The Power of the Westphalian Myth in International Law

R.V.P.S. Gama & W. Menezes (dir.), Paz de Westphalia/Peace of Westphalia (1648-2008), Sao Paulo: University Press, 2013

20 Pages Posted: 12 May 2017

See all articles by Stephane Beaulac

Stephane Beaulac

University of Montreal - Faculty of Law; Dentons Canada LLP

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

The paper examines the 1648 Peace of Westphalia and argues that it is a myth, an aetiological myth that has extraordinary power within the consciousness of international society. Indeed, Westphalia has had a profound semiotic effect by suggesting that, with the consecration of state sovereignty (as a structural idée-force), a new international model came into being, a model of international relations which remains strong to this day. This social construct, however, has formed part of a continuing system originating before the Thirty Years' War and continuing long after Peace that ended it. The paper shows that Westphalia did not put an end to multi-layered authority in Europe, but was simply a case of redistribution of power within the Holy Roman Empire. Thus Westphalia is a "myth", in a technical sens of the term, to explain the international society's genesis to itself and build a belief-system about the whens, wheres and hows of its becoming and its being. Westphalia is a very-large-scale myth that is liable to have very-large-scale social power, even more so given that it is endorsed by international law, as the incontestably true basis of the present international state system.

Suggested Citation

Beaulac, Stephane, The Power of the Westphalian Myth in International Law (2013). R.V.P.S. Gama & W. Menezes (dir.), Paz de Westphalia/Peace of Westphalia (1648-2008), Sao Paulo: University Press, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2965241

Stephane Beaulac (Contact Author)

University of Montreal - Faculty of Law ( email )

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