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b u l l e t i n

Issue VI

Power Edited by Dr Darcy Leigh


Table of ContentS

From the Director of Research Louise Braddock

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Editorial Darcy Leigh

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A Note on the Concept of ‘Power’ Chrysostomos Mantzavinos

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Introduction to ‘Words and Numbers’ Rachael Kiddey

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Words and Numbers Mats Brate, Rachael Kiddey & June Mills

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Anaconda Power and the Politics of Possibility Sarah Amsler

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Discipline, Dissent and Dispossession Lara Coleman

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The Harms of Empowerment Jayne Raisborough

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Power and Imperial Insecurity Martin Thomas

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FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH

from the director of research Dr. Louise Braddock

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ower is the motor of social life. However, in large segments of the social sciences it serves the function of unexplained explainer. Embedded in our everyday vocabulary of action, intervention and change, and hence never a simple explanatory notion, ‘power’ has by now become a vast baggy concept, indeed an unruly one. It ramifies throughout social and psychological theories where, to note only a few prominent metaphors, social scientists have taxonomised, anatomised, genealogised or archaeologised it, wreaking upon it an apparently incommensurable array of theoretical distinctions and contrasts. It is not the plan of this Bulletin to enter this daunting field where there is in any case ‘in-house’ expertise, if I may put it that way, not least in the form of two recent monographs by ISRF Fellows: Jonathan Hearn’s Theorizing Power and Derek Hook’s Foucault, Psychology and the Analytics of Power. However power as a topic for this Bulletin is a natural next step given the ISRF’s interest in the foundations for an ethical economics. Writing for this issue Chrys Mantzavinos, former Academic Advisor to the ISRF, points out in his Note on the Concept of ‘Power’ that the connection between resources and power was made by Aristotle; in a more racy idiom the connection is aptly put in the ‘Two Questions’ of political philosophy: ‘Who gets what’, and ‘Says who?’. Outside of political and social philosophy however, philosophers have proved disappointingly terse on the subject of power, possibly since the concept, when not taken to be formal and mathematical, is often seen as a causal one. Recalling Russell’s view that the concept of cause (like, he said, royalty) should be dispensed with, the same might be thought to apply to power.

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DR. LOUISE BRADDOCK

Russell himself did not equate the two concepts, cause and power, but saw power in the social sciences in terms of energy, yet another physical concept. One of the perennial attractions of physical metaphors for the psychological and the social sciences is that they promise (though notoriously often don’t deliver) more preciseness in the use of explanatory terms. Preciseness is something which Chrys Mantzavinos, writing as a philosopher, rightly insists on as necessary for the fruitful practice of social science; ambiguities and unclarities lead to equivocations in argument. But, inevitably and indeed notoriously, clarity is bought at the expense of nuance and negotiated understanding; as the philosopher Max Black argued, models provide the one, metaphors the other. A more Wittgenstein-inspired approach, alive to the ways that the use of terms can be negotiated between thinkers in a field (or, in another idiom, can be keyed into a discourse) suggests how we might broker a connection between meaning and explanation. While the phrases ‘language game’ and ‘form of life’ are themselves undoubtedly over-used as well as under-defined (by Wittgenstein himself), they do point in the general direction of trying to understand complex theoretical ideas by empirical observation and discussion of their use. It is in such a spirit of reflective enquiry that, for this Bulletin, we have invited four of the ISRF’s Fellows to reflect on how the concept of power is currently used by them in their social scientific practice. The Bulletin has always been intended to have a more relaxing and recreational side to it and since the theme of our Annual Workshop in Edinburgh, on June 1-2, is ‘Social Science as Communication’, we have, performatively, enriched this issue with a cartoon ‘Words and Numbers’, by Mats Brate. The Workshop, which is the occasion for our Fellows to present their work, will itself be further enlivened by visual and performance art. Details may be found on the ISRF’s website and attendance is free. We will be very pleased to welcome all those interested to attend and find out more about the ISRF.

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EDITORIAL

editorial Dr. Darcy Leigh ISRF Editorial Assistant

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hen I invite contributions to the ISRF Bulletin I provide only a theme and leave Fellows to interpret this as they wish. This time I invited contributions on the broad and ambiguous theme of ‘power’. Yet the contributions I received were remarkably consistent: engaging with power right now, for these ISRF Fellows, meant engaging with neoliberalism, colonialism and resistance. How power works matters for these social scientists because understanding its operations provides some clues as to how people can resist and self-determine (this concern echoes last Bulletin’s theme ‘freedom’). As Lara Coleman argues in her contribution, writing about power at any point in history involves articulating its meaning and significance with research participants, contexts and cases. This is precisely what the other contributors to this edition of the bulletin have done. Sarah Amsler, Martin Thomas and Jayne Raisborough each offer one such engagement with the contingencies of power: Sarah Amsler with education, Martin Thomas with empire, and Jayne Raisborough with neoliberal empowerment as embodied by the makeover show. Overall, the Fellows’ contributions to this issue of the Bulletin speak to the multiple ways in which power works, the need to understand those ways empirically, and the implications of researching power for understanding social and political action more generally. The written contributors, Fellows and former Academic Advisor Chrysostomos Mantzavinos, were joined for this issue of the

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DR. DARCY LEIGH

Bulletin by two guests. Swedish artist Mats Brate and Aboriginal elder and artist June Mills (from the Larrakia nation) worked with ISRF Editorial Assistant Rachael Kiddey to produce the very first ISRF Bulletin comic. Words and Power takes up the Bulletin theme in visual form. At the same time, designer James Harding designed and produced the new look which we hope will make the Bulletin something you will want to keep on your shelf. Many thanks to our guest contributors for helping make this issue a visual social science feast as well as a textual one.

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A NOTE ON THE CONCEPT OF ‘POWER’

A Note on the Concept of ‘Power’ Professor Chrysostomos Mantzavinos Professor of Philosophy of the Social Sciences in the University of Athens

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ccording to Bertrand Russell’s view the ‘fundamental concept in social science is Power, in the same sense in which Energy is the fundamental concept in physics.’ My aim is neither to affirm nor negate this view, but to claim that in order for the concept of ‘Power’ to be useful in social scientific theory building, it must become a concept with a technical meaning. There is a standard problem in concept formation in the social sciences which is also apparent here. Social scientific theories tend to make use of concepts that are also used in ordinary life in which they often have ambiguous or very general meanings. This vagueness and imprecision is then introduced into the theoretical frameworks that make use of such concepts. This is also the case with the concept of ‘Power’. The solution is either to carefully define such concepts and explicitly state how they are to be used in the social scientific theory that is to be constructed – something that often is not successful, because the ordinary meanings of the concept remain dominant – or avoid using such concepts altogether and introduce purely technical concepts with more stable meanings. Of course, not every term used in a scientific theory is bound to be measurable and/or directly testable. This is a view associated with operationalism, i.e. the notion that we do not know the meaning of a concept unless we have a method of measurement for it. However, this view is obsolete and has been long abandoned.

