Organizing the International System


Recourse to the notion of a system makes it possible to go beyond a view of the international scene as being reducible to a simple conglomeration of powers. Any system is based on a collection of values, rules and practices that are shared by the different actors, and that enable their coexistence as well as the easing of tensions and the resolution of conflicts. Europe’s place in the international system has evolved from the early modern period to today. The Westphalian order based on balance of power, which was Eurocentric and built by and for the continent’s great powers, gradually gave way in the twentieth century – under the blows of two world wars – to the universal and normative logic of the LN and the UN, before European construction attempted to provide original responses to post-Cold War challenges.

Gerard ter Borch, The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648.