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Amy E. Eckert Department of Political Science Metropolitan State College of Denver Campus Box 43 PO Box 173362 Denver CO 80217-3362

Prepared for International Studies Association-West Annual Meeting Las Vegas, Nevada September 29-30, 2006

Panel: Innovations in IR Theory: Norms, Psychology, and Discourse Other panelists: Lisa Burke, University of Denver; David Houghton, University of Central Florida; Andrew Manning, University of Southern California; John Barkdull, Texas Tech University Panel chair: Charles Anthony Smith, University of Miami Discussant: Frances Pilch, US Air Force Academy

The English School gained influence within International Relations because of its ability to offer an alternative to the then-pervasive influence of neorealism within the discipline (Brown, 2001, pp. 424-426).1 Neorealisms model of the international system is one in which the capabilities of member states are the dominant (if not the only) force in shaping international relations (Waltz, 1986, p. 91). Against neorealisms crude and mechanistic view of the international system the English School offered a conception of the international system as a society in which rules and institutions could also matter. While the English School acknowledges the role of Great Powers within this society, and even acknowledges that coercion can play an important role in orderkeeping, the English School tradition does not reduce international society to the capabilities of its members in the same way that neorealism does. Neorealism and the English School also part company on the point of methodology. While neorealism evolved as a scientific alternative to classical realism, the English School acknowledges that judgment and intuition also play a significant role in scholarship. The recognition that international society is more than capabilities and the methodological openness would seem to bode well for the role of ethical reasoning within the English School. Barry Buzan went so far as to characterize

Brown notes, correctly, that classical realism shares more with the English School than with its structural descendant, neorealism.

the normative/ethical strand of English School thought as robust (2001, p. 486). Neorealism, which inspired many English School critiques, treat values as, at best, epiphenomenal reflections of the interests of dominant powers within the international system. The English Schools insights about the limits of neorealism and the explanatory power of power suggest the potential for openness to ethical considerations. However, the English Schools relationship to normativity has been somewhat more complex. While they are comfortable working with norms and values in a descriptive sense, many prominent English School writers have been surprisingly reluctant to embrace strong prescriptive ethical positions. On the contrary, most major English School authors have pursued their inquiries in the spirit of value freedom. In this respect, disaggregating the English Schools treatment of ethics and norms is more useful than considering them together as Buzan does. This paper explores the reluctance to embrace ethics and asks whether the English School can learn to stop worrying and love ethics.

Overview of the English School Any presentation of the English School tradition will necessarily entail some controversy. The English School, which derives its name from an article calling for its closure (Jones, 1981), consists of a cluster of scholars sharing common interests and approaches. While a full account lies beyond the scope of this paper, the composition, membership, history, and nature of the English School are rather vigorously contested among English School scholars (Buzan,

2001; Dunne, 1998; Linklater & Suganami, 2006; Suganami, 2001 to name a few). Central among the English Schools contributions to the study of international relations is the concept of international society. In Hedley Bulls well-known formulation, a society of states forms when its member states share common values, recognize a set of rules, and commit to common institutions (2002, p. 13). These shared values and institutions distinguish an international society from an international system that lacks these elements. The existence of an international society is, likewise, distinct from a state of nature (Alderson & Hurrell, 2000, pp. 3-4). The concept of international society itself distinguishes the English School approach from other theories of international relations (Rengger, 1992, p. 356). The English School is generally divided into two major camps pluralism and solidarism distinguishable by their positions on the role of values in international society. Both of these traditions trace their origins to the work of Hedley Bull (Alderson & Hurrell, 2000, p. 11; Rengger, 2006). The pluralist tradition rejects attempts to incorporate a common set of values into international society. As a consequence, pluralism does not treat issues like respect for human rights or democracy as the domain of international society. Linklater and Suganami emphasize that this does not necessarily mean that those within the pluralist tradition do not share a commitment to these values, only that they do not see their incorporation into international society as fruitful (2006, p. 66). In the pluralist conception of international society, the scope for international society is fairly minimal, centered on shared concerns about international order

