This work presents a myth-busting account of how class conflict and economic development, and not only interstate rivalry, led to the emergence of the modern state system.
Inspired by the groundbreaking historical work of Robert Brenner, Teschke argues that property relations provide the key to unlocking the changing meaning of 'international' across the medieval, early modern and modern periods. Challenging the reification of the Treaty of Westphalia, Teschke shows that international politics remained under the control of dynastic and absolutist political elites that were rooted in feudal property regimes.
The book rejects a commonplace of European history: that the treaties of Westphalia not only closed the Thirty Years’ War but also inaugurated a new international order driven by the interaction of territorial sovereign states. Benno Teschke, through this thorough and incisive critique, argues that this is not the case. Domestic ‘social property relations’ shaped international relations in continental Europe down to 1789 and even beyond.
The dynastic monarchies that ruled during this time differed from their medieval predecessors in degree and form of personalization, but not in underlying dynamic. 1648, therefore, is a false caesura in the history of international relations. For real change we must wait until relatively recent times and the development of modern states and true capitalism. In effect, it’s not until governments are run impersonally, with no function other than the exercise of its monopoly on violence, that modern international relations are born.