The English School / International Society

Term Paper, 2003

6 Pages, Grade: 1 (A)

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I. Introduction: International Relations Theories

Concerning the analysis of international politics and international relations there are many possibilities that all show different views to the events in these fields. Several methods explain in different ways acts between states like conflicts, wars, agreements and treaties. During an analysis you use one of these methods like glasses that you must not change because the achieved explanation would be unclear.

The method of the Political Realism for example puts distrust, politics of power, military security and war in the foreground. The method of the Liberalism is very contrary to this theory: Liberalism, also called Utopic Idealism, has the opinion that states act in the interest of peace and that is why they cooperate, have diplomatic relations and no interests of being at war. These are two very different kinds of procedure explaining the reasons of state acting.

The International Society is the third way how to describe events in the world of politics. It is a kind of combination between Realism and Liberalism because there are realistic elements like “Balance of Power”, “Great Powers” and “War” and also elements of the Liberalism like “Diplomacy” and the “Human Rights”.[1]The main aim of the International Society is order and justice in the world. In the following text, this theory will be presented and later explained by two recent examples of events in world politics.

II. The International Society

1. Internal and external sovereignty

The founder of the theory of the International Society is Hedley Bull. In his essay “Anarchical Society”[2]he writes down the basics about the International Society that tries to reconcile Realism and Liberalism and to make a suggestion how to achieve peace in the world permanently. Bull moves himself on the level of systems, the third image (beside the level of states as second and the level of individuals as first image) named by Kenneth Waltz[3]as representative of the theory of Neorealism. The main actors in the Anarchical Society are sovereign states and their relations.

Starting point of Bull’s thoughts is the existence of politically independent Gemeinwesen, namely states, who are situated in an anarchical condition in the world because there is no world government. On the one hand, states have a so called “internal sovereignty” over their population on their own territory (=internal control). On the other hand, states exert “external sovereignty”, meaning independence of external power (s. Bull, p.31). The status of independence differs from state to state.

2. International System and International Society

In spite of the present of an anarchical condition, there is a kind of order because nearly all sovereign states have built International Systems and some of them International Societies (that gives this International Relations Theory its name) . The International System is a “system of states” and develops, when states have an adequate amount of contact to influence themselves. If then these states have common interests and values, the International System forms into the International Society, also called “society of states”. The members in the International Society are linked by common rules and institutions, they accept certain limitations concerning mutual acts of violence, respect their right of independence and cooperate in various institutions like the Human Rights, Diplomacy, rules and conventions in case of War and other general international organizations (s. Bull, p.32). So the International Society is based on the International System, i.e. every society of states is a system of states but a system of states does not need to be a society of states obviously.

3. International order

Order is an important measure that maintains the main aim of the International Society, the independence of all states. The absence of a world government does not mean a totally international anarchy, how the philosopher Thomas Hobbes thought. Hobbes transferred the distrust between men and the so resulted anarchical condition on the level of the states. The Realist Hans Morgenthau took up the analogy of men and states in his essay “Macht und Frieden”[4](“Power and Peace”) and came to the result, that all states live in mutual distrust and need weapons for their self-defensive. According to the Realism, Bull agrees only at this point with Hobbes, that states have a permanent readiness to war. With their constantly ready-to-hit army, states are always prepared for an attack, although they are living in peace. In general, Bull does not agree with this comparison of men and states. They are similar, but states are less vulnerable than men, because it is nearly impossible to extinguish a whole state, while it is easy to kill a man.

Five institutions are responsible for the maintaining of the international order: the Balance of Power, the Human Rights, Diplomacy, The Great Powers and War.

3.1. The Balance of Power

The expression Balance of Power means that no state may dominate in the level of system; power must be distributed equally. So this institution has three functions: first, the protection against a subjection of the states under a world state. Second, the existence of a local Balance of Power in a region protects independent states against a local dominant power, which could absorb them. And finally third, general and local Balances of Power built the assumption for regimes and other international institutions like for example the Human Rights (s. Bull, p.38). Common interests and values, which develop special bodies of rules and regulations, contribute an important part for the existence of the Balance of Power.

3.2. The Human Rights

The second important element of an international order are the already mentioned Human Rights, which support states in their mutual relations. This complex of rules obliges all actors legal (=juristisch?) and fixes the thought of a society of sovereign states as highest normative principle (s. Bull, p.39). With their function of order and their principle of agreement and cooperation between states the Human Rights are part of the Liberalism. Because there are special rules every member must follow, the international order can be better preserved.

3.3 The Diplomacy

Diplomacy is part of the Liberalism, too. In contrary interests, it is the first way to solve problems peacefully. According to Bull, diplomacy relieves the communication between the leaders of states and other actors in world politics. Condition for this function is the agreement, that all diplomats are immune. Only this immunity can guarantee the diplomats won’t be killed or gewaltsam festgehalten by any partie. Moreover, diplomacy makes sure the negotiations of agreements, which just come about, when there are common interests. A third function according to Bull is the collecting of news and information about foreign states. Countries must know the interests and situations of other countries, if they want to deal with them. Another point is keeping down possible tensions between states and, of course, diplomacy is a symbol for the existence of a society of states. A diplomat is not only a representative of his country and its culture, he is also the personification of the existence of rules and international institutions (s. Bull, p.44/45).

