632/5 The Anarchical Society – Bull

In The Anarchical Society, Australian international-relations professor Hedley Bull examines the nature of order in world politics, how order is maintained in the contemporary system of states, and the feasibility and desirability of alternative paths to world order. Bull defines international order as an organization around a common purpose. Therefore, it is a more compelling order than a system structured by power, for instance. Then he studies the mechanism that ensure the stability of an international society.

Limitations: Bull’s assumption on the common interests shared by any individual – as well as by states – are rather peremptory (there is no evidence for this, and these assumptions lay on liberal view of freedom and property).


Meaning of order:

- As opposed to disorder: a behavioral pattern

- These patterns must be related to common purpose and/or value

Assumption of elementary goals of any society:

- Subsistence / survival: at the individual and at the societal level

- Truth: predictability, paramount to any planning (investing, planting crops, etc…)

- Property: foster work for subsistence (allows convergence between individual and social interest

Societal goals stem from individual shared interests. Do society develop some on its own?

Step from social order to international order

International society is a more compelling notion than international system (in the latter, only interactions. In the former, common interest guiding the order)

Pattern of behavior motivated by common goals:

- Maintaining independence

- Peace

- Common goals of social life

The order which men look for in social life is not any pattern or regularity in the relations of human individuals or groups, but a pattern that leads to a particular result, an arrangement of social life such that it promotes certain goals or values. 3

A society of states (or international society) exists when a group of states, conscious of certain common interests and common values, form a society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set of rules in their relations with one; another, and share in the working f common institutions. 13

An international society in this sense presupposes an international system, but an international system may exist that is not an international society. 13

If any value attaches to order in world politics, it is order among all mankind which we must treat as being of primary value, not order within the society of states. If international order does have value, this can only be because it is instrumental to the goal of order in human society as a whole. 21

Ch2: Does Order Exist in World Politics?

Thesis: Modern states have formed, and continue to form, not only a system of states but also an international society. To establish this proposition I shall begin by showing first that there has always been present, throughout the history of the modem states system, an idea of international society, proclaimed by philosophers and publicists, and present in the rhetoric of the leaders of states. Second, I shall seek to show that this idea is reflected, at least in part, in international reality; that the idea of international society has important roots in actual international practice. . 23

Idea of international society:

- Detractors: Hobbes, realist thought

- Universalist tradition (Kant): potentiality of community of mankind – But this tradition tends to think that international politics will take a different form than states supremacy (tends to rejoin realist though)

- Grotian / internationalist tradition: International politics takes place in International society

In practice:

My contention is that the element of a society has always been present, and remains present, in the modern international system, although only as one of the elements in it, whose survival is sometimes precarious. The modem international system in fact reflects all three of the elements singled out, respectively, by the Hobbesian, the Kantian and the Grotian traditions: the element of war and struggle for power among states, the element of transnational solidarity and conflict, cutting across the divisions among States, and the element of co-operation and regulated intercourse among states 39

- European then European-dominated order

- Even during the Cold war, USSR and the USA didn’t deny each other the minimum attributes of legitimacy: diplomatic relations, recognition of sovereignty, international law, and even the international organizations

Why it is possible to have a society despite the state of anarchy:

- The international system does not exactly resemble Hobbes’s state of nature (rules, structure besides struggle for power)

- Order does not presuppose hierarchy: just common interests or threats

- The structure of interstate politics differs from the domestic one.

Limits of International society: no more than 1 of the 3 components of international politics

Ch3 How is Order Maintained in World Politics?

Order in this sense is maintained by a sense of common interests in those elementary or primary goals; by rules which prescribe the pattern of behavior that sustains them; and by institutions which make these rules effective. 51

PN The central concern of this theory: what are the mechanism maintaining cohesion when global and individual interests differ significantly

Discussion on requisites of rules (made, communicated, administered, interpreted, enforced, legitimized, changed, protected) p54

Common interests

Their sense of common interests may derive from fear of unrestricted violence, of the instability of agreements or of the insecurity of their independence or sovereignty. It may have its origins in rational calculation that the willingness of states to accept restrictions on their freedom of action is reciprocal. Or it may be based also on the treatment of these goals as valuable in themselves and not merely as a means to / an end – it may express a sense of common values as well as of common interests. 64


[t is not uncommon for a rule to emerge first as an operational rule, then to become established practice, then to attain the status of a moral principle and finally to be incorporated in a legal convention; 65


In international society it is the members of the society themselves sovereign states – which are chiefly responsible for performing the functions of helping to make the rules effective; they do so in the absence of either a supreme government, which is able to undertake these functions in the modern state, or the degree of solidarity among themselves that characterizes the performance of these functions by politically competent groups in primitive stateless societies. In this sense it is states themselves that are the principal institutions of the society of states. 68

Important statement: by institutions, Bull emphasizes the primordial role of states (and not supra national entities) in the lifecycle of rules.

