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What is the English School of International Relations?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

The theoretical discipline of the English School is also known as ‘Liberal Realism’. However this discipline is not monolithic as there are different factions within this theory and can even be in conflict with one another.

In order to develop this contention, I will separate this paper into three main sections. Firstly, in order to understand the English School, a brief explanation of the two key concepts of liberalism and realism will be given. Secondly, I will inquire into the different categories within the theory itself. And finally, in order to demonstrate how the English School accounted for the salient development in international politics I will use the conflict within the European Union between Europeanism and Euroscepticism.

The Liberal-Realism of the English School 

In order to understand the English School, it is best to briefly explain its foundations of Liberalism and Realism.

Realism 

The ancient roots of realism can be traced back to Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War. It was by acting out a premeditated attack upon Athenian imperialism. This fundamentally shifted the power politics by spearheading national preservation and viewed as birthing realism.[1] This concept was adopted and further built upon by Machiavelli. His realist brand is guided by the national interest; therefore nations must conform to the reality of the geopolitical environment.[2]

The realist position was brought into contemporary times by E.H. Carr, who spoke of the benefits of nationalism and the utopian fallacy of internationalism. In regards to modern nationalism, Carr stated that it evolved into different types throughout history: it began with establishing the people were sovereign. [3] The second stage balanced ‘nationalism’ and ‘internationalism’ by creating a global framework to promote patriotism without disrupting international relations. [4] It later manifested internally with nationalism becoming socialized through economic policies, democracy and geography.

[5] In regards to internationalism it is believed to be simply the next step in progress: from kingdoms, to nations and finally an international community. However it was in Twenty Years’ Crisis, Carr dismissed such a notion as being utopian as they fail to understand reality and the way their standards are rooted in it.[6]

Liberalism

The much more recent idea of liberalism rose within the aftermath of World War I. For liberals, the Great War revealed the decay of the ‘old order’ of power politics.

It was President Woodrow Wilson that not only championed liberal ideas but also forced them on the centre stage of geopolitics by stating that the theory could bring about world peace. The Wilsonian idealism declared that a peaceful world must be built around a community of states. Interdependence would force modern states to be incentivized to dismiss each other’s internal/external differences. The aspect of international law and multilateral institutions would provide a forum to communication and stabilization. The liberal intention of influencing behaviour in accordance of law would make politics fade into the past and ultimately replaced by a ‘community of power’.
[7]

The Three Faces of the English School 

According to Martian Wight, there are three main categories, know as the ‘three Rs’ and carries its own mindset: Machiavellian Realism, Grotian Rationalism and Revolutionary Kantianism.[8] Furthermore, there are an even greater fractioning within this discipline as there are two wings in existence known as the Pluralists and Solidarists.

The Realist International System

According to Martin Wight, Realists derive from the lineage of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Carr. The nature of an international world is anarchic and any notion of an international society or law is utopian. It was in Machiavelli’s The Prince where he emphasized the impact of leadership upon the abovementioned theory. He stated that a leadership will see great success if it dismissed morality in order to pursue its national interest.[9]

Moreover, Hobbes established the terms of realism in Leviathan, where he wrote the Social Contract. He stated the nature of the international realm is warlike and thus the notion of a global society was not possible therefore social contract was needed. [10] Hans Morgenthau echoed this concept by stating that law emanates from the free will of sovereign independent states. Therefore, universal legality is a bankrupt concept due to treaties, customs and agreements between powers, are not tacitly consented by sovereign peoples.[11]

The Rationalist International Society 

The English School evolved from the internal academic debate between the two-abovementioned theories and thus is influenced by political theory, sociology, law and history.[12]  It was English School co-founder Hedley Bull who used these concepts as the underpinnings of his quest to create a peaceful international order by stating that order is a pattern that leads to a particular result, of a certain goals or values. [13] He echoes in the Anarchical Society, where he advocates realism with each state holds a unique culture, government and upholds the assertion of sovereignty.
[14] This sovereignty carries a duel set of priories: there is internal sovereignty meaning supremacy over all authorities within the territory and population and there is external sovereignty that is means independence from outside authorities. [15] Bull also adopted the notion of the world being anarchical, meaning that states are not from any kind of society as there is no common authority to persuade them to do so. [16]

However, the English School is not an offshoot of realism as Bull is open to the liberal goal of international order. He envisions a world based on common interests, rules and institutions. But he does not go so far to suggest a liberal interdependent world. Bull stated that within an international society, order is the consequence of common interests in a social life, rules prescribing behaviour that sustains these goals and institutions that help to make these rules effective.[17]

