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Fr. Fédéralisme

Esp. Federalismo


The world clash between nationalism and federalism

There is a striking analogy between the current global economic and political crisis and the world crisis occurred between two World Wars. Then the great depression of 1929, Mussolini's and Hitler's ascent to power and WWII, today the financial and economic crisis, the growth of populism and nationalism, the decline of consent towards democratic institutions, includingin Europe, the terrorist attacks, ISIS massacres on behalf of the cult of death – a trait very similar to nazism –, the return of war at the periphery of Europe from Ukraine to Syria, Gaza, Yemen, Libya...


The return of politics

Both crises have their systemic origin: the change in the mode of production and the change of the international political order.

The first half of the 20th century saw the transition from the first to the second phase of the industrial mode of production. The production techniques introduced by the assembly line and the conveyor belt together with he use of oil, electricity and the internal combustion engine have brought about the decline of nation-states and the rise of multinational and federal states of macro-regional dimension. The rise of the US and Russia to the top of the world power hierarchy marked the transition from the epoch of nation-states to that of macro-regional states and international organizations grouping several nation-states. The EU and other international organizations are part of this process.

This does not mean that the nation-state is destined to disappear. It is too small for big issues and too big for small ones. Therefore, it will survive provided that it transfers a part of its powers and competences to higher (macro-regional and global) and lower (regional and local) levels of government. But there are many issues – first of all welfare policies – that can (and should) be addressed at national level.

The late 20th century saw the start of the transition from the industrial to the scientific mode of production, Scientific knowledge is the driving force of the economic and social progress. Automation relieves workers from industrial fatigue, increases the quantity of goods necessary to satisfy material needs and reduces their price. The revolution in digital, communications and transport technologies intensifies the flows of goods, capitals, persons, information and cultural models. The scientific revolution generates global markets and a global civil society and dwarfs sovereign states, even the largest ones we used to call superpowers and creates the need for global institutions. It is to be noted that European unification and globalization belong to two different phases of history: the second phase of the industrial mode of production and the scientific mode of production, respectively.

These changes in the mode of production have been matched by equally deep changes in political structures. After the end of WWII, the European states system codified by the peace of Westphalia (1648) was replaced in 1945 by a world system led by the US and the USSR. The nation-states of Europe became satellites of the two superpowers. Today, the transition to a multipolar world order is underway. The history and theory of international relations teaches that in multipolar systems a balance of power tends to take shape in which it is unlikely that an individual state could become stronger than the coalition of all the other members of the system. This system favours the respect of shared rules. Instead, if a dominant power forms, it is encouraged to disregard the rights of the other states.

What distinguishes the emerging multipolar world system from similar international systems such as the European concert(1648-1945) is that states have to face an unprecedented challenge: the competition with non-state actors – first of all the financial oligarchies and multinational firms, but also the organized crime and international terrorism – for the decision making power at international level.

Unlike in previous cycles of world politics, which underpinned the international order with the hegemonic stability for a single great power – first pax britannica in the European states system, then pax americana in the world system – today a power redistribution is underway between a plurality of global actors, none of which has the resources to aspire to world hegemony. If this tendency is confirmed, we will be able to assert that the Cold War was the last old-style conflict for world hegemony. Therefore, from now on, the international order will be ensured only through cooperation based on law among the protagonists of world politics and multilateralism within the framework of international institutions. This is the way in which politics may regain the upper hand over the economy and govern globalization. The global financial and economic crisis has marked the failure for the concept of self-regulated markets and neo-liberal ideology. Politics, which had given up governing the economy and society, is re-occupying the stage.

Two political answers to globalization are competing: nationalism and globalism. Nationalism represents the return to the past with its array of disasters. The only alternative is the adjustment of political institutions to the dimension taken by economy and society so as to pave the way to a regulated globalization. In today's transitional period the US and Russia represent the old order, ride the wave of nationalism with the purpose of defending their old privileges. But their efforts are vowed to defeat, since it is impossible to go against the course of history.

On the other hand, China and the EU have vital interest in maintaining open markets, regulating their modus operandi and correcting their distortions. Even though it is unaccomplished, the EU experiment is a model for the world. It has proved capable of governing a multinational space through institutions tending to evolve in a federal direction. The EU has been able to join the principles of a market economy with those of the rule of law and constitutionalism and spread them at the European level. If becomes a global actor speaking with one voice, it will acquire the power to promote the democratic values beyond its borders either where democracy has never been achieved (China, Saudi Arabia, North Corea, Sudan etc.) or where it is retreating (Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland etc.) within the framework of a regulated globalization.

