Torbjørn L. Knutsen
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Absolutist politics
Kings, wars and an interstate system
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The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) shaped several of the characteristic features of Europe’s territorial states. A most important feature was the centralization of political power, expressed in a royal monopoly of command. The advent of centralized monarchies gave rise to a distinct interstate system in Europe. The interaction of monarchs was theorized in term of the twin doctrines of royal absolutism and mercantilism. The arguments of Robert Filmer reflect the attitudes of the age. But the chapter singles out British philosopher Thomas Hobbes for special attention. Hobbes’ discussion of sovereignty and of order and security are distinctly modern. His arguments are informed by an influential contract philosophy – which Benedict Spinoza later applied to interstate relations and developed a modern understanding of international politics as a ‘natural’ or ‘pre-contractual’ condition, characterized by a ‘war of all against all’. The chapter introduces the arguments of Émeric Crucé and Hugo Grotius to contrast and critique the theories of Hobbes and Spinoza.

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