under anarchy, and thus largely confined to agreement about sovereignty, diplomacy, and non-intervention (Buzan, 2001, p. 478). In other words, the rules in a pluralist conception of international society pertain primarily to the problem of sorting out sovereign claims. This pluralist view of international society is exemplified in Robert Jacksons The Global Covenant (Jackson, 2000). Bulls early work also embodied this view of international society. By contrast, solidarism seeks to limit acceptable differences among states within international society, especially when that pluralism creates injustices for individuals, by means of limits on legitimate forms of governance, principles of human rights, and other efforts to limit pluralism among members of international society. Solidarist conceptions of international society contain a more expansionist view of international societys potential to support a more extensive consensus on international norms, even including norms that pertain to the relationship between states and their citizens (Buzan, 2001, p. 478). The solidarist conception of international society values three dimensions: a more extensive scheme of cooperation around common problems, more effective implementation of norms, and norms that are to be judged against some shared notion of a world common good or some generally acknowledged set of shared values or moral purposes (Alderson & Hurrell, 2000, pp. 9-10). Such norms that are based on these values or purposes differ starkly from the norms that preoccupy the pluralist tradition, as I will argue below. Because of this openness to different types of norms, the solidarist model of international society is, clearly, much more compatible with a concern about international ethics than is the

pluralist tradition. Nicholas Wheeler argues from within this camp of the English School in his work, Saving Strangers (Wheeler, 2000), as does Andrew Linklater (Linklater & Suganami, 2006). Hedley Bulls later work embodied elements of the solidarist tradition, including a commitment to individual well-being expressed in terms of a world common good (Bull, 2000, p. 222). While it underscores the potential for integrating ethical norms into the English School tradition, the solidarist position is a minority view of international society within the larger English School tradition. The writings of most English School writers, including most notably Martin Wight, C.A.W. Manning, and Hedley Bull in his early work, embody a much more ambivalent view about the relationship between ethical principles and international society. Moreover, the more difficult position to reconcile with the search for ethical norms is the pluralist tradition, which eschews their role in international society. For these reasons, I will focus on the problems of integrating international ethics into the pluralist conception of international relations.

Ethics and the English School For the most part, English School authors working within this pluralist tradition have either eschewed the discussion of ethical norms completely or they have relegated ethical questions to a secondary position. Some, like Bull, acknowledge the significance of ethical questions. In his famous defense of the classical approach to international relations, Bull characterized these ethical questions as both central to the discipline and beyond the reach of the scientific

approach to IR, which rejects any role for judgment in favor of logical or mathematical proof and empirical verifiability (1969, pp. 20-21). For Bull, the classical approach is distinguished by the role it accords to judgment and intuition. Arguing against the scientific approach, Bull stated his belief that moral questions cannot by their very nature be given any sort of objective answer but can only be probed, clarified, reformulated and tentatively answered from some arbitrary standpoint, according to the method of philosophy (1969, p. 26). While Bull viewed the consideration of such questions as important even essential to international relations as an academic discipline, he doubted that they could be answered in a definitive manner. Their consideration could lead to greater insight and understanding, but an answer remained unreachable. Other English School writers, like Alan James, have taken a much stronger position that ethical issues have no place within the study of international relations (Linklater & Suganami, 2006, p. 111). This reticence seems counterintuitive given the English Schools emphasis on norms as a key component of international society and Buzans characterization of the normative strand of English School thought as vibrant. Underlying this apparent dichotomy is the dual use of the term norm. While the English School deals extensively in norms, it does so in a descriptive rather than prescriptive manner. The English School is comfortable making statements like There is presently a consensus among members of international society that humanitarian intervention is permissible under certain circumstances but not statements like States should intervene to stop human rights violations. This is

the difference, essentially, between norms as rules (in a descriptive sense) and norms as ethical principles (prescriptive). Manning characterizes the former as the approach of social scientists who are interested in three questions: (a) What are the norms in a given milieu? (b) How far is respect for them expected (in the sense of foreseen as likely in practice to be shown)> and (c) How far is it expected (in the sense of demanded)? (1962, p. 114) By contrast, the moralist treats norms as standards for evaluating the behavior of others (Manning, 1962, pp. 114-115). As noted above, some English School scholars believe that ethics are important to the study of international relations, but nearly all English School scholars are more comfortable with the discussion of rules. The reluctance of English School authors to embrace ethical reasoning stems from a number of sources, including most significantly the following:

(1) Ontology Many of the English School writers who are ambivalent about engaging with ethical principles harbor doubts about the ontological status of these norms. In his account of the nature of international society, Manning conveys such doubts, exhorting the reader to: consider what precisely he himself understands by rights. Does he ascribe to them an existence independent of the milieu in which they are claimed, acknowledged, presupposed? Does he believe mans rights to be his by nature whether by his nature as a man or by that of human society as such? Or does he see rights merely as part of the social apparatus of

a given society? Let him consider which position in this matter is his own (1962, pp. 126-127). He goes on to pose the question: If rights, and the moral norms which safeguard them, are grounded in nothing more cosmic than a local folklore, is they are part merely of a given societys cultural patrimony, a monument to the social artistry of past generations, how can they be thought of as having, intrinsically, any real, as distinct from merely notional, theoretical claim, upon the obedience of an autonomous being? (Manning, 1962, p. 127) Because of what he characterizes as their dubious ontological status, Manning advocates prefacing conclusions about ethical norms with the phrase To my way of thinking to signify their conditional status (Manning, 1962, p. 126).