At the world level a new dividing line between the progressive and reactionary forces is outlining, that echoes the one traced by the Ventotene Manifesto: the dividing line between nationalism and federalism. The value pursued by federalism is peace through constitutionalization of international relations, i.e. through the extension at the international level of the principles of the rule of law and democracy. This is precisely what the world needs today.

Lucio Levi

Centro Einstein di Studi Internazionali (CESI)


Fr. Pacte mondial

Actors, association, civil society, commons

A major weakness of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was the dismantling of the notion of regulating the private business and financial sector, especially Transnational corporations. In its place was the notion of business as a partner in sustainable development, on par with all other “stakeholders”. Today, in a world that is more unequal, with a small number of Transnational corporations dominating each sector and exerting tremendous influence over Governments, this concept of “partnership and stakeholders” perpetuates the myth that there is a collective endeavour, and that all players are equal and conflicts of interest can be resolved by roundtables seeking consensus. Significant examples of involvement with multi-stakeholder operational partnerships are the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization or the UNHCR Partnership in Action.

In other cases, such as the Global Compact initiated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, many NGOs are extremely concerned over the extensive privilege granted to the world’s largest transnational corporations. Many of these have unacceptable environmental and human rights records, and the Compact underscores the inequities faced by developing countries, civil society and nongovernmental and people’s organizations at the negotiating table and at decision-making venues. Some governments have also voiced similar concerns. There are concerns that the corporate partnerships between UN agencies and big business (in addition to the Global Compact) will create more unequal participatory relations among the various major groups. This could undermine public confidence in the United Nations and efforts to implement sustainable development that is people-centred. Many NGOs and other civil society partners are thus calling for a dissolution or substantial redesign of the Global Compact and have written a number of assessment reports to monitor the members of the Global Compact.

Generally, there has been some progress at the local level (especially by communities and

some local governments with active NGO participation in many cases), the overall prognosis is negative. At the global level, there has been improved access for civil society and progress in concluding the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Kyoto Protocol

and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and other multilateral environmental agreements, as well as the ICC. But, as a whole, the implementation of such agreements has been disappointing. In almost every case, there is even weakening if not outright rejection of the spirit and letter of multilateral environmental agreements by certain countries. Instead, the globalization paradigm with its free market-driven liberalization has overtaken multi-stakeholder agreements.

As to the Global Compact, UNRISD studies observe that there seems to be an emerging academic and policy consensus on the need to develop more rigorous methodologies for assessing the impacts of public-private partnerships in the fields of service delivery, poverty reduction and political participation (Thomsen 2007). Impact assessments are seen as necessary for guiding policy makers, stakeholders and PPP analysts in determining under which conditions a PPP is an appropriate solution. The aim of this programme is for hundreds of companies, trade unions and other civil society organizations throughout the world to advance ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption under the banner of the UN:

-          Human rights: 1. Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and 2. make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses;

-          labour standards: businesses should uphold 3. the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; 4.the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour; 4. the effective abolition of child labour; and 6.the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation;

-          environment: businesses should 7. support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges; 8. undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and 9.encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies;

-          anti-corruption: businesses should 10. work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery. 

However, the head of the Global Compact acknowledged that no systematic effort had been made in evaluating the net impact of initiatives undertaken within the compact, which is a purely voluntary initiative. In the absence of such evidence, concerned communities are asked to stay cheerful and trust the good intentions of partners involved with the Global compact.

Peter Lund-Thomsen, Assessing the Impact of Public-Private Partnerships in the Global South, 2007

Ghils Paul, “The International Civil Society,” International Social Science Journal, UNESCO, August 1992

Davenport David, “The new diplomacy”, Policy review, 116, December 2002

Utting Peter, “UN-business: whose agenda counts?”, Transnational Associations, 3/2001



Fr. Historicide

Esp. Historicidio

→ Ecocide, feminicide, genocide, ethnocide


Like "ecocide" and "ethnocide", “historicide” is a term coined on the model of "genocide", which means "destruction of the environment" (from the Greek oïkos and Latin caedĕre, to strike, to slaughter). Like any linguistic signifier, "historicide" cannot be definitively fixed and evolves according to current usage or terminology conventions. Its semantic content ranges from planned extermination to any form of systematic but partial aggression against a given population, the effects of which may be physical in nature without necessarily being a form of extermination (systematic sexual aggression, psychological aggression), but also cultural, such as looting of heritage and acculturation, otherwise known as "ethnocide" or, more rarely, "historicide" (Haass 2017).

