adam watson - the evolution of international society, a comparative, historical analysis (1992)
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THE EVOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY
This uniquely comprehensive historical study analyses and explains how international societies function. After examining the ancient states systems, the author looks in more detail at the European society of states and at our worldwide contemporary society, which grew out of it. The book demonstrates that relations between states are not normally anarchies, but organized international or supernational societies regulated by elaborate rules and practices, which derive substantially from experience. Our present international society, for all its individuality, is the latest in the series. The Evolution of International Society is a major contribution to international theory, and to our understanding of how relations between states operate. Current interest in international order and the hegemonial authority, and the renewed concern with history in political science, make this a timely book. A stunning success. Watsons book is a masterful piece of theoretical and historical analysis. John A.Vasquez, Rutgers University Adam Watson has been a British Ambassador and Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Chairman of the British Committee for the Theory of International Politics and, since 1978, Professor of International Relations at the University of Virginia.
By the same author: The War of the Goldsmiths Daughter, Chatto & Windus, 1964 Emergent Africa (as Scipio), Chatto & Windus, 1964; revised edition, Simon & Schuster, 1967 The Nature and Problems of the Third World, The Claremont Colleges, 1968 Toleration in Religion and Politics, CRIA, 1980 The Origins of History, edited with introduction, Methuen, 1981 Diplomacy: The Dialogue Between States, Methuen, 1983; Routledge, forthcoming The Expansion of International Society, edited with H.Bull, Oxford University Press, 1984
THE EVOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL SOCIETYA comparative historical analysis
London and New York
First published in 1992 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2002. Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001 1992 Adam Watson All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Watson, Adam The evolution of international society I. Title 303.482 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Watson, Adam The evolution of international society: a comparative historical analysis/Adam Watson. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. International relationsHistory. 2. State, TheHistory. I. Title. JX1305.W38 1992 327.09dc20 9128666 ISBN 0-203-41572-8 Master e-book ISBN
ISBN 0-203-72396-1 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0 415 06998 X (Print Edition) 0 415 06999 8 paperback edition
To the members of the British Committee on the Theory of International Politics and particularly in memory of its three other chairmen Herbert Butterfield Martin Wight Hedley Bull
INTRODUCTION 1 SCOPE AND DEFINITIONS The ancient states system PREFACE 2 SUMER The original states system 3 ASSYRIA The first near eastern empire 4 PERSIA Imperial moderation 5 CLASSICAL GREECE Independence and hegemony 6 THE MACEDONIAN SYSTEM Hellenization of the Persian system 7 INDIA Multiple independences and the Mauryan Empire 8 CHINA Hegemony, warring states and empire 9 ROME The final classical imperial synthesis 10 THE BYZANTINE OIKOUMENE 11 THE ISLAMIC SYSTEM Adaptation of many traditions vii
21 24 33 40 47 69 77 85 94 107 112
12 THE ANCIENT STATES SYSTEMS Some theoretical implications The European international society PREFACE 13 MEDIEVAL EUROPE The originality of Latin Christendom 14 THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY The stato 15 THE RENAISSANCE IN EUROPE The stato outside Italy 16 THE HABSBURG BID FOR HEGEMONY 17 WESTPHALIA An anti-hegemonial commonwealth of states 18 THE AGE OF REASON AND OF BALANCE 19 EUROPEAN EXPANSION Overseas and overland 20 THE NAPOLEONIC EMPIRE 21 COLLECTIVE HEGEMONY The nineteenth-century Concert of Europe SUMMARY The global international society 22 THE EUROPEAN SYSTEM BECOMES WORLDWIDE 23 THE COLLAPSE OF EUROPEAN DOMINATION 24 THE AGE OF THE SUPERPOWERS AND DECOLONIZATION 25 THE CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY Heir to the past CONCLUSION EPILOGUE: SOME INDICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE Bibliography Index viii
135 138 152 163 169 182 198 214 228 238 251
265 277 288 299 311 319 326 331
This enquiry is designed as a contribution to our understanding of how systems of states function. An understanding of how the contemporary society of states came to be what it is, and how it may develop in the future, requires a sense of how other societies operated and developed in the past. But we will not gain much understanding if we merely trace our present arrangements back in time. We need to examine the different patterns of relations between states in their own individuality and on their own merits; and then compare them. This book accordingly sets out to ask, first, what were the institutions, and also the assumptions and codes of conduct, by which past groups of political entities tried to order and regulate the systems that bound them together. Past systems were differently organized, with different priorities. Secondly, what is the relevance for us today of the achievements of past societies and their trials and errors, even where our present society of states has not derived anything consciously from them? What light can past experience, and especially the hereditary elements in our society so to speak, shed on contemporary practice? How did our present global system and the society which manages it, unlike many others, come to be based on nominally sovereign and juridically equal states, linked by elaborate and changing rules and institutions to promote the advantage of individual members and to regulate the system itself? In our search for answers to these questions, as Gilpin says, believing that the past is not merely prologue and that the present does not have a monopoly on the truth, we have drawn on historical experience. 1 A clearer understanding seems badly needed. Our present international society is puzzling if looked at in isolation. Is there anything absolute or final about the political division of the world into some 180 nominally independent states? We gather that our present international practices, rules and institutions are recent, and changing, and that they have developed from very different arrangements in the past; but most of us are vague about what those former arrangements were. We are also aware 1
THE EVOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY
that what actually happens on the international scene does not correspond very closely with what is supposed to happen: why is there this discrepancy between the reality and the theory? An adequate understanding of the past and the present is also necessary to see what may happen in the future and how we can hope to influence it. Many of us are unrealistic about the future. Sometimes we endow our current assumptions and beliefs, for instance about states being independent, with a permanence that the record in no way justifies. At other times we are apt to think that our present international practice has no inherent nature or characteristics, and that therefore almost any changes can be made to work. This is too mechanistic an approach to any society, too contrary to human nature. Even engineers do not usually design machines in vacuo; they draw on experience with previous models, and speak of a new generation of computers or aircraft engines. How much more must we recognize that, without overworking the biological metaphor, our ways of managing the relations between diverse groups and communities of people have evolved from previous experience, and that future arrangements will evolve from ours.
THE BRITISH COMMITTEE ON THE THEORY OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS* The discussions and papers In studying these questions I have greatly profited from the discussions and papers of the British Committee for the Theory of International Politics, a group of scholars and practitioners which for some twentyfive years (195984) met under the chairmanship first of Herbert Butterfield, then of Martin Wight, then of myself and lastly of Hedley Bull. Much of the work of that committee was concerned with the nature of states systems. I am indebted in particular to two valuable and original studies which emerged from it: Wights Systems of States (a collection of papers which he wrote for the committee about the functioning of states systems, published after his death by Bull) and Bulls own The Anarchical Society. The most important of Wights essays is the general analysis which he called De systematibus civitatum, from the title of the essay by Pufendorf in 1675 that defined the concept and gave it its name.* The title British Committee was chosen to distinguish it from the American committee, also financed at first by the Rockefeller Foundation. It was a private and interdisciplinary group, which from the beginning included Irish and soon also Australian members.
Wights paper followed several discussions by the committee and a number of essays, notably his Why is there no International Theory? (published in Diplomatic Investigations, a set of papers written for the committee), and others by Herbert Butterfield, Desmond Williams and myself. The purpose of De systematibus was to c