chapter  2
18 Pages

World- making, state- building

ByNICHOLAS ONUF

Blueprints In the last 500 years, the state has emerged and then changed in significant ways, and so has the vast complex of social relations we call the modern world. Familiar periodizations of modernity assume that these parallel developments coincide but that their doing so is no coincidence. To simplify a superabundance of causal connections, we might say that states and the system of states, here called international society, have continuously re-constituted each other over the centuries, and that this process of co-constitution is an integral feature of modernity as a constitutive whole. State-building and world-making occur simultaneously on the basis of blueprints that are periodically but not systematically updated. Anyone building a state today must rely on incomplete, confusing, yet normatively controlling layers of blueprints setting standards and limits on the properties that states must have to function in the modern world – as societies and in international society. Any effort to characterize social relations relies on metaphors, no matter how conceptually aware the effort is. Speaking metaphorically (and we always do), every concept – every representation of some state of affairs no matter how abstract – was born a metaphor. While I defend this claim later in this paper, it will be noticed that I have already placed great emphasis on a familiar metaphor, blueprint. In the first instance, a blueprint is a visual representation of the plan for a building or some other thought-out object of use. By metaphorical extension, a blueprint is any system of linked metaphors, or self-defining semantic field, representing what we (some metaphorically identified collectivity: we moderns) think we know about our social arrangements – how they are put together, and how they work, at any given moment. We revise small sections of these blueprints of ours frequently, not always deliberately, in response to practical concerns. Along the way, we even change the way we draw our blueprints – the way that we draw semantic distinctions to represent the particulars of our social arrangements.