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HEDLEY BULL: IS THIS ANALYSIS VALID 40 YEARS ON

By Edited May 1, 2015 0 0

Hedley Bull analysis of international societies

Hedley Bull concludes his essay by arguing that “Formidable though the classic dangers are of a plurality of sovereign states, these have to be reckoned against those inherent in the attempt to contain disparate communities within the framework of a single government. It is an entirely reasonable view of world order at the present time that it is best served by living with the former dangers rather than by attempting to face the latter.”

 1) What does he mean and why does he believe this?

2) Is his analysis valid 40 years on? 


What does he mean and why does he believe this.

 In "society and anarchy in international affairs", Bull presents two different international societies. One is described as the law of nations and the other as the balance of power. Bulls definition of Anarchy is the interaction between agents in the absence of a state- this can be individuals or states. Anarchy and society cannot exist together. Both the law of nations and the balance of power rely on the willingness of states to declare war or use force against another state that breaks the law and created a change in the power of balance.

3 forms of anarchy:

1. Anarchical Community- stateless societies- order among clans and lineages groups with partial overlapping competences is preserved in part because of a high degree of cultural homogeneity and social solidarity. The rules enforced by these groups have religious or natural status and a special authority owing to that status form of special owing to are according to custom and tradition.

2. Anarchical International System- Anarchical state system- plurality of states and no element of society plays a consequential role. Order is preserved through the separate states acting on their own interests and or values and principles, and not on the basis of a sense of common interests or an understanding of being bound by common rules and institutions.

3. Anarchial International Society- order among states is maintained by the existence of an international society that does not operate in the shadow of the state by a sense of common or shared interests/values, and a sense of being bound by common rules and institutions. (habits, practices, organizations)

 Because anarchy comes in 3 variteties- we cant conclude that from the absence of the state, the factors relevant to understanding and explaining either foreign policy or international politics (regular patterns of interaction among states) can be reduced to the interests of states and the distribution of power or capabilities among them. 

States interact within a social background- that includes ideas and norms- that shapes the conduct of individual states and the patterns of their interaction.

So for example, a perfectly competitive market is an order that advances efficiency, without that being the aim of any participant in the order. Important to the view that order gets defined independent of the means for achieving and sustaining it, that is, independently of its causes, which may include rules and institutions.

 International (or State) System: a plurality of states that regularly interact, so that the well-being of each depends on the conduct of others and such that each needs to take the likely conduct of others into account in deciding what to do. • An international society (society of states) is a system of (interacting) states in which the members form a society, that is: (i) have a sense of common interests and/or values, (ii) regardthemselves as bound by common rules, which provide standards of conduct; and (iii) cooperate in making common institutions operate.

In principle, international order—order in relations among states—could exist on the basis of an international system, which is not embedded in an international society: this appears to be a standard Realist thesis, that order can exist without a society or state. In this case, there would be order—pattern of activity that advances the goals of a society of states, including the three basic goals of social life—even though the pattern would not be sustained by such social facts as norms and institutions, but only by the separate efforts of states to advance their own interests and values on the basis of their capabilities. NB: The definition of international order—which refers to the goals of a society of states—may be confusing on this point, because it might suggest that an international order requires as a conceptual matter the existence of a society of states. But the connection between society and order, to the extent that such connection exists, is substantive not conceptual:

Is this analysis valid 40 years on? What has and has not changed since then?

I don’t believe that Bulls analysis is valid 40 years on. The world that Bull depicts has changed. Nation- States are no longer the only players in the international realm and the only obstacles to the formation of an international system. With the rise of globalization, there are now non state actors and multi-national corporations, OPEC, terrorist groups, that are just as significant. The idea that war between nations is not as absolute as a war between men, is not relevant during a nuclear era. The push of one button could wipe an entire nation state off the map. Bull also argues that states are more self-sufficient than men but with the rise of globalization, this is not so much the case anymore. As we have seen through terrorist acts, weaker states can cause harm on strong states through non conventional warfare and terrorist acts.  Weaker states that posess natural resources like oil can also use this power to wage war on stronger states.

As can be seen is our international society, law enforcement in the international society hardly exit and is very selective. the fact is that certain states as well as international organization such as the UN are unwilling to take action in so many violation of the international law that they become irrelevant as international law enforcement bodies. diplomacy clearly is not enough. how, other than the use of force, can the universal government create a sense of authority  over the  states?

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