The beginnings of the management of the international system: the European concert and the new internationalism

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We will try to understand the development in the 19th century of the multilateral diplomacy sector. We will touch pre-war internationalism. The "long nineteenth century" is a concept of historical sciences that is defined with the break of the French Revolution in 1789 until the First World War. At the same time, we are talking about a 20th century from 1914 to the end of the Cold War in 1989. There is an ideological and political clash between liberalism and conservatism and later in the second half of the 19th century to socialism. The idea of the rule of law and the establishment of privacy protection will be adopted. With the industrial revolution, at the economic level, there are new structures with the class struggle, a huge expansion of consumption and the beginning of social mobility which will become much more important in the second half of the 19th century. Democratization means that an expansion of compulsory school education, the integration of new social strata at the political level with new male voters, the workforce becomes more important and there is the establishment and formation of public opinion. Globalisation is reflected in European dominance, which is complemented by the United States, Japan and the dominions. The adoption of this dominance means global trade. These are elements that developed significantly in the 19th century.

At the same time, there is the rivalry between states that show up in trade and the invention of the calculation of gross national product that and statistical data being created to compare the power of states in this rivalry. There is also a demographic rivalry, with the reintroduction of the Olympic Games in 1886, there is the idea of maintaining a peaceful rivalry between nation states. Nationalism is the adoption of the idea of the national state, which is something absolutely new with a state that wants to be homogeneous within and in external competition. In the middle of the 19th century, the awakening of small peoples will take place, leading to the cataclysm of the First World War. These are small peoples who are beginning to nationalize. The peacemakers in Paris in 1919 were faced with the problem of redrawing Europe's borders.

The 19th century was also a century dominated by science, technology and technology, in particular with the invention of electricity, the beginning of motorization as well as the establishment of norms and standards at the international level, the invention of telegraphy and the construction of train networks. These last two elements are really two developments that will create a global network, a world is created with networks. Positivist thinking believes that it is possible to solve problems with technology. This positivism in science is also evident in historical science, particularly with Ranke, who will establish a critique of the sources.

The concert of European powers[edit | edit source]

Craig Murphy and Madeleine Herren show how the community of states evolved in the 19th century through the process of modernization that will influence multilateral diplomacy. This change is extremely important to understand what will happen after the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and the establishment of a new world order with the peace treaties and the creation of the League of Nations.

After the French Revolution, Napoleon's accession led to the leadership of a French Empire with a destabilizing impact on the European monarchical order. This is a period when there are many monarchies with the exception of the United States and Switzerland. Europe, the continent then experienced a series of wars and unprecedented devastation, with the Napoleonic wars.

The five major European powers in 1840 :

Following Napoleon's defeat, peace and the former monarchical order were restored. This restoration is a new element with a series of multilateral congresses and conferences, the most famous of which is the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The 1648 Westphalian Treaties were negotiated for several years in a multilateral context. The size and frequency of the diplomatic congresses of the powers and something new after the Napoleonic Wars. Through the new system of international congresses, peace has been restored as well as the interim imperial order. It is a flexible mechanism that developed naturally within the framework of the war coalition against Napoleon. The member countries of this concert are the United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia. It is the continuation of the quadruple alliance during the war against France and Napoleon that develops in the period of peace. Even if the power of these four powers was quite different, they define themselves as great powers. In order to maintain international and European order, these major powers declare themselves authorized to manage and resolve European policy issues. At that time, these are mainly territorial issues. From the point of view of contemporary international law, this is usurpation and interference in the affairs of other States that are sovereign States, but cannot participate in this concert of great powers. This practice of interference is also called "directorial policy" based on the real military strength of the major powers and was not really discussed with other states. Even the Swiss envoy Kern during the serious crisis in Neuchâtel in 1858 when the King of Prussia claimed dynastic rights over the canton of Neuchâtel. Kern does not question that only a conference of the great powers was considered competent to question a decision taken by the great powers. Kern refers to the London Protocol of 1853. The concept of the national state was introduced in the 19th century, although it is not yet well established.

Three phases are intended:

  • a repressive phase from 1815 to 1823 following the Napoleonic wars is marked by a natural cataclysm with the explosion of a volcano on the island of Java which causes a global climate change in 1816 that enters history as a year without summer. The result was the loss of many crops and a food crisis followed by a rebellion in the restored states. There is a repression of the monarchy against popular movements.
  • a pragmatic phase from 1823 to 1848: this phase is marked by a pragmatic policy of the European concert. In parallel with the industrial revolution, especially in the first place for Great Britain, there is a very strong economic dynamic that leads to a liberal policy of non-intervention. According to this pragmatic policy, the European concert should only be set up in the context of a threat to peace. This situation of relative calm led to a new historical situation in the early 1830s. The European powers founded two new sovereign and independent states, Greece and Belgium. New states are founded, but a monarch is installed at their head. The directorate of the major powers regulates the destinies of European states, even those that are not neighbouring states. We start touching the whole European card.
  • the phase of the decline of European concert from 1848 to 1914 is parallel to the European colonial phase. In 1848, Europe was affected by radical revolutions, the international monarchical order set up after Napoleon's fall was destabilized by the awakening of civil society. The wars of national reunification in Italy between 1860 and 1861 are the risorgimento, and in Germany after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and 1871, there is a complete disruption of the situation in Europe and the European concert. The war between major powers in the European concert is leading to a redefinition of its role. Conferences are used to resolve imperial and colonial conflicts between the major powers. The international law of the 19th century will be defined, which divides humanity into three very unequal groups, namely the civilized nations, which are the European nations, the eastern barbaric nations and the savage nations. This subdivision of peoples would play an important role in the peace of Paris in 1919, leading to the establishment of the system of mandates that would be established within the framework of the League of Nations. The mentality of a subdivision of the world leads to the 1884 Berlin Conference to share Africa according to the doctrine of terra nullius. This doctrine says that every land discovered and where no administration is led, a European State can appropriate it. This policy led to the brutal colonization of Africa and Asia against indigenous populations. The participants in this conference are the European powers with the United States and Italy.

