Wednesday, June 25, 2008

David Harvey's Lectures on Karl Marx's Capital

thanks to Larval subjects for bringing attention to these video lectures from David Harvey on Karl Marx's Capital, which can be watched here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Complexity in International Relations Theory

Nick, at Accursed Share, has posted an interesting and relevant post about issues relating to the structure/agency problem in International Relations Theory.

I am in agreement about the need to consider multiple interacting systems in International Relations theory. There still seems to be a desire to simplify actual events, and the complexity of them, into all-encompassing theories that accounts for the change before it happens (e.g. the eternal wisdom of neo-realism). A lot of the approaches still fail to cope with the issue of emergence and lack the capacity to identify system-generating processes. They seem to always assume that the system is already there (Waltz and Wendt) ! However, historical approaches like world systems theory do acknowledge the importance of historical analysis, but lack, i feel, a non-linear understanding of History (althought this is emerging in world systems theory).

There is also the problem of organismic approaches to the state, which is most prominent in Alexander Wendt's recent work, which tries to propose a quantum hypothesis of consciousness. While it is all very interesting Wendt seems to be appealing to an essential and totalising (human) condition to propose his theory of the state as a person. His example of how a state functions is connected to the idea of a beehive composed of homogeneous units (i.e. individuals). The problem I feel with Wendt’s approach is his model of the stats is based on what DeLanda refers to as a ‘relations of Interiority’, which is a result of arguing the state is a superorganism (like a beehive). I tend to think Wendt needs to consider the state more from a ‘relations of exteriority’ approach, which could account for heterogeneous components (i.e. assemblages) interacting with one another. For example, lobbying power in some states is a crucial factor for understanding the actualisations that occur in Global politics. One only needs to consider the lobbying power in encouraging the U.S. to not sign the Koyota protocol. However, this is not to claim that the U.S. (as a state) is a homogeneous person in favour of rejecting the protocol. There are plenty of assemblages that are present (and also emergent) in the U.S that lobby and protest in favour of environmental policies. This means the state is more like Deleuze's idea of the wasp and orchid interacting (heterogeneous components) than a beehive (homogeneous organic beings).

I would also propose that anthropocentricism is a problem in the discipline of International Relations. This seems to be a difficult topic because it would appear that humanity is the cause of International Relations (IR). However, could IR, in an attempt to learn from the natural sciences (particularly complexity theory) think, for example, about the significance of such things as weather systems producing events in international politics? The example of the recent cyclone in Burma would illustrate that humanity is not the ‘centre’ of global politics.

Monday, June 9, 2008

An Either/Or Question?

I was watching a Manuel DeLanda lecture online and he put forward a question which he argues sets you on a philosophical path that you cannot come back from . In the terminology of Badiou we can describe the question as a truth event from which we then produce knowledge from a fidelity to that event.

the question is:

'Do you think that Eskimos has 27 different words for snow because

a) they label snow differently 27 times

b) they interact with snow differently

I am still to decide if DeLanda is putting forward a Zizekian 'forced choice' or a question that one should answer and stay committed to that position for producing knowledge.

I would be interested to know what side of the fence you are sitting on?

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Blog Pole - Idealism

After the recent success of the last blog pole, which asked you for your favourite 19th century philosopher, there is another pole uploaded for the next month and a half.

This time I have decided to go over to the 'other/enemies' side. Struggleswithphilosophy's will leave its normal materialism behind and dedicate a pole to the idealists. The pole asks you for your favourite idealist philosopher.