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Postmodernism in IR Theory - Literature
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Postmodernism in IR Theory - Literature

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  • 1. Writing Security: David Campbell
  • 2. Overview• Throughout its history the United States has faced a vast spectrum of “security threats.” – International communism, illegal drugs, indigenous peoples, minorities, alternative ideologies• Actors united in that they represent anarchy, disorder, uncleanliness, and depravity that threatens survival of state identity and organization. – Dependence on separation between “us” and “them.” – Assignment of alien nature/foreign origin of threat. – Emphasis on morality. – Use of disease and contagion metaphors.• Constant need to mobilize against ever-changing mosaic of threats, (re)writing security needs through foreign and domestic policy. – Evolution of classified NSC documents that reframed the Soviet Union from limited to existential threat. – Bizarre questions on INS documents.
  • 3. Historical Foundations• Relative decline of Christendom in late Middle Ages represented a crisis in political identification and organization. – Neither divine teleology (foundation of the declining Medieval system) nor reason and rationality (foundation of the rising modern system) were sufficient to maintain identity in the state. – Need for “external guarantees” to replace the broken link between God and man.• Use of danger in identity formation – Emphasis on unfinished and endangered nature of the world established state as a perpetually threatened guarantor of security. – Gave populations an “us versus them” framework that defined them as citizens. – As church promised salvation from an unredeemed death, state promised security from a hostile world. – Need for constant vigilance against internal and external threats. • Central need to identify sources of otherness such as “dirt matter out of place, irrationality, abnormality, waste, sickness, perversity, incapacity, disorder, ma dness, unfreedom” in need of “rationalization, normalization, moralization, correction, punishment, discipline, dis posal, etc.”
  • 4. Writing Security in the United States• The American Jerusalem – “Irish pretext,” which demonstrates Protestant treatment of any margin of difference as otherness. – Puritan notion that America was the fulfillment of prophecy and divine intent. – Identification of Europe as corrupt and decadent. – “Othering” of Native Americans and African slaves.• The Communist Threat – Communism’s challenge to private property rights makes it a challenge to American distinction between “civilized” and “barbarian.” • Precedes Soviet military capacity or international status. • Echoes “myth of the frontier” that 1) establishes a space where civilization and barbarity are in constant struggle and 2) claims Indians (or communists) had no capacity for an individuated self. – Metaphors of disease and contagion – Constant need for policing (e.g. loyalty oaths, background checks,McCarthyism).• Post-Cold War manifestations – War on drugs, terrorism, illegal immigration, Obama-care.
  • 5. Final Points• Securitization is not a conspiracy or a power system maintained by knowing elite, it is embedded in the pressures of the modern world and functions invisibly.• Writing Security doesn’t claim that all American security risks are unreal, but rather that America is the “imagined community par excellence” and as such is dependent on a discourse of danger to an unmatched extent.• The book calls on America to rethink its orientation to the world so it is “not predicated on the desire to contain, master, and normalize threatening contingencies through violence.”
  • 6. “The Poverty of Neorealism.” Richard Ashley
  • 7. Neorealism’s orrery of errors• Statism – Gives the state unquestioned metaphysical significance• Utilitarianism – Rational actors inhabiting a world of scarcity – Power defined solely by ability to command resources – No concept of social power behind or constitutive of states – International order is derivative of state interactions (yet state cannot be defined)• Positivism – Metahistorical faith in scientific-technical progress that positivism itself cannot question – Incapable of questioning historical constitution of actors; can only advise on efficiency of means – Theory disguised as method.• Structuralism – Atomism’s superficiality combined with structuralism’s closure condemns to surface level of appearances. – Metaphor of the self devouring snake (p 256)
  • 8. The Ghosts of the Old Revolution• Revisiting classical realism is appropriate response to neorealism, the “grotesque mediocrity playing a hero’s part.” – Neorealism is rooted in praxis and an understanding of the political scheme – Hermeneutic (interpretive) framework – More authentic interpretation of the balance of power • Particularity of the universal – universal claims cannot rectify contrary points • Universal of the particular – particularistic actions bear universal claims • Classical realism balances these orientations, reflects reality that statesmen are in an artful and strategic struggle to be empowered. Success is measured by their ability to strike a “balance” among all aspects of power. Balance =national interest – Power measured by propagation of its vantage point• Yet, classical realism fails – Immersed in tradition it studies, silent where the tradition is silent, unable to grasp what threatens theory’s foundations, fails to learn from other theories – May needs a dialectical competence model
  • 9. “Patterns of Dissent and the Celebration ofDifference: Critical Social Theory and International Relations.” Jim George and David Campbell.
  • 10. Critical Social Theory• Critical social theory has emerged to challenge traditional understandings – Wittgenstein – compromised link between language and objective reality. – Winch – “practical wisdom” as complex, rule bound, culture specific set of practices that identify what is normal and rational – Kuhn – paradigm theory – Habermas’s Critical theory – totalitarian potentialities of instrumental reason – Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Lacan – the rejected “Other”• Postructuralism’s challenge to the tradition posits: – Will to reason as will to power. Expects no distinction between truth and power – Lack of objectivity in scientific inquiry – Favoring of technical knowledge limits what we can understand of the world – Realism blinds itself to change generated by dialectic of theory and practice – Need exists to find voices that have been excluded from official discourse – Need for the question “How have my questions been produced?” – Potential exists to emancipate ourselves from the confines of traditional structures• The Cartesian anxiety that we must have an ultimate foundation for our knowledge or we are plunged into the void must be exorcised!
