Category: Other (page 2 of 4)

The ultimate guide to stop procrastination

I must confess. I have not been very productive this last month in the Duck of Minerva. I have been thinking about the topic for my next post and postponing it “till tomorrow”.  I have been procrastinating. Procrastination comes from the Latin pro, meaning “forward, forth, or in favor of,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as a postponement, “often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable,” or as “defer[ing] action, especially without good reason.” According to psychologist Pychyl, procrastination is fundamentally a visceral, emotional reaction to what you have to do and that you consider hard, boring or overwhelming. Continue reading

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America’s Gun Crisis and the Politics of Securitization

It is not easy waking up in America these days. Sunday morning I woke up from a lazy weekend morning to see that a shooter had committed mass murder at a church in Sutherland Springs, TX. The shooter killed 26 people, including several children; the youngest victim was just fourteen months old (for latest updates, see here).

Besides my outrage as a citizen, as a social scientist I want to understand how we can explain why gun violence in the United States is not being taken as seriously as it should by both politicians and the broader public. Here are some stats on the scope of the problem in the US (sourced from here and here):

  • On average, 93 Americans are killed each day by guns.
  • There are nearly 12,000 gun homicides per year.
  • Guns, on average, kill seven children/teens each day.
  • Each month, 50 women on average are shot to death by intimate partners.
  • African-American men are 14 times more likely than white men to be killed by a gun.
  • The US has nearly 6 times as many gun homicides than Canada (per capita!) and 16 times as many as Germany each year.
  • There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012.

These numbers should shock each-and-every American citizen.

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Liberal World Order, Redux

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for Duck regarding “declinist” arguments about liberal world order under Trump. I don’t think these arguments are going away, and in fact—just this week—they are in the news, and on our blog/twitter feeds (including a great piece posted just last week here on Duck).

I want to reiterate, and elaborate on some earlier points I have raised about these kinds of arguments. In the first place, they deserve reiterating and elaborating. In the second place, I just got back earlier this week from an illuminating conference at University College Dublin called “John Dewey and Critical Philosophy for Critical Political Times” which touched on many issues related to the problems for democracy around the world in a time of right wing populism.

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Writing in Exile: A Belated Birthday Card

“In the first place, we don’t like to be called ‘refugees’.” ~Hannah Arendt

This past weekend was a weekend full of birthdays. Hannah Arendt’s 111th birthday fell on Saturday (October 14th), and—in an interesting coincidence—Michel Foucault and Friedrich Nietzsche share a birthday (October 15th). I teach and write about Foucault and Arendt, and there is a Nietzschean spirit in both, though Arendt’s engagement with his work ended abruptly with her death.

In honor of all three, I want to make some notes—sketches really—of what it means to write in exile, and, by extension, to teach in exile. I take this term from an excellent edited volume put together by the dramaturgist Marc Robinson titled Altogether Elsewhere: Writers on Exile, in which Arendt’s obscure 1943 article, “We Refugees” was reprinted. The volume collects essays from a variety of expatriate authors writing about the experience of writing about the trials, joys, and oddities of writing from a place “altogether elsewhere.”

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You Are Fake News!

Yes, you have heard a lot about it. A German version of the ISA just featured a roundtable entitled: ‘Reclaiming the facts: analysis of international politics in the age of fake news and post-facts’. There has been a lot of panic over the new era of alternative facts.  Let me assure you: fake news and post facts are not new. Social networks are not new. We all have seen and read about them before. And they are not only as American as George Washington’s cherry tree. They are old and they are universal.

Here’s an example.

Once upon a time, there was a bankrupt opportunist from a notable family who urgently needed cash to pay his financier. No, he didn’t run to the Russian oligarchs (they were hard to reach at that point in time); instead, he decided to avoid the debt by killing his banker in the middle of 5th  avenue. When he was brought to court, his lawyer thought of a brilliant defense: instead of claiming that the accused was innocent, he went all the way to acknowledge the guilt of the criminal. The reason he killed the banker was allegedly his way to take revenge on the banker’s own nefarious deed of a child’s murder. The court was so baffled by this defense that the opportunist turned murderer walked free and the fake news about the boy’s murder assumed a life of its own. The year was 1150 and I am talking about the murder of William of Norwich, one of the first recorded accusations of ritual murder that still serves as an inspiration to Neo-Nazis and Anti-Semites around the world.

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What Just Happened in the German Elections?

This is a guest post by Hanna Kleideran assistant professor in the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She is currently on a research leave at the European University Institute in Florence. Her main research interests are comparative politics and political economy, with an area focus on Europe.

