chapter  9
15 Pages

The ‘constitution’ of world politics

The formal ending of the cold war between East and West at the Paris summit in November 1990 does not alter the fact that conflict between states has been the dominant theme of the international politics of the twentieth century. However, as well as finding themselves in conflict over some issues, all states still share certain interests, not least over acceptable means for conducting their relations. Common interests of this kind find expression in agreed rules of international procedure which are in turn supported by (as well as being partially embodied in) practical international arrangements, or ‘institutions’, such as diplomacy. Together these procedural rules and these institutions compose a constitution of world politics which we refer to as the ‘statessystem’. With no recognised ‘government’ and no ‘written’ constitution like that enjoyed by the United States, the states-system may well be ‘the loosest of all political associations’.1 Nevertheless, while it is a frail constitution whose institutions for the most part lack organisational features, it still cir­ cumscribes in some degree the foreign activities of even the most revolution­ ary states.