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Contents:
  1. Theory and Metatheory in International Relations
  2. Constructivism: An Introduction
  3. Full display result
  4. The Third Debate and Postpositivism
  5. Similar books and articles

It shows why anyone who wants the best answer to foreign policy problems, like how to deal with North Koreas nuclear arms program, must look at debates in IR theory, and alsoMoreThe book is an introduction to new debates in international relations.

Theory and Metatheory in International Relations

It shows why anyone who wants the best answer to foreign policy problems, like how to deal with North Koreas nuclear arms program, must look at debates in IR theory, and also debates in metatheory. The latter involve questions about whether IR is much or little like the natural sciences, whether prediction is possible, and the like.

By then, the work of the Committee and those sympathetic to it was increasingly seen as being out of step with the emergence of new theories such as postmodernism and critical theory and sub-disciplines such as foreign-policy analysis and international political economy. Yet, within a decade, interest in the English School had begun to rekindle.

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Added to these, original contributions to the history and theory of international society have proliferated, all taking the English School as their point of departure inter alia , Jackson ; ; Armstrong ; Osiander ; Welsh ; Buzan and Little ; Wheeler ; Keene ; Keal ; Clark ; ; Gonzalez-Pelaez This sense of a resurgent paradigm was prompted in part by the recognition that it represented a distinct position that was inhospitable to the rationalist assumptions underpinning both neorealism and neoliberalism.

Moreover, in terms of substantive research questions, the English School had long focused on the kind of cultural questions and normative contestations that were rising to the top of the international agenda in the s.

International Relations – Liberal Theory (2/7)

Such momentum prompted Buzan—along with Little—to seek to invigorate English School theorizing. The previous paragraphs have provided some historical and sociological context for the emergence of the English School. Following Buzan , I now hold the view that the School needs not only to provide a powerful account of how and why states form a society; it must also show how this domain relates to world society.

Moreover, going further than Buzan, I argue that the distinguishing power of the English School is its synthetic account of how the three pillars of the world political system hang together: the system, the inter-state society, and world society. They are ideal-types, bundles of properties that highlight certain important features while minimizing that which is thought to be less relevant. It is necessary, before going any further, to consider one objection to representing English School theory as a conversation between three overlapping domains. I do not doubt that one of the intellectual drivers propelling the English School into existence was a defense of a middle way between realism and idealism.

I also recognize that many publications by English School advocates in the s continued to privilege the societal domain, in part due to the desire to show that the English School was not just a polite form of realism, as many in the s had assumed. However, neither of these points undermines the claim that the most persuasive case one can make in defense of the English School is that it is potentially more illuminating than mainstream alternatives because it seeks to provide a synthetic account of global politics that avoids the series of false dichotomies thrown up by the alternatives such as power versus norms, materialism versus idealism, anarchy versus hierarchy, reasons versus causes.

Constructivism: An Introduction

Such a move requires that we situate the inter-state normative order alongside the other two ideal-types to illustrate its boundaries and constraints. Perhaps the sharpest definition of international society is to be found on the first page of the edited collection The Expansion of International Society. By an international society, Bull and Watson , 1 write,. The first key element of international society is the unique character of the membership that is confined to sovereign states.

Clearly the act of mutual recognition indicates the presence of a social practice: recognition is fundamental to an identity relationship. Recognition is the first step in the construction of an international society. If we were to doubt for p. The history of the expansion of international society is a story of a shifting boundary of inclusion and exclusion. China was denied sovereign statehood until January , when Western states finally renounced the unequal treaties. Why was this the case? What we see here is how important cultural differentiation has been to the European experience of international society.

China was not recognized as a legitimate member of international society, and, therefore, was denied equal membership. If the West and China did not recognize each other as equal members, then how should we characterize their relations? Here we see how the system—society dynamic can usefully capture historical boundaries of inclusion and exclusion.


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Crucially, neither side believed itself to be part of the same shared values and institutions: China, for example, long resisted the presence of European diplomats on its soil along with their claim to extraterritorial jurisdiction, which has been a long-standing rule among European powers. In the absence of accepting the rules and institutions of European international society, it makes sense to argue that from the Treaty of Nanking in to China was part of the states system but was not a member of international society Gong What does it mean to attribute agency to collectivities like states?

