|THEORETICAL APPROACHES TO WORLD POLITICS (2)|
As he discusses the relationship between colonialism and Orientalism Said argues that Orientalism was not simply a rationalization of colonial rule, but ‘colonial rule was justified in advance by Orientalism, rather than after the fact.’ He also argues that ‘since the middle of the eighteenth century there had been two principal elements in the relation between East and West.’ One feature of Oriental-European relations ‘was a growing systematic knowledge in Europe about the Orient, knowledge reinforced by the colonial encounter as well as by the widespread interest in the alien and unusual, exploited by the developing sciences of ethnology, comparative anatomy, philology, and history; further more, to this systematic knowledge was added a sizable body of literature.’
The other feature ‘was that Europe was always in a position of strength, not to say domination.’ But the essential relationship was seen in the West ‘to be one between a strong and a weak partner.’ ‘Knowledge of the Orient, because generated out of strength, in a sense creates the Orient, the Oriental, and his world.’ (Said 1978: 39, 40). Said conceives of Orientalism as ‘knowledge of the Orient that places things Oriental in class, court, prison, or manual for scrutiny, study, judgment, discipline, or governing.’ (1978: 41). He notes that ‘the essence of Orientalism is the ineradicable distinction between Western superiority and Oriental inferiority.’ (1978: 42).
Presenting the Third World women (4) ‘as an undifferentiated “other,” oppressed by both gender and Third World underdevelopment’ which is labelled as ‘a colonial/neocolonial discourse’ by a number of feminists in the Third World ‘emanated largely from the writings of middle-class white women from Europe and North America, whose generalizations were grounded for the most part in their own experiences.’ (Marchand and Parpart 1995: 7). Writing on the gender inequalities in terms of status, pay, and working conditions in the ‘Third World’, Marchand and Runyan assert that ‘[s]uch inequalities were (re)produced through early colonization practices and later post-World War II economic development strategies imposed on the South by the North.’ (1999: 16). Marchand and Parpart point out that ‘[t]he tendency to essentialize and distort the lives of Third World women does not just occur in the writings of women in the North. It is also pronounced in some of the work of Third World scholars trained in Northern institutions, particularly when writing for a Northern audience. As Rey Chow points out, Orientalists are not only white, they can also be non-Western students from privileged backgrounds’ (1995: 8).
Marchand and Parpart argue that the encounter between feminism and postmodernism has a lot to offer to those theorists and practitioners concerned with development:
‘... The critique of modernity and Western hegemony, the focus on difference and identity, the emphasis on the relationship between language and power, the attention to subjugated knowledge(s) and the deconstruction of colonial representations of the South as dependent “other” have much to say to those involved in the development business.’ (1995: 11).The book Feminism/Postmodernism/Development, according to Marchand and Parpart, ‘moves beyond the critique of colonial/neo-colonial discourse and representation to raise new issues and debates within the context of the gender and development literature. It argues for the contextualization of colonial/neocolonial discourse.’ (1995: 16). They argue that postmodern feminist thinking ‘brings the role of the development analyst/expert into question’ and ‘reminds us of the close connection between control over discourse/knowledge and assertions of power.’ (1995: 17).
Parpart maintains that the dualist construction of the (re)presentation of the Third World/the South as the impoverished, backward “other” in need of salvation from the developed First World/the North ‘has reinforced the authority of Northern development agencies and specialists, whether mainstream or alternative, and provided the rationale for development policies and practices which are designed (whether consciously or not) to incorporate the South into a Northern-dominated world.’ (1995: 222).
‘The early experiments in the Third World development which began in the 1920s and 1930s, and increased dramatically after World War II’, Parpart points out, ‘were deeply embedded in Enlightenment thinking, with its belief in trained, qualified scientific expertise.’ These early projects ‘were staffed by development experts whose training soon became institutionalized in universities.’ Since it is assumed that ‘developmental problems can be reduced to technical, i.e. “solvable,” problems which involve the transfer of Western technical expertise to the developing world’ these experts became, and continue to be , essential to the development enterprise (Parpart 1995: 225).
During the 1950s and 1960s development theory and practice paid little attention to Third World women, and development was regarded as a technical problem that required male expertise from the North and male cooperation in the Third World. ‘Drawing on a long history of colonial discourse which represented Third World women as particularly backward and primitive, development planners continued and even extended the representation of Third World women as the primitive “other,” mired in tradition and opposed to modernity.’ (Parpart 1995: 227).
