2.12.10

World Politics blog question #13 for BOTH sections

Rosenblum notes on p. 245 of the paperback edition: "The only way to keep them [the space-residing humans, who are phenotypically different even though they are genetically the same] safe is to be separate. A nation with the power to protect its own." Hence, sovereignty protects difference, in this way of thinking about things. Do you agree?

World Politics blog question #12 for section 081 (blue team)

Why does Todorov dedicate his book to an anonymous Mayan woman devoured by dogs?

World Politics blog question #12 for section 080 (red team)

On p. 250, Todorov writes: "'The man who finds his country sweet is only a raw beginner; the man for whom each country is as his own is already strong; but only the man for whom the whole world is as a foreign country is perfect' (I myself, a Bulgarian living in France, borrow this quotation from Edward Said, a Palestinian living in the United States, who himself found it in Erich Auerbach, a German exiled in Turkey)." Is he right?

17.11.10


Bonus blog question: which representation of "Indians" here is more acceptable?

[Photo courtesy of Erin Lockwood]

blog question #11 for blue team (section 081)

Is it fair to blame Columbus for what happened after he "discovered" the Americas? Did something about how he acted, and inter-acted with the native population, set things off on a course that could have been avoided if he had acted differently?

15.11.10

blog question #11 for red team (section 080)

Todorov asks (rhetorically, perhaps) whether the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs "by means of signs." Do you agree with Todorov's answer?

9.11.10

World Politics blog question #10 for blue team (section 081)

Is there an inherent value to analyses of world politics from alternative perspectives? Ann Tickner argued that we need alternative foundational stories about global politics; what is the value of such stories, if there is value to such stories?

8.11.10

World Politics blog question #10 for section 080 (red team)

Inayatullah's argument about states having a right to wealth is predicated on tbe claim that states are unequally prepared for global economic competition. Is the economic success or failure of a state under such circumstances a fair outcome? If so, why? If not, what should be done?

2.11.10

World Politics blog question #9 for blue team (section 081)

Does the fact that the United States has troops deployed in Afghanistan at the present time make you more or less secure?

1.11.10

World Politics blog question #9 for section 080 (red team)

"Because of economic globalization and other challenges that affect very large numbers of people, the only viable mode of political and economic organization in world politics is some form of supernational integration." Discuss. Use IR theory vocabulary as appropriate.

26.10.10

World Politics blog question #8 for blue team (section 081)

Are there boundaries to security policy? Are there things that should not be part of "security"?

25.10.10

blog question #8 for section 080 (red team)

Other than terrorism, what is the greatest threat to global peace and security? In answering this question, be sure to pay close attention to how you are defining "threat."

19.10.10

blog question #7 for blue team (section 081)

Besides being a lot of fun, Diplomatic Risk is also a simulation of certain aspects of world politics. In what ways are the dynamics of the game similar to actual world politics? In what ways are they different?

18.10.10

blog question #7 for red team (section 080)

In our Risk game, there was a reasonably easy way to determine the winner: the rules of the game specified victory conditions that players had to meet. But what might "winning" mean in actual world politics?

28.9.10

blog question #6 for blue team (section 081)

In class today we demonstrated that it is possible to analyze the Bretton Woods institutions from at least three different points of view, and that those analyses do not agree with one another. Given this, what should we do about the incompatibility between perspectives? If one perspective is accurate, does this necessarily mean that the others are wrong?

27.9.10

World Politics blog question #6 for red team (section 080)

By way of further elucidating the logic of the three theoretical perspectives we're been wrestling with, I would like you to take one of the following two empirical questions and see what one or two of the perspectives would say about it:

1) the UN recently decided, according to reports like this one (http://www.space.com/news/united-nations-alien-ambassador-100927.html), to appoint an ambassador in case of alien contact. Is this a good idea?

2) the Bretton Woods system itself has undergone such radical changes that some would say that it no longer even exists. Is this a good thing?

Feel free to tackle both if you can find a creative way of combining them ;-)

21.9.10

World Politics blog question #5 for blue team (section 081)

Among other things, today we discussed the issue of whether and to what extent the authority of a professor in the classroom is limited. Extending this analysis to the international system: are there things that states should not do? Are there social norms and expectations that set limits on state action, or are all such limits reducible to questions of power and self-interest?

20.9.10

World Politics blog question #5 for section 080 (red team)

Suppose that Lady Gaga were a state. What kind of state would she be? Lady Gaga is of course known for flaunting social conventions and breaking rules; which international rules and norms would such a state try to more or less deliberately violate? And what kind of structure would an international system with Lady Gaga in it and up having?

14.9.10

World Politics blog question #4 for section 081 (blue team)

Building on our discussion of liberalism in class today: is an uninformed vote better than not voting at all?

