The State’s Positive Role in World Affairs (1979)

  • Kai Alderson
  • Andrew Hurrell


This is one of Bull’s most powerful essays. It belongs to a collection of papers and lectures which work around the core themes of The Anarchical Society; but, in contrast to the book, Bull provides in this essay a far more committed defence of the central role of states in the promotion of international order. It seeks to rebut a broad range of arguments suggesting that the state is in decline; to suggest that challengers and competitors are nothing new; and to argue that states have not been passive or reactive but, on the contrary, have expanded both geographically and functionally. As in all his work, he sees in the state system ‘an imperfect and rudimentary form of order that holds anarchy at bay’. He accepts that the ‘framework of mere coexistence, of what is sometimes called “minimum world order”, inherited from the European state-system, is no longer by itself adequate’; but nevertheless argues that the state and cooperative institutions built by, and around, states provide the most viable basis for meeting these expanded goals and for negotiating a modus vivendi between conflicting values systems and conflicting conceptions of what world order ought to embody.


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  1. 1.
    See, for example, Miriam Camps, ‘First World Relationships’: The Role of the OECD (Paris: Atlantic Institute for International Affairs; New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1975)Google Scholar
  2. Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane, Transnational Relations and World Politics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972).Google Scholar
  3. Also Richard A. Falk, This Endangered Planet (New York: Random House, 1971), and A Study of Future Worlds (New York: Free Press, 1975).Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    See, for example, Richard W. Mansbach, Yale H. Ferguson and Donald E. Lamport, The Web of World Politics: Non-State Actors in the Global System (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Michael Oakeshott, On Human Conduct (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: An Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 1977).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Michael Reisman, ‘Private Armies in a Global War System’, in John Norton Moore (ed.), Law and Civil War in the Modern World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), p. 257.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Alderson
  • Andrew Hurrell

There are no affiliations available

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