Charles Manning's The Nature of International Society was the consummation of a lifetime's thinking about the fledgling subject of International Relations (IR). Many have found its pages impenetrable. For this reason it has become almost invisible in contemporary debates about IR theory. Yet for some it is a highly influential work, and one of rare originality and creative flair. This article seeks to restore the reputation of this neglected work. It analyses Manning's understanding of international society as a 'notional society of notional entities', one of many different layers of world social and political reality. It examines his belief, more generally, that the social world is by and large comprised of notions. It explores his commitment to the relationship between understanding and social progress. It highlights the continued importance of Manning's view of an education in IR as an education, at its best, in 'connoisseurship'. Finally it identifies Manning's chief legacy for thinking about international relations today
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