Skip to main content

Was Westphalia ‘all that’? Hobbes, Bellarmine, and the norm of non-intervention


Recently, historians of the international system have called into question the significance of the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648 as the moment when the international system formed. One of their primary arguments is that the non-intervention norm typically associated with Westphalian notions of sovereignty developed much later. This paper will examine the early 17th-century debates over the right of the Pope to depose monarchs in the defense of spiritual matters. I read Part III and Part IV of Hobbes’ Leviathan in its intellectual context to see how his theory of sovereignty was partially developed to support a theory of non-intervention. This reading leads to two important contributions to current political science debates. First, it refutes the growing consensus that non-intervention developed as an aspect of sovereignty only in the late 18th and early 19th century. Second, the paper addresses current attempts to assert a right of humanitarian intervention. By exploring similarities between these recent debates and those between Bellarmine and Hobbes in the 17th century, I offer a fresh perspective on what is at stake in current claims to international community.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Annan Kofi. 1999. “Two Concepts of Sovereignty.” The Economist, September 18.
Bellarmine Robert. 1949. Power of the Pope in Temporal Affairs, translated by Moore G. A.. Chevy Chase, MD: Country Dollar Press.
Bellarmine Robert. 1951. The Supreme Pontiff, translated by Moore G. A.. Chevy Chase, MD: Country Dollar Press.
Bickerton Christopher J., Cunliffe Philip, and Gourevitch Alexander. 2007. “Introduction: The unholy alliance against sovereignty.” In Politics without Sovereignty: A Critique of Contemporary International Relations, edited by Birkerton C. J., Cunliffe P. and Gourevitch A.. New York, NY: University College London Press.
Bull Hedley. 1977. The anarchical society : a study of order in world politics. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Calvin John. 1960. Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Battles F. L.. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.
Chomsky Noam. 1999. The New Military Humanism. Vancouver, BC: New Star Books.
Donnelly Jack. 1993. “Human rights, humanitarian crisis, and humanitarian intervention.” International Journal 48(4):607–40.
Finnemore Martha. 2003. The Purpose of Intervention. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Finnemore Martha. 2008. “Paradoxes in Humanitarian Intervention.” In Moral Limit and Possibility in World Politics, edited by Price R.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Godman Peter. 2000. The Saint as Censor: Robert Bellarmine between Inquisition and Index. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.
Hardt Michael, and Negri Antonio. 2001. Empire. 1st pbk. edn. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hobbes Thomas. 1996. Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. 2001. The Responsibility to Protect. Ottawa, ON: International Development Research Centre.
Jackson Robert H. 1990. Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Third World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jackson Robert H. 2007. Sovereignty. Cambridge: Polity Press.
James I, King of England. 1994. “Triplici Nodo, Triples Cuneus. Or an Apologie for the Oath of Allegiance.” In King James VI and I: Political Writings, edited by Sommerville. J. P.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Krasner Stephen D. 1993. “Westphalia and All That.” In Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change, edited by Goldstein J. and Keohane. R. O.Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Krasner Stephen D. 1999. Sovereignty: organized hypocrisy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kumm Mattias. 2009. “The Cosmopolitan Turn in Constitutionalism: On the Relationship between Constitutionalism in and beyond the State.” In Ruling the World? Constitutionalism, International Law, and Global Governance, edited by Dunoff Jeffrey L. and Trachtman. Joel P.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lang Anthony F. 2009. “Conflicting Rules: Global Constitutionalism and the Kosovo Intervention.” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding. 3(2):185–204.
Lievsay John Leon. 1973. Venetian Phoenix: Paolo Sarpi and Some of His English Friends (1606–1700). Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.
Maduro Miguel Poiares. 2003. “What if it is as good as it gets?” European Constitutionalism Beyond the State, edited by Weiler J. H. H. and Marlene Wind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Morgenthau Hans. 1967. “To Intervene or Not to Intervene.” Foreign Affairs 45:425–36.
Onuf Nicholas. 1991. “Sovereignty: Outline of a conceptual history.” Alternatives 16(4):425–46.
Onuf Nicholas Greenwood. 1994. “Civitas Maxima: Wolff, Vattel and the Fate of Republicanism.” The American Journal of International Law 88(2):280–303.
Philpott Daniel. 2001. Revolutions in Sovereignty. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Salmon J. H. M. 1991. “Catholic resistance theory, Ultramontanism, and the royalist response, 1580–1620.” In The Cambridge History of Political Thought 1450–1700, edited by Burns J. H. and Goldie. M.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sommerville J. P. 1992. Thomas Hobbes : political ideas in historical context. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.
Sommerville J. P. 1994. “Principle Events in James’ life.” In King James VI and I: Political Writings, edited by Sommerville. J. P.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Teschke Benno. 2003. The Myth of 1648. London: Verso.
Tull James. 2008. Public Philosophy in a New Key: Imperialism and Civic Freedom. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
United Nations. General Assembly. 2005. World Summit Outcome. New York: United Nations.
Security Council. 2006. Resolution 1674: Protection of civilians during armed conflict. New York: United Nations.
General Assembly. 2009. Implementing the responsibility to protect: report of the Secretary General. New York: United Nations.
van Creveld Martin. 1999. The Rise and Decline of the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Vincent R. J. 1974. Nonintervention and International Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Wiener Antje. 2008. The Invisible Constitution of Politics: Contested Norms and International Encounters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Global Constitutionalism
  • ISSN: 2045-3817
  • EISSN: 2045-3825
  • URL: /core/journals/global-constitutionalism
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 22
Total number of PDF views: 168 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 505 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.