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Brazilian Political Science Review (Online)

On-line version ISSN 1981-3821

Braz. political sci. rev. (Online) vol.3 Rio de Janeiro  2008


Re-evaluating the contribution and legacy of Hedley Bull*



Emerson Maione de Souza

Rio de Janeiro Methodist University Centre (BENNETT), Brazil

Replicated from Brazilian Political Science Review (Online), Rio de Janeiro, v.2, n.1, Jan/Jun. 2008.




The article aims, in the first instance, to make a detailed analysis of the work of Hedley Bull, approaching the main themes and concepts developed by him. Secondly, it aims to re-evaluate the potential of the author's contribution, given the new conditions of the post-Cold War period. With this in mind, the article critically analyses the most recent interpretations of his work, which seek to highlight its critical and normative potential, as well as to dissociate it from the realist tradition in international relations. These two facts differentiate the new commentators from older ones and reaffirm the continuing relevance of Hedley Bull's work, the latter being the article's chief conclusion.

Keywords: Hedley Bull; English School; Theory of International Relations



I am not a realist.
Hedley Bull

It is unsatisfactory to place Bull in the realist tradition.
Tim Dunne



This article has two purposes: one exegetic, the other critical. Firstly, it seeks to provide a detailed analysis of Hedley Bull's positions on the main themes present throughout his work. These include: the concept of international society and order in world politics; his view of development and of the role of International Relations theory; the normative tensions between the pluralist and solidarist conceptions of international society; and the need for the inclusion of new States as a result of the de-colonisation movement, with all the challenges and opportunities this brings.

Secondly, considering the fact that one of the main characteristics of the discipline of International Relations in the post-Cold War period has been a renewed and growing interest in the writings of Hedley Bull and the English School in general, the article seeks to analyse critically the most recent readings and interpretations of Bull's work. And it highlights, as main points in these new readings and as things that differentiate them from previous interpretations, the critical and normative potential that recent commentators point to in his work, as well as the tendency on the part of some of them to dissociate the work of Hedley Bull and the English School from the realist tradition.


International Society and Order in World Politics

These are the two main themes in the work of Hedley Bull, who, in turn, was deeply influenced by Martin Wight.1 For Bull ([1977] 1995, 13), an international society or society of States 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 of common institutions". This must be contrasted with the definition of international system, formed when two or more States are in constant contact with one another and there is enough interaction to make the behaviour of each a necessary element in the other's calculation. In this sense, an international society presupposes an international system, but an international system can exist without the formation of an international society (Bull [1977] 1995, 13).

We also see that this definition of international society is inter-subjective, because it puts forward, as the main point, not any material factors but the symbolic notion of social actors feeling consciously linked by common values and interests. It follows that International Law has an important role in the configuration of this society. It is worth noting that Martin Wight ([1978] 1985, 87) (and also Manning 1962) highlights the primordial importance of International Law when he states that its existence is the most essential proof of the very existence of an international society. For — as any society — international society also possesses a system of rules that establishes the rights and duties of its members. Consequently, Wight continues, those who deny the existence of international society begin by denying the reality of International Law.2 It is the case of the realists, for example, for whom States only abide by International Law when it is in their interest. For Raymond Aron (2003, 709), "The principal idea of our theoretical analysis coincides with the principle commonly admitted by jurists before 1914, i.e., that international law does not forbid states to resort to force and even that this recourse constitutes an aspect of their sovereignty." According to Morgenthau (1993, 268), "compliance with international law and its enforcement have a direct bearing upon the relative power of the nations concerned. (...) considerations of power rather than of law determine compliance and enforcement." According to Waltz (2000, 27), "Most international law is obeyed most of the time, but strong states bend or break laws when they choose to." Differently from this position, Bull ([1977] 1995, 141) rejected the realist view that International Law is "a negligible factor in the actual conduct of international relations", and argued that if one observes the practice of States, the importance of International Law is underlined not by the fact that States adhere to its principles to the detriment of their interests, but due to the fact that "they so often judge it in their interests to conform to it" (Bull [1977] 1995, 134).3

This statement and its emphasis on the practice of States reveals the strongly sociological analysis present in The anarchical society. It aimed at having an analysis that could reveal more faithfully the nuances in the actions of States, an analysis that rejects the analytical mode of the realpolitik tradition that focuses on the constraints of the anarchical situation on the behaviour of States. It sought, therefore, to avoid the problem that sociologist José Maurício Domingues (2001) called "short blanket", i.e., one covers the structure, but the action remains uncovered. In spite of the fact that the approach of the English School can be characterised as holistic, for its authors the structure of international society gains its meaning on the basis of the conscious interaction of its members — which implies a notion of agency and, therefore, of change — differently from structural realism, for which the structure does not depend on elements of a collective identity — and for this reason excludes important elements such as culture, for example.

The authors of the English School base their evaluations of international politics on the behaviour and language of statesmen. In this sense, History takes on a fundamental role, since they recognise that the nature of international society is contingent over time. As Chris Brown (1997, 54) explains, this is a fundamental difference between neo-realism and the English School. For the former, a fundamental change is practically impossible, whilst the English School recognises the contingent nature of the current system. It is also contingent due to the fact that the elements of the state of war and of transnational loyalties and divisions are part of the modern system of States, in spite of the element of international society having equally always been a part of this system. Bull traces the historical evolution of modern international society: the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when international society was dominated by a Christian bias (Christian international society), western Christendom was still undergoing a process of disintegration and the modern States were in articulation; the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when Natural Law gave way to positive International Law, which Bull ([1977] 1995, 26-38) termed European international society; the twentieth century, when international society ceased to be specifically European and started being considered global.

Bull's later writings on the expansion of international society, encompassing the so-called "Third World" and the challenge to the old European colonial order, which the author terms the "revolt against the West", as well as his writings on justice in international society, will be analysed in another section. This is owed to the fact that they were published mainly in the 1980s and also because they demonstrate a change in emphasis in his work. For now, I shall devote myself to analysing the question of order and the institutions that help maintain it, but not simply by means of definitions followed by analyses. What follows is an evaluation and refutation of the argument by Steve Smith (1999), contained in his article of the book International order and the future of world politics. In the process, I will analyse various aspects of how order is created and maintained in international society, according to Bull.

Steve Smith puts forward two propositions. Firstly, he wishes to examine the dominant assumptions of writings on international order. His argument intends to question the epistemological assumptions of the positivists that say that order exists regardless of the actions and interests of the agents. Secondly, he intends to point out paths for a post-positivist research agenda that reflects upon issues regarding the international order. Due to the aims of this section (examining the question of order in Bull's work), I will concentrate on the first proposition. Equally, in spite of the fact that Smith also analyses other authors, I will consider only his analysis of Bull.

Both propositions are extremely important and deserving of further consideration, since, as Smith himself emphasises, International Relations theory is mostly dominated by positivism, which can and should have its assumptions questioned, as Smith has been doing in exemplary fashion.4 Thus, I would like to make clear from the very beginning that I am totally sympathetic to Smith's propositions. My main objection relates to his reading of Bull, which, as will be argued below, is simplistic and distorts the arguments, thus conveying a misguided idea of the author's work that does not stand up to closer scrutiny.5

According to Smith, there is a real tension in Bull's work between seeing order as something observable (which would mean seeing it as a spontaneous interaction "out there") and treating it as a construct, i.e., order is constructed on the basis of the actions and interests of the agents and is therefore prone to being transformed. He argues that although there is a measure of construction in Bull's discourse, order is the result "underlying causal forces", which would be the power relations between States. For this reason, the material definitely dominates the ideational. For Smith (1999, 103), most of the literature dealing with the question of the international order takes 'order' and 'States' as if they were natural phenomena. Order then becomes something that results from major causal forces in international history, something very similar to the notion of rise and fall of great powers.

