Empire Collapse, State Fragmentation and Balance of Power in World History

Empire Collapse, State Fragmentation and Balance of Power in World History

Project owner / organizer
Museo Roca-Buenos Aires ()
Buenos Aires
From - Until
21.01.2009 -
Saguiere, Eduardo

Empire Collapse, State Fragmentation and Balance of Power in World History. A Proposal for a New Research, by Joaquin E. Meabe, Jorge Paredes and Eduardo R. Saguier, and the collaboration of Maximiliano Korstanje

We have recently launched a website http://www.nationstatecrisis.org
in which we present our research program. Any comments on the contents of our Proposal and the possibility that your Center links our site will be deeply appreciated. Once you have entered into our Website do not forget to return to my mail and acknowledge receipt.

This Program or Proposal raises the question of whether the first
absolutist empires that fell apart (the Spanish, the Ottoman, the
Habsburg, the Tzarist, the Qing) could be compared among them and to the first modern European empires (the British, the French, the Dutch, the Belgian), and the last modern empires (Soviet Union, China). We also argue that the formation of the nation-states and their crises, which are currently taking place in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Levant (West Asia), could be mutually compared.
It seems to us that these crises are a current global phenomenon that cannot be studied in isolation. Apparently, they were originated in the particular way in which those empires collapsed.

We have launched this new website http://www.nationstatecrisis.org

to encourage studies and promote connections among them. Furthermore, we want to organize an International Conference which will be held at a time and place to be determined..

It is not surprising that the construction of individual Big Tales tends to ignore the parallel development of neighbor states or other continents (America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Levant), which are ignored in an increasing way or are stereotyped by means of derogatory statements (American degeneration by DePauw/Buffon, and oriental despotism by Wittfogel); binary models (East-West by Spengler), continental exceptionalisms and eurocentric conceptions (Hegel, Comte, Ranke, Barrington Moore, Wallerstein, Hobsbawm, Huntington).[1] Such indifference can be traced to the point that in the making up of the national identities, according to Andreas Wimmer, there is a tendency to replace the legal distinction between estates and between masters and serfs or slaves that was effective during the modern imperial absolutism, with the distinction between citizens and foreigners that ruled in the republican modernity. This new distinction turned neighbors, people that so far had been subjects of the same imperial jurisdiction, and users of the same institutions (universities, churches, hospitals) into citizens and users of alien nations. Furthermore, with world wars and the repeated territorial partitions neighbors turned into citizens with consecutive and multiple political identities, and into populations formed by foreign forced migrations.[2] More recently, the legal distinction between citizens and foreigners has been replaced by the new distinction between natives and immigrants as a result of the crisis of the nation-state.[3]

It does not require great perspicacity to perceive the obvious incompetence of these founding (institutive) orders to generate sustained and vigorous civil societies. On the other hand, said incompetence, ingrained in the social imaginary, has run parallel to the incapacity of the ruling classes (so acutely examined by Walter Bagehot) in most of Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Levant (West Asia), to design a program to expel the estasic violence, to ameliorate the right of the strongest and to facilitate the means for the different groups and social classes to understand mutual obligations in the frame of true republican orders and fair and sustainable democratic societies.

Such societies, that protect immigration and settlement, respects the rights of citizens and ethno-religious identities of the individuals and offers at the same time opportunities for self-realization and dignity at work, is still a mere expectation with a not very clear orientation given the influx of ideologies which, driven by urgencies, dogmatism or mere opportunism have left such imaginary intact, a founding (institutive) order that hinders and weakens any effective change. .

The contradicting and conflictive interpretation of the political obligations has been plagued with never settled antagonisms, sublimated conflicts and double standards which were reflected in a large number of simulations of republican adaptation. Over half a century of efforts to stabilize, the republic have ended, throughout the 20th century, in successive breaches of the constitution, unbearable dictatorships and a phenomenal nation-state crisis, de-coupling the nation from the state, followed by persecution, torture, and disappearance of members of the opposition or simple suspects. These perverse simulations of renovation with a clear Gattopardo approach, have been reflected as dubiously novel government action plans or have been behind the façade of ideological proposals that are no more than a cosmetic intervention in a scheme that perpetuates the vicious circle of the established power. This power in turn reinforces the group entitled to distribute benefits to the dominating or privileged classes and to the eventual appendices operating as their tributaries.