The Revolutionary World Society

The Revolutionists rejects the Hobbesian view of national conflicts and the rational international relations between states. [18] This idea can be traced back Kant’s essay Perpetual Peace where he envisions each state being republican as global peace was unattainable until all governments were standardized. [19]Furthermore, standing armies will eventually be abolished for without international conflicts their existence will be made obsolete, national debt will be abolished, a non-interventionist foreign policy and conflict between others be halted without external interference. [20] The essential characteristic of Revolutionary theory is that is assimilates international relations into grand domestic politics [21]. The three possible ways of trying to achieve such assimilation is Doctrinal Uniformity, Doctrinal Imperialism and Cosmopolitanism.

The idea of doctrinal uniformity demands homogeneity among the members of an international society. This idea has had many attempts to achieve its goal starting with Mazzini who seemed to posses to two-step program of uniting city states into a national body, only to take the concept further and assimilate the newfound Italian nation into a European supranation. Future attempts have occurred with the Communist Revolution, Wilsonian World Peace theory and arguably the current Untied Nations. [22] Doctrinal imperialism means a single great power spreading and imposes a particular creed. Examples of this can be found in Stalinist Russia. [23]

The cosmopolitan factor is the civitas maxima by proclaiming a world society of individuals, which overrides nations. It rejects the idea of a society of states for an international society. This implies nationalist symbolism of passports, visas, unique cultures and historic hatreds are given way for a global citizen who frequently travels, attends international functions such as sports, academic and scientific congress and above all, recognizes the universalism of humanity.[24]

The Pluralist-Solidarist Schism

As stated above, the English School is not a monolithic theory and it was further fractionized by a schism that saw two camps emerge: the Solidarists and Pluralists.

The former proposes a society of states that promotes a modern Wilsonianism of universal human rights and humanitarian intervention. Nicholas Wheeler in Saving Strangers further explored this by arguing that the new human rights regime is severely limited by the lack of enforcement capabilities thus allowing governments to abuse human rights with impunity. Military intervention can be the only means of enforcing global humanitarian standards. [25] By supporting such actions, a global society can emerge and relative peace can be achieved. Robert Jackson argues against Solidarism in
The Global Covenant by stating its underpinnings are Western and therefore it demands conformity to towards liberal democracy.[26]

In regards to a global community, although considered idealistic, it is based on universal rights and therefore there is no guarantee for it to be enforced, without adopting totalitarian tactics, as it depends on whether the country is willing to adopt and respect such values. [27] Furthermore, the rise of the cosmopolitan-democratic ‘Global Citizen’ would not be tolerant towards global pluralism. Those countries who wished to retain its unique identify will be treated with hostility.[28]

The European Battle to Champion the English School

The salient development within international politics by the English School can be found in the current debate over membership to the European Union. I argue that the conflict between ‘Europeanism’ and ‘Euroscepticism’ is in reality a conflict between two brands of liberal-realism: with the European Solidarist-Liberal-Revolutionary against the Eurosceptic Realistic-Rational-Pluralist.

The European Revolution

There has always existed the dream of a unified Europe and have been many historical attempts to manifest this concept into reality, such as Mazzinian liberalism and the Soviet imperialism. The latest attempt has been the Eurozone.

This turning point came about when the Soviet Union imploded and the reason for a unified Europe was no more, but instead of reverting to realism, the Kantian revolutionary framework was implemented in the form of Europeanism. This was essentially the merging nationalism, economics and culture into a regional identity through doctrinal uniformity and imperialism. This mindset of the ‘withering away of the state’ has even been openly declared by former EU President Herman van Rompuy when he stated the ‘age of the nation state is over and the idea of countries standing alone is an illusion and a lie’. [29] This can be seen today with the combination of the EU Parliament and Commission along with outside assistance of the IMF, WTO and World Bank. This also overlaps into the Soldiarist notion of saving others; although in the case EU intervention, it can be seen as economically saving a member state form their own folly. For example, the EU prohibits Greece from existing the Union, but imposes economic policies in the form of austerity under the guise of ‘helping their neighbour’.

The ultimate aim is to create a cosmopolitan-Europe where individual identities are replaced with the ‘European’. This is done by interchanging national symbols of money, nation passports, sport with the Euro, a European flag and passport, the free movement of peoples that renders national boundaries as effectively obsolete and imposing European Flag above national symbols on sport teams. [30] There is even the advancement of a European Army that is said to assimilate the various national militaries into a new transnational force and act as a counterforce to Russia and help fight the War on Terror.[31]

The Eurosceptic Backlash

In reaction to this Euro-nationalism, there has been a pushback from the Realist-Rational-Pluralist outlook of Euroscepticism.

