Blaney & Inayatullah  2000
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Blaney & Inayatullah 2000

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to choose
between conversion, death, and flight.” English papists were targets of discrim-
ination, but the treatment they received paled in comparison to that dealt out to
“heretics” in France. Under the rule of Louis XIV, “the Protestant minority was
denied the right to work in many professions, and exposed to military attacks
that drove them back into their traditional strongholds, deep in the Massif Cen-
tral.” Consequently, large numbers of Huguenots exercised the option of “flight,”
either “across land, or [as] boat people . . . headed for England or America.”
Calvinist Holland, lacking the constraints of long-standing institutions, was
“unusually tolerant” of Catholics. Everywhere, a balance was struck that “stopped
short of the horrors of a renewed religious war” (Toulmin 1990:92–93). While
this was no mean achievement, it is still clear that the problem was not so much
resolved as it was deferred—displaced into the domestic realm where, hope-
fully, it could be managed and contained. The variety of efforts at management
and containment that the Westphalian move sparked, and continues to demand,
are important nonetheless.8 We will return to this theme below.

Second, the received view of Westphalia as a crucial point of transition to a
more civilized era ignores the relatively negative impact of the experience of
the War on thinking about difference. Rather than supporting openness towards
the “other,” or fostering a view of difference as a resource, the intellectual
legacy of the era is a pervasive suspicion of difference. Disorder and degener-
ation are thought to result from difference; uniformity or homogeneity is strongly
associated with social order and stability. In Toulmin’s account (1990:67– 69),
the Thirty Years’War shook the “cosmopolitical” conception of a hierarchically
arranged and integrated natural and social order that undergirded much of late

8 Nevzat Soguk (1999:62, 67–74) sees the displacement of the Huguenots not only
as a key early example of the problem of “refugees,” but as a clear marker of the rise
of the effort to manage, and often homogenize, populations—an effort central to state-
craft in an emergent system of territorial states.

40 Blaney and Inayatullah

Medieval thinking and practice. Spurred by the resulting anxious and pessimis-
tic mood, the intellectual project to restore such order is best seen as a “defen-
sive counter-revolution”—a closing down of options produced by a frantic search
for certainty (Toulmin 1990:16–19, 81; the quoted phrase is on p. 17).

More specifically, the possibility of turning to the pluralism and relative
skepticism of Renaissance humanism was discredited as not up to the task of
containing religious difference and anchoring social order:

In this blood-drenched situation, what could good intellectuals do? So long as
humane Renaissance values retained their power for Montaigne in the private
sphere, or for Henry of Navarre in the public sphere, there was hope that the
reasoned discussion of shared experiences among honest individuals might
lead to a meeting of minds, or, at least, to a civilized agreement to differ. By
1620, people in positions of political power and theological authority in Europe
no longer saw Montaigne’s pluralism as a viable intellectual option, any more
than Henry’s tolerance was for them a practical option. The humanists’ readi-
ness to live with uncertainty, ambiguity, and differences of opinion had done
nothing (in their view) to prevent religious conflict from getting out of hand:
ergo (they inferred) it had helped cause the worsening state of affairs. If skep-
ticism let one down, certainty was more urgent. It might not be obvious what
one was supposed to be certain about, but uncertainty had become unaccept-
able. (Toulmin 1990:54–55)

And, Toulmin (1990:55) continues, where differences in religious faith had
proved so destructive, the appeal of a standpoint beyond question was

Failing any effective political way of getting the sectarians to stop killing each
other, was there no other possible way ahead? Might not philosophers dis-
cover, for instance, a new and more rational basis for establishing a framework
of concepts and beliefs capable of achieving the agreed certainty that the skep-
tics had said was impossible? If uncertainty, ambiguity, and the acceptance of
pluralism led, in practice, only to an intensification of the religious war, the
time had come to discover some rational method for demonstrating the essen-
tial correctness or incorrectness of philosophical, scientific, or theological

Thus, Toulmin (1990:56– 62) links the impetus for Descartes’ search for a sin-
gle and certain principle, from which all else would necessarily follow, to this
mood and the parallel need to answer Montaigne’s epistemological skepticism.
Many took hope from Descartes’ project and turned to the effort “to construct
abstract and timeless intellectual schemes.” Certainty became associated with
“geometrical proof” or “mathematical structures” (Toulmin 1990:105; see also

The Westphalian Deferral 41

pp. 20 and 75).9 And, as Toulmin (1990:76) describes the thought, “if ethics
were to join physics and logic on the rational side of the fence,” humanity
could “escape the chaos of diverse and uncertain opinions.” This move entailed
the gradual privileging of the written, the universal, the general, and the time-
less, on the one hand, and the denigration of “practical philosophy,” with its
reliance on “argumentation” or “case analysis,” involving “particular people in
specific situations, dealing with concrete cases, where varied things were at
stake,” on the other (Toulmin 1990:70, 31–35). The former promised certainty
and safety; the latter opened the way to disagreement, conflict, and the danger
of chaos.

We can trace the parallel and connected consequences of this mood for
thinking about politics and political organization. Deborah Baumgold (1993)
explains that seventeenth-century thinkers—most prominently Grotius, Hobbes,
and Locke in her account—were engaged in a “common intellectual project” of
“pacifying politics” in the wake of religious conflict, both international and
internal. As in social theory more generally, restoring political order was thought
to require a foundation of unchallengeable principles, proofs, and powers (Tuck
1988:29; Toulmin 1990:76–77; Tully 1993:184; Boucher 1998:225). Quite
famously, the thinkers of this era sought a foundation for authoritative political
organization—a sovereign power—in the idea of a social contract. Because
such a contractual arrangement was treated as if it were independent of, or
neutral in relation to, religious belief, it was seen as a more certain basis for
political authority and, thereby, a solution to the problem of political order
(Tuck 1988:29; Baumgold 1993). Not surprisingly, given the primacy assigned
to social harmony, the predominant view of the time (Grotius, Pufendorf, Hobbes,
and initially Locke) was that the sovereign authority was justified—for practi-
cal or political, but not religious, reasons—in subordinating religious liberty
whenever necessary to limit conflict and defend social order (Tuck 1998:29–
34). Even where religious tolerance was defended (as in Locke’s later work), it
was often justified on narrow, prudential grounds, not as part of an embrace of
pluralism (Waldron 1988).10 Rather, Locke’s extension of tolerance to dissent-
ers is made against the assumption of certain givens: natural law and a Chris-
tian Commonwealth. Atheists and Catholics were still beyond the pale, legitimate
religiosity was restricted to a distinctly Protestant version of a privatized, indi-
vidualized faith, and diversity remained a threat to be subjected to community

9 R. G. Collingwood’s discussion (1981: pt. II., Section 1) of this period is remark-
ably similar. See also Friedrich and Blitzer (1957:1) and Walker (1993:128–130).

10 Others (Wootton 1993; Creppell 1996) recognize the role of such prudential argu-