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The political international society: Change in primary and secondary institutions

  • KILIAN SPANDLER

Abstract

This article intends to contribute to the theorising of institutional change. Specifically, it asks how dynamics in the ‘deep structure’ of international society correspond to changes in more specific institutions as embodied by regimes and international organisations. It does so by taking up the distinction of primary and secondary institutions in international society advocated by scholars of the English School. It argues that, while the differentiation offers analytical potential, the School has largely failed to study secondary institutions such as international organisations and regimes as autonomous objects of analysis, seeing them as mere materialisations of primary institutions. Engaging with the concepts of structuration and path dependence will allow scholars working in an English School framework to explore more deeply the relation between the two kinds of institutions, and as a consequence devise more elaborate theories of institutional change. Based on this argument, the article develops a theoretical model that sees primary and secondary institutions entangled in distinctive processes of constitution and institutionalisation. This model helps to establish international organisations and regimes as a crucial part of the English School agenda, and to enlighten the political mechanisms that lead to continuity and change in international institutions more broadly.

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1 Schmidt, Vivien A., ‘Taking ideas and discourse seriously: Explaining change through discursive institutionalism as the fourth “new institutionalism”’, European Political Science Review, 2:1 (2010), pp. 125 ; Streeck, Wolfgang and Thelen, Kathleen, ‘Introduction: Institutional change in advanced political economies’, in Thelen, Kathleen and Streeck, Wolfgang (eds), Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 139 .

2 Buzan, Barry, ‘The Middle East through English School theory’, in Buzan, Barry and Gonzalez-Pelaez, Ana (eds), International Society and the Middle East: English School Theory at the Regional Level (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009), pp. 2444, 43; Kratochwil, Friedrich and Ruggie, John Gerard, ‘International organization: a state of the art on an art of the state’, International Organization, 42:4 (1986), pp. 753–75, 772; Raymond, Gregory A., ‘Problems and prospects in the study of international norms’, Mershon International Studies Review, 41:2 (1997), pp. 205–45, 223–4.

3 Krasner, Stephen D., ‘Structural causes and consequences: Regimes as intervening variables’, in Krasner, Stephen D. (ed.), International Regimes (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 121 ; Puchala, Donald J. and Hopkins, Raymond F., ‘International regimes: Lessons from inductive analysis’, in Krasner, Stephen D. (ed.), International Regimes (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 6191, 64; Reus-Smit, Christian, The Moral Purpose of the State: Culture, Social Identity, and Institutional Rationality in International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); Ruggie, John Gerard, ‘International regimes, transactions, and change: Embedded liberalism in the postwar economic order’, in Krasner, Stephen D. (ed.), International Regimes (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 195231 ; ‘Multilateralism at century's end’, Constructing the World Polity: Essays on International Institutionalization (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 102–30; Young, Oran R., ‘System and society in world affairs: Implications for international organizations’, International Social Science Journal, 47:2 (1995), pp. 197212 .

4 Abbot, Kenneth W. and Snidal, Duncan, ‘Why states act through formal international organizations’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 42:1 (1998), pp. 332 ; Finnemore, Martha, ‘International organizations as teachers of norms: the United Nations educational, scientific, and cultural organization and science policy’, International Organization, 47:4 (1993), pp. 565–97; Finnemore, Martha and Barnett, Michael N., ‘The politics, power, and pathologies of international organizations’, International Organization, 53:4 (1999), pp. 699732 ; Manners, Ian, ‘Normative power Europe: a contradiction in terms?’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 40:2 (2002), pp. 235–58; Risse, Thomas, ‘“Let's argue!”: Communicative action in world politics’, International Organization, 54:1 (2000), pp. 139 .

5 Buzan, ‘The Middle East’, p. 43; see also Mark Webber, ‘NATO: Within and between European international society’, in Yannis A. Stivachtis and Mark Webber (eds), Europe after Enlargement (2011), pp. 139–58, 142.

6 Bellamy, Alex J., ‘Introduction: International society and the English School’, in Bellamy, Alex J. (ed.), International Society and its Critics (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 126 ; Dunne, Timothy, ‘The social construction of International Society’, European Journal of International Relations, 1:3 (1995), pp. 367–89; Reus-Smit, Christian, ‘Imagining society: Constructivism and the English School’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 4:4 (2002), pp. 487509 .

7 Adler, Emanuel, ‘Barry Buzan's use of constructivism to reconstruct the English School: “Not all the way down”’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 34:1 (2005), pp. 171–82; see also Dunne, Timothy, ‘System, state and society: How does it all hang together?’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 34:1 (2005), pp. 157–70.

