Table of Contents|
Personal and Professional
Honors and Memberships
ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
Essays on NATO and Kosovo, 1999
Contact A.G. Frank
Andre Gunder Frank
Orienting International Studies or Not
A Review Essay of
Innovation and transformation in International Studies
Edited by Stephen Gill and James Mittelman
Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press 1997, 294 pp.
"Tell me, Gertrude, what is the answer?" "Ah, replied Gertrude Stein with he last dying words, but what is the question?" So writes Susan Strange to open her chapter on "The problem or the solution?". What is the question, indeed, never mind the answers that this book self-consciously proposes as 'innovation and transformation in international studies' for the twenty-first century? The book offers no analytical framework, analysis nor even hint of Asia's promise to return to the predominance that it already had in the global economy and international relations before the temporary 'Rise of the West'. A quick look at the book's index of subjects index offers a good preview, if not of all its contents, then at least of its priorities. The index lists the United States on 16 pages plus on 12 other contiguous ones in one chapter, Britain on 17 pages, Europe on 12, the Third World on 4, and Africa on 2 pages plus one chapter. Asia or any of its countries like China, India, or Japan are not listed at all. Only Strange herself makes even a passing reference to the question of the rise of Asia. The other contributors confine themselves to the same old Western answers; because they continue to pose the same old Eurocentric questions.
What's more, the only 'innovations' they recommend are all deliberately and explicitly derived from Marx, Weber, Gramsci, Polanyi, Braudel and Cox in whose honour these essays were written. The exception is Mustapha Kamal Pasha, who recommends Ibn Khaldun. But even that 'proves the rule,' since Pasha fails to note the major 'innovation' that the fourteenth century Tunisian statesman offers to international studies today: He did not see the world as Eurocentric. It was not when he wrote, and it is not or no longer when the authors of the present book write. Yet, the editors and authors remain so mired in the rut of the nineteenth and twentieth century European theorists they still recommend that they cannot even see how outdated and inappropriate their Eurocentrism is for the task they set themselves: "Rethinking and remaking the global order in the twenty-first century."
In his summary chapter on "Rethinking innovation in International Studies: global transformation at the turn of the millennium," one of the editors, James Mittelman, even inveighs against "West-centrism [that] embraces Western concepts and Western experience." Alas, he does not realize that this is exactly what he and his contributors do by "pointing the way forward: going back to the classics" of Marx and Weber, whom Mittelman especially invokes as " 'innovatory' both in their times and as regards world order today, and ... for study in the present and future."
Yet, any examination of global history and structural transformation reveals that Marx's 'innovation' was to neglect and deny the preponderant place and role of Asia in the same and to mis-attribute it to Europe instead. "For Marx, the most general level of abstraction [is]... the concept of mode or production," writes Mittelman, which allegedly underwent 'structural transformation' from 'feudalism' to 'capitalism' in Europe, while elsewhere Marx willfully saw nothing more than a totally mythical 'traditional, backward and stagnant' 'Asian Mode of Production'. Weber agreed and only introduced some causal modifications to the rationalizing process of 'The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.' Polanyi called it a 'Great Transformation,' and Braudel claimed that it took place in 'The European World-Economy' with which allegedly "Europe built a world around itself, as all historians know."
Alas, if that is all historians and the editors and contributors of this book know about the world, what they know is all wrong. For contrary to Marx, Weber, Braudel et al, China and India but also other parts of Asia were economically, politically, socially and culturally far more developed and still developing faster than Europe until at least 1800 before Marx and Weber wrote. It is simply not true that Europe 'built a world around itself as all historians know.' Instead, Europe sought and only very marginally succeeded to hitch its wagon to the already existing global economy and its development, which was predominantly Asian. Obviously, that is why Columbus and Vasco da Gama set out to Asia in the first place; and it was only their access to American silver that after 1500 permitted Europeans to establish and for three centuries to maintain any toe-hold in the burgeoning Asian market. Therefore, the entire corpus of Eurocentric social theory from Marx and Weber to Gill and Mittelman is simply counter-factual and anti-historical.