In this complex, disturbing and even contradictory scenario, in which not only the intelligibility of our historical evolution is at stake but the very destiny of our societies, the answers and the expectations depend on a necessary historical balance at global scale, which is a bit more than a mere settlement of accounts with the Official History.

The old problems of war and peace, as intents to restore a balanced order, or to get rid of an established disorder (methanastasis), by different means (direct violence, commerce, law, communications, armies, and ethnic and religious or ideological homogeneity) so deeply examined by Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss, and which were reexamined in the modern notions of Universal Monarchy, Just War, Equality of States, Common Law, Perpetual Peace (Democratic Peace and Cosmopolitan Peace), Armed Peace (Arms Race), Peace Commitment, Revolutionary Peace, Separate Peace, War of Aggression, Religious War and Preemptive War, formulated by Vitoria (1532), Grotius (1625), Montesquieu (1731-33), Kant (1790), and Bismarck-Moltke-Waldersee (1885-90), as well as the proposal of Cornelius Castoriadis over the conglomerate formed by the magma of the founding social imaginary, has allowed us to establish and disintegrate, at a global scale, a remarkable variety of events.[4]

This disintegration shaped the adaptation and successive reproduction of the political obligation and its institutional forms and the related obligations and prerogatives in the new states that emerged starting with each revolution and/or world war. Starting with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, in the rest of the world the nation-states grew steadily, exercising afterwards colonial domination, to finally detonate.[5] This deflagration occurred all over the world: first in France and its colonies (Haiti, 1793; and Louisiana, 1803); then in Latin America after the fall of the Hispanic Absolutist Empire in 1808 and the transfer of the Portuguese Court to Brazil (1808); later on in the Far East, Eastern Europe and the Levant (or South-West Asia) after the fall of the last absolutist empires (Chinese, Ottoman, Habsburg, and Tzarist) that erupted with the Great War (1912-1918); afterwards in Europe and the Far East with the collapse of the Axis (Germany, Italy, Japan) during the 2nd World War (1922-1945); subsequently in Africa, Asia and the Levant after the collapse of modern empires (Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland) after the last world war (1952-1960); and ultimately in Eastern Europe, Mao´s China and the former Soviet Union after the Fall (1989).

Moreover, and combined with the problematics of empire, war, peace, order, religion, reformation, enlightenment, secularization, and founding (institutive) social imaginary, we have adapted the notions of empire-decline built by Edward Gibbon and Arno Mayer in connection with de fall of the Roman and Ottoman Empires, the colonial empire model, the notions of formal and informal empire, studied by Onley (1953) and by Gallagher and Robinson (1953), with regard to China and South America; the notions of thalassocratic empires and thelurocratic empires, referred to the centrality of the sea or the continent; and lastly the notion of New Imperial History outlined by Gerasimov, Glebov, Kaplunovski, Mogilner, and Semyonov (2005).[6] On the other hand, we have implemented those notions of perpetual peace; world federalism or league of state; and of enlightenment and secularization, elaborated by Kant, commented by Rousseau and Bentham, and developed by Blumenberg.[7] The access to the Enlightenment will depend, for Kant, on the freedom offered by the state for “making in all aspects a public use of its reason”.[8] By the way, the linkage of an enlightened scholar with Christianity was --according to Peterson (1999) and Voegelin (2006)-- of an increasing tension similar to the one that has been experienced by Augustin of Hipona, at the end of the Roman Empire, with Varron´s ancient civil theology.[9]

Similarly, we have incorporated the notions of balance or relation of forces (or power) developed by Thomas Hobbes and David Hume and recovered by Foucault (2006, 2007) and the English School of International Relations.[10] According to Akinola (2006), who analyzes the confederation of states such as Nigeria, but could be extended to several other states such as the USA before the War of Secession, or Germany and Italy before their respective national unities, the methods and techniques of maintaining or restoring the internal balance of power were: “…the policy of divide and rule (working to diminish the weight of the stronger side); territorial compensations after a war; creation of buffer states; the formation of alliances; spheres of influence; intervention; diplomatic bargaining; legal and peaceful settlement of disputes; reduction of armaments; armament's competition; and war itself”.[11] Besides buffer-states, we have also inquired into the notions of satellite-state (part of a formal empire), client-state or client-monarchy (part of an informal empire), failed-state, rogue-state, and vacant-state.[12] We have also applied the no less important notion of fragment-state or Staatsfragmente of Georg Jellinek, as well as the Aristotelian concepts of methanastasis (generalized internal disorder) and symmakhía (non-territorial armed conglomerate) which combined with the notion of balance of forces closes a conceptual and theoretical circle that will allow us to engage in the interpretation of multiple historical phenomena until today hidden in uncertainties and misconceptions.[13] These notions, along with Jellinek´s doctrine of subjective public rights, helped us to reconstruct the aggregation and internalization of the founding social imaginary. This social order led in turn to the Established Order and provided the content for the Great Tale in which the Founding Heroes play the extraordinary disciplinary role – wonderfully described by Memel Foté (1991)- that gradually has allowed the survival and perpetuation of a corrupt social order, void of expectations, intolerant and in continuous retraction.[14]