Ch4 Order vs Justice in World Politics

The meaning of Justice


- Interstates

- Individual / human justice

- Cosmopolitan Justice

Part 2 Order in the contemporary International system

5 The Balance of Power and International Order

Balance of power – “state of affairs such that no one power is in a position where it is preponderant and can lay down the laws to others.” (97)

Functions of the balance of Power

- At the international level as a whole, has prevented the system from becoming a world empire

- Local balances: protected the weaker states from being absorbed

- Have provided the conditions in which other institutions on which international order depends (diplomacy, war, international law, great power management) have been able to operate. (102)

The chief function of the balance of power, however, is not to preserve peace, but to preserve the system of states itself Preservation of the balance of power requires war, when this is the only means whereby the power of a potentially dominant state can be checked, 103

“While international law depends for its very existence as an operating system of rules on the balance of power, preservation of the latter often requires the breaking of these rules.” (104)

“The present complex balance of power does not rest on a common culture shared by the major states participating in it, comparable with that shared by the European great powers that made up the complex balances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries… today, there is some common stock of ideas, but there is no equivalent of the bonds of common culture among European powers in earlier centuries.” (111)

Functions of mutual nuclear deterrence – preserve the nuclear peace, nuclear powers reluctant to enter directly into non-nuclear hostilities with one another for fear of expansion of the conflict, and contributed to the maintenance of a general balance of power in the international system by helping to stabilize the dominant balance.” (119)

Mutual Nuclear Deterrence and the Balance of Power

Only a part of the global balance of power (and in case of MAD, they nullify – no need of parity)

Functions of nuclear deterrence

Preservation of peace – including non nuclear wars

Contributed to maintain a general balance of power


Mutual nuclear deterrence can make deliberate resort to nuclear war ‘irrational’ as an instrument of policy only so long as it is stable, that is, it has a built-in tendency to persist.

While the relationship of mutual nuclear deterrence persists, and deliberate resort to nuclear war is rendered irrational, there are still dangers of nuclear war arising by accident or miscalculation, which the relationship of mutual nuclear deterrence by itself does nothing to assuage.

Mutual nuclear deterrence, while it persists and helps to make nuclear war unlikely in itself, does nothing to solve the problem of limiting or controlling a nuclear war that has broken out.

Places a tremendous burden upon the supposition that men can be expected to act ‘rationally.’

To say that mutual nuclear deterrence carries out this function in relation to preservation of peace is not to endorse the proposition that international security is enhanced by the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides in international conflicts.

Preservation of mutual nuclear deterrence obstructs the long-term possibility of establishing international order on some more positive basis. (119 – 121)

6 International law and International order

Nature: a particular kind of body of rules.

Within the state, according to Kelsen, the law is enforced by a central authority entrusted with this task. In international society, by contrast, sanctions are applied by individual members of the society according to the principle of self-help. The sanctions include reprisals and war. They may be undertaken not only by the state that is the immediate victim of a violation of the law, but also by other states which come to its assistance. Acts of reprisal or war that are carried out in order to enforce the law represent action on behalf of the community. 125

The efficacy of International law:

Rules by themselves are mere intellectual constructs. If we are to speak of the rules of international law as a factor seriously affecting the life of international society, we must establish that they have a degree of efficacy. 131

Fhe importance of international law does not rest on the willingness of states to abide y its principles to the detriment of their interests, but in the fact that they so often judge it in their interests to conform to it. 134

The alleged shift from consent to consensus as the basic source of international law is one that at first sight contains great promise for the strengthening of the contribution of international law to international order, 150

7 Diplomacy and International Order

Functions of diplomacy:

- Communication between state leaders and other actors

- Negociation of agreements

- Gathering of intelligence

- Limits the frictions in IR

- Symbol of the existence of a society of states (abide by some laws and codes)

8 War and the International order

Nature of war


Individual state level: an instrument of policy

International system level: reveals the balance of power at a given time, one of the most powerful component of the system (and vector of change): war appears as a basic determinant of the shape the system assumes at any one time. 181

At the intl society level

- A syndrome of disorder (a failure, an interlude)

- An assertion of its order, laws, principles

Among the great nuclear powers it is the threat of war rather than war itself that determines the relationships. 190

9 Great powers and International Order

Role of the Great powers:
The contribution of the great powers to international order derives from the sheer facts of inequality of power as between the states that make up the international system. 199

- Preservation of general balance (The first and cardinal contribution of the great powers to It is this function that thev perform in relatinn tn international It is this function that they perform in relation to international order that is most widely recognized in international society at iarge, and which provides the basis of the willingness of other states to accept the notion of the special rights and duties of great powers. 201)

- Control of crises

- Limitation of Wars

- Unilateral exercise of local preponderance (local societies?)

Part 3 Alternative paths to World Order

10 Alternatives to the Contemporary States System

Alternative Forms of States System

- Disarmed world

- Solidarity of States

- A world of many nuclear powers

- Ideological homogeneity

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.