The editors' and contributors' intend "questioning and challenges to orthodoxy and the construction of an alternative prolematique, a historical perspective [of] longue duree, improved by a comparative historical method," as Gill himself claims [and italicizes!]. Yet, the ingrained Euro/Western-centrism of the contributors condemns them to violate every one of these criteria without even being aware that and how they are doing so. How can the editors and their contributors propose to rethink and reconstruct critical theory from a historical perspective so as to comprehend global structural change as long as their own Eurocentrism obviates any and all global historical perspective? They write that "a new paradigm emerges when the burden of anomalous phenomena is too great, when discrepancies can no longer be assimilated into existing paradigms." Gill, Mittelman and others rightly insist that the discrepancies between today's and tomorrow's global reality are indeed too great to be accommodated by received and especially post-war 'realist' international relations theory. Yet they seem totally unaware of the most important global structure or process whose historical and present anomalies, especially in Asia, cannot be accommodated by any of the 'classical' theory they still promote. For that theory has theoretically and empirically not only neglected but explicitly even denied that there was any global historical reality and structural transformation before the Europeans 'made it'. Nor do the contributors give any evidence of being aware, let alone of offering 'innovative analysis', of the re-emergence of Asia in the global economy and international relations today.
Let us briefly review what little if any 'innovation' this book does offer. Gill's own rendition of "historical configurations of world order" from Westphalia in 1648 to recent times is analogous to describing the placement of chairs in a very marginal peninsular room on the global Titanic, which says nothing about the real world order then, and now even less so. Augelli and Murphy invoke Sorel and Gramsci to evoke socio-political 'myths' as an agent of 'agency.' Falk invokes Machiavelli, Vico, Marx and Gramsci as intellectual forebears of E.H. Carr, Hedley Bull and Cox to validate "the influence of ideas and cultural primacy." Falk observes that "Cox consciously rejects the world system approach" but does not see that Cox also throws the real baby out with the systemic bathwater. Bernard recommends Polanyi without realizing that "the structural relationship among all parts of a social whole ... [and] methodological holism and historicism require" analysis of the global whole world political economy. But its very existence is denied by the school of sociologists and anthropologists whose head is the same Polanyi! Helleiner recommends Braudel as a beacon for studying "economic globalisation" over the "longue duree" even though he recognizes that 'before the nineteenth century, Braudel's 'world time' was experienced in most regions of the world primarily only at the top level." But how can Braudel "provide a set of analytic tools ... of thinking about 'economic globalisation'" today, when the very global economy that stared Braudel in the face in "the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries" penetrated and transformed the livelihood of almost everyone around the globe and yet still went unrecognized by Braudel even under his title The Perspective of the World?
Harrod wants to marry the 'two IRs', international relations and industrial relations. But to do so, he concentrates on the "Anglo-Saxon countries" to the exclusion even of Braudel's 'European world-economy,' never mind the whole real world political economy of which these two IRs are merely ever-changing manifestations because they are no more than superficial institutional arrangements. Van der Pijl asks us to examine "Transnational class formation and state forms," which begin in the Middle Ages in England and France. Then, "state forms according to Cox" progress through the 'Lockean heartland' of Britain and the United States to the "Hobbesian contenders' in Germany, the Soviet Bloc, South European/American dictatorships, and late industrialising Third World States. So none of these authors offer even a minimum of 'methodological holism and historicism' to permit and include the analysis of the Russian, Hapsburg, Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal, Ming/Quin, Tokugawa/Meji and other historical state forms and their transnational class relations, nor of their successors in any of these major regions in the contemporary and future world.
"Exit International Relations" writes Susan Strange. Alas, the contributors to this book do not see that the study of 'International Relations' never even had any global presence or reference in most of the world to exit from. Therefore they also cannot find their way to propose even the most minimally necessary 'innovation and transformation in international studies'. For that, they would have to shed their Eurocentric blinkers and 'ReOrient' instead. Then they could see that and how the related processes of the decline of the 'East' and the rise of the 'West' since 1800 were part and parcel of a continuing process of a global transformation in a global economy in which Asia is now REgaining its 'traditional' place and role -- with the 'Middle Kingdom' of China again at its 'center.' That would initiate at least some 'innovation and transformation in International Studies'!