This worldview rejects the notion of Europeanism by stating the type of peace that is insured by the EU is much like its Soviet predecessor. By attaining this outlook, they endorse the realist position of dismissing the Soldiarist arguments from being idealistic to potentially totalitarian. The notion of a ‘cosmopolitan European citizen’ is the stripping away of the cultural uniqueness of each individual country, draws comparisons with the ‘Soviet Man’ concept. It argued Hobbesian sovereignty and its people and cannot be transferred towards a undemocratic transnational institution. To do so, democracy is undermined and elections will be rendered ritualistic. [32] An example of this in UK politics where any reform which would strength it national interest is rebuffed and rejected by the EU establishment. [33] This has created a political rebellion with Eurosceptic political parties gaining unseen support, most notably Britain’s UKIP becoming the first third party to win a national election in 100 years. [34]

It appears that Euroscepticism offers a counter-revolution and a return to Old Europe. However, this does not mean a return to Darwinist power politics. Although they protect the notion of the national sovereignty and the cultural diversity, they are aware of the lessons of history and propose another European Union. The proposal is based on the overlapping nation of rational-pluralism, where internal and external sovereignty is maintained, but they can form a European society where common interests rules, open trade and friendship can be achieved and maintained.

Conclusion

In conclusion the English School is a dynamic theory with many different interpretations. As reflected in the European example, in the aftermath of the schism, both opposing sides of the Eurozone adopt liberal-realism to support their worldview.

Bibliography 

Bull, H (1977) The Anarchical Society, Macmillan Education Ltd, United Kingdom.

Bull, Hedley. “Martin Wight and the Theory of International Relations: The Second Martin Wight Memorial Lecture.” Journal of International Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1976): 101-116.

Carr, E, H (1945) Nationalism, Macmillan Education Ltd, United Kingdom.

Carr, E, H (1941) Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939, Macmillan Education Ltd, United Kingdom.

Forde, Steven. “Varieties of Realism: Thucydides and Machiavelli.” The Journal of Politics, Vol. 54, No. 2 (1992): 372-393.

Hitchens, Peter. “This Sceptic Isle.” BBC4, Last Modified 2005.

Ikenberry, John. “Liberalism in a Realist World: International Relations as an American Scholarly Tradition”, International Studies 46, 1&2 (2009): 203–219.

Jackson, R (2000) The Global Covenant, Oxford University Press, United States.

Kant, E (1795) Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, New York Columbia University Press, United States.

Kiesewetter, Roderich. “Toward a European Defense Union.” Carnegie Europe. Last modified April 29, 2016.https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=63489

Martin, Daniel. “Nation states are dead: EU chief says the belief that countries can stand alone is a lie and an illusion”,
Daily Mail Australia. Last Modified November 11, 2010. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1328568/Nation-states-dead-EU-chief-says-belief-countries-stand-lie.html

Osborn, Andrew. “UK’s Eurosceptic UKIP party storms to victory in Europe vote.” Reuters. Last Modified May 26. 2014. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-elections-britain-idUSBREA4O0EM20140526

Waterfield, Bruno. “England football team urged team to wear EU flag on jerseys.” The Telegraph. Last Modified February 02, 2012

England football team urged team to wear EU flag on jerseys

A large majority of MEPs, 533 in favour and 106 against, supported the idea that “the European flag should be flown at major international sports events held on the EU territory” and “having it displayed on the clothing of athletes alongside national flags”. All British MEPs, except for the Liberal Democrats, opposed the proposals.

Wheeler, J (2000) Saving Strangers, Oxford University Press, United States.

Wight, M (1992) International Theory, Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc., United States.

[1] Steven Forde, “Varieties of Realism: Thucydides and Machiavelli,”
The Journal of Politics 54 (1992): 375.
[2]
 Steven Forde, “Varieties of Realism: Thucydides and Machiavelli,”
The Journal of Politics 54 (1992): 378.

[3] E.H Carr. Nationalism, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1945), 2.

[4] E.H Carr. Nationalism, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1945), .

[5] E.H Carr.
Nationalism, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1945), ,

[6] E.H. Carr Twenty Years’ Crisis (United Kingdom, 1945), 20.

