De-Centering State Making
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De-Centering State Making

Comparative and International Perspectives

Edited by Jens Bartelson, Martin Hall and Jan Teorell

Bridging the gap between international relations and comparative politics, this book transposes Eurocentric theories and narratives of state-making to new historical and geographical contexts in order to probe their scope conditions. In doing this, the authors question received explanations of the historical origins and geographical limits of state-making, questioning the unilinear view of the emergence of the modern state and the international system. Theoretically and methodologically eclectic, the volume explores a range of empirical cases not often discussed in the literature.
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Chapter 9: Acting like a state: non-European membership of international organizations in the nineteenth century

Ellen Ravndal


From their establishment in the nineteenth century, international (intergovernmental) organizations (IOs) have been intimately linked to both international and domestic aspects of state making. This chapter examines non-European IO membership in the nineteenth century and argues that joining an IO could strengthen a state’s claim to statehood in two ways. First, IOs provided an arena of international politics where non-European states could participate on the basis of formal sovereign equality with the European great powers. Second, joining IOs and implementing their agreements on postal services, telegraphs, intellectual property, and other new technologies and government services, further offered a way for non-European states to prove that they were doing what ‘modern’ states were supposed to do. IO membership thus offered the possibility for non-European states both to gain international recognition as sovereign equals, and a means for them to display their progress in extending their domestic jurisdiction within their territories. The chapter problematizes the Westphalian unilinear view of state making, as well as the English school expansion thesis, by examining the agency of non-European entities and how their decisions to join IOs both strengthened individual states’ claims to statehood, and contributed to changes in international society.

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