Paul Wapner, Lester Edwin J. Ruiz, eds. Principled World Politics: The Challenge of Normative International Relations. Lanham, Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000. xii + 399 pp. $75.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7425-0065-5.
Reviewed by Howard H. Lentner (Department of Political Science, Baruch College, and Ph.D. Program in Political Science, Graduate School, City University of New York)
Published on H-Diplo (November, 2000)
Norms, Power, and Scrambled Principles
Norms, Power, and Scrambled Principles
In the wake of the Cold War normative concerns have gained increased prominence in both the practice of and scribbling about international politics. A certain amount of bashing of the realist approach accompanies some of the academic writing, though much of it would be greatly improved if the bashers had actually read the realist literature. Often, what passes for normative inquiry amounts to little more than the expression of support for favorite utopian projects. At the same time, the literature includes some critical and effective analyses of the tensions between principles and practices in world affairs. The genre unhappily includes writers with axes to grind that have little to do with principles or norms. This messy book includes it all within the compass of its 23 chapters organized in seven parts.
Many of its best chapters tend to be versions of work that has been published elsewhere. Although conceived as a tribute to the work of Richard A. Falk, particularly his World Order Modeling Project, the references to him and to his project occur only infrequently. Unfortunately, the editors have not done as much as they might have to achieve coherence.
In his introductory chapter, Paul Wapner presents an essay about norms in scholarship about international politics and then tells the reader that the overall organization of the book departs sharply from his treatment of the "challenges of poststructuralism, globalization, and the search for promising political agency" (p. 19). Wapner tells us that only the part entitled "Critical Perspectives on International Relations" is designed to deal with norms, although the last part of the book does return to normative concerns by focusing on Falk's conception of humane governance. He also notes that four parts of the book "are more empirically based and explore the relationship between normative theory and particular political practices" (p. 20). Wapner appears to be unaware that much traditional writing in international politics does exactly that. In Wapner's view as presented here, concern with norms emerges only from idealism and liberalism (p. 16), and deconstruction is regarded as normative scholarship (p. 17). Wapner's outlook ignores such deeper philosophical thinkers in the realist tradition as Reinhold Niebuhr. One wonders what he would make of the fact that an honored annual lecture series sponsored by the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Politics is named for Hans J. Morgenthau. It is so titled for the excellent reason that Morgenthau's writings and lectures were suffused with reflection on moral values that was grounded in a wide reading of history and philosophy and a deep contemplation of that reading.
The concluding chapter by coeditor Lester Edwin J. Ruiz proves rough going. Although it does refer to some of the other contributions to the book, it also brings in concerns with Philippines politics, apparently an interest of the author; it confuses normative concerns with other matters such as identity; it contains a good deal of material that appears to contradict obvious evidence and common sense; and, perhaps worst of all, it is very badly written, at times incomprehensibly so. The core of Ruiz' essay deals with identity politics, a topic quite different from ethical analysis; and he reduces his conception of ethics to something he calls "the sense of the ethical." Despite the thriving of the American economy and the general prosperity of other Western economies, the ten-year economic decline in Japan, and the 1997-1998 crisis in East Asia, he argues that "the successes of Asian capitalist economies and ... the failures of their Western counterparts may be explained by ... critical 'cultural differences'" (p. 326). One wonders what to make of his statement that "Thomas Hobbes, not Adam Smith, is global capitalism's prophet and patron saint: not the 'invisible hand' ... but rather the perpetual war of each against all in the pursuit of power and profit" (p. 330). Few are likely to agree with the author's claim that "the fundamentally new ... is also fundamentally better" (pp. 342-43). Throughout the chapter run almost unintelligible sentences: let the following stand as an example: "To this question there can be no satisfactory answer, save the cultivation of a particular ethical and political sensibility, that is, in the words of Campbell (994, 477), to struggle for--on behalf of--alterity and not a struggle to efface, erase, or eradicate alterity, to gesture, as Derrida would, in opposite directions at the same time, without capitulating to quietism, to resist the intolerable, to experience and experiment on the possibility of the impossible, to recognize and respect the limits and possibilities of the aporia, of the decision with the undecidable (Cornell, et al. 1992)" (p. 343). The concluding section of the chapter strikes this reader as pure posturing about "ethical sensibility."
