Blaney & Inayatullah  2000
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Blaney & Inayatullah 2000

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of evasion or
deferral—less a direct effort to acknowledge, confront, and explore the diver-
sity of human existence than an attempt to contain and manage difference within
the newly erected boundaries of states. Westphalian arrangements thus have
served only to secure the persistence, salience, and centrality of the problem of
difference in international society: as an enduring diversity within national bound-
aries, as a diversity that spills inevitably across boundaries, and as conflict
between “imagined” nations.

We argue that the intellectual legacy of the period is likewise limiting. As
do similar fears in our own time, the chaos and destruction of the period pro-
duced a proportionately intense demand for order, safety, and certainty. An
overriding demand for stability in society at large spurred the dominant
seventeenth-century project of discovering unassailable knowledge of natural
and social order—a social theory and practice beyond the dangers and doubts a
confrontation with difference creates. Just as the Westphalian settlement attempted
to sidestep the uncertainties and conflicts accompanying difference, the intel-
lectual discourse arising under the shadow of the Thirty Years’ War denigrated
the positive potentials of difference, tightly tying it to chaos and strife. Thus the
heritage of political thought bequeathed to us by this period—from Descartes
to Hobbes, Grotius, and Locke—tends to base social order and political peace
on relative religious and cultural homogeneity and a strict political uniformity.

Returning explicitly to the present, we argue in section three that we con-
tinue to live with the consequences of this deferral or evasion. The contempo-
rary theory and practice of the Westphalian system—or “international society”
as we will generally call it—functions primarily to reinforce this suspicion of
difference. In international society, the “other” is located outside, beyond the
boundaries of the state. Within the state, a realm of relative “sameness” is
presumed—the kind of commonality we associate with the idea of political
community or the body politic. But the problem of difference remains, if obscured
or repressed. The “other” lurks as a perpetual threat in the form of separate
political communities or as difference within, vitiating the presumed but rarely,
if ever, achieved “sameness.” Against the presumption of domestic commonal-
ity, difference is “managed” by some combination of hierarchy, assimilation,
and tolerance in varying degrees and kinds. Difference beyond our boundaries
is left to its own means, interdicted at border crossings, and balanced and deterred.

32 Blaney and Inayatullah

Thus, though we are unable to accept the legitimacy of the kind of eradication
of difference within states originally sanctioned in the seventeenth century, the
legacy of the Westphalian deferral endures in that we remain unwilling to con-
front fully the Pandora’s box of either our own domestic diversity or the world-
wide diversity of ways of life.

In large measure, this is merely a restatement of the power of the logic of
“inside/outside”—a demarcation of global political space into distinct and mutu-
ally exclusive jurisdictions on which a society of independent sovereign states
depends (Walker 1993). The “inside/outside” logic thereby performs an act of
“splitting,” excluding the overlap of “self” and “other” (Benjamin 1988:62–
63).5 Locating difference beyond the boundaries of “self” impedes our capacity
to fully acknowledge and affirm the “other” that always lies within, or to appre-
ciate and claim the “self” that exists as part of the “other” beyond these bound-
aries. That is, unless we can respond creatively to this exclusivity of “self” and
“other,” exposing and cultivating the spaces that connect “self” and “other”—
the overlaps of commonality and difference—we cannot find a way to allow
equality and difference to coexist. Fortunately, some theoretical and practical
avenues are already present as recessive moments within various accounts of
the contemporary meaning and workings of the Westphalian settlements. In the
concluding section of this essay, we briefly explore these avenues and their

From a Purifying Hatred to an Empire
of Uniformity

Most historians consider the Thirty Years’ War—and the Peace of Westphalia
that brought it to a close—to be among the major events of the latter half of
the millennium. Ronald Asch (1997:7) calls the Thirty Years’ War “the best
example of a political event which profoundly changed political and social
structures, and perhaps even collective mentalities.” The decisiveness of these
events is sealed by the predominant view of the Peace of Westphalia as sig-
naling the move from a religious to a modern, secular world and from the
accepted, if somewhat vaporous, goal of a united Christendom to a system, or
perhaps society, of independent states (Thomson 1963:814; Pages 1970:17,
250). There is nothing foreign about this interpretation: the decisiveness of

5 Though Benjamin (1988:63) explains that “splitting” has a “narrow, technical use”
in psychoanalytic thought, she suggests that, when applied to “supraindividual” pro-
cesses, it also carries a “broader metapsychological and metaphoric meaning.”

The Westphalian Deferral 33

these events is asserted, if not taken for granted, by most of the field of inter-
national relations.6

This period is indeed notable for the central role played by religious con-
viction in instigating military conflict. While legal and political motivations—
such as the limits of the Emperor’s authority and dynastic rivalry—were certainly
present, such factors took on a distinctly religious hue. Just as we today per-
ceive the ubiquity of the economic motive (whether narrowly or broadly con-
ceived), both the ruling classes and the masses of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries are said to have seen the events of their time through a distinctly
religious gaze (Thomson 1963:800; Brightwell 1979:418; Langer 1980:11; Lock-
hart 1995:1–2; Asch 1997:7). The religious conflict flaring up in the six-
teenth century and all but consuming the seventeenth century found its initial
spark in the Reformation’s challenge to the ideological monopoly and material
power of the Catholic Church (Friedrich and Blitzer 1957:10–11; Van Creveld
1999:67–84). This challenge persisted and escalated with the spread of various
forms of Protestantism among the masses and the conversion of certain terri-
torial princes in Germany. Put in terms we introduced above, the “other” demand-
ing recognition was experienced as a pressing threat. Princes loyal to Catholicism
leapt to or were drawn into a defense of the Universal Church—a Counter-
Reformation led by the Habsburgs, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Papacy.
Protestants responded in kind, and both sides mobilized for war. Years of inde-
cisive hostility were brought to a temporary halt by the Peace of Augsburg

6 See, for example, Gross (1968:47), Bull (1977:27–38), Morgenthau (1967:299),
Herz (1959:43–44), Ruggie (1998:188), Linklater (1998:23–24), Van Creveld (1999:86,
159– 60), and Spruyt (1994:178–79, 191–92). However, two kinds of protest have
arisen recently within international relations. The first, exemplified by Stephen Kras-
ner’s “Westphalia and All That” (1993), takes aim at this narrative in order to dispute
the decisiveness of ideas in constituting the state system. His discussion of the ambi-
guities of the Peace of Westphalia—its failure to break fully with the Medieval order—is
instructive, though not at all sufficient to defeat the idea that theory and practice are
inextricably intertwined. His later (1999) claims that sovereignty has always been
honored in the breach, accommodating various forms of rule, is similarly important.
More telling is his conclusion (1999:235) that “Constitutive rules never exclude alter-
natives.” Ironically, Krasner imagines that his dissenting views about sovereignty sup-
port IR (international relations)