Department of Political Science

Tonny Brems Knudsen

The Institutions of International Society

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingEncyclopedia entryResearchpeer-review

The “fundamental” or “primary” institutions of international society, among them sovereignty, diplomacy, international law, great power management, the balance of power, trade, and environmental stewardship, have been eagerly discussed and researched in the discipline of international relations (IR), at the theoretical, meta-theoretical, and empirical levels. Generations of scholars associated with not only the English School, but also liberalism and constructivism, have engaged with the “institutions of international society,” as they were originally called by Martin Wight and Hedley Bull in their attempt to develop a historically and sociologically informed theory of international relations. The fact that intense historical, theoretical, and empirical investigations have uncovered new institutional layers, dynamics, and complexities, and thus opened new challenging questions rather than settling the matter is part of its attraction. In the 1960s and 1970s, the early exponents of the English School theorized fundamental institutions as historical pillars of contemporary international society and its element of order. At the turn of the 21st century, this work was picked up by Kal Holsti and Barry Buzan, who initiated a renaissance of English School institutionalism, which specified the institutional levels of international society and discussed possibilities for institutional change. Meanwhile, liberal and constructivist scholars made important contributions on fundamental institutions in key engagements with English School theory on the subject in the late 1980s. These contributions and engagements have informed the most recent wave of (interdisciplinary) scholarship on the subject, which has theorized the room for fundamental institutional change and the role of international organizations in relation to the fundamental institutions of international society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies
EditorsNukhet Sandal
Place of publicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication yearApr 2021
ISBN (Electronic)9780190846626
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

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