Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 July 2015
The concept of society and its cognates have long been widely invoked in order to understand International Relations. Theories of international society distinguish between a society of states and a mere system of states, and theories of world society assume that the world constitutes a single social space. In order to come to terms with the social character of International Relations, constructivists of different stripes have invoked a societal context within which the construction of identities and norms takes place. As I shall argue in this article, these usages draw on conceptions of society that emerged during the early phases of modern sociology, and have then been projected onto alien historical and cultural contexts. In order to avoid the anachronism and Eurocentrism that invariably have resulted from these uncritical usages, I argue that academic International Relations should seek to accommodate those forms of human association that cannot be subsumed under a recognisably modern concept of society by incorporating insights from postcolonial sociology into its theoretical core.
I would like to thank Tarak Barkawi, Andreas Behnke, Martin Hall, Catia Gregoratti, Kimberly Hutchings, Catarina Kinnvall, Nick Onuf, Patricia Owens, Erik Ringmar, and Ted Svensson for their valuable comments on previous drafts of this article.
1 Owens, Patricia, Economy of Force: Counterinsurgency and the Historical Rise of the Social (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also Owens, Patricia, ‘Human security and the rise of the social’, Review of International Studies, 38:3 (2012), pp. 547–567 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Owens, Patricia, ‘From Bismarck to Petraeus: the question of the social and the social question in counterinsurgency’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:1 (2013), pp. 139–161 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
7 Wight, Martin, Systems of States (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1977), pp. 33–35 Google Scholar.
9 Ibid., p. 13.
10 Ibid., p. 9.
11 Ibid., p. 15.
12 Ibid., p. 316.
13 See Bull, Hedley, ‘The importance of Grotius and International Relations’ in Hedley Bull, Benedict Kingsbury, and Adam Roberts (eds), Hugo Grotius and International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wight, Martin, International Theory: The Three Traditions ed. Gabriele Wight and Brian Porter (Leicester & London: Leicester University Press, 1991)Google Scholar; Kingsbury, Benedict, ‘Grotian tradition of theory and practice: Grotius, Law, and moral skepticism in the thought of Hedley Bull’, Quinnipiac Law Review, 17 (1997), p. 3 Google Scholar; Cutler, Claire A., ‘The “Grotian Tradition” in International Relations’, Review of International Studies, 17:1 (1991), pp. 41–65 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
14 Bartelson, Jens, ‘Short circuits: Society and tradition in International Relations theory’, Review of International Studies, 22 (1996), pp. 339–360 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Tuck, Richard, The Rights of War and Peace: Political Thought and the International Order from Grotius to Kant (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)Google Scholar; Kingsbury, Benedict and Straumann, Benjamin, ‘The state of nature and commercial sociability in early modern international legal thought’, Grotiana, 31:1 (2010), pp. 22–43 Google Scholar.
16 Ibid., p. 111.
18 Ibid., p.148.
20 Cerny, Philip G., Rethinking World Politics: A Theory of Transnational Neopluralism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kessler, Oliver, ‘World society, social differentiation, and time’, International Political Sociology, 6:1 (2012), pp. 77–94 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Albert, Mathias, Buzan, Barry, and Zürn, Michael (eds), Bringing Sociology to International Relations: World Politics as Differentiation Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
21 Urry, John, Sociology Beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty-First Century (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 1–20 Google Scholar.
24 Dunne, Timothy, ‘The social construction of international society’, European Journal of International Relations, 1:3 (1995), pp. 374–379 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For the limits of this affinity, see Reus–Smit, Christian, ‘Imagining society: Constructivism and the English School’, The British Journal of Politics & International Relations, 4:3 (2002), pp. 487–509 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
26 Onuf, Nicholas Greenwood, World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), p. 6 Google Scholar.
27 Ibid., p. 16.
28 Ibid., p. 36.
29 Ibid., p. 40.
30 Ibid., p. 46.
32 Ibid., pp. 49, 68.
33 Ibid., pp. 87–8
34 Ibid., p. 160.
35 Ibid., p. 158.
36 Ibid., pp. 186–7.
38 Weber, Max, ‘“Objectivity” in social science and social policy’, in Max Weber, Edward Shils, Henry A. Finch, Robert J. Antonio, and Alan Sica, Methodology of Social Sciences (New York: The Free Press, 1949), pp. 49–112 Google Scholar (p. 74).
40 Brett, Annabel S., Changes of State: Nature and the Limits of the City in Early Modern Natural Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011)Google Scholar.
41 Ibid., p. 60.
42 Fustel De Coulanges, Numa Denis, The Ancient City: A Study of the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome (Dover Publications, 2006)Google Scholar.
43 Wagner, Peter, ‘“An entirely new object of consciousness, of volition, of thought: the coming into being and (almost) passing away of “society” as a scientific object’, in Lorraine Daston (ed.), Biographies of Scientific Objects (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 145–157 Google Scholar.
