AIAS Fellows' Seminar: Jørgen Møller invited by Georg Sørensen, AIAS Fellow

Why Europe Avoided Hegemony: A Historical Perspective

2014.07.02 | AIAS

Date Mon 01 Dec
Time 14:15 16:15
Location The AIAS Auditorium, Building 1632, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, 8000 Aarhus C


A new body of work has demonstrated that the European state system, which since the Middle Ages has been characterized by a continuous balance of power, is a historical exception and not the rule among anarchic international systems. In this lecture, I set out to explain why Europe avoided hegemony. I argue that geopolitical competition has different consequences for the balance of power, depending on the character of state-society relations when such geopolitical competition intensifies. Where multiple privileged groups are already in existence, rulers are forced to negotiate with a range of societal actors to secure the wherewithal for warfare. This further entrenches institutional constraints on rulers and the privileges of societal groups, two institutional features that stifle attempts at external domination by making it difficult to consolidate conquests. If multiple privileged groups are not already in existence, however, geopolitical competition instead facilitates an intensification of absolutism and a further weakening of societal actors such as the nobility. This creates a return-to-scale logic that makes system-wide conquest possible. This explanation resiliently accounts for the diverging trajectories of medieval and early modern Europe and the one instance where a well-attested multistate system arose in isolation: ancient China.

 Short CV

Jørgen Møller has a PhD from the European University Institute in Florence (2007) and is currently Professor at the Department of Political Science, Aarhus University. His research interests include conceptualization of democracy and the rule of law, patterns of political change, patterns of state formation, and comparative methodology.

What is a Fellows' Seminar?

The AIAS Fellows' Seminar is a session of seminars held by the AIAS fellows or by other speakers proposed by the fellows. In each seminar, one fellow will present and discuss his/her current research and research project, closing off with a question and discussion session.

All seminars are held in English and open to the public. Registration to the seminar is not necessary. Read more about the AIAS Fellows' Seminar here.

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