Blaney & Inayatullah  2000
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Blaney & Inayatullah 2000

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much differently and more usefully, given our concerns. In
these writings, Bull (1984b; Bull and Watson 1984) focuses our attention on the
challenges faced by a culturally diverse international society, but to somewhat
ambiguous effect. On the one hand, Bull’s argument might support the line of
thinking outlined above. The evolution of international society is the story of
increasing inclusiveness, the gradual definition and realization of an order capa-
ble of containing the diversity of political communities on the globe. That is,
what began as a European society of states came over time to encompass (through
both imposition and accession) the entire world, finally achieving the status of
a global international society in the twentieth century with the completion of
the process of decolonization (Bull, 1977: chapter 2; Bull and Watson, 1984).
Even the various forms of resistance by non-Western states may be read as an
effort to adapt European-inspired arrangements in a more egalitarian and neu-
tral direction as appropriate to a genuinely tolerant international society (Bull,
1984b). And so we might say that Bull’s story allows us to hold onto the idea of
international society as a uniquely pluralistic society of states, designed and
legitimated by its capacity to accommodate numerous, distinctive, and separate
political communities within its bounds. Difference remains contained and the
need to face the problem of difference deferred.

On the other hand, Bull seems to be drawn to the idea that the cultural
diversity of states and regions provides a substantial challenge to the very idea
of international society. He concludes that “the cultural heterogeneity of the
global international society of today is evidently a factor making against con-
sensus about its underlying rules and institutions” (Bull and Watson, 1984:
432).16 We now receive the hint that it is by no means certain that the common-
alities of values and institutions definitive of a tolerant international society can
be sustained where competing cultural visions pull the peoples and states of the
world in different directions. Here, cultural diversity appears more difficult to
contain within the confines of an international society; it spills beyond its grasp,
exposing international society as a parochial arrangement, associated with a
narrow band of (mostly European) states; and it reveals that alternative and
incompatible projects of organizing global social and political space emanate

16 This conclusion is influenced by several of the essays in the collection (e.g.,
Bozeman, 1984; Dore, 1984).

48 Blaney and Inayatullah

from other states and regions. In a quite dramatic reversal of reasoning (an
interpretation that Bull might well have resisted), cultural diversity is no longer
contained. Rather, cultural and ethical difference appears as the central problem
of international politics. We want to read Bull, then, as recognizing the legiti-
mate concerns of the non-European countries and peoples, treating inter-
national society (as well as states and peoples themselves) as unfinished projects,
subject to the results of an ongoing negotiation of the problem of difference.17

Like Bull, Michael Walzer is relatively reflective about the problem of dif-
ference. But instead of exploring the possibilities of difference as a resource for
political and ethical life, his reflex is to deploy the Westphalian deferral in a
rather radical and encompassing way. Nevertheless, in the end, Walzer’s explicit
policing of the “inside/outside” boundary continually points to its vitiation in
theory and practice and beyond the deferral of the problem of difference.

It is not too far wrong to suggest that Walzer, like Bull, sees international
society as a distinct cultural system. Walzer (1997:12–13) himself classifies
international society as one of the several “models of a tolerant society,” as one
of the “regimes” or sets of “social arrangements through which we incorporate
difference, coexist with it, allow it a share of social space.” In contrast with
“multinational empires,” as discussed in the introduction, international society
ideally achieves a form of toleration among equals18—among a society of sov-
ereign states. As Walzer (1997:19–20) describes this regime:

Sovereignty guarantees that no one on that side of the border can interfere
with what is done on this side. The people over there may be resigned, indif-
ferent, stoical, curious, or enthusiastic with regard to practices over here, and
so may be disinclined to interfere. Or perhaps, they accept the reciprocal logic
of sovereignty: we won’t worry about your practices if you don’t worry about
ours. Live and let live is a relatively easy maxim when the living is done on
opposite sides of a clearly marked line. Or they may be actively hostile, eager
to denounce their neighbor’s culture and customs, but unprepared to pay the
costs of interference.

Though sovereignty has its limits—barbarism is unacceptable—it secures sub-
stantial tolerance precisely because it is such a “weak regime.” A stronger regime
places heavier demands on its members, justifying greater intervention in their
“internal” affairs (Walzer 1997:19, 21–22).

17 See the last pages of Bull and Watson (1984) for hints of such a proposal.
18 Walzer’s argument turns mostly on a claim about the formal equality of actors,

though he is sensitive to the impact of socioeconomic inequality in his work in general.
The issue of material inequality among states in international society is central to
earlier work (Inayatullah and Blaney 1995; Blaney and Inayatullah 1996), but mostly
bracketed here so as to isolate the issue of difference.

The Westphalian Deferral 49

Already we get an indication of the way Walzer’s understanding (1994:ix,
xi) of international society as a “weak” or “thin” regime capable of toleration
informs his version of the splitting of “inside/outside.” He elaborates this point
elsewhere when he draws a clear distinction between two kinds of “moral argu-
ment.” At “home”—in the national political community—we speak in terms
that are “thick,” by which Walzer means “richly referential, culturally resonant,
locked into a locally established symbolic system and network of meanings.” In
discussions across cultures—that is, across political communities—we talk “about
the thinner life we have in common.” As in Bull’s account, Walzer (1994: chap-
ter 4) means that international ethical discourse is circumscribed necessarily as
a thin morality, grounded in the principle of self-determination. International
society therefore is able to protect the integrity of the “thick” ethical discourse
of domestic societies by recognizing “the rights of contemporary men and women
to live as members of a historic community and to express their inherited cul-
ture through political forms worked out among themselves” (Walzer 1980:210).
The move is familiar: difference is circumscribed “inside” the boundaries of
political communities so that the relations among political communities “out-
side” may be mutually accommodating.

To sustain international society as a “regime of toleration,” this boundary
must be policed. On the one side, this means a constant battle to expose the
pretensions of a globalist ethics. Because the idea of a global society is chi-
merical, the national political community dominates our “bonds of commonal-
ity” and is a good in itself (Walzer 1983:29–30). Thus, we are justified in
resisting the kind of category mistake that occurs when we speak of humanity
or the globe. Walzer (1988:232) suggests we “fight against the propensity of
[critics] to think that when they look in the mirror they see the entire world”—a
propensity that provides an alibi for imposing such imagined commonalities on
others. Walzer’s warning is very timely, but we wonder if the choice he poses—
either the nation-state or the globe—adequately describes our alternatives. Even
Bull doubts that the choice is this simple. We will return to