21 Sep 2022


The Anarchical Society: A Critique of Order in World Politics

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Main Argument 

Bull Hedley in his book ‘The Anarchical Society’ has focused on nations relates and influences each other as well as the sovereignty of each nation in governing its citizens and its borders. In his attempt to illustrate the world order, Hedley focuses on one word that can be used to define and evaluate the world politics which is order. Order have numerous meaning ranging from general to social meaning of order which revolves the patterns of behavior that define people in a given state or region. Additionally, Hedley defines international order as patterns of activities that meet the basic goals of the society of states; in this case, the term is defined by the international relations of states in regards to each state's government and sovereignty as well as power over its population (Bull, 2002). On the other hand, international system or systems of states involve two or more states that have a constant contact with each other and are independent of each other as each nation's decision influence the other systems of countries. In this case, the order is viewed as the common grounds that enable different states to share common goals and depended on each other's decisions without directly interfering with the nation's sovereignty powers. In an attempt to maintain order, the system societies have to abide by the traditional rules and the institutions of the state systems. Additionally, the international society has been viewed as one of the elements in the world politics which in turn defines other world elements such as war and conflict among states (Bull, 2002). 

World order is relatively broad as opposed to the general view of world order which revolves around the international law which dictates the societies dominated by human beings. In this case, the state's systems have to be continuously evaluated to ensure that they meet the goals of the world order failure to which the states can result in conflicts or war (Bull, 2002). Additionally, the book also demonstrates that the goals of global order conflict with the nature of state's sovereignty which in turn hinders world justice for the developing nations. Therefore, in an attempt to meet the world order, there should be equality efforts invested in meeting the world justice goals. 

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Important Points 

The anarchical society book has focused on three main ideas. Firstly, Hedley has evaluated the term order about the world politics. In this case, the order is one of the international states elements that dictates how states relate to each other as well as how the states work together to achieve the world order goals (Bull, 2002). The first goal of world order involves preservation of the system of states. In this goal, the states in the international system are united and believe that they are the major actors in shaping the world politics, and also the states are obliged to secure the rights and duties of the world politics. In this case, the independence and sovereignty of each state are respected by other states of society. Secondly, is the goal of promoting peace whereby each system of the state have to work with other states in promoting the world peace (Bull, 2002). 

Additionally, Hedley has also focused on how world order is maintained based on the sovereignty of each state. In this case, Hedley indicates how the world order matches the needs and rights of each nation in the international system. For example, the fact that the sovereignty and independence of each nation are considering in the world order is a key factor to consider while evaluating the world order, and the sovereignty of its states. Additionally, the world order takes into consideration the different orders in each state in an attempt to promote coherent co-existence (Bull, 2002). 

Lastly, the book has also focused on the role of the state's sovereignty power in shaping the world order. In this case, the book analyses how the nation's sovereignty power interacts with the world order and how they shape each other (Bull, 2002). Additionally, the role of humankind is also paramount in shaping the world order as they are the nation's composition which in turn shapes the day to day operations of a state. Therefore, world order is viewed as an order that considers all mankind of which the order is treated as the primary value as opposed to a system of states (Bull, 2002). 

Ordering Principle of International Relation 

Hedley focuses on some factors such as the balance of power, international policies, diplomacy, war and conflicts as well as the role of the superpowers in international relations. The balance of power involves the political and economic dominance of the developed world, and the book emphasis on the importance of differentiating the local and general powers as well as the dominate and subordinate power balance (Bull, 2002). Power balance plays a significant role in maintaining the systems of states to ensure that each state's sovereignty is respected. Secondly, the international laws are based on the changing Western Christendom laws and systems and laws, whereby each state in the system of state abides by the laws either partly or fully but have to abide by the laws (Bull, 2002). Thirdly, is diplomacy in the international relation which Hedley disagrees with the current international relation diplomatic laws which allow the open covenants which in turn hinders confidential negotiations. Fourthly is the war and international order, in this aspect, Hedley indicates that states engage in war at the expense of peace, additionally, he indicates that initial war was viewed as a strategy to reduce violence, but instead, it destructed the system of states peace (2002). Lastly, is the role of great powers in the international relations whereby, he focuses on states that enjoy political, social, cultural, economic as well as military power and how they influence the world order. In this case, a nation such as USSR have managed to maintain territorial disputes due to its hegemony (Bull, 2002), in this case, a state power determines how it contributes towards the world order. 


Bull, H. (2002).    The anarchical society: A study of order in world politics . New York: Columbia Univ. Press. 

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