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PROFESSOR CHRYSOSTOMOS MANTZAVINOS

A theory consists of a series of concepts some more akin to measurement than others. What we are testing are empirical hypotheses consisting of both observational and theoretical terms (i.e. expressions that refer to nonobservational entities). The fact that we might not be able to directly observe power is not equivalent with the impossibility of testing empirical hypotheses which include or make use of power. But the quality of the process of both the formulation and the testing of empirical hypotheses increases considerably when there is a careful definition or precisification of the concepts used, in our case of ‘Power’. Let us consider two examples from social scientific practice. First, take the case of monopoly power. Both common sense intuitions and causal observation informs us that a monopolist is able to sell his products at a higher price than under conditions of competition – he has, thus, monopoly power. Aristotle has already diagnosed this (Politics, A, 11): All these methods are serviceable for those who value wealthgetting, for example the plan of Thales of Miletus, which is a device for the business of getting wealth, but which, though it is attributed to him because of his wisdom, is really of universal application. Thales, so the story goes, because of his poverty was taunted with the uselessness of philosophy; but from his knowledge of astronomy he had observed while it was still winter that there was going to be a large crop of olives, so he raised a small sum of money and paid round deposits for the whole of the olive-presses in Miletus and Chios, which he hired at a low rent as nobody was running him up; and when the season arrived, there was a sudden demand for a number of presses at the same time, and by letting them out on what terms he liked he realized a large sum of money, so proving that it is easy for philosophers to be rich if they choose, but this is not what they care about. Thales then is reported to have thus displayed his wisdom, but as a matter of fact this device of taking an opportunity to secure a monopoly is a universal principle of business.

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A NOTE ON THE CONCEPT OF ‘POWER’

In standard neoclassical micro-economic theory ‘monopoly power’ has been defined more closely as the degree of price setting power of a supplier in a market. Ways to measure this monopoly power have also been proposed, with the help of the Lerner index for example, i.e. the margin between the price and marginal cost. Second, take the case of institutional change. According to some prominent approaches in the social sciences institutions change not because of the will of gods, the wisdom of a lawgiver or the fate of history, but because of the bargaining power of actors. The institutions most likely to be established are the ones that manifest the interests of those actors who enjoy a relative bargaining advantage due to their ‘bargaining power’. A way to make such theoretical accounts more testable empirically is to use proxies for ‘bargaining power’. These are commonly economic, political and ideological resources available to actors which enable them to exert ‘bargaining power’. Concluding, if the concept of ‘Power’ is to be useful for social scientific theorizing, caution must be taken that it has an unambiguous meaning, that it is used in a technical manner and that the theoretical structure or hypothesis in which it is embedded is formulated in a way that is directly or indirectly testable with the use of diverse sources of evidence.

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DR. RACHAEL KIDDEY

Introduction to Words and Numbers Dr. Rachael Kiddey ISRF Editorial Assistant

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ords and Numbers is the product of a collaboration between a Swedish artist Mats Brate, June Mills, artist and Aboriginal elder from the Larrakia nation, Australia, and Rachael Kiddey, whose PhD is in archaeology. The brief was to explore the theme of ‘the relationship between politics and economics’, in graphic form. Text (or more accurately, dialogue) is used to situate the audience in an imagined conversation while images perform their own active work and concurrently communicate emotional and moral dilemmas arising from tensions between politics and economics and the affective aspects of capitalism. The comic genre works differently from text or pictures alone. It may be useful in communicating academic concerns to (and inviting participation from) broader audiences, in accessible ways. Words and Numbers may be considered to function as a tool, a form of mediation rather than representation, offering a visually dynamic gateway through which all audiences are invited to contribute to ongoing debates. We envisage Words and Numbers as the first in an occasional series of comics exploring themes discussed in the Bulletin and would welcome any comments, criticism or feedback (please send to rachael. kiddey@isrf.org).

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DR. SARAH AMSLER

Anaconda power and the politics of possibility Dr. Sarah Amsler ISRF Mid-Career Fellow, Reader in the School of Education, University of Lincoln

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was recently talking with a teacher of young children who alternated between sharing her passion for children’s flourishing and attempting to explain the problems of the institutions in which she worked. After struggling to articulate her experience of trying to facilitate developmental play in a milieu of standardisation, targets, managerialist control and performance-based pay, she suddenly grabbed her throat, squeezed it tight, and exclaimed: ‘it’s like an anaconda!’ The system strangles – relentlessly, she added, as every move to escape seems to create opportunities for it to constrict elsewhere. She looked triumphant to have given her experience of this power a creative name. This was the third teacher in a week and one of many cultural workers over the past year to use metaphors of suffocation, dehydration, and exsanguination when describing the conditions of their labour, learning and care to me in interviews. Their voices harmonise with those of critical philosophers who have been arguing for some time that ours is a period of ‘contracting’ possibilities for human freedom; a time in which many ‘alternative, non-commodified means to fulfil people’s needs’ and most of the ‘conditions necessary to promote social justice, sustainability, and happy lives for all’ are being foreclosed.1 What kind of power 1. The idea that our time is one of contracting possibilities for human freedom was introduced by Jürgen Habermas, but my use of it draws more heavily on Nikolas Kompridis’ work on new forms of critique. The quotations in this sentence, as well

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ANACONDA POWER AND THE POLITICS OF POSSIBILITY

and powerlessness is this and what practices of freedom have the potential to help us overcome it? The everyday vocabularies of power which are being developed by people working in institutions subjected to new forms of primitive accumulation and enclosure offer important insights into this problem. They point to the ascendance of a kind of power that not only limits what it is possible to think, say, do and imagine here and now but that also generates resignation to ‘the thought that our possibilities might be exhausted, that the future is no longer open to us, no longer welcoming’. 2 In other words, people can no longer believe that even making change would make a difference. The question of how to advance humanization within foreclosing systems of power has, as the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire once remarked, ‘always been humankind’s central problem’. 3 Over two centuries, it has been manifest in a multiplicity of struggles against the domination of capital; the violence of the state; the subjugations of patriarchy, racism and heterosexism; the disciplining powers of governmentality; the repressions of authoritarianism and the human and ecological damages of technological rationality. In contemporary neoliberal societies – those where the politico-economic, cultural and cognitive hegemony of capitalism penetrates the fibres of everyday life, social relationships and institutional organization – the question is how these systematised forms of power parameterize, ‘contract’ and foreclose possibilities both for human flourishing and for resisting domination and altering social relations and structures. Across the world, there is a growing awareness of the need for radical social change and a desire to be part of it. Beyond the threshold of this anticipatory consciousness, as Ernst Bloch called as the concepts of primitive accumulation and new enclosure, are developed from M. De Angelis’ (2010) essay ‘On the commons: a public interview with Massimo De Angelis and Stavros Stavrides, e-flux, 17 and S. Federici’s (2011) ‘Feminism and the politics of the commons’, The Commoner. 2. Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), p. 245. 3. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (NY: Continuum, 2000), p. 43. 19


