International Institutions

International Institutions

International Institutions

International Institutions


The purpose of this Introduction is to define the social relations characteristic of an international society and to describe some of them. International relations today are primarily relations between States. Most of this book deals with the contemporary society of States. But there are other international societies, and there have been other societies of States.

Some degree of abstraction is necessary in the first instance in order to distinguish common features independent of particular historical circumstances; only then will the historical account in the next section be seen in its proper perspective.

To do so, however, three fundamental sociological ideas must be discussed: the notion of social relations, society, and the group; they overlap each other.

Social relations is a term used to describe the basic element of all social life; it involves contact between two people (or two groups) and can take different forms: trade, conflict, influence. Even competition and conflict are social relations: 'every conflict is a form of imitation' (Dupréel, op. cit., p. 151).

A society is made up of a collection of individuals (or groups) bound together by continual relations so important as to give rise to common interests whose satisfaction involves a mutual adjustment of behaviour.

A group is an organised society in which the furtherance of common interests is ensured by a differentiation of functions and powers to the benefit of certain members of the group.

An explorer of the eighteenth century trading glass beads with savages had trade relations; the families of part of the English or French bourgeoisies of the nineteenth century constituted a society -- 'good society' -- with its customs and habits, although it remained unorganised. A clan, a tribe, a sports club, are groups . . .

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