State of Trying

Using the ideas of Thomas Hobbes as a reference point, Hedley Bull in his article “Society and Anarchy in International Relations” tries to explain how individual states work together in an international community/society. The feeling I got from the reading was that you can essentially treat each state as an individual within the community, being the international community. We are in a “sate of nature” because there is no government/organization that sets out laws, norms, morals to protect our natural rights and freedoms. Each state-“individual” must defend their life, liberty, and property in any way they see fit in order to survive.

If we were to look more closely at the principles of Thomas Moore, man is moved by passions and people are cunning and crafting. To put in the context of the reading that states can be the so-called individual then states are moved by passions and are cunning. They have a fear of being dominated and a desire to dominate and thus deceive other states and don’t trust the political words of others. There would constantly be fighting and war and life would be indeed be “nasty, poor, solitary, brutish, short.”

I see that nations are trying to come together in this so-called international state of nature. There are international institutions like the EU, UN, ICC, alliance of South Asian states. But I will note these countries come together because they have shared sense of regional community or values. The sate of nature which develops into a sate of war is not as present because the nations understand that war will not solve their issues, and only damage themselves in the process. (That was the point of the EU to prevent war between France and Germany, and hasn’t that been successful? There has been no continental war since WWII.)

But even within these “social contracts” like the EU, there are state of nature issues. While the states have a general norms background, they have different interests. Sometimes these interests get in the way of the rules of law and morality set out by the laws of the EU. The nation doesn’t want to comply because it doesn’t want to give up its sovereignty to the international society. Take the ICC. They are having problems arresting/detaining those involved in the situation in the DRC because certain member states and non-members don’t turn in the suspects because they have personal interests with the suspect’s political party or country.


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