Buzan_The English School

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Barry Buzan The English School
  Review of International Studies http://journals.cambridge.org/RIS Additional services for Review of International Studies: Email alerts: Click hereSubscriptions: Click hereCommercial reprints: Click hereTerms of use : Click here The English School: an underexploited resource in IR BARRY BUZAN Review of International Studies / Volume 27 / Issue 03 / July 2001, pp 471 - 488DOI: 10.1017/S0260210501004715, Published online: 14 August 2001 Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0260210501004715 How to cite this article: BARRY BUZAN (2001). The English School: an underexploited resource in IR. Review of International Studies, 27, pp 471-488 doi:10.1017/S0260210501004715 Request Permissions : Click here Downloaded from http://journals.cambridge.org/RIS, IP address: on 26 Sep 2015  Review ofInternational Studies (2001),27,471–488Copyright © British International Studies Association 471 1 I would like to thank Tim Dunne,Lene Hansen,David Jacobson,Tonny Brems Knudsen,RichardLittle,Nick Rengger,Ole Wæver,Adam Watson,Nick Wheeler,Richard Whitman,Jaap de Wilde,Yongjin Zhang and two anonymous reviewers for the Review ofInternational Studies for commentson earlier drafts ofthis article. 2 Roy E.Jones,‘The English School ofInternational Relations:A Case for Closure’, Review of International Studies ,7 (1981),pp.1–13. The English School:an underexploitedresource in IR BARRY BUZAN 1 Abstract.The English School is an underutilized research resource and deserves a larger rolein IR than it currently has.Its distinctive elements are its methodological pluralism,itshistoricism,and its interlinking ofthree key concepts:international system,internationalsociety and world society.International society is the main focus,and the via media ,betweenthe other two,but more work needs to be done to develop the School’s theoretical position,particularly in understanding the relationship between international and world society.Inorder to realize its potential,the English School needs both to construct a more coherentresearch agenda and to recover some ofthe working method ofthe British Committee.It ispotentially a way ofchallenging the theoretical fragmentation that afflicts IR,and ofsettingup the foundations for a return to grand theory. 1.Introduction The English School as an approach to international relations (IR) is ripe forreconsideration.It has succeeded in establishing a globally recognized brand name(no mean feat for a non-American theory in the second halfofthe twentiethcentury),and is well into a substantial third generation ofactive scholarship.Yet itstill remains outside the mainstream ofAmericanIR,and had its designation as aSchool given to it by someone calling for its closure. 2 Although impressively active interms ofpeople writing within or about it,it displays no discernible sense of direction,and the systematic working method that animated and inspired its firstgeneration has atrophied even as the number ofpeople working in the tradition hasexpanded.Jones’s call for closure can be largely disregarded.Few people reading hispaper now would accept his depiction ofan English School largely defined by thework ofManning and Wight as valid.Indeed,his target was not really the EnglishSchool,but the whole attempt to construct International Relations as a subjectdistinct from political theory.His objections to holistic and abstract approaches nowseem quaint,and his beliefthat the English School ‘has cut itselfofffrom theclassical theme ofpolitical thought’(p.2) is simply wrong.This article starts from the assumption that IR is a valid enterprise,and makesthe case that the English School deserves a larger role within it.I argue that the  English School is an underutilized research resource.The time is ripe to develop andapply its historicist,constructivist,and methodologically pluralist approach to IR.Its methodological pluralism almost certainly precludes it from being set up as a‘research program’as that term is understood by mainstream (that is,positivist)American IR.The English School is not just another paradigm to throw into thetedious game ofcompeting IR theories.It is,instead,an opportunity to step outsidethat game,and cultivate a more holistic,integrated approach to the study of international relations.By this I do not mean the narrow ‘neo-neo’synthesis that hassettled around rational choice methodology and questions ofabsolute versus relativegains as a way ofunderstanding international cooperation.As I hope to show,theEnglish School offers a basis for synthesizing that is both wide and deep enough toset up the foundations for a return to grand theory.The next section sets out a verybriefsketch ofhow the English School has developed to date.Section 3 argues thecase for reconvening the English School,and Section 4 proposes (as an openingmove in what needs to be a negotiation) what a more self-conscious and forward-looking research agenda might look like. 2.A briefsketch ofthe English School and its work to date As a self-conscious intellectual movement,the English School begins with theBritish Committee on the Theory ofInternational Politics,which started meeting inthe late 1950s. 3 Earlier roots could perhaps be traced in Charles Manning’s andMartin Wight’s lectures about international society.The British Committee workedas a sustained series ofmeetings amongst a diverse group that contained not onlypeople from several academic disciplines but also practitioners from the world of diplomacy.The cross-fertilizations generated by the process ofdebate in thesemeetings was a product at least as valuable as the specific publication projects onwhich the Committee worked.Many subsequent books took important parts of their inspiration from these discussions. 