Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Other in European self-definition: an addendum to the literature on international society*

  • Iver B. Neumann and Jennifer M. Welsh


The dominant role of the realist paradigm in international relations theory has left little room for the study of the role of cultural variables in world politics. The two central tenets of the realist theoretical game-plan—the primacy of the sovereign state system, and the autonomy of that system, from domestic political, social and moral considerations—focus our attention on the vertical division of the world into sovereign states, rather than on the horizontal forces and ties that cut across state frontiers. The result is the metaphor for the interaction of states as the mechanical one of the billiard table, with power politics as the primary dynamic.



Hide All

1 Sartre, Jean-Paul, Being and Nothingness. An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (London, 1957), p. 223.

2 Cf. e.g. Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International Politics (Reading, 1979), chs. 1–4.

3 Linklater, Andrew, Beyond Realism and Marxism: Critical Theory and International Relations (London, 1990), p. 14.

4 For a summary of this position, cf. Vincent, R. J., ‘Realpolitik’, in Mayall, James (ed.), The Community of States (London, 1982), p. 74.

5 The classic statement is provided by Morgenthau, Hans, Politics Among Nations (New York, fifth edn, 1978), pp. 415.

6 Bull, Hedley, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (London, 1977), pp. 1316 and passim.

7 Cf. e.g. Linklater, Andrew, Men and Citizens and the Theory of International Relations (London, 1982).

8 Wight, Martin, Systems of States, ed. Bull, Hedley (Leicester, 1977), p. 33.

9 Bull, , The Anarchical Society, pp. 316317.

10 Bull, Hedley and Watson, Adam (eds.), The Expansion of International Society (Oxford, 1984), p. 435. Watson, Adam, ‘Hedley Bull, states systems and international societies’, Review of International Studies, 13 (1987), pp. 147–53, which is an account of his cooperation with Bull, on p. 149 stresses how ‘We also recognized that what really and decisively made the settler states of the Americas consider themselves, and be considered, members of the European family was that they were European or European-dominated-in other words the cultural factor, as in the Ottoman case’.

11 Lyotard, Jean-François, The Postmodern Condition. A Report on Knowledge (Manchester, 1984).

12 Wight, , Systems, p. 18.

13 Gulick, Edward V.: Europe's Classical Balance of Power: A Case History of the Theory and Practice of One of the Great Concepts of European Statecraft (New York, 1967), p. 10.

14 Bull identifies the process we are referring to, but does not address it directly: ‘The standard view [i.e., what we have called the diffusion view of international society], moreover, neglects the influence of Asian international practices on the evolution of European ones: the international society to which non-European powers came to adhere was not one made in a Europe isolated from the rest of the world, but grew up concurrently with the expansion of Europe into other continents over four centuries, and was marked by this experience.’ Bull, Hedley, ‘The Emergence of a Universal International Society’ in Bull, and Watson, , Expansion, pp. 117–26, on p. 123.

15 Dalby, Simon, Creating the Second Cold War. The Discourse of Politics (London, 1990), p. 4.

16 Harbsmeier, Michael, ‘Early Travels to Europe: some remarks on the magic of writing’, in Barker, Francis et al. (eds.), Europe and Its Others (Colchester, 1985), pp. 7288, on p. 72, is among those who stress how ‘the European’ was defined by means of an Other: ‘early modern European civilisation came to make its own ability properly to describe and understand the other, its own proper literacy, into the very definition of its own identity as against the rest of the world’.

17 There are precedents for the existence of a positive Other, most notably in eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinking. Hence, for example, Rousseau pointed to the merits of the ‘noble savage’. Where relations with ‘the Turk’ are concerned, an alternative European tradition stretching back to Cusanus has held that if the two parties could only engage in dialogue, positive results would surely follow.

18 Hilgard, Ernest R. et al., Introduction to Psychology (New York, 1985), pp. 181–97.

19 Said, Edward, Orientalism (1978; Harmondsworth, 1985), p. 3. Apart from two passing remarks about Kissinger's view of the Orient on pp. 47–8 and Cardinal Newman's use of Orientalism to justify British intervention in the Crimean War on p. 153, Said does not discuss the implications of his findings for international relations.

20 Simmel, Georg, ‘The Stranger’, in Simmel, Georg, On Individuality and Social Forces. Selected Writings, ed. Levine, Donald N. (Chicago, 1970), pp. 143–9.

