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The Anarchical Society at 40: contemporary challenges and prospects

Suganami, H., Carr, M. and Humphreys, A. ORCID:, eds. (2017) The Anarchical Society at 40: contemporary challenges and prospects. Oxford University Press, pp384. ISBN 9780198779605

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Hedley Bull’s The Anarchical Society was published in 1977. Though considered as one of the classics in International Relations, it does not address many world political issues that concern us deeply today—volatile great power relations after the end of the Cold War, the rise of terrorism, financial crises, climate change, the impact of the Internet, deep-rooted racial inequalities, violence against women. Moreover, through the evolution of International Relations as an academic pursuit, various limitations of the type of approach followed by Bull are coming to light. Against this background, eighteen contributors to this collection, with diverse intellectual orientations and academic specializations, have revisited Bull’s book forty years on to assess its limitations and resilience. A number of contributors point to certain fundamental problems stemming from Bull’s a-historical conceptual theorizing. However, several others find arguments and insights developed or hidden in his text which are still relevant, in some cases, highly so, to understanding contemporary world politics while others explore ways of augmenting Bull’s intellectual repertoire. An intricate tapestry of ideas emerges from the crisscrossing contributions to the volume and, through this, it becomes clear that there is more to The Anarchical Society than the ‘international society’ perspective with which it is conventionally associated. The contemporary relevance of Bull’s work is clearest when we recognize the flexibility of his conceptual framework and, in particular, the often overlooked potential of his concept of the ‘world political system’ of which, Bull acknowledges, modern international society is only a part.

Item Type:Book
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:68446
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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