Hedley bull, anarchical society

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  • Publicado : 29 de noviembre de 2010
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I find Hedley Bull’s approach of anarchy as a very important contribution to the field of IR since it paved the way to a more modern analysis of the International System as seen from the eyes of a non-American studious of the subject. Bull asks the reader to reconsider the ways to approach and understand the relations amongst States, breaking away from the molds set by realists and idealists. Hesort of merges the core ideas of both realism and idealism by rescuing the important aspects of them both and criticizing their flaws, however, he does also commit certain assumptions which fall far from explaining the behavior of all actors in the International System in the present time. Given the epoch in which he wrote his ideas, it may be justified that the present international scenario washard to predict. Nevertheless I hereby present what I think is Bull’s major flaw: the rise of international terrorism which in the form of individual men, pose a serious threat to States which discredits Bull’s concepts in that States are not vulnerable to the threats of individual men.
For Bull, the International System is indeed anarchic, however, a number of shared elements socialize thisanarchy, turning it into a Society of States or “Anarchical Society” as opposed to an “Anarchical System” in which its actors don’t share any sorts of ideas.
This approach focuses in the state as the main actor in the international system, however, Bull examines it in a much moderate way than that of other “state-centric” theorists such as Waltz, Morgenthau, to name a few. Individuals have a similarimportance as the State, making the international order of States the mean to a very important end: the world order of mankind.
It is precisely here that Bull breaks away from the strict paradigms that explain and predict States’ behaviors since he acknowledges that anarchy does not prevent the existence of an international society. He confronts realism by explaining the existence of aninternational society with its own norms and institutions such as diplomacy, war, balance of power, international law and the role of great powers which prescribe the behavior of States. This vision gives high relevance to anarchy but puts it aside from the views as the only element that affects the actors’ behaviors.
In his study of world politics, Bull highlights three different elements, but notnecessarily exclusive of each other: a realistic international system consistent with power relations amongst States; an international system (one of Grotian tradition) linked to the normative of interstate relations; and a world society (linked to the Kantian tradition) which concerns aspects related as mankind as a whole. Bull admits the predisposition of States to war, however, he advocates thatsuch a war-prone system can also coexist with an international society in which states interact with full consciousness of the existence of mutual interests and basic norms meant to respect and not only guided by the logic of survival. I fully agree with Bull here in his quest to a more elaborated and complimentary analysis of the International System in practice.
Bull recognizes the functionaldifferences between strong and weak States. One could argue that he doesn’t seem to be conscious of the tension that emerges between his concept of anarchy and the implicit hierarchy that creates the idea of Great Powers having different rights and duties. By tension I mean the break of paradigm he creates against, say, Waltz’s analysis of States as “units” in which no one has the right to order.This tension is explained, I would say, in that accepting a hierarchy to explain the most relevant aspects of an interstate system (such as peace and security), would undermine completely the concept of sovereignty that is vital for his notion about a “society of States”
This is why in spite of Bull’s explanations to try to avoid falling into a normative train of thought by talking about...