Historians' interpretation of the concert of the great powers is essentially negative, the management system is often undemocratic, the First World War is proof of the failure of the European concert which was unable to avoid it. Nevertheless, one may wonder whether the United Nations today is not a continuation of the guiding principle within the framework of the Security Council. Historians also see in the European concert a whole series of innovative elements. These elements have contributed to the development of multilateral diplomacy. In "Defenders of the Right"? Diplomatic Practice and International Law in the 19th Century: An Historian's Perspective", Schulz sees a direct line between the European concert and the creation of the League of Nations. A plurilateral diplomacy will develop that differs from the multilateral diplomacy of the major powers. Schulz identifies that between the ambassadors' conferences held in Paris in 1814 and 1818 and the London conferences on the Balkans between 1812 and 1813, there are 42 formal international conferences, which is a significant number. These conferences have produced hundreds of sessions set out in protocols and minutes. This process of setting standards leads to the production of texts that have formed international law. The concert is not simply a meeting place for the great powers, but now includes experts found in Madeleine Herren's theories.

Global governance in international organizations[edit | edit source]

Craig Murphy is a professor of international relations and political scientist working closely with historical sources. He sought to analyse the development of international organisations in the second half of the 19th century in the context of globalisation in his book entitled "International Organization and Industrial Change. Global Governance since 1850" published in 1994. Murphy analyses the phenomenon of global governance within international organizations. It identifies global intergovernmental agencies open to any sovereign state. Murphy's work and the interpretation of international organizations as a result of social forces based on Antonio Gramsci's historical block theory being a Marxist theory based on class analysis.

Murphy has a septic analysis of global governance. There are some global organizations that have had different degrees of internal power, but the main element is the changes that have occurred through industrial change. Murphy argues that international organizations have promoted industrial capitalist change that facilitates transport and communication infrastructure by protecting intellectual property and reducing barriers to global and economic trade. These are activities that have led to the idea of liberal internationalism. It is an internationalization of the world that is developing because there are interests in creating trade. It is a theory based on the process of industrialization. This is why international organizations have played an important role in the periodic replacement of technological innovations. Every time there has been a technological leap, Murphy states that new international organizations have emerged to regulate this new acquis. One of the first organizations was the International Telegraph Union, which Murphy called the International Unions.

Definition of international organizations[edit | edit source]

For Madeleine Herren, international organizations are globalized cross-border structures that function as actors in international civil society and states. These international organizations are part of global organizations. This is a new element that differs from the concert of nations. International organizations ensure the exchange of information as one of the main elements for the interest of States in international development.

Les unions administratives internationales[edit | edit source]

International Telecommunication Union – 100th anniversary. U.S. stamp, 1965.

Public international unions were established in the 19th century and are the predecessors of international governmental organizations. These organizations were founded through intergovernmental treaties. There are governments that sign treaties with each other. Member countries meet at conferences and will finance an international administrative service that serves as their executive body. Unlike current non-governmental organizations, services are placed under the supervision of the State in which they are based. The International Telegraph Union based in Berne is controlled administratively by the Swiss Federal Council. These administrative unions, until the founding of the League of Nations, subsequently became specialized agencies of the United Nations. The most important institutions are the Telegraphic Union and the Postal Union. It is a different system from that of the League of Nations where there are internal networks, with the UN, these organizations will become specialized organizations of the UN.

The difference today between governmental and non-governmental organisations reflects a post-World War II situation that does not work at all for the 19th century period. There is an area of ambiguity in this sector characterizing the international network of the 19th century. Murphy establishes complex theories about the different phases. It is based on the analyses of Antonio Gramsci who elaborates the theory of the historical block building the concept of liberal internationalism which is based on the ideas that:

  • the capitalist economy tends to cross state borders;
  • the interdependence between capitalism, industrialism and the republican political economy is necessary for the common good;
  • the immanent interests of the national states are holding back the industry.