8 Bull, Hedley, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (London/Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1977).

9 Brütsch, Christian, ‘Technocratic manager, imperial agent, or diplomatic champion? The IMF in the anarchical society’, Review of International Studies, 40:2 (2014), pp. 207–26; Murden, Simon W., ‘The secondary institutions of the Middle Eastern regional interstate society’, in Buzan, Barry and Gonzalez-Pelaez, Ana (eds), International Society and the Middle East: English School Theory at the Regional Level (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009), pp. 117–39.

10 For an overview, see Buzan, Barry, From International to World Society? English School Theory and the Social Structure of Globalisation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 167–76.

11 Adler, ‘Barry Buzan's use of constructivism’, p. 176.

12 Bull, Hedley and Watson, Adam, ‘Introduction’, in Bull, Hedley and Watson, Adam (eds), The Expansion of International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 19, 1, emphasis added.

13 Navari, Cornelia, ‘Introduction: Methods and methodology in the English School’, in Navari, Cornelia (ed.), Theorising International Society: English School Methods (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 120 .

14 Buzan, From International to World Society?; Schouenborg, Laust, The Scandinavian International Society: Primary institutions and Binding Forces, 1815–2010 (London/New York: Routledge, 2013).

15 Buzan, Barry, ‘The English School: an underexploited resource in IR’, Review of International Studies, 27:3 (2001), pp. 471–88, 487; see also Buzan, Barry, ‘From international system to international society: Structural realism and regime theory meet the English School’, International Organization, 47:3 (1993), pp. 327–52, 338–9.

16 Buzan, From International to World Society?, p. 141.

17 Ruggie, John Gerard, ‘What makes the world hang together? Neo-utilitarianism and the social-constructivist challenge’, International Organization, 52:4 (1998), pp. 855–85, 869–70; Wendt, Alexander, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

18 Navari, , ‘Introduction’; ‘The concept of practice in the English School’, European Journal of International Relations, 17:4 (2011), pp. 611–30; (Navari, Cornelia), ‘English School methodology’, in Narvari, Cornelia and Green, Daniel M. (eds), Guide to the English School in International Studies (Malden/Oxford/West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2014), pp. 205–21.

19 Adler, ‘Barry Buzan's use of constructivism’; Dunne, Timothy, ‘Sociological investigations: Instrumental, legitimist and coercive interpretations of international society’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 30:1 (2001), pp. 6791, 75–80; ‘System, state and society’; Reus-Smit, The Moral Purpose of the State.

20 Adler, Emanuel, ‘Seizing the middle ground: Constructivism in world politics’, European Journal of International Relations, 3:3 (1997), pp. 319–63; Guzzini, Stefano, ‘A reconstruction of constructivism in International Relations’, European Journal of International Relations, 6:2 (2000), pp. 147–82; Wendt, Social Theory.

21 Navari, ‘The concept of practice in the English School’.

22 Adler, ‘Barry Buzan's use of constructivism’, pp. 176–7.

23 Buzan, From International to World Society?, p. 181, emphasis added.

24 See, for example, Bull, The Anarchical Society, p. 74; Wight, Martin, International Theory: The Three Traditions (London: Leicester University Press, 1991), p. 141 .

25 Wendt, Social Theory, pp. 26–7.

26 This idea is also prominent in sociological institutionalism, see Finnemore, Martha and Sikkink, Kathryn, ‘International norm dynamics and political change’, International Organization, 52:4 (1998), pp. 887917 .

27 Dunne, ‘Sociological investigations’, p. 78; see also Kratochwil and Ruggie, ‘International organization’, pp. 767–8.

28 Reus-Smit, The Moral Purpose of the State. The social theoretical concept of structuration was famously introduced into IR theory by Wendt, Alexander E., ‘The agent-structure problem in International Relations theory’, International Organization, 41:3 (1987), pp. 335–70; see also Wendt, Social Theory, pp. 139–90; Wendt, Alexander and Duvall, Raymond, ‘Institutions and international order’, in Czempiel, Ernst-Otto and Rosenau, James N. (eds), Global Challenges and Theoretical Challenges: Approaches to World Politics for the 1990s (Lexington: Lexington Books, 1989), pp. 5173 . Other appropriations include Kratochwil and Ruggie, ‘International organization’, and Onuf, Nicholas G., World of our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989).

