A map of the Holy Roman Empire. Image: Wikimedia

Sovereign states have been mythologized as the natural unit of political order. History shows how new they are—and how we can think beyond them.

One of the most commonly encountered claims about international politics today concerns the transition from a “Westphalian” to a “post-Westphalian” era. Writers across a wide range of media and academic sources use this framing to ask crucial questions about the way forward: What are the human rights responsibilities of transnational corporations? How will warfare unfold in the twenty-first century? Are international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union becoming increasingly authoritarian?

At this…

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