The British Committee on the Theory of International Politics is generally considered the original core of the “English School.” Equally often, scholars have identified as one of its characteristic elements the importance it attributed to “international society” as a force aimed at enlivening and regulating, as far as possible, power relations between states. The attention it paid to international society is also seen as consistent with the importance the authors of the British Committee attributed to “history” and in particular to the “history of international society” as a means to understand and reconstruct international life in the past and the present. However, the internal history of the British Committee is all too often neglected. Studies concerned with the orientations of the English School have mainly sought to analyze the thinking of this or that author without considering the work of the British Committee as a whole. In other words, scholars have tended to pay little attention to the moment when the British Committee began to examine “international society” and the manner in which it did so. In particular, the achievement of the British Committee discussions during 1961–1962 was important, and it was the beginning of a development of great interest. The various texts, the debates, do not limit themselves to a sort of rich and varied list of the component parts of an “international society.” Instead, they paint an overall picture, and they guarantee an interconnection between the reflections of the individuals and the overall orientation of the Committee. Moreover, they are the critical point of departure for the future development of theory.
The argument can be made, and has in fact been made, that the English School is primarily concerned with the study of institutions. The institutions of international society are social in a fundamental sense. That is, they are something above and beyond what one usually associates with an international institution. There are three dominant perspectives on what the primary institutions of international society are: functional, historical/descriptive, and typological. Hedley Bull was the major proponent of the functional perspective, and he identified five primary institutions of international society: the balance of power, international law, diplomacy, war, and the great powers. However, the historical/descriptive perspective appears to be the prevailing one. Nevertheless, various authors have started to think about the institutions of international society typologically. This has certain implications for how one views the cognitive objectives of the English School. The adherence to functional, historical/descriptive, or typological perspectives involves a positioning in relation to where international relations (IR), as a discipline, and the English School, as an approach to it, should locate itself in wider academia.
April R. Biccum
The concept of “Global Citizenship” is enjoying increased currency in the public and academic domains. Conventionally associated with cosmopolitan political theory, it has moved into the public domain, marshaled by elite actors, international institutions, policy makers, nongovernmental organizations, and ordinary people. At the same time, scholarship on Global Citizenship has increased in volume in several domains (International Law, Political Theory, Citizenship Studies, Education, and Global Business), with the most substantial growth areas in Education and Political Science, specifically in International Relations and Political Theory. The public use of the concept is significant in light of what many scholars regard as a breakdown and reconfiguration of national citizenship in both theory and practice. The rise in its use is indicative of a more general change in the discourse on citizenship. It has become commonplace to offer globalization as a cause for these changes, citing increases in regular and irregular migration, economic and political dispossession owing to insertion in the global economy, the ceding of sovereignty to global governance, the pressure on policy caused by financial flows, and cross-border information-sharing and political mobilization made possible by information communications technologies (ICTs), insecurities caused by environmental degradation, political fragmentation, and inequality as key drivers of change. Global Citizenship is thus one among a string of adjectives attempting to characterize and conceptualize a transformative connection between globalization, political subjectivity, and affiliation. It is endorsed by elite global actors and the subject of an educational reform movement. Some scholarship observes empirical evidence of Global Citizenship, understood as active, socially and globally responsible political participation which contributes to global democracy, within global institutions, elites, and the marginalized themselves. Arguments for or against a cosmopolitan sensibility in political theory have been superseded by both the technological capability to make global personal legal recognition a possibility, and by the widespread endorsement of Global Citizenship among the Global Education Policy regime. In educational scholarship Global Citizenship is regarded as a form of contemporary political being that needs to be socially engineered to facilitate the spread of global democracy or the emergence of new political arrangements. Its increasing currency among a diverse range of actors has prompted a variety of attempts either to codify or to study the variety of usages in situ. As such the use of Global Citizenship speaks to a central methodological problem in the social sciences: how to fix key conceptual variables when the same concepts are a key aspect of the behavior of the actors being studied? As a concept, Global Citizenship is also intimately associated with other concepts and theoretical traditions, and is among the variety of terms used in recent years to try to reconceptualize changes it the international system. Theoretically it has complex connections to cosmopolitanism, liberalism, and republicanism; empirically it is the object of descriptive and normative scholarship. In the latter domain, two central cleavages repeat: the first is between those who see Global Citizenship as the redress for global injustices and the extension of global democracy, and those who see it as irredeemably capitalist and imperial; the second is between those who see evidence for Global Citizenship in the actions and behavior of a wide range of actors, and those who seek to socially engineer Global Citizenship through educational reform.
