In this contribution to the forum marking the publication of Andrew Linklater’s remarkable book on Violence and Civilization in the Western States-Systems we first locate the book in the context of Linklater’s overarching intellectual journey. While best known for his contribution to a critical international theory, it is through his engagement with Martin Wight’s comparative sociology of states-systems that Linklater found resonances with the work of process sociologist, Norbert Elias. Integrating Wight’s insights into the states-system with Elias’s insights into civilising processes, Violence and Civilization presents a high-level theoretical synthesis with the aim of historically tracing restraints on violence. The article identifies a tension between the cosmopolitan philosophical history which underpins the argument of the book, and which has underpinned all Linklater’s previous works, and the ‘Utrecht Enlightenment’ that offers a conception of ‘civilized statecraft’ at odds with a universal conception of morality and justice. The article then examines Linklater’s argument about the ‘global civilizing process’ as it applies to post-Second World War efforts to build greater institutional capability to protect peoples from harm. It is argued that Linklater over-estimates the extent to which solidarism has civilised international society, and that the extension of state responsibilities and development of civilised statecraft owe more to pluralism than solidarism.
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