Parpart emphasises that
‘... Emancipatory development will only occur when development theorists and practitioners adopt a more inclusive approach to knowledge/expertise, a readiness and ability to “hear” different voices/experiences, and the humility to recognize that established discourses and practices of development have often done more harm than good. Then, and only then, will development expertise take its rightful, more modest place, in the search for a better, more equitable world.’ (Parpart 1995: 240). Arturo Escobar applies Michel Foucault’s insights into the nature and dynamics of discourse, power and knowledge in Western societies to inquire the situation in the Third World in the 1980s regarding ‘the extension to the Third of Western disciplinary and normalizing mechanisms in a variety of fields; and the production of discourses by Western countries about the Third World as a means of effecting domination over it.’ (1984-85: 377).
Escobar points out that ‘[i]t is Foucault’s fundamental contention that in every society the production of discourse is controlled, organized and redistributed according to a certain number of procedures.’ Foucault argues that discourses ‘have systematic structures and they should be studied archeologically, i.e. by identifying the different elements of which they are composed, and the system of relations by which these elements form wholes.’ ‘More importantly’, according to Foucault, discourses ‘should be studied genealogically.’ Foucault argues that only by writing ‘the history of present’ a historical awareness of our present circumstance can be developed and the historical conditions which motivate our conceptualisation can be known. Moreover, only through writing ‘the history of present,’ through the struggles to which it should lead, it is possible to develop ‘a new economy of power relations.’ ‘We can work towards this new economy of power by taking the forms of resistance against different kinds of power as starting point.’ (Escobar 1984-85: 379-80).
Escobar notes that Foucault distinguishes between three major types of struggle: ‘against forms of exploitation’; ‘against forms of domination; and ‘against modern forms of subjection.’ These three forms of struggle coexist in various ways in any given society, although one of them usually prevails. ‘[P]ower relations are immanent in other types of relations (economic, sexual, familial, of knowledge, etc.); they are the result of the disequilibria of the latter - and at the same time, the basis of their transformation.’ (Escobar 1984-85: 380). Any strategy of resistance has to take into account the manifold structure of power. The multiplicity forms of power must be responded with a multiplicity of localized resistances and counteroffensives (Escobar 1984-85: 381).
As to the situation and struggles of the Third World, Escobar argues that, at a very general level, ‘new types of power and knowledge are being deployed in the Third World which try to insure the conformity of its peoples to a certain type of economic and cultural behavior (broadly speaking, that embodied in “the American way of life”).’ (1984-85: 382).
Escobar maintains that ‘a strategy of resistance by Third World peoples should be based upon the recognition of three major factors.’ These are: ‘there still exist important areas of cultural meanings and practices which have not yet fallen under the sway of Western disciplinary and normalizing processes’; ‘although class compromise takes place at some levels, class struggle and class conflict are by no means latent (as they tend to be in more industrialized societies)’; ‘there exist several grand strategies constructed by the developed countries which play a crucial role in maintaining domination over the Third World ... The first one is the discourse on the underdevelopment of the Third World constructed by the developed countries ... A second grand contemporary strategy for the penetration and control of the Third World is embodied in communication and information technologies, especially the mass media, television and commercial cinema.’ (Escobar 1985-85: 382-83).
According to Escobar, ‘Foucault’s insights into the control of discourse and the workings of power and knowledge’ makes it possible ‘to conduct a radical reinterpretation of development theory and practice.’ In such a reinterpretative analysis three major factors should be considered: ‘the historical conditions under which the discourse arose; the structure of the discourse itself; and the relations of power and knowledge made possible by the deployment of development.’ (1984-85: 384).
Escobar emphasises that ‘[i]t was in the name of modernization and development that an entire productive apparatus took charge of the management of the life of the “new” nations, replacing the older and more visible forms of colonial oppression and bringing forth at the same time a different disposition of the factors of life.’ (1984-85: 394).
To what should one object as far as the relationship between the West and the Third World is concerned? Escobar makes his point of objection very clear: ‘... [I]t is not Western forms per se that one should object to, nor to the need to preserve the productive achievements of civilizations, but rather to the types of rationality linked to them, to the forms of power and knowledge that characterize them and, finally, to the ways in which they assume responsibility for the conditions of life in order to manage and contain them.’ (1984-85: 395).
One of the main groupings which constitutes the post-positivist challenge together with critical theorists, historical sociologists, and postmodern international theorists to the realist dominance of international theory, argues Smith, is comprised by feminist international relations writers. One main concern for feminist international relations writers among many diverse themes and assumptions is the construction of gender. They challenge ‘the assumed genderless nature of international theory, and ... [show] how assumptions about gendered roles, and even gendered knowledge, run through international theory. International theory is not so much gender neutral as gender blind.’ (1995: 24, 25).
