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The English School of International Relations: Historical Development

Hidemi Suganami

Subject International Studies » English School

Key-Topics anarchy, society

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444336597.2010.x


Comment on this article   An increasing number of writings on various aspects of world politics, some of which have contributed significantly to the growth of International Relations (IR) as an academic discipline, particularly in the UK, have come from a group of scholars now known as “the English School of International Relations.” The purpose of this essay is to outline the historical development of this school, focusing mainly on its important publications. The English School's emblematic text is The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (1977) by Hedley Bull, who was the Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at Oxford 1977–85. The book's title neatly captures the School's key contention that, despite the formally anarchical or decentralized authority structure of world politics, sovereign states have formed a society, exhibiting a tolerable degree of international order and thereby enabling, though only to a limited degree, also a pursuit of justice. Martin Wight (1991), Bull's mentor and another key figure in the English School, had characterized such a view of world politics as a via media between what he called “Realism” and “Revolutionism” and named it “Rationalism,” a label pointing to the capacity of human beings, as in Locke's view (1924 :126), to act reasonably toward one another even in the state of nature ( Wight 1991 :13–14). ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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