|Political theory, pacifism, and other fun and games.
||[21 June 2007|12:54 am]
How to kill interest in your LJ entry, step one: open with "I feel that when it comes to political theory, especially International Relations theory ..."
To hell with it. I'm doing it anyway, even if no-one else will particularly care. I think theory is both worthwhile and interesting!
I feel that when it comes to political theory, especially International Relations theory, there is an over-emphasis on formulating theories that are explanatory and predictive within the dominant paradigm and do not deviate from it. I fail to see much interest in alternatives, in theories that advance paradigm shifts and offer different courses of action, different objectives and outcomes. I especially perceive this attitude from the International Relations realist camp. I was somewhat amused lately when I was watching the news with Kate. Some article about international politics was on and I could see the hallmarks of realism all over it: great power politics, the security dilemma, hegemony, all that funky stuff. Kate, on the other hand, laughed at the politicians and considered their behaviour to be immature and childish. And that's really what it boils down to, doesn't it? Politics is a contest of three year olds in adult bodies who all want to cut the chocolate cake so that they alone get the biggest piece and the other kids are left out, and because there's no mother to come in and insist they behave and share, the contest lacks resolution.
I can see it in my head now. Three year old George Bush has run off with the whole chocolate cake and is waving a sharp knife everywhere to get the other kids to back off. Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar have already had to go running to their mummies because they got too close to Bush and were cut. Little Tony Blair whispers an idea in toddler John Howard's ear and they both go up to Dubya and tell him that if he'll give them a slice each with sprinkles, they'll help him fight off baby Saddam Hussein, who is currently trying to cultivate an alliance with the kiddies Vladimir Putin and Muammar Ghaddafi to pour juice over Bush's head, wrestle the knife off him before he has a chance to react, and take his cake. Tiny Jacques Chirac is in the corner pouting because it was once his cake, and he's telling all the kids how stupid and irresponsible they are - and hoping Bush will drop his guard just long enough so that Chirac himself can steal the cake and be the greatest again. Strange how that mental image isn't so far removed from reality ...
Yikes, I just seriously derailed my own post. Well, to get back to my point, I'm somewhat disheartened that it seems advancing an alternative paradigm with its own set of international norms is usually just shot down in flames as idealistic pipe-dreaming that can't possibly happen in reality. I'm a pacifist, and what's more, I believe pacifism as a theory has significant value for international organisation and could be used by states to shape a new international order, one revolving around such ideals as security, fairness, human rights, and freedom that have received little more than lip service for far too long. What's more, I believe pacifism can confront realism on realism's own turf - and win. I believe pacifism can resolve the security dilemma and I believe pacifism can uphold realism's focal points of security, sovereignty, and self-interest and channel them in a much more positive direction. Although not remotely operating within the paradigm I envisage, the present emphasis on "soft power" by the European Union in its quest to be a global superpower is heartening. I often fall back on the work of Norman Angell, whose argument was essentially that interdependence renders war futile - a theory that I believe was tragically proven, not disproven, by the two World Wars that immediately followed the publication of his seminal text Europe's Optical Illusion.
But sometimes I wonder if I'm just naive, if this is all theoretical pondering that is incompatible with the real world and just won't work because people, for whatever reason, will fail to behave in a way that will allow for pacifism's success. Perhaps I am idealistic, but I would rather not be blindly naive. I feel that I have invested too much intellectual effort and granted too much intellectual consent to my pacific ideology for it to be wholly naive, though that's not to say it is not naive in part. Many things are naive in part - perhaps, in some way, even realism. I guess what bugs me the most is the difficulty I have finding persuasive pacific literature. It's absurd! So much pacific literature has a religious basis. I have made it clear before that I consider religion to have absolutely no place within political theory or politics in general (an issue I shall discuss more later). So all that stuff's out. And then what's left seems to be a mix of historical literature on prominent pacifist movements, especially relating to the World Wars, and the texts written by those movements, much of which is not entirely applicable to today or to international organisation and realism. I am posting this in the desperate hope that someone will have read this far, recall an author, and chime in with a comment of "hey, have you read So-and-so? And how have you not heard of Such-and-such? And Whatshisname has an amazing critique!" I really would rather not blaze a path alone. That does make me feel incredibly naive, that I am merely grabbing the threads of ideas that smarter and more experienced political theorists have already discarded as useless junk.