The history of the peace process that ended the First World War has become one of the great political stories of our time. Historians have attributed to this illustrious gathering in the war-weary Paris of 1919 the beginnings of modern international relations, the dawn of a more democratic age grounded in the principle of nationality, and, rather more notoriously, the causes of the Second World War. Few contemporaries, however, celebrated the achievements of peacemaking without registering some doubts not only about the allegedly unfair treatment of Germany, but also the procedures, premises, and outcomes. Among the critics was Walter Lippmann, one of the architects of Wilson’s Fourteen Points that shaped the peace process. In 1919, a disillusioned Lippmann fled Paris, returned to the east coast of America, and wrote Public Opinion (1922), a study of the complexities of democratic representation in mass societies and of the deeper cultural significance of the principle of nationality enforced by the peacemakers. Lippmann singled out for special criticism the common resort to stereotypes of national difference drawn from the ‘slums of psychology’, and the prevailing assumption that ‘collective minds, national souls, and race psychology’ were the ‘democratic El Dorado’.1 According to Lippmann, this psychological perspective on nationality manifested a ‘deeper prejudice’ in the constitution of a new world order, in favour of advanced nations over those thought of as backward, and of men over women. Given the prevailing political and cultural climate on both sides of the Atlantic, these were radical claims. If true, they had similarly radical implications for the ways in which the political significance of nationality could be understood. Nationality did not take its force as a political ideal from really existing psychological propensities to national identification. Rather, those propensities were fictions that reflected ‘the jungle of obscurities about the innate differences of men,’ and ‘the extraordinary differences in what men know of the world’.2
KeywordsWorld Order International Politics Peace Process Democratic Representation Prevailing Assumption
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