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Bull, The Anarchical Society (XXI)

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Matt Domsalla

SAASS 632/1



The Anarchical Society Precis



In The Anarchical Society, Australian international-relations professor Hedley Bull examines the nature of order in world politics, how order is maintained in the contemporary system of states, and the feasibility and desirability of alternative paths to world order. Bull defines international order as “a pattern of activity that sustains the elementary or primary goals of the society of states, or international society.” (8) The goals of the society of states are (1) preservation of the system and the society of states itself, (2) maintain the independence or external sovereignty of individual states, (3) peace, and (4) limiting violence, keeping of promises, and stabilization of possession. (16 – 18) Bull explores the function of institutions, such as balance of power, international law, diplomacy, and war, in relation to order, not the place they occupy in the international political system.

Part 1 – The Nature of Order in World Politics

The Concept of Order in World Politics

· Elementary goals – life, truth, and property. (5)

· International order – “a pattern of activity that sustains the elementary or primary goals of the society of states, or international society.” (8)

· System of states (or international system) – “formed with two or more states have sufficient contact between them, and have sufficient impact on one another’s decisions, to cause them to behave – at least in some measure – as part of a whole.” (9)

· Society of states (or international society) – “exists when a group of states, conscious of certain common interests and common values, form a society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set of rules in their relations with one another, and share in the working of common institutions.” (13)

· Goals of the society of states – (1) preservation of the system and the society of states itself, (2) maintain the independence or external sovereignty of individual states, (3) peace, and (4) limiting violence, keeping of promises, and stabilization of possession. (16 – 18)

· World order – “patterns or dispositions of human activity that sustain the elementary or primary goals of social life among mankind as a whole.” (19)

Does Order Exist in World Politics?

· Starting point – “order is part of the historical record of international relations; and in particular, that modern states have formed, and continue to form, not only a system of states but also an international society.” (23)

· Three competing traditions of thought: (1) Hobbesian or realist, which views international politics as a state of war; (2) Kantian or universalist tradition, which sees at work in international politics a potential community of mankind; and (3) Grotian or internationalist tradition, which views international politics as taking place within an international society.” (23)

· Changes in Grotain idea of international society

o Christian International Society – Christian values, no clear guidance as to who the members of the international society were, primacy was accorded to natural law, ad rules of coexistence which it enunciated were inchoate and overlaid with the assumptions of a universal society, and did not define a set of institutions. (26 – 30)

o European International Society – European rather than Christian in values or culture, resort to legitimate violence in international politics is the monopoly of the state, sovereignty as an attribute of all states, war or intervention as a method to maintain balance of power. (30 – 36)

o World International Society – state as bearer of rights and duties, legal and moral, in international society joined by international organization, non-state groups, and individuals. (36 – 38)

· “The order provided within modern international society is precarious and imperfect.” (50)

How is Order Maintained in World Politics?

· “Order… is maintained by a sense of common interests in those elementary or primary goals.” (51)

· Rules must be made, communicated, administered, interpreted, enforced, legitimized, capable of adaptation, and protected. (54)

Order Versus Justice in World Politics

· Starting point – “certain ideas or beliefs as to what justice involves in world politics, and that demands formulated in the name of these ideas play a role in the course of events.” (75)

· International or interstate just – “moral rules held to confer rights and duties upon states and nations, for example the idea that all states, irrespective of their size or their racial composition or their ideological leaning, are equally entitled to the rights of sovereignty, or the idea that all nations are equally entitled to the rights of national self-determination. (78)

· Cosmopolitan or world justice – “what is right or good for the world as a whole, for an imagined civitas maxima or cosmopolitan society to which all individuals belong and to which their interests should be subordinate.” (81)

· “The international order does not provide any general protection of human rights, only a selective protection that is determined not by the merits of the case but by the vagaries of international politics.” (86)

· “The conflict between international law and international justice is endemic because the situations from which the law takes its point of departure are a series of faits accomplish brought about by force and the threat of force, legitimized by the principle that treaties concluded under duress are valid.” (88)

· “Great power contribute to international order by maintaining local systems of hegemony within which order is imposed from above, and by collaborating to manage the global balance of power and, from time to time, to impose their joint will on others.” (89)

· “Order in social life is desirable because it is the condition of the realization of other values.” (93)

· “Not only is order in world politics valuable, there is also a sense in which it is prior to other goals, such as that of justice.” (93)

Part II – Order in the Contemporary International System

The Balance of Power and International Order

· Balance of power – “state of affairs such that no one power is in a position where it is preponderant and can lay down the laws to others.” (97)

· Functions of the balance of power – prevent from being transformed by conquest into a universal empire, protect the independence of state, and provide conditions in which other institutions on which international order depends have been able to operate. (102)

· “While international law depends for its very existence as an operating system of rules on the balance of power, preservation of the latter often requires the breaking of these rules.” (104)

· “The present complex balance of power does not rest on a common culture shard by the major states participating in it, comparable with that shared by the European great powers that made up the complex balances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries… [today, there is] some common stock of ideas, but there is no equivalent of the bonds of common culture among European powers in earlier centuries.” (111)

· Functions of mutual nuclear deterrence – preserve the nuclear peace, nuclear powers reluctant to enter directly into non-nuclear hostilities with one another for fear of expansion of the conflict, and contributed to the maintenance of a general balance of power in the international system by helping to stabilize the dominant balance.” (119)

