Rethinking the Westphalian Order during WW I:

Max Weber on the Timeliness of the European Polity



Kari Palonen

The publication of the Max-Weber-Gesamtausgabe volumes, including his letters and a recent study of Hinnerk Bruhns, have revised the canonical view on Weber as a German nationalist. With a conceptual and rhetorical analysis of his essays Deutschland unter europäischen Weltmächten (1916) and Zum Thema Kriegsschuld (early 1919), I offer an alternative view on Weber’s relationship to European politics.

He defended the ‘Westphalian’ system of balance between great powers, to which he wanted after the end of the War to incorporate Woodrow Wilson’s plans for a new League. Weber was a critic of German wartime policy, maintained his Anglophile sympathies, and saw in tsarist Russia the main threat both to the balance between powers and also to the European Kultur, to which he did oppose barbarism, not the Francophone Zivilisation.

Weber supported the parliamentarisation of German politics and sketched in the 1919 article a proposal for new regulations of warfare in international law. Although Weber could not imagine the EU’s supra-national Parliament and Commission as new elements in the balance of European powers, it would be plausible to advise, in the Weberian spirit, the small member state to strengthen these supra-nation institutions.

About the Author


Kari Palonen is Professor of Political Science (emeritus) at the University of Jyväskylä.
His major publications deal with the history of the concept ’politics’, with principles and practices of conceptual history, with parliamentary procedure and rhetoric as well as with the political thought and methodology of Max Weber.
Currently he is member of Niilo Kauppi’s Finnish Distinguished Professorship project Transformation of Concepts and Institution of European Polity (TRACE) and co-chair of the ECPR Standing Group Political Concepts.
Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Thinking in terms of Chance
3. The polity of European and world powers
4. A defence of Kultur against the tsarist barbarism
5. A proposal for regulating warfare
6. Temporalisation of the Westphalian order

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