Enlightenment politics
The revolutionary rise of popular sovereignty
in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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This chapter begins with England’s ‘Glorious Revolution’. It traces some of the new ideas that originated with it. The example of Isaac Newton and the ideas of John Locke are vantage points for the discussion. Several Enlightenment authors are then discussed – some of them British (like David Hume), others French (like Voltaire) and still others German (like Immanuel Kant). However, the most central authors of this chapter are Swiss. First, Émeric Vattel, who pursued Locke’s ideas and established an understanding of interstate relations based on norms, laws and a reason-based argument of collective security. Second, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who broke with Locke and elaborated on balance-of-power theory. The chapter ends with a discussion of the American and the French Revolutions and the interstate debates that emerged from them. It presents the US Constitution and its concept of federalism as a distinct American contribution to International-Relations theory, and an influential vision of organizing sovereign states into a peaceful interstate order.

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