One obstacle to the transmission of historical facts rendered according to criteria considered scientific is the epistemological perspective and, in a second step, the ideological option that may have influenced it.  The basic concepts used by history and, secondarily, the history of IRs, generate theoretical debates that focus on the frame of reference, whether it is based on notions of order, system, society and/or categories of actors such as States, ethnic groups, empires or, more broadly, cultures and civilizations. Thus, the theory that sees in the Westphalian state the central actor is challenged by the hypothesis of the predominance of empires in the long term (hence the "parenthesis" of states) or, even more generally, by the evolution of societies and the consideration of non-state actors.

The time perspective, on the other hand, will focus on the notions of system evolution, crisis and disruption, or processes dictated by the causes and consequences of specific factors (Reus-Smit 2016). History in the West is often based on the idea of evolution and progress between origin and end, such as the conception imposed by medieval Christianity inspired by a universalist faith. A similar vision can be found in Marxist ideology, which saw the evolution of the economy dictated by a class struggle leading inevitably to the triumph of the proletariat. The Victorian vision of history is not far off, which saw in the deployment of the British Empire the emergence of constitutional government and the industrial revolution (Butterfield 1973, cited by Macmillan and Quinton-Brown 2019).

However, unlike the progressive, unidirectional tradition that has become familiar in the West, Thucydides (2009) argued that "history is a perpetual restarting", in line with a concept that is found in many cultures. Thus, some Chinese historians thought they could discern an invariable cycle, from decadence to rebirth, in the course of history. But but Chinese conceptions differ just as much, as Peter Opitz (1993) points out by distinguishing three conceptions. The first, Confucian, known as the "mandate of heaven" (or "celestial mandate"), postulates the legitimacy of the emperors' power by invoking the approval that Heaven grants to wise and virtuous leaders, which in turn legitimizes the people to rebel so that a more virtuous dynasty can then be entrusted with the Heaven's Mandate. This last point differentiates it from the notion of a monarchy of divine right in Europe, which often had an absolute character. The second conception is that of decline after a "golden age" of origins, as stated by Laotseu in the Tao Te King (Dàodé Jing), while the third is the cyclical theory of "five actions" or "five elements", attributed to Zou Yàn (300 a.c.n.).

Another distortion of historical data is imposed by political leaders when they adopt or create certain interpretations of scientific data, which leads historians Macmillan and Quinton-Brown (2019) to say that “History has been used—and abused—for centuries”. The authors also quote Thucydides, who in the 5th century wrote that history affirms itself as a completed form of politics, even though it is unable to ground in truth its claim to apprehend facts and determine what is useful. This does not prevent Thucydides (2009) from expressing, they say, “the optimistic hope that his work would serve as a guide for ‘all time’ ”. Later views may not be very different, in so far as the Europe of the Renaissance still referred to ancient Greek and Roman documents for practical advice on government and relations among states. One example cited by the authors in their introduction is Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, which also made it clear that “his purpose was to decipher the lessons of the past as an aid to statecraft in the present.” ((Najemy 2010, p. 96–111, cited by Macmillan et Quinton brown, 181)

Macmillan and Quinton-Brown also mention non-European areas, such as Imperial China and its deep respect for the wisdom of the past, illustrated by civil service examinations from the Han to Qing dynasties, which were based on great classics. The Chinese discerned, they say, an invariable cycle in history of decay and renewal. Other attempts to find grand patterns in history can the found in Western cultures, as in medieval Christianity, when the past and future was explained through the lens of the triumphalist, universal faith; or in the Victorian era, when British histories typically did something similar with the emergence of constitutional government and the Industrial Revolution at the height of the British empire's heyday. Karl Marx is still a different but similar working-out of history, seen as the culmination of economic change and class warfare towards the inevitable triumph of the proletariat.

Nowadays, it is the destruction of the historical heritage of the Middle East that has once again drawn public attention to this particular aspect, which Richard N. Haass has described as "historicide" in that it refers to historical documents deemed not to be in conformity with a particular religious or ideological dogma. Its 2017 article focuses more specifically on the large-scale attacks of the Islamic State, which had set itself the goal, inter alia, of eradicating all traces of the past embodied in monuments, statuary, paintings, manuscripts and other documents deemed non-Islamic. However, the author points out that the phenomenon is not new and cites the destruction by the Taliban in 2001 of the giant statues of the Buddha of Bamiyan in Afghanistan and, more recently, the destruction of mausoleums and manuscripts in Timbuktu by Muslim sectarian movements.

