International Affairs 82, 3 (2006) 553–566
In this article I seek to explore further this theme of the emergence of an international system based around an idea of ‘European civilization’, and to outline in particular how the great convulsion of the mid-twentieth century crisis, which so marked Wight’s own thought and life, brought to an end one way of thinking about the international system, and opened the door to another. I wish to suggest that to understand more fully the story of the global expansion of a European state-system we need to stand outside as well as inside the values of its originators. The notion of civilization itself was an intellectual construction riven with ambiguities. It was a claim to power as well as a justification for violence. It was a hypothetical basis for global order in a world of hierarchy. And it was a fitting irony of history that while Europe may have bestowed the conceptual architecture of an international order upon the world, it only managed this by tearing itself apart in the process. What followed after 1945 may have had the formal attributes of the old European state-system; but many of the cultural assumptions that had underpinned it had vanished in the fog of war, leaving Wight—and I think us too—in a very different and fragmented world.