One straightforward answer is that states act through the medium of their representatives or office-holders. If we are looking for the real agents of international society, then it is to the diplomatic culture that we must look, that realm of ideas and beliefs shared by representatives of states Der Derian Sovereign states are the primary members of international society; however, it is important to note that they are not the only members.

Historical anomalies have always existed, including the diplomatic network belonging to the Catholic Church and the qualified sovereign powers that were granted to nonstate actors such as the rights to make war and annex territory that were transferred to the great trading companies of the imperial era. One might also argue that influential international nongovernmental organizations INGOs are members insofar as they give advice to p.

The other important anomaly with the membership of international society is the fact that sovereign rights are often constrained for economic or security reasons. A related development is the temporary suspension of sovereign prerogatives by an international institution or occupying authority, a practice that follows from a period of civil conflict or external military intervention. The element of mutual recognition is highly significant for English School understandings of international society, but it is not a sufficient condition for its existence. The actors must have some minimal common interests, such as trade, freedom of travel, or simply the need for stability.

Here we see how aspects of the system impinge on the possibilities for a society to develop.

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The higher the levels of economic interdependence, the more likely it is that states will develop institutions for realizing common interests and purposes. The independence of sovereign states, however, remains an important limiting factor in the realization of common goals. For this reason, the purposes states agreed upon for most of the Westphalian era have had a fairly minimal character centered upon the survival of the system and the endurance of the dominant units within it.

The condition of general war is an example of the breakdown of order, but Bull was quick to point out that, even during the Second World War, certain laws of war were respected and, perhaps more significantly, the period of total war triggered an attempt to construct a new order based largely on the same rules and institutions that had operated in the prewar era.

At the more minimal end of the spectrum of international societies, we find an institutional arrangement that is restricted solely to the maintenance of order. In a culturally diverse world, where member states have different traditions and political systems, the only collective venture they could all agree on was the maintenance of international order. Without order, the stability of the system would be thrown into doubt and with it the survival of the units.

Yet, the extent to which states formed an international society was limited and constrained by p. For this reason, international society was to be equated not with a harmonious order but, rather, with a tolerable order that was better than a realist would expect but much worse than a cosmopolitan might wish for MacMillan and Linklater In a pluralist international society, the institutional framework is geared toward the liberty of states and the maintenance of order among them. The rules are complied with because, like rules of the road, fidelity to them is relatively cost free but the collective benefits are enormous.

A good example is the elaborate rules to do with ambassadorial and diplomatic privileges. Acceptance that representatives of states were not subject to the laws of their host country is a principle that has received widespread compliance for many centuries. This is one instance among many where the rules of coexistence have come to dominate state practice. For example, if the balance of power was essential to preserve the liberty of states, then status quo powers must be prepared to intervene forcefully to check the growing power of a state that threatens the general balance.

Are pluralist rules and institutions adequate for our contemporary world? This is a question that has provoked differing responses within the English School. On one side, traditionalists like Jackson believe that a pluralist international society is a practical institutional adaptation to human diversity: The great advantage of a society based on the norms of sovereignty and nonintervention is that such an arrangement is most likely to achieve the moral value of freedom.

Critics of pluralism charge that it is failing to deliver on its promise. The persistence of inter-state wars throughout the twentieth century suggest that sovereignty norms were not sufficient to deter predatory states. Moreover, the rule of nonintervention that was central to pluralism was enabling statist elites to violently abuse their own citizens with impunity.

For these reasons, both Bull and Vincent were drawn to a different account of international society in which universal values such as human rights set limits on the exercise of state sovereignty. The guiding thought here, and one that is captured by the term solidarism, is that the ties that bind individuals to the great society of humankind are deeper than the pluralist rules and institutions that separate them.

Bull defined a solidarist international society in terms of the collective enforcement of international rules and the guardianship of human rights. It differs from cosmopolitanism in that the latter is agnostic as to the institutional arrangement for delivering universal values: Some cosmopolitans believe a world government is best and others would want to abandon formal political hierarchies altogether.

