Question 1: International relations mainstream theories
The contribution of post modernism to the field of international relations has been far-reaching. The major element of this approach is the criticism to Marxism. It takes various strands of thinking and among them is the constructivist which is based on the philosophy of constructivism being applied in social settings. The theory talks about what it means to say that something is socially constructed. It illustrates social beliefs and facts that seem to have some sense of reality in them. But in reality, these social beliefs would function for individuals as I they were objectively given even though they only persist by some virtue of common beliefs about them. According to Alexander learning is affected or impacted by social interactions. The elements of social relationships include language, signs, and symbols.
Neo realism is one of the international relations theoretical perspectives that are used to analyze frameworks for studying how countries relate to each other. In neo realism, the properties of international systems are structured in a way that they can be used to explain power distribution. War and peace in the world is not determined by human nature according to this theory. Avoidance of war is inevitable as long as the systems in international politics remain anarchical. This therefore means that states will continually seek to protect themselves from possible threat. And to achieve this they will venture into increasing their military and economic strength. Neo realism has a negative look at relationships between nations as it removes doubt for the inevitability of conflict. It disregards the position of international institutions in bringing peace to the world. In neo realism; there is competition for arms to protect a nation from outside threat. The other theoretical perspective is neo liberalism. This theory is focused mainly on domestic politics. A state that decides to be involved in a decision with another state or organization will analyze critical parts of the deal and see if it is beneficial to the economy of the country and equally brings mutual power to the country. This means that the states seek for absolute gain where there is a win-win situation. Neo liberalism is more positive because it encourages nations to cooperate with each other. In neo liberalism the competition is based on both power and the economy.
The concept of universality and difference helps to create an understanding of culture in the contemporary world. According to universality, a good deal of what people believe to be right is right because that is what they are used to. For instance, supporters of cultural practices such as female genital mutilation would tend to argue that the practice gives young girls the opportunity to be courageous as they transit from childhood to adulthood. They would additionally argue that sexual organs need to modify in order for them to be aesthetical. If someone from outside attempts to dispute the practice, an insider or a proponent of the practice would say that female genital mutilation is an identity of their culture. The outsider or the opponent of the cultural practice would always be responding to unfamiliar cultural practice. To them, they are not used to seeing young women undergoing genital mutilation, and therefore the practice is unfamiliar to them. They would use medical explanations to justify why it is wrong.
In southern Mexico, the Zapatista Movement has an ideology based on traditional practices and socialism. For instance, the movement strongly opposes globalization and economic development with the argument that it fails to support the peasant way of life. The group further adds that the economic globalization not only oppresses its people but also other people worldwide. An economic globalization policy such as NAFTA has received little support from the group which was strongly against México signing the deal with other North American countries. In this case, universality and difference constitute thematic point of tension. Economic globalization has made it difficult for indigenous people to develop. They compete against subsidized and artificially manufactured agricultural produce imported from other countries.
Zapatista have a new way of doing politics. Their practice of politics is participatory and begins from the bottom going up rather than the reverse case. The contemporary political system in Mexico is considered by the group to be erroneous because of its failure to connect with the people represented by politicians. To the group, the people have to be consulted for critical decisions and strategies but according to the contemporary Mexican political system, the politicians make decisions that affect people without any consultation. Professor Pieterse is likely to disapprove the ideologies and ethos of Zapatista primarily because he is a pro globalization. The ideologies are against what he strongly supports.
Cosmopolitan multilateralism refers to a society of overlapping communities of fate. It is a more accountable and transparent form of governance that is backed by the modern society. It is the exact opposite of executive led multilateralism where everything is typically exclusionary and secretive. The very nature of cosmopolitan multilateralism and the obvious difference it has from the executive led multilateralism is the reason why it has become a subject of debate today. In essence, certain issues and structures in the society are viewed as appropriate for the political public sphere while others are viewed as requiring additional institutional structures to address them. For instance, issues such as policing, sanitation and housing can be addressed by the spatial political sphere while issues such as economic regulation, world health, and the environment need institutional structures to address them.
Structures that are beyond national territories can best function under transnational context. The people who are affected by such decision making centers need to form translational groupings for the centers to work. This is where the civil society in the modern world comes in.
The civil society is a body in its own right, separate from the state. People come together to define their social life in a situation where the state has no say. Their fundamental objective is to protect the individual rights and property against the state and its arbitrary interventions. Charles Montesquieu (1689 1755) in his model of separation of powers, distinguished between political society (regulating the relations between citizens and government) and civil society (regulating the relations between citizens). He stressed a balance between central authority and societal networks. The central authority (monarchy) must be controlled by the rule of law and checked by the power of independent organizations (networks) that operate inside and outside the political structure.
Alexander de Tocqueville (1805-1859) put more emphasis on the value of independent associations. The aim of these associations is to protect individual rights. Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) looked at society from a Marxist theoretical perspective. He saw the civil society as a forum through which ideological hegemony is contested. These ideas influenced the resistance to totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Jürgen Habermas (1929) focused his concept of civil society on its role within the public sphere. Marginalized groups organize themselves and find ways of articulating their interests.
Globalization is accompanied by numerous problems, challenges, and dilemmas. These challenges have affected the modern era which is gradually moving away from statism and nationalism. Held holds that the concept of globalization is not a new concept in the modern world however. It is characterized by the same phases witnessed before, such as the spread of empires, the age of discovery, and development of global religions. Having pointed out this, Held points out that there is something different about the form of globalization witnessed in the contemporary world.