DR. SARAH AMSLER

it, there are wellsprings of revolutionary possibility. Most are marginal, minor and localized; many are precarious or ephemeral; some remain under the radar on purpose. Here people are fighting for survival and the right to exist, for the possibility of living in common with others, for a just distribution of resources and recognition, for dignity and self-determination, for things to simply be fair, for a life lived well (buen vivir). All affirm the resilient striving to create forms of life that are at least ‘more adequate for us, without degrading suffering, anxiety, self-alienation [or] nothingness’, and that are ideally life-giving and emancipatory.4 Yet understanding that such projects exist does not necessarily help people who are not ‘activists’ learn hope. At one level, in order to transcend the existing parameters of possibility, they simply need to ‘throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong’. 5 There is nowhere else to start but from here, and no time ever but now; throwing-in is a condition of possibility in its own right. But attempting this within conditions of neoliberal institutional hegemony is difficult, as the basic conditions that make even small ‘counter-moves against the badly existing’ (as Bloch put it) have been erased. Many people, such as the cultural workers at the heart of my research, find themselves in situations where there is little obvious room to throw themselves or anything else around, and where embryonic possibilities fossilise before they can draw breath. When you cannot seem to start becoming, how do you begin? The distance between the formal possibility that the world can be otherwise and the realisation of this potential in everyday life is not caused only by a failure of radical imagination or because it may be ‘easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism’. Within the extant horizons of possibility, it is hard to imagine being able or willing to do the kinds of material, intellectual, social and affective work that are needed to give counter-capitalist ways of life a fighting chance of becoming realities. The task of a radical-democratic politics today thus 4. Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope, Vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), p. 18. 5. Ibid., p. 4. 20


ANACONDA POWER AND THE POLITICS OF POSSIBILITY

cannot be simply to make ‘the impossible possible’ or, as Raymond Williams once wrote, to make despair unconvincing by exposing its non-necessity and making hope practical.6 Overcoming dominant systems of power is not practical in the ordinary sense of the word. The task is to weaken our attachment to ‘practicality’ and make the impractical work of humanization possible as part of the everyday experience of a liberating life, for all who desire it. My research project, ‘Practices of possibility in neoliberal social systems’, maps the terrain of such work by exploring the lives of teachers and cultural activists who are cultivating new modes of political agency and radically democratic ways of thinking, relating and being in cultural institutions and within their everyday lives. I am inspired by the ‘critical case study of possibility’ method which has been used to identify possibility-enabling practices in a range of dominating social systems.7 Hannah Arendt, for example, advised us that in states of domination we must keep our minds and hearts open to new horizons of learning and practices of possibility, and that we should seek them out in the places we least expect them to emerge. ‘Even in the darkest of times’, she wrote, ‘we have the right to expect some illumination’, and this ‘may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given them on earth.’8 Today, people everywhere in extreme neoliberal societies are looking for such resources of hope and straining in the directions 6. Raymond Williams, ‘The politics of nuclear disarmament’, New Left Review, 1/124/. 7. R. C. Smith, ‘Revolution, history and dominating social systems: notes on a foundational approach to systemic change’, Heathwood Press, 14 January 2014, http://www.heathwoodpress.com/revolution-history-and-dominating-socialsystems-notes-on-a-foundational-approach-to-systemic-change-lecturenotes-2013-2014/. 8. Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times (NY: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968), p. ix. I borrow the method of ‘critical case studies of possibility’ from Michael Fielding and Peter Moss’s Radical Education and the Common School: A Democratic Alternative (Oxon: Routledge, 2011). 21


DR. SARAH AMSLER

from which they reckon they might come. There is a sense that they will be realised not by transcending power but by seeking the ‘open dimension’ in people, where possibility articulates, and the open dimension in things, ‘on the leading edge, where becoming is still possible’; by gravitating towards wherever and whenever the ‘[u]nbecome is located and seeks to articulate itself’.9 I am especially interested in practices which, to paraphrase Friedrich Engels, recreate the world out of itself through striving for better future formations in the present, with the understanding that these dimensions are often inseparable. I am thus testing Ernst Bloch’s theory that people alter social realities by working on the ‘undecided material’ and ‘open dimensions’ of both it and themselves at the same time.10 This theory assumes that we are not only able to struggle and create within the constraints and possibilities that present themselves as given, but that through this activity we generate new conditions, horizons of vision and possibilities. It suggests that what-is and what-is-possible are not fixed states of being but relatively contingent states which are mutually affected when they come into dialogue or contradiction. And it suggests that human beings are themselves critical agents of mediation in this encounter: we are material elements of the conditions of our own possibility. My question is: how can Bloch’s theory of power and possibility help the teacher working in the anaconda kindergarten today…or more importantly, how can she help us develop it for our own time?

9. Bloch, Principle of Hope, pp. 3, 12. 10. Ibid., pp. 199, 288. 22


DISCIPLINE, DISSENT AND DISPOSSESSION

Discipline, Dissent and Dispossession (Dis)Entangling Power and Resistance1 Dr. Lara Montesinos Coleman ISRF Early Career Fellow, Lecturer in International Relations, University of Sussex

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y ISRF-funded project aims to understand the politics of resistance to contemporary forms of dispossession. While I make little reference to the word ‘power’, power is nonetheless a key concept underlying my research. Unravelling the entanglements between power and resistance, between discipline and dissent, is an important aspect of my problematic. Resistance is often (tacitly or explicitly) read off an understanding of power. We see this, for example, in certain varieties of Marxist analysis, in which the politics of resistance is defined in relation to social forces (for example as an instance of working class struggle which is by definition progressive). Similar tendencies are to be found in appeals to global or homogenous resisting subjects (a ‘global justice movement’ etc.), whose emancipatory or oppositional nature is decided in the very framing of resistance. Presupposing that the ‘we’ in resistance is constituted, its field of action known, inhibits understanding of the variegated ways in which apparently oppositional struggles may bolster relations 1. A more developed (and fully-referenced) argument along these lines is forthcoming as ‘Critique and Commitment: Departing From Activist Scholarship’, International Political Sociology. The first publication from my ISRF-funded project, which addresses these concerns in relation to human rights and political ethics is forthcoming as ‘Struggles, over rights: humanism, ethical dispossession and resistance’, Third World Quarterly 36:5 (May 2014). 23