44 Foucault, Michel, ‘Society Must Be Defended’: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–76 (New York: Picador, 2003), p. 134 Google Scholar.
45 Hont, Istvan, Jealousy of Trade: International Competition and the Nation-State in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 45ffGoogle Scholar; also Hont, Istvan, ‘“The language of sociability and commerce: Samuel Pufendorf and the foundations of Smith’s Four Stages” theory’, in Anthony Pagden (ed.), The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europé (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 271–316 Google Scholar.
46 See Riedel, Manfred, ‘Gesellschaft, Gemeinschaft’, in Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, and Reinhart Koselleck (eds), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, Vol. 2. (Stuttgart: Klett, 1975), pp. 801–862 Google Scholar; Hont, Istvan and Ignatieff, Michael (eds), Wealth and Virtue: the Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)Google Scholar; Jones, Gareth Stedman, ‘Hegel and the economics of civil society’, Civil Society: History and Possibilities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 105–130 Google Scholar.
47 See, for example, Wokler, Robert, ‘Saint-Simon and the passage from political to social science’, in Anthony Pagden (ed.), The Language of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 325–338 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wokler, Robert, ‘Rousseaus Pufendorf: Natural law and the foundations of commercial society’, History of Political Thought, 15:3 (1994), pp. 373–402 Google Scholar; Richter, Melvin, ‘Tocqueville and Guizot on democracy: From a type of society to a political regime’, History of European Ideas, 30:1 (2004), pp. 61–82 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
49 Tönnies, Ferdinand, Community and Society: Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (Michigan State University Press, 1964)Google Scholar.
50 Durkheim, Émile and Coser, Lewis A., The Division of Labor in Society (New York: The Free Press, 1997)Google Scholar.
51 Ibid., p. 219.
52 Rosenberg, Justin, ‘Why is there no international historical sociology?’, European Journal of International Relations, 12:3 (2006), pp. 307–340 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; for a different interpretation, see Inglis, David and Robertson, Roland, ‘The elementary forms of globality: Durkheim and the emergence and nature of global life’, Journal of Classical Sociology, 8:1 (2008), pp. 5–25 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
53 See, for example, Jaume, Lucien, ‘Citizen and state under the French Revolution’, in Quentin Skinner and Bo Stråth (eds), State and Citizens: History, Theory, Prospects (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 131–144 Google Scholar.
56 Ludwig Heeren, Arnold Hermann, A Manual of the History of the Political System of Europe and Its Colonies, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Talboys & Browne, 1834), p. viiiGoogle Scholar.
59 Lebow, Richard Ned, The Politics and Ethics of Identity: In Search of Ourselves, (Cambridge: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Yack, Bernard, Nationalism and the Moral Psychology of Community (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001)Google Scholar.
60 See, for example, Mehta, Uday Singh, Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Armitage, David, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)Google Scholar; Pitts, Jennifer, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Morefield, Jeanne, Covenants Without Swords: Liberal Idealism and the Spirit of Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005)Google Scholar; Bell, Duncan (ed.), Victorian Visions of Global Order. Empire and International Relations in Nineteenth-Century Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For an overview, see Bell, Duncan S. A., ‘Empire and International Relations in Victorian political thought’, The History Journal, 49 (2006), pp. 281–298 Google Scholar.
62 Armitage, David, Foundations of Modern International Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 17–56 Google Scholar (pp. 191–214).
63 See, for example, Lorca, Arnulf Becker, ‘Universal international law: Nineteenth-century histories of imposition and appropriation’, Harvard International Law Journal, 51:2 (2010), pp. 475–552 Google Scholar; Yasuaki, Onuma, ‘When was the law of international society born? – an inquiry of the history of international law from an intercivilizational perspective’, Journal of the History of International Law, 2:1 (2000), p. 1–66 Google Scholar.
65 Pollock, Sheldon, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006)Google Scholar.
66 Syros, Vasileios, ‘Galenic medicine and social stability in early modern Florence and the Islamic empires’, Journal of Early Modern History, 17:2 (2013), pp. 161–213 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Syros, Vasileios, ‘An early modern South Asian thinker on the rise and decline of empires: Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi, the Mughals, and the Byzantines’, Journal of World History, 23:4 (2012), pp. 793–840 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
68 See Bhambra, Gurminder K., Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For excellent overviews, see Bhambra, Gurminder K., ‘Historical sociology, modernity, and postcolonial critique’, The American Historical Review, 116:3 (2011), pp. 653–662 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Go, Julian, ‘For a postcolonial sociology’, Theory and Society, 42:1 (2013), pp. 25–55 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
71 See, for example, Christian, David, ‘World history in context’, Journal of World History, 14:4 (2003), pp. 437–458 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Stokes, Gale, ‘The fates of human societies: a review of recent macrohistories’, The American Historical Review, 106:2 (2001), pp. 508–525 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
72 See Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (ed.), Another Knowledge is Possible: Beyond Nothern Epistemologies, (London: Verso, 2007)Google Scholar.