The English School’s global positioning is one of the most significant intellectual achievements accomplished by the second generation of the English School scholars. It is at the same time an important process of social production of ideas/knowledge in international relations (IR). Sociopolitical changes and economic transformations since the late 1990s have indirectly set off a period of intellectual change by opening up structural opportunities for reorienting and reconfiguring major debates in the global discipline of IR. More specifically, this means the restructuring of the attention space—the intellectual territory of limited size—in IR. The English School scholars collectively have taken advantage of the opportunities offered by this restructuring to successfully establish the English School as one of a small number of contending occupants in the inevitably limited attention space of IR. Successful global diffusion of the English School ideas, however, is also conditional upon local social and intellectual conditions. As an empirical examination of the diffusion of the English School to Asia shows, the English School is influential in Asia, as it serves a particular social purpose. It is taken as an inspiration for the social production of knowledge and intellectual innovation in Asian IR, as it encourages and legitimates its opposition to the dominance of mainstream Western IR theories, promising new and alternative sites of IR knowledge construction. Whether or not one sees this opposition as a “post-Western turn” to theorizing IR, its ambitious goals have been stated as decentralizing Western understandings about the world and to de-essentializing Western way of theorization, to disrupt the structural hierarchies between Western and non-Western perspectives in order to reorient IR toward a more democratic and less hegemonic direction, and to bring about non-hegemonic, diverse spaces of learning.
Order and justice are deeply intertwined in English School writing. The central concern of the English School is with the problem of order and with the question: To what extent does the inherited political framework provided by the international society of states continue to provide an adequate basis for world order? This kind of question links closely with the debates on international institutions and global governance that have been so prominent since the end of the Cold War. But the English School focus is less on theoretical understanding of particular institutions and more on assessing the overall character of institutionalization in world politics, the normative commitments inherent in different ways of governing the globe, and the adequacy of historical and existing interstate institutions for meeting practical and normative challenges. There are four specific themes that are central to the pluralist wing of English School writing on order and justice. The first theme concerns power and the conditions of order, while the second concerns diversity and value conflict. Meanwhile, a third theme emerges from the idea that moral values should, so far as possible, be kept out of international life and of particular international institutions. Finally, the fourth theme concerns the argument that international society has the potential not just to help manage international conduct in a restrained way but also to create the conditions for a more legitimate and morally more ambitious political community to emerge. As power diffuses away from the Western, liberal developed core, and as the intractability of the international system to liberal prescriptions becomes more evident, so one can detect new changes in the way in which global justice is understood.
The end of the Cold War, the emergence of nonWestern states as influential actors in global politics, and waves of Western nativism in the United States and Europe have placed questions of cultural diversity centrally in global politics. Although the mainstream paradigms of international relations (IR), namely, realism and liberalism, have remained focused on material power and mutual gains via institutions as the cruxes of global politics, starting with the mid-1990s, an increasing number of IR scholars have attended to the question of cultural diversity and world politics. This scholarship has approached culture, alternatively, as a set of shared meanings stable over time, meanings that are institutionally stabilized, or a field of multiple and competing representations. Accordingly, some (the English school, conventional constructivism) posit culture as internally coherent and externally diverse, associating shared culture with accord and cultural diversity with discord. Others (critical constructivism, postcolonial IR) focus on the power-laden processes through which cultural diversity comes to be associated with Otherness and discord. Most of the relevant scholarship, however, defies paradigmatic categorization. These works are better grouped as interventions into IR theory and as scholarship that focuses on the impact of cultural diversity on the conduct of world politics. The first set of interventions have identified the state of cultural diversity in IR theorizing as an absence, a deep suspicion and an active suppression, or an outdated conceptualization. The IR theoretical path forward has, accordingly, been identified as the inclusion of culture, as dispensing with key theoretical heuristics of the field, or as a new focus on how cultural diversity has been globally governed. The analyses of cultural diversity and the conduct of world politics, taken together, show the intricate connections between existing institutions and norms, and assertions of cultural diversity. While diversity challenges universalizing forms of governance, the demands for the equal recognition of diversity are shaped by existing institutions. Despite key theoretical and analytical insights, the scholarship on cultural diversity can pay further attention to (a) the relation between theoretical notions of cultural diversity and cultural diversity as employed in global politics and (b) the relation between cultural diversity and other global political domains, such as geopolitics. On this, the literature can benefit from engagement with the IR scholarship on civilizations. At the same time, the latter scholarship is highly relevant to the question at hand because civilizations are key conduits of the global politics of cultural diversity.
