Tag: travel

Flying While Academic

duck aviationChanging apartments last weekend really brought home the fact that I have been flying way too much lately.  I counted 18 long haul toothbrushes and countless little mini toothpaste tubes.  If you need earplugs and sleep masks, I am your man.  The odd thing about flying as an academic is that I just was not doing it right till recently.  We spend lots of time diving deep into our chosen research topics, but very little time exploring the things that might improve the quality of our lives.

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Brief Observations on Kansas City

I spent most of the past week in Kansas City, MO while my daughter competed at the Tumbling and Trampoline National Championships. If you must know, she did fine. I’m most proud of how she handled herself. She was expected to do very well in one of her events, but she made some mistakes and underperformed. She didn’t let it get to her, however, and we had a great time.

This was the first time I’d set foot in Kansas City. In fact, I’ve never been in Missouri before. I had no idea how cool the architecture is. Kansas City has a number of pre-war landmarks, including Municipal Auditorium, which is simply a magnificent structure.

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The Stupid Things People with a Ph.D. say on Airplanes

“My main job [as an assistant professor at insert-flyover-university-here] is advising presidential policy on public religious life.” I actually heard a Ph.D. tell his neighbor that on an airplane.

I know that there might be more worthwhole topics for my first post in months (I haven’t been a total slacker, I have been doing some programming), but none is more pressing …

I have made back-to-back trips to conferences (first ISA and then MPSA) this week, and have connected through Atlanta each time, providing me with the rare opportunity to ride the airplane with other political scientists who I do not know personally.

In these journeys, I have realized that political scientists are weird animals, and we say dumb things to strangers on airplanes. More examples below the fold.

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War and the Eurozone

PM and Chancellor Merkel press conference

Last week, at University of Bristol, I gave a talk called “The Future of World Order” to the student International Affairs Society. It was a speculative lecture, based on my 17 years directing the Grawemeyer Award (for Ideas Improving World Order) more than my scholarship per se. I warned the audience from the start of two personal biases: (1) I am an optimist; and (2) I don’t really put much stock in specific predictions. I tried to stick to big ideas more than particular policies.

In the presentation, I argued that any order built on coercion and force would inevitably face a legitimacy crisis — and would ultimately collapse. The implications are twofold, I think. Domestically, people will demand greater control of their own lives. This means the world will see many more emancipatory movements to topple autocrats and unaccountable sources of power — as illustrated just this year by events in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, the city of London, Wall Street, etc.

Internationally, it means order built on deterrence, brute force, or even the balance of power will give way to something that is more consensual, such as a security community. In support of this position, I talked a bit about John Mueller’s thesis that major power war is becoming obsolete — an outmoded institution, abandoned like slavery and dueling previously were. Could this thinking become even more pervasive, so that virtually any talk of war — internal or external — becomes outmoded? Eventually.

In the talk, I did not explicitly argue against the traditional state-centrism of international relations, nor call for the end of the states-system. However, I strongly implied that the future of world order will be more cooperative, focused on low rather than high politics (elevating the human security agenda), and much less violent.

This week, recovering from jet lag, I’ve been following the efforts to save the euro and Eurozone. One interesting aspect is that conservative leaders in Europe have certainly made some bold claims to sell their preferred outcomes. For instance, while traveling in Australia, British Prime Minister David Cameron used some classic statist language to highlight his concerns about the implications of ongoing negotiations:

“This is our key national interest, that Britain, a historic trading nation, has its biggest markets open and continues to have those markets fairly open and fairly governed.”

He later told the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson: “In business often it’s selling more to your existing customers that’s the best strategy.

What his comments reveal is that when – if – the eurozone crisis ends, big political questions will replace the big economic problems”

“We’re big sellers into Europe, we can do better in those markets if we liberalise further.”

Mr Cameron has vowed to protect the UK’s position and said on Friday that the City of London was one “area of concern… a key national interest that we need to defend”.

“London – the centre of financial services in Europe – is under constant attack through Brussels directives,” he said.

Note the words and phrases Cameron used: “key national interest,” “attack” and “defend.”

Next, consider these remarks Wednesday from German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

“Nobody should take for granted another 50 years of peace and prosperity in Europe. They are not for granted. That’s why I say: If the euro fails, Europe fails,” Merkel said, followed by a long applause from all political groups.

“We have a historical obligation: To protect by all means Europe’s unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and blood spill. None of us can foresee what the consequences would be if we were to fail.”

Gulp.

Based on these quotes, scholars should perhaps worry about the long-term durability of Mueller’s thesis.

Well, at least slavery is gone. Right?

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Lessons in Globalism from Patong

Current Intelligence has published some ruminations of mine from my trip to Phuket last month. Lead paragraph follows:

Though I definitely passed through customs and back, it’s hard to know whether I traveled to a country called Thailand these past two weeks or whether I was actually just in one of those many outposts of globalization where a multi-national cacophony of Western tourists connect superficially with caricatures of a place’s pre-globalized culture.

At the invitation of an old friend who largely controlled the itinerary, I found myself on beaches and in bars, on dive boats and in spas, but never far from the American muzak and English-language-dominant service industry of Patong, never forced to navigate or speak in a local tongue, dis-incentivized to take seriously local governance, culture and politics except where it could be commodified, and mostly encouraged to have fun instead of thinking or talking too much about the place in which I found myself.

Full essay here. I am on the road again this next two weeks, so beyond reviews of travel books I may post in the next few days, blogging will be light.

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