The central aspect of this research has been structured around the aforementioned theory aiming at reconstructing the problem of the formation and development of the founding (institutive) order and the changes in the institutional form of states. In the Franco-Hispanic-Lusitanian colonial space such changes took place from 1793 until their final consolidation around 1880; in Africa, Asia and the Levant (or South-West Asia) started with the Versailles Treaty and the decolonization process of the 50s and 60s; and in Eastern Europe started with the fall of the Wall (1989). Then, the work tries to establish the matrix of its legitimizing function and its connection with the Great Tale to take the form of the Official History.

The hard core dimension, of this investigation is the specific review of the different periods in which the evolutionary sequence falls into disorder, paying attention in each case to the detailed disaggregation of the disciplinary task of the institutive social imaginary that has played a clear legitimating function. From another point of view, this legitimating function has been clearly linked to the conclusive role of the founding fathers, which --with stubborn insistence-- has been used as a disciplinary social emblem and a symbol of the Great Tale that has become known in different countries in the form of the Official History.[15]

The crisis of the six (6) absolutist imperialisms (Pre-revolutionary French, Iberian, Ottoman, Chinese, Tsarist and Austrian), although not equivalent, because strong differences were among them, since some empires like the Austrian have been always thelurocratic, while others have been thalassocratic and became thelurocratic, like the cases of China, Russia and the Ottoman Empire, and all of them brought about the reminiscence and forced comparisons with the long Roman decline.[16] In our analysis, the only decisive development was the aggressive action of Napoleon´s forces and the no less warlike enemies, with their opposing coalitions (six consecutive Coalitions), their alliances (Swiss Confederation, the Confederation of the Rhine, 1806-1813), and their corresponding peace treaties.[17].

At the beginning, imperial declines and permanent distortions of the balance of forces were promoted by mutual confrontations among imperial powers (Iberian, Tsarist and Austrian against Ottoman, Austrian against Tsarist, and British against Tsarist) and by their interest to compensate the costs of war by means of territorial partitions (annexations, cessions, exchanges, creation of buffer states), commercial privileges, mutual pacts of religious tolerance, and interimperial and international agreements, which constituted a sort of zero-sum games, where what a world power obtained it was lost by another, for which reason was very relevant to evaluate in cases of war the seven (7) elements of each balance of material forces: territory, wealth (including balance of trade), population, army (including military technology), communications (roads and telegraphs), and ethnic and religious or ideological homogeneity.[18]

But later, confrontations were started by new and secularized world powers that appeared for the first time in world history: first England, then Prussia, and later on France. The road to the fall of the Hispanic Absolutist Empire, the real “Sick Man of Europe”, had been gradually paved throughout the 17th century, when the Peace of Westphalia (1846) guaranteed the independence of the Portuguese Kingdom and its colonies from the Spanish Empire; and during the 18th century, when the Habsburg dynastic extinction, the War of Succession and the Peace of Utrecht (1713-14) ended with the dying dream of a universal monarchy by imposing among multiple sovereignties the politics of the balance of power.[19] Similarly, the first defeat of the Ottoman Empire, after the expulsion of Moors from Spain (1492) and Lepanto (1571), was experienced in its War against the Austrian Empire, between 1683 and 1697, which ended up in the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699);[20] of the Chinese empire in the Opium Wars (1842); of the Tsarist Empire in the Crimean War (1854-56); and of the Austrian Empire in the battle of Koniggratz or Sadowa (1866). These military collapses were anticipated in the early 19th century first by the revolutionary interventions of the Directory and Consulate; and then by the Napoleonic interventions, that involved in Egypt Admiral Nelson, the Ottoman Sultan Selim III and Commander Jezzar Pasha; in Russia the Tsar Alexander and his Ministers Tatistcheff and Pozzo di Borgo; in Austria the emperor Francis I and his ambassador Barón Wessenberg; and in Spain the Prince of Peace, King Charles IV, his wife and his son Fernando, and the War of Independence that followed the Bayonne abdications. Finally, the Congress of Vienna (1815), became a short up to date of the Peaces of Augsburg (1555), Westphalia (1648), Utrecht (1713-14), Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), Paris (1763) and Versailles (1783), and a frustrated outcome of the indefinite or Perpetual Peace demanded by Kant and developed by Rousseau and Bentham.[21]

