Archive for September, 2011

Carlo Galli Political Spaces and Global War

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Carlo Galli argues that the spatial representations that define politics are no longer adequate to describe our “globalization” epoch and that therefore efforts by political theorists should be expended to creatively come up with new ways of thinking about space.

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The Prince and The law 1200-1600

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Pennington traces the legal developments in the whole of continental Europe and England. His end point is Bodin’s text in which Bodin apparently limits the absolutism of the king. Pennington begins in the 1100s and shows how even early on there were limits on the Prince but that they also developed substantially in the coming centuries. He pursues several different threads of legal schools and how they developed into 1500 to reach Bodin.

This text is quite legal  and drops a lot of olden names. I found it quite difficult to sit through because he basically makes the same point. There was juridical dispute over the rights of the prince, whether he was the lord of the world or whether he had certain barriers. And while legally the edge tipped to the latter, the king was never really absolute. Argues that Europe had a common legal basis which today’s sovereignty precludes. Perhaps the most interesting part is his epilogue on the problems of unifying Europe under state limited judiciary of law. Europe held a common legal sensibility.

One thing I did note is that law often struggled to catch up to real events. I guess that happens when the pope is the representative of god on earth. In general it was a confirmation of my already weak belief in the power of legislation in bringing change to events/. Perhaps one could say that legal developments influenced norms but  I didn’t really see it here.

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Jack Snyder Myths of Empire

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

This will be short


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Categories: Book Summary

EH Carr Morality and Realism

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Carr’s 20 years crisis is a book worth revisiting from time to time. I recently gave it another read and I was surprised as to how relevant it still is. Whether this is because there is some timelessness to Carr whose book is a classic right up there with Hobbes, or perhaps because I am just imposing the present backwards doesn’t seem to make much difference at this point.

The twenty years crisis is the transition period in world politics in which the mantle of power is given from the UK to the United States. In this time a wave of utopianism (according to Carr) Swept the sphere of international politics and within the league of nations and other international realms came to undermine the foundations on which true or “real” order had been maintained.

Carr lets loose a directed criticism of this “utopianism” he is a dualist in that he believes that facts do exist external to man and they do frustrate his actions. Carr is a brilliant writer and his narration of events, perhaps anb influence of his training in history, perhaps because he is just English is a delight to read.

He divides power into three main domains, Economic, Military, and Propaganda. For Carr Utopian ideals should meet realism which looks at the world as it is not as it should be. In this the main point I want to focus on is where at several places in the book he uncovers morally disguised action as simple power politics.

So when the British wanted to stop the germans and French from building submarines they argued it was against international law of war, but they maintained a vast naval power which they argued was for defense. The realist would see that utopian lecturing is simply a cover for pure power based behaviour. It is generally the dominant owers in the world which establish the norms and rules under which they maintain their rule. Another example is the attitude of the US to free trade. Up until 1840 the US was against free trade, but it shifted its position when it became the dominant economic power.

This does not mean that Carr believes there can be no action towards a better international sphere. He argues for a balance of utopian ideals based in a realist outlook of what is possible. So perhaps propaganda can be separated from true moral intentions. He mentions that there are lost opportunities at the end of the first world war, in which Wilson blinded by Idealism set up an ineffective league, where instead he could have set up an effective organization to lead international politics.

Carr’s Realism is actually closer to cynicism in that it not only deals with the base causes of the distribution of power, but it also uncovers the propaganda used to justify it.

The point I wish to hold Carr up to is that in his model utopianism becomes impossible. If one were to place the cynicists gaze on every enterprise no normative enterprises would remain. He would require a brief lull in the realist cynciism for the institutionalization of new normative orders before they are torn down again.

Ultimately Carr is a good realist but he fails to provide an exit for normative behaviour. Most importantly it becomes impossible to judge between different actors. Taking a current example,  the Nato led war, or rebel uprising in Libya can be seen in cynical terms as the expansion of Western order into Libya. But it surely does have some moral or normative ideals  which move it. Maybe it doesn’t after all there are many more injustices and brutalities in the world which NATO doesn’t seek to interfere in, this looks like a case of reasserting stability in the international realm by pouncing on an opportunity. “events my dear boy, events”

So the thing is that Carr’s position is untenable, there can be no utopianism. Perhaps his measure is “less deaths are better than more deaths” but then that would just bring up millions of ways in which this could be thwarted. In fact this motto is the farthest possible position one can take from normative reform. Economic sanctions may be worse than war, repressive regimes may cause less death than an uprising. In general Carr fails to provide a model in which normative and real action can be taken, but the impression is that, by far the largest  chunk goes to realist action 90/10.

The truth is that within Carr’s model there can be no reform (at least in this book elsewhere he expands his vision in a different way).

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Some thoughts on Marx

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Some thoughts on Marx

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William Beik, Absolutism and society in 17th century France

September 17, 2011 1 comment

In this book William Beik deals with two main questions. Why did Louis quatorze succeed in effectively asserting his royal rule over France (in other words develop absolutism), and what were the social dynamic of absolutism.

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Categories: Book Summary

Joseph Strayer, On The Medieval Origins of the Modern State (1970)

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

In this book Joseph Strayer sets out to trace the origins of the institutions that make up the modern state in the medieval period starting from 1100 onward. Strayer focuses on England and France, while admitting that this is not an account of every possible detail but a general overview. Some opening remarks are required before proceeding. Strayer focuses on explaining the state as he saw it in 1970. This meant that he went back in time and located those institutions which developed into those which the state currently holds. this does not mean that he is historically thorough. It is simply because the European model of the state was expropriated to the rest of the world that it is the medieval European institutions which should be taken into account. This does not mean that these institutions did not share or borrow from other cultures (Arab and Chinese) or that they did not develop along the way.

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Categories: Book Summary