21 E.g. Epstein, Arnold L., Ethnos and Identity. Three Studies in Ethnicity (London, 1978).

22 Schmitt, Carl, Der Begriff des Politischen (1932; Munich, 1936), p. 14. Michael J. Shapiro actually echoes Schmitt when he suggests that foreign policy generally is about making an Other. See Shapiro, Michael J., The Politics of Representation (Madison, 1988).

23 ‘Indeed, if the idea of Europeanism is to be realised, it will inevitably be based on dualism. Europeanism will not be an alternative to dualism, Europeanism is from beginning to end just a new application of dualistic patterns. And in this application, there are candidates for the role of common unifying enemy: Islam in religion, Japan and the other Pacific–Asian countries in economic competition, and the United States in economics, politics and security.‘ Harle, Vilho, ‘European Roots of Dualism and Its Alternatives in International Relations’, in Harle, Vilho (ed.), European Values in International Relations (London, 1990), pp. 114, on p. 11.

24 Naff, Thomas, ‘The Ottoman Empire and the European States System’, in Bull, and Watson, , Expansion, pp. 143–70, on p. 143.

25 Bull, , The Anarchical Society, p. 14. However, see also Watson, , Hedley Bull.

26 Cited in Gong, Gerrit W., The Standard of ‘Civilization’ in International Society (Oxford, 1984), p. 113. See also Wight, , Systems, p. 116.

27 ‘The barbarians in question […] cannot be barred from being true owners, alike in public or in private law, by reason of the sin of unbelief or any other mortal sin, nor does such sin entitle Christians to seize their goods and lands.’ Vitoria's De Indis et de Ivre Belli cited in Gong, Standard, p. 36; also Parkinson, F., The Philosophy of International Relations (Beverly Hills, 1977), pp. 1824; Bull, Hedley, Kingsbury, Benedict and Roberts, Adam (eds.), Hugo Grotius and International Relations (Oxford, 1990), pp. 43–4.

28 Lewis, Bernard, Tanner Lectures, Oxford University, 26 February, 1990.

29 Rodinson, Maxime, Europe and the Mystique of Islam (London, 1987), p. 7.

30 ‘It had been some time since the war against the Eastern infidels had been able to unite the West in a common struggle. The plan for the expansion of a united Christian Europe gave way, once and for all, to nationalistic political projects.’ Ibid. p. 29. The use of the adjective ‘nationalistic’ is anachronistic.

31 Strémooukhoff, Dimitri, ‘Moscow and the Third Rome: Sources of the Doctrine’, Speculum, 28 (1953), pp. 84–101.

32 Schwoebel, Robert, The Shadow of the Crescent: The Renaissance Image of the Turk (Nieuwkoop, 1967), p. ix.

33 Hay, Denys, Europe: The Emergence of An Idea (New York, 1966), pp. 26.

34 Moreover, the ancient Greeks entertained the idea of an internal Other in relation to which the Greek city state defined itself, the pharmakos (magician; poisoner; the one sacrificed in expiation for the sins of the city), which illustrates that both types of ‘Otherness’ were operative at least from the time of the beginnings of writte n history; Derrida, Jacques, ‘Plato's Pharmacy’ in Dissemination (London, 1981), pp. 61–171, on p. 132.

35 Schwoebel, , Shadow, p. 4.

36 Schwoebel, , Shadow, p. 19.

37 Schwoebel, , Shadow, p. 23.

38 Cited in Schwoebel, , Shadow, p. 71.

39 Rodinson, , Europe, pp. 32–3.

40 Schwoebel, , Shadow, p. 150.

41 E.g. presentation in Meinecke, Friedrich, Machiavellism; The Doctrine of Raison d'Etat and Its Place in Modern History (1924; London, 1957), ch. 3.

42 Botero, Giovanni, The Reason of State (1589; London, 1956), pp. 164–5, Book VIII, 13; pp. 222–3, Book X, 9. The parenthesis was added to the 1590 and 1596 editions.

43 Cf. Baumer, Franklin L., ‘England, the Turk, and the Common Corps of Christendom’, The American Historical Review, 50 (1944), pp. 2648.