In his view, this kind of language implies a certain naturalism (in other words, the use of the same type of analysis for the natural and the social sciences) about the social world that verges on radical structural-functionalism. Smith reiterates his concern over the fact that most of this literature presents order as something inherent to the world, as a "given". The language of social construction is used, Smith (1999, 103) continues, but often this refers to the processes through which the international order is "managed". He states that this tension is evident in the second part of The anarchical society, where Bull deals with the institutions that maintain the international order.

Despite agreeing that such characteristics are firmly present in most of the literature — and certainly present in the chapter by T. V. Paul and John Hall (1999), for example, in their attempts to make what they call a "realism/liberalism mix", as well as in the vast majority of contributions in the book International order and the future of world politics edited by them —, my argument is that this is not the case in relation to Bull's work. I will firstly argue that for Bull and the English School, what is important is analysing how ideas affect international activity, thus showing that the material does not dominate the ideational in his work and, hence, that the tension about "processes of management of the international order" that Smith says exist in the second part of The anarchical society is not really there. Secondly, I will explain that Bull does not see order as a given, but as a historical, political and social construct.

The importance of ideas for Hedley Bull ([1977] 1995, 71), and for the English School in general, can be seen in his conception of international institution: "a set of habits and practices". Institutions depend on the shared meanings that actors give them. Thus, institutions and their meanings vary historically according to the normative principles and to the principles of legitimacy at the root of the international society of each period. To suppose that ideas are at the root of institutions means to consider that norms shape the game of power politics, the nature and identity of the actors, the purposes for which force can be employed and the ways the actors justify and legitimise their actions (Alderson and Hurrell 2000c, 23). Even conflict and war take place within a highly institutionalised legal, moral and political normative structure (Alderson and Hurrell 2000c, 23). For the realist, on the other hand, war is not an institution, but a tool of the State to be used depending on the calculations of interests. Bull (1979b, 595-96) spells out the notion on the normative character of war in a review of Michael Walzer's book Just and unjust wars: A moral argument with historical illustrations:

The distinction between moral rules and rules that are better described as procedural or customary is not always easy to draw, but war is as a matter of fact an inherently normative phenomenon; it is unimaginable apart from rules by which human beings recognize what behaviour is appropriate to it and define their attitudes toward it. War is not simply a clash of forces; it is a clash between the agents of political groups who are able to recognize one another as such and to direct their force at one another only because of the rules that they understand and apply.

It is also in this sense that we must understand his notion of balance of power. Normally, the balance of power is taken to be the "clearest point of contact between realists and rationalists" (Fonseca Jr. 1998, 70) — "rationalists" in the sense given by Wight (1991), as a Grotian via media between realism and revolutionism —, but perhaps it would be better to say that this point of contact is restricted — if it exists at all — to the importance that both attribute to it. For the meaning they attribute to it differs starkly. For the sake of comparison, we see that for Waltz since the structure of the international system "shapes and shoves", (Waltz 1986, 343) "we find states forming balances of power whether or not they wish to" (Waltz 1979, 125). In other words, he denies that the actors need to have some sense of balance of power as a continuous practice. But for "Bull and the theorists of international society it is precisely this consciousness of a continuing practice and of its norms that constitutes the balance of power as an institution" (Alderson and Hurrell 2000c, 24).6 The balance of power should not be seen as a set of mechanical arrangements or as a constellation of forces that constrain and impel States to act in certain ways, but rather, the authors continue, in terms of shared and common understandings between States as regards the meaning of balance of power and of the role it should play. For Bull, and for the English School in general, it is really important that States have a shared sense meaning of balance of power. This, over time, develops into a coherent and established doctrine that may even become part of the institutional structure, or, as Butterfield would have it, of the constitutional structure of the system of State (Alderson and Hurrell 2000c, 23-24).7

Thus, we see in what context we must understand Bull's conception of international society when he says that States form an international society when they are conscious of certain common interests and values. Hence we see how for Bull and the English School, order and international society are social constructs from the very beginning, built on the basis of the actions and interests of the agents and therefore prone to being transformed. As also argued by Tim Dunne (1995, 384), in the view of the English School, international society is a social construct for it is not ontologically previous to the practices of States, and the actions of States only acquire meaning by means of the conscious participation in common institutions.8 In the words of Herbert Butterfield (1966, 147): "I should infer from all this [his analysis of balance of power doctrines] that an international order is not a thing bestowed upon by nature, but is a matter of refined thought, careful contrivance and elaborate artifice." This notion of social construction of international society by means of the actions and interests of the agents is also expressed by Martin Wight (1966a, 96-97):

International society (...) is manifest in the diplomatic system; in the conscious maintenance of the balance of power to preserve the independence of the member-communities; in the regular operations of international law, whose binding force is accepted over a wide though politically unimportant range of subjects; in economic, social and technical interdependence and the functional international institutions established latterly to regulate it. All these presuppose an international social consciousness, a world-wide community-sentiment.9

Lastly, another reason for not agreeing with Smith's view that for Bull order is a given — something to be observed from the outside as if it were beyond human reach — is that for Bull order is contingent and precarious, since the element of international society (Grotian) is always threatened by the other two elements, the Hobbesian (the element of war) and the Kantian (the element of transnational loyalties and conflicts). Bull ([1977] 1995, 49) drew attention to the fact that it is erroneous to interpret international events as if international society were the only and dominant element. In this sense, Linklater (1996, 95) stresses: "rationalism insists that international order should not be taken for granted — it is a precarious achievement (...)". Therefore, in my view, if there is indeed a tension in Bull's work, it is not regarding order as something observable and treating it as a construct, as Smith says, but between the three elements that coexist simultaneously, making order be something imperfect and precarious, as stressed above by Linklater. Another tension in Bull's work will be discussed below, that between a pluralist and a solidarist conception of international society.

In this section, I have sought to refute the arguments of Steve Smith (1999), by showing that the main point in Bull's definition of international society is the importance placed on shared norms and understandings, and the way in which they interact with and give meaning to material forces and structures (Alderson and Hurrell 2000c, 23). In other words, ultimately, it is inter-subjective structures, rather than material ones (as Smith argues), that determine the principles that sustain international society, in Bull's eyes. Consequently, this argument leads to the refutation of another: that Bull sees order as a "given".10

Thus, I have attempted to show that for Bull the international order is not something that is "out there" to be observed, but something that we build, rather than discover. It does not result from spontaneous interactions and power clashes — as the realists would have it. Rather, order is constructed on the basis of the actions and interests of the agents, and is therefore prone to being transformed. This is why towards the end of The anarchical society, Bull ([1977] 1995, 308) emphasised that his conclusion that the alternatives to the State system were not convincing, should be constantly re-evaluated. Equally, when referring to the issue of humanitarian intervention, he stated: "it is one of those subjects which we have constantly to reassess, in relation to changing circumstances: the underlying questions may be the same, but they keep arising in new forms and being viewed from fresh perspectives" (Bull 1986, Preface). And this was certainly the case in the post-Cold War era.