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of oppression and exploitation along certain axes, even as they undermine them along others. Such tendencies are not confined to academia. One concern motivating my research (fuelled by two decades of ‘activist’ experience in Britain and Latin America), was the tendency for activist groups to make similar moves, making often romantic and knee-jerk appeals to ‘we, the resistance’ in ways that similarly reify both struggles and the power relations that these struggles are set against. In the urgency of denouncing phenomena and getting people to do something, it is easy to make a rush to judgement, which ends up naturalising concepts and categories that are readily absorbed into existing constellations of power. The effect is often the neutralization of struggle. One stock response to this sort of problem is to repeat the Foucauldian mantra – ‘there is no power without resistance’, ‘we are never outside of power’. Foucault’s approach to critique was all about standing back from and problematizing those concepts and objects given to us, even ourselves as subjects within existing relations of knowledge/power. This clearly resonates with some of the concerns expressed above. Yet it doesn’t get us very far as a starting point, because it then becomes very hard to get at what is a stake in concrete struggles. Resistance is quickly reduced to a series of ‘counter-conducts’, constrained in their operation while also side-stepping or refiguring certain aspects of power. Even the practice of critique can be framed as just one more form of resistance. Here too, resistance is read off power – this time diffuse, networked power, recursively related to knowledge. Analysis is severed from the lived praxis of struggle, making it very difficult to make sense of the transformative aspirations and political stakes of specific struggles at a particular historical juncture. So here we come full circle, if we do not want to understand the stakes of struggle in relation to a readymade history, reading a historical conjuncture in terms of an understanding of power-relations that does not engage with the objectifying effects of knowledge itself.

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My own approach, rather than starting with an understanding of power to which resistance is counter-posed, is to start with practices of struggle themselves. My project begins from ethnographic engagement with struggles against armed dispossession in Colombia, to consider how resisting subjects are produced and how struggles are neutralised through contingent and scaled forms of power - not only through armed violence but by recognising rights and by ethically-configured interventions. In particular, I’ve been making a series of arguments about what I think is a characteristically neoliberal logic of human rights (found in a series of interventions organised around corporate responsibility, decent work, and peace-building), through which dissent is channelled into tributaries where the very recognition of rights becomes a mode of dispossession. Engagement within actual practices of discipline and dissent forces us to engage situated and contingent entanglements between power and resistance with an eye to totality, to the ‘big picture’ in ways sensitive to the lived experience of struggle. The question, for me, becomes how to understand what it at stake in these processes, how to understand resistance in relation to power, in ways that minimise the betrayal of ontologies emerging from the experience of struggle. With Doerthe Rosenow, I’ve been engaging with the philosophical tradition from which Foucault’s own work emerged. I’ve suggested recently that Gaston Bachelard’s work on the philosophy of natural science might provide a useful way in here. For Bachelard too, truth is immanent within systems of knowledge, although he emphasised the dialectical relations between theory, experience/experiment and the object of knowledge itself. I think there is a certain resonance between the knowledge of the physicist as framed by Bachelard and the social ontologies forged in struggle. In contrast with totalising applications of theory, or static and reified accounts of power, ontologies are continually developed and revised dialectically, as the contours of political subjectivity and ethics are filled with content.

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DR. JAYNE RAISBOROUGH

The Harms of empowerment Dr. Jayne Raisborough ISRF Mid-Career Fellow, Lecturer in the School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Brighton

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n this paper I approach empowerment as a specific and highly contextual site of power relations working through popular culture to shape neoliberal-compliant subjectivities. In my wider work, I am interested in the ways ‘empowerment’ operates with rhetorical force to both sell neoliberal rationalities to women and to offer up recalibrated (‘empowered’) women as ideal consumer-subjects in return. To focus on empowerment allows some expansion of our critique of neoliberal rationalities as we can further problematize the ways agency is imagined and steadily herded and curtailed by ideals of choice and responsibility. I want to sketch out what this new agency means with regards biological and social processes of ageing (the focus of my ISRF Fellowship). What I am working toward is a demonstration of the limitations of personal volition (as expressed through responsible choice making) and the various harms that fall from a too easy celebration of empowered choice making. Empowering age Empowering older people to take responsibility for their ageing is a key principle of most states in their response to the threats and challenges of ‘global greying’. So-called ‘active ageing’ aims to empower older people to choose healthy lifestyles, physical activity, social inclusion and other activities in a wider bid to limit or best manage the personal, social and economic cost of ageing. There are numerous and hefty criticisms launched at

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active ageing and some of the ‘side-effects’ of empowerment – many of these resonate with criticisms of neoliberal rationalities more generally. There is for example, the symbolic violence enacted in the specific ways ‘good’ ageing is imagined (which is highly heteronormative and relies upon good access to economic and symbolic capital). There is also a denial of the physical and biomedical processes involved in ageing. Then there is an absence of ‘older’ old age – the so called fourth age – within which some expressions of agency demand rethought. My interest lies in the stigma of dependency and vulnerability that emerge when good ageing is considered a matter of empowered choice or as a result of good strategic management. Stephen Katz (2000), for example, argues that in an attempt to ‘restructure dependency through the uncritical promotion of positive activity’, these ‘neoliberal antiwelfarist agendas’ can also be seen to ‘problematise older bodies and lives as dependency prone and ‘at risk’ (Katz 2000: 147). My site for inquiry is the makeover show, many of which are explicitly concerned with the production and celebration of youthful appearance and the reduction of signs of age. This staple of reality TV is of scholarly interest not only because of its sheer ubiquity but because its narrative structure – the move between a ‘before’ to an ‘after’ – offers illuminating insights into what or whom is considered in need of intervention and transformation (the ‘before’) and what or whom is imagined as the happy result (the ‘after’). Further, there has been increasing interest in the pedagogical function of makeovers: of specific concern is the detailed constitution of ideal neoliberal subjecthood through the application of expert-produced pedagogies. As experts (designers, hairdressers, life coaches and surgeons) drag the show’s participant through the redemptive trajectory of transformation, audiences are taught about the shape and look of deviant, marginal and potentially threatening bodies, and the social groups they purportedly represent (McRobbie, 2005), and practices of producing an ideal-aspiring body and life. Along the move from ‘before’ to ‘after’ audiences are instructed in the ‘neoliberal policies for conducting oneself in private’ (Ouellette, 2009: 239). It