In the past, the destruction of a large part of Persepolis by Alexander the Great more than 2,000 years ago had the same meaning, as did the devastation caused by the religious wars that tore Europe apart for centuries and damaged churches, icons and paintings. Haass also mentions Stalin, Hitler and Mao, whose company also aimed to stifle ideas against their project and, later, the destruction of temples and monuments by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The common characteristic of these various historicides is that they erase what can structure a society - representations and symbols of all kinds, a sense of belonging, social behaviours that form the basis of what is differently called identity, tradition, culture and history. In so doing, they have the consequence of preventing any transmission of these components to future generations and, subsequently, of claiming to found a new society under the guise of a revolution, a new world, a new era, a progress of civilization.

To a lesser degree, we will note an almost universal tendency to erect community identity, imperial glory, the history of the nation, the founding myths in as many attempts to marginalize everything that may oppose them - plural origins, fragile and declining empires, together with the impermanence of States and nations, the evanescence and metamorphoses of the imagination. Contemporary phenomena of this type are legion - the case of the Cambridge editions requested by the Chinese government - the new red empire - to censor all publications that are too critical of the new "Chinese dream" is just one example. The destruction of certain archives in China is a response to the reconstruction of Confucianism, generally referred to as neo-Confucianism by its exegetes, one of whose concerns is to challenge the notions of individual law and the rule of law dear to the democratic West, but absent or diaphanous in the Confucian tradition, in contrast to the revised and corrected legism of Han Fei (280-233 a.c.n.). The promise of Chinese style global governance requires the redesign of fundamental elements of history, leading current leaders to reconstruct a national narrative highlighting the role of the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army and to censor or repress those who criticize the official historical version or study the black periods of the regime, such as the Great Leap forward or the Cultural Revolution.

Chinese ambitions are no longer limited to China, since the Cambridge University Press, whose activities date back to 1584, agreed to comply with the orders of the CP and the Beijing censors, anxious to clean up history, by deleting hundreds of politically sensitive articles from the China Quarterly's Chinese site, before reversing two days later and republishing the articles "because of the enormous pressure from the international scientific community and the journal, which had not agreed to block these publications" according to the editor-in-chief of this journal (Rosendorm 2017). The censored articles include the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, the Mao Tse-tung cultural revolution disaster, the defence of democracy in Hong Kong and ethnic tensions in the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Tibet. This type of censorship is in addition to other restrictions imposed on actors supposedly globalized, such as Bloomberg, Facebook and others, who have agreed to censor their products to access the Chinese market, and whose effect is much more to allow the Chinese authorities to impose their vision of society and history at the expense of the freedoms defended by Western regimes that claim to be democratic.


Butterfield Herbert, The Whig interpretation of history, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973.

Darbo-Peschanski Catherine, « La politique de l'histoire : Thucydide historien du présent », Annales. Economies, sociétés, civilisations, 3, 1989

Haass Richard N., “The politics of historicide”, The Strategist, 28 février 2017

Machiavel Niccolo, Discours sur la première décade de Tite-Live, trad. de Jean Vincent Périès, texte établi par Ch. Louandre, Charpentier, 1855.

Macmillan Margaret et Quinton-Brown Patrick, “The uses of history in international society: from the Paris peace conference to the present”, International Affairs, 1, 2019, 181–200.

Najemy John, ‘Society, class, and state in Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy’, in John Najemy (ed.), The Cambridge companion to Machiavelli, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Opitz Peter, J., “The Birth of ‘History’: Historical Speculation in Chou China”, in Hans Lenk & Gregor Paul (eds.), Epistomelogical Issues in Classical Chinese Philosophy,  State University of New York, 1993.

Phillips Tom, “Cambridge University Press accused of 'selling its soul' over Chinese censorship”, The Guardian, 19 août 2017

Reus-Smit Christian, “Theory, history, and great transformations”, International Theory, 2016, 8:3, 422–435.

Rosendorm Caroline, « Censure en Chine : la volte-face des Presses universitaires de Cambridge », Le Monde, 23 août 2017

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian war, trans. Richard Crawley, Urbana, IL: Project Gutenberg, 2009.

Well Marnix, The Héguan Zî.  The Pheasant Cap Master and the End of History, Oxford: Three Pines Press, 2014


Fr. Identité

Esp. Identidad

® community, ecocide, empire, ethnicity, nation, polyarchy, state

Inevitably, we make continuously many distinctions between ourselves as individuals or as members of groups and networks, and other persons who are in one or several respects different. In many cases these differences we note between ourselves and Others have no or only minor consequences for our behavior in our social relations. But in many cases the distinctions we make may be differently connected, with relevant evaluations in terms of good or bad and attractive or distasteful, and they may exclude from our circles those persons who are judged in a negative way.

