<<

. 6
( 29 .)



>>

peat Heeren™s point of view and leave it at that. Quite a bit had happened
in the 150 years since Heeren produced his argument, to put it mildly,
and they dedicated the bulk of their efforts to trying to bring his concep-
tion of the modern states-system ˜down to the present™.29 In up-dating
Heeren, the English school added two new strands to the original his-
torical narrative of the states-system. First, as I mentioned earlier, they
adopted Wight™s suggestion that they should focus on the comparative
study of states-systems in different periods and places. Wight™s view of
the importance of comparison undoubtedly re¬‚ected the in¬‚uence upon
him of Arnold Toynbee, whose efforts had been directed at a massive
comparative study of the different civilizations of the world. In effect,
the English school substituted Heeren™s conception of the states-system
for Toynbee™s idea of civilizational systems; as they saw it, this gave their
work more of a speci¬cally international ¬‚avour.30 They produced a host
of studies of different states-systems “ such as the Greek city-state system
or the Chinese system of ˜warring states™ “ and, again for purposes of com-
parison, a series of contrasting studies of fundamentally different ways of
organizing international relations “ such as the Islamic system. Many
of these discussions were eventually pulled together in Watson™s work
on The Evolution of International Society, which envisioned a ˜spectrum™ of
different forms of international political systems, ranging from rela-
tively centralized and hierarchical imperial systems to the more anarchi-
cal states-systems based on the mutual independence of their members.31
This conceptual scheme, somewhat richer than Heeren™s, allowed Watson
to chart the ˜swings of the pendulum™ in world politics between the impe-
rial and the mutual independency ends of the spectrum of international
political organization. In his view of modern world politics, however,
Watson tended to stick quite closely to Heeren™s original thesis, arguing
that, despite occasional movements towards imperialist centralization and
hegemony, the modern states-system has on the whole remained ¬rmly
in line with the principle of mutual independence.
The second new theme that the English school introduced was a study
of the changes that had taken place to the European system in the years
since its ˜re-establishment™ after the fall of Napoleon. Within Europe it-
self, the most important change involved the abandonment of Heeren™s
cherished beliefs that legitimacy in the system rested on the ˜sacred-
ness™ of the principle of dynastic succession. Instead, and as one of the
29 Watson, ˜Hedley Bull, States Systems and International Societies™, 150.
30 Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, 11 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1954).
31 Watson, The Evolution of International Society, and see also the numerous unpublished
papers on these topics in the British Committee Papers at the RIIA Library.
24 Beyond the anarchical society

lingering after-effects of the French Revolution, the nineteenth century
witnessed the establishment of a new principle of legitimacy: national self-
determination.32 The old society of absolutist monarchical states gave
way to a new society of nation-states. Although this provoked serious
disagreements about how the territorial boundaries around the differ-
ent national units should be drawn, ultimately leading to another great
crisis of the states-system in the twentieth century over the ˜German
question™, the basic principle that the independence of states should be
respected was not fundamentally challenged by this development. The
English school also paid a great deal of attention to another change in
the scope of the states-system: its expansion to the world beyond Europe,
with the recognition of non-European peoples as sovereign states during
the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Again, this posed profound
questions for the pattern of order that the states-system embodied, espe-
cially by suggesting that in practice its internal harmony may to a certain
degree have depended on cultural values and understandings that were
so deeply shared by its original European members that there had never
been much need to make them explicit parts of the states-system™s formal
legal and institutional structure. The English school confronted this issue
by examining how a standard of civilization was established as a criterion
for the acceptance of new members to the society of states, requiring
them to undergo certain changes to their domestic political and legal sys-
tems before they would be granted recognition as equal and independent
sovereign states.33
The imposition of the standard of civilization did not solve all the prob-
lems involved in the expansion of international society to embrace a much
more multicultural membership. As Bull argued, once non-European
states had been incorporated into the society of states, they began to
question various other aspects of its internal organization, leading to what
he called a ˜revolt against the West™, particularly as non-European states
began to insist upon more comprehensive rules governing racial discrim-
ination, uniting the international society against the apartheid regime in
South Africa. More controversially, they also developed a radical con-
ception of a ˜New International Economic Order™ that actively promoted
greater equality in the global distribution of wealth. Bull pointed out that
the non-European states were not always subversive, however; even the
˜revolt against the West™ had in some respects reinforced the traditional
structure of the states-system, since the new states were generally keen to
32 James Mayall, Nationalism and International Society (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
33 As well as Bull, The Anarchical Society, a more sustained discussion is offered in Gerrit
Gong, The Standard of Civilization in International Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1984).
The orthodox theory of order 25

