[IR-Anarchy and Cooperation] Bull, Hedley (1966) “Society and Anarchy in International Relations”

[연구] Research 2014. 8. 8. 09:27

Bull, Hedley (1966) “Society and Anarchy in International Relations,” in Butterfield, Herbert and Martin Wight, Diplomatic Investigations: Essays in the Theory of International Politics, Harvard University Press.

Table of Contents(Whole Book)



1.       Why is there no International Theory?  - M. Wight

2.       Society and Anarchy in International Relations – H. Bull

3.       The Grotian Conception of International Society – H. Bull

4.       Natural Law – D. Mackinnon

5.       Western Values in International Relations – M. Wight

6.       The Balance of Power – H. Butterfield

7.       The Balance of Power – M. Wight

8.       Collective Security and Military Alliances – G. F. Hudson

9.       The New Diplomacy and Historical Diplomacy – H. Butterfield

10.    War as an Instrument of Policy – M. Howard

11.    Threats of Force in International Relations – G. F. Hudson

12.    Problems of a Disarmed World – M. Howard


Chapter 2. Society and Anarchy in International Relations (Hedley Bull)

Presence of advocacy for the establishment of a world government

-           The League of Nations and the United Nations: not a diplomatic machinery in the tradition of the Concert of Europe, but as first steps towards “a world state.” (p. 36)

-           *In anarchy:

Ø  “states do not form together any kind of society; and that if they were to do so it could only be by subordinating themselves to a common authority” (p. 35).

Ø  Domestic analogy: as an individual man in a society, the states “require that the institutions of domestic society be reproduced on a universal scale” (p. 35).


*Two main purposes of the paper:

1)        to examine the opinion that “anarchy in international relations is incompatible with society, or that the progress of the latter has been, or necessarily will be, a matter of the degree to which government comes to prevail.” (p. 35)

2)        to determine “the limits of the domestic analogy and thus establish the autonomy of international relations” (p. 35-36)


*Anarchy’s incompatibility with society (3 Main Strands)

- especially prominent in the years since the WWI (19th century saw it compatible)

- even a strong voice that rejects the notion of anarchy itself – moving towards a world government, in their view.


1)       International relations in terms of a Hobbessian state of nature

-           Morality and legal rules are limited (Machiavellian)

-           Moral imperatives to endorse the self-assertion of states in relation to one another (Hegelian)

-           Social life “asserted to be the same for states as they are for individuals” (p. 38)

-           Domestic analogy that men needs government does not go further in this school – social contract of states that could end anarchy is not discussed

2)       1) + demand that “the international anarchy be brought to an end” (towards a universal state)

-           Embracing the idea of social contract, search for an alternative to international anarchy (backward-looking to Roman or to Western Christendom

-           Kant’s belief in human progress.

3)       Creating society of sovereign states (BULL) = anarchy is compatible with society

-           Cooperation among sovereign states in a society without government

-           Instead of the Hobbesian view that moral and legal rules are limited and the Kantian view that we need to progress for a higher morality, duties and rights are asserted to be attached to the members of international society.

-           Two traditions in particular: Modern international law and the balance of power system analysis (converged since 18th century)


II. (Hobbesian state of nature)


Hobbes’ quote:

“But though there had never been any time wherein particular men were in a condition of warre one against another; yet in all times Kings, and Persons of Soveraigne authority, because of their Independency, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of Gladiator; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their Forts, Garrisons and Guns, upon the Frontiers of their Kingdomes; and continual Spyes upon their neighbours; which is a posture of war.”[1]


Hobbes’ Anarchy (war against all; absence of international society) - Three principal characteristics, which in turn disputed/negated by theorists of international society:

1)       There can be no interactions (“no industry, agriculture, navigation, trade or other refinements of living, because the strength and invention of men is absorbed in providing security against one another”) p. 40-41

2)       There are no legal or moral rules

3)       State of nature is a state of war: ‘such a warre, as is of every man, against every man’[2]

-           Presence of war -> the idea that “states do not form a society” (p. 42)

Ø  (disputed) in relevance of modern state: “If sovereign states are understood to form a society… whose operation not merely tolerates certain private uses of force but actually requires them – then the fact of a disposition to war can no longer be regarded as evidence that international society does not exist.” “war… as a part of its functioning” – “international society [as]… a means of settling political conflicts” (p. 43).


