Debating IR

Probing the philosophical underpinnings of the international system and anything else of interest.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Reaction to the Anarchy Discussion

Sometimes I wonder what I truly believe. A person can read different articles, watch different TV shows or news coverage, and participate in arguments and feel certain that they have a specific view of the world. I know that I personally feel this way most of the time. I am sure that I believe in one thing or another. I am sure that certain ideologies are crazy and others make perfect sense. And yet sometimes I surprise myself and confuse myself. I will engage in arguments and find an ideology which I don't necessarily believe flowing easily and almost thoughtlessly from my lips, as if I believe it so strong that I don't need to think. This is where I found myself yesterday.

I consider myself a realist, insofar as my very loose understanding of the various disciplines of IR go. As such I believe in anarchy. However, I have never considered myself an anarchist. I don't know the word for what I considered myself is (structuralist?), but I believed that despite anarchy, a hierarchy always existed based on power. And I was convinced that because of the power displacements in that hierarchy, anarchy was virtually reduced to nothing. That is, in an international system, those on top have more anarchy, and those on the bottom less, since there are more hindrances to their motions (structural realism in short).

Then halfway through the argument yesterday, when I was arguing against a hierarchy as the end of anarchy, I heard myself say something to the effect that "As long as a person has the choice to obey the rules, and is only punished after they disobey, anarchy exists." Jesse followed my statement with the words, "Spoken like a true anarchist." And suddenly I had to take a step back. I had never really thought out, on my own the extent to which I believed in anarchy. I was shocked and have been ever since. I thoguth I believed in a hierarchical anarchy, but now I am questioning it. My biggest questions are, "To what extent does anarchy extend? How much anarchy exists at different levels of power? Do small states seemingly have more freedom since oftentimes they are the stimuli to a response by a bigger power?" Its interesting to me and proving to be good challenge to my preconceived notions.

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