Imperialism and the making of modern world order


The majority of narratives describing the international order are marked by their overwhelming eurocentrism and are centered upon what the textbooks and huge literature taught to every generation of students, the “Westhphalian model of sovereignty” and its corollary the birth of a new model of political organization specific to Europe, the European statehood, the doctrine of sovereignty. Rather the history of modern world commencing in fact in the Peace of Westphalia has been determined and still today continues to be determined by imperialism embedded everywhere through its political creatures, the current states and the nations, its political and economic institutions(UN, IMF), its philanthropic foundation(Nobel Prize), its Vatican state ( John Paul II crusade against east European communism), its ideologies nationalism, racism, civilizing mission, eurocentrism, national self-determination, language (terrorism, fundamentalism, developed and the developing categories, war against terrorism, failed states, bad governance), its knowledge, its assumptions, concepts and the mode of classification of things and human beings its mode of inquiry its vision of the world, its mode of reasoning, its culture (see Edward said Culture and imperialism)

To better understand how imperialism has shaped the modern world order, it is imperative to take as starting point of our inquiry, the unavoidable and stimulating and suggesting reflections and theoretical analyses of the German Jurist and philosopher Carl Schmitt and his book the Nomos of the Earth written in Berlin during the Second World War. The “Nomos” was originally intended to provides accurate arguments and theoretical and philosophical basis for German Grossraum, a sphere of influence analogous to Monroe doctrine’s demarcation of the Western hemisphere for the United States. Although Carl Schmitt do not uses expressly and plainly the term imperialism, his book the “Nomos” traces in some way, even unwillingly and unconsciously, its genesis and the development through different epochs; Rather, European imperialism since the “discovery” of the “new World” till the First World War is subsumed under what he termed jus publicum Europaeum (European public law ) This book is topical to the extent that it depicts and analyzes the modern world order as a world system shaped by jus publicum Europaeum(read European imperialism) with its main players and their geopolitical rivalries, competing each other for conquering and colonizing vast territories, for controlling their resources and preventing potential intruders to intrude upon their own sphere of influence .

In the “ Nomos”, Schmitt tries to demonstrate the illusory character of the “Westphalia doctrine of sovereignty” as there is nothing of that we call state sovereignty; For Schmitt, there is only Grossraüme that every state aspire to build and to appropriate, to control and to prevent potential intruding to introdute upon her Grossraume, her great space.  In order to support his arguments, Schmitt took as example the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 considered as the foundational act of US imperialism by setting the Western Hemisphere as its own Grossraum its own sphere of influence. The real motive of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 was that the borders of the United States should not stop at their frontiers conquering from the Spanish Empire but they must expand inexorably until embodying the Western hemisphere at Monroe own time before stretching later thanks to Roosevelt imperialism in the late nineteenth century to the Philippines and Cuba and after the Second World War to the rest of the world. For Schmitt, although the old jus publicum Europaeum (euroepan imperialism) took an end in the aftermath of the WWI, nothing had been changed in its structure and in its goals, the sole move that it will be mentioned was that of terminology the terms “political annexations” and “territorial annexation” that existed in the old world order have been replaced by new ones invented by Woodrow Wilson “freedom and self-determination”, the old political annexation has been replaced by “mandate “ and protectorate” by “recognition “ and by the “right of intervention”. Thanks to The mandate system and protectorate” system setting up by the victors of WWI in Versailles treaties, the result that “sovereignty” “freedom” independence” and “self-determination” lost their meaning since the then European imperialist powers and the United states could intervene when their political interests were involved and could make decisions with respect

Let us take for example the Mandate system established in the aftermath of the First World War. The division of mandates in the A, B, C categories was a distinction based on the perceived internal development of non-Western societies towards the capacity to be sovereign  the distinctions justified distinct levels of intrusive governance by the mandatory powers. the Mandate system required the Permanent Mandate Commission to develop standards for guiding the progress of the mandates towards self-determination and sovereignty. This Mandate system has led to the development of an international administrative structure capable of analyzing large amounts of empirical data collected by the mandatories and producing adaptable standards of governance these techniques of governance added to new. The mandate system policies focused on disciplining the mandates peoples into a population of efficiency  motivated by their own interest the mandatories fostered the under development of the mandate territories as sources of raw materials and destinations for finished products. Under the Mandate system the sovereignty transferred to non-Euroepan peoples was distinct and inferiori to that enjoyed by western states it was a partial sovereignty deprived of economic power.

The model devised by the Mandate system legitimating in the name is one that repeats itself in modern projects of development and UN trusteeship  the mandate system set in place the “legal structures, ideologies and jurisprudential techniques denying full self determination and sovereignty to non western peoples  it devised technologies to administer Third World states  and it articulated a justification for intervention through the concept of economic under development.