· Limitations

o Mutual nuclear deterrence can make deliberate resort to nuclear war ‘irrational’ as an instrument of policy only so long as it is stable, that is, it has a built-in tendency to persist.

o While the relationship of mutual nuclear deterrence persists, and deliberate resort to nuclear war is rendered irrational, there are still dangers of nuclear war arising by accident or miscalculation, which the relationship of mutual nuclear deterrence by itself does nothing to assuage.

o Mutual nuclear deterrence, while it persists and helps to make nuclear war unlikely in itself, does nothing to solve the problem of limiting or controlling a nuclear war that has broken out.

o Places a tremendous burden upon the supposition that men can be expected to act ‘rationally.’

o To say that mutual nuclear deterrence carries out this function in relation to preservation of peace is not to endorse the proposition that international security is enhanced by the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides in international conflicts.

o Preservation of mutual nuclear deterrence obstructs the long-term possibility of establishing international order on some more positive basis. (119 – 121)

International Law and International Order

· International law – “body of rules which binds states and other agents in world politics in their relations with one another and is considered to have the status of law.” (122)

· “states obey international law in part because of habit or inertia; they are, as it were, programmed to operate within the framework of established principles.” (133)

· “The importance of international law does not rest on the willingness of states to abide by its principles to the detriment of their interests, but in the fact that they so often judge it in their interests to conform to it.” (134)

· “Carried to its logical extreme, the doctrine of human rights and duties under international law is subversive of the whole principle that mankind should be organized as a society of sovereign states. For, if the rights of each man can be asserted on the world political states over and against the claims of his states, and his duties proclaimed irrespective of his position as a servant or a citizen of that state, then the position of the state as a body sovereign over its citizens, and entitled to command their obedience, has been subject to challenge, and the structure of the society of sovereign states has been placed in jeopardy.” (146)

· “It is obvious that the principal factors inhibiting states from resort to war lie outside international law, in the rising costs of war (especially, for those exposed to it, the risk of nuclear destruction) and the declining gains to be expected from it.” (148)

· “It is clear that the monopoly of legitimate international violence long enjoyed by sovereign states is being challenged on the one hand by non-state political groups employing so-called ‘low-level’ or ‘terrorist’ violence on an international scale, and on the other hand by the assumption by international organizations of a right to use violence.” (149)

Diplomacy and International Order

· Senses of the term diplomacy – conduct of relations between states and other entities by official agents and by peaceful means, professional, tactful or subtle manner. (156)

· “Diplomacy… presupposes that there exists not only an international system but also an international society.” (161)

· Functions of diplomacy – (1) facilitates communication, (2) negotiation of agreements, (3) gathering of intelligence, (4) minimization of the effects of friction in international relations, and (5) symbolizes the existence of the society of states. (164 – 166)

· “Diplomats are specialists in precise and accurate communication.” (173)

War and International Order

· War – “organized violence carried on by political units against each other. Violence is not war unless it is carried out in the name of a political unit; what distinguishes killing in war from murder is its vicarious and official character, the symbolic responsibility of the unit whose agent the killer is.” (178)

· “War appears as a basic determinant of the shape the system assumes at any one time.” (181)

· “On the one hand, war is a manifestation of disorder in international society, bringing with it the threat of breakdown of international society itself into a state of pure enmity or war of all against all… On the other hand, war – as an instrument of state policy and a basic determinant of the shape of the international system – is a means which international society itself feels a need to exploit so as to achieve its own purposes.” (181)

· Positive role of war – enforcement of international law, means of preserving the balance of power, positive function to bring about just change. (182 – 183)

· “From the vantage-point of the individual state, war remains an instrument of policy, but one that can be used only at greater cost and in relation to a narrower range of purposes than before 1945.” (187)

· “While the costs of resort to war have expanded, the range of foreign policy purposes which war can effectively promote appears to have contracted.” (188)

· “From the perspective of international society, war retains its duel aspect: on the one hand, a threat to be limited and contained; on the other hand, an instrumentality to be harnessed to international society’s purposes.” (191)

The Great Powers and International Order

· Great powers – (1) two or more powers that are comparable in status, existence of a club with a rule of membership, (2)front rank in terms of military strength, and (3) recognized by others to have, and conceived by their own leaders and peoples to have, certain special rights and duties. (194 – 196)

· “The contribution of the great powers to international order derives from the sheer facts of inequality of power as between the states that make up the international system.” (199)

· “The inequality of states in terms of power has the effect, in other words, of simplifying the pattern of international relations, of ensuring that the say of some states will prevail while that of others will go under, that certain conflicts will form the essential theme of international politics while others will be submerged.” (200)

· “Great powers manage their relations with one another in the interests of international order by (1) preserving the general balance of power, (2) seeking to avoid or control crises in their relations with one another, and (3) seeking to limit or contain wars among one another. They exploit their preponderance in relation to the rest of international society by (4) unilaterally exploiting their local preponderance, (5) agreeing to respect one another’s spheres of influence, and (6) joint action, as is implied by the idea of a great power concert or condominium. “ (200)

· Unjust order. “Great powers manage their relations with one another and provide central direction in such a way as to secure special privileges for themselves, and if an order exists it is one in which they have a special stake.” (220)

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