Criticism: “distils certain qualities that are present in the situation of international anarchy at all times and in all places and that in certain areas and at certain moments seem to drive all other qualities away.”



Ø  Locke’s conception of a society without government (private use of force tolerated and even required in certain circumstances)

Ø  Turn to modern anthropological studies of actual societies of this kind, which have been ‘forced to consider what, in the absence of explicit forms of government, could be held to constitute the political structure of people.’”(p. 44):

- principle of ‘hue and cry’

- ritual

- loyalty


ð  Yet, “at some point abandon the domestic analogy altogether” (p. 45) to deepen the subject matter and “also because international society is unique, and owes its character to qualities that are peculiar to the situation of sovereign states, as well as those it has in common with the lives of individuals in domestic society.” (p. 45)


Main differences between international society and domestic analogy:


1) international anarchy, unlike Hobbes’ view, provides “conditions in which the refinements of life can flourish” (p. 45)

2) “states have been less vulnerable to violent attack by one another than individual men” (p. 46) – reinforced by 3)

3) states have not been equally vulnerable

- distinctions between Great Powers and small, e.g. Great Britain in 19th century – “insecurity… exists in international society… not distributed equally among all its members” (p. 46)

4) “states in their economic lives enjoy a degree of self-sufficiency beyond comparison with that of individual men” (p. 47)



“As against the Hobbesian view that states find themselves in a state of nature which is a state of war, it may be argued, therefore, that they constitute a society without a government. This society may be compared with the anarchical society among individual men of Locke’s imagining, and also with primitive anarchical societies that have been studied by anthropologists. But although we may employ such analogies, we must in the end abandon them, for the fact that states form a society without a government reflects also the features of their situation that are unique. The working of international society must be understood in terms of its own, distinctive institutions. These include international law, diplomacy and the system of balance of power” (p. 48)



III. (Universal State (System) or Society?)


*Criticism on Kant in Perpetual Peace:

Hobbesian domestic analogy to IR and the state of nature + the idea of social contract

Ø  Criticism: This is a “dilemma” as “the description… of the actual condition of international relations, and the prescription in provides for its improvement, are inconsistent with one another.” (p. 48)

Ø  Thus, the advocate of a universal state: Kant’s scheme is “feasible as well as desirable only by admitting that international relations do not resemble a Hobbesian state of nature.” (p. 49)

Ø  Solution may be to replace Hobbesian view with Lockean one => “to crown the anarchical society with a government” (p. 49)…


However, the limits of such universal state:

Ø  Limited role of universal state: “a universal state should be understood as providing, just as does the system of sovereign states, a particular solution to the problem of the management of violence, rather than a means of transcending it” (a universal state does not abolish war completely by eliminating the relationship between sovereign states) (p. 49)

Ø  International society rather than international system (universal state): “Formidable though the classic dangers are of a plurality of sovereign states, these have to be reckoned against those inherent in the attempt to contain disparate communities within the framework of a single government. It is an entirely reasonable view of world order at the present time that it is best served by living with the former dangers rather than by attempting to face the latter.” (p. 50)


Overall, Bull rejects here the Hobbesian view of international relations as a state of war, by using Hobbes's own arguments, so as to explain why the Hobbesian nature of state is different from/more bearable among nations than the perpetual struggle among individuals, and therefore why a universal state (Leviathan)/world government is not necessary nor desirable.



*Hedley Bull's Originality:

1) International society rather than system:

> System as contract between states and the impact of one state on another

> Society as common interests and values, common rules and institutions (Grotian approach)

     - Grotian conception of international society (the central Grotian assumption = solidarity of states in international      
         society, with respect to the enforcement of the law) – the solidarist conception, opposed to pluralists (Chp. 3)


2) His theory of change (emanating from 1))

Interested in society, Bull is interested in cultural change that causes a different perception of common interests

(Unlike Gilpin: change in international affairs as the rise and fall of hegemonic powers; Waltz: change as the result of shifts in the distribution of power between states, leading from a bipolar to a multipolar system, or vice versa).


ANARCHICAL SOCIETY (anarchy as absence of rule)

ð  Criticisms: Tension between his realisms and emphasis on the rules and institutions (also the community of culture) which are to dampen the anarchy.


[1] Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. Xiii, p. 65

[2] Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. Xiii, p. 66

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