Buzan Talks About IR

9 Dec

Barry BuzanI found Daniel Nexon’s interview with Barry Buzan a treasure trove of ideas. Along with other interviews I read or listened to, Buzan stimulated me to reconsider the suzerainty argument relating to a Sino-centric regional order in East Asia, nationalism, and the English School.

On China, Buzan argued that suzerainty in the Sino-centric order really didn’t work in a political and military sense, but more like a cultural influence. Buzan also points out with some irony, how Chinese scholarship in International Relations is both nationalistic, by emphasizing intellectually how society, not states, are salient. Korean and Japanese scholars are more universalistic, because they tend to follow western IR scholarship, not Chinese, yet all three states have sacralized nationalism as demonstrated by the irredentist squabbles over the Senkakus/ Daioyu, Liancourt Rocks, etc.

There’s also this lighter side to Buzan.

Along with his academic interests, Professor Buzan enjoys motorcycling, playing chess, and visiting Copenhagen and Vancouver, cities which he holds particular affection for. He often finds pleasure in reading – and writing – science fiction, and commends the sci-fi novels by Iain M. Banks. Despite his interest in watching Western and Sci-Fi movies and enjoying listening to blues or blues rock, he considers himself “a bit of a barbarian” and declares his no real interest in art. He regards H.G. Wells as a highly influential figure, while he quotes Ole Waever in saying: “Anything is possible; it only depends on how many things have to change to make it so”.

Finally, et al., I found this exposition of his “map” provocative.

My map would focus on the interplay between the interstate society and transnational and interhuman society in terms of identity. Since I am getting increasingly postcolonial in my take on IR, my map would probably reflect an interest in the way in which the core-periphery social and power structure, with the West as a weakening core, seems to be evolving into a more regionalized map. International society, on this map, would be more decentered, with a variety of distinctive regional societies emerging in different colors. These regional societies would not be competing with each other as a Cold War map might show you, in terms of regional blocs trying to take over the whole system. They would rather be more defensive than universalist in their aspirations.

The map would also have to accommodate the mutual interplay of more universalist types of identities with the continuing strength of parochial identities, and I would be interested in seeing how this latter map would be superimposable on the former one.

On a transnational level, my map would accentuate the way in which the Washington Consensus seems to have imploded in a way very similar to the implosion of Communism. We have seen a Cold War map, of two ideological regions in distinct colors, turn into a map of different shades of the same color—the Washington Consensus map—which is now being supplanted fairly rapidly by yet another, more regional, map. I am convinced that the implosion of Communism has the same reasons as the implosion of the Washington Consensus: the attempt to construct a global economy of a very intense sort, especially through financial liberalization, was a bit premature: the management ability to sustain such a level of economic integration is not yet there. With the collapse of both ideologies—Communism and the Washington Consensus—we need a period of experiments in political economy, for which regions seem the appropriate size. They would not be isolationist regions of radically contrasting colors, but still, enthusiasm for efforts on a global scale seem to have receded.

Finally, there’s the rehabilitation of the English School, which in my experience was relegated to the level of idealism. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I hope to put this ideas to good use on this blog.


2 Responses to “Buzan Talks About IR”

  1. LSE IR Dept (@LSEIRDept) 11 December 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    Hi there – thanks for linking to the LSE International Relations Department blog above. However, the blog has now moved and so the link you want to Barry Buzan’s interview can now be found at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/internationalrelations/2011/05/05/interview-with-professor-barry-buzan/ – please could you update the link? Many thanks!

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