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New Left Review 26, March-April 2004


Gopal Balakrishnan on Benno Teschke, The Myth of 1648. Recasting the origins of the modern state system within the matrix of emerging capitalist relations.

GOPAL BALAKRISHNAN

THE AGE OF WARRING STATES

According to conventional wisdom, 1648 marks the moment of creation: the inauguration of the modern inter-state system. The Peace tortuously negotiated in the Westphalian towns of Münster and Osnabrück—while half-starved mercenary armies, spurred on by France or Sweden, Austria or Spain, continued to ravage the farms, towns and villages of the German principalities—famously recognized the territorial sovereignty of the 300-odd states of the Holy Roman Empire. Their princes were freed from the imperial yoke, empowered to contract treaties with each other and with outside powers, sole rulers of their own dominions. French absolutism appears at the centre of this story, as the power that secured the diplomatic recognition of this pluriverse of sovereign states.

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