4 Ironically,given the subsequent emergenceofthe ‘English School’label,most ofthe meetings were funded by the RockefellerFoundation.This story has been told in a couple ofplaces. 5 There is some argumentabout what boundaries should define the School,and who should be in or out. 6 While keeping the label ‘School’,my intention here is to treat it as a zone of 472 Barry Buzan 3 Adam Watson,‘The British Committee for the Theory ofInternational Politics’(1998),http://www.ukc.ac.uk/politics/englishSchool/ 4 Discussions with Adam Watson. 5 Most obviously in Tim Dunne, Inventing International Society:A History ofthe English School  (London:Macmillan,1998).See also the ‘Preface’to Herbert Butterfield and Martin Wight (eds.), Diplomatic Investigations:Essays in the Theory ofInternational Politics (London:Allen and Unwin,1966);the later work ofthe British Committee is considered in detail in Brunello Vigezzi’sintroduction to L’Espansione Della Societa Internazionale:L’Europa e il Mondo della fine del Medioevo ai tempi norsti  (Milan:Jaca Books,1994). 6 Dunne, Inventing International Society; Hidemi Suganami,‘C.A.W.Manning and the Study of International Relations’, Review ofInternational Studies ,27.1 (2001),pp.91–107.For a more directexchange about Manning and the English School,see Suganami,‘A New Narrative,A New Subject?Tim Dunne on the “English School”’and Dunne’s reply ‘All Along the Watchtower:A Reply to theCritics of  Inventing International Society ’,in Cooperation and Conflict:Nordic Journal ofInternational Studies ,35.2 (2000),pp.217–38.  intellectual activity whose frontiers are extensive and fuzzy enough to avoid mostdisputes about ins and outs.The ideas ofManning and Carr,for example,influencedmany ofthe British Committee participants and their debates,though neither was amember ofthe British Committee.It is difficult to fix the story ofthe English School into neat stages withoutprovoking controversy.Wæver suggests four phases and his scheme is as good as anyfor setting out the main threads ofthe evolution. 7 ã Phase 1 runs from 1959,with the founding ofthe British Committee,to 1966with the publication ofButterfield and Wight’s Diplomatic Investigations .Duringthis period,the Committee developed the focus on international society as itspreferred approach to theorizing about international relations. ã Phase 2 runs from 1966 to 1977,in which year two ofthe foundational texts of the English School appeared:Bull’s The Anarchical Society ,which focused on thenature ofWestern international society,and Wight’s Systems ofStates ,whichopened up the exploration ofinternational society in a world historical context.A younger generation also began to make its mark at this time,most notablywith Vincent’s 1974 book Nonintervention and International Order . ã Phase 3 runs from 1977 to 1992.It is basically about consolidating the EnglishSchool,and in some respects also about passing the torch to a new generation.The British Committee’s work continued up to the mid-1980s,but after Bull’sdeath the formal structure ofregular meetings broke down,and the BritishCommittee phase ofthe English School came to an end.Its main fruits were the1984 book edited by Bull and Watson, TheExpansion ofInternational Society ;and Watson’s 1992 book The Evolution ofInternational Society ,which carried onwith the comparative historical approach opened up by Wight.Vincent’s mainbooks—  Foreign Policy and Human Rights (1986),and Human Rights and International Relations (1986) fall within this period.So do several editedvolumes:J.D.B.Miller and R.J.Vincent (eds.), Order and Violence:Hedley Bull and International Relations (1990);Hedley Bull,Benedict Kingsbury and AdamRoberts (eds.), Hugo Grotius and International Relations (1990);MichaelDonelan, The Reason ofStates (1978);James Mayall, The Community ofStates (1982);and Cornelia Navari, The Condition ofStates (1991);and two importantmonographs:Mayall’s 1990 Nationalism and International Society ,and Donelan’s1990 Elements ofInternational Political Theory .It was during this phase that theEnglish School got its name from Roy Jones,which began a cycle ofself-reflections on the state ofthe School. 8 ã Phase 4 runs from 1992 to the present.It is about the arrival ofa new generationofEnglish School writers with few or no direct links to the British Committee,and more open to working with English School ideas and approaches in thewider context ofdevelopments in IR theory generally (for examples neorealism,regime theory,constructivism,globalization).It was heralded by the 1992 Special The English School:an underexploited resource 473 7 Ole Wæver,‘Four Meanings ofInternational Society:A Trans-Atlantic Dialogue’,in B.A.Roberson(ed.), International Society and the Development ofInternational Relations Theory (London:Pinter,1998),pp.85–9. 8 Sheila Grader,‘The English School ofInternational Relations:Evidence and Evaluation’, Review of International Studies ,14 (1988),pp.29–44;P.Wilson,‘The English School ofInternational Relations:A Reply to Sheila Grader’, Review ofInternational Studies ,15 (1989),pp.49–58.
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