Hedley Bull and International Relations Theory

In this section, I will examine Bull's view of International Relations theory based chiefly on his three main pieces on the subject: "International theory: The case for a classical approach"; "Theory of international politics, 1919-1969"; and "International Relations as an academic pursuit". Often the first article, because it is more well-known and polemical, ends up dominating the discussions on Bull's view of the study of International Relations. So the other two articles allow us to have a broader view of Bull's conception of the study of International Relations, since this conception is often clouded by the polemical purposes of the first article (Alderson and Hurrell 2000a, 247). According to James Richardson (1990, 140), Bull's "view of the subject was unusually broad, questioning, and critical: it is to this, rather than to his particular view of methodology, that his influence as scholar, teacher, and colleague may be attributed."

The article "International theory: The case for a classical approach", published in 1966, was part of what became known as the "new great debate" or "second debate" in IR theory (Kaplan 1990). In his article, Bull sought to defend the so-called "classical" or "traditionalist" approach from the criticism of the "scientific" or "behaviourist" approach. He defined the former as:

(…) the approach to theorizing that derives from philosophy, history and law, and that is characterized above all by explicit reliance upon the exercise of judgment and by the assumptions that if we confine ourselves to strict standards of verification and proof there is very little of significance that can be said about international relations. (Bull 1966c, 361)

As for the second approach, Bull stated:

In using this name [scientific] for the second approach, however, it is the aspirations of those who adopt it that I have in mind rather than their performance. They aspire to a theory of international relations whose propositions are based either upon logical or mathematical proof, or upon strict, empirical procedures of verification. (Bull 1966c, 361-62)

Bull articulated seven propositions that contain the core of his critique. The first is that "by confining themselves to what can be logically or mathematically proved or verified according to strict procedures, the practitioners of the scientific approach are denying themselves the only instruments that are at present available for coming to grips with the substance of the subject" (Bull 1966c, 366). Bull is referring to the analyst's capacity of judgement. Secondly, what there is of substantial in the work of the adepts of the scientific approach is owed to their use of tools from the classical approach. Thirdly, that "the practitioners of the scientific approach are unlikely to make progress of the sort to which they aspire" (Bull 1966c, 369). Fourthly, the behaviourists "have done a great disservice to theory in this field by conceiving of it as the construction and manipulation of so-called 'models'" (Bull 1966c, 370). The fifth proposition "is that the work of the scientific school is in some cases distorted and impoverished by a fetish for measurement" (Bull 1966c, 372). The sixth: "(...) there is a need for rigor and precision in the theory of international politics, but that the sort of rigor and precision of which the subject admits can be accommodated readily enough within the classical approach" (Bull 1966c, 375). Lastly, "the practitioners of the scientific approach, by cutting themselves off from history and philosophy, have deprived themselves of the means of self-criticism, and in consequence have a view of their subject and its possibilities that is callow and brash" (Bull 1966c, 375).

In spite of being extremely critical of the behaviourists, Bull believed that some points in their criticism of the traditionalists, in particular those regarding the enunciation of methodological assumptions, were positive and enriching (Bull [1972] 2000, 257).

Bull explains that his attack was not directed at science in International Relations, but at "scientificism", since he believed that the analyst could also be rigorous utilizing the classical approach. Perhaps what worried Bull the most, more than strictly speaking methodological issues, were some assumptions behind the studies of certain behaviourists, such as that research could be "value-free", or that the excessive concern with methodological questions distanced these authors from the substantive questions of international politics. In Bull's view, the fact that a discipline concerned itself with matters of methodology rather than of substance was a bad sign (Bull [1972] 1995, 205).11

This is why, contrary to theorists who argue that the second debate focused solely on questions of methodology (see Smith 1995, 17; Banks 1984, 10; Lapid 1989, 238), others argue that the debate went beyond this, involving ontological allegations on the nature of social reality (see Schmidt 1998, 31). In this sense, Olson and Onuf (1985, 26) note: "The difference is one of substantive interests, which pre-ordain epistemological choices, methods, and, undoubtedly, conclusions." For Tim Dunne (1998, 9, 14), the focus of the debate on methodology brought to the surface deep divisions regarding the scope and purpose of theory, as well as reflecting profound differences in relation to the nature of the discipline. While Bull has a normative view of international relations, most important questions of which are not susceptible to empirical verification, the behaviourists' view was normatively neutral, concentrating on models of States' action/reaction and decision-making processes.12

As for the history of the discipline, Bull ([1972] 1995, 184-85) held the traditional view, dividing it into what he termed "three successive waves of theoretical activities": the "idealistic" or progressive doctrines that predominated during the 1920s and early 1930s; the "realist" or conservative theories, developed in reaction to the former, that predominated during the late 1930s and the 1940s; and the "scientific" theories of the 1950s and 1960s that stemmed from a dissatisfaction with the methodology on which the other two sets of theories was based .

Bull was cautious in relation to the so-called "idealists", not wishing to convey the same type of pejorative view of them as the realists. For example, he drew attention to the fact that the "term 'idealist' is not one which they used to describe themselves but was applied to them later by their critics and is in some respects misleading as to what their views actually were" (Bull [1972] 1995, 185). This care on Bull's part with the nuances of so-called idealism had been rare in the discipline until then. This is why Peter Wilson (1998, 8) classified this article as the first important piece on the history of idealism in the discipline.

Bull saw the belief in progress as the main characteristic of these authors, and in particular that it was possible to transform the post-World War I international system into a fairer and more peaceful one. Bull highlights the fact that an important contribution of these authors to the development of IR theory was that they set out the possibility of questioning the established institutions and raised questions about how these institutions (sovereignty, balance of power, old-style diplomacy and the armaments industry) operated in relation to objectives such as peace and international order, even if their answers no longer impress us. But, in rather traditional fashion, he points out that in their attempts at dealing with the present and the future they were guided more by their hopes than by evidence.

On the "second wave of theoretical activity", Richardson (1990, 146) notes with a pinch of irony that Bull's analysis of the "realists" is not as positive as would be expected from an author often identified as belonging to this group. Stressing that realist writings were a reaction to the idealists, Bull continues listing the differences between the two approaches. Among numerous differences, one was particularly emphasised by the realists: the question of the national interest. Such an emphasis, he claimed, was a counter-point to the internationalist attitude of the idealists in their approaches about morality and the practices of States. Bull ([1972] 1995, 189) observes the realist insistence that statesmen who seek to defend the national interest are better equipped to recognise and respect the different national interests of other nations than those who see themselves as representatives of the interests of the whole of humanity. He notes the irony that, put in this way, the realists' defence of the national interest has more in common with "idealist" views — against which it is directed — than with the strictly "Machiavellian" doctrine that justifies everything for reasons of State.

