Mitau Lecture predicts progression of international politics to a world state

By Zach Selke

Political scientist Alexander Wendt spoke on the inevitability of a world state as part of the Mitau Lecture series sponsored by the Political Science department on Wednesday night. Wendt, a Macalester alumnus, has reshaped the field of international studies and was voted by his collegues as the third most influential figure in IS. His 1999 book, “Social Theory of International Politics,” has been translated into numerous languages and is world-renowned in the international studies community.

Wendt spoke to a packed room at Weyerhaeuser Chapel about how he sees the progression of international politics moving toward a unified global state, in which people are not only struggling for security, power and wealth but universal recognition of their rights as well.

His theory defines the state as a monopoly on the organized use of violence, as nations can legitimize the use of violence against other nations during times of war. Wendt argued that only when these decisions are collectivized on a global scale can a world state exist that recognizes the rights of all humans.

“This theory will be hardest for superpowers to accept as they have the most to lose,” he said. “The United States must go with the flow of history so Americans can get the best deal we can in the new global order.”

Wendt said he views the European Union as a model for the future and an example of how collectivization has already begun.

“The West is like the Afrikaners of the world system,” he said. “We must eventually step down.”

Many political figures have argued that transnational organizations such as the United Nations are a threat to national sovereignty. However, Wendt said he believes that such organizations are a positive and necessary step in the evolution of the world state. While individual states have tended to fight for their own interests above all else, the emergence of international terrorism and global warming highlight the need for collective action.

The audience engaged Wendt on the practicality of his theory, including several questions on the place of issues creating global discord, such as religion, in his theory.

Thuto Thipe ’10 said that “theoretically [Wendt] presented a very intriguing idea but I don’t know if it can stand the tests of inequality, identity politics, and other-divisive factors present in the real world.