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The Third Debate and Postpositivism

Like pluralism, it is defined by shared values and institutions and is held together by binding legal rules. Where it differs is in the content of the values and the character of the rules and institutions. In terms of values, in a solidarist international society individuals are entitled to basic rights. This in turn demands that sovereignty norms are modified such that there is a duty on the members of international society to intervene forcibly to protect those rights.

At this point, Bull was hesitant about what was implied by solidarism. He believed that there was a danger that the enforcement of human rights principles risked undermining international order. On one side of the divide, Jackson made a forceful case for upholding pluralist norms, while Wheeler set out a persuasive argument in defense of a solidarist account of rights and duties. Buzan is right to argue that one of the negative consequences of the debate is that it assumed normative density was an issue primarily for the inter-state realm rather than understanding how it shapes and enables the transnational and inter-human domains.

Alongside the normative wing, we have seen the emergence of an analytical wing led by Buzan himself and including the work of Little.

Similar books and articles

Both Wight and Bull recognized that a sophisticated analysis of world politics required a systemic component. Bull defined the system as being an arena where there was interaction between communities but no shared rules or institutions. Secondly, by looking at the formation of the system, it is possible to discern mechanisms that shape and shove international and world societies. Thirdly, the category of the system can be used to capture the basic material forces in world politics—flows of information and trade, levels of destructive capability, and capacities of actors to affect their environment.

Let me examine each of these briefly in turn. What sets them apart is that the English School was interested in the system primarily for what it tells us about the history of international society. This can open up into an intriguing series of discussions as to when a system becomes a society—what level and type of interactions are required in order for the units to treat each other as ends in themselves? And under what circumstances might a society lapse back into a systemic order in which their actions impact upon one another but there is no mutual recognition or acceptance of a common framework of rules and institutions?

It is also important to realize that systemic interactions remain a possible future arrangement if the dominant actors in international society cease to comply with the rules and act in ways that undermine international security. The hypothetical case of a major nuclear confrontation could become a reality only if the great powers acted in ways that were catastrophic for international society. As a result, the society collapses back into the system. The idea of a states system is also useful to identify the current boundaries between members and those states that find themselves shunned by international society.

It is in the dark recesses of the states system that pariah states and failed states find themselves.


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  8. This does not mean pariahs are outside the framework of the rules and institutions entirely, only that their actions are subjected to far greater scrutiny. Actors in the states system can have structured interactions with members of international society—they may even comply with treaties and other rules—but these interactions remain systemic unless the parties grant each other mutual respect and inclusion into international society.


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    Thinking about the systemic domain also alerts us to the downward pressure exerted by the distribution of material power. Closely related to the phenomena of general war and destructive capacities as basic determinants of the system, one can find in the English School the view that there is logic of balancing in the states system. Under conditions of anarchy, where there is no overarching power to disarm the units and police the rules, it is in the interests of all states to prevent the emergence of a dominant or hegemonic power Watson Those who take the balance of power seriously point to repeated instances in modern history where states with hegemonic ambition have been repelled by an alliance of powers seeking to prevent a change in the ordering principle of the system.

    This is contrasted with the institution of the balance of power in international society that is not mechanical but is rather the outcome of a deliberate policy of pursuing a strategy of self-preservation in the absence of world government Wight Looking through the systemic lens does not only show the ordering of the units; it also directs our attention to the levels of technology, the distribution of material power, and the interaction capacity of the units.

    Levels of technology can be thought of as attributes of the units; an obvious case in point is whether a state has nuclear weapons technology or not. However, it is also useful to think about technology in systemic terms, particularly in areas such as communication, transportation, and levels of destructive capacity. Compare, for example, a states system in which the dominant mode of transportation is a horse-drawn wagon, as opposed to a system in which individuals and goods can be transported by supersonic jets, high-speed rail, and ships the size of several football fields placed end-to-end.

    By way of illustration, take the place of Britain in the world from the early s to the beginning of the cold war. By , the country was increasingly a policy-taker on the world stage and not a policy-maker, despite the fact that its diplomatic network remained global, its language remained dominant, and its values ascendant. None of these soft power advantages was enough to configure the system in multipolar terms.