Engaging in election punditry is a tricky enterprise – it requires a good understanding of the issues that irk voters and a sense for what might drive them to the polls. Even then, pundits often miss the mark. I, for one, seem to be particularly unqualified for election punditry, which is why I have more questions than answers after these elections. Take the catastrophic results for the German Social Democrats (SPD) for example: The Social Democrats have been responsible for the most influential social reforms in the last four years: they succeeded in introducing a minimum wage, they fought for a fairer inheritance tax, and they introduced a retirement reform – all of these reforms are important in an increasingly unequal Germany. Last but not least, the SPD brought about marriage equality. These changes were pushed through singlehandedly against the will of their senior coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (CDU) including Angela Merkel, who opposed every single one of these reforms (an inconvenient fact perhaps sometimes overlooked by Merkel’s liberal fans around the world). Yet, the SPD received only 20.5 percent of the vote, a historically bad result. In the former East German regions, the SPD is now the fourth strongest party after the CDU, the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), and the Left party (Die Linke). Neither the current SPD campaign slogan “It’s time for more social justice!”, nor its 2013 campaign against “the centrifugal forces in society” gained much traction with German voters. Rising income and wealth inequality just did not drive as many voters to the ballot box as some observers, including myself, would have thought.

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On Catalonia’s referendum: Groupthink and strategic essentialism as the enemies of democracy

Last Sunday, I was having a walk around the city centre of Cambridge when I saw a demonstration of around 50 people rallying for their right to vote in a referendum for independence from Spain. They were joining other demonstrations of Catalan separatists that took place all around Europe and in Spain on that same day. The Catalan government and a separatist majority in the regional parliament seek to organise a referendum on October 1st in order to decide whether Catalonia will become a republic independent from the rest of Spain. Non-separatists political parties oppose or criticize the referendum because they consider that it has been imposed unilaterally to half of the Catalan population that wishes to remain in Spain. Continue reading

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Coffee and TV

I am (sort of) on vacation and visiting the Motherland. In the meantime, I allowed myself a couple of days of couch potato mode that included some Russian TV. A political scientist in me is never on holiday so while flipping through some mainstream channels I made a little Russian TV digest for the Duck. I am not repeating Gary Steyngart’s experiment of watching Russian TV for a week at the Four Seasons, mostly because early career researchers don’t have money for 5* hotels and my mum cooks better than Michelin restaurants. Let’s skip the morning shows that, fortunately, don’t include the benefits of urine therapy anymore and just try to persuade Russian women to wear high heels otherwise they won’t find a man and will never be happy.

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Decolonizing IR: A Response to Gilley

The past week has seen a boiling-over of controversy regarding a publication by Bruce Gilley entitled “The Case for Colonialism,” appearing in the journal Third World Quarterly, leading some to even begin petitions to the journal to retract. As of the writing of this post, the journal has not retracted the article.

In this post, I would like to reflect on this piece as both a part of a scholarly conversation: showing how its claims are the result of poor methodology, a bad reading of the existing literature on colonialism in political science and other fields, and a general glossing-over of a wide literature on post-colonial theory. If I had reviewed this piece, it would have received a hard “reject” recommendation. Perhaps more importantly, I’d like to reflect briefly at the end of this post on what this piece as a textual artifact tells us about political science’s—and particularly IR’s—colonial present. This is certainly, in my view, the most disturbing aspect of the article.

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Swan Song – For Now

In some sense, it is with a heavy heart that I write my last permanent contributor blog post at the Duck.  I’ve loved being with the Ducks these past years, and I’ve appreciated being able to write weird, often off the track from mainstream political science, blogs.   If any of you have followed my work over the years, you will know that I sit at an often-uncomfortable division between scholarship and advocacy.  I’ve been one of the leading voices on lethal autonomous weapon systems, both at home in academia, but also abroad at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and advising various states’ governments and militaries.  I’ve also been thinking very deeply over the last few years about how the rise, acceptance and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in both peacetime and wartime will change our lives.  For these reasons, I’ve decided to leave academia “proper” and work in the private sector for one of the leading AI companies in the world.  This decision means that I will no longer be able to blog as freely as I have in the past.   As I leave, I’ve been asked to give a sort of “swan song” for the Duck and those who read my posts.  Here is what I can say going forward for the discipline, as well as for our responsibilities as social scientists and human beings.