In different places in the five continents, the dissolving and ephemeral action of the new Napoleonic order brought about an unbalanced distribution of world forces and an intense and long methanastasic process (decomposition of a group in situations of complete antagonism within a social ensemble) oriented to a violent and total rupture.[22] This seggregative military process or political pathway occurred over eight (8) waves or phases, and more than thirty (32) courses of action, with their particular territorial partitions, balances of material and symbolic forces, historical stages (pre-revolutionary, pre-colonial, colonial, neocolonial, postcolonial) and cultural moments (political, religious, military, economic), lasting almost a couple of centuries.

In this process of socio-political reformulation, and multiple territorial segregations, confederations, annexations and cessions, the first methanastasic wave was given by the collapse of the French colonial empire (Haiti, Louisiana). The fall of the Spanish Founding (institutive) Order became the second wave. The third wave took place in Europe at the end of the 1848 Revolution, which gave rise to Germany, Belgium and Italy as nation-states, and their later European expansionism (Alsace-Loraine, Norway) with similar aftermaths in Africa, and during the same period in North-America, with the emergence of modern United States; in South-America, with modern Argentina, Brazil and Chile; in Eastern Asia, with the emergence of modern Japan; and also the dismemberment of the old African empires of Ethiopia, Ghana (Ashanti), Congo, Mali, Benin and Zimbabwe among the modern and annexationist European imperial metropolis (France, Great Britain, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy). The fourth wave, complementary with the previous one, happened during World War I with the break-up of the last absolutist empires (Chinese, Ottoman, Habsburg and Tzarist) and a new balance of power (1911-1918). The fifth wave took place during the Inter-war period and collapsed during the 2nd World War, because of not being able to militarily impose a New Order (1922-1939). The sixth wave took place during the slightly peaceful decolonizing process of the modern European empires in South Asia (India) and the Levant (Arab Countries) after the 2nd World War (1952-1955). The seventh during the bloody decolonization process of the French (Algeria), Belgian (Congo) and Portuguese Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau) and South-East Asia (Indo-China, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, East Timor) in the 60´s, and the eighth and last wave during the rivalries and decomposition of Tito´s Yugoslavia (1948), Mao´s China (1960) and the Soviet Union (1989). All these waves, although interconnected, distinguished themselves because of different combinations of their historical legacies, cultural moments and balances of power.[23]