Arbitrariness A related point is that if ethical norms lack ontological existence, any effort to resolve ethical questions will necessarily involve a degree of arbitrariness. Even while recognizing their centrality to the study of international relations, Hedley Bull claimed that ethical questions evaded any definitive answer, as described above. While he considered these questions might be useful for a number of reasons, Bull saw no way to resolve them short of arbitrarily selecting a normative framework. Those who do not share that chosen normative commitment will, of course, see this answer as arbitrary. Put differently, while Bull believed in moral truths, he did not believe that these truths were universally valid (Rengger, 2006, p. 42)

Civilization Yet another reason for the English Schools caution about embracing ethical norms is the dark history of the conception of civilization. Civilization provided the moral veneer for colonialism and its attendant abuses (Gong, 1984). Under the pretense of brining civilization to backward parts of the world, colonial powers annexed territories and held their inhabitants in servitude. The factors driving colonialism were myriad and the push to spread civilization was likely among the less important causes of colonization. Nevertheless, the involvement of ethical claims in any capacity with colonialism gives rise to discomfort with claims about universal values.

These three factors loom large in the English Schools ambivalence toward at least some aspects of norms. This prevarication toward norms particularly norms in the ethical sense is ultimately unsustainable.

Norms and norms Because of these misgivings, English School authors have made the distinction between norms as rules the proper subject of theorizing and norms as ethics, which they eschew. By embracing the former, Rengger argues, they adopt an approach to values that reflects that of communitarians. Communitarian thinkers reject universalist values derived in the abstract, instead treating values as derived from a particular community. In the case of English


School authors, the relevant community serving as the source of values is international society. Rengger writes Neither Bull nor Wight nor any of their colleagues argue that there is a form of the good to which all societies including the society of states should bend their will; the fact of the society is the source of the obligations that spring from it (1992, p. 362). What this approach to norms means is that there are no universal norms that apply generally, irrespective of the particularities of culture. Instead, it is cultural practices and shared values that give rise to the norms themselves. The communitarian approach applies by English School writers, as discussed by Rengger, supports the descriptive, rather then prescriptive, approach to international norms. It also underscores the thinness of the ontological point made by Manning. Norms as rules are no less society-bound than are norms as ethical principles, but this does not preclude the former from being the subject of legitimate concern for the English School. In reality, though, these two types of norms may not be so neatly separable. Chris Brown notes: ES theory characteristically uses the same terminology of rules and norms to describe both the ways in which states actually behave (a matter for empirical observation) and the way in which they ought to behave (the product of a moral discourse). This procedure, when acknowledged, is justified via an argument about the genesis of norms norms are assumed to be both the product of the interactions of states and regulative of those interactions (2001, p. 438).


The sharp distinction between norms as rules and norms as ethical principles is ultimately unsustainable. When English School authors talk about norms as rules, they are also adopting ethical positions implicitly if not openly. To hold out a principle as a rule of international society is inherently more than descriptive it suggests that states and other agents should comply with that rule. The English School is not alone in this respect. Other theories of international relations also blur the line between description and prescription, including realism. This includes the classical realist accounts to which, as Brown observed, the English School bears significant resemblance. Hans Morgenthaus discussion of rules is typical in its blurring of descriptive and prescriptive rules. Morgenthau characterizes the rules of the international system as determined by some sort of necessity, independently of how we as individuals might feel about them, and describes them as rules that states disregard at their peril (Morgenthau, 1978). These words are echoed within the English School tradition, in the form of Mannings question: Can it ever be wrong for a statesman to do as best he can such things as must be expected of a statesman? (121) Placing the action of statesmen under the control of allegedly objective rules or a necessity disconnected from human agency serves to absolve from blame those engaging in the actions expected of a statesman. Hedley Bull noted the thinness of the boundary between description and prescription in his defense of the classical approach (1969, p. 30). Bull observed distinguished international relations from the natural science fields emulated by the scientific approach on this very point. Where the law of gravity does not


shape the behavior of falling objects, theories about international relations have the very real potential to shape the behavior of states and other agents in international society. This means that there is an inescapable connection between practical and ethical theorizing. Denying this connection between these two activities and presenting pragmatic advice as neutral from an ethical standpoint only fails to acknowledge this reality.

