent displays. A dazzling accomplishment and a joy to read."—Kenneth Waltz, Senior Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

"In this engagingly written and compellingly argued book, Joseph Parent shows us why states will sometimes voluntarily yield up their sovereignty to create a larger political union and why they may subsequently seize it back. Uniting States is a treat to read."—Robert Art, Professor of International Relations, Brandeis University

"Why do some states choose a more perfect union, while others jealously guard their sovereignty? Writing with theoretical clarity and impressive historical breadth, Joseph Parent's Uniting States shatters the myth that unity is born from common culture, increasing communication, and deep economic ties. Unity is instead a shotgun marriage-states come together, not for love or profit, but in fear of international threats. At a time when the globe appears ever more unified, Uniting States provides a cautionary and significant critique to our understanding of world politics."—Stacie Goddard, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Wellesley University

"Euroskeptics take note: history shows that the key to the viability of federal unions is a common threat. Joe Parent compellingly demonstrates the continuing vitality of realist analysis of the big questions in world politics."—Jack Snyder, Professor of International Relations, Columbia University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199782192
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
09/26/2011
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Parent is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami.

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