Even though contemporary globalization embodies similar elements with past globalization, there is a clear distinction in organizational features especially the extent of networks and human relations. These networks impact many facets of human social life resulting to emergence of huge multinational corporations, development of global and regional structures of governance, emergence of global economies, emergence of financial markets that trade 24 hours in a day, and creation of global challenges and problems such as illegal drug trafficking, money laundering, volatility of markets, terrorism threats, disease epidemic (HIV/AIDS, cancer, swine flu), and global warming. The multinational corporations have control over immense wealth acquired through creation of a wide network of people from across the globe. This wealth controlled by a single company is in excess of what many other countries have. It is due these dilemmas, challenges, and problems that Held proposes the need to tame the current globalization. Held processes that the taming process will become fruitful if the world adopts the concept of cosmopolitanism that requires recognition of principles. The first principle is having moral concern for individual people and not nations or states. Second principle emphasizes on the need of having an equal worth across humanity.
Walter Mignolo would not agree with these assertions made by Held because he creates a distinction between globalization and cosmopolitanism. Mignolo says that globalization can be understood as a set of design used to manage how the world functions. Cosmopolitanism can be understood as a set of projects that word leaders come up with for the sake of conviviality. For instance, coloniality was a cosmopolitan project that emerged from the design of Christianity. The cosmopolitan projects have come from modernity.
A couple of years ago, the US government established an expert commission to develop a language which is capable of warning people against the threats of nuclear race in years to come. The problem is to what extent concepts must be designed in order to warn people of the risk millennium from now. The concern of many in this world risk society is whether the structures established in the world today would exist many years from now. Additionally, for some nationalists, the concern is whether or not their state would still maintain its current stature many years from now. For instance, is the US able to maintain its superiority a thousand years from now? It is a difficult task creates a model that can start a conversation about what will happen in the future. A model can best be designed through considering both the historical and current designs.
Modern society has become a world risk society in the sense that it is increasingly being occupied by energy risks and other global risk that have been produced by the society itself. It is characterized by politics of fear which the media is known to propel. A person looking at the risk affecting the western world is more likely to conclude that the risks are caused by luxury unlike in other part of the world affected by war and diseases. The modern society is shaped on risk and manufactured on uncertainties. But their foundations are under threat because of the anticipation of global catastrophe.
The current world risk society is characterized by challenges that are likely to destabilize the structures established in the society. These challenges include climate change which has been projected to cause a rise in temperatures, and financial turmoil. Models that look in to the state of future modernity are developed from the projected effects of such challenges. However, risk may occur and at the same time, they may fail to occur. Future modernity can either hold self-destruction or a renewal of humanity. The former necessitates a paradigm shift as the consequences may not be bearable for humanity in the future. The risks have translated into a new perspective in which national politics have taken. For instance, the current political society do not see the world in terms of enmity but instead see the world in terms of transnational corporations in order to cope with the risks which cannot be controlled nationally.
Orientalism is a term used by historians to explain and depict aspects of culture. Orientalism revolutionized the study of the Middle East and helped to create and shape entire new fields of study such as post-colonial theory. It also helped to influence disciplines as diverse and English, history, anthropology, political science, and cultural studies. Orientalism tries to answer the question of why when we think of the Middle East, for example, we have a preconceived emotion of what kind of people live there, what they believe, and how they act. This is despite us not being to the Middle East or interacting with any one from the region. More generally, orientalism asks how do we come to understand people and strangers who look different to us by virtue of their color and skin. The central argument of orientalism is that the way we acquire this knowledge is not innocent or objective but an end result of a process that reflects certain interests, i.e., it is highly motivated. The way other people look at the Middle East is through a lens that distorts the actual reality of the people in Middle East. The lens is basically the framework used to understand the unfamiliar and the strange.
Orientalism has a relationship with imperial binary in the sense that they all tend to display the western world as superior. Imperial binary considers modernity and the western world to be superior. Orientalism is a stereotypical look into the Middle East with a sense of inferiority. These two concepts can however be challenged by hybridization, border-thinking, and diversality. The erroneous conceptualization of the Middle East was almost erased during the Six Day War. Hybridization entails mixing of culture. It calls for the politics of integration without the need to give up cultural identity. It helps to generate new commonalities and differences.
Norms are part of the components that make culture. They are considered important due to this reason and additionally due to the fact that culture is an important defining aspect of society. Norms are basically the ideas of what is good or bad to a particular society. They differ with societies implying that what may be characterized as good in one society may be characterized as bad in another society. For instance, it can be the norm of one society to value war and a sense of toughness but in other societies, people would hardly resort to war not unless pushed to the edge. Similarly, some societies in the past have valued wealth, equality, trade, and human rights while others have not. Norms would help determine the character of a society. Norms are created to enforce the cultural values of a society. Norms are more of visible behaviors than simple beliefs that conceptualize societal values.
Norms are to constructivists while balance of power politics is to realist. The statement is true because norms are constructed. The world is based on rules and for a constructivist; it is possible to change these rules. They argue that changing rules is what people do every day but some people are better positioned to change the rules than others. For instance, it is easier for an influential person such as the US president to change the rules of the world than for a common ordinary citizen. There is an endless cycle where people are constantly changing the rules and creating new norms of doing things in the society. Constructivists want to see the world as something built in the way people relate to each other. For instance, if people decided to stop thinking that a place exists, then that place would really not exist. The existence of a society is based on ideologies and cues constructed on people’s minds. The Norm life cycle is basically the common thought and agreement that people identified with a particular culture and society agree on. This means that the existence of markets, trade, states, and civil society actors depends on norms and mental cues developed in human minds. The existence of these structures including the broader internal relations can be possible without a set of ideas. There has to be a set of ideas about states, their economic policies, and their foreign policies. This is why when one state wants to develop bilateral relationship with another the head of state of the two countries meet to discuss possibilities of the same.
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