In between the introductory and concluding chapters, an eclectic range of views treats various aspects of criticism, social justice, economic matters, peace and war, and "humane governance." R.B.J. Walker has contributed a brief but intelligent essay in the post-modernist mode about politics, in which he raises the interesting question about where to find the universal, traditionally encompassed in the state, in a globalizing world. James N. Rosenau, reiterating a previous version of the essay here, has presented an abstract and speculative discussion of "complexity theory," yet another of the "new" theories that he has made a career of discovering. Employing his usual serious analysis, Friedrich V. Kratochwil again criticizes neorealists, and he argues for embedding inquiry in both theory and practice, a sensible enough position, and he examines transformation. Offering a most intriguing exercise, Radmila Nakarada intersperses an essay examining the limits of critical theory with excerpts from a letter to a friend that she wrote from Yugoslavia during its disintegration. One of the outstanding chapters of the book was written by Michael W. Doyle, who treats global economic inequalities by actually examining principles that might guide policy in international politics. Moreover, Doyle also refers to Falk, the person whose work is celebrated in the book. However, this chapter draws on a chapter of another book published in 1997. Rajni Kothari has written an extended complaint about modernity, science, the state, and other matters; and he has done so in a manner that proves to be internally inconsistent.
Simona Sharoni has presented an interesting and clearly-written essay about identity and dissent in Israel, though the chapter has little to do with principles and norms, and it employs a different citation system than the other authors do. In an angry essay about resistance to globalization, Vandana Shiva finds it impossible to distinguish between legislation, negotiations, trade, investment, and so forth on the one hand and violence on the other. In sharp contrast, David Held has offered an eloquent case for cosmopolitan democracy. However, like some of the other high-quality offerings in this book, this essay is simply a revised version of a previously published piece. On the substantive side, I wish to remark that Held wants to create a powerful economic coordination mechanism at the world level with regulatory capacity, yet he does not acknowledge that this might be a very powerful state with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. James H. Mittelman and Ashwini Tambe give a clear analysis of the interactive effects flowing from globalization pressures, local conditions of poverty in Mozambique, and male domination in a traditional society. They show how deeply embedded are social institutions and economic conditions and how they are affected by globalization. In his practical analysis of the Asian financial crisis, Walden Bello stresses the importance of politics. Robin Broad and John Cavanaugh have written a descriptive analysis of various movements comprising a "backlash" to dominant globalization trends. In doing so, they confuse AT&T with ITT in the Chile case. Beginning with a reference to Richard Falk, Robert C. Johansen has written a bit utopian but primarily policy-oriented chapter that includes some very useful analysis concerning the enforcement of norms. Robert Jay Lifton has written a brief, interesting analysis of Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that placed poison gas in the Tokyo subway system; and Lifton offers reflections on the universal lessons that might be derived from that event and the beliefs of cult members. Elise Boulding offers a utopian, hyperoptimistic peace view in her chapter, "An Axial Age?" Johan Galtung imagines a utopia of abolished states and an elected world government.
As have the other authors writing the best contributions to this book, Paul Wapner has drawn on work published elsewhere to make an excellent presentation of international civil society and the case for achieving the ideal of humane governance. Ali A. Mazrui has developed an intriguing analysis about technological underdevelopment, but the work is based on a concern to increase power; it has nothing to do with principles. Mary Kaldor has compared three views: Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations," Robert Kaplan's "The Coming Anarchy," and Richard Falk's "Humane Governance." She wants to repress violence at the global level, but she denies that her project aims at a world government; and she cannot be bothered with a concern with "exact procedures" even while she wants to have "democratic procedures for authorizing the use of legitimate force" (p. 297). Yoshikazu Sakamoto has presented a descriptive interpretation of the contemporary world based on the idea of relativization. Finally in a different sort of chapter Saul Menlovitz has written about his long association with Richard Falk.
Altogether, this remains an exceptionally uneven book. Readers can find some gems here, but many of them are refashioned ones that the authors have published elsewhere. Despite its title, the book offers very little serious consideration of principles in world politics. Of the chapters that examine normative or principled considerations, the worthwhile analysis may be found in those by Kratochwil, Doyle, Held, and Wapner. As indicated above, some of the other chapters--notably those by Walker, Sharoni, Mittelman and Tambe, Johansen, Lifton, and Mazrui--offer worthwhile and interesting contributions of one sort or another; but none of these treats norms or principles.
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Howard H. Lentner. Review of Wapner, Paul; Ruiz, Lester Edwin J., eds., Principled World Politics: The Challenge of Normative International Relations.
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