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is for this reason that Toby Miller regards this kind of programming as an extension of a wider project of neoliberal governance that ‘seeks to manage subjectivity through culture’ (2007:2). For others, however, this is not just a management project but part of an active constitution of new subjectivities (Gill 2007). In other words the pedagogical functions of makeovers interfere with the very ways we understand and imagine ourselves. If we accept the point made by James Hay (2000) that neoliberalism requires and relies upon ‘new kinds of citizen subjects’ then transformations to a better and new self can be regarded less as freely chosen but driven by the ‘compulsions and expectations’ set by the market rationalities of neoliberalism (Honneth, 2004: 474). Do we choose to deny age or are we pushed? Putting age to work in the makeover show Ten Years Younger Ten Years Younger is a typical makeover show that resonates with the messaging of ‘active ageing’ policies. Ten’s format involves a public polling of a participant’s age (we are taught here that how we look to others may be considerably older than we may feel or appear to ourselves), followed by expert interventions, the success of which is judged by another public poll: Ten Years Younger Series 6, Episode 1: Mary Gibson has the body of a 30-something but her face tells a very different story. A lifetime of sunbeds and smoking have piled on the years, leaving Mary with no choice but to carry out a daily ‘Polyfilla’ makeup job to fill the cracks. Poll age before: 63 Poll age after: 47 Real age: 50. Meanwhile, Civil Servant Kathleen is stuck in a time warp having spent 25 years with the same haircut and ten wearing the same pair of glasses. The passage of time has also left Kathleen with saggy eye-lids and crooked teeth. Poll age before: 60 Poll age after: 45 Real age: 49 Can Myleene wave the 10 Years Younger magic wand and turn these plain Janes into beautiful bombshells? 28


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Ten Years Younger Series 6, Episode 17: Mel long lost the recipe for looking good. The lines on her face, and graying locks meant the men never saw past Mel’s lacklustre appearance. Mr Stanek’s [the celebrity surgeon] knife, and a spruce-up from the rest of the Team, gave Mel a sparkle that would have had the men queuing up. Artist and mum-of-four Cathy Fisher was paying the price after 20 years of living in the Seychelles and frying her skin in the hot sun. As a result, Cathy’s pin up looks had gone down the pan, along with her bright fashion sense, which became greyer and drabber as the years went on. And then the Team gave Cathy a new fashion palette and face to match, and the blonde bombshell was back. Myleene catches up with Cathy for a girly gossip and a spot of retail therapy to reveal it’s not just the outside that has changed. Others have argued that a key primer to the makeover, and indeed to all beauty practices, is an incessant cultural pathologising of femininity.1 This reduces women to their bodies and diverts their agency into the ability to meet, and survive, the sexually objectifying gaze that appraises their worth and success. Close attention to Ten demonstrates the ways that age functions in this reduction. Age, or more correctly, its appearance, appear to (dis) place women outside the perceived pleasures and rewards of heterofeminity; not only do ‘graying locks’ diminish sex appeal/ allure, rendering women invisible to a privileged audience (‘men never saw...’); but ageing seems to grow from and feed into a poor zest for life itself (‘lacklustre’), indicated by a lack of the usual feminized markers of self-care and body work (‘25 years with the same haircut’). Age then, presents as a problem and as an indicator of a marginal and abject life; age reduction is then 1. Tincknell E (2011) Scouring the abject body: Ten Years Younger and fragmented femininity under neoliberalism. In. Gill R and Scharf C (eds) New Femininities: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and Subjectivity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 83-95. 29


DR. JAYNE RAISBOROUGH

logically presented as the site for redemption and a re-positioning back into the established order. This is heavily signaled by the ‘girly gossip and spot of retail therapy’ that are the favored horizons of appropriate heterofemininity for the younger-looking woman (the ‘bombshell’) in the makeover. It is clear in the synopsis above that the participants have not just grown old – the women have been careless or have cared-less: ‘frying’ in the sun, ‘sunbeds’, ‘smoking’, ‘have piled on the years’. Within the makeover, then, the issue at hand is not that the body moves through time, but how it manages this movement. The relocation to ‘how’ is a necessary because the ‘how’ becomes a site for instruction, guidance and intervention. It is inevitable, then, that poor lifestyle choices should visit faces so unforgivingly and that, inevitably, these become sites of pedagogical encounters where participants and audiences may learn correct choices and practices as ‘right’ enactments of rewardable, socially visible femininity. As Tincknell scathingly observes2, what we witness in the makeover is a collapse of self-esteem into sexual objectification - what I add is that age manufactures that collapse. Coupland’s critical observation that age emerges in a popular culture as a state that can be reversed3 allows us to focus on the processes of transformation that dominate the air time of all makeover shows: Ten, Series 3, Episode 12: All it took was a upper eyelid reduction, brow lift, eye bags removed, full face lift, nose job and chemical peel to turn her ancient sagging face into a thing of beauty. Pike is among those who have argued that age, or rather its problematisation, carves out space for a market of solutions 2. Ibid., p. 84 3. Coupland, J (2009) Time, the body and the reversibility of ageing: commodifying the decade, Ageing and Society 29: pp. 953-976 30


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delivered by ‘moral entrepreneurs’.4 In Pike’s theorisations, age functions to suture women’s body work tightly into consumer capitalism. We see this function reflected in Ten, which uses age to dissect the already problematized older body and face into a series of unrelated risks each demanding specialized attention. Ten does not simply hand over a participant to a single expert: age-reduction is a skillful production of a carefully choreographed team that comprises of a cosmetic surgeon, cosmetic dentist, fashion editor, make-up artist, hairdresser, personal trainer, haircolour expert – each with specific and discrete problems to solve. What Pike (2011) observes is a sharp distinction between aging ‘naturally’ and aging ‘normally’. Whereas the first may mean a period of decline; the second refers to the social imperative to delay or defer these processes. Following Pike, the makeover can be regarded as one site where the social imperative to defer age meets market expectations to entice participants and audience into the consumption of highly-specific lifestyles and identities. No harm no foul? The most obvious harm relates to the way that anti-ageing encourages and normalizes surgical and other risky interventions. Tait (2007:127) speaking of Extreme Makeover argues that makeover shows normalize cosmetic surgery by defining the abject in such ways that “‘ugliness’ becomes our choice and responsibility”. A personal willingness to reverse age becomes a heroic, rational and logical agentic decision that reflects and reproduces cultural expectations of responsibilised selves as ‘good’ consumers of participatory health care.5 Interestingly Ten does much to dislocate the risks from the surgery itself to those of ‘choosing’ to remain in the narrative space of the ‘before’ as ‘old’. The less obvious harms (perhaps) rest in the ways all of our bodies 4. E C.J. Pike , 2011 The Active Aging Agenda, Old Folk Devils and a New Moral Panic, Sociology of Sport Journal, 28, pp. 209-225 5. Leve, M, Rubin, L and A Pusic (2011) Cosmetic surgery and neoliberalisms: managing risk and responsibility, Feminism and Psychology 22(1): pp. 122-141 31


