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Anarchy, self-Interest and rationality: Assessing the impact of the international system on modern English School theory Open Access


Other title
Rational Choice theory
Foreign policy analysis
English School theory
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Murray, Robert W
Supervisor and department
Knight, W. Andy (Political Science)
Keating, Tom (Political Science)
Examining committee member and department
Harrington, Joanna (Law)
Anderson, Greg (Political Science)
Nossal, Kim Richard (Political Studies, Queen's University)
Department of Political Science

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Since its reorganization in the early 1990s, the English School of international relations has emerged as a popular theoretical lens through which to examine global events. Those that use the international society approach promote it as a middle-way of theorizing due to its supposed ability to incorporate features from both systemic and domestic perspectives. A noticeable trend in the School since the end of the Cold War has been its interest with domestic and critical theory concerns, often focusing on individual, discursive or emancipatory issues. As a result, the English School has been able to accommodate the growing trends in international theory more generally, with the decline of problem-solving theory and the rise of critical projects. While the School and its practitioners may, for the most part, see value in discussing how domestic or critical variables impact the society of states, such examinations tend to neglect or overlook the systemic level of analysis. This project takes exception to the decline of the English School’s problem-solving foundations and argues that the School must place more emphasis on the systemic level of analysis if it hopes to be relevant in international theory debates. To this end, the criticisms of American scholars regarding the School’s lack of methodological rigour and explanatory power are addressed by demonstrating the added value to the international society approach if the constraints of the international system are included in theoretical explanations. In order to demonstrate how the systemic level alters English School analyses, two areas of popular examination within the School are explored, namely the role of international institutions and the debate over humanitarian intervention. Ultimately, the contention of this work is that English School scholars can greatly benefit from including systems-level thinking because of what it adds to the School’s explanatory power and also its ability to provide methodological rigour. In doing so, it is more likely the English School can penetrate the mainstream of international theory in the future.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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