13.9.10

World Politics section 080 (red team) blog question #4

In class today we spent a good deal of time talking about the ways that democratic elections might function as ways of de-politicizing the populace, thus frustrating the expectations of liberals about making the government accountable to the people. Given that discussion, would you rather live in a society that did not have governmental elections?

7.9.10

World Politics blog question #3 for section 081 (blue team)

Machiavelli paints a portrait of a ruler who must always be prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain his (and for Machiavelli, it's always "his") power. Is this an accurate portrayal of contemporary ruling elites? Should rulers follow Machiavelli's advice, even under contemporary conditions?

6.9.10

World Politics blog question #3 for section 080 (red team)

Near the end of The Prince, Machiavelli suggests that since fortune favors the bold, it is always better to take the initiative in political life and political struggle. Is this good advice? Does it cohere with Machiavelli's other pieces of advice throughout the book?

31.8.10

World Politics section 081 ("blue team") blog question #2

In the light of our discussion today about various aspects of sovereignty, and in the light of the fact that the history related by Opello and Rosow pretty clearly demonstrates that the connection between sovereignty and the modern state is more historically contingent than absolute or categorical, I would like you to wrestle with the following question:

Are there entities in the contemporary world that are not sovereign, but should be sovereign? Should sovereignty be the exclusive province of what Opello and Rosow call "nation-states"?

30.8.10

World Politics section 080 ("red team") blog question #2

As I tossed out in class today, ably recorded by G├╝nperi:

"Should the world be organized into sovereign territorial nation-states?"

In thinking about your answer to this question: a) use the definition of "nation-state" from the Opello and Rosow book; b) feel free to presume that the world is at present organized along these lines, even though this is an assumption that we will come to question later in the semester; and c) consider various issues in world politics and how the organizational principles of the international system impact the ability of various societies to deal with them. Also, feel free to move the argument into a more normative plane, and to deal less with practical consequences and more with categorical issues of morality, if you are so inclined.

24.8.10

World Politics blog question #1

For both sections this week.

What is the most important issue in world politics? Why?

20.8.10

And we're coming to the restart

New academic year, new commitment to actually updating this blog from time to time. Besides the fact that I use this blog for my World Politics class' blog questions, other things also find their way here . . . like this link to the text of my remarks at the UC opening reception -- "A Rock in the River." I did not actually deliver all of this talk on that occasion, but this is in fact where the sentiments that I did express then come from.

13.5.10

iPad adventures, days 2-3

Had to do a bunch of work on my laptop the past couple of days, because I needed a program (FileMaker) that there's no app version of. But I did manage to take the iPad out for a spin at a local coffee shop to do some grading; I simply love reading and grading on this thing, since it's so much more flexible than using a laptop for the purpose! And for some bizarre reason, even though I was only in the coffee shop working for an hour or so, and I could have brought my laptop and done this almost any time, it never really occurred to me to try it. My laptop has become almost like a "portable desktop," if that makes any sense, and packing it up to take it someplace strikes me as too much trouble. Now the iPad, even though I have to sync pdf files to it before I go out to work someplace, just feels so much more portable it's not funny. I think it's the battery life -- even though my MacBook Pro can get 3.5-4 hours pretty consistently, the fact that the iPad gets like 12, and the fact that I have only now plugged it in for the first time since Monday (which was two days ago), gives a little psychological boost: this thing runs forever, or at least for the practical equivalent of forever, so one need not think about running out of juice. That's nice.

Not so nice was something I discovered when trying to show someone a web page I'd been browsing before: I'd thought that the page would be cached, and would continue to be available even though I was now in a place without wi-fi connectivity (I haven't purchased the 3G data plan yet, still resisting that temptation). Apparently not. After I got over the mild embarrassment of the situation and made it back to someplace with wi-fi, I discovered a lovely little free app called Offline Pages, which does what the name implies: allows you to grab web pages (and even pdf files that you download from the web, since the iPad doesn't stick those in a folder that you can subsequently access with a pdf reader like GoodReader) and view them when offline. Problem solved, at no cost.

I'm also discovering first-hand the perils of autocorrect, and the need to proofread carefully before hitting the send button on an e-mail. The autocorrect engine sometimes guesses right, but sometimes it guesses bizarrely, and I can't tell if it's learning from my activity or not. Time will tell, I suppose, and in the meantime there's nothing to do but to check carefully before sending things out. Probably good practice anyway, but I hope that the autocorrect system's accuracy improves as it gets my input to chew on.

10.5.10

iPad adventures, day one

I actually received my iPad last week, but today is the first day I began what I am thinking of as the Great iPad Experiment: leaving my laptop asleep at home, and trying to do my daily academic work off of this remarkable little piece of machinery. I intend to post some reflections on how things are going every day or two.

