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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

World Politics: Progress and its Limits
James Mayall

Oxford: Polity Press, 2000
184pp. Index. Pb.: £11.99; ISBN 0-7456-2590-8.

How will an "international society", which can contribute to the prevention or peaceful resolution of ethnic conflict, be constructed? This book, which consists of four parts (11 chapters), explores the meaning of the new millennium from the viewpoint of international relations and, in particular, perspectives on the construction of a useful international society.

In the first part, the author considers the meaning and history of "international society", a key concept for the "English school" on international relations such as Martin Wight or Hedley Bull. He highlights conceptions of "pluralism" and "solidarism" of international society and insists on a necessity of their harmonisation; but it is shown that we have been faced with its limit.

The next parts discuss three important global issues, sovereignty, democracy and international intervention, where ethnic conflict and nationalism are treated as one of the major problématiques. We can understand that the domination of Western standards on the international stage has made it more difficult to reform international society (ex. the Gulf War).

How should we then analyse present and future international relations? There are three grand approaches in this academic field: the realist, liberal rationalist and revolutionary. All of them are plausible according to Professor Mayall. In the short run, in order to deal with such an uncertain future, it is indispensable to pay more attention to what is real in the world, avoiding a necessarily optimistic or pessimistic point of view. And governments must continue to struggle to reform international society while never evading the responsibility for each of their actions.

This book lacks detailed analysis of ethnic conflicts themselves, but it will be able to offer some hints on how to best approach such conflicts from a global point of view.

SAKAI Kazunari
Faculty of Cross-Cultural Studies

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