Halliday argues that ‘until the mid-1980s, IR appeared to be more indifferent to issues of gender than any other area of the social sciences, a situation compounded by widespread acceptance of the distinction between a conventionally ‘male' area of high politics, international security and statecraft, and a ‘female’ one of domesticity, interpersonal relations and locality (1994: 18-19).Thanks to the coming to prominence of the issues of gender in a range of international policy areas on the one hand, and the involvement of women in peace movement on the other, this mutual indifference has, however, given way (Halliday 1994: 19). Two sub-fields, gender and development, and peace research and discussions within the peace movement have been informed or influenced feminist IR theory. According to Halliday, issues pertaining to women and international arena have received greater recognition through a variety of processes. These are: ‘the encounter of feminism with International Relations theory’ ; ‘growing recognition of the gender-specific consequences of a range of transnational processes’; ‘the emergence of women as distinct actors on the international scene’; and ‘an increased awareness of the gender component of foreign policy issues.’ (1994: 160).
In his Models in Political Economy, when dealing with the feminist model, Brown has pointed out that the women’s liberation movement has drawn attention to ‘three aspects of women’s subordination under capitalism which are of particular importance in political economy’: ‘the inequality of payment for the same job’; ‘the inequality of employment opportunities for women’; and ‘the undervaluing, indeed the non-valuation, of women’s work in the home.’ He notes that the third aspect of women’s subordination ‘is the main claim that feminists are making for a revaluation of the place of women in the political economy.’ (1985: 94-95).
The feminist IR theory makes a critical analysis of globalisation or, what the contributors to Gender and Global Restructuring call, global restructuring. Marchand and Runyan point out that conventional representations and interpretations of globalisation ‘tend to be either too narrowly economistic or to focus primarily on changes in the nature of and relationships between the market and the state. In so doing, they pay little attention to attendant global/local restructurings of social, cultural, racial, ethnic, gender, national, and familial identities, roles, and relations.’ (1999: 1). They argue that ‘gender analysis (in its several variations) is particularly well-equipped for developing a better understanding of globalization’s multidimensionality.’ (1999: 1-2).
According to them, ‘feminist IPE/IR is in a very good position to bridge the divide between a predominantly materialist IPE analysis and a critical analysis of the ideational/cultural underpinnings of global restructuring.’ (1999: 8). They argue that ‘global restructuring tends to reinforce and exacerbate existing gender inequalities’, and ‘it is embedded in highly gendered discourse.’ (1999: 11). They also argue that countering those narratives ‘which project globalization as an “irresistible” (masculine) force’ ‘can be assisted by deconstructing dominant constructions of, in particular, emerging Anglo-American hegemonic masculinity under global restructuring and revealing how many men (e.g. as workers) are also being subordinated by these constructions.’ (1999: 12-13). According to feminist writers, ‘gendered metaphors and symbolism in globalization discourses act to privilege particular agents and sectors over others, such as finance capital over manufacturing, finance ministries over social welfare ministries, the market over the state, the global over the local, and consumers over citizens.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 13).
As to the relationship between the market and the state, ‘the state is typically “feminized” in relation to the more robust market by being represented as a drag on the global economy that must be subordinated and minimized’ in neoliberal discourse on globalisation (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 14).
Marchand and Runyan note that feminist critiques of the global capitalist market have primarily focused on gendered divisions of labour in which women are disadvantaged in relation to men regarding status, pay, and working conditions. Gender inequalities, have observed feminists, ‘are being both exacerbated and complicated with the advent of post-industrial capitalism.’ In a global economy organised around services and just-in-time production processes, women have become preferred candidates for certain kinds of jobs. There has taken the ‘feminization of labour’ place which refers to the unprecedented increase in the numbers of women workers in the formal and informal labour force, as well as to the ‘flexibilization’ and ‘casualization’ of especially women’s labour (1999: 16-17).
Besides analysing the economic effects of global restructuring on women, feminist international relations theorists have also analysed ‘the consequences for women of the political effects of restructuring on the state and civil society. Economic privatization is producing political privatization which takes several forms.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 17-18).
According to Marchand and Runyan, global restructuring is ‘a process that constitutes and is constituted by a myriad of unsettlings and renegotiations of boundaries and identities’, and gender as a significant boundary maker as well as boundary marker and identity producer is a focal point both of and for this global restructuring process (1999: 18).
