Reconceptualising Stability

Lucy Thirkell

“T]he methodologies and vocabularies used to frame territorial struggles have material consequences, both in terms of the constitutional arrangements through which conflict is accommodated and the international recognition of secessionist states. […] [H]ow we write about territorial conflict shapes the possibilities for, and what we mean by, resolution.”[1]

The recent CRIA discussion event Stabilisation of conflicts involving armed groups: applying politics research to foreign policy practice was an interesting case study for applying Alex Jeffrey’s thoughts on the framing of conflict and peace and their practical application as stabilisation policy and praxis.

The methodologies, the vocabularies, and the understanding of ‘stability’ that the talks revealed gave a candid impression of policy formulation and enactment. The first presentation offered a robust research programme into ‘stability’ and the socio-political relations that are conducive to it. The second presentation was a frank description of the balance of military action and strategic dialogue against and with violent groups that governments use to achieve stability.

Stability is not peace, it seems, but the absence of conflict. Stability practitioners tend to be engineers who build roads and wells, and, on the political side, militaries who fight insurgents and diplomats who may or may not negotiate with them. However, delving into the content of the presentations, it seems that in parallel to roads built for stability, elements of conflict are strategically reframed, conceptualized as cultural or criminal issues. This reframing appears to ignore factors that could lead to renewed conflict rather than peace. Is it possible to widen the concept of ‘stability’ while keeping it an actionable policy output?

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Crises, Challenges and Opportunities in Global Politics

Earlier this summer, the graduate students and faculty of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge (where CRIA is housed) gathered for a doctoral conference showcasing the work of PhD students and visiting researchers. The conference theme was ‘Crises, Challenges and Opportunities in Global Politics.’ CRIA had the opportunity to partner with the conference, promoting the journal, running a book sale, and launching our own speaker series alongside it.

Today we announce the major fruit of that partnership, an online supplementary issue featuring papers from the conference. The papers here include empirical research on the post-conflict transition in Burundi, the Southern Gas Corridor and its place in relations between the EU and neighboring regions, and EU development assistance and its contradictions; as well as a theoretical critique of the ‘socialisation’ discourse surrounding EU expansion in Eastern Europe. The papers are framed by a short introduction by the conference organizers, Caroline Ashcroft and Alexandra-Maria Bocse.

You can read the papers, and download them, here, and we look forward to your feedback.

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The crisis of democracy: John Dunn and Fuat Keyman on the history and future of a regime

Tobias Mueller

“The Crisis of Democracy” – the topic of the Cambridge International Studies Association’s June 2nd panel – naturally reminds us of recent events: the rise of the right-wing parties in the European parliamentary elections, the financial crisis, and the challenge to liberal democracies by China’s economic success.

They also remind us of a new book by Cambridge’s own David Runciman: “The confidence trap: a history of democracy in crisis from World War I to the present.” Runciman analysed the recurring discussion about ‘democracy in crisis.’ In almost every decade since the 1920s, there has been a moment where a consciousness of crisis dominates intellectual debate as well as popular perception. Crisis, from Greek krinein, to decide or to separate, etymologically suggests the strained metaphor of the “crossroads” at which the West and the world stand.

But if this is such a recurrent theme, what decision is ahead of us, what separation is necessary? What crisis and what future of democracy are we talking about?

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Be Our Summer Intern

Do you like politics, and think you might enjoy a career in academia, research or journalism? Are you a student or recent graduate able to work in Cambridge? Come be our summer intern! You’ll work on the peer reviews that are the backbone of our print journal, contribute articles (on topics you choose) to CRIAViews, and help with our events and social media outreach as a key member of the CRIA team.

Applications are due Monday, June 23rd, and interviews will be scheduled before the end of the month.

Summer Internship with the Cambridge Review of International Affairs

The Cambridge Review of International Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal published at the Department of Politics and International Studies, seeks an energetic and creative intern for part-time paid work this summer.

The intern will assist with organizing the peer review of articles submitted to the print journal, researching each article topic, identifying reviewers with appropriate expertise and liaising with them to collect review reports. The intern will contribute to the journal’s website, writing short, research-led articles on topics in current affairs for our blog, CRIAViews. He/she will also be involved in promoting the journal across social media and planning for speaker events the journal is hosting later this year.

The ideal candidate will have a background in politics or a related discipline, be a voracious consumer of international news on both traditional and new media platforms and be able to write clearly and pithily about complex topics.

