Tag: networks

The Anglosphere, Dominance in Global Finance, and the Consequences of Brexit


This is a guest post by Jan Fichtner, Postdoctoral Researcher in the CORPNET project at the Department of Political Science of the University of Amsterdam.

So far, International Relations and International Political Economy have not dedicated much attention to analyzing the group of the Anglophone countries together (notable exceptions are Andrew Gamble, Jeremy Green, Kees van der Pijl, and Srdjan Vucetic). Instead, the vast majority of IR and IPE approaches treats the English-speaking countries and jurisdictions solely on the grounds where they are located geographically: the Unites States and Canada are grouped as ‘North America’, Australia and New Zealand are seen as part of ‘Asia-Pacific’, the British dependent territories of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands (which all act as important offshore financial centers) are usually categorized under the heading ‘Caribbean’, and finally most analyses treat Ireland and the United Kingdom as part of ‘Europe’ or the European Union. The latter is going to change in the coming years as a slim majority of Britons has voted for ‘Brexit’. Therefore, the UK will eventually leave the EU, although the details of this historic divorce are far from clear. This comes after many years of widespread skepticism against the EU and continental ‘Europe’, which has been fueled constantly by many British politicians and certain Australian-American-owned media outlets.

In a recent article in the Review of International Studies (free access through August 2016), I have argued that the Anglophone countries generally have much more in common with the other English-speaking states than with neighboring countries – Peter Hall and David Soskice as well as Bruno Amable have found indications that the Anglophone economies form one distinct socio-economic model. Moreover, the English-speaking countries are deeply integrated by their extremely close cooperation in the highly sensitive field of signals intelligence (the so-called ‘Five-Eyes’), which is unparalleled in the world. Thus, it makes sense to analyze the Anglosphere countries together. This is especially pertinent in the pivotal field of global finance.

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What’s at Stake in TPP?

President Obama’s difficulty in convincing Congress to grant him authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership without legislative amendment is a serious setback for his foreign policy agenda. Most commentary on the subject has focused on the trade deal’s likely economic impact — which are not negligible, most importantly for Asian partners like Vietnam, but likely won’t impact the US in discernable ways. Others discuss its geopolitical significance in breathless, but vague, tones. Take this recent NY Times article:

“If this collapses, Pacific Rim countries will be aghast,” said Shunpei Takemori, a professor at Keio University in Japan, the largest economy in the would-be trade zone after the United States. “China is pushing, and if the U.S. just stands aside, it would be a tragedy.” …

“If you don’t do this deal, what are your levers of power?” Singapore’s foreign minister, K. Shanmugam, asked in Washington on Monday. “The choice is a very stark one: Do you want to be part of the region, or do you want to be out of the region?”

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The New Blitzkrieg

A new version of maneuver warfare is being utilized mainly by Islamic fundamentalist forces to seize territory from government forces trained, equipped and organized along the Western model.

This “new blitzkrieg” relies on lightly armed fighters mounted on “technicals” – 4×4 trucks with heavy machine-guns, light cannons, or automatic grenade launchers mounted on the vehicle. Here are some key factors we should be thinking about in order to potentially combat these forces in the future. Continue reading

Krugman’s (Probably) Wrong about Apple and Network Externalities

Paul Krugman has an op-ed in today’s New York Times in which he likens the rise and decline of technology companies to Ibn Khaldun’s account of the rise and decline of dynasties: success breeds complacency and soon the barbarians are running the show. This happened, he argues, to Microsoft, which once upon a time dominated the computer industry thanks to network externalities:

The odd thing was that nobody seemed to like Microsoft’s products. By all accounts, Apple computers were better than PCs using Windows as their operating system. Yet the vast majority of desktop and laptop computers ran Windows. Why?

The answer, basically, is that everyone used Windows because everyone used Windows. If you had a Windows PC and wanted help, you could ask the guy in the next cubicle, or the tech people downstairs, and have a very good chance of getting the answer you needed. Software was designed to run on PCs; peripheral devices were designed to work with PCs.

This state of affairs bred complacency and Microsoft failed to anticipate the shift to mobile devices. Now Apple risks the same fate.

Anyway, the funny thing is that Apple’s position in mobile devices now bears a strong resemblance to Microsoft’s former position in operating systems. True, Apple produces high-quality products. But they are, by most accounts, little if any better than those of rivals, while selling at premium prices.