29 Buzan, From International to World Society?, pp. 166–7, 181–2; see also Buzan, Barry, An Introduction to the English School of International Relations: The Societal Approach (Cambdridge/Malden: Polity Press, 2014), pp. 1617 .

30 Bull identified the balance of power, diplomacy, war, international law, and great power management as institutions of international society, see Bull, The Anarchical Society.

31 Buzan, From International to World Society?, pp. 163–7.

32 Buzan, ‘The Middle East’, pp. 44, 180; Introduction to the English School, p. 30. See also Murden, ‘The secondary institutions of the Middle Eastern regional interstate society’; Schouenborg, The Scandinavian International Society, p. 32.

33 Buzan, ‘From international system to international society’, p. 250; Introduction to the English School, p. 30.

34 Buzan, ‘From international system to international society’, p. 350.

35 Dunne, ‘Sociological investigations’, p. 78; Holsti, Kalevi J., Taming the Sovereigns: Institutional Change in International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Reus-Smit, Christian, ‘The constitutional structure of international society and the nature of fundamental institutions’, International Organization, 51:4 (1997), pp. 555–89.

36 Dessler, David, ‘What's at stake in the agent-structure debate?’, International Organization, 43:3 (1989), pp. 441–73, 455–6; Ruggie, ‘What makes the world hang together?’, pp. 871–4; Wendt, Alexander, ‘On constitution and causation in International Relations’, Review of International Studies, 24:5 (1998), pp. 101–18.

37 Tonny Brems Knudsen, ‘Master institutions of international society: Theorizing continuity and change’ (paper for the 8th Pan-European Conference on International Relations, 18–21 September 2013, Warsaw), p. 11.

38 Hurrell, Andrew, ‘International society and the study of regimes: a reflective approach’, in Rittberger, Volker (ed.), Regime Theory and International Relations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 4972, 59; see also Kratochwil and Ruggie, ‘International organization’; Onuf, World of our Making; Wendt, Social Theory, p. 165; Wendt and Duvall, ‘Institutions and international order’.

39 Adler, ‘Seizing the middle ground’, p. 345.

40 Buzan, Barry, ‘Not hanging separately: Responses to Dunne and Adler’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 34:1 (2005), pp. 183–94, 190–1, see also Buzan, From International to World Society?, pp. 180–1.

41 Onuf, Nicholas G., ‘The constitution of international society’, European Journal of International Law, 5:1 (1994), pp. 119, 9.

42 Cf. Wendt and Duvall, ‘Institutions and international order’, pp. 63–6.

43 Keene, Edward, Beyond the Anarchical Society: Grotius, Colonialism and Order in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Watson, Adam, The Evolution of International Society: A Comparative Historical Analysis (London/New York: Routledge, 1992).

44 In this sense, I agree with Buzan's conception of international society as an umbrella term comprising both an interstate dimension – that is, what the ES has traditionally called international society – and a nonstate element or, in traditional parlance, a ‘world society’ domain; see From International to World Society?, p. xvii and passim.

45 Thomas Diez, Ian Manners, and Richard G. Whitman, ‘The changing nature of international institutions in Europe: the challenge of the European Union’, in Yannis A. Stivachtis and Mark Webber (eds), Europe after Enlargement (2011), pp. 117–38.

46 Kratochwil, Friedrich, ‘The embarrassment of changes: Neo-realism as the science of realpolitik without politics’, Review of International Studies, 19:1 (1993), pp. 6380, 75–6.

47 Guzzini, ‘A reconstruction of constructivism’, p. 172; Onuf, World of our Making, p. 145; ‘Institutions, intentions and International Relations’, Review of International Studies, 28:2 (2002), pp. 211–28, 224; Wendt and Duvall, ‘Institutions and international order’, p. 61.

48 Yannis A. Stivachtis and Mike Habegger, ‘The Council of Europe: the institutional limits of contemporary European international society?’, in Yannis A. Stivachtis and Mark Webber (eds), Europe after Enlargement (2011), pp. 159–77.

49 Diez, Manners, and Whitman, ‘The changing nature of international institutions in Europe’, p. 125.

50 Adler, ‘Seizing the middle ground’, p. 336.

51 Ruggie, John Gerard and Kratochwil, Friedrich, ‘Epistemology, ontology and the study of international regimes’, in Ruggie, John Gerard (ed.), Constructing the World Polity: Essays on International Institutionalization (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 85101, 770.

52 Dunne, Timothy, ‘The new agenda’, in Bellamy, Alex J. (ed.), International Society and Its Critics (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 6579 .

