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This chapter explains why it is worth studying the thinking and practice of international relations and world order in three pre-modern civilizations. It argues that the end of the era of Western dominance is now happening, and these three cultures are becoming more powerful and influential in IR as the West declines. It is therefore important to know what they will bring to the table. IR grew up in the period of Western dominance but now needs to become more global in its sources.
This chapter reviews the three case studies in terms of six areas of comparison: power politics, hierarchy, peaceful coexistence, international political economy, territoriality/transnationalism, and modes of thinking. It observes a spectrum with China and hierarchy at one end, Europe and anarchy at the other, and India and the Islamic world in between. It notes how the thinking and practice of the past are as relevant in the three case studies as they are in Europe and charts out the similarities and differences among the cases, how they compare with Western IR, and how this provides the foundations for a more pluralist, global discipline of International Relations.
This chapter looks at the thinking and practice of international relations and world order in pre-Muslim India. It opens by setting India’s geopolitical context. In terms of thinking it covers Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Ashoka’s Dharma, and the ontology and epistemology of India’s epic literature. In terms of practice, it covers the Mahajanapadas and the peaceful spread of Indian culture.
This chapter looks at the thinking and practice of international relations and world order in the Islamic world. It opens by setting Islam's complex geopolitical context. In terms of thinking it covers the umma, the realms of al-Harb, al-Islam, and al-Ahd, jihad, the work of Ibn Khaldun, and Ijtihad. In terms of practice it covers the relationship between the umma and the Islamic state, the division of Islam into rival empires, and the rivalry between Sunnis and Shias within Islam. A key theme is the contradictions between thinking and practice.
This chapter addresses five difficulties in our approach: how to handle the close link between the discipline of IR that we now have and the period of Western world dominance; does culture matter in international relations or is it all materialism?; how ‘Western’ is modern IR?; Can ancient and modern concepts and practices be equated?; Empires versus states, and how to differentiate inside and outside.
This chapter looks at the thinking and practice of international relations and world order in China. It opens by setting China’s geopolitical context. In terms of thinking it covers Tianxia, the Mandate of Heaven, hierarchy, face, zhongyong dialectics, yin-yang, collectivism, and relationalism. In terms of practice it covers the warring states and the tribute system. It argues that China was the most different of the three cases in terms of international relations.
Buzan and Acharya challenge the discipline of International Relations to reimagine itself in the light of the thinking about, and practice of, international relations and world order from premodern India, China and the Islamic world. This prequel to their 2019 book, The Making of Global International Relations, takes the story back from the two-century tale of modern IR, to reveal the deep global history of the discipline. It shows the multiple origins and meanings of many concepts thought of as only modern and Western. It opens pathways for the rest of the world into this most Eurocentric of disciplines, encouraging them to bring their own histories, concepts and theories with them. The authors have written this book with the hope of inspiring others to extend these pathways by bringing in a wider array of cultures, and exploring how they thought about and acted in worlds composed of multiple, independent, collective actors.
This article examines the complex dialogical relationship between China and the global reach of human rights. It charts the transformation of China from a human rights exception and a human rights pariah state to an active participant in, and shaper of, global human rights governance. It looks at such transformation as dynamic social and political processes full of contradictions and the negotiated outcome of China's communicative engagement with “moral globalization” in a world morally divided on the meaning of human rights. It contends that the global reach of human rights understood as advancing rather than perfecting global justice will always remain contentious, as it is contingent on the possibility of open public reasoning across cultures and national boundaries in a global moral conversation. It also argues that China has resourcefully used the idiom of human rights for two specific purposes. One is to justify and rationalize its “developmental relativism” as an excuse for practices that condone continued political repression in China; the other is to internalize politics of contestation within the institutions of global human rights governance by shifting the centre of gravity of both the normative debate and the practical application of human rights.
This chapter reviews the revolutions of modernity that flowered during the nineteenth century, redefining the material and ideational landscapes of humankind, and setting up the modern international system in which we still live. It takes a particular look at Japan as both a harbinger of the rise of the rest, and as a refutation of the idea that the first round of modernity was exclusively Western. It concludes by looking at the causes and consequences of the First World War.
The key theme of this chapter is the first wave of institutionalisation of IR in the wake of the trauma to the European core. IR emerged tenuously in the core countries as a distinct academic discipline and policy science, with particular strengths in the US and Britain. Its main focus was on the immediate policy crisis confronting the core after the First World War: understanding its causes in order to prevent a second, giving particular attention to the role of armaments, diplomacy and the potential of the new League of Nations. Concern with the periphery stayed firmly in the background. A few institutions, university chairs and departments were dedicated to teaching and researching IR, and there was an annual academic International Studies Conference linked to the League of Nations that tried to define the scope and content of the discipline. There was also more thinking about ir in the periphery, though this remained largely marginal to Western IR.
The key theme of this chapter is the emergence before 1914 of the modern concept of ‘the international’, and international relations, as something that needed to be studied. During these decades, most of the current approaches to IR took shape, but not in an integrated way. Nevertheless, this period can be seen as laying the foundations for modern IR, predominantly, but not only, in the West. The first conscious moves towards making IR a discipline happened during and after the First World War. Throughout this period there was a strong sense of separation between international relations and international society on the one hand, seen as being about relations among the ‘civilised states’, and on the other hand, colonial relations, which were not viewed as ‘international’ though they were very concerned with differences of culture, race and development. There were also significant lines of IR thinking emerging in the periphery, mostly with an anti-colonial inspiration. We conclude that IR’s founding myth of 1919 is not wholly wrong, but it is also quite far from being an accurate account, distorting as much as it enlightens.