Blaney & Inayatullah  2000
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Blaney & Inayatullah 2000

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in the direction of a “purifying
hatred.” Locating difference beyond the boundaries of “self” impedes our capac-
ity to fully acknowledge and affirm the “other” that always lies within, or to
appreciate and claim the “self” that exists as part of the “other” beyond those
boundaries. The implication is clear: unless we can respond creatively to this
exclusivity of “self” and “other,” by exposing and cultivating the points of
connection and the spaces of overlap (while still respecting the divergences and
incompatibilities), we cannot find our way towards an understanding where
equality and difference coexist. In other words, we are still largely hostage to
the kinds of impulses towards difference that marked the wake of the Thirty
Years’ War. We remain bound to a narrow understanding of difference as dis-
order, perpetuating the “wound” of difference by failing altogether to appreci-
ate the opportunities and resources accompanying an engagement with the

As already asserted, a crucial aspect of the Westphalian impulse—both in
theory and practice—is the persistence of “splitting.” As Jessica Benjamin
(1988:63) explains, the process of “splitting” represents two sides “as opposite
and distinct tendencies,” available only “as alternatives”—“a polarization in
which opposites . . . can no longer be integrated; in which one side is devalued,
the other idealized, and each is projected onto different objects.” We can see

The Westphalian Deferral 45

this process at work in the very constitution of the subject matter of inter-
national relations (IR). Martin Wight’s “Why is there no International Theory?”
is paradigmatic in its counterpoising of political theory and IR: political theory—
the domain of the “theory of the good life” possible in a state—is contrasted
with the moral and political impoverishment of IR theory. Where IR is distin-
guished as a “realm of recurrence and repetition” or a “precontractual state of
nature,” there can be no properly international political theory (Wight 1966:17,
20–22, 26, 30–33). It is important to be clear that this is not a simple distinction
between disparate elements, but an act of splitting that is mutually constitutive
of both the state/political theory and a society of states/IR theory. As Rob
Walker (1993: chapter 2) elaborates, IR theory’s account of the political and
ethical limits and possibilities of modern life turns on this demarcation of “inside/
outside”: politics and the pursuit of the good life are possible only within sov-
ereign states; the condition of sovereign political community is, however, the
ethically limited and tragic interactions of these separate states.

The splitting of “inside/outside” is not only constitutive of the field, but
also a precondition of the “solution” to the problem of difference associated
with a society of states. This is clear in various accounts of the logic of inter-
national society. We limit ourselves to the writings of Hedley Bull and Michael
Walzer,13 a choice dictated in part by the fact that they provide especially richly
developed versions of the Westphalian deferral. Also, the very richness of their
accounts suggests possibilities that point us beyond the logic of “inside/
outside” and the Westphalian deferral.

Hedley Bull, more than any other thinker, is associated with the idea of
“international society.” 14 By this term, Bull means to focus our attention on the
common rules, values, and institutions that both “govern” action within the
society of states and shape the self-understandings of states as members of that
society (Bull 1977:13–14, 24–26; Watson 1987:147). Though Bull uses the
idea of international society, quite helpfully, as a counterpoint to a realist notion
of lawless anarchy, he holds strongly to a distinction between the domestic and
the international, inside and outside. He (1977:49–51) stresses the difference
between the logic of domestic society, with its dependence on government, and
“the fact that states form a society without government.” This opposition is
crucial because the presence of government allows the individual state to act as
the “custodian” of the “common good” of a certain segment of humankind in a
way that Bull believes is necessarily forbidden to international society. The
society of states, by contrast, is a “compact of coexistence,” a necessarily thin-

13 Hans Morgenthau, Terry Nardin, and Kenneth Waltz also come immediately to
mind as candidates for examination.

14 For an overview of Bull’s importance, see Tim Dunne (1998).

46 Blaney and Inayatullah

ner set of common values and institutions that affirms the primacy of the indi-
vidual political community. The relatively thin character of international society
must be defended against intrusions that blur the distinction between the opposed
logics of the divergent realms. Appeals to more encompassing conceptions of
the common good or some idea of cosmopolitan justice are treated thereby as a
kind of category mistake, as inconsistent with the logic of the existing basis of
international coexistence. That is, inappropriately making claims depending on
thicker global purposes and a wider world society potentially threaten the respect
for difference embodied in the right and capacity of each political community
to pursue its own ways of life and its own forms of governance (Bull 1966;
Bull 1977: chapter 4; Bull 1979; Dunne 1995:126–7; Dunne 1998:10–11, 100–
102, 146).

At points Bull does appear to open a space for a thickening of international
values and purposes. His defense of the very possibility of common values and
purposes (1977:94) suggests that some thickening could occur “through pro-
cesses of consent or consensus.” Though resort to such processes can never be
fully ruled out, and since failures to address questions of justice may threaten
disorder in international society itself, Bull weighs in, until the end of his life
and despite the objections of some of his followers, on the side of the view that
an order based on mutual accommodation makes resort to such ethical thick-
ening very risky and appropriately rare (Bull 1984a:13).15

What needs to be stressed is that this effort to police the “inside/outside”
distinction in the name of difference also works to normalize difference as
“international,” as between and among states. The relative homogeneity of the
national political community is taken for granted and the “other” is thereby
located decisively beyond the boundaries of the state and encompassed within
the boundaries of other political communities. With difference normalized and
contained in this way, we then can think of international society as legitimated
by its unique capacity to provide (in theory at least) an order of relative toler-
ation. As Bull (1977, especially chapter 4) notes, states maintain a commitment
to the institutions supporting that order—the principle of sovereignty, the bal-
ance of power, international law, diplomacy, war, and the preponderance of the
great powers—precisely because these practices (on the whole) preserve the
kind of mutual accommodation distinctive of an international society. In all of
this, Bull clearly implies what Leo Gross (1968:49, 52) asserts more forcefully:
that the preservation of the respect for (international) difference requires that
rules be neutral, and thereby acceptable to all states, regardless of religious

15 Various of Bull’s followers have taken issue with his stance. See the preface to
Vincent (1986), Jackson (1990, especially chapter 5), and Buzan (1991:150–153,

The Westphalian Deferral 47

view or form of government. In Bull’s international society, states are, then,
simultaneously the legitimate “containers” of difference and the sole source of
the legitimation of the practices that work to police the boundaries containing

This might be thought an ungenerous and one-sided reading of Bull. It is
true that, in important sections of his later work, he can be read as character-
izing the problem