From Westphalia to Westfailure
International Actors and the
Pitfalls of Humanitarian
Prof. Dr. Dr.hc.mult.
Reinhard Meyers
Dept. of Politics, WWU Münster
• The title of this contribution is part-modelled
on that of a very readable essay by Susan
Strange: The Westfailure System, Review of
International Studies 25 (1999), pp 345 – 354
• Susan, veteran battle-horse of British IR,
widely learned, deeply human, died in 1998;
thus, she could not fully witness what she
predicted in two of her best books:
• Casino Capitalism (1997)
• Mad Money: when Markets Outgrow
Governments (1998)
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• I) The Westphalian State System – a metaphoric hyperbole ?
• II) Cracks in the Monolith – Forces of Change
a) Globalisation
b) Globalisation of Threats
c) Failing States
d) New Wars
• III) Some problems for Humanitarian Intervention
• IV) Possible solutions
I) The Westphalian State System – a
metaphoric hyperbole ?
• The overwhelming majority of I.R. writers posit a
truism – i.e. that the Peace of Westphalia
• made the territorial state the cornerstone of the
modern state system (H.J.Morgenthau)
• formally recognized the concept of state sovereignty
• formally acknowledged a system of sovereign states
• established a number of important principles, which
were subsequently to form the legal and political
framework of modern interstate relations (Evans &
Westphalian State System (II)
• In short, the system so mentally constructed
can be briefly defined (remembering Max
Weber‘s famous definition of the state) as
one in which prime political authority is
conceded to those actors called states,
claiming the monopoly of legitimate use of
violence within their respective territorial
borders, resting on mutual restraint (i.e. nonintervention) and mutual recognition of each
other‘s sovereignty.
Westphalian State System (III)
• The perception of international order thus
established rested on five pillars:
• 1)National actors are the sole holders of sovereignty
• 2) Sovereignty is exercised over physical territory
• 3) National actors are the most powerful players of
the world system
• 4) The only enforceable international law is based on
treaties between sovereign actors
• 5) War is a legitimate instrument of international
The Billiard-Ball-Model of international Politics
Attracting forces
Repellent forces
Westphalian Realism: Characteristics
• The structure of the international system is anarchic.
There is no authority above states capable of
regulating their interactions; states must arrive at
relations with other states on their own, rather than
being dictated to by some higher controlling entity.
• Sovereign states are the principal actors in the
international system. International institutions, nongovernmental organizations, multinational
corporations, individuals and other sub-state or
trans-state actors are viewed as having little
independent international influence.
• States are rational unitary actors each moving
towards their own national interest. They distrust
long-term cooperation or alliance.
…in brief…
The traditional concept of
international politics:
• States as international gatekeepers
• holding the monopoly of the legitimate
use of armed power in a given territory
• playing a zero-sum game for power, influence, ressources, territory in the international system
= government
State C
= society
Society C
State A
State B
Society B
Society A
= foreign or international societal interactions
= foreign or international political interactions
Westphalia: Critique
• More recent historiography (e.g.A.Osiander)
has identified the Westphalian system as a
mental construct - „…a figment of nineteenth-century imagination, stylized still
further, and reified, by the discipline of IR
itself in the twentieth century…“ (2001:284).
• The point is well worth debating, and would
provide ample ground for a number of (de-)
constructivist PhD theses.
• However, for my present purposes I would
like to draw your attention to a different train
of arguments:
For some time already, the analysis of International Relations is
characterised by a change in perspective
- away from the state as a unitary actor acting as a gatekeeper
between the domestic and international policy areas
- up, down, and sideways to supra-state, sub-state, and nonstate actors.
From the society of states, our focus of attention has
consequently shifted to transnational and transgovernmental
societies which take the form of boundary-crossing networks
amongst individuals and non-governmental organisations
Transnational Society (of Actors)
Transnational Society
National Actor
Transnational Politics
Cobweb model of international Relations
International flight connections, 2010
II Cracks in the Monolith –
Forces of Change
• No doubt, this change of perspective
just mentioned resulted from the very
real changes of the international
system which on the one hand caused,
and on the other were driven by
Globalization – the globalization of
chances as well as the globalization of
IIa Globalisation
“…in its simplest sense
globalization refers to the
widening, deepening and speeding
up of global interconnectedness…”
Held, McGrew, Goldblatt, and Perraton, 1999.
Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture
Victory of time over space
”A sense of the shrinking of distances
through the dramatic reduction in the
time taken, either physically (for
instance via air travel) or
representationally (via the transmission
of electronically mediated information
and images), to cross them.”
