Home > Uncategorized > Materialism-Contextual Theorizing Princeton Conference

Materialism-Contextual Theorizing Princeton Conference

Day 1:

David Lake: Ideas are not malleable, but are harder to change than so called fixed material factors. Nationalism is not easy to produce. We should think of ideas as material contexts encouraging certain outcomes and stopping others. Think of American identity as an asset for example, as a resource that is important in development.

GDP not appropriate measure of power, it is a poor substitute for wealth.

Sil: Pacifying effect of industrialization is completely erased once we recognize the externalization of violence undertaken by the European states onto the rest of the world.

Mearsheimer: Realism only right 3/4th of the time.

Logic of attractiveness of materialism, is that if we just reveal the truth, of how things really are, people will automatically adopt the solutions. Even if we get around the first problem, of showing how things really are, we have to face the problem that people do not respond to the objective problems with functional responses, just look at climate change.

Best papers were by Michael Doyle and Katzenstein. On War proneness and industrialization, and on Mongol Empire as empire lite.

Day 2:

Atul Kohli: THe objection of development studies to IR is not in materialism but in it’s extreme pro-US stance. It looks ate the interests of the US and fails to judge the interests of other countries. Nationalism and ethnicity is where materialism meets a dead end, and these two things are crucial to explain state and individual and social behavior, not material drivers.

Cathy Boone: For  Comparative PE there is no decline of natural context. A prominent strand of debate is the role of geography vs policy. Is it climate, environment, soil quality, seed, variability of environment, disease load, rainfall patterns, populations density. These would lead geography prone explanation to count out development in a place like Chad. On the other hand the policy oriented scholars believe even somewhere like Chad can see development. Elites and policy matter, look at Singapore. (no question of place of singapore in international economy). The problem for these scholars is explaining where the institutions come from.

Boone also argues that increasing ethnic tensions in Africa are a product of state policies of land tenure that divide and conquer ethnic groups that in turn deepens these cleavages which were not as deep in the beginning.

On Deudney and the lag problem, in Africa the lack of functional adaptation of institutions is clearly not a lag, it’s just not happening, there is no functional adaptation in the face of clear material detriments. PE goes to lack of social and political will over material reasons for the lack of development.  If we want to bring in material factors liike the allocation and distribution of resources (unequally), that could be a way of linking it to policy.

O’Leary: We can’t explain state strategies without referring to social psychology, ethnicity, identity … so material factors have limited explaining utility.

Austro Marxists did look at question of nationalism, Otto Bauer


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