IR and IPE scholars, especially those working within the (neo)realist tradition have paid scant attention to the question of resistance within the context of globalisation. One explanation for this lack of attention towards resistance is that ‘the dominant portrayal of globalization as inevitable and a “bigger-than-thou” phenomenon has led to feelings of disempowerment (and thus eroding the basis resistance).’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 19).
‘Developing a feminist analysis of and perspective on resistance involves, first of all, a recognition of the contextual nature of resistance. Resistance, in other words, is embedded in, structured by as well as structuring global restructuring ...
A second area for feminist theorizing (and activism) is the shift in the balance of power within states which tilts power in favor of ministries of finance and economic affairs...
Finally, processes of global restructuring have also had their impact on civil society and brought about increased social activism beyond national borders ...the elements of civil society neoliberals wish to privilege over the state are precisely those which will broaden and deepen relations of domination in the absence of any recourse to democratic governance at local, national, or global levels.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 19-20).
In order to counteract neoliberal and patriarchal global restructuring, argue Marchand and Runyan, it must be revealed how the processes of global restructuring which ‘involve simultaneous transformations of the state, civil society, and the market are gendered. ‘This can be done by employing relational thinking through “bringing people” (as highly diverse “women” and “men”) into the analysis of global restructuring and by focusing on its gendered representations.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 21). Relational thinking ‘involves understanding the world “out there” (practices, institutions, structures of social re/production), how we think (meaning systems, ideologies, paradigms), and who we are (subjectivity, agency, self and collective identities) as interacting dimensions of social reality’ (Spike Peterson quoted by Marchand and Runyan 1999: 8-9).
Kimberly A.Chang and L.H.M. Ling distinguish two kinds of global restructuring: ‘dominant masculinist construction of globalization, depicted as a thorough-going process that is variously cosmopolitan, postmodern, or “freeing” in nature’ (global restructuring 1 or G1) and global restructuring 2 or G2, that is, ‘the low-wage and highly sexualized and racialized labor done largely by Third World women workers which serves the cosmopolitanites of G1 and is enforced by still quite potent modernist and traditional forces of the state, culture, religion, and family.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 23).
Chang and Ling label these two processes of global restructuring also as ‘techno-mascular capitalism’ (TMC) and regime of ‘labor intimacy’ (RLI) respectively. Identifying features of TMC are: integration of technology, trade, production, and communications facilitated by globalized financial networks. Identifying features of RLI are: exportation of low-wage, low-to-medium skilled workers to service ‘intimate’ jobs in cosmopolitan homes. While the state is internationalised or ‘hollowed out’ in TMC, it is complicit, patriarchal and vigorous in RLI. The transnationalised ideology of TMC is liberal capitalism, whereas sexualised and racialised service is the transnationalised ideology of RLI. As to nature of global society, culture and persons, TCM is characterised by global elites, or cosmopolitans, postmodern individualism, or ‘shell-shocked’ withdrawal. RLI is characterised by cultural reification: God, family, and country, crossing sexual boundaries, moral dilemmas (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 41, see Table 1.1).
Chang and Ling argue that despite their differences, both liberals who accept ‘globalisation’ ‘as a contemporary, market response to ‘internationalised’ consumer and producer demands’, and critics who conceive of ‘global restructuring as historically continuous, ideologically hegemonic, and materially impoverishing for the majority of the world’ ‘agree on the subject matter itself: “globalization’s” characteristics, impact, ideology, and culture.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 28).
According to Chang and Ling, a growing body of feminist ‘literature explicitly recognizes gender as a fundamental dimension along which all social processes and practices are organized, experienced, and rendered meaningful. Thus , the subjects of these studies are not disembodied persons who transverse across time and space, but corporeal women and men whose choices and movements reflect their gendered, racialized, and class-based identities in the worlds they inhabit.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 33).
The political economy approach to patriarchy by Gillian Youngs emphasises ‘the interactive nature of households and the economy at large: “[c]apitalism and patriarchy are viewed as two systems of social relations that interact in every domain of social life” (Gibson and Graham 1996: 64).’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 45). Youngs argues that ‘[t]he patriarchal prism through which political economy has traditionally been interpreted is based on a prioritization of public sphere activities over the private realm on the basis of a power relationship between the two.’ The ‘elevation of the public over the private as determinant of international reality’, according to Peterson and Whitworth quoted by Youngs, is ‘ a process which in theory and practice works to obscure various aspects of social reproduction in the private realm, that is the home and the family’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 45, 46).
