Faith, history and Martin Wight: the role of religion in the historical sociology of the English School of International Relations

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Abstract

Martin Wight is responsible for one of the English school's most distinctive features: the historical sociology of different international systems demonstrating the importance of world history for the study of International Relations. Because of Wight's influence, the English school was, from the beginning, concerned with the role of religion, culture and civilization in international society. This emphasis, particularly with regard to the role of religion, has been marginalized in the English school's current research programme. This is unfortunate because, despite a renewed interest in the English school, the kind of questions Wight asked about religion, culture and identity have become some of the most important in the study of IR. This article examines the role of religion in Wight's international theory, which cannot be separated from the fact that he was a devout Anglican throughout his life. There was a relationship between his personal faith and his understanding of religion's role in international relations that previous scholars have not examined. When these two aspects of Wight's faith and life are brought together, there is both a better sense of continuity between his early life as a Christian pacifist and his later years as a teacher and scholar of IR, and a better recognition of what his distinctive approach to religion brought to the study of International Relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-929
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Affairs
Volume77
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001

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abstract = "Martin Wight is responsible for one of the English school's most distinctive features: the historical sociology of different international systems demonstrating the importance of world history for the study of International Relations. Because of Wight's influence, the English school was, from the beginning, concerned with the role of religion, culture and civilization in international society. This emphasis, particularly with regard to the role of religion, has been marginalized in the English school's current research programme. This is unfortunate because, despite a renewed interest in the English school, the kind of questions Wight asked about religion, culture and identity have become some of the most important in the study of IR. This article examines the role of religion in Wight's international theory, which cannot be separated from the fact that he was a devout Anglican throughout his life. There was a relationship between his personal faith and his understanding of religion's role in international relations that previous scholars have not examined. When these two aspects of Wight's faith and life are brought together, there is both a better sense of continuity between his early life as a Christian pacifist and his later years as a teacher and scholar of IR, and a better recognition of what his distinctive approach to religion brought to the study of International Relations.",
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