From International to World Society? English School Theory and the Social Structure of Globalisation

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From International to World Society? English School Theory and the Social Structure of Globalisation

By Barry Buzan
Cambridge University Press, 2004
318 pp. $70.00

Buzan, a leading scholar at the London School of Economics, has been instrumental in reinvigorating the English school of international relations, which focuses on the rules, norms, and institutions of the Western state system and sees world politics as driven by the interaction between Hobbesian power politics and Grotian shared norms and interests. In this illuminating study of modern global society, Buzan attacks the question of how the array of new cosmopolitan forces-the global linkages of peoples and societies-is affecting the old state system. Much of the book is an exploration of two alternate assessments of the essence of world society: a "pluralist" vision, in which states remain dominant and state sovereignty retains political and legal primacy, and a "solidarist" vision, which sees cosmopolitan values and universal norms weaving together a new global order. Buzan argues that these two logics coexist: the system of states, sovereignty, territory, nationalism, and great-power politics will increasingly mix with a much less coherent system of transnationalism, global markets, and universalistic society. This conclusion about the character of the global system is not new or surprising, but Buzan does nicely show the need to keep state-centered ways of thinking open to the murky forces of global society.

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