44 Rodinson, , Europe, pp. 34–5.

45 Baumer, , ‘England’, pp. 27–8.

46 Naff, in Bull, and Watson, , Expansion, p. 148. In fact, the Turkish attitude towards diplomatic relations with the Europeans parallels the Chinese emperor's view of commercial relations with the Japanese; where the latter saw trade, the former saw tribute, see Suganami, Hidemi, ‘Japan's Entry into International Society’, ibid. pp. 185–99.

47 Schwoebel, , Shadow, p. 204.

48 Bull, Hedley, ‘The Importance of Grotius in the Study of International Relations’, in Bull, , Kingsbury, and Roberts, , Grotius, pp. 6593, on pp. 76–7.

49 George, Alexander and Craig, Gordon, Force and Statecraft. Diplomatic Problems of Our Time (New York, 2nd edn, 1990), pp. 316.

50 Treatments of Kant as a statist include Hinsley, F. H., Power and the Pursuit of Peace. Theory and Practice in the History of Relations between States (Cambridge, 1963), pp. 6280 and Gallie, W. B., Philosophers of Peace and War (Cambridge, 1978), pp. 836.

51 Purnell, Robert, The Society of States (London, 1973), p. 14.

52 Wight, , Systems, p. 128. See also Bull, , Kingsbury, and Roberts, , Grotius, pp. 47–8; ‘Grotius may thus be understood as embracing a minimum content of universally applicable rules of the jus gentium […] with a pluralist overlay of additional norms based on custom or consent or the values of the peoples concerned.’

53 ‘ “We are bidden to exclude no class of men from our deeds of kindness”, says Grotius, but the Christian law “ought to be received with due regard to difference in degree, so that we should be doers of good to all, but particularly to those who share the same religion”.’ Bull, , Kingsbury, , and Roberts, , Grotius, p. 14.

54 Grotius, Hugo, The Rights of War and Peace: Including the Law of Nature and Nations (Westport, 1979), p. 146.

55 Naff, in Bull, and Watson, , Expansion, p. 144.

56 Lewis, , Tanner Lectures, 12 March 1990.

57 The Treaty of Carlowitz was also the first instance in which the Turk was invited to participate in a European congress. In addition, by signing the treaty, the Ottoman Empire acknowledged the formal existence of non-Muslim states for the first time. Cf. McKay, Derek and Scott, H. M., The Rise of the Great Powers: 1648–1815 (London, 1983), p. 76.

58 Lewis, , Tanner Lectures, 5 March 1990.

59 Lewis, , Tanner Lectures, 5 March 1990.

60 Parkinson, , Philosophy, p. 24; also Gong, , Standard, p. vii.

61 Gulick, , Balance, p. 10.

62 All cited in Gulick, , Balance, p. 11.

63 Burke, Edmund, The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke (London, 1907), VI, pp. 155–7. See also Welsh, Jennifer M.: ‘Edmund Burke and the Commonwealth of Europe: The Conservative Crusade against the French Revolution’, MPhil thesis, Oxford University, 1989).

64 The Parliamentary History of England (London, 1816), XXVIII, cols. 7677.

65 Gulick, , Balance, p. 15.

66 McKay, and Scott, , Rise, p. 205. Previous to 1793, the Sultan had sent individual missions for specific purposes, after which they returned to Constantinople; ‘The absence of permanent resident Ottoman embassies reflected a basic assumption of superiority: diplomacy was unnecessary during the centuries of Ottoman power.’ Ibid. p. 204.

67 Anderson, M. S., The Eastern Question, 1774–1923: A Study in International Relations (London, 1966), p. xi.

68 Gong, , Standard, p. 8.

69 Gong, , Standard, p. 33.

70 Cited in Gong, , Standard, p. 71. The quotation is from a memorandum delivered by a special task force set up within the Foreign Ministry to review Russia's policy towards the Porte in its entirety.

71 Cf. Rodinson, , Europe, p. 59.

72 Palmer, Alan: Alexander I, Tsar of War and Peace, (London, 1974), ch. 18. In fact, the whole affair demonstrates to what extent Alexander's notions about the logic of culture differed from the Western powers, and bears witness to Russia's perceived need to underline its European identity by means of an even more obvious ‘Other’.

