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
Date Written: 2013
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.
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