  • 11. “Territoriality and beyond: problematizingmodernity in international relations.” John Ruggie
  • 12. Significance of territory in the contemporary world• Transnational microeconomic links becoming increasingly important. – Orthodox IR theory denies the importance of this phenomenon • Believe that because corporations, etc, aren’t substitutable for state they can’t cause fundamental changes • Realism and institutionalism are based in 18th century enlightenment constructions• Territoriality is a modern way of fixing power, not a timeless one – Systems of rule have existed without being embedded in territory – Rise of the state was not a simple, direct political transformation – Non-state structures, like the medieval trade markets, shaped destiny of feudal system without being a replacement for them. – Alternatives existed (e.g. city-states) – Rise of state depended on social epistemology • Use of grammatical “I” form • Use of perspective in art• State did not evolve, it was invented by modern Europeans – Frequency of spaces where territoriality is” unbundled” (waterways, common markets) – Reliance on territoriality is an impoverished way to treat our globalized, postmodern world.
  • 13. “Why is There No International Theory?” Martin Wight
  • 14. Why is there no international theory?• International theory, or speculation about the relations between states, “doesn’t exist.” – Pre-twentieth century literature on the topic is scattered, non-systemic, and mostly inaccessible. – Also repellent, intractable in form, and marked by intellectual and moral poverty.• Dominance of state system has made IR into a subcategory – Few true members of international society – Resistance to notion of world state, favoring state system as necessary and natural – Hard to discern international theory within major movements (e.g. Reformation, Communism)• Most important reason- IR’s low susceptibility to progressive interpretation – International politics is realm of recurrence and repetition, necessary actions adapting to crises – Progressivist international theories have argument from desperation embedded in them • “It is surely not a good argument for a theory of international politics that we shall be driven to despair if we do not accept it.” • Defeat is unthinkable because defeat would render history meaningless. – Inverse relationship between international politics and international law. • “It is surely not a good argument for a theory of international politics that we shall be driven to despair if we do not accept it.”• International theory is the theory of survival.
  • 15. “Security Must Be Defended – Or, the Survival of Security.” Nisha Shah
  • 16. History versus genealogy in security studies• Buzan and Hansen’s The Evolution of International Security Studies explores development of ISS via relationship of knowledge & practice. – Goal of equal representation across various approaches• Equal representation problematized by evolution metaphor – Foucault – Historical discourse modifies history – Rorty, White, Nietzsche – metaphors create similarities, become canonical – Evolution metaphor authors use orders ISS as field • External (evolutionary) events whose significance is self-evident shape inquiry • Preexisting meanings and implications conceal objects of inquiry from criticism. – Example is 9-11. Event clearly happened but all its meaning is worked out in advance and foisted on ISS. No interplay between scholar and event or possibility of escaping predetermined categories. – Contrary to author’s intentions, this approach favors (neo)realist interpretation of security. • Realism becomes the theory that organizes ISS, structures and organizes its contents.• Shah’s solution is genealogical counter-history. – Genealogy preserves “radical incommensurability” between approaches.
  • 17. “The (S)pace of International Relations:Simulation, Surveillance, and Speed.” James Der Derian
  • 18. Simulation, Surveillance, and Speed• Problematic of simulation, surveillance, and speed offer challenges to the international system that is resistant to traditional modes of thought• Simulation – With hyperrealism, the model of reality (e.g. computer models and simulations) becomes more real than the world it models. – Simulations have the power to displace the “reality” they claim to represent. • Simulation trained Navy personnel on U.S.S Vincennes shoot down an Iranian airliner in 1988. • Tom Clancy’s simulation novels rescuing the realist principle.• Surveillance – SIGINT has created a global panopticon • System is beyond the reach of public and scholarly view. • Continues both war and peace by technical means. • Creates a cybernetic system marked by the symptoms of advanced paranoia.• Speed – Capacity of advanced weapons and surveillance systems has caused war to shift from “space” into “time” – Spectacle of war has been replaced by the war of spectacle.
  • 19. “Now We Are All Avatars.” James Der Derian
  • 20. Becoming an “avatar of the other”• Der Derian claims Avatar is the “best anti-war movie of all time.” – Repudiates the utility of war – Reproduces how culture projects fears, flaws, and desires onto another, until only violence can resolve escalating states of mimetic estrangement. – Shows how war does irreparable harm to all sides of a conflict. – Allows hope to triumph over violence when the hero is willing to become the avatar of the other.• Anti-war message in Avatar (and The Hurt Locker) is problematized by the aesthetic glorification of war.• Human Terrain, a documentary exploring COIN training that der Darien was associated with, explored similar themes as Avatar, but the project was transformed by the war death of a scholar who was also tied to the project. The film changed: – Triangulation between der Derian and other scholars (us), defense experts (them) and the indigenous subjects (the other) shifted. Boundaries were blurred. – Filmmakers lost distance they once maintained, became “avatars of the other” through the loss of their friend.

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