Debating IR

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

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Postmodern Discussion

I was disappointed by Thursday's discussion on postmodernism. We didn't get much of a chance to talk about the reading (mostly because people were understandably preoccupied with midterms), which was a shame because I think it was one of the more interesting pieces we have had so far.

Instead we had a discussion along the lines of "why are you getting a degree" which is more of a sociological debate than an IR one. For a few hundred years, education has been valued more as a means of improving economic standing than as a means of self improvement. In fact it is pretty clear that it doesn't really matter what you learn at school, provided you end up with the necessary bit of paper at the end, as a degree is really just an instrument of social stratification. There is a really good article on this by Randall Collins called "Functional and Conflict Theories of Educational Stratification" 1971, American Sociological Review, vol 36 if anyone is interested.

I find this a bit depressing, although accurate. I would take it a bit further (although i guess this would be more critical theory than postmodern) and wonder why people want to climb the social strata in this way. The answer is the violence inherent in the capitalist system. Having a higher socio-economic position allows you to be a dominator instead of one of the dominated. However, nobody is fully a dominator, everyone is to some degree injured by the system. So really, a degree is about getting a bigger slice of the pie, which, after a few drinks, I like to refer to as the "Pie of Domination".

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