Blaney & Inayatullah  2000
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Blaney & Inayatullah 2000

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for peaceful coexistence. Clifford Geertz (1986:111–112) calls
us to draw “near to other people, engaging them, seeking to grasp them in their
immediacy and difference.” We should do so partly because difference may
offer “alternatives for us,” but more because diversity has the power, when
engaged, to make it clear to us “at what sort of angle” we and others “stand to
the world.” However, we cannot be satisfied simply with the self-knowledge
made possible by engaging the “other” held at a distance. As our reading of
Bull and Walzer indicates, difference cannot be conceived as easily separated
by boundaries. Geertz (1986:120–21) himself suggests “that rather than being
sorted into framed units, social spaces with definite edges to them, seriously
disparate approaches to life are becoming scrambled together in ill-defined
expanses, social spaces whose edges are unfixed, irregular, and difficult to
locate.” The implications are profound: where “those worlds and those alien
turns of mind are mostly not elsewhere, but, alternatives for us, hard nearby, . . .
a certain readjustment in both our rhetorical habits and our sense of mission
would seem to be called for.” (Geertz 1986:119)

More precisely, this situation requires that we give up the immediate recourse
to invidious comparisons that justify “the application of force to secure confor-
mity to the values of those who possess the force,” but that we also refuse to be
drawn into a “vacuous tolerance that, engaging nothing, changes nothing” (Geertz
1986:118). Rather, we are called to engage the “other” imaginatively and to
“explore the character of the space between” us, as a prelude to living together
and separately, better and more peacefully (Geertz 1986:118–19). Designing
such arrangements for mutual coexistence may involve drawing on the varied,
localized arrangements for negotiating cultural difference as potential models
for recognizing, tolerating, and celebrating difference, as our reading of Walzer
suggests. This points towards arrangements, both locally and globally, much
different from those offered by the Westphalian splitting of “inside/outside.”
And, as above, we must avoid the temptation to eliminate difference globally
by turning too readily to a model of uniform constitutionalism implied by the
cosmopolitan political imagination. We can expect the relevance of such a solu-
tion to be limited, perhaps only in certain issue areas or across only a limited
local or regional spatial domain. We will have to look as much to heteroge-
neous arrangements, to forms of “accommodation of cultural diversity,” in James
Tully’s terms (1995:184), or “codes of co-survival,” in Ashis Nandy (Sheth and
Nandy, 1996:20).

Third, given the necessary heterogeneity of such arrangements, our very
understanding of sovereignty is stretched, perhaps to the breaking point. As

56 Blaney and Inayatullah

opposed to the hegemony of territorially demarcated jurisdictions, authority
might be distributed differently according to task (Onuf 1998:123–24, 134–
37)—sometimes territorially in the name of citizenship, sometimes by cultural/
identity group dispersed across existing jurisdictions, and sometimes globally
in the name of humanity. Any given space may be administered by multiple
actors for multiple purposes in such a way that sovereignty appears necessarily
divided and overlapping. How is this so? One implication of this heterogeneity
of forms is that we can see more clearly that territorial boundaries have always
had multiple purposes or been associated with multiple rights that have been
bundled together in the name of sovereignty. We can also see that these pur-
poses and rights can be unbundled and assigned different masters or agents in a
reformed global social and political architecture (Kratochwil 1986; Ruggie
1993).23 However, we may have made this sound too easy, implying that each
task or purpose can be neatly demarcated from others and that an undisputed
authority can be named for each task. Our response to Walzer above suggests
that this is not always the case. World politics will revolve around precisely
such questions of boundary drawing and the sanctioning of authority. Where
agreement is possible, tasks can be performed and areas of action regulated
with only minimal controversy. Spirited debate may be required by those involved
where there is disagreement about how tasks break down or what kinds of rules
are appropriate in an issue area. Where compromise on a standard response is
impossible, we may have to accept that different groups (divided by culture,
class, gender, religion) will behave differently and work to negotiate the uncer-
tain or even overlapping jurisdictions this creates. We might say that it is never
certain who is to be involved in making a “common” decision or how authority
might need to be divided in order to respect difference. Such decisions are the
stuff of politics in a world facing, rather than deferring, the problem of difference.


Asch, Ronald G. (1997) The Thirty Years’ War: The Holy Roman Empire and
Europe, 1618–1648. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

23 Another issue that arises concerns the decision about which groups are to be
involved and, perhaps more troubling, the possibility that group identities will be fro-
zen in this process of drawing jurisdictions and assigning authority. William Connolly
(1995: Introduction) suggests that, though every political settlement inevitably sedi-
ments group identities, it also spurs the assertion of alternative identities and demands
for new settlements. Since political settlements are inescapable, he recommends the
cultivation of an “ethos” of responsiveness to these assertions of new identities. Arend
Lijphart (1995) is similarly sensitive to this issue in relation to consociational settle-
ments that may ossify given national or ethnic identities.

The Westphalian Deferral 57

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