Even so, four chapters devoted to "Transformation, innovation and emancipation in global political and civil society" at least challenge the contemporary 'corporate liberal internationalism,' which invokes the 'magic of the market' to solve all problems as if by magic. As the editors' introduction of the book's Part III summarizes, Rupert returns to Gramsci and Cox to herald how 'popular common sense' in the United States opposes NAFTA. For Cheru "the study of International Relations 'from above' ... is incomplete unless it its joined with a perspective on the world 'from below'." Therefore, he explores "political innovation from below and local tools of transformation by ordinary Africans." Persaud invokes "Frantz Fanon's innovative conception of the racial character of colonialism" and the "rise to a siege mentality type of politics in the West" in response to migrants and refugees from the Third World South and the former 'Second' World in Eastern Europe. Peterson "focuses upon gender equality and emancipation as a process or form of ideological and political struggle." Sakamoto, the only contributor from Asia, finds the United Nations seriously deficient as a vehicle to promote democracy in civil society, which like the 'Asian brand of democracy' of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew "is however unclear to the Asians themselves."
However praiseworthy this emancipatory grass-roots struggle and its invocation by our authors, it does not address let alone transform much in the structure and transformation of the global economy and international relations. Most are defensive attempts to walk slowly backwards on a treadmill of 'economic globalisation' which is racing forward beyond the control even of those 'from above', let alone of those 'from below'.
Moreover, most of this book and explicitly so the Gramscian/Coxian theory it promotes is wont to confuse subjective ideas with objective structural reality. A recurrent theme is 'making allowance for agency" as Mittelman attributes to Cox, 'political imagination' and 'conceptual breakthroughs' [the editors], 'new methods, theories, perspectives or insights come to the forefront of social and political thought' [Gill], 'motivating social myth' [Augelli and Murphy], to 'conceive power in Machiavellian/ Gramscian terms that stress the influence of ideas and cultural primacy' [Falk], and 'good theory must contain the capacity for transforming the reality explained.... Emancipatory knowledge, therefore, has an important role to play' [Persaud's italics].
This [voluntarist?] theme and thesis is most explicit in Peterson, who is most concerned with "how we think (meaning systems, ideologies, paradigms) and who we are (subjectivity, agency, self and collective identities)." Her conclusion is that "we must make gender visible ... to alter our understanding of today's crisis." We may agree about how that could contribute to understanding the crisis, but Peterson and the others say precious little about how that or anything else can or will alter the crisis or the course of global transformation itself. Even less do they address, let alone 'contain the capacity for transforming' or even identifying and much less understanding the "internationalisation of production that ... in my [Strange's] opinion, is the womb in which the big issues of the next century are already coming to term," especially in Asia.
The most reflective chapter is Rosenau's on "Imposing global orders: a synthesised ontology for a turbulent era." It is so in two senses of the word 'reflective': He troubles himself and the reader to engage in far more reflection about five alternative or simultaneous forms of global order, which in turn also reflect the kaleidoscope of 'orders' seen by his fellow contributors and other recent commentators on the world since the end of the cold war. Alas, while Rosenau's level of abstraction permits filling his categorical bottles and labels with almost any wine, the latter's failure to offer any real world wine also reflects the poverty of his and his colleagues' contributions.
To reflect contemporary multiplicity and confusion, Rosenau begins with a quotation by Henry Kissinger: "It is probably not possible to have some overarching concept." So Rosenau poses five of them: 1. continuation world ordered by 'unilateral' states as per the IR 'realists'. 2. The same seen more multilaterally due to balance of power and other constraints among the same states. 3. The 'subgrouping' addition of subnational and transnational interests and collective actors on the world stage. 4. An even greater multiplicity of inter- and non-governmental, public and private ad hoc 'institutions' or just arrangements. 5. and most likely: "the simultaneous operation of unilateralism, multilateralism, subgroupism and transnationalism in global life." The first two reflect the orthodox IR also reviewed by other contributors in the first two parts of this book. The third and fourth allow for the 'emancipatory' grass-roots activity invoked in the third part.