(Tomlinson, J.: Globalization and Culture,1999, p.3)
…two of the consequences…
• Dematerialization of economic and
particularly financial processes
• Denationalisation of firms/international
business actors
Globalisation: Driving Forces &
Asymmetry of
l Deficit
Asymmetry of
Globalisation: Problems
IIb Globalisation of Threats –
or Westfailure
• It is Susan Strange‘s argument that the
Westphalia system grew up in a close
relationship with the capitalist market
economy prevailing in Europe, from the early
modern period onward. Each was a
necessary condition for the evolution of the
other. To prosper, production and trade
required the security provided by the state.
To survive, the state required the economic
growth, and the credit-creating system of
finance provided by the capitalist system.
Westfailure (2)
• The development of the economic system, by
now, has created three major problems that
the political system is incapable of solving:
• 1) The major failure to control and manage
the international fnancial system
• 2) The failure to act for the protection of the
• 3) The failure to preserve a socio-economic
balance between the rich and the powerful
and the poor and the weak both nationally
and internationally
Westfailure (3)
• „ In short, the system is failing Nature – the planet
Earth – which is being increasingly pillaged, perverted, and polluted by economic enterprises which
the state-system is unable to control or restrain. It is
failing Capitalism in that the national and international institutions that are supposed to manage
financial markets are progressively unable … to
keep up with the accelerating pace of technological
change in the private sector, with potentially dire
consequences for the whole market economy. And it
is failing world society by allowing a dangerously
wide gap to develop between the rich and powerful
and the weak and powerless.“ (p.346)
IIc Asymmetric Warfare
New Wars
• Reference to Mary Kaldor: New and
Old Wars: Organized violence in a
global era, ²2006
• Questioning of the state as the war and
violence monopolist
• Asymmetric structure: regulars fighting
• Spatial & temporal de-limitation
• Privatisation/commercialization of
New Wars (2)
• Goals: identity-political rather than geopolitical or ideological
• Autonomization/independency of traditional
military actors & traditional military forms
• Glocalization of warfare
• Concurrence of the non-concurrent:
decentralization and informalization of the
(local) war economy (suffering from deinvestment spiral) with simultaneous interlocking and interweaving with a global
shadow economy
IId Failing States
• A state that is failing has several attributes.
One of the most common is the loss of
physical control of its territory or a monopoly
on the legitimate use of force.
• Other attributes of state failure include the
erosion of legitimate authority to make
collective decisions, an inability to provide
reasonable public services, and the inability
to interact with other states as a full member
of the international community.
Failing States (2)
• Further indicators cover a wide range of
state failure risk elements such as extensive
corruption and criminal behavior, inability to
collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen
support, large-scale involuntary dislocation
of the population, sharp economic decline,
group-based inequality, institutionalized
persecution or discrimination, severe
demographic pressures, brain drain, and
environmental decay.
• States can fail at varying rates through
explosion, implosion, erosion, or invasion
over different time periods.
for the Failed States Index – yearly tables
& maps
III Some Problems and Pitfalls for
Humanitarian Intervention
• The Westphalian system, as we have seen,
does no longer provide a clear frame of
reference regarding
• - the proper motives to act
• - the proper agenda to act on
• - the proper point in time to start action
• - the criteria to assess success or failure
• - and, most importantly, the other actors
and/or third parties to address legitimately.
…Problems & Pitfalls (2)…
• What weighs perhaps most is the fact that the concepts of peace I.R. and/or Int. Law can offer are in
essence those of the Westphalian system –
• peace as a systemic condition of the system of
• a pattern governing inter-state behaviour,
• or quite simply as the absence of the application of
organized military force between large social groups.
• All these concepts do not fit the fuzzyness, de-structurization, glocalization, anti-state-monopolistic
privatisation of violence which seems to be the main
characteristic of post-Westphalian politics.
…Problems & pitfalls (3)…
• We need, in other words, a new, adequate,
sustainable concept of peace which reflects
the changes from Westphalia to postWestphalia.
• A start has been made – nearly 20 years ago
– with the Agenda for Peace.
• Preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, and
peacekeeping could furnish the new pillars
of the post-Westphalian system.
• The task, as the next graph shows, is
however extensive and daunting.
Nachhaltiger Friede
• Gewaltfreiheit
• Selbsterhaltung
• Innere/Äussere Legitimation
• Konstruktive Konfliktransformation
• politische Demokratisierung
 Änderung des moralischpolitischen Klimas
• Wirtschaftl. Wiederaufbau
• Wiederherstellung des
 Verheilung der Wunden der
• Erziehung und Ausbildung,
Ökologisches Gleichgewicht
 Engagement für die Zukunft
 Versöhnung der Werte
 Entwicklung eines WirGefühls und multipler
Friedensschaffung (Peace Building)
Peace Keeping
Thank You for your

From Westphalia to Westfailure - Prof. Dr. Dr. hc Reinhard Meyers