assert their prerogatives as equal and independent sovereigns as the basis
for sustaining or enlarging their in¬‚uence in world politics.34 Neverthe-
less, Bull still believed that the survival of the states-system and society
of states in contemporary world politics would ultimately depend on its
ability to create a genuinely cosmopolitan culture, not one based solely
on Western values and the ˜culture of modernity™, that would be able to
attract support from both European and non-European peoples.
It would be quite unfair to underplay the importance of these addi-
tions to the original theory of the states-system, but it would be wrong
to suppose that they are enough to give us a proper account of order
in modern world politics. The counter-revolutionary description of the
development of European public order does not just need up-dating;
it needs to be expanded with respect to its description of early mod-
ern world politics. There are two crucial gaps that ought be addressed.
First, its hostility to the French Revolution re¬‚ects a general antipathy
towards republican forms of government, expressed through the con-
tention that the European system was a system of monarchies, where
republics like the Dutch achieved little more than grudging recognition.
Several contemporary historians have noted that this is a serious un-
derstatement of the importance of republicanism to the development of
modern European politics, and have attempted to recover a sense both of
the role that republics played in early modern Europe, and the relevance
of republican political ideas to modern international thought as well.35
A second gap, and if anything a more serious one, is the lack of a proper
account of the development of international political and legal order be-
yond Europe. Heeren certainly did not neglect the colonies; indeed they
were a central feature of his book. But what is crucial is that he viewed the
possession of colonies and the control of extra-European trade merely as
material ingredients within the European balance of power. The norma-
tive character of relations between European and non-European peoples,
or between European governments and their colonial settlers, did not
interest him. This could be explained in several ways. It may well have
been the case that he simply did not see it as relevant to the central
34 Hedley Bull, ˜The Revolt against the West™, in Bull and Watson, The Expansion of
International Society, pp. 217“28, and see also Robert Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty,
International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
35 Some works on the Dutch Republic, notably Marjolein ™t Hart, The Making of a Bourgeois
State: War, Politics and Finance during the Dutch Revolt (Manchester University Press,
1993), have gone a long way to dispelling some of Heeren™s myths about the weakness and
ineffectiveness of that form of government on the European stage. On republicanism in
Europe more generally, see Robert Oresko, G.C. Gibbs and H.M. Scott (eds.), Royal and
Republican Sovereignty in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1997), and
on international relations theory, Nicholas Onuf, The Republican Legacy in International
Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1998).
26 Beyond the anarchical society

question he was trying to address, namely the legal basis of European
public order, as threatened by Napoleon. But there may have been less
straightforward reasons: he was trying to stigmatize the Napoleonic im-
perial system within Europe, and it hardly would have suited that purpose
to call attention to the increasingly consolidated British imperial system
in the world beyond Europe. Indeed, some French apologists had already
accused the British of undermining the Westphalian order precisely on
those grounds, and the counter-revolutionaries were anxious to defuse
that criticism by treating the colonies as essentially irrelevant to ques-
tions about order and legitimacy in world politics altogether.36 Heeren
may also have been mindful of the republican sympathies that the British
colonies in America had already had great success in defending: he would
have been loath to grant their dangerously radical beliefs any formative
role in the structure of modern international legal order.
The English school did not ignore the extra-European world either,
but they only turned their attention to it in the later nineteenth century
in order to depict the process of the expansion of international society.
To all intents and purposes, they accepted Heeren™s focus on the
European states-system in the earlier period, adding no re¬‚ections on
how relations between European and non-European peoples had devel-
oped over the centuries before questions about the latter™s entry into the
society of states came on to the agenda. In so doing, however, they had
to respond to a very perceptive criticism of the orthodox history of the
states-system that was advanced in the 1960s by Charles Alexandrowicz.
Alexandrowicz was interested in a contemporary dispute about the treat-
ment of non-Europeans as ˜new™ states: many of them, he argued, had
enjoyed full recognition of their sovereignty in the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries, as evidenced by their treatment in the works of scholars
on the law of nations such as Grotius. He took this to imply the existence
of a universal family of nations in the early modern period, based on nat-
ural law. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, he continued,
the new school of positivist international lawyers shrank the family of
nations, effectively evicting non-Europeans from membership, and forc-
ing them to apply for readmission on less favourable terms, or subjecting
them to outright imperial subjection.37
Wight did not reject this argument out of hand, and cautiously agreed
that it might be plausible to treat Grotius as having offered a ˜dualistic or
36 This is a key theme in the dispute between Hauterive, De L™Etat de la France, and Gentz,
On the State of Europe.
37 Charles Alexandrowicz, An Introduction to the History of the Law of Nations in the East
Indies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), and also ˜Empirical and Doctrinal Positivism
in International Law™, British Year Book of International Law, 47 (1974“5), 286“9.
The orthodox theory of order 27