Rosenau's fifth omnibus category evokes as well some recently popular renditions of 'global order' that are also oft-mentioned by other contributors: The triumvirate of Kaplan's "coming anarchy', Huntington's 'ordering' of the same as 'clash of civilizations', and Barber's dichotomy between the opposing tendencies of 'Jihad vs. McWorld'. Rosenau's contribution, like Robert Reich's, is to insist as I also have and do that "this welter of contradictions and ambiguities ... these opposing forces originate in the dynamics of globalisation that are operative everywhere in the world." He also insists that not the localising and fractionating dynamics invoked in Part III of the book or by the clash and anarchy of Jihad, but global dynamics "are setting the terms and shaping the structures of the emergent global order for better or worse," of which latter there will realistically surely be much in Rosenau's view. Quite so.
The principal weakness of the abovementioned triumvirate is that, unlike Rosenau, they do not see or show how the fractionating centrifugal sub-systemic anarchy, clash, and jihad tendencies are themselves generated by the systemic centripetally integrative but also differentiating and unequalizing global McWorld structure and dynamic. Yet as Rosenau puts it, simultaneous systemically integrative and sub-systemically disintegrative tendencies are themselves related: "Such seemingly contradictory dynamics are not contradictory at all [but] are inherent in the course of events and operate increasingly as the normal way life unfolds ... [in] a non-linear notion of time ... [with] no end points, no final destinations," such as Fukujama's 'end of history'.
There are however at least two serious shortcomings in Rosenau's abstractly analytical scheme of things. The first is that it lacks historical depth, so that Rosenau thinks that "what is different about our epoch, however, is the simultaneity ... [in] the complexity of our time," when in reality the same has characterized all historical time. Centripetal 'globalisation' is not new as Rosenau also seems to think. Instead integrative globalisation has been the principal characteristic of the world system for at least five thousand years and has itself generated, re-generated and promises to continue to generate disintegrative and fractionating forces and differentiation, including those of 'civilizations' and 'ethnic identity'. That is also why it is vain to hope like Barber that ultimately McWorld will win out over Jihad.
Rosenau's all too short historical depth perspective, which violates the book's intended canon of holistic historicism, also entails his and the book's second shortcoming: His labels and bottles contain little or no historical or contemporary, let alone innovatively new, wine for the reader to savour. Revealingly, the only one Rosenau offers is the "illustrative conclusion" to "Consider the Caribbean Basin in the present epoch," which is altogether marginal in both to historical and contemporary time.
We may agree that, as Rosenau puts it, observers can never grasp all of reality but select some features as important and dismiss others as trivial. Even so, Rosenau like the other contributors to this book does not offer even a glimmer of any of the important and hardly even any of the trivial wine of 'non-linear' historical or contemporary transformations in the real world order: Notwithstanding Rosenau's caution, today these must surely include at least what now appears as the only cyclical and temporary 'Rise of the West,' its present renewed decline already presaged by Spengler, and the also renewed cyclical 'Rise of the East' in the major transformation of world and global 'order'. That is what would be minimally necessary to offer any useful content to the 'multiplicity of institutional and ad hoc arrangements, be they 'important or trivial." These include the also re-newed integrative activities of the 'overseas' Chinese diaspora, the related fractionating and 'warring states' tendencies within China and between 'it' and its neighbors, all of whom are also re-integrating among themselves and in the world 'order' in new ways that 'transform [it] in non-linear time'. In the total absence of any consideration in this book of any of these structural transfomations in the real world order, I cannot agree that this book offers even the slightest "innovation and transformation in International Studies."
Table of Contents||
Personal and Professional||
Honors and Memberships||
ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age||Essays on NATO and Kosovo, 1999||
On-line Essays||Contact A.G. Frank|