Governing the World: The History of an Idea, 1815 to the Present
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A majestic narrative reckoning with the forces that have shaped the nature and destiny of the world’s governing institutions
The story of global cooperation is a tale of dreamers goading us to find common cause in remedying humanity’s worst problems. But international institutions are also tools for the powers that be to advance their own interests. Mark Mazower’s Governing the World tells the epic, two-hundred-year story of that inevitable tension—the unstable and often surprising alchemy between ideas and power. From the rubble of the Napoleonic empire in the nineteenth century through the birth of the League of Nations and the United Nations in the twentieth century to the dominance of global finance at the turn of the millennium, Mazower masterfully explores the current era of international life as Western dominance wanes and a new global balance of powers emerges.
problem—and dream—of internationalism as such does not exist for Mercier as it does for Bodin. Sometime between the 1770s and the 1830s, in other words, it became possible, against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the Concert of Europe, to imagine an alternative international politics, one that acknowledged the diversity of peoples, beliefs, and forms of government and showed their reconciliation under the banner of civilization.14 This was new. And it was connected with something
as far-fetched as most Americans find the talk of black helicopters and a New World Order engineered by a conspiratorial global elite. And of course, since the tragic fiasco of Iraq, U.S. foreign policy has returned to multilateralism, reluctantly during Bush’s second term and more decisively under Barack Obama. Yet the basic trajectory is real enough. We have moved from an era that had faith in the idea of international institutions to one that has lost it. But we have lost more than that.
direction to the principles that originally animated them. A broader array of voices and perspectives will enrich the rather rigid forms of economic thinking that have predominated since the 1970s.39 Getting the institutional architecture right is the subject of endless position papers and reform proposals. But there are two kinds of more fundamental change that will need to take place too.40 In the current crisis, politicians have essentially acted as underwriters, essential but subordinate
peoples,” since they lacked a recognized sovereign. The lands of “barbarians”—in North Africa, say, or the Middle East—could be “occupied”; but in practice, such occupations often became permanent, as happened after the Russian army invaded Ottoman Bulgaria and Habsburg troops took Bosnia during the Near Eastern crisis of 1875–78. Bulgaria became first autonomous and then independent, while Bosnia ended up inside the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Far from leaving existing Ottoman institutions intact,
version, the alliance was justified by reference to the UN Charter, which provides for the right to collective self-defense, and administration officials argued that its signing did not mean the UN was no longer important. Indeed, they insisted at great length that it was not a traditional kind of military alliance. But that was fundamentally what it was. Once Dwight D. Eisenhower, a man with much less time for the UN than the Democrats, took office, more regional alliances were crafted,