Youngs argue that ‘the public over private abstractions which characterize dominant conceptualizations of social, political, and economic space’ entail conceptual blindness. Since ‘patriarchal forces are overlapping and interacting in transnationalized circumstances through global restructuring’, argues Youngs, ‘new and even more complex patriarchal structures are developing’ which ‘require us to adopt multi-locational perspectives on patriarchal forces in terms of state and market, to recognize that public/private social and spatial constructions are, in certain senses, mobilized and reconfigured in the globalizing world.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 56).
Charlotte Hopper argues that gender relations are also being transformed as an integral part of large-scale economic restructuring accompanied by a complex set of political, institutional, and social changes. ‘In political economy terms, it has heralded a casualization and feminization of the workforce; the erosion of welfare provision; the collapse of the family wage system; an increase in female-headed households; expanded opportunities for women at the professional level; and a feminization of poverty.’ Quoting Linda McDowell and Anne Sisson Runyan, Hooper points out that global restructuring ‘has also undermined men’s personal authority in the family, brought blue-collar unemployment, and is reducing the value of so-called masculine attributes in the labor market.’ According to Hooper, ‘[g]lobal restructuring clearly presents a major challenge to the existing gender order, with varied effects with regard to the position of different groups of men and women.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 60).
Hooper argues that ‘[t]here is a hierarchy of masculinities, in which gender intersects with other factors such as class, race, and sexuality.’ She also argues that ‘[w]hile there may be many masculinities and femininities in existence at the same time, hegemonic patterns of masculinity operate at the level of whole society, shoring up male power and advantage.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 62). Hegemonic masculinity which is constitutive of and embodied in numerous institutional practices is always constructed in opposition to a range of subordinate masculinities as well as femininities (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 62). According to the perspective outlined by Hooper, ‘as well as divisions between men and women, the relationships between different masculunities also play a part in the gender order.’ The hegemonic Anglo-American ‘masculinity is being reconfigured in the image of a less formal, less patriarchal but more technocratic masculine elite with the whole globe as its playground.’ (Marchand and Runyan 1999: 70).
In In the Tracks of Historical Materialism Perry Anderson notes that although the exact relationship between structuralism and post-structuralism remains to be established, two of the most central figures in the first, Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault, were no less prominent in the second (1983: 39). Jacques Derida, ‘a purer post-structuralist’ (Anderson 1983: 39), ‘rejected the notion of language as a stable system of objectification, but radicalized its pretensions as a universal suzerain of the modern world, with the truly decree, “there is nothing outside of the text”, “nothing before the text, no pretext that is not already a text”. ‘ (Anderson 1983: 42). Derrida had seen ‘that the supposition of any stable structure had always depended on the silent postulation of a centre that was not entirely “subject” to it: in other words, of a subject distinct from it. His decisive move was to liquidate the last vestige of such autonomy ... the effect was a radically destructuring one... [structurality]’s play now knows no boundaries of any sort - it is “absolute chance”, “genetic indetermination”, “the seminal adventure of the trace”. Structure therewith capsizes into its anti-thesis, and post-structuralism proper is born, or what can be defined as a subjectivism without subject.’ ‘The lesson is that structure and subject have in this sense always been interdependent as categories.’ (Anderson 1983: 54).
The by Roland Barthes coined concept textuality is one of the key concepts in post-structuralism. According to Donna U. Gregory, ‘The term textuality, which embraces all dimensions of a text, is a way to evade this long-established opposition [the opposition between logical and rhetorical], to organize anew our vision of “a text,” and to constitute a multifaceted basis for meaning-making.’ She points out that ‘the “textuality” of an essay includes historical and rhetorical dimensions as legitimate parts of the essay’s semic and epistemic potential.’ (Der Derian and Shapiro 1989: xviii). Gregory points out that ‘To see the world as a text is to confront the issue of meaning in a radically new way.’ According to Barthes’ concept of textuality which conceives the world as a text, just as photographs have meaning independent of what they meant to those who snapped them, ‘written things too may have meanings independently of the author who penned them. Barthes’ concept of textuality thus loosen the written text from the author and relocate authority within the culture.’ (Der Derian and Shapiro 1989: xix.) According to Thomas Sebeok, quoted by Shapiro, intertextuality ‘denotes ways in which works of art-especially of literature-are produced in response not to social reality but to previous works of art and the codes of other conventions governing them.’ (1989: 11).
Der Derian argues that ‘International relations requires an intertextual approach, in the sense of a critical inquiry into an area of thought where there is no final arbiter of truth, where meaning is derived from an interrelationship of texts, and power is implicated by the problem of language and other signifying practices. There is, then, a strategic aspect to intertextualism: it involves a survey of fields of battle commonly described as international theory.’ (1989: 6). What is intertext? It is described by Roland Barthes as ‘a multi-dimesional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash.’ (Der Derian 1989: 6).
