Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
Treaties in Danger? Contemporary Crises of International Order in Historical Perspective
The rise of political populism in Europe and the United States, together with its accompanying nationalism and isolationism, has generated widespread apprehension that instability and division at the national level are scaling up to unsettle the international realm as well. The symptoms seem to be widespread: the Trump administrations withdrawal from international agreements; Russias invasion of Crimea; Brexit; even a failed referendum in Switzerland to prefer Swiss law over foreign judges: all seem to indicate a crisis of the so-called rules-based international order. The ligaments of that order are treaties the ties that bind international actors together in webs of trust and obligation. But where did the idea that treaties could create order come from? And what is the relation of treaties to various forms of disorder, such as empire, power politics, and the supremacy of the state over the individual and other competing actors? This lecture traces ideas of treaty-making and treaty-breaking over the centuries to place contemporary concerns in long-range historical perspective.