The intern will work 20 hours a week at £7.65/hr over the course of a four-week placement.

To apply, please send a CV and a cover letter that includes two suggestions for article topics for the website to applications@polis.cam.ac.uk by Monday, June 23rd.

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Capitalism Beyond Money – A feminist analytical framework

Tobias Müller

We are living in a time of financial and economic crisis. Mainstream news accounts attempt to understand the problem by looking at the amount of public debt, credit ratings and unemployment rates. Marxist accounts argue that the logic of capital accumulation is nurtured by the exploitation of wage labour workers, and so the current “crisis of capitalism” should be analysed through the lens of ownership of means of production and the class struggle resulting from it. “We are the 99%”.

Nancy Fraser, Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies, is not satisfied with this analysis. In her recent lecture “Behind Marxism: toward a gender-sensitive conception of capitalism,” she impressively demonstrated not only the limits of neo-liberal analysis, but also the failure of orthodox Marxist accounts to provide a framework suitable to understand today’s crisis.

Drawing on earlier work, Fraser argues that the focus on the monetarised dimensions of the crisis obscures crucial background conditions of social reproduction, ecology and public powers. Many theoretical and political conflicts in these areas are  “boundary struggles” trying to protect the independence of these realms against capitalist absorption. Though focusing on these dimensions reveals crucial “hidden abodes” behind Marxist theorising, Fraser leaves us with an insufficient conceptualisation of how they are related to the realm of monetarised exploitation.

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Warren Breckman: Machiavelli and the Contemporary Left

Tobias Mueller

In 1977, long before the fall of the Soviet Union, Louis Althusser conceded that there was a “crisis of Marxism.” While the answers provided by Marxism, for example the deterministic unilinear development of history or the dictatorship of the proletariat were no longer conceived as legitimate, the questions of social injustice and capitalist exploitation remained urgent. Moreover, Althusser acknowledged, Marxism lacked a theory of action, and the Leninist solution of a vanguard party had been discarded.

Enter Machiavelli, doomed by the Jesuits for being in league with the devil, considered a “teacher of evil” by Leo Strauss, his works held up by Stalin as grounds for execution.

How did a Renaissance thinker contribute to the New Left’s search for new answers? That was the subject of a recent lecture by Warren Breckman. Breckman, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, promised to take the audience from renaissance Florence to Paris in the 60s to Zuccotti Park, New York in 2011.

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Alcuin Lecture 2013

The Department of Politics and International Studies’ annual Alcuin lecture was delivered on October 17, 2013, by Loukas Tsoukalis, Professor of European Integration at the University of Athens, President of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), and Visiting Professor at King’s College in London and the College of Europe in Bruges. A transcript of the lecture, entitled, “Is There a Future for the European Union – and with Britain in It?” follows.

It is a privilege to be invited to deliver the Alcuin Lecture of 2013 on Britain and Europe, and I should like to thank in particular the Master of Clare College for hosting this event and Professor Christopher Hill for the invitation. I am deeply honoured, even more so having looked at the list of very distinguished speakers who have preceded me in the Alcuin Lectures sponsored by Lord Brittan.

I spent a good part of my academic life in this country and I am grateful for the things I learned and the opportunities I was given. I was elected to a Fellowship in European Studies – I have to admit it was in ‘The Other Place’ – only a few years after Britain joined the European Community, as it was then known, and some years before my own country also joined. I have devoted most of my working life to the study of Europe, and European integration in particular, often crossing rather timidly, the boundary between academia and policy. These are my qualifications for today’s event, modest though they may be.

In the 2011 Annual Review Lecture of the Journal of Common Market Studies, I said that European integration had been for a long time like a car moving uphill. The French usually provided the driver, the Commission the map, the Germans paid for the petrol and the British oiled the brakes. And in the second half of the previous decade, it began to look like a car without a driver, the map being replaced by a GPS that went on and off, while the Poles insisted on taking an insurance policy with God, nobody wanted to pay for the petrol, some clearly cheated, and those inside disagreed loudly on how many more could fit into the car.

The road has become much rougher and dangerous in recent years. Many people believe we now have a driver and she is German, although there are still doubts about whether she, or anybody else, has the skills required for driving in such adverse conditions or whether anybody inside the car has a clear sense of direction. Meanwhile, the British have begun to wonder whether the time has come for them to get out.

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