Profile for ChairmanLuedtke > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by ChairmanLuedtke
Top Reviewer Ranking: 571,012
Helpful Votes: 21

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
ChairmanLuedtke "SchumpeterWasRight" (Princeton, NJ, USA)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
pixel
Governing with Judges: Constitutional Politics in Europe
Governing with Judges: Constitutional Politics in Europe
by Alec Stone Sweet
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 63.44
18 used & new from CDN$ 5.93

4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Explanation for the European Court's Power, Dec 8 2003
For Stone Sweet, initially, diplomatic representatives of member state governments bargain rationally to create institutions that begin to take on a life of their own, eventually resembling those of a domestic polity. Thus, Stone Sweet shows how theories of international relations and intergovernmentalism become less and less relevant to the European Union, as the reach of EU law grows. Because any explanation for the power of the European Court of Justice relies on institution building and institutional effects, the most powerful current theories of EU politics are "institutionalist" in nature, bridging the divide between domestic and international politics.
For Stone Sweet, these institutions (principles, norms, rules and procedures, which make up the "judicialization" of policy-making) can themselves be taken as explanatory variables that "organize ongoing normative deliberations that seek to define and redefine the nature of the community" (10). In other words, institutions have the power to "constitute" individuals and construct their preferences to some degree. That is, institutions shape not only strategies, but also goals and norms of behavior, arising, in Stone Sweet's case, from constitutionally binding case law.
Much of the earlier work on EU integration, including neofunctionalism, had claimed that actors could be socialized into EU processes and identities, but did not offer much in the way of testable causal mechanisms. Stone Sweet can thus be commended for giving us a concrete causal model explaining how "judicialization is the process by which legislators absorb the behaviour norms of constitutional adjudication, and the grammar and vocabulary of constitutional law, into those repertoires of reasoning and action that constitute political agency" (204). Thus, when studying the (initially economic) impetus for European unification, Stone Sweet shows how studying the (rational) economic and political interests of member state governments alone is a poor starting point for understanding nature and effects of the emerging European polity.
These same economic interests are at the root of Stone Sweet's second key contribution to the EU literature; namely, his support for a renewed use of neofunctionalism, a neo-neofunctionalism, if you will. Originally, neofunctionalism took taken heavy criticism, because it allegedly postulated an automatic rationality and inevitability to the integration process, without offering falsifiable propositions about when integration might slow down or even reverse, due to political change.
These are heavy allegations, but Stone Sweet's use of neofunctionalism counters these charges quite well, by specifying and demonstrating a normatively-based "rationality" to the process (a community of norms that frames rational action), offering a theory of how this process works (constitutional conflict, leading to delegation to the constitutional court, leading to constitutional decision-making/rule-making, leading to "judicialization"), and carefully assessing the feedback effects of institutional integration on domestic structures: "in today's multi-tiered European polity, the sovereignty of the legislature, and the primacy of national executives, are dead" (193). As the new standard-bearer of EU functionalism, Stone Sweet makes a persuasive case that IR theory cannot explain the "top-down" nature of EU constitutional politics; that is, how initially rational economic preferences turned into a seemingly inexorable process of legal dialogue, "socializing more and more actors-private litigants, judges and politicians-into the system, encouraging more use" (165). Through the vehicle of "rights," the ECJ used the logic of economic integration to enhance its role as dispute resolver. Initially, member state governments had no interest in supranational rights protections: "their purpose was not so much to create rights claims for individuals, as to remove potential sources of distortion within the common market" (171). But to fulfill this "function," rights claims had to be put into action, leading to the process of judicial governance. Looking at member state preferences alone cannot explain this phenomenon, and thus Stone Sweet's supranational functionalism proves superior to the intergovernmentalism of a scholar like Moravcsik.

