Schweller  2001
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Schweller 2001

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Arms Control, and Balance of
Power in the American States-Union,\u201d International Organization, Vol. 49, No. 2 (Spring 1995),
pp. 191\u2013228; and Daniel Deudney, \u201cBinding Sovereigns: Authorities, Structures, and Geopolitics in
Philadelphia Systems,\u201d in Thomas J. Biersteker and Cynthia Weber, eds., State Sovereignty as Social
Construct (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 213\u2013216.
14. Although Ikenberry does not make this point, what distinguishes constitutional systems from
the alternatives is not the property of systemic binding but rather the institutionalized and purpos-
type of institutional bargain between weak and strong states. In one of its own
documents, entitled \u201cTen Beneªts of the WTO Trading System,\u201d the WTO as-
serts that a \u201csystem based on rules rather than power makes life easier for
all. . . . The WTO cannot claim to make all countries equal. But it does reduce
some inequalities, giving smaller countries more voice, and at the same time
freeing major powers from the complexity of having to negotiate trade agree-
ments with each of their numerous trading partners.\u201d15
Conceptual Problems of Order
There are many kinds of orders and just as many deªnitions of the concept.
When speaking of the ordering principle of a system, we are referring to how
the constitutive parts are interrelated, that is, how the parts are arranged and
function together. Social orders vary according to the amount of order dis-
played, whether the order is purposive or unintended, and the type of mecha-
nisms that provide order. On one end of the spectrum, there is rule-governed,
purposive order, which is explicitly designed and highly institutionalized to
fulªll universally accepted social ends and values.16 At the other extreme, the
social order is an entirely unintended and uninstitutionalized recurrent pattern
to which the actors and the system itself exhibit conformity but which serves
none of the actors\u2019 goals or, at least, was not deliberately designed to do so.17
Ikenberry deªnes international political order as the \u201cgoverning\u201d arrange-
ments among a group of states: \u201cThe focus is on the explicit principles, rules,
and institutions that deªne the core relationships between the states that are
party to the order. This limits the concept of order to settled arrangements be-
tween states that deªne their relationship to each other and mutual expecta-
tions about their ongoing interaction\u201d (p. 23, emphasis added). This deªnition,
The Problem of International Order Revisited 169
ive nature of constitutional-type binding strategies. International systems of all varieties, from the
most imperially integrated to the most fragmented clusters of multiple independencies, essentially
bind together in some way discrete political entities. This is because, to be labeled a system of any
kind, the constitutive parts must be more or less interconnected so as to form a whole. History re-
cords a wide range of international systems. How these distinct patterns of relations among states
have functioned to produce order and stability has varied according to the unique set (or lack
thereof) of institutions, assumptions, and codes of conduct by which the groups of political entities
have attempted to regulate the systems that have bound them together. See Adam Watson, The
Evolution of International Society: A Comparative Historical Analysis (New York: Routledge, 1992).
15. The WTO web page is available at I am grateful to John Ikenberry for
pointing this out.
16. This is Hedley Bull\u2019s deªnition of social order in Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in
World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), chap. 1.
17. This is Kenneth Waltz\u2019s deªnition of the ordering principle of international systems in Waltz,
Theory of International Politics.
however, privileges constitutional orders over the alternatives. Speciªcally, the
required elements of \u201cexplicit\u201d rules of the game and \u201csettled arrangements\u201d
are fundamental to constitutional orders but not to the alternatives.18 The most
common version of balance of power, for instance, does not require explicit
agreement on principles, rules, and institutions. Instead, order in the form of
recurrent formations of balances of power among the great powers emerges as
an unintended consequence of the coaction of states seeking predominant, not
balanced, power. Yet this type of order, according to Ikenberry\u2019s deªnition, is
not order at all but rather disorder. This becomes clear in a later passage: \u201cAn
essential element of political order in this view is that the participants within
the order must have some acknowledgement or awareness of the order\u2014its
participants, rules, and mode of operation; it is not enough to identify pat-
terned behavior or interconnections between actors\u201d (p. 45).
More generally, the logic used in the above passage is antisystemic or what
is commonly referred to as reductionist: It infers the properties of the system
by looking only at the characteristics of the units and their relations with one
another. Ikenberry is essentially arguing that political order emerges only
when the actors (individuals, states, etc.) within the system consciously seek
order. By deducing the properties of the system directly from the actors\u2019 inten-
tions and behaviors, Ikenberry commits what economists call \u201cthe fallacy of
International Security 26:1 170
18. In his comments on an earlier draft of this essay, John Ikenberry strongly disagrees with me
on this point. He claims, instead, that settled arrangements can include all three types of order:
balance of power, hegemonic, and constitutional. He agrees that his deªnition rules out for pur-
poses of analysis those \u201corders\u201d that are unintended and spontaneously generated, which would
include the automatic type of balance-of-power system. But it does not rule out balance-of-power
orders that are recognized as such by the actors themselves. (Inis L. Claude refers to this type of
system as a manually operated balance of power. See Claude, Power and International Relations
[New York: Random House, 1962], pp. 48\u201350.) The settlements of 1648, 1713, and 1815, Ikenberry
claims, were all settled orders in the sense that he is talking about, and none of them was a consti-
tutional order. In response, I would point out that the idea of a manually operated balance-of-
power system\u2014one that is managed by the great powers according to shared rules, principles, and
norms for the purpose of maintaining system equilibrium\u2014is a ªction that has arisen from a mis-
nomer; such an order, if one ever existed, is actually a \u201cconcert\u201d system, which some historians be-
lieve emerged after 1815. For the theoretical details that distinguish these two systems, see Robert
Jervis, \u201cFrom Balance to Concert: A Study of International Security Cooperation,\u201d in Kenneth A.
Oye, ed., Cooperation under Anarchy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 58\u201379.
Moreover, if settled arrangements are necessary for international order, it is hard to see how hege-
monic systems, as Ikenberry conceives of them, can produce order. Hegemonic systems, according
to Ikenberry, are characterized by the domination and sometimes even subjugation of secondary
and weak states by the hegemon. In my view, such a system is more accurately called an imperial
order or malign hegemony as opposed to benign hegemony, which, in many respects, is akin to
what Ikenberry refers to as a constitutional order. If hegemonic \u201corder,\u201d as Ikenberry deªnes this
type of system, emerges from a settled arrangement, it must be a very one-sided bargain to say the
composition,\u201d equating the whole with the sum of its parts.19 Complex sys-
tems, however, tend to exhibit what are known as \u201cemergent properties.\u201d20
Kurt Lewin explains: \u201cThe whole might be symmetric in spite of its parts being
asymmetric, a whole might be unstable in spite of its parts being stable in
themselves. . . . Properties of a social group, such as its organization,