   To this we must add that exclusions are often not connected with real observations of differences between us and Others. In many cases differences are ascribed to other persons on the base of their real or supposed belongingness to a specific class or group.

   In fact, when we speak about these differences between ‘us’ and the “Other”, we enter into the tricky domain of collective identities.

   But here we must place a caveat. It is not only that persons share with other persons a specific collective identity, because we do not only have collective identities. Collective identities are also frequently ascribed to persons while they themselves do not share this idea about their collective identity. It is even possible that they reject this ascription by others vehemently.

Open and closed collective identities

In a democratic society most of collective identities have a relatively open character. We can participate in circles and groups with different collective identities without experiencing any particular problems. Most of us have consequently developed in democratic societies personalities with multiple identities.

   But we can also observe groups the members of which demonstrate that they have closed collective identities. We can see around us a number of fundamentalist groups and networks with collectivist collective identities from which any individual who does not conform to this identity is excluded. Basically, a democratic society is a multicultural one. It is a type of society in which every individual has several opportunities to make its own choices. He or she can join new groups, social circles or networks with characteristics that are different from those he or she is already acquainted with. And the individual can make a choice to conform primarily to those groups, social circles and networks to which he or she feels to belong.                          

   However, the present discussions about multicultural societies focuses on a type of society that is multicultural in a different sense: the coming society is envisaged as one in which “culture”, “ethnicity” and “foreign lifestyles” are seen as durable, distinct elements in a national landscape. This change requires, as it is often argued, an accommodation of the national institutions to this new situation. This need for adaptation is based on the idea that all cultures are equal and have consequently the right to be there as collectivities. This development can finally produce a society in which the interactions between members of different cultural units are very restricted or almost absent. In other words, such a society of mutually excluding collective identities is a society based on apartheid. The rise of this type of collectivist societies would have an important impact on the IR.

The concept of nation

   The concept of national identity as a subtype of collective identity connects the collectivity discussion with the concept of nation. This means that this discussion becomes intertwined with the power of states, with different types of constitutions and citizenship, with different versions of histories of the nation, with varying types of ideas and feelings of superiority/inferiority vis-à-vis other nations and their populations and with many ideological questions.

   Inevitably, this coupling of the collective identity-discussion with the concept of state must be a source of a lot of confusion as the concept of state is by itself far from being unequivocal in the political sciences. Being generally large structures, states will have a hard time defining their collective identity. When political elites try to define the collective identity of their nation, one can be sure that it is not based on a real consensus in the population concerned. The national identity – as a collective identity - will always be imaginary or fictitious.

   In a modern democratic society the inhabitants will certainly have feelings of attachment, feelings of belonging to their country. But these feelings can never be considered the result of the national identity. The systematic analysis of these feelings of attachment and belongingness will always show that there are different clusters or configurations of national attachment, but never a configuration that can be considered as being the national identity. The concept of national identity is irreconcilable with a democratic multicultural society. It belongs to the instruments of a religious/ideological fundamentalist political regime. And as such, a nation can neither be considered to be a ‘community’.

Community and collectivistic thinking

Nevertheless, the concept of “community” is often used in international relations, obviously with a very specific meaning. We remember that in the past we referred to the European cooperation between the first 6 members as the “European Community”, but this reference was dropped and later replaced by the more adequate reference to the “European Union”.

   In IR, the concept of ‘international community is used in a very specific sense. It refers to a large network or group of peoples or governments. The reference to such a “community” of peoples or governments implies that it is characterized by a certain consensus about important issues concerning human rights. Politicians and commentators of different kind make an appeal to this community to start actions that may lead to the end of undesirable types of political violation of human rights in one or several countries or regions.

The concept of community is used here in a very broad sense. It refers to persons and groups who share a common interest in pursuing common objectives in international politics. As such this concept of community is a far cry from the idea of community understood as a group of closely related people, who have a common life-style and share a collective identity.