Tim Dunne and Richard Little
The central feature of the English School is now usually considered to be its commitment to the proposition that international relations (IR) take place within an international society of shared norms and some shared values. However, an exclusive focus on norms has the effect of denuding the school of the more pluralistic dimensions that were advocated by some of the founding members of the British Committee on the Theory of International Politics. Hedley Bull, in particular, stressed that to account for international order it is necessary to view IR from three divergent perspectives: the international system, the international society, and world society. The early British Committee discussions, directed toward delineating the “fundamentals” of international theory, used the terms international society, international system, and states system interchangeably. But the idea of a states system was distinctive to the emerging English School. A distinguishing marker of the English School is the claim that not only is there a need to accommodate societal norms in theoretical accounts of world politics, but that there is also a systemic logic, and that these analytics together have explanatory power in considering how the world hangs together. The essential elements of the school’s thinking were most fully and effectively realized in The Expansion of the International Society, the central work where the international system–international society distinction is employed. This grand narrative represents a crucial contribution to the field of IR but one that has been very generally underappreciated across the discipline. To generate a deeper understanding of the two concepts, it is clear that much more research needs to be carried out on international societies and systems around the world.
Normative thinking permeates the work of the English School and has done so since its start as the British Committee for International Politics. Ethics, or, more precisely, the tension between ethics and power or interests, was one of the original concerns of the founding members of the Committee. It was an aim of the Committee to combine ethical reflection with the historical analysis of states systems. The approach in first-generation, or classical, English School scholarship to ethical questions primarily involved the identification of traditions of political and moral speculation about international relations (IR). Another significant feature of classical English School thought was moral skepticism, which seriously challenged what could be said about ethical choices within the forms of international interaction it charted. However, keen interest in what normative agendas can be supported within international or world society—basic subsistence rights, international criminal justice, and humanitarian intervention—does not necessarily amount to a normative theory. As such, order versus justice is a more productive starting point for normative theorizing within the English School. Meanwhile, there are two modes of normative thought in postclassical English School: practical and moral–philosophical arguments. The English School is grounded in the practical, in the real-world tussle of power and interests, while at the same time it works through what it is possible to say about the nature of obligation and moral responsibility among international actors. This is where ethics and practical interest meet, and it represents the unique contribution of the English School to contemporary normative IR theory.
Sports diplomacy is a new term that describes an old practice: the unique power of sport to bring people, nations, and communities closer together via a shared love of physical pursuits. This “power”—to bring strangers closer together, advance foreign policy goals or augment sport for development initiatives—remains elusive because of a lack of a robust theoretical framework. Four distinct theoretical frameworks are, however, beginning to emerge: traditional sports diplomacy, new sports diplomacy, sport-as-diplomacy, and sports antidiplomacy. As a result of these new frameworks, the complex landscape where sport, politics, and diplomacy overlap become clearer, as do the pitfalls of using sport as a tool for overcoming and mediating separation between people, nonstate actors, and states. The power of sport has never been more important. So far, the 21st century has been dominated by disintegration, introspection, and the retreat of the nation-state from the globalization agenda. In such an environment, scholars, students, and practitioners of international relations are beginning to rethink how sport might be used to tackle climate change, gender inequality, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, for example. To boost these integrative, positive efforts is to focus on the means as well as the ends, that is, the diplomacy, plural networks, and processes involved in the role sport can play in tackling the monumental traditional and human security challenges of our time.
The English School conceived “international theory” as a way to approach the political philosophy and political speculation by examining historical traditions of international relations. The starting point for this line of inquiry was to organize the wide range of material contained in the history of ideas about international politics into a much simpler, and thus more intelligible, scheme, in the event comprising three traditions. Martin Wight called them realism, rationalism, and revolutionism, but they are also known as Hobbesianism (or Machiavellianism), Grotianism, and Kantianism. The fundamental difference between the three traditions is that each represents an idea of what international society is, from which they derive various propositions about more specific topics such as how to deal with peoples from different cultures, how to conduct diplomacy and wage war, or what obligations under international law are. For realists, international society is the state of nature, and since they see the state of nature as a state of war, the answer to the question “What is international society?” is “nothing.” Rationalists agree that international society is the state of nature, but for them it is a state of “goodwill, mutual assistance and preservation,” and so “international society is a true society, but institutionally deficient; lacking a common superior or judiciary.” Revolutionists, by contrast, reject the analogy with the state of nature. Instead, they have an immanent conception of international society, in the sense that they look beyond the apparent or present reality of a society of sovereign states and see behind it a true international society in the form of a community of mankind. Ultimately, these three traditions has exercised a profound influence on the ways in which international relations scholars think about the history of ideas.