chapter  9
15 Pages

The problem of harm in world politics: Implications for the sociology of states-systems

In the 1960s Martin Wight and his colleagues on the British Committee on the Theory of International Politics wrote several papers on the great states-systems including the Ancient Greek and Chinese systems, medieval international society and the modern international order. A book on the sociology of states-systems was anticipated – a successor to Butterfield and Wight’s Diplomatic Investigations – but the project was not completed (see Dunne 1998: 124ff.).2 It would have been the first volume of its kind in international relations and its impact on the discipline would have been immense in a period in which several major works on historical sociology were published by leading sociologists (Skocpol 1979; Giddens 1985; Mann 1986, 1993; Tilly 1992). In more recent times, students of international relations have called for large-scale historical-sociological accounts of world politics, and several works have demonstrated what the field can contribute to the broader project of historical sociology (Hobden 1998; Buzan and Little 2000; Reus-Smit 1999; Hobden and Hobson 2002). As a result, the ‘sociology of states-systems’ now occupies a more central place in the study of international relations than ever before.