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are dragged into practices of self-surveillance and the stigma and culpability that quickly follows. Coupland has argued that we are taught ‘how to look for our age’.6 This can be understood as the perception of our age by others, as dramatized in Ten’s public polls. Yet it can also describe the ways the makeover encourages participants and audiences alike to apply age diagnostic literacies upon their own bodies and faces: we are taught to ‘look for our age’ in the creases of our eyes, the sagging of our jaw lines, in quantity and quality of our sex lives, in order to optimise life itself by achieving what Tincknell calls a ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’.7 What we see in the makeover then is a melodramatic instruction of the ways age risks our removal from a scopic economy of worth but re-enables agentic choice-making in its delay. We are taught to seek gendered subjectivity through the consumption of active, sexy, healthy lifestyles and looks: to look old is a mark of failure. 8 We are starting to see the tightening contours on empowered subjecthood. In this context, age is recast as an obstacle or challenge that the contemporary citizen-subject is expected to personally work around. Indeed to do so is a marker of empowerment. Yet, what is enabled and enacted through empowerment is an exaggeration of an individual’s agency in both continuing to make wrong choices (the willful and stubborn old person) and in using that agency, expressed as will power and self-determination, to switch to the right, notably responsibilized choices (denying age). Furthermore, as the chooser becomes the focus for anti-aging discourses, the question that easily takes hold in the cultural imagination is not just why would one choose a looking-older life (itself a question 6. Coupland, J (2009) Time, the body and the reversibility of ageing: commodifying the decade, Ageing and Society 29: p. 954 7. Tincknell E (2011) Scouring the abject body: Ten Years Younger and fragmented femininity under neoliberalism. In. Gill R and Scharf C (eds) New Femininities: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and Subjectivity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 91 8. Twigg, J. (2004) The body, gender and age: feminist insights in social gerontology, Journal of Aging Studies, 18, pp. 59 – 73 32


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we need to be critical of) but rather, just what kind of person is making such choices. The harm lies, therefore, in the production of worthlessness – and this has implications for all of us: how can we learn to be old in a culture that sees age as marker of failure and fault? What meaningful relations can we have with those older than us and expect from those younger than us as we age? My ISRF project takes as its starting point three sets of harm. The first is the psychosocial impact of a stigmatized identity on older people: age discrimination, social isolation and poor health inter alia. The second concerns the psychosocial impact on the ‘not-old’, currently under-researched, but involves the disavowal of a ‘future self’. The third set relates to the intergenerational conflict when young and old are placed in an antagonistic relationship. Harm then, is enacted upon all subjects who are incensed to avoid or delay the markings of age as signs of invisibility and non-viability. The haunting of youth by age; of viability by non-viability; of human by non-human; fuels anxious contortions to maintain a stake in culturally prescribed parameters of being. The question now is just how long can you stay young and beautiful?

33


PROFESSOR MARTIN THOMAS

Power and imperial insecurity Professor Martin Thomas ISRF Mid-Career Fellow, Professor of History, University of Exeter

I

begin an ISRF fellowship on imperialist humanitarianism in the coming academic year. My project will explore some of the ways in which the colonial past intersects with the deployment of European military forces, police trainers, and relief missions in the global South. The opportunity to contribute to an ISRF Bulletin on ‘Power’ was too tempting to miss in the meantime, and so the discussion that follows picks up some of the themes of my current research on the nature of imperial power, imperial globalization, and the fundamental insecurities of empires. It might seem blindingly obvious that empire was – and is - a global phenomenon. Yet it is only in very recent times that it has been analyzed as such: a normative condition within international society rather than its corruption.1 Most international systems, past or present, were strongly imperial in character and for much of recorded history the majority of the world’s population has lived under some variant of colonial rule. Yet empires, as is well known, are also transitory phenomena. For all their multifariousness, the unequal distributions of power, resources, and rights intrinsic to colonialism condemn empires to be tense, existing in a state of disequilibrium somewhere between the two poles of rise and fall. Despite their internal frictions, indeed, oft-times because of them, empires are also agents of change. The networks of exchange, 1. Important recent examples are John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (London: Penguin, 2008); Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011); Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2014); Alison Bashford, Global Population: History, Geopolitics and Life on Earth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), part II.

34


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of connection, and of practice within them – as well as those between co-existent empires – were politically, economically, and socially transformative. From shared monetization and the spread of capitalist working practices to environmental spoliation, religious evangelization, migration and mass population displacement, empires, ancient and modern, wrought material and cultural changes that outlasted their epochal chronologies. These processes, while often encouraged by imperial governments, were neither wholly inspired nor comprehensively regulated by them. Nor did they stop at the colonial frontier. Rather, the fundamental changes to political organization, economic activity, cultural practice and belief fashioned by colonialism were transnational in form and extent. Empire, in this sense, was more than global: it was globalizing. The term ‘globalizing’ is used here to refer to the mechanisms, some cultural, others institutional and technological, that spurred the movement of people and the transmission of practices across societies and states, thereby accelerating their interdependence.2 And it’s in these globalizing forces that one of the most reliable measures of imperial ‘power’ may be found. If the factors that contributed to the cohesion of empires, and to imperialism as a global practice of power, were actively globalizing, does it follow that the causes of empires’ demise were equally so? Certainly, just as colonialism and colonization were global phenomena, so, too, were anti-colonialism and decolonization. Gandhian ideals of non-violent protest, Garveyism, négritude, colonial women’s rights activism: all provided ideas and impetus to civil rights movements the world over. Anti-colonial insurgencies meanwhile inspired other, peasant-based revolutionary movements from Latin America to the Far East. These oppositional forces drew on transnational networks of support and communities of practice that highlight a certain paradox: usually construed as a disintegrative process, contested decolonization was, at the same time, a globalizing 2. Martin Thomas and Andrew S. Thompson, ‘Empire and Globalization: From High Imperialism to Decolonization,’ International History Review, 36:1 (2014), 1-29. 35


PROFESSOR MARTIN THOMAS

one. The organizational forms, the politico-military methods, and the ethical justifications for anti-colonial movements were remarkably similar, even copy-cat in quality, whichever latterday European colonial empire one chooses to investigate. It is this globalizing of imperial insecurity through the diffusion of organized anti-colonial violence that my work explores. The argument I’d like to propose here is this. Globalization, a process commonly understood to have pulled different regions of the world together, did not suddenly disappear during the decades of contested decolonization from the 1940s onward. Rather, it began to work differently. The transnational networks, cross-cultural borrowings and observed precedents that sustained the forces of anti-colonial nationalism, insurgency and popular protest were themselves globalizing forces even if they paved the way for alternative, late-twentieth century conceptions of international order and societal interaction. Paradoxically, therefore, the ultimate break-up of European empires can in some ways be considered less disruptive of the overall process of globalization than the close-knit crises of the inter-war era. Historians of the disorderly aftermath of the First World War, its legacies of forcible population transfers, para-militarism, and continuing intra-state violence, discern a particular quality to the political uncertainties and social upheaval provoked by preceding global conflict. So, too, historians of the occupations, displacements, and reconstructions which followed the Second World War detect similar particularities in the months and years after 1945, a transitional period that historian Peter Gatrell tellingly describes as ‘violent peacetime’.3 These peculiarities of power, it seems to me, reverberated through European Empires with equal, if not greater force. Focusing for a moment on the post-World War I years, it may 3. Peter Gatrell, Trajectories of Population Displacement in the Aftermath of Two World Wars,‘in Jessica Reinisch and Elizabeth White (eds.), The Disentanglement of Populations: Migration, Expulion and Displacement in Postwar Europe, 1944-49 (Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011), 3-6, quote at p.5. 36


