Two topics: International Relations and Anthropology
These are forum responses with works cited, 300 words each.
Please separate the responses into two separate word documents.
Which theoretical perspective(s) do you find the most persuasive and why when it comes to analyzing EU policymaking? Which is the least persuasive and why? Please incorporate specific examples to support your arguments.
After more than two decades of living in and traveling throughout Europe I continue to be fascinated by this diverse continent. Just this week 31 year old Sebastian Kurz, a right wing candidate was elected Chancellor (www.cnn.com/austria). Combine this result with the gains made by right wing nationalist parties in the recent German elections, the rise of Front National in France and Gert Wilders in Holland and the continued integration of the continent is in doubt.
It seems as if states that had previously surrendered national sovereignty to the European Union are seeking to reclaim it. This is not at odds with the prediction written about by Pollack (2005), who sited Hoffman (1966), in writing, “The nation state, far from being obsolete, had proven “obstinate.” Most obviously with de Gaulle, but later with the accession of new member states like Britain, Ireland, and Denmark in 1973, member governments made clear that they would resist the gradual transfer of sovereignty to the Community, and that EC decision making would reflect the continuing primacy of the nation-state.”
Recent opinion polls suggest that around half of the populace of Europe feel that the European Union suffers from a “deficit of democracy” in that unelected officials in Brussels, particularly in the European Commission, have usurped national authority. In it’s most basic sense the EU was a project born out of a belief in neo-liberal instatutionalism that posits that given enough integration via inter-national and supranational organizations that nations will be bound together economically and politically.
This theorization stands in stark contrast to Realism, which posits that nations will do what is in their own self interest. Realists also believe that the natural state of international relations is conflict and that eventually, when cooperation has run it’s course nations will be in conflict.
When examining the EU Pollack (2005), goes on to write that, “Historical institutionalists took up a position between these two camps, focusing on the effects of institutions over time, in particular the ways in which a given set of institutions, once established, can influence or constrain the behavior of the actors who established them.”
A last theoretical construct that I would like to touch on is Constructivism. Risse (2004, p. 161) explains, “It is probably most useful to describe constructivism as based on a social ontology which insists that human agents do not exist independently from their social environment and its collectively shared systems of meanings” (as cited in Pollack, 2005). I find this construct interesting because I view Europe, a continent of many diverse nations and peoples, as more of an idea than a geographic space. This is because the ideals of Europe where constructed out of the Enlightenment, Protestant Reformation and French Revolution. Universal rights and the rights of man have become the cornerstone of a pan-European philosophy, that now seems to be questioned under the dual hammer blows of Muslim immigration and financial stress.
It will be interesting to see how this all ends up. But, for now I believe that the Realists have it most correct. For a time the EU has been useful to integrate the economies of Europe. However, economic integration has not led to political integration because of the diverse needs of the many peoples of Europe. With this in mind I think Europe will soon revert back to it’s natural state: conflict.
Which theoretical perspective(s) do you find the most persuasive and why when it comes to analyzing EU policymaking? Which is the least persuasive and why?
Having never lived in Europe, what I know about its governance, I have learned from reading and watching the news. Unfortunately, news outlets are heavily biased making it nearly to determine fact from opinion. However, it is very easy to see the gradual shift in the political landscape of the European Union. The past few months have seen some surprising electoral events. The General Election in the Netherlands saw the Party for Freedom (PVV) gain seats in the Dutch House of Representatives which now makes them the second most populous part in the House. A large part of the PVV foundation is predicated on de-scoping the integration of Muslims into the Netherlands and is a very strong proponent for abandoning the European Union. The election of Emmanuel Macron came to the cheers of many French citizens since he does not advocate for pulling France out of the EU and his campaign seemed to push for rekindling the relationship between Europe and its citizens. Finally, the re-election of Angela Merkel to a fourth term may seem like a solid and predicted win, however, as her party’s prevalence in the German parliament is wanes, a heavily right-wing party has now established itself as the third largest party now.
