A Century of Anarchy? War, Normativity, and the Birth of Modern International Order

Book Presentation with Hendrik Simon

Book Cover: A Century of Anarchy

The nine­teenth century has been under­stood as an age in which states could wage war against each other if they deemed it politi­cally necessary. According to this narra­tive, it was not until the establish­ment of the League of Nations, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and the UN Char­ter that the “free right to go to war” (liberum ius ad bellum) was gradually out­lawed. Better times dawned as this anarchy of waging war ended, resulting in radical trans­formations of inter­national law and politics.

How­ever, as a “free right to go to war” has never been empiri­cally proven, this story of pro­gress is puzzling. In his forth­coming book “A Century of Anarchy? War, Norma­tivity, and the Birth of Modern Inter­national Order” (Oxford Uni­versity Press, 2024), Hendrik Simon challenges this narrative by out­lining a genealogy of modern war justi­fications and drawing on scientific, political, and public dis­courses. He argues that liberum ius ad bellum is an inven­tion created by realist legal scholars in Impe­rial Germany who argued against the main­stream of European libera­lism and, para­doxically, that the now forgotten Sonder­weg reading was universa­lized in inter­national historio­graphies after the World Wars.

In his book presen­tation, Hendrik Simon will not only decon­struct the myth of liberum ius ad bellum but also trace the political and theo­retical roots of the modern prohibition of war to the long nine­teenth century (1789-1918).

Moderator: Matthew Specter, Senior Fellow, Insti­tute of Euro­pean Studies

When: April 8, 5.00 p.m.

Where: 201 Philo­sophy Hall, UC Berkeley

Further infor­mation and the registra­tion link can be found on the website of UC Berkeley.