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be that the rise of ethnocentric nationalism and the retreat into regional economic blocs, so much a feature of the 1920s and 1930s, signified a new era of ‘de-globalization’, rolling back the integration of capital and commodity markets, and curtailing the movements of population, witnessed in previous years. That said, alongside the growing culturally and racially based insularity of the inter-war era, and its shift from imperial conceptions of citizenship to new nationalising visions of empire, there were countervailing forces. The consolidation of new international regulatory agencies promoting universal conceptions of minority and civic rights, and the emergence of new strains of anti-colonial nationalism, each anticipated the transition from a world of empires that upheld sharp distinctions between citizens and subjects to the decolonized international system of the late twentieth century. Moving forward to the post-World War II years, the forms of integration envisaged rejected stratified ideas of social relations, which is why they proved incompatible with the forms of globalisation that had characterised the heyday of imperial rule. For all these globalizing currents, the study of armed conflicts within late colonial states continues to be treated as internecine and locally specific. There are some good reasons for doing so, not least the recognition of agency amongst the colonial communities involved. But there is a cost. Few scholars of colonial collapse have exploited insights from political scientists about micro-violence, insurgent behaviour and the dynamics of rebellion in authoritarian societies. Others fail to define what, if anything was uniquely ‘colonial’ about colonial violence. Here, post-colonialist scholar Rob Nixon’s formulation of ‘slow violence’, a term – and, in a way, a measure of power – that connotes colonialism’s global legacy of environmental degradation and cultural denigration, points a way forward by linking imperial practices with post-imperial effects.4 4. Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2011). Focused on the environmental destructiveness of western imperial capitalism, Nixon defines slow violence as ‘a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed 37


PROFESSOR MARTIN THOMAS

At the macro-level, decolonization has lost analytical traction as a phenomenon with supra-local dynamics and global impacts. The ripple effects of successive imperial pull-outs, once taken for granted as pivotal to the entire process, feature less prominently in studies with a national or regional focus. Yet decolonization was surely less national than globalizing. More than just a string of sequential Third World wars, colonial conflicts were inter-related, characterised by the transmission of ideas and practices from one region to another. Paradoxically, even as manifestations of anticolonial opposition became more diverse, the resultant pressures on late colonial states to negotiate or otherwise accept their own termination became increasingly comparable and closely interlinked. Decolonization, then, was an iterative process in which the commonalities of experience within and between empires grew clearer over time. Violent colonial collapse, in particular, was political contagion – the one irresistible pandemic in the post-Second World War international system. Curiously, however, in much of the literature at least, this globalizing dynamic within the end of European colonial rule is scarcely addressed. It is the end of empire framed nationally, rather than the end of empires framed globally, that predominates. Nation-by-nation approaches to decolonization risk missing the point that European imperial collapse reverberated more widely, transforming post-war geopolitics as part of what Arne Westad has dubbed the ‘global’ Cold War. Few would contest the inter-connectedness of Cold War and decolonization. The relationship between the two is analytically problematic even so. The historiography of decolonization remains less globalized and less informed by ‘global south’ approaches than by narrowly political ones. The tendency among academics, as well as among participants and commentators at the time, to focus on the imperial-anticolonial dynamics of particular fights for independence is perhaps unsurprising. Cold War rivalry fostered the militarization as violence at all,’ quote at p. 2. See also Anthony Vital and Hans-Georg Erney, ‘Postcolonial Studies and Ecocriticism,’ Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 14:1 (2007), 3-13. 38


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of anti-colonial insurgencies, proxy wars and massive human rights abuses. In the many imperial territories where ‘states of emergency’ were enacted, what one scholar terms the ‘humanitarian double standard’ became the norm. Western governments, otherwise assiduous in their condemnation of Soviet and other rights abuses, insisted that purely ‘domestic’ colonial problems fell outside the scope of the supposedly global protections of international human rights law. 5 And yet, while leaders of nationalist movements in Africa and Asia certainly exploited the new post-war human rights agenda, pan-Africanists and Socialist-inspired anti-colonial nationalists saw greater injustice in iniquitous economic structures and the poverty endemic in large parts of the colonial world.6 Thus, even something like UN-sponsored human rights protections, which might be thought to have exerted a ‘globalizing’ influence were, for many years, either ignored, or at least interpreted quite differently, by the leading actors in decolonization. This raises the question at the heart of my research: did the widespread conflicts of decolonization after 1945 remake the international system, thereby globalizing what were once ‘local’ colonial difficulties and changing the rules, conventions and etiquettes by which international politics was conducted? The post-war of declarations and conventions that attempted to codify universal human rights standards would, for some scholars, seem to suggest so, indicating that emergence of ‘an emergent global rights order’.7 Disaggregating cause from effect is a complex business even so. It is made harder by the sheer number of colonial breakdowns and the multiplicity of factors – local, national, institutional, ideological and cultural – involved. What seems incontrovertibly ‘globalizing’ is that formerly 5. Fabian Klose, ‘“Source of Embarrassment”: Human Rights, State of Emergency, and Wars of Decolonization,’ in Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann (ed.), Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 237-57. 6. Andreas Eckert, ‘African Nationalists and Human Rights, 1940s-1970s,’ in Hoffmann, Human Rights, 284-99. 7. Mark Philip Bradley, ‘The United States and the Global Human Rights Cases of the 1940s and 1950s,’ in Douglas Howland and Luise White (eds.), The State of Sovereignty: Territories, Laws, Populations (Bloomington, IN.: Indiana University Press, 2009), 129-31. 39


PROFESSOR MARTIN THOMAS

bilateral patterns of conflict between imperial powers and their colonial opponents were complicated as foreign antagonists were drawn in. A plethora of international regulatory agencies, lobby groups and NGOs, as well as supporters of pan-Africanism, Third Worldism and other variants of colonial freedom also pressed for particular outcomes.8 Their influence was felt in everything from partition schemes to accelerated timetables for franchise reform and greater international scrutiny of colonial administrative performance. The ‘global rights order’ weighed in this process helping to ensure that, by the 1960s the persistence of racially stratified empires seemed anachronistic.9 New ideas of individualized human rights (albeit selectively taken up by anti-colonial nationalist movements) and the discredit heaped on those who claimed ethnic superiority made systems of imperial domination harder to defend. Nonaligned states, predominantly former colonial territories, kept up the international pressure for self-determination in what remained of western empire. 10 In a multicultural world, widespread revulsion at the idea that social relations should be governed by racial hierarchy pointed to a different, more inclusive vision of globalization, one in which critics argued for the presumption of individual equality as a normative standard. The internal sociopolitical frontiers which empires sought to defend, whereby ‘gradients of privilege’ were, broadly speaking, extended ‘outward through space and downward through society’, were increasingly to be seen to be incompatible with globalisation as it unfolded in the later twentieth century.11 In sum, anti-colonialism acquired 8. Carol Polsgrove, Ending British Rule in Africa: Writers in a Common Cause (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009); Robert Malley, The Call from Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Mark T. Berger, ‘Decolonisation, Modernisation, and Nation-Building: Political Development Theory and the Appeal of Communism in Southeast Asia, 1945-75,’ Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 34:4 (2003), 421-48. 9. An argument whose global implications are explored in Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). 10. Roland Burke, Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), Chapter 1. 11. Charles Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors (Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press, 2006), 10. 40