The recent growth of political parties advocating for a return to nationalism, and divesture from the EU indicate that the theory of realism is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) international relations theoretical perspective. This also leads me to believe that Neofunctionalism is a highly unconvincing theory of international relations. Neofunctionalism is based on the principle of moving the governance of certain segments to a central governing entity (Pollack 2005). This type of movement reminds me of the adage “give them an inch and they will take a mile” meaning that states will eventually be heavily pressured to relinquish control of other functions until states have surrendered the rest of their fundamental government oversight. The idea of yielding state sovereignty was strongly opposed by the French President Charles de Gaulle in 1965 and was replicated by other states such as Britain, Ireland, and Denmark (Pollack 2005). This unwillingness to relent shows that states were, and still are, innately opposed to capitulating their state-protected authority to a central institution.
Aside from the obviously position of Realism, I surmise another likely theory of international relations in the EU is the Constructivist ideology. Pollack (2005) describes Constructivism in the EU as an environment in which people are not separate from their environment and its conglomeration of different demographics. For me, this describes the EU very well since it is an aggregation of multiple diverse cultures which incredibly rich heritage and delineating the people from those various factions is unlikely. I think this diversity is what will drive (and continue to drive) geopolitics and the future of the EU. The numerous heritages and backgrounds come with deeply seeded beliefs and often include religious principles. It is the existence of those beliefs and ideals are what will ultimately drive nations to make decisions which are in the best interest of their state, and render the concept of rationalism one of the more unlikely theories.
Response 3 answer this question
What will the EU look like 20 years from now?
As mentioned in our reading “Social Evolution” it was once thought that a society would evolve as it progressed. The term “social Darwinism” of often used in explaining this theory. Take any two societies, they are at war either physically or culturally, when one side comes out “victorious” it could be said that this represents the stronger or fittest cultural trait taking over thus survival of the fittest in culture. It can be related to biological evolution in the same manner, when genetic mutations take hold that allow the group the mutations to survive or thrive, while those without eventually die off. People with sickle cell in countries that had a malaria problem is a great example of this adaptation. Their (disease now) adaptation allowed them to be immune to the effects of malaria meaning they stayed alive to spread their genetics. The cultural evolution is the same, “winning” culture can spread their culture and way of doing things. This analogy is limited because cultural evolution can take place within the same generation while biological evolution takes much longer to achieve. Cultural evolution can also interact and take traits from many different sources whereas biological evolution is restricted to parent-offspring relationship.
The Fore are a society that live in Papua New Guinea. No one knew of their presence until the 1930’s and gold prospectors discovered them. It was not until the 1950’s that researchers made their way to a tribe of 11,000 called the Fore. The Fore were losing about 200 people a year to a disease they called kuru. The disease affects the brain and eventually causes the person to lose all control of their limbs, emotions and within a year all their bodily functions and then die. The cause was eventually discovered by a medical anthropologist named Shirley Lindenbaum. She felt sure that it was not a genetic trait because it only affected the young women and children under 8. She knew there was something else causing the deaths. As an anthropologist, she knew to look for the whole story. In other words, dig into their customs and practices to see if there was a link. She found that link and was able to get biologist to the village to confirm her theory. The Fore practiced funerary cannibalism, but primarily the adult women took part in this. They were responsible for preparing the body to be eaten. They cooked and ate everything but the gallbladder. The men did not participate but the women would give the children under a certain age “snacks” from the deceased. Once the boys reached a certain age they were taken to live with the men where they were not allowed to eat the “snacks”. The biologist found that the people who had died of kuru had a disease that was caused by a twisted protein. This protein would fold upon itself and eventually kill the nerve cells in the brain until the brain was riddled with holes. This disease was then being transmitted to the women and children who ate the infected brain of the deceased. When it was confirmed through an experiment with chimpanzees that were injected with infected human brain and they begin to show symptoms of the disease the case was closed. The Fore did stop this practice about 50 years ago but the last case of a Fore dying from kuru was in 2009. The disease was considered eradicated by 2012 and no known instances have occurred since.
If it were not for the holistic approach of taking everything into consideration while looking for an answer to this epidemic, the Fore could have gone extinct. Lindenbaum would not accept the answer that it was genetics because it did not fit with what she knew was happening in the villages She had traveled from village to village to map the family trees and found that it was affecting women and children in the same social groups but not the same genetic groups. She also knew it had started in the villages in the north around the turn of the century and moved south over the decades. So, armed with this information she was able to get the biologists there to prove her theory and save the Fore from certain extinction. Go Shirley!