Even though we tend to not recognize it, today’s world is in peril: While the number and type of actors has multiplied in the process of globalization, great powers retain their dominant role in international security. The central element of global security governance, the one factor that presents a road fork between the paths to peace and to war and which also is a precondition to successful management of several other important issues, thus concerns the relations between the major powers. If they cooperate, global security governance becomes a viable opportunity. If they don’t, security cooperation is impossible and the likelihood of major violent conflicts will rise.
The starting point of our research consists of the actual positions, attitudes, and policies of the great powers of the 21st century: What are their interests, values, aims and practices? In particular what kinds of justice claims are incorporated in their foreign and security policy? Historically, these claims have been especially present in eras of power transition. During these periods the leading power tends to defend its dominant position which according to its beliefs belongs justly to itself, while the rising states strive, justified as they believe, for their own “place in the sun”. In such situations the following factors play a prominent role: a) supposedly justifiable claims of status and participation rights articulated by the great powers regarding their relations and interactions amongst themselves; b) conceptions of a just world order; and c) national interests.
On the basis of such an inventory of national positions - material interests as well as ideas - we can approach the question about which norms, procedures, and institutions are necessary to foster an arrangement of peaceful cooperation among the great powers of the current international system. To be adequate, such an arrangement has to include provisions which are able to incorporate great powers into a joint project of war prevention, even if they have different systems of political rule, competing justice claims, and diverging ideological backgrounds that are embedded in their national political cultures and reflected by their societal norms.
Our project “A Twenty-First Century Concert of Powers” utilizes the „European Concert“ of the nineteenth century as a template for such a new security arrangement which shall be capable of fostering peace, mitigating conflict, and most notably be able to manage the upcoming power transition in the international system in terms of Just Peace Governance.
The “European Concert” is one of the few examples of successful governance strategies aimed at maintaining peace in a multipolar system. The Concert was able to incorporate liberal (Great Britain and France after 1830) and conservative (Austria-Hungary, Prussia, and Russia) powers even in a time of rapid social, economic and political change and friction. For more than one generation it was able to prevent the outbreak of great power wars in Europe. Furthermore, it provided a framework for the management of limited political change emerging from socio-cultural developments, notably nationalist movements, at least to some degree. These achievements made it possible to spatially confine later great power wars and allowed for moderately successful crisis management in the period between the formation of the Second German Reich and the eve of World War I.
Since it is not possible to adopt a concept from a different historical and cultural context one-to-one to the contemporary system, it is an important task of the project to identify the conditions for the (early) success as well as the later decline and ultimate failure of the „European Concert” in order to derive possible lessons for the world of today. There is extensive academic historical literature on the „European Concert” that can be...