Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sanders on 'realism'

Bernie Sanders in conversation with Ezra Klein.
Excerpt -- close paraphrasing (not verbatim):

Klein: Turning to foreign policy, is there a school of foreign policy you identify with - are you a realist or ...
Sanders: I don't know what the word means. I think we're all realists...
Klein (smiling): I'm not sure we are.
Sanders (repeating): I don't know what the word means.
Would have been a bit better, I think, if Bernie had said the word was unhelpfully vague instead of saying he doesn't know what it means.  But this is a nitpick, admittedly. I didn't watch the whole interview, but the parts I watched were interesting.

Added later: Note also the exchange near the beginning where Klein asks about global poverty, immigration, and 'open borders'.  Sanders's reply is substantively more or less what one would expect him to say, but it perhaps could have been framed a bit better.


chaosandgovernance said...

From where does the Hobbist school of thought get the right to call itself 'realism'? It certainly hasn't that much luck describing, predicting or explaining reality (unless one is of the view that the world would be safer if Germany and Ukraine had nuclear weapons). Stephen Guzzini has made good points about 'realism's' unwillingness to consider itself just another perspective within the social sciences, claiming some sort of special epistemic privilege for itself and resisting the idea that its claims should be subject to conventional empirical, theoretical and normative evaluation.

LFC said...

I basically agree with the above comment, but 'realism' also has taken on a particular if somewhat vague resonance in debates about U.S. foreign policy, where it suggests, inter alia, skepticism about crusades for allegedly democratizing 'regime change' and opposition to the neocons who were so enthusiastic about the invasion of Iraq. And I suspect that is what Klein was trying to get at here, maybe. Though I don't really know. Klein is v. smart, but his expertise as a journalist is mostly U.S. domestic policy. Sanders might have been wise not to bite on this particular question.