In the same way as he proceeded before with the idealists, Bull seeks to show the nuances in realist thought and avoid stereotypes. He judiciously observes that it would be wrong to suggest that these writers constitute a school, or even that their views intertwine, except on certain key points (Bull [1972] 1995, 189). He highlights the enormous influence the realists had on the formulation of US foreign policy, and observes that in spite of still representing an important starting point for the theoretical understanding of IR, "the stream of thinking and writing that began with Niebuhr and Carr has long run its course" (Bull [1972] 1995, 191).13

The above passage reflects Bull's view that realism was a specific product of the context of the late 1930s and of the 1940s. Perhaps owing to the influence of Wight (1991, 267), who thought the idealism/realism dichotomy was not adequate, for it "was in fact the reflection of a diseased situation", Bull stresses the various criticisms made of realist theorists, who make their theories seem less convincing today than they were in the past. According to Bull, the inadequacy of realism is due to the inability of realist writers — circumscribed to the bounds of their theory of international life, made up of recurring laws and cyclical patterns — to explain the drastic changes that occurred since World War II, such as the Nuclear Revolution and the emergence of a world order that is no longer predominantly western, for example. This last point is fundamental for one to understand one of this article's main arguments: how distant Bull (and also Wight) is from realism.

In his analysis of "idealist" thought, Bull sought to go beyond the realist critique of particular doctrines, focusing on identifying intellectual flaws in their thoughts (Richardson 1990, 146) and concluding that their writings seemed guided more by their hopes than by evidence. The same investigative strategy is used in the analysis of realist thought. In this sense, Bull searches for the theoretical weaknesses of the realists, arguing that their writings seem guided more by the presumed authority of the authors than by evidence. He is severely critical:

The laws of international politics to which some 'realists' appealed in such a knowing way appeared on closer examination to rest on tautologies or shifting definitions of terms. The massive investigation of historical cases implied in their Delphic pronouncements about the experience of the past had not always, it seemed, actually been carried out. The extravagant claims made by some of them turned out to rest on assumed authority rather than on evidence or rigorous argument. Indeed, not even the best of the 'realist' writings can be said to have achieved a high standard of theoretical refinement: they were powerful polemical essays. (Bull [1972] 1995, 191; emphasis added)14

We have already made reference to the "third wave of theoretical activity", the so-called behaviourist revolution. Regarding this movement, Bull ([1972] 1995), in his "The theory of International Politics, 1919-1969", seems to adopt a more discerning analysis than in the article "International theory: The case for a classical approach" (Bull 1966c), noting several positive points in the works presented. As Richardson notes, if on the one hand Bull's analysis of the realists was, for many, unexpectedly harsh, on the other, his analysis of the general contribution of the behaviourists was unexpectedly positive.

When analysing the positive and negative points in IR theory between 1919 and 1969, Bull ([1972] 1995, 201-08) sees a certain amount of progress. Firstly, this is due to advances within Social Science as a whole. Secondly, this is owed to an awareness of the importance of methodological questions. Thirdly, Bull refers to a type of progress he called "negative". He explains that certain lines of research developed were proved to be failures, but instructive failures, in the sense that in spite of not producing a general, satisfactory theory — as none can be —, they lent themselves to elucidating and avoiding future mistakes. For example, he mentions Morton Kaplan's attempt to develop formal deductive models to explain the functioning of the international system, and Hans Morgenthau's attempt to formulate a theory of international politics based on the concept of interest, defined in terms of power. Fourthly, a certain measure of progress can be seen in the development of consistent studies that may serve as a basis for further work.

According to Bull, another important feature is the need to seek a balance between the historical approach and the theoretical approach. In his eyes, the two must be together and there must not be an excessive preponderance of either one, as happens, for example, in the work of some traditionalists — in the case of the historical approach — and with the behaviourists — in the case of the theoretical approach. Bull (2000b, 253) is critical of theoretical approaches that do not accord importance to History: "Theoretical approaches employ a timeless language of definitions and axioms, logical extrapolations or (...) general law, and do not by themselves convey a sense of time and change.".

A frequent theme in Bull's writings is the role of the academic and the relationship between his/her values and beliefs and the theoretical work he/she develops, as well as the relationship between academia and the "world of politics". Bull's starting point is the assumption that the academic must be critical of all political concepts and values, including his/her own.

There is, of course, no such thing as a 'value-free' inquiry into international relations or any other social subject. The most one can hope to do is to be aware of one's moral and political premises, to formulate them explicitly if one is employing arguments that derive from them, and (this above all) to be critical about them, to treat the investigation of moral and political premises as part of the subject. (...) It should also be recognized that the statements (and the silences) of academic students of politics have practical effects, whether they are intended to have them or not. The student of politics is related to his subject-matter not only as a subject to object but also as cause to effect. (Bull [1972] 2000 261; see also [1977] 1995, xviii)

In general terms, Bull sees the balance between political involvement and academic work as a delicate issue. He recognizes that all those who discuss politics obviously have political positions. The problem is when political involvement obstructs the questioning of the moral and political premises the researcher holds. Bull notes that this is often the case with US academics, who display an intellectual and political conformism from which the discipline must free itself. A particularly delicate case for Bull is the question of academics working for the government. It is worth reminding ourselves that Bull himself was an adviser to the British government in the mid-1960s.15 He highlights the importance of academics and officials — civil servants like diplomats and foreign policymakers in general — listening to and criticising each other, but when it comes to research, "academic interests" must prevail: "The academic (...) should not be a servant or agent of his government. (...) As Chomsky says, academics have a responsibility 'to speak the truth and expose lies'. Government servants have equally grave responsibilities at times not to do this." (Bull [1972] 2000, 263; see also Bull 1961, 202).


The Pluralist and Solidarist Conceptions of International Society

The English School of International Relations distinguishes between two conceptions of international society that reflect different moral positions: the pluralist and the solidarist. As made explicit in Hedley Bull's "The grotian conception of international society",16 such conceptions derive from positions adopted by Hugo Grotius and Lassa Oppenheim, who diverged on three fundamental points. The first was about the role of war in international society. For Grotius, war should be fought solely for just causes, like self-defence and the imposition of the law. For Oppenheim, the prerogative of war is a right of sovereign States. The second point is about the sources of the Law by means of which member-States of international society are linked. In Oppenheim's view, International Law is derived from custom. It is thus based empirically on the rules through which the society of States expresses its consensus or tacit consent. For Grotius, such a conception is not sufficient, as it claims that International Law does not necessarily have to conform to events, with the possibility of making a protest against them. For one of the main sources of International Law for Grotius is Natural Law, which postulates the respect for the intrinsic humanity of every individual, thus bringing ethical considerations that transcend agreements between States. The third relates to the status of the individual in the society of States. For Oppenheim, international society is made up of States and only these are holders of the rights and duties of International Law. For Grotius, on the other hand, the ultimate members of international society are not States, but individuals.

In "The grotian conception of international society" (Bull 1966b), we clearly see that in spite of Bull's view not reflecting the Grotian conception, the latter influences considerably his definition of international society, which prescribes, like Grotius, that in their international conduct States be committed to the rules and institutions of the society they form. In this sense, the pluralist and solidarist conceptions of international society reflect agreements and disagreements on normative issues of international politics.

Firstly, though, it is necessary to qualify Bull's criticism of Grotian solidarist perspectives, inasmuch as they do not place him outside this tradition. This is because over the course of his writings, Bull tended more and more towards the solidarist perspective, although not totally, for his initial scepticism was always present. It is also clear that Bull did not reject the whole Grotian system. One notices this in the discussions that followed the presentations at the British Committee on the Theory of International Politics, where he qualified his criticism, stating: "I am not trying to object to the whole Grotius system (...), it is possible to make the sort of objections I am going to make to Grotius without denying other elements in the Grotian system" (Bull [1962] 2000 119). Bull was critical in particular of the Grotian conception of just war. In other writings, Bull defended the importance of the Grotian legacy and stressed several points along these lines.17

One of the main arguments of the pluralist conception is that international society does not possess a consensus on issues of global justice. Consequently, the possibilities for joint actions on matters of redistribution of the global wealth or universal human rights are minimal. In this sense, cooperation is limited, for, according to Bull (1966b, 67), in the pluralist conception of international society States are capable of agreeing only on minimum purposes, the principal one being the reciprocal recognition of sovereignty and the norm of non-intervention.