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a stronger potency in international politics, transcending the ideological allegiances of Cold War, and providing the moral compass for non-aligned states. It helped unify formerly dependent territories whose narratives of ‘escape’ from empire figured large in their individual nation-building. Colonial withdrawals, and especially those encompassing partition, also triggered huge population movements and altered long-established economic and cultural relationships within and between countries and communities.12 From expanding proxy wars to post-colonial migration, the end of empire changed the points of contact between first world and third. Does it make sense to explain these shifts in terms of globalization? Did decolonization, which, after all, signified the collapse of particular forms of integrated global organisation, promote different models of social, cultural and market integration? Or did imperial retreat also roll back globalization itself? The contested nature of decolonization, and the frequency of mass violence within it, is suggestive of a disintegrative process, what Gyanendra Pandey identifies in the South Asian context as decolonization’s ‘balkanizing’ effects. 13 But in destroying the hierarchies of imperial globalization, decolonization might also be viewed as a facet of the steady advance of Bretton Woods-type free trade capitalism, affirmation of the irresistible force of the American century for Europe’s former imperial nations and of statist models of development for once dependent territories.14 These contrasting observations return us to the globalizing effects of anti-colonial revolt. Different facets of the colonial confrontations which engulfed so many African and Asian 12. For European and colonial perspectives, see Panikos Panayi, ‘Imperial Collapse and the Creation of Refugees in Twentieth-Century Europe,’ and Ian Talbot, ‘The End of the European Colonial Empires and Forced Migration: Some Comparative Case-Studies,’ both in Panikos Panayi and Pippa Virdee (eds.), Refugees and the End of Empire: Imperial Collapse and Forced Migration in the Twentieth Century (Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011), 3-27, 28-50. 13. Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 1-2. 14. A.G. Hopkins, ‘Capitalism, Nationalism and the New American Empire,’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 35:1 (2007), 95-117. 41


PROFESSOR MARTIN THOMAS

territories after 1945 (counter-insurgency, settler racism, forced population removal, labour militancy, partitions and federations, human rights activism, and development discourses) were not just widely characteristic of transfers of power, but were inter-dependent, interactive and, therefore globalizing in their cumulative impact. The problem for the analyst of violent decolonization is this. If the disintegration of empire was so relentless, why did successive governments, French, British, Dutch and Portuguese, try so hard to resist it? Our preoccupation with this question of futile intransigence gradually abandoned turns on the argument that decolonization gathered momentum not as an empire-specific process but as a global one. This deceptively simple point is also absent from much of the literature on empire and decolonization because a national focus on British or other imperial experience tends to conceal it. The problem deepens when we bring analyses of insurgency and counter-insurgency into the equation. Conflicts like these were generally characterized by massive mobilisation of the colonized but relatively little mobilization by the colonial power. 15 This imbalance drove insurgents to maximize what potential they had to build regional networks of support and to publicize their cause internationally. In a global context, words and images, in the form of publicity campaigns at the UN, lobbying for aid from sympathetic powers, and targeted propaganda in the press and televisual media, became ‘weapons of the weak’ par excellence, helping to reverse the military imbalances between insurgent forces and their colonial opponents. As Chris Goscha has suggested for French Vietnam and Matt Connelly for French Algeria, the ‘weak’ won the battles of decolonization because they were better than the strong in maintaining transnational networks of support – especially in economic and diplomatic terms.16 Another global 15. Elizabeth Schmidt, ‘Top down or Bottom up? Nationalist Mobilization Reconsidered with Special Reference to Guinea (French West Africa),’ American Historical Review, 110:4 (2005), 975-1014. 16. Christopher E. Goscha, Thailand and the South East Asian Networks of the Vietnamese Revolution, 1885-1954 (Richmond: Curzon Press, 1999); Matthew Connelly, A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of 42


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process inherent to the asymmetry of violent decolonization was the constant re-categorization of distinctions between civilian and combatant and attendant redefinition of the rights and duties that came with such labels. This differentiation between civilians and soldiers was a dynamic, open-ended process and terribly perilous - one in which the changing nature of war, national mobilization, and international norms came together, sometimes expanding this distinction, more often collapsing it. In some ways the inverse of the globalization inherent in earlier expansionism, the violence and conflict attendant on imperial contraction was also global in its reach and lasting effects. Forms of anti-colonial revolt, the patterns of state formation they generated, and the international realignments and population movements they provoked all provide counterpoints to the globalizing consequences of empire growth before 1914. Identifying contested decolonization as a globalizing process is important for two reasons. The first is that anti-colonial insurgencies and the irregular wars attendant on the end of European colonial empire have usually been viewed as symptom, not cause, of fundamental changes in international relations precipitated by other, more Eurocentric factors. What I’m arguing is rather the reverse: that imperial insecurities were global and globalizing phenomena that, in basic terms, reverberated northward from the global South.17 The second reason to treat the end of European empire as something globalizing is that, while the patterns of popular mobilization and anti-colonial violence involved targeted particular colonial authorities, the methods and practices involved had more lasting resonance insofar as they increasingly defined new normative standards of anti-state violence by non-state actors and groups. The implications of this point are clear: irregular warfare as the predominant conflict pattern of our age is not quite as new as ‘new war’ theorists contend. the Post-Cold War Era (Oxford University Press, 2002). 17. This stress on global South agency chimes with J. Marshall Beier, ‘Beyond hegemonic State[ments] of Nature: Indigenous Knowledge and Non-State Possibilities in International Relations,’ in Geeta Chrowdry and Sheila Nair (eds.), Power, Post-Colonialism and International Relations (London: Routledge, 2002), 46-64. 43


This issue features: Sarah Amsler Mats Brate Lara Montesinos Coleman Rachael Kiddey Chrysostomos Mantzavinos June Mills Jayne Raisborough Martin Thomas

ISRF Bulletin Issue 6: Power  

For the sixth issue of the ISRF Bulletin, Fellows were invited to offer contributions on the broad and ambiguous theme of ‘power’. The contr...

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