ABSTRACT

During the past decade, both scholars and practitioners in the field of international politics have experienced a growing unease about the validity and viability of long-prevailing political and intellectual beliefs. The predominant focus on the European state system in international relations theory and practice has seemed increasingly questionable in light of the decline of the major colonial regimes and the concomitant emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as the world's preeminent military powers. The singular importance of postwar U.S.-Soviet relations and the strategic nuclear competition that so shaped these ties testifies to the existence of a vastly different structure of international power. Yet, despite the change, scholarly effort has failed to produce a newer and more coherent conception of the international state system and the institutional and legal norms underlying it. As a result, past assumptions—in particular, those ascribing to the European state system universalistic norms about the exercise and management of power—have persisted.