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date: 19 December 2018

Summary and Keywords

Both historical and contemporary trends suggest that the meaning of diplomacy varies considerably over time and across space. Diplomacy is defined neither by the types of actors on behalf of which it is undertaken nor by the status of those actors vis-à-vis one another, in the sense of their being, for example, sovereign and equal. There are, however, four common threads underlying these historical variations on diplomacy. The first is an assumption about the necessarily plural character of social relations, namely that people live in groups which regard themselves as separate from, yet needing or wanting relations with, one another. The second is that this plural social fact gives rise to relations that are somehow distinctive to and different from relations within groups. People believe and feel themselves to be under fewer obligations to those whom they regard as others than to those whom they regard as their own. Third, therefore, if these relations are to remain peaceful and productive, they require careful handling by specialists who should be treated neither as one’s own nor, at least in the usual sense, as others. Fourth, these specialists develop a measure of solidarity as the managers of relations in worlds distinguished by the plural social fact. Where these four elements are in play, then there emerges a system of relations which can be recognized as having the character of diplomacy.

Keywords: diplomacy, plurality, social relations, diplomats, system of relations, states, state system

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