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Five Things Everyone Should Know about Totalitarianism

It seems that “totalitarianism” is everywhere these days. I suppose that is the point of totalitarianism. Nonetheless, the buzzword has seen a remarkable resurgence in popular usage and misusage in the context of domestic and international politics. The number of articles comparing Trump to a totalitarian ruler are not easily countable (though here and here are some examples). Some, have attributed current US foreign policy issues related to North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons as relating to a battle against a totalitarian regime. And others—notably from the conservative side of the political spectrum—have characterized certain political movements such as calls to remove Confederate statues and the so-called “Antifa” movement, forms of totalitarian ideology.

Totalitarianism is a part of political discourse in 2017. This raises several questions, one of which is the obvious: What does this term mean? And, related: How can this term be mobilized to condemn a wide variety of different political acts—from protests for social justice, to the Trump administration, to North Korea?

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On Race, Nationalism and “White Pride” in America

This is a guest post (begun as a set of hasty scribbles on Facebook in the wake of Charlottesville) by Sean Parson, Assistant Professor in the  Departments of Politics and International Affairs and the MA program in Sustainable Communities at Northern Arizona University. He is the author of Cooking up a Revolution: Food Not Bombs, Anarchist Homeless Activism and the Politics of Space (forthcoming).

So the modern racial system is a result of early colonial American history. In the mid to late 1600s (see Abolition of White Democracy or The Invention of the White Race) early southern colonies, in the middle of riots and work slow downs and a growing coalition between indentured servants and slaves “freed” white people from bondage and defined that black=slave, white= free labor. This approach spread throughout all the slave colonies because, well it worked, at quelling revolt and led to an interesting fact: poor, newly defined, whites began policing the race line.

That equation of black=slave and white = free was the guiding logic of the US democracy (nation wide due to laws about slave catching even in the north, see 12 Years a Slave) and the American political conceptions of citizenship were defined in this equation.* Every new group that entered the US were put into this spectrum: were they white or non-white? And every new “ethnicity” was original positioned as “not white,” because whiteness meant benefits and you do not just give away benefits to new immigrants if you are in power.

So the Irish came and were originally “non-white” after a few decades of intentionally devised actions to make them more white via being the most racist immigrants around, they were given access to the space of whiteness (see How the Irish Became White). This became the model of expanding whiteness from then on and the German, the Italian, the Greek, the Northern Europeans, and lastly the Jews (in the 1960s) were granted legal and social status of whiteness (see both Working Towards Whiteness and Black Face, White Noise. With that they gain, what is called “the wages of whiteness” which are small (but meaningful) social, economic, and political benefits that subsidize the working class or middle class wages (see Wages of Whiteness).

From 1776 to 1964, these wages were directly paid for via the state. So the New Deal, for instance, exempted from Social Security jobs that were primarily non-white and funded jobs that were white. This meant that only white folks, for the most part, got the first generation (and second) of social security benefits. Similarly the US government would redline neighborhoods and that allowed them to not provide the support for home ownership to non-white people (until 1964) and even the first round of the GI bill there were ways to remove the benefits for black soldiers (See When Affirmative Action Was White). In effect this led to a cascading wave of problems. I can look at many but here is just one -“the racial wealth gap” – which is slowly decreasing but at this rate they expect it would take over 300 years for that to balance out.

So now back to contemporary race. What is race? Race is a political filtering of people within certain categories for social, political, and economic reasons. What does that mean for the “white race”? Continue reading

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Two legs or One. It has nothing to do with planets- just pants.

Sometimes when we look for a rallying call to join us as humans around a common cause or to show us our equal vulnerability, we say  these trite sayings like “ Common-sense says that all men put their pants on one leg at a time.” This is supposed to reassure us that we are all equal in the most “animalistic” of ways (because you know, animals wear pants).

Here is the problem and the reality though: I cannot buy jeans that are not skinny jeans… shocking. What does that mean for the one-leg mantra? Well… as a woman- and a woman living in a world that tells most women that they have to be attractive… I can’t actually help but buy skinny jeans. SO! How do I—as feminist, as subject, as object—put my pants on? Truth be told… I put them on TWO LEGS at a time.

Where does this pseudo rant come from? From watching the decline of subtle thinking about gender, sex, and equality.  After witnessing the tweet storm from President Trump about the ban on transgender military service, I think it is equally high time that we encourage reflection on all of the ways in which we as a society privilege a particular way of thinking about what is “normal.”  For as Foucault teaches us, what is “normal” is merely the norm of behavior that coerces us into acting according to someone else’s standards.  We self-censure because we want to be acceptable to the rest of society.  We coerce ourselves into being something that we are not, merely for the approval or the acceptance by the rest.

