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date: 02 December 2020

The Expansion of International Societylocked

  • Daniel M. GreenDaniel M. GreenDepartment of Political Science, University of Delaware


The English School of international relations theory has its own particular account of the history of international relations, a key aspect of which is the expansion of a set of norms, practices and institutions—diplomacy, embassies, international law, sovereignty, the modern state—out of their formative cultural heartland of Europe and to the rest of the world over the past few centuries. This is the story of “European international society” spreading out to become a “global international society,” accelerating especially during the 19th century via cultural imperialism and colonial conquest. The writings of the English School on this Expansion Narrative have evolved since the 1960s, going through phases of development that have concretized the details of the Narrative’s history, elaborated on the processes behind the spread, and attempted to inject more scientific rigor into analysis. Over time a more profound challenge has also emerged, in a revisionist shift from a monocentric story of Europe training the rest of the world in the proper ways of domestic and international life, toward a polycentric, globalization model, in which different civilizations have learned from each other to create a synthetic, multicultural international society by the 21st century. These analytic tensions are a source of creativity and innovation for the English School and set it apart from other approaches to international relations.

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