Sunday, December 11, 2005

Final Thoughts

After class, I couldn't help but feel that some more time to continue the discussion because we reached the begin of Inayatullah and Blaney's argument at the very end-- accepting fundamental differences themselves produces a kind of homogenization and there either are irreconcialable differences or there aren't. Considering the issue of religious irreconcialable differences I began to wonder about true tolerance and value systems. The comment about there being no vocabulary for talking about difference with a hierarchy range true. I still have questions about how to change the set structure of balance of power and it seems that recognition among different actors with implicit feelings of superiority cannot be changed immediately.

Finally, reflecting on Prof. Jackson’s final lecture and the big picture in theory of international relations, I consider myself a prospective practitioner of international relations. Yet, I still understand the value in studying theory, as a basis, and the course has definitely given my a more solid foundation and understanding of IR. It was interesting to consider the perspective of scholars, experts, activists, and practioners in relation to others and how they saw themselves. I agree, in connection to the authors, that learning about the other, helps one learn more about him or herself.

The Problem of Difference...

Reading Inayatullah and Blaney this week, I was reminded a lot of other analyses on identity, and the idea that upon encountering another, one can define his or her identity. Basically this happens as one realizes qualities in the other, relates these to qualities in him or herself and rejects or accepts these qualities. I really liked the relation to identity in Problems of Difference.

Honestly, I have to say that I was surprised that the issue of difference hasn’t appeared in works we previously read and thought this discussion was extremely appropriate, because recognition of all the differences and how to work with them seems to be a substantial part of IR. While reading, I also noticed that while the authors discuss the homogenization of world to Western culture, it also seems as if the homogenization of difference occurs domestically. The picture of immigrants and their distinct cultures that are slowly assimilated into American culture especially stood out in my mind.

Finally, though it is not explicit, one policy recommendation that I see, or somewhat extract from the authors is the need for more dialogue among different actors. This is a good starting point, once people with different opinions can agree to come together. It would also be valuable to provide a more detailed plan about what topics/ specific differences the dialogues should address.

Walzer, reflective

Continuing the notion that citizens have responsibilties in the decision to go to war (p 300-301) , I thought that a valid question raised in class was the level or extent of a citizen's obligation to not support war. Some possibilities offered were non-violent protest or civil disobedience such as not paying taxes...but again, to what level should the citizen protest? Also, what kind of injustice would shock all the apathetic citizens into intervening? These questions seem especially relevant when considering current affairs and U.S. foreign relations today.

It was mentioned in class, that the media impact of an event is one possible way to "shock" ordinary citizens into action. I agree with this to a certain extent- the media in some sense does provide a moral conscience to viewers or readers. I think the problem of a universal or general morality comes up again here because a national media is a reflection of national values, that a diverse among nations and even within national boundaries. In other words, each region and country has its own media and particular perspective on certain issues and it's not easy to reach consensus about less than basic issues. While media have the potential to trigger moral consciousness, it's also a matter of what media sources are available in a country, and to the extent that media provides mere awareness and not action. I understand the idea that Walzer is not really concerned about fundamentals, or details, but it seems that this really is the limit to his work.

Bull, reflective

There seems to be a clear progression and reason to the order which we've read the past three masterworks- Waltz, Deutsch, and Bull. Bull's understanding and advocacy for the current state system is his perscription to anarchy in international society. Though he does offer alternatives to the state system (p. 285) he notes that an immediate change to another system wouldn't work, and the current system we have is a good starting point. I thought there were a few valid critiques of Bull from our discussion, most notably the question of how Bull know there is a state system in place, especially if it has been always present and that there is no other system in international relations.

The question of the threshold of change, with respect ot terrorism and state intervention was also salient for me. On one hand, terrorism can definately be considered a sign of the collapse of the state system (a threat existing from a non-state actor) that Bull is in such strong defense of. On the other hand, state intervention against terrorism shows that the state system is preserving itself. This leaves me wondering how/ if reordering the current balance is possible. Taken one step further, reordering seems difficult because, as Bull describes, the system keeps preserving and reproducing itself by continuing to sign treaties, sending diplomats, and recognition of other sovereign states. Finally, based on Bull's description of the current system, I understand why the author dismisses individual justice's role in the state system. Still, I can't help but think of justice fits into the reality of the system, in hopes of improving it.