It is not merely women that face this same fate, but men as well.   Sex and gender become ropes in which we bind ourselves.   Thus when we start to insist that all men ought to X, and all women ought to Y, we force a particular world view on those whose lives sit at intersections.  Intersectionality, heterogeneity, and diversity are actually what produces progress.   Beyond the brute fact that this sort of diversity allows for physical evolution of a species, we should also acknowledge that it produces beauty.  As Plato reminds us that democracy is the “most beautiful” of all constitutions, like a “many colored cloak” because it has the most diverse population of people, so too does diversity of roles, tastes, pursuits, and genders in our society.  Gender is not binary, though we see it most clearly when we put them in opposition.  Gender is a practice, a performance, and a social construct.  To prohibit or to “ban” a gender from a job is not only a violation of one’s basic rights to freedom of expression and speech, but to undercut the basic values upon which this country was founded.

So the next time someone wants to say “men are from mars, women are from venus,” or that “we all put our pants on one leg at a time,” I hope that you reflect on the fact that these seemingly innocuous tropes shackle us.  For it is not true that sex determines how one thinks or acts.  It is not true that all humans put their pants on one leg at a time.  Nope, I, as a woman who identifies with femininity, try to buy jeans that fit me in a feminine way.  But due to some interesting choices by society, that is by men and women in the majority, some pants force us to sit down, and put our pants on two legs at a time.

 

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Snipers and Democratic Control of the Military: More Oversight Please

I hinted at some politics when discussing the longest recorded sniper shot in history.  That the Canadian government might not love this news because it would remind folks that there are Canadians engaged in combat in Iraq.  And now, ta da:

 

 

 

In a letter Friday to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, [NDP leader Thomas] Mulcair says the incident “seriously calls into question your government’s claim that Canadian forces are not involved in direct combat in Iraq.”

“Will you now confirm that Canadian troops have engaged in ground combat since your government took office?” he wrote. “Why have you not declared that the current military operation is now a combat mission? Why has there been no debate in the House of Commons regarding this change of mission?”

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For Accuracy, Consequences, and Truth. A Personal Manifesto.

The Trump Administration’s proclamation of “alternative facts” to suit the arguments they wish to make, and the branding of journalistic outlets that demonstrate the inaccuracy of the President’s statements as “FAKE NEWS!!!” have prompted me to do something I am not normally inclined to do: to actively campaign for the value and integrity of a broadly scientific approach as an important input to public deliberation. It’s not at all that I needed to be convinced of the value of such an approach; rather, it’s that I was somewhat blissfully unaware of the extent to which the current wave of populist politics was almost completely untroubled by notions of factuality. Sure, I had known that there was a hard core of anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism that felt that scientific results and verifiable pieces of information were matters of opinion or belief — anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, people who worried about the U.N.’s supposed fleet of black helicopters that were waiting to swoop in and destroy national sovereignty — but I guess I always believed that such a minority would be held in check by the good sense of the rest of the electorate, even those with whose policy positions I disagreed. Apparently not. Apparently significant numbers of people in the U.S. were willing to vote for a demonstrated purveyor of convenient falsehoods — convenient in the sense that they support his, and their, preferred positions on a whole slew of issues. Welcome to the post-truth era.

Or: welcome to an era in which truth, and the earnest seeking after truth, is under assault, and under assault not for anything like defensible reasons. Instead, the political order of the day seems to be to make up whatever claims support one’s conclusions and then pass them off as “facts.” In my view what has changed is not politicians; politics was never about seeking truth, and frankly, shouldn’t be about truth but should instead be about making compromises and balancing priorities in order to make our common lives together work as well as they can. Believing that you and you alone have the truth makes you a poor politician, because you can’t compromise, and if you had the truth, why would you even want to? Politics is messy and imperfect, so we should never expect it to conform to ideal standards for the production of factual knowledge. Indeed, I suspect that most politicians would lie about and misrepresent situations as much as they could get away with doing so in pursuit of their agendas, because the central virtue in politics is effectiveness rather than integrity — and in the first instance that means effectiveness and gaining and retaining political power and influence.

