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The Mightie FrameEpochal Change and the Modern World$
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Nicholas Greenwood Onuf

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190879808

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190879808.001.0001

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“This Quarter of the Globe”

“This Quarter of the Globe”

(p.91) Chapter 5 “This Quarter of the Globe”
The Mightie Frame

Nicholas Greenwood Onuf

Oxford University Press

Europeans of the classical epoch began to think of their “quarter of the globe” as “an extensive social commonwealth” (Friedrich von Gentz). The Westphalian settlement of 1648 supported this sensibility and its realization in the balance of power among Europe’s most important ruling houses. The metaphor of a balance creates the impression that the “powers” have some property called power, that each power’s power can be placed on the scales, that the scales will balance if the powers’ power is more or less the same, and that powers’ power should therefore be equalized—through war and by treaty—to maintain the stability of Europe. The metaphor of the balance relies on Newton’s concept of mass, derived from the Latin massa (lump of dough). Metaphorical weight equals state power or strength. This simple idea, so difficult to operationalize, is a lasting legacy of the classical epoch.

Keywords:   Westphalia, sovereignty, Utrecht, balance, Newton, mass, power

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