International Affairs is About Networks, Not States

Ann Marie Slaughter makes an intersting point – that the practice of International Relations is not a consideration of states, but of networks. Worth 22 minutes.

Multi National Corporations (MNCs) and International Affairs

The role of the non-state actor can tell us much about the nature and power of the state.  While in the first instance the role of the MNC is seen as relevant in development and labour standards, for example, there are deeper more fundamental aspects of the MNC that help us to understand legitimacy.  Some countries that struggle for legitimacy – fledgling regimes, less democratic regimes, oppressive regimes – manage to sustain themselves in spite of a lack of popular support by enriching those who control the levers of power, such as the army generals, and the judiciary.  The wealth that flows to those regimes comes from multiple sources, including the sale of natural resources, and sovereign debt markets, both of which are essentially controlled by MNCs.

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Europe and National Identity

As the European Football Champtionship closed this evening, Sunday talk shows across the continent were full of analysis of Super Mario, Monti’s Manouever or Merkel’s Mismanagement of the latest installment of the Euro Crisis.  Last Friday morning, news came that a deal had been done to directly capitalise Europe’s banks, rather than routing capital through the sovereign, thus imperilling sovereign credit and creating the confidence problem.  There was much rumination on the need for further integration, the federalist agenda, the United States of Europe.

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Fukuyama – Homo Economicus and Perfidious Albion

I’m reading Fukuyama’s intriguing “The Origins of Political Order” at the moment, which is a little preachy and even excessively researched, but certainly worth the investment.  Two things caught my attention this morning.  First, in his discussion on legalism versus Confucian thought in China(p.119-120), he explains that Confucianism relied on family, kinship, and the patrimonial social order where the family was central.  Legalism rejected tht approach, seeing mankind as homo economicus, binding citizens to the state on an economic, self-interested basis.  It struck me that much of the socialist / capitalist, left-wing / right wing, US Democrat / US Republican, UK Labour / UK Conservative divide that we see today (and even Irish Labour / Irish Fine Gael, who are in coalition government together) mirrored that distinction from almost three thousand years ago.  There are no new ideas, it would appear.

The second thing that piqued my interest was a reference to perfidious albion – in his assessment of why Europe did not develop in the same way as China, he cites geography (mountains, seas etc.) but also the presence of a large and (it would appear) disproportionately influential Britain, who “acted for much of European history as a deliberate balancer that tried to break up hegemonic coalition.”  Plus ca change then.  I started writing about this today in an attempt to explain current Euro zone goings on, but it descended rather rapidly into polemic, so I posted it on my political / opinion / rant blog over here.

Legitimate Expectation?

What is the role of expectation in determining legitimacy?  Is legitimacy a relative concept?  Tonight Egypt is again in the throws of more demonstrations, while rumours fly about the health of former President Mubarak.  Some suggest this is the end of the revolution, much as Ukraine went through a cycle of demonstration against Viktor Yanukovych‘s allegedly rigged victory in 2004, only to return to him after several years of failed ambition in 2010.  So Egypt may also revert to its previous state – most likely sans Mubarak, though age waits for no man, and his demise was inevitable anyway.  Why does this happen?  Is there an unreasonableness to the ambition of crowds?

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Foreign Policy’s Failed State Index

Great resource from Foreign Policy on failed states, and the extent to which states are ‘failed’.  On the one hand, this is an index made up of some good and probably some less good – or at best subjective – numbers.  Therefore it’s of limited scientific value, in the sense that we could use it to make some impirical judgements.  However, it does a useful job of identifying key categories for considering whether states are failed or not.  The categories include ‘Delegitimization of the State’ which I intend to investigate further; rather than describing it as an absolute number, or value (such as legitimacy, relative legitimacy, or legitimacy perception) it describes it as a process.  Curious.

One other interesting aspect is the extent to which “State Failure” as a metric can be inverted and measured as “State Success”.  On that measure, Ireland is more successful (or “less failed”) than the UK, France or the USA.  Which is kind of fun…just don’t tell the IMF, because they think they own the place 😀

The Internet as an unfettered good? Or Complex bad?!

Quick post – interesting guardian article.

Two-sided freedom is an interesting concept. Isn’t that just freedom? Do we have less privacy online than we do offline? Anyone can snoop on us offline…right? People can be nosey…people can be earwigging. Is it really all that different? And how does it change our notions of identity if we craft it online?