All of which means that if we the people want our elected officials to make policy that engages facts instead of just making stuff up, we cannot rely on politicians or on the political process to defend that stance. We have to instead actively advocate and diligently defend the proper role of facts and factual explanations in relation to political contestation. Continue reading

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Bannon’s Incoherent Vision of Disruption

In 2013, Bannon is reported to have told Ron Radosh of the Daily Beast that he was a Leninist.  He is quoted as saying “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too.  I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”   Yet this is such an odd thing to tell someone, particularly a journalist, when one’s very wealth, political power and caché depend on the very institution that he wants to destroy.  Lenin, after all, wanted to bring down capitalism and the bourgeoisie to usher in the proletariat as leaders of a communist government and society.   Lenin strongly believed in Marx’s Communist Manifesto, and with it the belief that the workers of the world, and not the owners of capital, must have the power.  Only when all workers—men and women alike—are seen as equal and free will true freedom and democracy reign.  Here is the problem, as I see it, with Bannon: he isn’t a Leninist, a Marxist, or a socialist.   He is an incoherent miscellany of ideas, none of which he understands fully and all of which are dangerous when combined in a haphazard manner.

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WPTPN: Trump and The End of Taken-For-Grantedness: When the Exception Becomes the Rule

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Antje Wiener, Professor of Political Science and Global Governance at the University of Hamburg, visiting fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at Cambridge University (September – December 2016), and 2015-2017 holder of the “Opus Magnum Fellowship” funded by the Volkswagon Foundation. She is founding editor of the Cambridge University Press journal Global Constitutionalism: Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law and her book Contestation and Constitution in Global Governance is scheduled for publication by Cambridge in 2018. An earlier version of this paper was presented at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge Nov 25, 2016: https://www.hughes.cam.ac.uk/news-events/.

When struggling to come to terms with the result on the morning after the US 2016 elections, some tried to make sense of what they saw by describing the results as a “Black Swan Event”. On Jan 28 2016 Politico published an article titled “Trump the Black Swan Candidate” which noted that “(i)mmune to the standard laws of politics, Trump has continued to rise in the polls, replacing the manageable disorder of a presidential politics with his chaos.” On Nov 12 2016 Politico dubbed Trump “The Black Swan President”. Accordingly Trump “became the closest thing to a black swan event we’ve ever seen in American politics: Statistically unlikely, rationalized only in hindsight—and carrying an impact that could be off the known charts.”

Typically, such an event indicates something out of the ordinary, quite sensational, which we try to explain with reference to the exception of the rule. The reference to a black swan event conjures the eventual return to normalcy following disruption. Does this mean that despite the Trump election, all else remains ‘normal’? Can – and should – we therefore move on and wait for the exceptional event to pass and politics to return back to ‘normal’?

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Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

It’s the eternal quandary of thinking about the intersection of international politics and global health: where does Elton John fit in? We now have an answer. It’s where we try to understand issues of moral and legal responsibility of an international organization.

About a month ago, I wrote about cholera and global health. One of the reasons cholera is such a big issue is because of the ongoing outbreak in Haiti—the worst in recent history, and one that we can directly trace to the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in October. Natural disasters can obviously disrupt the sanitation systems that keep cholera from spreading. Haiti’s cholera outbreak is different, though; the disease came to the country with UN peacekeepers from Nepal. The soldiers’ untreated waste went into open pools, where it easily leaked into important waterways and spread to a population already grappling with a lack of sanitation infrastructure.

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WPTPN: Lessons from Turkey: Populist Nationalism and the Threat to Democracy

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Gizem Zencirci, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Providence College. Her research interests include political Islam, neoliberalism and social policy, and Middle East politics. 

The rise of the AK Party in Turkey and its consolidation of power is a case with generalizable lessons about the rise of populist nationalism elsewhere.

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Call for Guest Posts: World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism

There are many reasons to be concerned about world politics. Over the coming weeks and months the Duck of Minerva will run a series of posts from regular contributors as well as guests on the state of the world and our possible futures. We will explore the implications of the rise of nationalist populism on international relations, international political economy, foreign policy, global institutions, and comparative political systems. Daniel Nexon has already posted on the need to buttress domestic and international institutions; other posts will follow in the coming days.

We invite academics working in these (or other related) substantive areas to contribute guest posts on these themes to the Duck. We hope to provide a forum where a wide set of scholarly viewpoints can be shared and discussed. These may be standalone posts or provide a “first draft” of arguments that are expounded upon in later articles or op-eds. There are no specific length requirements. We are interested in theoretical, empirical,  and conceptual posts, as well as those that view the contemporary environment through a comparative or historical lens. If interest warrants we will pursue opportunities for webcast discussions and/or podcasts, and future publication possibilities may be explored.

If you are interested in contributing please reach out to me directly via Twitter (@whinecough, my DMs are open), e-mail (wkwineco (at) indiana (d0t) edu), or in comments to this post (least preferred but I will periodically check). I will respond with a query regarding your proposed topic and timeframe.

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