How does one live according to reason if the other, the alien, the foreigner whether remote or nearby may burst into one's world at any moment?
Raymond Aron, Peace and War
Diplomacy has been particularly resistant to theory. What knowledge we do have of the practice and principles of diplomacy is largely drawn from the works of former diplomatists like Abraham de Wicquefort's L'Ambassadeur et ses Fonctions (1681), Frangois de Callières' De la Manière de Négocier Avec les Souverains (1716), Ernest Satow's Guide to Diplomatic Practice (1917) and Harold Nicolson's Diplomacy (1939).1 Conveying a view of diplomacy as a specialized skill of negotiation, these works seek to ‘maxim-ize’ that skill for the benefit of novices entering the profession. Understandably, their histories of diplomacy tend to be sketchy and rather anecdotal, and their theories of diplomacy, when they do exist, usually consist of underdeveloped and implicit propositions. Moreover, since the authors were serving governments at the apogee of imperial power, they were not interested in looking too widely and too deeply into a past which might undermine the foundations of skilful negotiation—order, continuity, and ‘common sense’.
James Der Derian is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is a former Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford, and author of On Diplomacy: A Genealogy of Estrangement (1987).