Der Derian argues that although intertextual theorising is clearly not a process of scientific verification, it should, however, not be construed as intrinsically antiscientific. ‘Rather, it takes a self-conscious step away from the dominant formalistic and ahistorical trends in international relations theory that “naturally” select hermetic, rational models over hermeneutic, philosophical investigations.’ (1989: 7).
Walker asserts that, as far as analysing ‘change’ in international relations is concerned, ‘it is probably more helpful to examine the relationship between ... changing conceptions of particular and universal rather than to assume that change must involve a move from particular state to universal global community.’ He also points out that ‘the political-economy literature is certainly more sensitive to historical change in this sense than are either realist or idealist forms of international relations theory.’ According to Walker, ‘the intersection between aspirations to develop a critical theory of international relations and contemporary challenges to the high ground of modernity that currently occur under the banner of poststructuralism’ can be understood in this context. He explains why this is so:
‘...For the poststructuralist critique of the principle that difference (pluralism, becoming, time) is only to be grasped as a moment of identity (unity, being, space) undermines the logic through which a tradition of international relations (the realm par excellence of pluralism) is constituted as the negation of a tradition of political theory (the realm of universals).Regarding poststructuralism and historicity, Ashley argues that, ‘poststructuralist social theory is drawn to the uncertain “frontiers,” the “border lines,” or the “margins” of modernity’s most central and certain voices.’ He accepts that such a marginal positioning is unsettling. However, he asserts that ‘it also permits an expansion of the agenda of social research and theory. It permits poststructuralism to pose the question of historicity that modern theory and practice excludes.’ (1989: 272).
It is in this context also that it ought to be possible to make a connection between the critical analysis of international relations and contemporary concerns about political practice.’ (1989: 43).
Regarding the historicity/theory hierarchy, Ashley points out that ‘Poststructuralism cannot claim to offer an alternative position or perspective, because there is no alternative ground upon which it might be established.’ What poststructuralism can do , according to Ashley, is invert the hierarchy, make the respect for historicity of all possible grounds its ‘central presence’, locate theory at the ‘margins’ of its own discourse, and historicise theoretical discourse. He maintains that
‘.. [P]oststructuralist discourse remains theoretical discourse ... [It] is not especially interested in the meticulous examination of particular cases or sites for purposes of understanding them in their own distinctive terms. It is not especially interested in-it in fact distrusts- “interpretation,” if by interpretation one means the attempt to recover and fix a meaning intrinsic to a particular text or set of practices.
Rather, poststructuralist discourse is disposed to undertake systematic, expanding analyses that look to particulars in terms of the puzzles to which they speak, the general issues they can illuminate...’ (1989: 278).
How does poststructuralism understand history? According to Ashley, it understands history in its intrinsic pluralness, as a boundless text of countless texts, as le texte général. History, as viewed as le texte général ... is intrinsically ambiguous and resists reading because it is ever in the process of being produced or written in a multiplicity of dispersed sites drawing upon disparate cultural resources, and its production requires the active contributions of women and men who participate in writing it in the very act of interpreting and ascribing a content to it.’ (1989: 280).
An appropriate position, the appropriate ‘place’ of poststructuralism in the study of global politics is, according to Ashley, neither domestic nor international. It ‘is really a “nonplace,” a boundary that it puts in question: the boundary between domestic and international politics.’ (1989: 260). ‘It is the “nonplace” defined in terms of the ever problematical difference between the two.’ He also suggests that ‘from this place on the border lines of global life, an important line of inquiry would find its focus in the paradoxical problem ... of the inscription of a paradigm of sovereign man as a widely circulated functional “principle thrift”-a constitutive principle of state and domestic society-in modern life.’ (1989: 285).
Ashley argues that to take up a position at the margins of ‘domestic politics’ and ‘international politics’ is to do with ‘a displacement of the state from the central place modern discourses of international politics have accorded it.’ Since ‘the state displaced by historicizing attitude of poststructuralism, the difference between domestic politics, as the identical domain of “man,” and international politics, as the ambiguous and indeterminate battlefield of “war,” can no longer be taken for granted as the starting point of inquiry into modern global politics.’ Because of the displacement of the state-as-absolute-boundary there is ‘a need and opportunity to think in a wholly new way the relation between the undecidable indeterminacy signified by “war” and “international politics,” on the one hand, and the decidable identities signified by “man” and “domestic politics,” on the other.’ (1989: 309).
