Conceptions of global political transformation: a critical exploration of ideational and normative approaches

Smith, Karen Elizabeth (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2005-04)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT:The post-Cold War era has witnessed a renewed interest in global political transformation and the possibility of the emergence of a new global order. There are, however, widespread disagreements within the field of International Relations (IR) about the significance of the discontinuities of our age, which include the emergence of centres of economic and political power that erode state autonomy and sovereignty. While some theorists argue that these changes are largely insignificant, others regard them as potential harbingers of a fundamentally different future political system. The study of change in IR is thus marked by considerable confusion and hampered by a number of shortcomings. One of the main deficiencies in the existing transformnation literature has been the mainstream approaches' reluctance to concede that the study of change is an unavoidably nonnative endeavour. Additionally, much work on change has focused on the role that material factors play in facilitating change, while the role of ideational factors has been disregarded. This has lead to an incomplete and distorted view of the process of change. Lastly, guidelines by which one might evaluate and choose between contending approaches to change are sorely lacking. These issues are addressed in this study by means of an evaluation of the work of three selected authors (Alexander Wendt, John Ruggie and Robert Cox) whose combined contributions can assist us in developing a more comprehensive theory of global political transformnation. It is contended that, in order for the study of change in IR to progress, scholars need to recognise the inherently nonnative nature of the undertaking, and be explicit about their nonnative assumptions. Furthermore, clarity needs to be reached with regard to the materialism-idealism debate. The argument made is that a middle ground approach, which aims to transcend the false dichotomy between material and ideational factors, is required. In fact, it is maintained that not only is a conciliatory approach conducive to progressing the study of change in terms of the materialism-idealism debate, but that such an approach of theoretical engagement and bridge building will also contribute generally to developing a more thorough understanding of global change. Finally, if we want to make progress in IR thinking about change, we need to develop some criteria to determine which authors can assist us best. Subsequently it is proposed that a satisfactory approach to the study of change in IR should, at a minimum, fulfil the following requirements. It should (I) aim to transcend the false dichotomy between materialism and idealism; (2) be explicit about its nonnative position; (3) limit nonnative visions to what constitutes viable alternatives global political systems; and (4) identify sources of change and include a proposed plan.of action of how to achieve nonnative goals. In light of the above criteria, it is also contended that progressive global political transformation does not, as some transformative authors suggest, have to entail the demise of the state. It is quite possible that emancipatory change can take place within the confines of the Westphalian system. In summary, this study hopes to make some contribution to what is a vastly complex topic that of change in and of the global political system - by addressing three shortcomings identified in the existing change literature: the fact that the role of ideas and the nonnative implications of change have been sorely neglected, and the need for criteria by which one might choose between contending nonnative projects.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING:In die post-Koue Oorlogera het daar 'n hernieude belangstelling in globale politieke transformasie en die moontlikheid van die totstandkoming van 'n nuwe globale orde ontstaan. Daar is egter gewigtige verskille binne die veld van Internasionale Betrekkinge (IB) oor die belang van huidige veranderings soos die ontstaan van sentra van ekonomiese en politieke mag, wat state se outonomiteit en soewereiniteit bedreig. Terwyl sommige skrywers beweer dat hierdie veranderings grootliks onbeduidend is, sien ander hulle as potensiële aanduidings van 'n fundamenteel nuwe politieke stelsel. Die studie van verandering in IB word dus gekenmerk deur aansienlike verwarring en word belemmer deur 'n aantal tekortkominge. Een van die vernaamste gebreke in die bestaande transformasie literatuur is die hoofstroom benaderings se onwilligheid om toe te staan dat die studie van verandering 'n onvermydelik normatiewe paoing oor verandering gedoen is op die rol wat materiële faktore speel in die fasilitering van verandering, terwyl die rol van idees en norme verontagsaam word. Dit het gelei tot 'n onvolledige en verwronge beeld van die veranderingsproses. Laastens is riglyne waarvolgens wedywerende benaderings tot verandering geëvalueer sou kon word, afwesig. Die kwessies word in hierdie studie aangespreek deur middel van 'n evaluering van die werk van drie geselekteerde outeurs (Alexander Wendt, John Ruggie en Robert Cox) wie se gesamentlike bydraes 'n beduidende bydrae kan lewer tot die ontwikkeling van 'n meer omvattende teorie van globale politieke transformasie. Daar word beweer dat, ten einde vordering in die studie van verandering te bewerkstellig, teoretici die inherent normatiewe aard van die poging moet herken, en eksplisiet moet wees oor hul normatiewe aannames. Verder moet daar duidelikheid bereik word ten opsigte van die materialisme-idealisme debat. Die argument wat gemaak word is dat 'n middeweg benadering, wat ten doel stel om die valse digotomie tussen die materiële en die ideële te oorkom, benodig word. Daar word verder geargumenteer dat so 'n konsilierende benadering nie net bevorderlik is vir vooruitgang in die studie van verandering in terme van die materialisme-idealisme debat nie, maar dat 'n benadering wat gegrond is op teoretiese bemiddeling ook in 'n algemene sin voordelig is vir 'n meer deeglike begrip van globale verandering. Laastens, indien vooruitgang in huidige denke oor verandering bewerkstellig wil word, is dit noodsaaklik om kriteria te ontwikkel ten einde te bepaal watter outeurs se werk as grondslag vir verdere teoretisering moet dien. Op grand hiervan word voorgestel dat 'n bevredigende benadering tot die studie van verandering in IB ten minste aan die volgende voorwaardes moet voldoen: dit behoort (I) daarna te streef om die valse digotomie tussen materialisme en idealisme te oorbrug; (2) eksplisiet te wees oor die normatiewe aannames wat gemaak word; (3) normatiewe visies te beperk tot lewensvatbare alternatiewe globale politieke stelsels; en (4) bronne van verandering te identifiseer en 'n voorgestelde plan van aksie in te sluit oao hoe normatiewe doelwitte bereik kan word. In die lig van bogenoemde kriteria word daar ook geargumenteer dat progressiewe globale politieke transformasie nie, soos wat sommige transformasie skrywers suggereer, noodwendig die ondergang van die staat behels nie. Dit is moontlik dat emansiperende verandering binne die beperkings van die statestelsel kan plaasvind. Opsommend stel hierdie studie ten doel om 'n bydrae te lewer tot 'n uiters komplekse tema-naamlik verandering in en van die globale politieke stelsel - deur drie tekortkominge wat in die bestaande literatuur geïdentifiseer is, aan te spreek: die feit dat die rol van idees en die normatiewe implikasies van verandering grootliks verwaarloos is, en die behoefte aan kriteria waarvolgens daar tussen wedywerende normatiewe projekte gekies kan word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/17368
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