Commerce and Coalitions: How Trade Affects Domestic Political Alignments
Commerce and Coalitions: How Trade Affects Domestic Political Alignments
by Ronald Rogowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 42.29
21 used & new from CDN$ 2.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Explaining a Lot with a Little: Trade and Domestic Politics, Dec 8 2003
Peter Gourevitch ended his famous 1978 "Second Image Reversed" article with a call for analysts to conduct more work on how the international system affects domestic political coalitions and their struggle for power. Perhaps the most important work that arose out of Gourevitch's call to coalition analysis was Rogowski's "Commerce and Coalitions" (1989), which parsimoniously and elegantly engaged both the second-image reversed literature and the literature on domestic coalitions.
Rogowski responds to work that had previously looked at domestic coalition (cleavage) formation, without considering international trade, such as Lipset and Rokkan (1967) and Moore (1967). In line with the second-image reversed argument, Rogowski instead uses the Stolper-Samuelson theorem to explain domestic cleavages. Briefly, the S-S theorem says that trade will benefit the abundant factor(s) (land, labor and/or capital) in each country, and harm the scarce factor(s). Rogowski draws a political implication from this theorem, which is that the benefited group will gain more political power by way of economic leverage and strategic incentives. More specifically, Rogowski's model can predict either an urban-rural conflict or a class conflict. In the first case, land is the abundant factor which would benefit. Capital and labor, normally based in an urban environment, are scarce and would go on the defensive. In the latter case, the economy is endowed in labor, and capital and land are scarce, thus leading to an assertive coalition of landowners and capitalists.
But there are two key problems with this type of second-image reversed coalition analysis. The first is that outcomes are under-specified and ambiguous, and the second is that process-tracing is nearly absent.
For Rogowski, outcomes are in fact blatantly under-specified, because Rogowski does not actually predict outcomes! He admits as much when he writes that "winners can expand their political influence" (4 - note the hedging by the use of the term "can" instead of "will"), and "as the desire and the means for a particular political preference increase, the likelihood grows that political entrepreneurs will devise mechanisms that can surmount the obstacles to collective action" (5). Not only are we faced with this ambiguous, probabilistic argument, but we are also told that those harmed by free trade will demand "protection or imperialism" (5), but we are not told which one, and under what circumstances. Further, Rogowski admits that "winners" who are strengthened politically might still lose, without telling us cases or conditions under which they would do so. "Victory or defeat depends, so far as I can see, both on the relative size of the various groups and on those institutional and cultural factors that this perspective so resolutely ignores" (20).
Process-tracing is also absent from Rogowski's analysis, because there is little empirical evidence of his hypothesized effects at work. In effect, a coalition's capture of the state is a "black box", in that we don't know how exactly how it happens. First of all, some countries might depend only marginally on trade, which he admits. Second, when Rogowski does get into empirical cases, he begins to introduce elements that are not found in the original hypothesis, such as degree of skill of labor, and how "advanced" certain economic sectors are. And finally, he ignores the role of information and strategy, in that holders of factors need to be able to know their opportunity costs and incentives, calculate the best course of action, and resolve collective action problems in taking this action. The book says almost nothing about these problems.
However, Rogowski's theory, while it under-predicts and fails to process-trace, can probably be forgiven because of its incredible degree of parsimony and explanatory leverage. With a simple model of international trade, he is able to shed causal light on a multitude of historical cases of domestic political change.

Strategic Choice and International Relations
Strategic Choice and International Relations
by David A. Lake
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 42.29
21 used & new from CDN$ 21.22

