Blaney & Inayatullah  2000
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Blaney & Inayatullah 2000

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were many who would kill
and burn in the name of theological doctrines that no one could give any
conclusive reason for accepting. The intellectual debate between Protestant
Reformers and their Counter-Reformation opponents had collapsed, and there
was no alternative to the sword and the torch. Yet the more brutal the warfare
became, the more firmly convinced the proponents of each religious system
were that their doctrines must be proved correct, and that their opponents were
stupid, malicious, or both.

We should not be surprised, then, that the barbarities were unspeakable, of a
kind some trace to this time (Langer 1980:101), though recognizable in the
events of our own century. The pillaging of the countryside was accompanied
by torture and rape, often including children and pregnant women. No religious
grouping was spared; nor were the religious dissenters less cruel than their

The Westphalian Deferral 37

persecutors (Lynn 1991:94; Wedel 1991:42– 45; Parker 1997:186–88). The sav-
agery reached such a scale that the inhabitants of Styria, who had contributed
generously to Emperor Ferdinand’s coffers, claimed that his armies has caused
more destruction and suffering than the dreaded Turks (Nichols 1989:261–
263). And one of the Hutterite brethren, a group subjected to perhaps the worst
indignities, compared the infidels favorably to their fellow Christians: “Even
Turks and Tartars . . . would have said it was too much.” Thus Wedel, echoing
Toulmin’s analysis with which we began, takes the treatment of the Hutterites
as evidence of the power of a “purifying hatred” (Wedel 1991:46– 47).

Purifying hatred, one might imagine, burns with great fury but can also
exhaust itself, especially when joined by an equally furious fire. Indeed, it is
argued that exhaustion again led the combatants to a series of peace tables and
the resulting treaties are usually labeled the Peace of Westphalia. Historian
Georges Pages’ view (1970:250) is emblematic of the interpretation usually
ascribed to this set of events:

The peace of Westphalia substituted the idea of independent states, a sort of
international society, for the idea of a united Christendom. The peace did not
openly express this idea but it did contain the idea of a society which took no
account of the method of government of its component states. . . . Similarly,
no account was made of the dominant religious faiths. On the international
plane, Europe became a secular system of independent states. It was the dawn
of the principle of nationalism.

S. Harrison Thomson’s account of the events (1963:814) likewise portrays the
Peace as a marked step forward for religious tolerance:

The achievements of the peace congress in the controversial area of religious
liberty, while not revolutionary, were not insignificant. . . . Complete tolera-
tion was not to be expected. The old principle of cuius regio eius religio was
deeply ingrained in the princely class. Now, however, Calvinists were toler-
ated and the princes were expressly enjoined not to interfere in the religion of
their subjects.

Hans Morgenthau’s assertion (1967:299) that, by the end of the Thirty Years’
War, “sovereignty as supreme power over a certain territory was a political fact,
signifying the victory of the territorial princes over the universal authority of
emperor and pope,” is similarly exemplary of international relations orthodoxy.
Others follow suit. Leo Gross (1968:47) claims that the “Peace of Westphalia
consecrated the principle of toleration by establishing the equality between
Protestant and Catholic states and by providing safeguards for religious minor-
ities.” Terry Nardin (1983:50) described the emergent international society sim-
ilarly as a system of mutual tolerance and accommodation. Stephen Krasner
(1993:242– 44; 1999:73–82), though he doubts the claim that Westphalia imple-
mented the idea of sovereignty, stresses the attempt of the treaties to contain

38 Blaney and Inayatullah

religious conflict by fixing boundaries in a system of nation-states, by disen-
tangling religion and politics, and by fostering greater religious tolerance. In
general, then, and to repeat a point, Westphalia normally is seen as a key marker
of the eclipse of the Medieval world by modernity: a movement from the reli-
gious to the secular, from the idea of Europe as unified by Christianity to a
European system of independent states, and from a web of overlapping and
competing authorities to a modern state system based on the demarcation of
exclusive territorial jurisdictions.

What is crucial, here, is the intimation that Westphalia and a nascent moder-
nity represent initial but definitive steps towards a solution to the problem of
difference. We wish to complicate this reading, challenging the received view
because its veneration of Westphalia tends to blind us to: the creative responses
to difference that were lost during this period; the persistent, if understandable,
evasion of the task of exploring the source of the wounds in the dominant
response to difference; and the manner in which the intellectual discourse, orig-
inating in the shadow of the Thirty Years’ War, reinforced, rather than chal-
lenged, the interpretation of difference as a dangerous aberration from the norms
of stability, safety, and order. Thus, a richer story necessarily qualifies any
effort to establish Westphalia as a clear marker of the transition to a tolerant
modernity. We will elaborate these points in two steps.

First, the attempt to contain difference within the state both deferred a deeper
exploration and engagement of the problem and forced a diverse set of exper-
iments designed to manage difference. Ronald Asch (1997:193–94) notes that,
rather than a solution to the problem of religious difference, Westphalia kept
alive the religious conflicts of the previous century, “confirming the existing
status, rights, and privileges of the confessional churches,” and thereby “per-
petuating religious divisions,” albeit in a more “muted form.” Combined with
the recognition of independent sovereigns, the effect was to divide “ ‘Europe’
into Catholic and Protestant spaces” and spur “the interstate construction of the
continent” (Campbell 1992:51). Thus, despite the treaties’ relative embrace of
religious liberty, the moral constraints placed on rulers were, as Krasner
(1993:244– 45) observes, on a collision course with the sovereign right to dic-
tate the faith of the realm as originally acknowledged in the Treaty of Augsburg
and as supported by the emerging reality and theory of sovereignty. “[F]rom
now on,” Toulmin (1990:91) concludes, “established religion was the general
rule.” This move, by setting difference at a distance, may well have helped to
minimize the prospects of religious war on the scale of the Thirty Years’ War,
but at a price: the problem of difference was simply displaced into the “domes-
tic realm.”

However, the consequences for religious liberty were not uniform across
the newly sanctified states. Rather, Toulmin (1990:92) describes a situation
where each state individually faced “the continuing problem of religious con-

The Westphalian Deferral 39

formity and toleration.” Despite the expectation of submission to a national
faith, nonconforming minorities remained a troubling issue. The “other,” thought
to have been placed at a distance, was found within. And, though “[a]fter thirty
years of bloodshed, few people still considered the price of imposing religious
conformity worth paying,” Toulmin (1990:92) reports that “the local pressure
for conformity remained strong, and religious minorities were everywhere sub-
ject to some degree of discrimination or persecution.” But the degree did vary—
each national experience representing “a different variation on a common set of
tunes.” In Austria, the Habsburgs remained as “leaders” of the Counter-
Reformation: “continued Lutheranism was seen as disloyalty to the Habsburg
dynasty, and the Protestant minority of craftsmen and professionals had