3.4. The Great Powers

The fourth factor of the international order is the special role of the so called Great Powers, which remember of the Realism. Great Powers like the United States of America are not only characterized by military or economical power, they also have special rights and tensions, for example in matters of peace and security. So they have a special responsibility in the world. They can use their mutual relations for maintaining the order of the International System, like control crisis and prevent (world) wars. And they can use their own superiority to protect the International Society. In this way, with the possibility to vote and so to block resolutions, the United Nations gave a special role to the permanent members in the Security Council[5]to maintain international peace and security (s. Bull, p. 46).

3.5. The function of War

As the fifth element in the international order names Hedley Bull the realistic term War – what at first may be surprising. But Bull regards War as a particular measure for reaching peace and stability at the end. War is a general accepted pattern of behavior, which has two faces. On the one side, War is a sign for disorder in the International Society and on the other side, it is a way to eliminate problems, which could not be solved by another medium. War is legitimated, when the Human Rights must be defended. (However there is the question if the Human Rights are valid for every state and political actor or only for those, who had ratified them.) War is also legitimated for preserving the Balance of Power. So Bull regards the institution War as necessity – when other peaceful methods fail.

III. Examples for the International Society by events in world politics

The following execution will now show two recent examples how to use the theory of the International Society to explain events in world politics.

1. The “Roadmap” to peace in the Middle East

Under the auspices of the United States, European Union, United Nations and the Russian Federation there is developed a “Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”[6]. Main aim of this diplomatic cooperation, in which of course the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Abu Mazen are involved, is a final and comprehensive settlement of this conflict, which began with the occupation of several areas in 1967 by Israel. A two-state solution will only be achieved through an end of violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty, and through Israel’s readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state.[7]

In this Roadmap, Diplomacy is the most important element. Both parties, Israel and Palestine, must leave parts of their territory, influence and power and so they have to find a compromise, with which both sides agree and which is able to bring peace. At the end of the Roadmap there will be another constellation in this region, another Balance of Power. So the Arabic neighbor states must accept this solution, that helps to avoid War, too. All involved parties must accept special laws and institutions like the Human Rights. Finally this Roadmap can not be pushed through without the support of the Great Powers USA, UN, EU and Russia.

2. The constitution of the European Union

Since 16 months 28 european nations worked equal on a union of the continent after fifty years of division. Now, on Friday, the 13th of June 2003, the EU-convent of reforms came to the agreement of the first constitution for the united Europe, which organizes the cooperation between the soon 25 member states. A hauptamtlicher EU-President having the power over the majority decisions may take care of a faster and more efficient decision making. This is a democratic and solid basis for the united Europe that becomes bigger and bigger. The constitution also may make sure, that this big Europe will be able to act in the future, too. The chairman of this committee, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, described this agreement as “combination of idealism and innovation”[8].

In the European Union much factors of the International Society Theory play a role. There must be found a Balance of Power, so that the states can trust each other. The Human Rights may be accepted by every member of the EU. Communication and solving of problems are only possible with Diplomacy. Great Powers must find their role in this system and the role of War must be defined. Only in this way, there will be an international order, in which the member states can act and do not be afraid of anarchical conditions. The EU gives stability and mutual protection and security to the states, but the process of reaching mutual trust is not easy and still needs a long way.

IV. The International Society Theory also able for an extension

Compared with the Theory of Realism and Liberalism, the International Society gives a wide view over the reasons of events in world politics. It shows a good structure about components in international relations. There must be an order in the international system because without it, acting would not be possible. Hedley Bull shows the necessary elements of this order, but in my opinion, he neglects some facts like for example economy. He does not mention economy one time, although it is an important part of international relations. In present times, states are more and more dependent of international trades, of ex- and imports. By this interdependence there is one more possibility to influence states in their actings. Economic sanctions can be a midway between Diplomacy and War. When Diplomacy fails in a conflict, there is no need for War obviously. This is one point, which Bull totally ignores and where this theory is able for an extension.


[1] In the whole essay I will write institutional expressions like Balance of Power, the Great Powers, Diplomacy, the Human Rights and even War in capital letters. Firm stand expressions of Hedley Bull like “International System” and “International Society” will wrote in capitals, too

[2] Bull, Hedley. Die anarchische Gesellschaft. In: Kaiser/Schwarz. Weltpolitik – Strukturen, Akteure, Perspektiven. Bonn 1985. S.31-49

[3] Waltz, Kenneth. Theory of International Politics. Random House. New York: 1979. Kapitel 1-6

[4] Morgenthau, Hans. Macht und Frieden. Gütersloh 1963

[5] The five permanent members in the Security Council are the United Nations, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, France and the United Kingdom.


[7] In three phases permanently peace may be created: In the first phase since May 2003 both parties may accept the existence of an Israeli and a Palestinian state; the PNA may have free elections and institutions, Israel may freeze all settlement activities. In the second phase since the end of 2003 an international conference may ratify a Palestinian Democratic Constitution and begin the foundation of an independent state, while in the third phase (2004-2005) a second international conference will decide the final status of the Palestinian state.

[8] Hagelüken, Alexander und Wernicke, Christian. Europa gibt sich eine Verfassung. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung, S.1. 14. Juni 2003

6 of 6 pages


The English School / International Society
LMU Munich
International Politics
1 (A)
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ISBN (eBook)
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English, School, International, Society, International, Politics
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Michaela Holzer (Author), 2003, The English School / International Society, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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