Le’ Notes #41: Foreign policy as a socialization act

This post covers some basic ideas of foreign policy as a socialization act under the framework of the socialization game.

In Note #40, the construction of a role is dependent on the level of contestation within its domestic setting. However, another body of literature on role theory suggests this may not be the case. State roles are defined by their interactions with the “alter” or environment. This interaction is a cognitive process, an active act of “learning” and then situating oneself within a specific social structure. This process is known as role location, or the act of locating a specific role.

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Le’ Notes #40: Role contestation in foreign policy

This post covers the idea of role contestation in foreign policy analysis.

In Note #39, I covered the basis of role theory as described by Holsti in his seminal work on national role conception. Since 1970, role theory has been refined many times over by IR scholars. However, the subject of this post is not a comprehensive review of the development of role theory. Instead, I’ll be explaining an influential dynamic in role theory: role contestation.

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Semtext #7: Disinformation and Indonesia’s 2019 Election

This SemText summarises the real and perceived challenges in Indonesia’s upcoming 2019 election, particularly regarding disinformation and candidate electability.

Throughout 2018 and early 2019, the Presidential Race was a doozy to follow. Political allegiances, according to the media and some observers, have shown to break up families and disharmonize supposedly “neutral” places like schools and places of worship. The stakes in this election are high, as some may put: continue with economic development or risk returning to New Order practices?

One thorny issue that has piqued the interest of the public is the widespread use of disinformation by both sides. How is disinformation used? What are the effects? These are some the questions that the panel addressed.

One note on format. In this SemText, I’ll move in and out from summary to commentary. While this may be confusing, I’ll do my best to denote which is the speaker’s voice and which is mine.

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Le Notes #39: Role theory in International Relations – Holsti’s national role conception

This post summarizes K. J. Holsti’s attempt to systematically construct role theory in International Relations.

In Note #38, I’ve discussed ontological security theory, which extends the argument that states do not only seek physical security, but also security of the “self”. However, an interesting question pops up: How do states create the “self”? In the previous post, I’ve presented two viewpoints. Mitzen puts an emphasis on how other states view the state in question, which means a state’s relations often defines its role. It’s like that popular piece of self-help wisdom, “You are who you hang out with.” On the other hand, Steele argues for a more self-driven approach: the self is defined by the state by reflecting on what it is. To draw an analogy to daily life, this is like what we hear among more liberal circles, “You are you and nobody can change that except you.”

Role theory, which has been developed in social psychology and anthropology, serves as a useful tool to understand how the “self” comes into being. To do this, I go back to the seminal text of the application of role theory in International Relations, K. J. Holsti’s National Role Conception in Foreign Policy [paywall].

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Le Notes #38: Ontological security theory in International Relations

This post serves as an introduction to the emerging canon of ontological security theory in International Relations.

Have you ever noticed why some states supposedly act “irrationally”? North Korea has long been touted as an example of an irrational actor. Despite having been punished multiple times by the international community for violating non-nuclear proliferation and being a general threat to both South Korea and Japan, it doesn’t seem like Kim Jong-un will relent anytime soon.

Or how about the United States, who despite having agreed to international conventions regarding the prohibition of torture and has long been seen as a champion for democratic values, suddenly allowed the use of torture in interrogating terrorists? Why do states contribute to humanitarian operations if it actually costs them?

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Le’ Notes #37: A very short introduction to Clausewitz

This post briefly covers Clausewitz’s main ideas on war, with specific reference to Books 1 and 2.

If you have (or are) studying war, the name Clausewitz will always pop up, and for good reason too. His treatise, On War, is one of the foundational texts in the study of war. In it, Clausewitz tries to create a sort of grand theory of war. So, what’s his theory of war? In this post, I’ll go through Clausewitz’s main ideas that make up his (unfinished) theory of war.

Before we go further, I’ll be taking most of the quotations from the Howard and Paret translation, as this is considered the academic standard of all On War translations. There are two versions of the Howard-Paret translation: the first being the original version (1976) and the second being the Everyman’s Library version (1993). Since I have the 1993 version, I’ll be using that as a reference. Note that the major difference is just the page numbering.

On War consists of eight books; however, for those who aren’t studying to become military commanders, you mostly need to be acquainted with Books I and II. These contain the essence of Clausewitz’s thoughts on war. However, if you have the time or are planning to further your understanding on Clausewitz, I suggest you read Bernard Brodie’s guide on how to read On War, present in the Everyman’s edition on page 775. It’s a really nifty study guide.

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Le’ Notes #36: Neoclassical Realism – a short introduction

This post introduces the basics of Neoclassical Realism based on my reading notes. Prior knowledge of Realism is preferred.

When you first walk into any Introduction to IR (or IR Theory 101) class, the first school of thought the professor bombards you with will most likely be Realism. Building upon the assumption that international politics reflects the darkest side of human nature, it proceeds to view the world with pessimism. This is reflected in tales of international politics as told by Thucydides and later, Hans Morgenthau in his classic, Politics Among Nations (1948).

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Le’ Notes #35: Political Philosophy – The Apology by Plato

This post covers Plato’s Apology and its relevance to political philosophy.

“Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision.” – John Stuart Mill, Essay on Liberty

J.S. Mill referred to the Apology, a speech delivered by Socrates prior being sentenced to death in an Athenian court. It is considered one of the fundamental texts that make up political philosophy (at least the Western canon) and asks some of the foundational questions that make up political philosophy.

We’ll look at what the Apology covers and why it is important to political philosophy.

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Le’ Notes #34: In search of political legitimacy

This post discusses Weber’s and Alagappa’s theories of political legitimacy.

The centrepiece of any political system is legitimacy. Political leaders who do not possess legitimacy, well, are deemed unworthy of assuming any political authority. At the surface, it is simple to relate the two. A legitimate leader has authority; an illegitimate leader has no authority. However, what exactly is “legitimacy”? Where does it come from? What does it consist of? How can it be lost?

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