When did empire cease to be the normative structure of global politics, and when did national self-determination become the conventional means to rectify the grievances of oppressed peoples? In the recent field of global intellectual history, some answer these questions by examining the ends of European colonialism after the Second World War, while others emphasise the political thought of President Woodrow Wilson, or even Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. In international relations scholarship, many go back much further in time to the peace treaties of Westphalia in the 17th century, which they see as marking the ascendency of the nation-state.
In this talk, James Renton will argue that the ascendance of national self-determination was in fact a victory of the political thought of the Second International on a planetary scale, and the latter’s most significant legacy. This transformation took place in the latter years of the Great War, and had a momentous impact on the global political ideas of a post-Ottoman ‘Middle East’, the nationalist Jew, and the nationalist Arab.
James Renton is Professor of History, and Director of the International Centre on Racism, at Edge Hill University, UK. He is also Academic Advisor at MONITOR Global Intelligence on Racism. Most recently, he is co-editor with Anya Topolski of ‘Jean Bodin and the Sovereignty of Exclusion’, a special issue of Political Theology.