Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Last post before the break

V. Yadav at the Duck notes that Obama is planning a trip to Myanmar/Burma and adds:
Meanwhile, Burmese Nobel Laureate and opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has supported the idea of sending more government troops to Rakhine state to quell the violence between Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslim minority population — increasing the correlation between winning the Nobel peace prize and supporting a “troop surge” to two.
The situation of the persecuted Rohingyas is an underreported story in the U.S. and something I've been meaning to mention for a while. Vikash beat me to it. It is probably connected, in probably complicated ways, to recent tensions and violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Bangladesh (h/t HC). (Might help to be a specialist on the region fully to untangle these threads.)

This is my last post before I take a break from posting (which will also entail something of a break from my perusal of the blogosphere in general). [So this is also your last chance to comment before the break.]  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mead strikes out

From the opening of Walter Russell Mead's review-essay "Peace Out," in the current issue of Foreign Affairs:
The modern peace movement is almost 200 years old; its origins can be traced to the period that followed the devastating wars of the Napoleonic era in Europe. In those two centuries, peace movements have had little discernible impact on world events, and what effect they have had has often been bad: the European peace and disarmament movement of the 1930s, for example, greatly facilitated Hitler's plans for a war of revenge. For all the good they have done, those well-intentioned souls who have sought to achieve world peace through the organization of committees, the signing of petitions, the holding of rallies, and the promotion of international treaties might just as well have stayed home.
Mead may be half-right about the peace movement of the 1930s, but overall this passage is wrong. Modern peace movements obviously failed to prevent the twentieth century's world wars but they have nonetheless had a long-term positive impact: see e.g. here.

Then in the next paragraph Mead refers to "the argument of the economist and British parliamentarian Sir Norman Angell that war's economic irrationality would prevent twentieth-century wars...." In fact that is not what Angell argued, as I've had occasion to point out before.

That's two strikes, and let's give Mead a third strike for writing and publishing this at all. So Mead strikes out.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Substance vs. 'the horse race'

There's been some blogospheric gnashing of teeth on the question of Nate Silver's accuracy vs. the innumerate pundits' stupidity. That's right, as far as it goes, but it overlooks the point that a relentless focus on prediction (however accurate) does contribute to the draining of substance from a political atmosphere already struggling to keep a small amount of substance in the discourse (sorry, mixed metaphor). 

As Bob Somerby says here (h/t), that's not Silver's fault, and good predictions are to be preferred to stupid predictions; nonetheless, it does happen to be the case that the more focus there is on prediction the less time there will be to focus on other things. Michael Gerson tried, I think, to make this point in a column quoted by Somerby in the linked post, but Gerson made the mistake of taking some overly broad swipes at political science in general, thereby earning a rebuke from Prof. John Sides.

P.s. Speaking of substance, I am very aware that I have not bestirred myself to say much of substance about the election results. I will be linking to something else soon by way of partial remedy. [added later]: Actually I won't be. Changed my mind.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Harrington event

If you're in the vicinity of Georgetown U. this evening, might want to know that the documentary "Michael Harrington and Today's Other America" is being shown at 7 p.m., followed by a panel discussion. (This year marks the 50th anniversary of Harrington's The Other America.) I gather the film was made in the late '90s (could be wrong about that) but I've never seen it. Details about the location of the event etc. can be found here

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The U.S. election

It's over.

How's that for sophisticated analysis?

By the way, I turned on my computer this morning to see the final results and the Wash. Post, which comes up as my home page, had a headline "a second term." I read some of the accompanying story, which said Obama had passed the 270 electoral vote threshold even though Fla. remains too close to call. I then clicked on the map that went with the piece, the banner (or headline) of which showed Obama with 249 electoral votes, not 270. WaPo hadn't bothered apparently to update the banner on the map. Typical of WaPo's coverage of the returns, which I thought was deficient, to put it very politely.

Update: WaPo has now fixed the map.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Quote of the day

"Speaking French also means speaking about human rights, because the rights of man were written in French."

François Hollande in the Dem. Rep. Congo, on the occasion of the summit of the Int'l Org. of La Francophonie, as quoted in Newsweek, Oct. 29, 2012, p.8.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

'Big-picture' historical sociology: still rolling

Just discovered (thanks to this post) that M. Mann has published the third volume of The Sources of Social Power and the fourth volume will be coming out in Jan. 2013. Meanwhile, I. Wallerstein published the fourth volume of The Modern World-System in 2011.

ISA-NE postscript

As with any conference, but even more in this case because I was there only briefly, there were a number of papers I would have liked to hear but didn't.

A very small sampling: Andrew Yeo (Catholic U.), "Realism, Critical Theory, and the Politics of Peace"; Tomohito Baji (Cambridge), "Global Governance and IR in History: Alfred Zimmern's Political Thought from the mid-1930s"; Eric Blanchard (Columbia), "International Lying: A Constructivist Response to Mearsheimer"; Sherrill Stroschein (University College London), "Institutional Change and Identity Shift: The Case of Scotland"; Giovanni Mantilla (Minnesota), "The Political Origins of the International Rules for Internal Conflicts."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Onuf and 'heteronomy'

Yesterday afternoon I drove to Baltimore and went to a couple of sessions at the ISA-NE conference (the program is here [pdf]). One of the sessions I attended was a roundtable on Nicholas Onuf's work.

At the roundtable Onuf made a reference or two to "heteronomous" orders. I couldn't recall how he used the word in his recently reissued 1989 book World of Our Making (it had been a long time since I'd looked at it), so earlier today I pulled my copy off the shelf and briefly perused ch.6, where the idea is discussed. To simplify, for Onuf "heteronomy" is a form (or "category") of rule (the other two being hierarchy and hegemony) in which exploitative social relations are disguised under a mantle of formal equality and the ruled (including workers dependent on the sale of their labor-power) in effect participate in their own oppression, under the illusion that they are exercising some sort of self-determination. Though the word "heteronomy" is taken from Kant, Onuf's description of a 'heteronomous' order (or form of rule) owes a good deal to Marx, as he acknowledges. 

As far as I'm aware, however, Onuf's use of 'heteronomy' has not been adopted, even by those who might agree with his analysis. Nor did the papers or subsequent discussion at the roundtable directly address this aspect of World of Our Making. Onuf sees exploitation as inevitable, as he makes clear at the end of the book, so perhaps it's not too surprising that, embedded as it is in a quite pessimistic worldview, the word 'heteronomy' as he uses it has not (again, as far I'm aware) caught on with those who might have been its natural constituency, namely Marxists (of one sort or another) and critical theorists. I stand open to correction in comments, as I'm not an expert on critical IR theory (or all the strands of constructivism, etc.).

P.s. I was not at the conference today, where there was a follow-on session "Whither Constructivism?" I hear that the debate was lively and I understand that ProfPTJ will be posting a recording of the session, which I will link to when it's available.

Update: PTJ has now posted the audio here. I'm planning to listen to it soon.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A.M. linkage

Pressman on whether the U.S. and Israel continue to share values.

D.C. Exile on sovereignty and drone strikes.

[added later] More on Israel: The Fall 2012 issue of Dissent, which I just bought in a bkstore, contains an exchange on Israel between James Rule and Michael Walzer, as well as a review-essay "Zionism and Its Discontents." Haven't read either one yet.