The new social strata that are developing from this industrialization have an interest in creating rules. For Murphy, it is not an idealistic vision based on thinkers like Kant, but financial and economic interests will drive this development. With the concert of powers, there are seven powers at the centre of the analysis, with Murphy's approach, the object of analysis opens up with administrative organisations talking about conglomerates of European states and the United States, which refer to a dozen states. The analysis of international congresses leads to many more participants to reach even non-sovereign states like Egypt. There is something new and that was introduced in the second half of the 19th century. According to Murphy, from the 1860s onwards, international administrative unions developed until the First World War.

Between this half-century, there was a phenomenon that had not existed before with thirty-four international exhibitions. These international exhibitions were the result of what characterized the 19th century, namely places to show technological progress and new inventions while putting States in peaceful competition. There is a movement of something new seeking to show the progress that there is especially in the technical field. At the same time as the international exhibitions, there were international conferences on all kinds of subjects and themes. Madeleine Herren published in 2000 "Hintertüren zur Macht. Internationalismus und modernisierungsorientierte Außenpolitik in Belgien, der Schweiz und den USA 1865-1914.

Herren analyses three countries, namely Belgium, Switzerland and the United States. Looking at the example of Switzerland and making a comparison with the United States and Belgium, Herren analysed how forms of nationalism took shape in the 19th century. These three countries are, at this time in history, neutral states. The United States declared itself independent in 1776 and 1787, Belgium was established in 1830 and Switzerland established a state structure in 1848. These countries were considered to be liberal countries that formed rule of law relatively quickly. These countries were very successful in the economic field, being highly integrated in world trade. These three countries had for their time democratic systems with political freedoms. Their national consciousness was directed towards multinational cohabitation. Switzerland and Belgium were in direct competition for their role as precursors for their internationalist role in Europe. In the 19th century, these three countries were on the periphery of powers by being part of the concert of the great European powers, with the exception of the United States, which established itself as a major power in 1898 following the war against Spain. There are new forms of international trade organization.

The structure of the concert was an informal structure and contacts were unstable, ad hoc and subject to political development. To combat this contingency and this rather weak situation, in the second half of the 19th century there were institutionalized platforms for trade between States around new themes that transcended the traditional interests of diplomacy. These platforms were established in a different way, but with a desire for sustainability. For example, the establishment of an office with a headquarters and more or less regular meetings around a subject that until now had not been the subject of international politics, which focused only on major politics and not on technical issues. These new platforms could be described as government internationalism. These are new themes and it is the States that are responsible for them. Many of these structures that still exist today are starting out in this network. A second important change concerns participation in this network. Small and medium-sized States were also involved in this internationalism. Congresses and conferences were also held outside Europe. What Herren called the periphery of power could also enter this network and, above all, participate actively in it.

A new way of practising international relations[edit | edit source]

The first consequence of this galaxy that is being set in motion is that the idea of the sovereign state is facing an expansion of a principle that and that of public international law. The modernisation that underlies this system in order to regulate many aspects at supranational level means that this adjustment must also be made in small countries and regions where there is no sovereign state. Standardization is not essential. These international technical organizations open their doors for States that are not theoretically sovereign. Egypt is a member and has the right to vote within the Universal Postal Union even if Egypt at that time is not a sovereign State. There is an interest in regulating the market and world trade.

The traditional mode of the major powers' foreign policy was secret diplomacy. Important decisions were made between few actors in non-public meeting places. The agreements were made in secret, in almost all treaties there are secret clauses that are not public. The networks of this new internationalism will become public with public meetings, the results of the debates and discussions are published and accessible to everyone. The public domain is established in the field of international relations. Even this public sector characterizes the new internationalism that began in the second half of the 19th century. The integration of the public domain was the expression in the foreign policy of the second half of the 19th century and was also an element of democratization of international public policy. States are no longer just a government that manages foreign policy, but there is increasing interference through parliaments.

The normal interpretation is moving from an analysis between competing States to an analysis of the need for cooperation. The 19th century was characterised by imperialism and the arms race, which went hand in hand with technical cooperation that seemed apolitical. The networks present will be set up in 1919 with the creation of the League of Nations which takes over what was started in the second half of the 19th century.

The fourth element mentioned by Madeleine Herren is the change linked to a hegemonic policy and new foreign policy themes. This is undoubtedly the central feature of the new internationalism, which is a broad thematic scope affecting foreign policy that until now has not been so. Now there is a galaxy of conferences and international organizations that was not in the realm of foreign policy. This vast expanse will continue in the League of Nations system and in the United Nations system. Conventional diplomacy was part of the new foreign policy that was in the domain of the great powers. It is rather the peripheral States that are asserting themselves in this field, such as Switzerland and Belgium, that are finding a place in this new phenomenon in order to become active and to ensure a certain level of power. International organizations in the 19th century were subject to the control of the headquarters State, which is a power issue.

This new international phenomenon, by necessity, also requires new people. These are mainly technical issues that do not emerge from diplomats, but from experts. This is the emergence of the figure of experts at the international level. This leads to a revalorization of the role of experts, which shows the expansion of foreign policy to groups in the administration of the State and even to the margins of the State apparatus. It was with the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919 that the experts, particularly the American delegation, sent a commission called the "Inquiry" which sought to understand the complexity of the situation in Europe after the First World War according to scientific criteria in order to seek a lasting and stable peace.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]