Jan Berting

Bénichou, Media, Le multiculturalisme, Rosny, Bréal, 2006

Berting, Jan, Shadows on the Cave’s Wall. How to Ameliorate Our Social Understanding of the World We Live In, Aubagne: Autres Talents, 2012

Berting, Jan, "Identités collectives et images de l’Autre : les pièges de la pensée collectiviste", in Bruno Ollivier (coordinateur), Les identités collectives à l’heure de la mondialisation, Paris: CNRS Editions, 2009

Berting, Jan, "Représentations collectives et manières de penser l’Autre dans le cadre de relations Nord-Sud/Sud-Nord", in Michela D’Angelo, Gelina Harlaftis et Carmel Vassallo (eds.), Making Waves in the Mediterranean/Sulle onde del Mediterraneo, Proceedings of the 2nd MMHN Conference. Messina-Taormina, 4-7 May, 2006

Berting, Jan, "Une analyse comparative des concepts de multiculturalisme et d’identité collective en France, au Canada, aux Pays-Bas et au Royaume-Uni". Contribution au 133e Congrès national des sociétés historiques et scientifiques, Québec, 2 juin, 2008

Sen Amartya, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, London: Allen Lane, 2007


Fr. Individualisme


® Actor, state, universalism, cosmopolitanism

Individualism (Berting 2006, 151ff.) is a way of thinking and acting that considers the rational individual as the primary source of human behaviour. Empirical observations and logical deduction are necessary to test the traditional and religious ways of thinking. In our time, the Enlightenment as the source of this individualism is receding and several new types of individualism come to the fore, such as the instrumental market-oriented individualism, hyper egoistic types of behaviour, types of individualism enclosed in virtual worlds, individualism that rejects all rules imposed by political and economic authorities, etc.

Individualism must not be confounded with individualisation

Individualisation is the gradual fading away of the institutions of society in which most persons were embedded during specific periods of their life: living quarters, life-long employment in an economic organisation, or long-lasting memberships of certain associations. Individualisation means that the members of society are increasingly liberated from their original social environment and that they can organise their way of life according to their own ideas. This trend does not necessarily imply that most persons become        increasingly individualistic. In several cases persons reject this way of life and opt sometimes for extreme collectivistic opportunities. This collectivism may be a continuation of traditional types of collectivism, or it may be a choice for new types of collectivism.

Collectivism and individualism are concepts which are narrowly tied. In spite of this they are mostly used in political discussions as oppositions that exclude each other. When we look a bit more attentively around us, we discover that social life contains different types of collectivism and individualism. And most types of collectivism and individualism do not exclude the other side. On the contrary, they are to a certain degree dependent on each other.

Seven different types of individualism

We will now look at the different types of individualism that we can observe in our society today. Let us begin with the different types of individualism.[1]

1. Substantial-rational (critical) individualism can be observed in many domains in our society (e.g. in research, the organization of production processes, and also in many individual actions), but it is accompanied by several other types of individualism and collectivism (see: collectivism).

2. Instrumental market-oriented individualism

Instrumental market-oriented individualism must not be confounded with the preceding type of individualism. Market-oriented individualism is a rather restricted type of individualism. The market-oriented individualist is a person who enters into exchange relations on the basis of an assumed perfect knowledge of the market. Imperfections of the market-mechanism are in this view related to traditional constraints and by types of policies which tend to continue those imperfections.

3. Achievement-oriented individualism

Achievement-oriented individualism is in some respects related to the preceding type of individualism. In contradistinction to this, however, achievement-oriented individualism is not connected with exchange relations in an open market, but with professional careers in (large) organizations.

4. The revolt against formal rules: populist individualism

Achievement-oriented individualism necessitates the compliance of the persons concerned with the rules of the organization in which they are working. Their opportunities for advancement depend also on their conformity to the rules of the organization. Modernization as a process of rationalization is necessarily connected with the dominance of legal-rational leadership. But those persons, who are subjected to the rules of this leadership, issued in the name of this system-rationality, do not always understand the meaning of those rules and the changes of these rules within their own context. People can easily become alienated in these situations, both as workers and small entrepreneurs, as clients of bureaucracies and as voters.

5. Immoderate assertive egoistic individualism

The tension between formal rules of rational systems and the (partial) rejection of them by certain persons can be observed in their sometimes exaggeratedly assertive and egoistic types of behaviour. Employees of public services, such as health services, education, or police-services are increasingly confronted with aggressive behaviour of individuals, who want to be served immediately because they have the ‘right’ to it. Their slogan is: ‘Me first’. Such egoistic assertive persons are likely to join populist protest movements when these arise in political life. This trend is certainly related to the individualisation of social life, a process that may release person from the (traditional) bond without having acquired a form of individualism that enables them to cope with a social environment in a positive way.

6. Personal identity individualism

   Many persons in who live an individualized, disenchanted and rational environment feel alienated and disoriented. They try to overcome the rift between reason and sentiment by a search for their ‘essential’ identity, an identity that is not imposed on them by an institution and less so by fundamentalist collectivist conceptions. The persons concerned fly from a world dominated by rules and control. Theirs is a search for the ‘real’ meaning of their life as individuals.

