December 23, 2011

The History of the Idea of "Balance of Power"

Miloš Vec , Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, has published De-Juridifying ‘Balance of Power’ – A Principle in 19th Century International Legal Doctrine in the European Society of International Law (ESIL) Conference Paper Series. Here is the abstract.

“Balance of Power” has always been one of the leading justification narratives in international relations. In the introduction section this paper gives an overview of the usages of the principle which is not limited to a particular epoch or geographic area. However, it was classically attributed to the European state system, to brand the era between the treaty systems of Utrecht 1713 and Vienna 1815 when it was discussed as legal and political principle. My paper argues that the international legal doctrine of the 19th century became increasingly reluctant in juridically approving this principle. This shift indicates a vanishing sympathy for the balance of power as an adequate instrument to regulate 19th century interstate relations; this was likewise related to a rejection of the restorative Vienna order. Most international lawyers disguised their reserve behind the formal-positivist distinction between international law and politics (which could be understood as moral and political decision). The principle of the balance of power was devaluated as a mere expression of Realpolitik. At the end of the 19th century, the majority of international lawyers regarded the balance of power as political, not juridical principle. It was shifted to the historiography of international law and to political sciences.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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