Hence, the focus on "the actual areas of agreement between states" (Bull 1966b, 73) makes international society fear any action that puts at risk fully established international institutions. This becomes clear when Bull (1966b, 71, emphasis added) states:

If a right of intervention is proclaimed for purposes of enforcing standards of conduct, and yet no consensus exists in the international community governing its use, then the door is open to interventions by particular states using such a right as a pretext, and the principle of territorial sovereignty is placed in jeopardy.

Order in world politics is based on these elementary objectives and is sustained by the norms and institutions of international society — balance of power, International Law, diplomacy, war and the great powers — whose legitimacy rests upon its members, i.e., States. The latter, far from ensuring a stable and secure order, provide a precarious and imperfect order (Bull [1977] 1995, 50). Consequently, even when the institutions and mechanisms that sustain the international order function adequately, notions of justice are often violated (Bull [1977] 1995, 87).

Such elementary objectives allow order to exist even between States that do not belong to a common civilisation, thus demonstrating that international society has a 'functional' rather than 'cultural' character (Linklater 1996, 97). The pragmatic need to coexist is enough to produce what Bull called "diplomatic culture" — a system of rules, conventions and institutions that preserves order among political associations with diverse cultures and ideologies.

In the solidarist conception of international society, cooperation is not limited, but rather, extensive. Such a conception is based on the Grotian argument of solidarity, or solidarity potential, between States, in relation to the imposition of the law (Bull 1966b, 52). The solidarist assumption of humanitarian intervention is grounded on the postulate that individuals are subjects of International Law and members of international society, such that rulers, as well as being responsible for the security and well-being of their citizens, "are burdened with the guardianship of human rights everywhere" (Bull 1966b, 63-4; emphasis added).

It is important to highlight the current relevance of these conceptual distinctions formulated by Bull. During the 1990s, with all the humanitarian interventions, the debate between supporters of the pluralist and of the solidarist conception within the English School re-emerged at full strength.18 Whilst the tendency over the course of the 1990s was to treat the two conceptions as being mutually exclusive, recent contributions stress that in spite of having differences and their own characteristics, they should not be seen as totally antagonistic, but rather, as complementary. In his latest book about the English School, Barry Buzan (2004, 58-59) makes the point that to avoid dichotomic conceptions, one should think about pluralism and solidarism in terms "of thin and thick sets of shared values (...) solidarism is better understood as being about the thickness of norms, rules and institutions that states choose to create to manage their relations, then pluralism and solidarism simply link positions on a spectrum and have no necessary contradiction.".


World International Society: Order and Justice

I previously commented that for Bull, international society in the twentieth century ceased to be European and became global. This means that international society must adapt to receive new members and find a modus vivendi in a multicultural world. It is to the analysis of this question that we turn in this section.

For the English School, the Third World puts forward challenges between "the other" and international society,19 as well as the coexistence with the notion of order. According to Martin Wight (1966a, 108), since 1945, the relationship between order and justice underwent a new transformation due to the process of decolonisation: order now requires justice. This is basically owed to the change in the principles of legitimacy that sustained order before World War II. Regarding this question, both Linklater (1990, 17-18) and Epp (1998, 56) see the English School as adopting an important change in theoretical emphasis, by distancing itself from "systemic forces" and coming closer to "systemic principles of international legitimacy". They stress that this emphasis has generated considerable interest in the politics of decolonisation and in the North-South dialogue. According to Epp (1998, 56), if Grotius delineated the globe in two concentric circles — one internal, limited to the historical-cultural unit descending from western Christendom, and the other external, including all of humankind — "the English School's preoccupations have been most vigorously and consequentially at issue in the latter circle, or perhaps in relations between the two".

In the eyes of Hedley Bull ([1977] 1995, 37), world international society does not possess any genuinely global culture, only the culture of so-called "modernity", which would be the culture of the dominant western powers. In his last writings, Bull (1985) turned more and more to the questioning of the dominant culture, in a movement that he called "the revolt against the West". This revolt was based on five themes: the struggle for equality of sovereignty, the anti-colonial revolutions, demands for racial equality, the struggle for economic justice and the struggle against cultural imperialism. Together, these demands challenged the old legal order — in which the rules and International Law were dominated by Europeans — and contributed with the dismantling of the old colonial order.

For Bull, Third World demands for change and for its economic, political and cultural liberation represented an important transformation. He saw Third World demands as something positive that showed, above all, that there had been a diffusion of power since 1945. Another important factor was the fact that the countries of this bloc accepted the rules of international society, valuing the rules of diplomacy, as well as international organizations, seen as tools for the defence and propagation of their causes. However, with regard to the expansion of international society, Esteves (2003, 81) draws attention to what he termed a process of "problematic inclusion" of new actors that, in spite of accepting certain elementary purposes of this society, remain critical of the status quo.

Bull (1979a, 121) notes, though, that many of these demands meet with resistance from the western powers, for there is a general tendency among Third World countries to define their rights in absolute terms, such as the principle of sovereignty, for example. This may not fit in — and thus find resistance — with the tendency in western countries to see sovereignty no longer as absolute but in qualified terms. He also notes that many Third World countries demand equal rights, mainly between black and white, but often do not respect ethnic minorities in their own countries. However, the biggest hindrance in international society is perhaps in relation to the distribution of power, which also involves the nuclear issue (Bull [1984] 2000, 212-18).

According to Bull (1982, 266), one of the ways of checking the level of solidarism (as defined in the previous section) in the practice of States was through the consensus on certain questions. For him, writing in the early 1980s, the repudiation of apartheid was one of the few questions that generated a consensus among international society on normative aspects.

Bull's change in emphasis towards solidarism in his later writings (something that has been much stressed by recent commentators — see note 20) is very clear when he discusses how the powers should respond to these demands and what the impact on international society was of "the revolt against the West". Bull highlights some points that we can examine as demonstrations of this change. Firstly, on the concept of sovereignty — surprisingly, in the eyes of many —, he argues:

(…) whatever rights are due to states or nations or other actors in international relations, they are subject to and limited by the rights of the international community. The rights of sovereign states, and of sovereign peoples or nations, derive from the rules of the international community or society and are limited by them. (...) It should be clear that whatever case might have been made out at earlier periods in history for such a doctrine of the natural or inherent rights of sovereign states or of independent political communities, it cannot be acceptable now. (Bull [1984] 2000, 219-20)

Secondly, he stresses the importance of recognising the rights of individuals, not just of States, in international society. According to the author, until recently, the rights and duties, as well as the questions of justice in international society, were considered only in relation to States. Thus, the fact that in the second half of the twentieth century, questions of justice have to do not only with States, but also with every individual "in an imagined community of mankind" represents a profound change in our vision. This has been reflected in the increasing recognition of Human Rights by International Law, and has led to a growth in what Bull (Bull [1984] 2000, 220) called a "cosmopolitan moral awareness", which means "an extension of our capacity to empathize with sections of humanity that are geographically or culturally distant from us". Above all, although governments are not responding adequately to their various responsibilities regarding justice on a global scale, "the mere existence of this moral concern with welfare on a world scale represents a major change in our sensibilities" (Bull [1984] 2000, 220). But Bull draws attention to the fact that the cosmopolitan society implicit in Human Rights discourses exists only as an ideal. It would be erroneous for one to proceed as if such a cosmopolitan society were a political and social structure already in action. It must be seen as something incipient.