73 Cited in Gulick, , Balance, p. 16. Cobden, of course, was also a vocal opponent of the idea of the balance of power.

74 Gong, , Standard, p. 107 makes a similar assessment. On p. 32 he bolsters his case by citing a passage from Oppenheim's early-twentieth-century standard work on international law which maintains that Turkey's ‘position as a member of the family of nations was anomalous because her civilization fell short of that of the Western states.’ Gong even maintains that this was an expression of the ‘general consensus’ of international lawyers at the time.

75 Bull, , ‘The Importance of Grotius’, p. 82. Also Gong, , Standard, pp. 31–3.

76 Hall, W. E., cited in Wight, , Systems, p. 115. See also Bull, , Kingsbury, and Roberts, , Grotius, pp. 47–8.

77 Gong, , Standard, p. 10; p. 36; pp. 1415; on p. 42, he suggests that ‘In part, the standard reflected Europe's need to explain and justify its overlordship of non-European countries in other than merely military terms.’

78 Cited in Wight, , Systems, p. 122.

79 Turkish hesitations about Russian demands for an agreement guaranteeing the position of Orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire were a vital part of Russo-Turkish relations from the time of the Treaty of Kucuk-Kaynarca onwards.

80 It must be acknowledged that the reform demands of the European states were also oriented towards their own economic interests, or the interests of non-Muslim communities. These interests often conflicted with the goals of the Ottoman elite. For a further discussion of this point, see Berkes, Niyazi, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (Montreal, 1964), pp. 147–54.

81 Naff, in Bull, and Watson, , Expansion, p. 169.

82 Cited in Kinyapina, Nina Stepanovna, Vneshnyaya politika Rossii pervoy poloviny XIX v. (Moscow, 1963), p. 17.

83 Cited in Riha, Thomas, A Russian European. Paul Miliukov in Russian Politics (Notre Dame, 1969), p. 257.

84 Cf. e.g. Weisensel, Peter R., ‘Russian Self-Identification and Travelers' Descriptions of the Ottoman Empire in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century’. Paper presented to the Fourth World Congress for Soviet and East European Studies, Harrogate, 21–6 July, 1990.

85 Özdalga, Elisabeth, Turkiets väg in i Europa (Stockholm, 1989) discusses how the Europeans' stressing of the logic of culture looms large in Ankara's perceptions of the EC.

86 We are not denying that questions of an economic nature also played a role here. The Treaty of Rome explicitly states that a state must be democratic to join.

87 Mortimer, Edward, ‘Is This Our Frontier?’, Financial Times, 3 April 1990. Of course, variants of the Christian faith remain the state religions of a number of European states.

88 Nures, Nurver, ‘Turkey's Place in Europe’, Financial Times, 20 April 1990. The Gulf War sparked a new set of Turkish comments on the same theme.

89 Immigration statistics help to convey the magnitude of Europe's ‘resident Other’ population. For example, of the French foreign population in 1982 (the most recent census), 1.76m were European; 1.12m were North African; 138k were French W. African; 294k Asian; 124k Turks; and 51k were from the Americas. In a recent documentary anthology, Alec Hargreaves expands upon the North African portion of these statistics to reveal some of the social, political and educational problems associated with the clash of European and Islamic cultures: ‘As the geographical sources of emigration to France widened, so too did the cultural differences between the sending and receiving countries. Despite language and other differences, France shared a long heritage of Christian belief with her European neighbours, which, even in the more secular world of the twentieth century, was reflected in many aspects of ordinary life.’ Cf. Hargreaves, , Immigration in Postwar France (London, 1987), p. 4. For a more personalised account of the tensions between France and its North African population, see Kramer, Jane, Unsettling Europe (New York, 1980), Chapter 4.

90 Wight, , Systems, p. 34.

92 Dore, Ronald, ‘Unity and Diversity in Contemporary World Culture’ in Bull, and Watson, , Expansion, pp. 407–24, on p. 407

* We would like to thank Jon Bingen, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Michael Harbsmeier, Andrew Hurrell, Celia Kerslake, Kumru Toktamis, and especially our teacher and mentor the late John Vincent for comments on earlier drafts of this article.

It is strange that the problem of Others has never truly disturbed the realists. To the extent that the realist takes everything as given, doubtless it seems to him that the Other is given. In the midst of the real, what is more real than the Other?

Jean-Paul Sartre

The Other in European self-definition: an addendum to the literature on international society*

  • Iver B. Neumann and Jennifer M. Welsh


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed