Debating IR

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


Friday, March 24, 2006

Continuing on Johnny's Theme

The concept of defining the West is certainly interesting. Constructivists spend plenty of time searching for implicit ways in which leaders define concepts and it is rare for such an explicit statement to be made. However, in the context of a Clash "about" Civilizations, it is really inconsequential.

If the struggle between Islam and the West is about civilization then what is important is how Muslims define the West and vice versa. Westerners can define the West until they are blue in the face without affecting the conflict. If we accept that this clash is about civilizations (which I do not), then the only way to resolve it is for Muslims or the West to change their conception of one another.

Really what this comes down to is power. Each group wants to impose its view of the world on the other for various cultural, economic, and security issues. The current thinking in the West is that if people think alike, they will cooperate with one another. Trade will be increased, moral authority will be established, and military cooperation will increase. The power of one "civilization" will allow them to control the rules of the international system, which in turn will continue to benefit the dominant civilization the most. The idea is simply realist sovereignty on a larger scale.

But the problem arises from the belief that sovereignty may be based on ideas. Ideas are harder to control than territory. They exist in the mysterious area known as the brain and tend to be resistant to change even in the face of force. A sovereignty of this manner would have drastic consequences for the world as we currently imagine it. Paging Mr. Orwell......


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