53 Adler, ‘Barry Buzan's use of constructivism’, p. 178; Onuf, World of our Making, pp. 110–19; Wendt, Social Theory, pp. 326–36.

54 Berger, Peter L. and Luckmann, Thomas, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1966), pp. 5063 ; March, James G. and Olsen, Johan P., ‘The institutional dynamics of international political orders’, International Organization, 52:4 (1998), pp. 943–69, 948; Onuf, World of our Making, pp. 83–5.

55 Der Derian, James, ‘Hedley Bull and the case for a post-classical approach’, Critical Practices in International Relations Theory: Selected Essays (London: Routledge, 2009), pp. 292309, 301–2; Hansen, Lene, Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War (London/New York: Routledge, 2006), pp. 65–8.

56 Berger and Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality, pp. 67–74; Onuf, World of our Making, pp. 136–7.

57 Adler, ‘Seizing the middle ground’, p. 341; Kratochwil and Ruggie, ‘International organization’, p. 773; Risse, ‘“Let's argue!”’.

58 Puchala and Hopkins, ‘International regimes’, p. 57.

59 Young, Oran R., ‘Regime dynamics: the rise and fall of international regimes’, in Krasner, Stephen D. (ed.), International Regimes (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 93113, 102.

60 Nuttall, Simon, European Political Co-operation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

61 See Navari, ‘The concept of practice in the English School’. Note, however, that Navari's interest in practice is to recover subjective frames of thought, not intersubjective meanings. On the potential of practice-based approaches for identifying primary institutions, see also Buzan, Introduction to the English School, pp. 176–7.

62 Wendt, Social Theory, pp. 186–7.

63 Pierson, Paul, Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), pp. 45–6, emphasis in original. See also Krasner, Stephen D., ‘Sovereignty: an institutional perspective’, in Caporaso, James A. (ed.), The Elusive State: International and Comparative Perspectives (Newbury Park/London/New Delhi: Sage, 1989), pp. 6996, 83–4.

64 G. John Ikenberry, ‘History's heavy hand: Institutions and the politics of the state’ (paper prepared for a conference on ‘New Perspectives on Institutions’, University of Maryland, October 1994), p. 20; Thelen, ‘Historical institutionalism in comparative politics’.

65 Hall, Peter A. and Taylor, Rosemary C. R., ‘Political science and the three new institutionalisms’, Political Studies, 44:5 (1996), pp. 936–57, 940; see also Berger and Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality, pp. 82–55; Wendt, Social Theory, pp. 326–36.

66 Anghie, Antony, ‘Finding the peripheries: Sovereignty and colonialism in nineteenth-century international law’, Harvard International Law Journal, 40:1 (1991), pp. 180 .

67 Schmidt, ‘Taking ideas and discourse seriously’, p. 15; Wiener, Antje, The Invisible Constitution of Politics: Contested Norms and International Encounters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

68 Kratochwil, ‘The embarrassment of changes’, p. 72; Pierson, Politics in Time, pp. 36–40; Thelen, Kathleen, ‘Historical institutionalism in comparative politics’, Annual Review of Political Science, 2 (1999), pp. 369404 ; Wendt, Social Theory, p. 331.

69 Laclau, Ernesto and Mouffe, Chantal, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London/New York: Verso, 2001), pp. 111–12, 136, 142; see also Foucault, Michel, ‘Truth and power’, in Gordon, Colin (ed.), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and other Writings 1972–1977 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), pp. 109–33.

70 Adler, ‘Seizing the middle ground’, pp. 336, 340; Guzzini, ‘A reconstruction of constructivism’, p. 172.

71 Krasner, ‘Sovereignty’, pp. 87–8; Pierson, Politics in Time, p. 33.

72 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 325.

73 Pierson, Politics in Time, p. 27.

74 Krasner, ‘Sovereignty’, p. 78.

75 Reus-Smit, The Moral Purpose of the State, p. 34.

76 Koslowski, Rey and Kratochwil, Friedrich, ‘Understanding change in international politics: the Soviet empire's demise and the international system’, in Lebow, Richard Ned and Risse-Kappen, Thomas (eds), International Relations Theory and the End of the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 127–65, 138.

77 Charlotta Friedner Parrat, ‘Changing before our eyes and slipping through our fingers: International organizations and primary institutions’ (paper to be presented in the panel ‘International Organization in the Anarchical Society’ on 27 March 2014, Toronto).