There is no clear-cut definition of postmodernism. ‘No one exactly agrees’, points out Harvey, ‘as to what is meant by the term, except, perhaps, that “postmodernism” represents some kind of reaction to, or departure from, “modernism”.’ (1995: 7). Marchand and Parpart note that ‘[p]ostmodernism is not easily encapsulated in one phrase or idea as it is actually an amalgam of often purposely ambiguous and fluid ideas. It represents the convergence of three distinct cultural trends. These include an attack on the austerity and functionalism of modern art; philosophical attack on structuralism ... and the economic theories of postindustrial society.’ (Marchand and Parpart 1995: 2). Harvey asserts that what all descriptions of postmodernism ‘have in common is a rejection of “meta-narratives” (large-scale theoretical interpretations purportedly of universal application.’ (1995: 9). Postmodernist thinkers such as M. Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard argue that ‘[u]niversal and eternal truths, if they exist at all, cannot be specified. Condemning meta-narratives (...) as “totalizing,” they insist upon the plurality of “power-discourse” formations (Foucault), or of “language games” (Lyotard). Lyotard in fact defines the postmodern simply as “incredulity towards metanarratives.” ‘ (Harvey 1995: 45).
Harvey suggests that postmodernism emerged ‘as a full-blown though still incoherent movement out of the chrysalis of the anti-modern movement of the 1960s’ somewhere between 1968 and 1972 (1995: 38). It can be said that the emergence of postmodernism coincided with the crisis of the Fordist mode of capital accumulation. Harvey notes that ‘the period from 1965 to 1973 was one in which the inability of Fordism and Keynesianism to contain the inherent contradictions of capitalism became more and more apparent.’ (1995: 142). There took place a transition from Fordism to flexible accumulation in which ‘[t]he relatively stable aesthetic of Fordist modernism has given way to all ferment, instability, and fleeting qualities of a postmodernist aesthetic that celebrates difference, ephemerality, spectacle, fashion, and the commodification of cultural forms.’ (Harvey 1995: 156). Grusky and Sorensen point out that post-Fordist and postmodernist accounts are often conflated in the literature. According to them, ‘[f]or example, the “new times” post-Fordism of [Stuart] Hall (1988) and his colleagues (...) becomes virtually indistinguishable from conventional postmodernism, since it emphasizes that sociotechnical changes weaken aggregate solidarities and generate a new stratification order based on “lifestyle, taste, and culture rather than categories of social class” (Hall 1988, p.24). This account rests on the characteristic postmodernist assumption that an “increasingly fragmented” productive realm (Hall 1988, p.24) necessarily weakens all forms of solidarity within the division of labor.’ (Grusky and Sorensen 1998: 1214).
As to the international relations theory, ‘postmodern international theorists attack the very notions of reality, or truth, or structure or identity that are central to international theory as well as all other human sciences.’ (Smith 1995: 25). Halliday notes that the entry of postmodernism into the field of international relations as a discipline can be dated from the latter part of the 1980s (1994: 37). ‘Post-modernism’s emphasis upon the role of “discourse” in the widest sense - words, meanings, symbols, identities, forms of communication - in the constitution of society and of power has’, according to Halliday, ‘significant implications for international relations, not least in the very way in which states have sought to appropriate and project their legitimacy (1994: 38).
Halliday points out that a representative example of postmodernist and post-structuralist approach (5) in international relations theory is the work of Robert Walker who is ‘broadly influenced by post-modernist and post-structuralist thinking’ (1994: 41). ‘One of the strongest aspects of Walker’s critique is that’, according to Halliday, ‘he locates the main areas of disagreement not in the field of the international at all, but in political theory in general ... his re-evaluation of the tradition sets IR theory firmly back into its broader intellectual and academic context.’ (1994: 41).
According to Walker, ‘IR theory has three major weaknesses, all derived from political theory as such: ‘it treats as eternal and given categories and contrasts which are historically produced, and hence liable to change; it fails to register the degree to which the political world, national and international, is changing, with the transformation of the “post-modern world”; it therefore excludes and proscribes, by silence, the evolution of alternative theories and practices, that might enable an improvement in the human condition at national, international or local levels.’ (Halliday 1994: 41-42).