Hence, States should seek as much of a consensus as possible, then to be able:

(…) to act as local agents of a world common good. (...) The world common good to which I refer is the common interest not of states, but of the human species in maintaining itself. (...) But states are notoriously self-serving in their policies, and rightly suspected when they purport to act on behalf of the international community as a whole. (Bull [1984] 2000, 222-23)

Bull's analysis on order, in the case of the "revolt against the West", took into consideration, mainly, whether the western powers would know how to deal with the demands for change, so as to meet them and thus build the bases for a fairer and more egalitarian international society. But he never lost sight of the dimension of cultural transformation that this movement could cause in international society. As mentioned in previous sections, for Bull, unlike for Wight and Butterfield, international society had a more "functional" than "cultural" character. In other words, international society does not necessarily depend on a common culture at the root of the understanding between its members. The rules of the international society game, to use Manning's metaphor, can cope with sustaining common interests among its members to maintain order.

But for Bull, it was fundamental that international society, after all the changes of the post-World War II period, be able to show post-colonial countries and the Third World in general that they too had an interest in maintaining order. And international society should demonstrate this by incorporating their demands for justice by means of consensus and dialogue. Despite the resistance and restrictions that Third World countries faced, Bull argues that the revolt against western domination was successful. Furthermore, the most important thing is that "these changes do represent at least in their broad direction a forward movement in human affairs and a step toward a greater justice in international relations" (Bull [1984] 2000, 244).

Many authors see a change in emphasis in these last writings, with Bull distancing himself more and more from the pluralist conception of international society and coming closer to the solidarist conception. The authors in question also highlight the critical potential opened up by these writings of Bull and the English School in general.20 Andrew Linklater (1990, 21, 33), for example, has been one of the pioneers in exploring the theoretical potential of the English School and its possible links with critical theory:

It is unclear whether Bull's later writings ought to be regarded as a retreat from the philosophical scepticism present in his earlier work. What is clear is that the commitment to the extension of community reduces the distance between rationalism and revolutionism which was present in Bull's earlier writings. This creates new theoretical possibilities which have been considered more fully by critical approaches to international relations. (...) In contrast with earlier formulations which emphasised the tension between order and justice, the most recent statement of the rationalist perspective claims that justice in international relations is now essential for the maintenance of global stability. In this version rationalism displays a clear normative commitment to international economic and political change. (See also Linklater 1998, 210)

Even some post-structuralist theorists (who are extremely sceptical of "international society" discourses) stress the importance of Bull's discussion of order and justice. R. B. J. Walker (1993, 69-70, 73) comments that it is difficult to define Bull's moral position accurately, for his via media often seems to be looking to the two sides (realism and revolutionism) at the same time.21 He comments that Bull's approach encompasses several questions, such as Natural Law, cultural contexts, the creation of norms etc., and that many of his central themes resonate in a range of approaches that combine concern with ethical principles and the idea of the society of States as a product of historical practices. Thus, the author cites as examples the work of theorists like Terry Nardin, Friedrich Kratochwill, Nicholas Onuf, Richard Ashley and James Der Derian:

Many of Bull's themes have even been reinterpreted through an encounter with post-structuralist forms of social and political theory. (...) Bull struggles to resolve the contradiction between order and justice, between inside and outside, and his analysis begins to open up a very broad terrain for exploration. Nevertheless, foreseeing the dangers of the domestic analogy, Bull constantly steps back to a position of profound scepticism, while at the same time remaining relatively open to more universalistic explorations. (...) The most important contributions to the discussion of ethics and international relations among those who have accepted the principle of state sovereignty have come from those, like Bull, who have attempted to analyse the historical practices through which states have learnt to co-operate in defining and resisting the intolerable. (Walker 1993, 69-70, 73; emphasis added)

Some theorists see in these analyses of Bull an overcoming of the distinction between order and justice, present in his first writings (Alderson and Hurrell 2000c, 64-65; Linklater 1990, 19-21). According to J. D. B. Miller (1990b, 65), "His was an unusual case of a scholar who, in some respects, grew more radical in opinion as he grew older." Nicholas Wheeler and Tim Dunne (authors who have been among Bull's main commentators over the last few years and the two most outstanding members of the new generation of the English School) conclude that an analysis of Bull's work taken as a whole shows that he was solidarist (in spite of this becoming more explicit in his later writings), for the fundamental moral reference of his theory is the well-being of individuals. They point out that the problem with Bull's conception is that although individuals are the fundamental moral reference, the State carries on being the main moral agent that must promote the common good. The difficulty with this view of moral agency, Wheeler and Dunne go on, is that it deals with human suffering through the lenses of the sovereign State. Consequently, the society of States privileges crises produced by the collapse of State structures and by repressive governments, resulting, according to the authors, in the fact that the scant humanitarian resources at its disposal get consumed by States, to the detriment of day-to-day human suffering. Wheeler and Dunne highlight the fact that Bull sought to analyse the limits of international society's solidarism. When analysing whether international society was becoming more receptive to the promotion of justice, Bull concluded that collective security and humanitarian intervention projects were premature in the normative context of the early 1980s, for example. The authors (Wheeler and Dunne 1996, 106-07) stress, though, that Bull's analysis on the limits of solidarism signals his constant search for a theory of International Relations that places moral questions at the centre of academic research.22

The centrality of moral questions has not been pointed out much by Bull's commentators. This is perhaps due to their excessive focus on the question of order, whilst not paying due attention to other fundamental points for the English School, such as the emphasis on inter-subjective structures, rather than material structures, for example. In spite of this, the picture has changed relatively, with the recent prominence of so-called normative theories. English School works have been the object of more accurate readings and, consequently, more attention has been paid to such aspects.


Final Remarks

In our analysis of Bull's work, we have seen that his conception of international society is based on the interests and intentions of the agents, and therefore prone to being transformed. And contrary to what Steve Smith (1999) argued, order for Bull is not something "given", but something that depends on the systemic principles of legitimacy at its root. There is a tension between the three elements — the Hobbesian (of war), the Grotian (of cooperation) and the Kantian (of loyalty or transnational conflict) — that coexist simultaneously. Equally, there is a tension between the pluralist and solidarist conceptions of international society, with Bull's scepticism initially tending to the pluralist side.

However, if we analyse Bull's last writings (those of the 1980s), we notice that the tendency pointed to the solidarist side — though retaining a strong dose of scepticism. For Bull, international society needs to show itself to post-colonial States as a legitimate ordering. He regarded positively the challenge put before the old European colonial order by the "revolt against the West". At the same time, though, he detected that this made the order weaker in a certain way, for in global international society, it was necessary to find a modus vivendi suited to a multicultural world. Bull drew attention to the fact that despite the recent gain in ground of a notion of "cosmopolitan moral awareness", this should be seen as an incipient notion, given the limits and restrictions that this it was still subject to within international society. Many theorists saw an opening to critical potentials in the analysis of tensions between exclusive and universal forms, which Bull sought to deal with in his last writings.

The analysis undertaken in this article agrees with recent writings that argue that the English School has been badly interpreted as a derivate of realism (Dunne 1998, 1), "both the position that includes the English School in the realist paradigm tout court and its variation that sees the English School as a form of 'normative realism', distinct from Kenneth Waltz's neo-realism, but quite close to Morgenthau's classical realism" (Almeida 2003, 274). Seeing English School theorists as realists is seeing them in a way they did not see themselves: Bull (quoted in Alderson and Hurrell 2000c, 22) said unequivocally in 1979: "I am not a realist".23 Wight (1991, 268) stated: "my prejudices are Rationalist".24

When discussing Bull's view on International Relations theory, I stress his conviction that the classical realism of Morgenthau and others is the product of a particular set of historical circumstances. I also stress the various criticisms of the realists made by Wight and Bull. Hence, identifying the origins of the English School with the beginning of the British Committee for the Theory of International Politics, in 1959, aims to show how the English School theorists saw themselves as taking part in a "post-realist dialogue", from the start.25 For Almeida, this shows that the English School is not "merely distinct from realism but it has developed one of the most important alternatives to the realist theory" (Almeida 2003, 296; emphasis in the original).26

As explained by Dunne (1998, 5), the fact that the two approaches have points of contact does not mean there is a convergence between them. For him, the English School shares certain arguments with realism, but definitely cannot be reduced to it. According to Alderson and Hurrell (2000c, 22), in spite of text-book stereotypes, a realist is not simply someone who writes about States and believes in the importance of power. They emphasise the fact that Bull did both things, and even so did not see himself as a realist. According to Linklater (1998, 209), the English School or rationalism — as per Wight's definition — has been characterised as a distinct British variant of realism that denies the possibility of significant progress. He notes that this interpretation is not unjustifiable, since a trend within rationalism leans towards the realist tradition, but points out that this does not do justice to its different intellectual tendencies, which have commonalities with universalist modes of thought. He also highlights its emphasis on the virtue of dialogue and of consent.27

Beyond interpretive disputes, what really matters is the strength of Hedley Bull's work. Since the end of the Cold War, with all its consequences, and new moral issues that any new ordering brings along, Bull's work has been an important reference not just for the new generation of English School authors, but also for the discipline of International Relations as a whole.



1 This influence can be clearly seen in his writings. In Bull's words (1991, ix): "These lectures [given by Wight at the LSE in the late 1950s, which Bull attended, later published as the book International theory] made a profound impression on me, as they did on all who heard them. Ever since that time I have felt in the shadow of Martin Wight's thought — humbled by it, a constant borrower from it, always hoping to transcend it but never able to escape from it.".

2 Peter Wilson (2003) discusses the importance of International Law for the authors of the English School.

3 Dunne (1998, 144), referring to this passage by Bull, comments: "This narrow argument about the motives of states in conforming to international law is projected onto the broader canvas of international society as a whole. Given the recognition by states that they have rights and duties in their relations with one another, the case of international society against realpolitik is that states will adhere to the rules and norms of the society of states even when these conflict with their non-vital interests. The argument which Bull is making — although at times somewhat implicitly — is that states should act (implying an element of agency) in a way which strengthens the normative principles of international society. It is at this point that Bull clearly departs from the core principles of political realism. In short, by strengthening the institutions of international society, the logic of anarchy can be mitigated. (...) Bull's interest was in the survival of the society of states, understanding the nature of the rules which underpinned international society and the bonds which shape their social relations. For these reasons, it is unsatisfactory to place Bull in the realist tradition." (emphasis added).

4 See, among others, Martin Hollis and Steve Smith (1991), Smith (1992; 1995; 1996; 1997; 2000a and 2000b).

5 In my view, Smith also interprets erroneously the work of Robert Cox, when he says that the author sees order as "given". Smith gets it wrong, for Cox was precisely one of the first to point out this failing on the positivists' part. He does not see order in determinist fashion, but seeks alternatives to the status quo in "a continuous process of historical change". In my view, his distinction between "problem solving theory" and critical theory makes clear his notion of social construction. See Robert Cox (1986). For other analyses that deny that Cox sees order as given, see Jim George (1996) and Kimberley Hutchings (1999, 68-70).

6 For other studies that analyse the difference between balance of power for the realists and for the English School, see Brown (1997, chap. 6), Fonseca Jr. (1998, 44-73) and Little (2000, 404-08). It is important to stress that Martin Wight (1966b) conceived of the balance of power as an inherently social question, whose meaning changed over the course of history, and not as something static with an ahistorically ascribed meaning. As such, he pointed out that balance of power had taken on nine different meanings in international politics.

7 In this sense, Nicholas Onuf (2002) states mistakenly that the English School treats institutions as "spontaneous developments". Bull ([1977] 1995, 99-100) highlights the need for what he terms "subjective element", which would be the belief in the existence of the balance of power not restricted, therefore, to the material structures. See Bull's distinction ([1977] 1995, 100) between fortuitous and contrived balances of power. Richard Little (2003, 446-47) makes important comments on this point.

8 Iver B. Neumann (1996, 164) also argues along these lines. In another book, Tim Dunne (1998, 188) states: "(...) for the English School, the notion of a society of states is founded precisely on a belief in the power of inter-subjective structures such as common rules, values and institutions. Here we see how the English School treats practices like war and the balance of power as ideas, unlike consistent realists who predominantly regard them as material structures." (emphasis in the original). Nowadays, with several works making parallels between the English School and constructivism, the argument that the English School sees international society as a social construct is relatively commonplace. There is a growing literature that associates the two approaches in one way or another. See Souza (2006). It is worth mentioning an author who deals very well with the relationship between constructivism and the English School: Reus-Smit (2002, 2005).

9 For another inter-subjective definition of international society, see Charles W. Manning (1962, 5, 16). He argues that international society is based on ideas, making it a mental construct.

10 In my view, Jim George (1996, 50) incurs the same mistake as Smith when including Wight and Bull in "a generation of realists about the real nature of the world 'out there'". Dunne (1995, 84), referring to an earlier piece of work by George, in which the latter makes the same statement, answers: "Jim George is surely misguided in his belief that Wight and Bull share with Morgenthau and Waltz the same assumptions about the real nature of the world 'out there'".

11 Alderson and Hurrell (2000a, 247) note that already in 1968, during a conference, Bull said he was convinced of the sterility of this debate.

12 Dunne (2001, 227) commenting on the origin of the distinction between system and society in Bull's work, observes: "Part of the reason why he was so determined to distinguish system and society was no doubt driven by his desire to demonstrate that his ontology differed significantly from behaviouralists such as Morton Kaplan."

13 This critique of the realists is also emphasised in his extensive critique of Carr. See Hedley Bull ([1969] 2000, 132).

14 Commenting on this passage by Bull, Jack Donnelly (2000, 194) observes: "A similar, though less severe, reaction against the thinness of structural realism's 'indeterminate predictions' has characterized the 1990s." This type of criticism of the extravagance of realists' language and of the relative "poverty" of their theories had also been made by Wight (1991). For comments on Wight's incisive criticisms of realism, see Almeida (2003, 278-79) and Souza (2003, 31-33).