78 Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy; Martin, Lisa L. and Simmons, Beth A., ‘Theories and studies of international institutions’, International Organization, 52:4 (1998), pp. 729–57; Streeck and Thelen, ‘Introduction’; Wendt, Social Theory, p. 188; Young, ‘Regime dynamics’, pp. 107–8.

79 See, for example, Burley, Anne-Marie and Mattli, Walter, ‘Europe before the court: a political theory of legal integration’, International Organization, 47:1 (1993), pp. 4176 ; Quack, Sigrid and Djelic, Marie-Laure, ‘Adaptation, recombination, and reinforcement: the story of antitrust and competition law in Germany and Europe’, in Thelen, Kathleen and Streeck, Wolfgang (eds), Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 255–81.

80 Kedourie, Elie, ‘A new international disorder’, in Bull, Hedley and Watson, Adam (eds), The Expansion of International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 347–55.

81 Schmidt, ‘Taking ideas and discourse seriously’.

82 Bull, Hedley, ‘The revolt against the West’, in Bull, Hedley and Watson, Adam (eds), The Expansion of International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 217–28, 224.

83 Capoccia, Giovanni and Kelemen, R. Daniel, ‘The study of critical junctures: Theory, narrative, and counterfactuals in historical institutionalism’, World Politics, 59:3 (2007), pp. 341–69; Schmidt, ‘Taking ideas and discourse seriously’, p. 14; Thelen, ‘Historical institutionalism in comparative politics’.

84 See Thelen, ‘Historical institutionalism in comparative politics’.

85 Adler, Emanuel, ‘Cognitive evolution: a dynamic approach for the study of International Relations and their progress’, in Adler, Emanuel and Crawford, Beverly (eds), Progress in Postwar International Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), pp. 4388 .

86 Hopf, Ted, ‘The promise of constructivism in International Relations theory’, International Security, 23:1 (1998), pp. 171200, 180; Spruyt, Hendrik, The Sovereign State and its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 25 .

87 Krasner, Stephen D., ‘Approaches to the state: Alternative conceptions and historical dynamics’, Comparative Politics, 16:2 (1984), pp. 223–46, pp. 240–3; ‘Sovereignty’; Mabee, Bryan, ‘Historical institutionalism and foreign policy analysis: the origins of the national security council revisited’, Foreign Policy Analysis, 7:1 (2011), pp. 2744 ; Mahoney, James, ‘Path dependence in historical sociology’, Theory and Society, 29:4 (2000), pp. 507–48; Pierson, Politics in Time, p. 14.

88 Capoccia and Kelemen, ‘The study of critical junctures’.

89 Acharya, Amitav, Whose Ideas Matter? Agency and Power in Asian Regionalism (Ithaca/London, 2009); Diez, Manners, and Whitman, ‘The changing nature of international institutions in Europe’.

90 Capoccia and Kelemen, ‘The study of critical junctures’, p. 352.

91 See Capoccia and Kelemen, ‘The study of critical junctures’; Guzzini, Stefano, The Return of Geopolitics in Europe? Social Mechanisms and Foreign Policy Identity Crises (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Thelen, ‘Historical institutionalism in comparative politics’.

92 Bull, The Anarchical Society; Knudsen, Tonny Brems, Humanitarian Intervention and International Society: Contemporary Manifestations of an Explosive Doctrine (Aarhus: Aarhus Universitet, 1999); Vincent, R. J., Nonintervention and International Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974); Human Rights and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Wheeler, Nicholas, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

93 Buzan, Introduction to the English School, p. 169.

94 For an alternative typology of institutional change in international society, see Holsti, Taming the Sovereigns, pp. 12–17.

95 See Wendt and Duvall, ‘Institutions and international order’, p. 65.

96 Keal, Paul, European Conquest and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The Moral Backwardness of International Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Keene, Beyond the Anarchical Society; Thelen, ‘Historical institutionalism in comparative politics’.

* I am greatly indebted to the editorial team, the anonymous reviewers, as well as Barry Buzan, Thomas Diez, Marisa Irawan, Steffen Murau, Cornelia Navari, Hanna Pfeifer, Lukas Rudolph, John Williams and the participants of the panel on ‘Debates in IR’ at the 4th Global International Studies Conference, 6–9 August 2014, Frankfurt/Germany, for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. I also wish to thank the participants of the IR research colloquium at the University of Tübingen for sharing their thoughts on my work. Naturally, I take full responsibility for any remaining shortcomings.

The political international society: Change in primary and secondary institutions

  • KILIAN SPANDLER

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