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Mark Mazower provides us with a very readable and highly stimulating intellectual history of Western internationalism starting with the Vienna. A majestic narrative reckoning with the forces that have shaped the nature and destiny of the world’s governing institutions The story of global. Governing the World has ratings and 26 reviews. Helen said: This is a wonderfully written book by historian Mark Mazower about the idea of an interna.. .

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The mazowe of this late 19th-century hymn to internationalism, couched in a language so tantalisingly familiar and yet mqzower frustratingly hard to pin down, was the Russian-Jewish linguist Ludwig Zamenhof, the begetter of Esperanto meaning “Hopeful”.

It was Zamenhof’s hope that his universal language might open up an escape route from destructive nationalist conflicts, mapping instead a possible path to world peace. While the vision was utopian, the transformation it envisaged was necessarily incremental, and the project was solidly anchored in grammatical and lexical detail – perhaps too much detail.

Enthusiasts for world harmony turned out to be no less fractious than the xenophobic nationalists they aspired to tame, and their own petty wotld over language — and in particular an enhanced form of Esperanto termed Ido meaning “offspring” in the parent language — soon led to an Ido-Esperanto schism.

Governing the World: The History of an Idea – Mark Mazower – Google Books

While it’s easy to snigger at the grandiose delusions of Mszower and other similarly dreamy minorities, such as advocates for a single world government, Earth doesn’t seem entirely safe in the hands of the rest of us, with nazower passive but pragmatic acceptance of conventional politics-as-usual.

At times I despair that the only order of things that might actually save the planet from environmental degradation is a global eco-dictatorship, in itself almost as worrying a prospect as the failure of the biosphere.

How did we get to this depressing pass? Modern history in the industrial age appears to be the story of a fragmented humanity obsessed, alas, with its own parochial comforts and local mmazower, with little sense of the common needs of humanity as a whole. Except, as Mark Mazower shows in his brilliant recasting of the course of modern history since the Napoleonic wars, it’s not as simple as that.


While historians tend to tell stories about nations and their leaders, there is another way of relating the history of the last two centuries that brings into focus the role of global visionaries in reimagining a connected world community, and also the unsung efforts of practical secretariats of international organisations which — up to a point — succeeded in implementing a measure of global order.

Europeans learnt various different lessons from the French revolution and Napoleonic wars. Disturbances in one country could all too easily lead to universal conflagration, as Europe as a whole had learnt to its cost in the 20 years of warfare that had followed the French revolution.

The “Concert of Europe” these men inaugurated was an informal scheme of cooperation among the great powers, which would aim at the maintenance of an overall balance of power and try to prevent crises, wherever they arose, from spiralling out of control. However, for other prophets of global order, Metternich and his friends were themselves the woeld threat to peace. Wars stemmed from the machinations of diplomats in elegant salons, and provided the sport of military aristocracies in every country.

Peace was not to be obtained by careful adjustments to the balance of power, but by a major overhaul of the international system.

Counterintuitively, as it might seem today, the radical Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini thought nationalism was the answer: The English Liberal Richard Cobden sought an alternative approach to peace in free trade. Cobden’s pacific, anti-militarist vision of a reformed global economy of friendly, untrammelled exchange between commercial peoples rather than their expiring feudal aristocracies serves as a salutary reminder that while the cause of the supposedly free market has too often been affiliated in our own times with the military-industrial complex, the provenance of laissez-faire ideas was anti-elitist and far from conservative.

Marxism too was a product of this milieu.

Book review: “Governing the World: The history of an idea” by Mark Mazower

Communist internationalism, Mazower argues, is best understood as yet another “variant of the profusion of midth-century visions of world order”. Well-intentioned woolliness of the sort that brings to mind Dickens’s Mrs Jellyby was a striking characteristic of the era. Nevertheless, as Mazower shows, impractical high-mindedness was counterbalanced by effective international cooperation during the third quarter of the 19th century on a range of issues: The International Red Cross Committee, which had its beginnings in Switzerland inwas the brainchild of Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman, spurred to action by the suffering he had witnessed at the Battle of Solferino in However, in order to carry out its mission effectively, the new organisation required some kind of inter-governmental imprimatur, which it obtained from several small states, which met at the first Geneva Convention in As Mazower notes, this event marked a new departure in two directions.


First, it involved small countries rather than the great powers of the Concert taking the lead. No longer would international relations be the exclusive monopoly of a traditional caste of diplomats who preferred discretionary powers and secret deal-making to rules and formal arbitration.

The International Telegraphic Union was founded in to facilitate speedy cross-border communications, and the Universal Postal Union followed in In line of descent from these enduring late 19th-century developments was the League of Nations, whose energetic secretariat — including the founding father of the European Union, Jean Monnet — and unsung practical activities in fields such as public health Mazower rehabilitates from post condescension.

Nevertheless, Mazower’s history is not a straightforward celebration of virtuous internationalists and the — relatively speaking — kinder, gentler world they have created: Mazower exposes the ways in which the great powers — not least the US, under cover of the United Nations — have exploited international organisations as a fig-leaf for the otherwise naked exercise of self-interest.

Nor does he allow us to forget the international double standard: Order by newest oldest recommendations.

Governing the World by Mark Mazower – review

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