15 On the biographical details of Bull's career, see J. D. B. Miller (1990a) and Griffiths (2004, 217-23).

16 The clash between the pluralist and solidarist conceptions was first dealt with in his paper "The grotian conception of international society", originally presented to the British Committee in April 1962 and subsequently published in Bull (1966b).

17 See, mainly, Bull (1992). For analyses of Bull and the legacy of Grotius, see Kingsbury and Roberts (1992, 51), who classify the English School, in a "weak sense", within the Grotian tradition; and Kingsbury (1996).

18 The March 1999 NATO intervention in the Kosovo conflict was, more than any other event, the great mediator of this debate in the English School. Among the theorists of the English School who dealt with the subject, the two "protagonists" were Robert Jackson (pluralist) and Nicholas Wheeler (solidarist). I analysed extensively the debates and disagreements between the two in Souza (2006).

19 This has always been a central issue for the English School. See especially chapter 4, "Theory of mankind: 'Barbarians'", of the book by Martin Wight (1991); and the book The expansion of international society (Bull and Watson 1985). For instigating discussions on this theme by third generation English School theorists (most of whom began publishing in the immediate post-Cold War period), see Neumann and Welsh (1991) and Dunne (1997a). In this article, Dunne (1997a, 312) argues: "Civilisations, cultures, values, rules, encounters, meaning, and so on, have remained central to those working within the international society tradition (or 'English School') from the early 1950s onwards." In this sense, he (Dunne 1997a, 310) tries to make a parallel between the work of post-colonialist authors, like Tzvetan Todorov and Edward Said and Wight's three traditions. "Arguably, there is more to the question of cultural encounters in this one lecture ["Theory of mankind" in the book International theory] than in the rest of mainstream International Relations thinking during the Cold War." Roger Epp notes that in relation to post-colonial theory and IR "there is nothing resembling it in the discipline. One recent survey cites it [the book The expansion of international society] as a rare instance when an international relations text has intersected the concerns of post-colonialist literature." The research in question is by Philip Darby and A. J. Paolini, cited in Epp (1998, 57-58). Epp (1998, 56) also comments: "long before it could be intellectually fashionable, Wight's lectures put the problem of relations with the other, the outsider, the barbarian, at the moral-ontological centre of the study of international relations." Linklater (1990, 15) suggests that the centrality of the Third World to the English School approximates it to Critical Theory on this question. See J. D. B. Miller (1990b) and O'Hagan (2005). Paulo Luiz Esteves (2003) makes a pertinent analysis of the role of the Third World in the work of Hedley Bull, and of the tensions between order and justice that this brings about.

20 See the discussions in Alderson and Hurrell (2000b), R. J. Vincent (1990), Nicholas Wheeler (1992, 2000), Wheeler and Dunne (1996, 2002), Dunne (1998), Andrew Linklater (1990, 1996, 1998 esp. chapters 1, 5 and 6, pages 24, 207-11) and Linklater and Suganami (2006).

21 For discussions on the moral "ambiguity" of the English School, see R. J. Vincent (1990), Ian Harris (1993), Linklater (1996, 109) and Hutchings (1999, 56-63). This book by Hutchings also underlines the critical potential of the English School. For example, it is interesting to note that chapter 3, where she analyses the English School, is in the second part of the book, in which, after having analysed normative positions seen as traditional or standard, such as realism, idealism, communitarianism and cosmopolitanism, she goes on to analyse those positions that challenge and question these traditional positions. Hence, in this chapter, titled "Critical challenges: Rethinking international politics", the author places the English School side by side with theories of a critical slant, such as Marxism, post-modernism and feminism.

22 For Bull (1991, xi), the centrality of moral questions was also one of the characteristics of Martin Wight's writings: "Wight placed these questions at the centre of his inquiry." An example of a present-day commentator who stresses the normative side of the English School is the abovementioned Reus-Smit (2002, 2005). In this author's eyes, moral questions occupy a central place for the English School. Hence, talking about the English School without mentioning this central aspect merely reproduces stereotypes that impoverish it.

23 In the eyes of Vincent (1990, 41), "Hedley Bull stood four-square in the Grotian or rationalist tradition, towards its pluralist extremity in the early writing on Hobbes and on Grotius himself, more towards the solidarist extremity in the later writing on the expansion of international society.". According to Yale Ferguson ([1998] 2002, 185), "upon reflection, it was misleading to have implied guilt by association with realists, from whom Bull earnestly sought to distance himself." (emphasis added).

24 According to Smith (1995, 13), "Wight himself was firmly in the Grotian or rationalist tradition." See also Forsyth (1978, 413), Wight ([1978] 1985), Kingsbury and Roberts (1992, 9), Bartelson (1996, 341) and Dunne (1998, 8).

25 The expression is Tim Dunne's (1998, 5). He argues that despite the fact that the works of the theorists from the British Committee were debated in IR academic circles, this evaluation has been made without a contextual approach on the intellectual community that the Committee formed. This is why, Dunne says, the main aim of his book on the history of the English School is to furnish such an approach, thus adding a new chapter to the incomplete historiography of International Relations. For, "the English School is an important voice in academic International Relations which has either not been heard or has been misrepresented as a derivative of realism" (1998, xi, 1; emphasis added). Dunne himself, in an earlier piece (Dunne 1997b), had characterised the English School as a "liberal realism". But later he rejected this kind of characterisation and became one of the main advocates of the separation of the English School from realism. Heather Rae (1998) criticised Dunne (1997b) for this characterisation: "Timothy Dunne subsumes this school as a form of 'liberal realism', but this does not do justice to the rationalists' key idea of a 'society of states' underpinned by cooperative behaviour based on shared values, an idea which is quite distinct from the realist notion of a system of states. While it may be argued from a critical point of view that the British school of rationalism is merely a form of realism, this does not do justice to how rationalists saw themselves, and such a view is one which must be explained and defended and would fit best in the chapter on critical approaches. This reading of rationalism is at odds with much in this text which achieves the goal of clear introductory explanations (...)."

26 Buzan (1996, 49) puts the English School forward as one of the challenges to realism in the 1960s and 1970s. For Celso Lafer (1998, 10), "the rationalist argument, as formulated by Martin Wight and Hedley Bull, who, inspired by the tradition of Grotius, oppose realism." See also Hutchings (1999, 63) and Kingsbury and Roberts (1992, 54-55).

27 An example of this type of simplification, that obscures more than it clarifies, is Fred Halliday (1999, 24, 30, 111). He calls the English School "a group of realists on the European side of the Atlantic", says that The anarchical society is one of the pillars of neo-realism and considers the English School a sort of "British realism". Halliday was much criticised for this; see the replies of Wheeler (1996), Almeida (2003) and Dunne (1998). Historian Philip Bobbit (2003, 232), for example, also distorts Bull's arguments when he says that Bull's description of the international world of nation-States "recalled Hobbes's description of mankind in a state of nature". He stresses that both "Hobbes and Bull described a world whose fundamental feature was that it was without law. It was a world of all against all and each one against every other one." Such a statement goes against the very idea of international society espoused by Bull. Bull sets out clearly in The anarchical society (and in all of his work) his rejection of an association of the international context with a Hobbesian state of nature. Towards the end of chapter 2, Bull ([1977] 1995, 44-49) presents his three reasons to deny such a parallel. See also Bull (1966a, [1981] 2000).


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Submitted in October, 2005.
Accepted in March, 2007.



* I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their comments