International Ethics and Standards of Academic Rigor Underlying the points raised by the English School against international ethics is an implicit assumption that ethical claims lack a standard against which they can be measured. This view of ethical reasoning underlies both Mannings ontological argument and Bulls contention that the resolution of ethical arguments necessarily involves a degree of arbitrariness. These views of international ethics assume that there is no common standard against which ethical arguments can be measured. This is not necessarily the case. Moreover, it is unclear that Mannings doubts about the ontology of ethical principles precludes their study within the discipline of international relations. Mannings questions about the ontology of ethical principles drives at an assumption that ethical principles must have universal validity independent of the society within which they exist. Very few norms as ethics can pass this test, but the same goes for the rules that the English School writers treat as the proper subject of their international society approach to international relations. These rules are also the


products of particular international societies, but this does not deprive them of their ontological status or place them outside of the English Schools concern. In the search for principles that are or would be universally acceptable, some arguments are more successful than others. Devices like Rawlss original position, for example, are ways to get at these universals by suggesting a set of fundamental interests and engaging in reasoning about how to maximize these interests (1999). This is not to say that the original position as it stands is without fault. Critics have argued about whether the original position truly represents the interests of all parties and whether the conditions of the original position are suitable for the choice of principles. At the international level, for example, Rawls limits participation in the original position to decent peoples, excluding outlaw states and burdened societies (and by extension their citizens), and this limitation skews the principles that he includes within the framework of the Law of Peoples. But the very existence of these arguments is evidence that standards for scholarly rigor apply and that proposals such as Rawlss are measured against them. Consensus around a number of ethical principles exists, making them norms in both senses of the word, but by no means are all issues settled. This should not preclude treating international ethics as a subject of proper concern. Enduring controversies are not unique in the field of international ethics. On the contrary, the English School approach is itself marked by such disputes. The existence of open questions does not cast doubt on the status of a subject as a valid intellectual pursuit; they are on the contrary necessary for a field to continue


evolving. Answers to these open questions will continue to be proposed and will be evaluated according to the prevailing standards within the field. This process will not yield scientific results that are verifiable in some empirical sense, but this is not unlike the English Schools own orientation. Bull acknowledges that the classical approach to international relations will not yield scientific results, but acknowledges that limiting ones inquiry to questions and methods that do yield such results places the most significant questions within the discipline out of reach. Manning agrees: What one does nowadays, or should do, is to notice the different sorts of results to be sought for in different sorts of inquiry. In mathematics, demonstration, as before; in statistics, probability; in the natural sciences, verifiability; and, in sociology, sometimes verifiability perhaps, but sometimes plausibility only. International Relations, as a line in sociological reflection and inquiry, need make no apology when able to offer plausibility and nothing more. (125) Despite a lack of verifiability in all circumstances, even plausibilities can be assessed and evaluated. (Manning 125).

Conclusion The English School is a potentially fruitful avenue for exploring ethical issues in international relations. Its recognition that both rules and power matter could allow the English School to serve as a conduit through which to integrate ethical rules into the international system. The title of my paper makes reference to the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the


Bomb. In the scenario of Dr. Strangelove, the bomb is lovable or at least preferable because the alternative is not a nuclear-free world but instead the Soviet Unions Doomsday Device that ultimately encircles the world with a cloud of lethal radiation for ninety-three years. By contrast the bomb offers at least the possibility of deterrence. English School writers should regard international ethics in much the same way. The alternative to engaging with ethical norms is not neutrality, but more likely an unconscious and perhaps ill-considered approach to issues that are inherently ethical. An explicit engagement with ethical norms could also help English School writers, particularly those who reflect the ambivalence of Bull, Manning, and others toward ethical principles, to avoid unconscious moral prescription under the guise of description. Some degree of reluctance toward ethics in the international system is, perhaps, understandable. The history of ethical claims within English School scholarship (and within the solidarist tradition especially) has a dark side in the concept of civilization. This conception of the good was used to justify colonialism and its attendant abuses. Under the guise of spreading civilization or enlightenment to the backward, powerful states committed conquest, obliterating traditional societies and enslaving their members. In the case of colonialism, a particular view of the good represented by civilization was imposed on socalled backward communities without their consent. The interests of those on whom these values were imposed were not even considered. Such a practice is a grave misapplication of ethical principles. But not all ethical theorizing need necessarily result in such a tragic outcome. A more appropriate response would


be greater caution in ethical theorizing, a move that cannot be made without acknowledging the ethical implications of the English Schools normative theorizing. Some degree of the humility on the part of those proposing a set of ethical norms would go a long way toward avoiding a renewal of the tragedies of colonialism.

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