From international system to international society: structural realism and regime theory meet the English school

TitleFrom international system to international society: structural realism and regime theory meet the English school
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsBuzan, B

Main Argument: Purpose of this article is to relate the concept of “international society” to structural realism and regime theory.

First, I establish definitions for “international system” and “international society” that enable a clear boundary to be drawn between them. Second, I open up the question of how international society relates to world society and try to resolve whether they are antagonistic or complementary. Third, I use the logic of structural realism to show how international society can emerge as a natural product of the logic of anarchy. This provides an alternative, functionally based account to contrast to the largely historical work of the English School. This functional account is better suited to analysis of the contemporary global, multicultural, international society because it answers questions about the expansion of European international society that are difficult to deal with if society is primarily conceived of in terms of historical community. It also provides the tools for conceptualizing a complex international society ordered in terms of concentric circles representing lesser degrees of commitment as one moves outward from the center. The current international society already has this structure, and logic of uneven development suggests that future developments of it will also fallow this pattern.

Definition of international society by Bull and Watson: “A group of states (or, more generally, a group of independent political communities) which not merely form a system, in the sense that he behavior of each is a necessary factor in the calculations of the others, but also have established a dialogue and consent common rules and institutions for conduct of their relations, and recognize their common interest in maintaining these arrangements” (330)

Non-European states and ‘standards of civilization” for entrance into a community of nations: 335.

Global international society is by definition a postcolonial phenomenon (349). Mutual recognition by nearly all states of each other as leglally equal sovereign entities.