At the moment I am typing on one of Apple's little Bluetooth keyboards, which I unpacked today and synched to my iPad in about three seconds (and the keyboard even comes with batteries included, which is excellent -- works right out of the box, literally). The iPad is lodged in an iPad dock on my desk, and the keyboard is on my lap; I have music playing through my computer speakers, which are plugged into the dock. (Note to readers: volume level on the iPad dock is line level, not headphone level, so if you have your speakers turned up far when you plug in the iPad it's very loud at first!) The Apple dock only supports the iPad in portrait mode, so the text as I type here is kind of small; the upside is that I'm a lot faster inputing text this way than I was with the on-screen keyboard. That said, the on-screen keyboard was more than sufficient for me to enter comments on the papers I was grading this weekend using the iPad; the external keyboard simply allows more flexibility in seating positions.

[Just as an experiment I turned the iPad sideways into Portrait mode and liked the text size much better. So, note for the to-do list: investigate an iPad dock that allows portrait orientation while the iPad is docked.]

The major issues I have observed so far with the iPad are the lack of footnote support for documents, and the inconvenience of having to reach for the screen to make edits (since there's no mouse or pointer). I think that the solution to the latter problem is to only use the external keyboard for entering massive amounts of text -- say, taking notes at a meeting -- and then proofread later; otherwise, the on-screen keyboard seems to work best. But the former issue is a real downer, especially for an academic. Apple has used its "quick view " technology to translate Word documents for iPad viewing, even if you open them in the app version of Pages, so no footnotes period unless you view them in a pdf. For the time being I have converted things that I want to read in the iPad to pdf, which works fine, but when someone sends me something as a Word document I can't really just read it on the iPad natively. Of course, if everyone sent things in pdf this wouldn't be so much of an issue, but there's a lot of common practice to overcome before that would stop happening.

Haven't signed up for a data plan yet. Wonder how long before the temptation to do so -- or the periodic reminders to do so that crop up on the screen -- gets the better of my determination to use as much free wi-fi as possible rather than paying for connectivity.

11.2.10

Methodological implications of Otherness

One of my favorite things about teaching the "social science fiction" seminar every couple of years is that it gives me an opportunity to revisit old favorite novels and films. Speaker for the Dead certainly qualifies; besides being one of my favorite novels period, it had been four years since I last read it. In preparation for this week's (snow-cancelled, unfortunately) class I "had" to read it again, for about the fifteenth time. In a lot of ways, I think it stands up better than most novels, even if you know what's going to happen -- the plot is engaging, the characters are beautifully drawn with their flaws fully intact, and the philosophical issues are posed in ways that are neither cursory nor overbearing.

Central to the novel, of course, is the typology of ways of relating to the Other that Demosthenes provides: utlanning, framling, ramen, and varelse. Given that I am supposed to be participating in a panel next Saturday at the International Studies Association conference in New Orleans that is going to consider the television series Battlestar Galactica and how it relates to world politics, and further given that my particular brief on this panel is to talk about science fiction in general and BSG in particular as sources of inspiration for our social-scientific methodologies, it may not be a surprise that one of the things that struck me on this reading of Speaker was how one might use Demosthenes' typology as part of a social-scientific study.

Now, many social scientists -- especially in IR -- equate (wrongly, but that's material for another time, or better, for another book) doing social science with the testing of hypotheses about how variables are associated across cases. This kind of "neopositivist" mode of research would, I think, turn Demosthenes' typology into a classification scheme for coding a discrete variable, either a variable attribute of the Other or a variable attribute of us describing how we relate to that Other. And then one would have to plug that variable into some kind of causal hypothesis -- "way of relating to the Other" or "kind of Other" either causes something, or is caused by something -- and look for cases to which to apply the hypothetical generalization. For example: we don't go to war with utlannings or framlings; we only go to war with ramen and varelse. (Call this the "Utlanning/Framling Peace Hypothesis," if you will.)

But this is clearly not what card wants us to do with the typology. Indeed, for Card this is more of a measure of moral maturity, as in the epigraph to Chapter 1. The typology functions as a mirror, as an occasion for self-examination, and it has a clear evaluative dimension: a lesser people would regard all aliens and foreigners as varelse, where a more advanced one would have the capacity to designate some of them ramen. (The "threshold" seems to apply to the varelse/ramen transition more than to any of the others.) Implicit here is that a morally mature people have some reliable way to distinguish between the two categories in a specific case; if they don't, then we are both back in Schmitt-land (who decides, and can they be second-guessed?) and left with the agonizing problem of mistakenly regarding an Other as ramen and trying to negotiate with them when we would have been better off regarding them as varelse and just going about our business the way we might when dealing with animals or plants or rocks. (Is it a sign of moral immaturity that we regard animals -- including gorillas, dolphins, elephants, whiles, etc. -- as varelse rather than ramen?)

All of this leads me to wonder: is there something else that one could do with this typology, something that is neither coding a variable or engaging in moral self-criticism? I think that there is, and it involves a disciplined imagination of what ways of relating to the Other would look like. But more about that when I post again in a couple of days.