The English School and World History

Richard Little

in International Society and its Critics

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780199265206
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601866 | DOI:
The English School and World History

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In contrast to Hidemi Suganami in the first chapter, the author argues that the English School of International Relations has made, and can continue to make, an important contribution to the study of world history. In particular, he suggests that the three traditions of world politics – international system, international society, and world society – provide a useful way of thinking about the many different types of international societies and systems that have permeated world history. Adopts a world historical focus on the more familiar distinction drawn by the founding fathers of the English School between the political structures that define an international system and the social structures that define an international society, the aim being to demonstrate that a range of different international societies and systems have, across the course of world history, given way to a single worldwide international society/system. Begins by examining the debate about the validity of distinguishing between international systems and societies, and then looks at the interaction between international systems and societies in the premodern world. Goes on to outline the establishment of the European international system/society and its contact with other international systems/societies, and concludes by assessing the utility of adopting a world historical perspective and drawing a pluralistic distinction between international systems and societies.

Keywords: English School of International Relations; Europe; European international society; European international system; international relations; international societies; international society; international system; international systems; pluralism; premodern world; social structures; world history; world politics; world society

Chapter.  10250 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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