[1] Among continental messianisms we find ourselves surrounded with eurocentrism [galocentrism, germanocentrism, slavocentrism], afrocentrism [congocentrism, swahilicentrism, zulucentrism], sinocentrism, hinducentrism, easterncentrism, latin ethnocentrism, etc.
[2] About explaining territorial disputes: from power politics to normative reasons, see Forsberg, 1996. About the linkage between internal wars and colonial wars, see Grangé, 2005.
[3] About the crisis of the nation-state in Latin America, see Mann, 2002.
[4] see Voegelin, 2006, 204-205. About Suárez, Grotius and epigones, see Moratiel Villa, 1997. About commerce, power and justice: Montesquieu on International Politics, see Rosow, 1984. About the transition from a state of war to perpetual peace, see Demenchonok, 2007. About Kant, liberal legacies, and foreign affairs, see Doyle, 1996. About Kantian perspectives on democratic peace, see Cavallar, 2001. About Cosmopolitan Democracy versus popular sovereignty, see Franceschet, 2000; Nakano, 2006; and Archibugi, 2008. About Peace Commitment and Revolutionary Peace, see Ferro, 1998. About the building of Order after major Wars, see Ikenberry, 2001. About Leo Strauss, see Lastra, 2000; and Hilb, 2005.
[5] About Inter-State, Intra-State, and Extra-State Wars, 1816-2003, see Wayman and Sarkees, 2005. About military conscription in the French Empire (1800-1810), see Frasca, 1991.
[6] About the Imperialism of Free Trade, see Gallagher and Robinson, 1953. About Informal Empire in Argentina: an Alternative View, see Hopkins, 1994. About War, Diplomacy and Informal Empire: Britain and the Republics of La Plata, 1836-1853, see McLean, 1995. About Informal Empire in the History of Anglo-Argentine Relations, 1810-1914, see Thompson, 1992. About British Informal Empire in Uruguay in the Nineteenth Century, see Winn, 1973. About the Japanese informal empire in China, 1895-1937, see Duus, Myers and Peattie, 1989. About German Informal Imperialism in South America before 1914, see Forbes, 1978.
[7] About Kant´s defence of a League of States and his idea of a World Federalism, see Foucault, 2007, 75-82; and Kleingeld, 2004. About Metternich's theory of European Order, and an agenda for indefinite or Perpetual Peace, see Sofka, 1998. About war and perpetual peace in Hegel and Kant, see Alves Borges.
[8] Blumenberg, 2008, 433.
[9] See Uribarri, 1999, 46, note 82; and Voegelin, 2006, 110.
[10] About the balance of power, diplomatic history and international law, see Donnadieu, 1900; and Livet, 1976, quoted in Foucault, 2006, 342, 344-354. It must be underlined that Foucault in this research ignores Hume and gives all the credit to Donnadieu. Moreover, we should underline that when Meinecke (1943) and Pocock (1975) deal with Hume forget to mention his famous essay On the Balance of Power. About the balance of power in Thucydides and its influence in the Modern World, see Kemos, 1997. About the rise of Balance-of-Power politics, see Knutsen, 2007; and Barbé, 1987. About Hedley Bull and his contribution to International Relations and the balance of power, see Hoffman, 1986; Lechner, 2007; and Hjorth, 2007. About the English School's contribution to the study of International Relations and the balance of power, see Little, 2000; Copeland, 2003; and Suganami, 2002.
[11] Akinola, Taiwo Nigeria Has A Balance of Power Problem http://www.dawodu.com/akinola2.htm
About the Roots of Political Instability in an Artificial Nation-State: The Case of Nigeria, see Ejiogu, 2001.
[12] About Historicising representations of ‘failed states’, see Bilgin and Morton, 2002. About Failed States, Warlordism and "Tribal" Warfare’, see Woodward, 1999. About the new nature of nation-State failure, see Rotberg, 2002.
[13] About the notion of symmakhia, see Meabe, 1998, 1999, and 2004.
[14] For a theoretical approach to the territorial power of the state in fragmentation processes, see Jieli, 2002. For Jieli (2002) the territorial dynamic is based in topographic, demographic and ethnic variables.
[15] About Tiradentes, see Murilo de Carvalho, 1997, 97.
[16] About a comparison between British and Roman Imperialism, see Brunt, 1965.
[17] Basilea, 1795; Campo Formio, 1797; Amiens, 1802; Presburgo, 1805; Tilsit, 1807, Erfurt, 1808; Schönbrunn, 1809; Chaumont, 1814; and Fontainebleau, 1814.
[18] About monarchy and religion in Europe, 1589-1715, see Monod, 1999. About the Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War, see Burleih, 2005.
[19] About Westphalia and its link with the Augsburg Peace Treaty (1555), see Cruz, 2005. About the growth of international law and the mediation of the Republic of Venice in the Peace of Westphalia, see Bussi, 1999. About Utrecht and the emergence of the Great Powers, 1685-1715, see Wolf, 1951.
[20] About the battle of Lepanto, see Yildirim, 2007. About Ottoman wars, 1700-1870, see Aksan, 1993, 1995 and 2007.
[21] About the notion of universal monarchy, see Yates, 1975. About religious toleration, the Peace of Westphalia and the German territorial estates, see Asch, 2000. About the Treaty of Westphalia and new territorial dimensions of Modern Statehood, see Brunn, 1998. About the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and the origins of sovereignty, see Croxton, 1999. About Westphalia, authority, and international society, see Philpott, 1999. About war in German thought, from the Peace of Westphalia to Napoleon, see Wilson, 1998. About the Congreso of Viena according to the Marquis of Labrador´s mailing, see Villa Urrutia, 1928.
[22] The methanastasis is a general internal disorder or decomposition process in conditions of complete antagonism within a social aggregate, see Meabe, 2007.
[23] For a discussion about colonial legacies, see Ballart and Bertrand.

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