concentric conception of international society™, with a universal family of
nations surrounding a core of European states in Christendom.38 Bull,
however, was much more hostile. He attacked Alexandrowicz™s position
on the grounds that the natural law conception of a universal international
society was merely hypothetical, and that in any case relations between
European and non-European states were not carried on in such a way as
to constitute a ˜society™ because ˜they were not united by a perception of
common interests, nor by a structure of generally agreed rules setting out
their rights and duties in relation to one another, nor did they cooperate
in the working of common international institutions™.39 Bull contended
that natural law was merely asserted unilaterally by the Europeans as a
rationale for their exercise of colonial and imperial domination over non-
European peoples, and he added that it is simply a matter of fact that
Europeans have been the dominant military and commercial actors in
modern world politics, so it is quite right and proper to devote the bulk
of our attention to the arrangements that they worked out in their own
society of states.40
Although other scholars appear to have been convinced by Bull™s argu-
ment here,41 I think it is extremely weak. The ¬rst part of the argument
is so perfectly circular that it could have been written with a compass:
Bull asserts that the natural law position was hypothetical because no
international society existed beyond Europe; then, because natural law
is only hypothetical, he uses a positivist conception of what an inter-
national society is to show that no international society existed beyond
Europe. His observation, which in any event is empirically highly de-
batable, that European and non-European peoples were not united by
common interests, a structure of ˜generally agreed rules™ and collective
participation in common institutions, could hardly be of interest to a nat-
ural lawyer, who would see a societas gentium arising in a quite different
way, from the already binding force of a normative and legal code that
is a given feature of the natural order of things, and applies to all peo-
ples and rulers whether they agree to it or not. All Bull is really doing
here is accusing the natural lawyers of not being positive international
lawyers; while that is true enough, it is hardly a compelling criticism of
their position.

38 Wight, Systems of States, p. 128. His own earlier interests in British colonial administration
may well have led him to look favourably on Alexandrowicz™s argument, but his works
on that topic do not seem closely relevant to the position: see Wight, The Gold Coast
Legislative Council (London: Faber and Faber, 1947), and British Colonial Constitutions
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952).
39 Bull, ˜The Emergence of a Universal International Society™, p. 117.
40 41 For example, Gong, Standard of Civilization.
Ibid., p. 124.
28 Beyond the anarchical society

Secondly, Bull™s point that natural law was a rationale for colonialism
and imperialism seems to undermine his contention that it was merely
hypothetical. Clearly, in fact, natural lawyers were saying something very
important indeed about the practices that European states were engaged
in outside Europe; to dismiss them as abstract metaphysicians who were
increasingly out of touch with the real world of modern politics seems
hardly fair, if at the same time we are to blame them for providing the
justi¬cation upon which two of the most signi¬cant forces shaping the
modern world were founded. Nor do I ¬nd it particularly disturbing
that they were asserting this rationale unilaterally and without regard
for the wishes of non-European states. As I have already noted, that
risks presupposing a positivist doctrine that international society rests
on the consent of its members, but it is also worth bearing in mind
that the European states-system was asserted in a unilateral way with
respect to those groups who were excluded from it, such as the old
supranational institutions of medieval Christendom or, in its original con-
text, the French revolutionaries and builders of the Napoleonic imperial
system.
The third problem with Bull™s argument is that it is a non-sequitur to
say that the fact of European dominance means that, whether we like it
or not, we should devote the bulk of our attention to the evolution of
the European states-system. Since, as Bull obviously realized, European
dominance was primarily exercised through practices of colonialism and
imperialism, rationalised through natural law arguments, we should de-
vote the bulk of our attention to the forms of international governance that
Europeans created in their colonial and imperial systems. To the extent
that the fact of European dominance ought to dictate what our research
programme on order in modern world politics should be, it directs us
away from the European states-system, not towards it. Bull was therefore
inadvertently supplying as good a reason as one could wish for to justify a
study of order in modern world politics completely at odds with his own:
an examination of the links between natural law theory and the extra-
European political and legal order based on colonial and imperial sys-
tems. That does not mean that I am embracing Alexandrowicz™s position
and completely rejecting Bull™s. In his anxiety to load all of the blame for
colonialism and imperialism onto the positive lawyers and the Gottingen
¨
historians of the European states-system, Alexandrowicz adopted far too
rosy a view of early modern natural law. Bull was quite right, in my view,
to insist on the importance of natural law to extra-European interna-
tional politics in its colonial and imperial periods. In a sense, they were
both right, since colonizers and imperialists were not particularly choosy
as to whether they got their justi¬cation from the one legal doctrine or
The orthodox theory of order 29

the other; the eclectic approach of Grotius suited them perfectly in that
respect.

<<

. 6
( 29 .)



>>