Challenges to the Existing IR System and How They Are Viewed in the IR Literature in the Western and Non-Western Segments of the World

Core Agenda of European and American Studies

Global politics as a phenomenon of international relations can be discussed in certain terms from the late nineteenth century, when the international society began taking a real shape (Watson 1992). Before that, different national communities within macrocivilizational worlds existed, but these macrocivilizational worlds were not tied into a single international system and they were organized according to different structural principles. It was only by the mid-twentieth century that the colonial and dependent politico-economic condition of Eastern (formerly called Oriental) countries gave way to the search for their own path of development. Eastern countries joined the international system, which was based on European principles and international law, only in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, making the majority of countries in the world system they were before mainly its accessory and dependent parts. After the countries of the East gained independence, some substantial shifts gradually took place there, with firmly established relationships between agrarian and industrial sectors and the prevalence of the latter in the most advanced of such countries. As for their traditional system of societal and economic life, it started to undergo a transformation into a type of enclave-conglomeration system, featuring complex relationships between traditionally dependent © The Author(s) 2017

A.D. Voskressenski, Non-Western Theories of International Relations, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-33738-8_2

groups as well as a growing and self-modernizing political elite, plus the synthesis of Western and Eastern civilizational and economic components depending on the Eastern societies’ domestic talent for modernization and transformation (Osterhammel and Petersson 2003; Roach 2009; Payne 2005; Spero and Hart 2010). Generally, this process first took place within the frameworks of the colonial development model, then within the “catch-up development” model of economic and political modernization. Until the late twentieth century it was accompanied by dependent and/or co-subordinate foreign policy development (Nayar 2005).

In contemporary theory of international development (Payne 2005; Haque 1999; Rist 2008; O’Brien and Williams 2010) four major structural factors have been identified that cause strengthening of nation-states and national communities in the system of global relations: globalization, modernization, integration and regionalization. In IR theory, however, these factors were represented unevenly within existing Western development theories. As the global politico-economic space is quite heterogeneous—different spatial segments of the world have their own forms of evolving inner organization (Easterly 2007)—each of these processes proceeds in its own form and at its own pace, influencing the regional structure differently, thus predetermining the distinctiveness of the regional subsystems within the single international system. Using the advantages of regional integration and adapting to global processes predetermines the ultimate choice of development models made by some nation-states in the contemporary conditions of global interconnectedness (Acemoglu and Robinson 2013). This contributes to or hampers their rise or fall, and in the end determines the nature of the global system, the contingency of its parts and the development vector. It also exerts influence on the processes of global society formation.

In Europe, with its progressive economic, social and political development over the last 200 years, modernization and integration have been and continue to be the most important factors and drivers of domestic development. In no other continent of the world do the integration processes proceed so rapidly and reach such magnitude and profoundness as in Europe. Even the global financial and economic crisis could not slow down these processes. European countries only accelerated the work through the models of integration on the basis of uniform budget policy and, as some argue, for the transformation of the European Union (EU) from a monetary into fiscal union, including or excluding some unstable elements from such processes. The latter doubtlessly influence the development of North America. Initially, the USA moved ahead to become the indisputable leader of global economic development, which for some time offered the standard for the resolution of economic and political problems (Stubbs and Underhill 1994; Gill and Law 1998). Further on, the formation of the EU triggered the appearance of more competitive models of integration such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and then the evolving Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), both centered around the US economy and offering conditions for institutional cooperation even more transparent than those in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO, with its fifty-year periods of transition required for a number of states, enables these states to gain all advantages of cooperation within the WTO and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) without opening their own economies at the same level to other participants of the world economy. As for regionalization, it helps to reduce regional disproportions, to narrow the gap between the development rates and levels across the regions and to create prerequisites for the further intensification of the integration processes—in particular, by developing cross-border triangles of growth as well as cross-border and cross-regional cooperation, and by providing national communities/nation-states with additional incentives for development.

This agenda, when applied to Europe and North America, the two macro-regions of the West, makes up the core of the unified complex of research and learning disciplines known as European Studies and American Studies. These subject fields represent comprehensive politico-economic analysis of regional development models being applied by the two largest and most closely tied spatial segments of the single West, and of their influence on the rest. In general, such analysis has been reflected in the study of global transformations through the prism of the maximally objective West-centric analysis of global processes (Held et al. 1999). Accordingly, the analysis of the processes taking place in the Western world and their influence on global transformation was the major subject of the Political Science and Global Politics disciplines. Beginning from the twenty-first century, the emphasis of political studies shifted. Today, the central agenda for the coming decades of global political development is comprised of such issues as: Would the regional segments of the non-Western world be able to build their democratic systems of open social and political access? Which major non-Western countries would be able to de-monopolize the paths of transition to such a system and to offer their national versions of such a system? And, which non-Western countries would be doomed to undergo the cycles of mobilizations/stabilizations, periodically occurring systemic political crises and circular development without attaining a new sociopolitical and technological level of competitive development, but with the invariable need to defend their besieged fortresses against the internal and external challenges in order to explain to their degrading population why it lives worse than people in other countries?

The central agenda of European Studies in existing IR literature usually includes the processes of European integration as well as its internal, external, economic and political implications for EU nation-states (Anderson et al. 2008, 133-178). American Studies, however, are focused on the comprehensive role the USA plays in forming belts and spheres of the preferential global and regional policy (Spero and Hart 2010, 12-62). Unified by the macro-regional cross-Atlantic history based on common values and world perception, the agenda of these two macro-regions reflects:

  • (a) the nature of macro-regional processes that came to the fore at a certain historical stage of global development, and hence,
  • (b) the view of the world from the macro-region of the future EuroAtlantic community.

As all these processes are connected with the distribution/redistribu- tion of power and influence in the global system and in the international governance structure, with geopolitical, political and economic rise and fall of national states, as well as with the nature and methods of governance of world processes, the research of such kind of processes, in terms of its type, is associated with the sphere of international political and politico-economic analysis (Anderson et al. 2008, 15-16). The latter features its own methodological specifics of problem-posing and problem-solving, connected with the specifics of the subject being researched, such as: the phenomena of anarchical international society (that is, occurring in the absence of a global sovereign), but the streamlined, transforming substantial and spatially time-bound interaction of sovereign states and other actors of global politics in the form of international life, rooted in the regional sphere (Bull 1977; Held et al. 1999).

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