So why do people buy them? Network externalities: lots of other people use iWhatevers, there are more apps for iOS than for other systems, so Apple becomes the safe and easy choice. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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In Defense of Networking

There’s been a lot of discussion, here (1)(2) and elsewhere (3)(4) about the value of networking. Dan Drezner suggests that the best kind of networking is doing good research, and that there is a small professional benefit to networking, but not much. Eric Voten agrees, suggesting that networking is not going to lead to significant professional opportunities. Dan Nexon suggests that one not network at all, but talk to and meet people as an end in itself. While there are a lot of gems of advice in all of these posts (do good research, be professional, have fun, don’t chase around “big names” all star-struck), I think that the punchline of these posts (individually and collectively) misses the mark pretty significantly in a couple of ways. One way, as Will Moore points out, is that both the need to network and the act of networking is very different for (even junior) people positioned differently in the field on a number of axes, including graduate school, mentors, race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, sexual preference, social skills, and competitiveness, to name a few. The need to network, the value of networking, the performance of networking, the reception of attempts to network, and the success of networking all differ across these and other axes. That is crucially important, and something where we should recognize the positions of privilege that we have … Continue reading

THE ACTIVISTS: War, Peace, and Politics in the Streets

My good friend and awesome protest/network scholar Michael Heaney at the University of Michigan has released a documentary film, THE ACTIVISTS: WAR, PEACE, AND POLITICS IN THE STREETS. The film is with Melody Weinstein and Marco Roldán and, in addition to the central message of the film, shows the power of releasing academic work in a format that can reach a larger audience.

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James Fowler: Formidable Opponent

It’s always great to see fellow political scientists on late-night talk shows. Last night it was James Fowler of UC San Diego. This is the guy I blogged about last year when he published an article in a leading political science journal on whether the Colbert Bump was actual or real. (His conclusion: the alleged bump is “more truthy than truth.”)

But Fowler’s main research agenda is social networks. In his interview last night, he discusses the many surprising ways they affect our lives. Check it out below.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
James Fowler
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

Human Rights and Foreign Policy

At ISA, I had the pleasure to share a panel with Alison Brysk, whose new book Global Good Samaritans was hot off the presses. I just went through my copy and wanted to offer a few off the cuff reactions.

Brysk’s key contribution is to focus on positive cases – cases where human rights policies have been enacted by states (primarily middle or weak powers: her case studies include Canada, Sweden, Costa Rica, South Africa, the Netherlands and Japan) and have succeeded . Her key goal is to understand why states sacrifice their national interests (resources and citizens’ lives) to help others abroad and her argument is simple: “They don’t.” Instead, such states see “humanitarian internationalism” as constitutive of their national interests. The book is about how they make this calculation. As such it is a helpful (and hopeful) antidote to much of the cynical handwringing characterizing so much human rights scholarship, precisely because that literature has been dominated by analyses of the hypocrisy of US foreign policy.

I shall leave aside discussion of methodological issues; Brysk acknowledges that the empirics are preliminary and she has intentionally left targets for graduate students who will no doubt be avid consumers of her work. But I do have two other comments:

First, though the optimism of her book is refreshing, I’m reminded of McCain’s campaign slogan “hope is not a foreign policy agenda.” I think in building her comparison of the political cultures of these countries with the U.S., Brysk glosses over the ways in which these powers fail on human rights, and the social movements criticizing them. Sweden may “set the gold standard” for human rights prootion abroad, but has a less than glowing record with respect to its indigenous Sami population. Canada may have championed the Kimberly Process but their own “clean diamond” industry comes perilously close to violating aboriginal rights. (I am also reminded of 2000, when I attended the Winnipeg Conference on War-Affected Children, and had to push my way through a massive protest against the activities of Canada’s Talisman oil company in the Sudan in order to get inside where the foreign ministers were setting the human security agenda.)

Seemingly, human rights are what states make of them. Brysk’s case studies would be somewhat more nuanced if they took a more critical look at the paradoxes of domestic human rights political cultures.

As a scholar of advocacy networks however, the chapter I found most interesting was the chapter on “coalitions of the caring.” Brysk emphasizes not NGO networks, but interstate human rights networks – an extremely useful descriptive supplement to the literature on TANs. I wonder, however, if she is not also unduly reifying a distinction between the state and non-state layers of civil society, which are actually pretty blurry. If you map out the “human rights” or “human security” network using various indicators of network ties, you find both interstate organizaitons like the OSCE, or interstate networks like the Human Security Network, as nodes among others that include NGOs but also thinktanks, foundations, news hubs, and UN specialized agencies. I think what we need is an understanding of human rights networks that helps us look past the state/non-state distinction, actually, and look at structural relations between network nodes whatever they be. A paper I heard at ISA by David Davis his collaborators makes this point exactly, as does Wendy Wong’s work.

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