Halliday summarises many criticisms that those who advocated postmodernism in the late 1980s have given scant regard, or reply:
‘ ... the underlying amoralism of post-modernism, with its denial of any generally applicable moral principles; its inability to provide substantive explanation of historical events or periods; its overstatement of the role of “discursive” or ideological factors in society; and neglect of the relation of these to other more material processes of production, social relations and indeed everyday life.’ (1994: 38). Halliday points out that two further criticisms evident in the writing of IR can be added to these general criticisms. One is related to the very term ‘post-modernity’, the other to postmodernism’s methodology. The first additional criticism is ‘the reliance of the whole approach on something termed “post-modernity”, a claim of questionable validity that in some sense the world has entered a new historical phase. Often of loose historical application, and based on some contingent observations about space, time, risk, perception, this invocation of a “post-modern” world serves as a fetish rather than as an explanation.’ The second additional criticism is that ‘if philosophical or epistemological claims of “post-modernism” are valid , about the failings of enlightenment thought, identity, the fact-value distinction, categories and so forth, then they were always true, as much in the fifteenth, or fifth, centuries, as in the modern epoch.’ (1994: 39).
10. FOR A WORLD FREE OF CLASSES, STATES AND BORDERS
I define politics, domestic as well as global, as the theory and practice of different class forces regarding the maintaining and or changing the existing economic, social, political, military and cultural power relations. The imperialist states of the advanced capitalist countries, internationally mobile big capital, especially transnational corporations (TNCs), international financial institutions, military-politico international organisations such as NATO, the economically less powerful, but politically and militarily powerful and influential capitalist states, such as Russia and state-capitalist China, and some regional powers are the principle actors in the world politics. Some advanced capitalist countries have more than one principal actor at global stage. The overwhelming majority of the less developed countries do not and cannot play a noteworthy role in world politics. As far as these countries are concerned, the nation-state is still the only major international actor they have. The nation-state is the poor man’s TNC!
As far as the relationship between the international states system and the individual units of the system is concerned, the location of the unit in the system plays a crucial role regarding the workings of the system. Not every unit is and can be treated as equal. There are system-affecting or determining units and system-effected units. Some units which consist of the nation-state, TNCs, financial institutions, etc. are powerful enough to affect the system as a whole, the overwhelming majority of units are not. There exist relatively symmetrical power relations among advanced capitalist countries (‘interdependency’) on the one hand, and asymmetrical power relations between advanced capitalist countries and neo-colonial countries (‘dependency’) on the other.
The capitalist world system is characterised by, among other things, the division of the world population into individual nation-states, the systemic or permanent economic, political, military and cultural power inequalities and power struggles. A small number of (TNCs) of the advanced capitalist countries and the imperialist states dominate the world economy. Because of the international or global division of labour which is determined by the unequal and combined development of capitalism, the fundamental inequalities between the peoples of the advanced capitalist countries and the peoples of the less developed or dependent/neo-colonial capitalist countries are continuously reproduced. The relationship between the advanced capitalist economies and neo-colonial economies is one of the dominant and subordinate, that is, imperialist.
The contemporary world is also characterised by oppression, threat and/or use of violence, military interventions, local and regional wars, civil wars. Conflict, violence and war are inherent in a class society and in the international state system. The struggle among the big imperialist capitals and states in order to re-divide and dominate the world leads to tensions, conflicts, and all sorts of wars and misery. Through their economic and military powers the imperialist states are trying to maintain the present world order and to increase the already existing power inequalities in the global configuration of power relations.
Local and national anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggles of the workers and oppressed peoples are not strong enough to change the existing power relations. There is a need to organise a counteroffensive against globally restructuring big capital and big ‘national’ capital, against the neoliberal collaborationist class alliance. Local, national, and regional resistances and counter-offensives must be co-ordinated against neoliberal global restructuring. Above all, the working classes of all countries must organise themselves as a global socialist force in order to organise a global system-challenging anti-capitalist class struggle. Neoliberal global offensive of big capital must be countered with a global system-challenging counter-offensive of all anti-capitalist social forces under the leadership of the working classes for a socialist world order.
I see the whole world as a ‘battleground’ for universal emancipation of human species. I regard the class divisions, divisions into individual nations, and individual states, racial, sexual and national oppression as historical barriers that can and must be transcended in order to attain universal emancipation. A world without classes, states and borders - that is what I want. Marxism as a system-challenging universalistic theory has such an universal emancipatory project which is worth fighting for. I do not only want to understand the world, but I also want contribute to struggle in order to change it.
A. H. Yalaz
Spring of 2000
(4) I do not use the term ‘Third World’. Here I use it for the sake of convenience.
(5) Der Derian and Shapiro point out that despite their differences, post-modernism and post-structuralism share several common themes. ‘Above all, they address the questions of how knowledge, truth, and meaning are constituted.’ (1989:xiii).
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