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The International Society – World Society Distinction

John Williams

Subject International Studies » English School

Key-Topics cosmopolitanism, global citizenship, pluralism, social norms, society

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444336597.2010.x


Comment on this article   The ideas of international society and world society are both essential elements of the English School approach to theorizing international relations (IR). Alongside the concept of international system they form the classic tripartite analytical framework that the English School deploys. While international system addresses a Hobbesian-style world of state-based power politics, international society and world society establish the English School as offering a distinctive sociological element to international relations theory ( Krasner 1999 :43). International society retains the state-based approach, but addresses the development, nature, and purpose of rules, institutions, and behavioral norms amongst states, typically focusing on the attainment of order understood not just as patterned and recurrent behavior, but also as a value ( Bull 1977a ). World society adds non-state actors such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to the subjects under consideration and offers a perspective focused on individual human beings and the idea of a global human community ( Wight 1991 ). However, while the concept of international society is the school's principal contribution to IR theory, and is the subject of extensive and detailed discussion (e.g., Roberson 1998 ; Buzan 2004 ; Bellamy 2005 ), world society is far less thoroughly investigated, with Buzan (2004) ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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