7. The flight into virtual worlds

The flight into virtual worlds is an option that is not only restricted to leisure activities, because also ‘real’ jobs can become touched by the virtual worlds of information technology. However, this is until now only the case in a limited number of professional activities, especially in architecture and in artistic professions.

   Such a flight was already a possibility before the coming of information technology individuals could withdraw into the virtual worlds of the cinema and literature. This is a valid observation, but especially for the younger generations the withdrawal into the interactive worlds of cyberspace in which no, or only a few, basic rules, are imposed is much more rewarding than what non-interactive virtual worlds offer.



Jan Berting, Europe: a Heritage, a Challenge, a  Promise, Delft: Eburon,  2006,  Chapter X.




Fr. Puissance

Esp. Potencia

→ Empire, extraterritoriality, sovereignty, state, territory

The notion is polysemic, which requires the elimination of a series of meanings not relevant in this case, although the semantic relationships between the various uses of the term shed some light on the meaning used in international relations (IR).

The various means, rights and resources that enable an actor to act, influence or decide are central to the basic meaning of the term insofar as it refers to an active reality. But it also conceals, in a logical and philosophical sense, potential or virtual dimensions. This can be seen in the distinction that applies to empires, states or other political actors in the sense that nominal power (military means, territorial extension, moral and political authority, etc.) does not necessarily translate into effective power, as demonstrated by the "great powers" of the 20th century such as the United States in Vietnam or the USSR in Afghanistan, politically defeated by non-state actors and forced into a retreat.

The term power also has a variable extension that contrasts with the term "power" or "powers" (which are not exact synonyms, as Pierre Verluise [2013] says), which designate in a more static and formal way the legally or empirically defined capacity to have means or rights that can produce an effect, even if the term also has, in other contexts, the meaning of "potentiality" conferred by power (assimilation, purchase, speech, music, numbers, extrasensory or divinatory power in the sense of faculty, etc.). The "power" of a State will therefore appear vague with regard to the "separation of powers" required by the legal definition of the corresponding institutions and their interrelationships, as well as the "powers" of international organizations defined by the treaties. This distinction is particularly explicit in French, whereas English remains implicit when it refers to these two realities of the same term, whatever the gender: power(s) (superpower, great powers) and power(s) (soft power, separation of powers in the Constitution, powers of arrest and interrogation, etc.).

On the other hand, the notion of power, unlike that of power, is tense by a vector with a unidirectional direction, because if we can speak of great power, hyperpower, superpower, average power, (re)emerging or declining power, new or old power, we will hardly speak of "small power". It was this unidirectionality that prompted Hubert Védrine in 1998 to speak of "hyperpower" about the United States after the collapse of the USSR, not only to evoke the birth of a form of unipolarity, but also to designate both hard power and soft power (i.e. powers) in American America. The gradation of the sense of power is expressed at different levels: intensive (from medium to hyper), geographical (from regional to global), temporal (from emergence to death, empires in particular).

The variable expression or constraint of power has led some researchers to point out the importance of the concept of "powerlessness" in situations where power is effectively blocked or even defeated by opposing forces that are in a state of inferiority in terms of material resources, but superior in the social or ideological field (de Montbrial 2013, Badie 2005, 2018). Impotence will therefore be considered as a structuring factor of IR, in the same way as the first, state actors, retained by IR theorists in varying proportions. The resilience of the Islamic state today is a singular example, weakened, admittedly, by the unwelcome search for a "state" identity (Islamic state in Iraq and in the Syrian Rising Cham) for a time, but which remains rooted in certain segments of the populations of Muslim culture. We can measure here the struggle that is emerging between power and power, the state entity being confronted with religious power in the opposite direction to what the West is experiencing, because, if the state structure is not condemned, the ambition of the Islamic state to resurrect the caliphate has its roots in the history of Islam, whose universalist ideology has always been oriented towards its imposition on all humanity, it being understood, as stated in the Koran and the comments of Muslim lawyers, that any state entity or political structure must remain subordinate to the power, and the word is well used here, of religion (we recall Michel de Certeau's original study in La Possession de Loudun, published in 1973, which relates the clash in Loudun, in 1634, of religious, political and scientific powers).