[7] G. John Ikenberry, “Liberalism in a Realist World: International Relations as an American Scholarly Tradition,”
International Studies 46 (2009): 207.

[8] Hedly Bull, “Martin Wight and the Theory of International Relations: The Second Martin Wight Memorial Lecture,
British Journal of International Studies, (1976): 104.

[9] Hedly Bull, Martin Wight and the Theory of International Relations: The Second Martin Wight Memorial Lecture,
British Journal of International Studies, (1976): 104-105.
[10]
 Martin Wight, International Theory, Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc. (United States, 1992) 31.
[11]
 Martin Wight, International Theory, Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc. (United States, 1992) 36.

[12] Hedly Bull. The Anarchical Society, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1977) 1.

[13] Hedly Bull. The Anarchical Society, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1977) 4.

[14] Hedly Bull. The Anarchical Society, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1977) 8.

[15] Hedly Bull. The Anarchical Society, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1977) 8.

[16] Hedly Bull. The Anarchical Society, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1977) 46.

[17] Hedly Bull. The Anarchical Society, Macmillan (United Kingdom, 1977) 65.

[18] Hedly Bull, “Martin Wight and the Theory of International Relations: The Second Martin Wight Memorial Lecture,
British Journal of International Studies, (1976): 105.

[19] Martin Wight, International Theory, Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc. (United States, 1992) 42.

[20] Emanuel Kant (1795) Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, New York Columbia University Press, United States p. 1-10.

[21] Martin Wight, International Theory, Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc. (United States, 1992) 41.

[22] Hedly Bull, “Martin Wight and the Theory of International Relations: The Second Martin Wight Memorial Lecture,British Journal of International Studies, (1976): 105.

[23] Hedly Bull, “Martin Wight and the Theory of International Relations: The Second Martin Wight Memorial Lecture,British Journal of International Studies, (1976): 105.

[24] Hedly Bull, “Martin Wight and the Theory of International Relations: The Second Martin Wight Memorial Lecture, British Journal of International Studies, (1976): 106.

[25] Nicholas Wheeler. Saving Strangers (Oxford University Press, 2000) 1.

[26] Robert Jackson. The Global Covenant (Oxford University Press, 2000) 340.

[27] Robert Jackson.The Global Covenant (Oxford University Press, 2000) 341.

[28] Robert Jackson.The Global Covenant (Oxford University Press, 2000) 344.

[29] Daniel Martin, “Nation states are dead: EU chief says the belief that countries can stand alone is a ‘lie and an illusion”, Daily Mail Australia. November 11, 2010.

[30] Bruno Waterfield, “England football team urged team to wear EU flag on jerseys”,The Telegraph. February 02, 2012.

[31] Roderich Kiesewetter, “Toward a European Defense Union.” Carnegie Europe. April 29, 2016.

[32] Peter Hitchens, “This Sceptic Isle,” BBC4, Last Modified 2005.

[33] Peter Hitchens, “This Sceptic Isle,” BBC4, Last Modified 2005.

[34] Andrew Osborn, ““UK’s Eurosceptic UKIP party storms to victory in Europe vote”, Reuters. May 26. 2014.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

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Richard
Richard
July 3, 2022

Way too complicated for me.

Bosgeus
July 3, 2022
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It was the Roman Empire, that at first tried to unite Europe. Than came the Holy Roman Empire, under Charlemagne. “Das Erste Reich” (the first empire). National Socialism tried to unite Europe, named it “Das Dritte Reich” (The Third Empire). The second Empire in between, was Bismarck’s creation of Germany under Prussia (The Second Empire). Bismarck was take out by Kaiser Wilhelm, who started World War One, using Bismarck’s “Second Empire”. Since EU politicians give each other the “Charlemagne prize”, referring to Das Erste Reich, we can assume that the current EU is “Das Vierte Reich”, (The Fourth Empire) The… Read more »

George Hartwell
July 7, 2022

This is an interesting example of how. an academic paper written in idealistic abstract terms can end up having no real meaning in the current times.

I thought it might explain why Queen Elizabeth chose an imperialist empire over a genuine commonwealth in the 1800s.

Maybe we could learn why English Prime Ministers meddle in other nations’ business in a way that sets up war.

Maybe we could learn why Boris Johnson blocked a negotiated settlement for Ukraine and why he always encouraged arming Ukraine and sanctions on Russia even when they are destroying the economy.

But no.

THIS is the *REAL* Reason Why Stocks Crashed!

Will Netanyahu return to lead Israel again?