It should be noted in passing, with regard to the latter example, that the concept of the State, associated with that of power, is tainted by its own ambiguity. While it theoretically designates a well-defined political entity from a Hobbesian perspective as the actor who enjoys a monopoly of legitimate physical violence on a territory and the powers that come under it and, as such, remains at the foundation of international order (or disorder), its application in the political field is particularly elastic, since the very meaning of the term "State" covers contemporary States as well as empires or certain traditional structures in its uses. Historians and anthropologists describe the Chinese Empire as a state, as much as any traditional African policy with a formal political structure (Balandier 1967), or the confederations of Mongolian tribes at the end of the 12th century, which led to the Mongolian empire of the 13th century (Testot 2014-2015). This focus stems from a 19th century historiography concerned with exalting the national state or belittling previous periods to highlight the merits of state construction and, hence, of the nation state, whose contemporary era is undergoing a new glorification.

This leads to a second remark on the permanence of the State and the paradigm it bases, or conversely its impermanence, that it finds itself confronted with the legacy of history, weakened by the "return" of empires (Minin 2013, Grosser 2013) or by the power (in the first sense) of transnational agents - religious or, today, economic and financial (Hoeber Rudolph 1997). Recent history has thus seen economic thinking impose itself on all political, philosophical and ethical conceptions with Adam Smith (professor of moral philosophy and not economics), Karl Marx, Jean Charles de Sismondi (economist and philosopher), John Maynard Keynes (author of philosophical writings), Thomas Malthus, Alfred Marshall and John Stuart Mill, until the patent failure of the economic paradigm reflected in the 2007 financial crisis. In general, historians relativize the centrality of the state in history and describe the nation-state, or even the contemporary state, as a "blip" or "parenthesis" in political history (Burbank and Cooper 2010). Throughout history, peoples have lived within political entities that did not claim to represent a single or homogeneous people. Before the rise of Western-style states, power passed through empires, from antiquity to colonial empires. Similarly, the era of the superpowers after the Second World War saw the USSR and the Eastern bloc confront each other in a "cold war", on the one hand, of which Cuba was an outgrowth, and the United States and the Western bloc on the other, with the Berlin Wall acting as a symbol as a geopolitical border, from its birth to its fall.

Finally, associating state power with the notion of border presents another difficulty. The notion of border as a defining element of the classical state is as much a construct as the state and the nation state. Political anthropology has indeed been able to describe, within very similar societies, stateless communities alongside communities of the same nature with a state structure (Balandier 1967, 1985). Below the state stratum, the notion of border fluctuates according to history and represents multiple realities that do not stop at politics, but call upon cultural and psychological ingredients, from the surface to the great depths. It would be difficult to attribute a border to the "maritime power" that England was, to Napoleonic France as a "land power", to the "technological power" that the United States represents and that aims to become China, or to the cybernetic power that these two "States" are aiming for in the 21st century. Similarly, cultural or linguistic mapping reveals a complex and shifting entanglement of boundaries, limits, margins and other boundaries of the corresponding territories, which are not the case for Jewish, Roma (the largest minority in Europe) and other diasporas.

To return to a more formal notion of power and taking into account computer resources, Pierre Verluise and his colleagues (2015) classify powers into four categories: cyberpowers (United States and China), cyber-dragons (Israel, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea), cyberspace deserters (Europe and Japan), a secondary actor (India) and an almost absent one (Russia). The intelligence tools used as parameters are submarine cables, NSA access points to cable landing stations, and an American submarine model capable of making secret connections on submerged cables.

Another defining characteristic of power is extraterritoriality, such as the effects of US legislation on international trade, the sanctions it imposed against Cuba in the 1990s or against Iran today. Certainly, the rape of the sovereignty of a weak state by a powerful state is a general rule in the history of inter-state relations, which is vividly illustrated by colonialist enterprises and the expansion of empires throughout history. However, it is facilitated by the tacit or negotiated renunciation of certain States, which, like the EU Member States, are not economically weak, to exercise their traditional prerogatives and grant the hyperpower or superpower fields of extraterritoriality that allow it to freely exercise the defence of its interests. The criteria applied are not very different from those of empires, ideological movements or religions with a universalist aim, whose territorial limits are never fixed. It is the same renunciation, if not complicity, that has allowed non-state actors such as multinational companies, better known as transnational corporations, to impose their criteria on powers, small and large. The recent case of Monsanto is significant in this respect, which imposes its criteria on the agricultural world as a whole and whose legal position directly competes with state or supra-state (EU) powers (Shiller and Shiller 2011). But here, as in other areas, Christophe Bouillaud (2017) notes that the issue would not so much be the powerlessness of States as their renunciation of the action of transnational groups, networks and other actors, but also of the interests of local or national minorities, the consequence of which is to exclude a variable part of their own citizens (women, disadvantaged classes, cultural minorities) and, in so doing, to reduce their rights even in their democratic expression.


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