4.0 out of 5 stars A Better Explanation for Alliance Formation, Dec 5 2003
How does this book fare against the neorealist godfather? The "strategic choice" approach of Lake and Powell, unlike that of Waltz, is strongly predicated on methodological individualism and the importance of unit-level rationality, meaning that the preferences and strategies of individual actors are more important for Lake and Powell than for Waltz. Stein's chapter (in this book) calls for beginning with "purposive, intentionalist, rational explanations of behavior" (198) and then adding the component of actor interaction, in a bottom-up way. While Lake and Powell do try to cast themselves as agreeing with Waltz that "actors' intentions are not always a sufficient explanation for outcomes" (17), their game-theoretic, unit-level starting point necessarily privileges actors' intentions more than does Waltz's approach. On the topic of alliances, they take issue with Waltz's claim that balance-of-power politics necessarily prevails in all anarchic, self-help systems. Using game theory, Lake and Powell show that in repeated interactions, for any given division of benefits, "there exist strategies such that no actor has any incentive to deviate from its strategy" (24). These strategies do not entail balancing, because "it is in each actor's self-interest to participate in punishing a deviator" (24), as opposed to creating a new balance. From this formal insight from game theory, Lake and Powell conclude that Waltz has a problem of "inadequately specified microfoundations" (24). Because game theory tells us that Waltz's "causal chain from anarchy and the desire to survive to balancing behavior is incomplete" (24), Lake and Powell call for further analysis of the preferences and strategies of individual states - exactly the kind of approach that Waltz scorns as confusing process with system.
Although it might confuse process with system, and/or go against the goal of parsimony, the strength of the strategic choice approach is that it can actually illuminate and process-trace why states assess their survival prospects and decide on one behavior or another. In other words, it can elaborate the relationship between system and outcomes in a more direct way than Waltz's theory. When Waltz writes that the system determines alliances, so that states' behavior (if they want to survive) is determined by the system, he seems to imply that states have the necessary information to know which choice is best, and that they will know which other choices will lead to defeat, and thus will not choose those paths and those alliances. But this is all implied. Waltz has no theory of individual strategizing because he claims that one is not necessary - the system does a better job of explaining outcomes. To put this claim to the test, the authors in the Lake and Powell volume attempt to unpack the unit-level strategizing that accompanies anarchy and alliances.
The chapter by Morrow is a prime example of this unpacking. In looking at unit-level strategizing in the international system, Morrow sees three fundamental strategic problems that Waltz would dismiss as process: signaling, commitment and bargaining. Based on the fact that other states' intentions are unknown, states have imperfect information, and must rely on "signals" from other states about intentions. Further, even if intentions to ally or cooperate are correctly judged through signals, states still do not know if the commitment to ally or cooperate is credible. And finally, even if signals are correct and commitments are credible, states are unsure about negotiation - about what potential deals the other state will find acceptable.
Modestly arguing that this approach has led to a fundamental rethinking of international relations, Morrow applies game-theoretic analysis of his three strategic problems to the issue of alliances and balancing. Morrow's cut at the issue, where he departs from Waltz, is the question of "what factors might lead states to fail to balance when they should?" (103). Presumably Morrow means by "should" that according to a Waltzian logic of self-help, states facing a threat will have strong incentives to balance against that threat. But for Waltz, remember, there is no room for failure to balance. States either balance or die, and seeing this, they will always balance. Thus, Morrow immediately departs from the structural logic of Waltzian balancing. Again using a form of game theory (public goods and collective action), Morrow highlights the rationality of defection, or "buck passing", in failing to form alliances. Since war entails high costs, states hope that others will bear the cost of defeating a threatening power, thus reaping the benefits while paying lower costs.
Morrow also highlights a second problem that can be read as a critique of a traditional Waltzian approach. Morrow writes that conventional alliance theory does not explain why states need formal agreements in advance to come to each other's aid. Morrow, on the other hand, has an explanation: that alliances, though costly, are useful signals or commitment devices, for the benefit of deterring threatening powers. Unlike Waltz, domestic politics plays a key constraining role in alliance formation for Morrow, since domestic politics is responsible for the costliness of alliances, meaning that the perceived deterrence gains must be high, and meaning that coordination must be strong, necessitating formal, written agreements. Waltzian theory has nothing to say about the costliness of alliances; presumably, for Waltz, alliances are costless - thus, there are no obstacles to forming them, if the system demands it. Morrow tells us otherwise.
The strategic choice approach thus problematizes alliance formation and balancing, and shows us how it might not happen even when the "system" demands it. This insight can only be accomplished by devolving the analysis to the unit level, and analyzing preferences and strategies. Not only does this devolution shed doubt on the core assumptions of Waltz, like the "objective", universal national interest in survival (Stein, 205), but it also calls into question the entire emphasis on structure: "social structure is, in part, a product of human agency" (Stein, 222). Where alliances are concerned, we see that an emphasis on agency can illuminate the causal chain between anarchy and alliances, explaining why alliances might fail to form even when the systemic logic supposedly demands them.

Theory of International Politics
Theory of International Politics
by Kenneth Waltz
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 5.54

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can Waltz Adequately Explain Alliance Formation?, Dec 5 2003
To illuminate the puzzle of why states form alliances with other states, if they (according to his theory) are necessarily "selfish", Waltz first makes the necessary distinction between domestic and international politics. This distinction is necessary so that Waltz can show us how alliance formation follows a fundamentally different logic in an anarchic system than it does in a system with some form of central authority (hierarchy) like the state, because the state monopolizes legitimate violence, so that a domestic system is not self-help - one can appeal to the state for defense. While it is debatable that all or even the majority of states have enjoyed a true monopoly on legitimate violence throughout history, we must grant Waltz this axiom if the remainder of his arguments are to hold.
Waltz then takes the domestic/international comparison into the realm of economics and interdependence, arguing that within the state, actors are "free to specialize because they have no reason to fear the increased interdependence that goes with specialization" (104). Because the state guarantees security, all can be most concerned with their own (absolute) gains. However, in a self-help system, worries about survival in anarchy make units more concerned with relative gains. States do not want to be dependent on other states, which hinders the benefits of specialization. Interdependence, instead of enriching all, becomes a threat to survival, because it creates vulnerability. This is a result of the structure of the anarchic system, despite the best intentions of those who want cooperation. "Structures cause actions to have consequences they were not intended to have" (107). Thus, the only thing that can change these effects is structural change.
Against those who would argue that the international system is not a pure anarchy because we see alliances, Waltz would argue that they confuse structure with process. He does admit that states sometimes cooperate, obviously, but "only in ways strongly conditioned by the anarchy of the larger system" (116). The primary way of doing this, captured by balance-of-power theory, is "moves to strengthen and enlarge one's own alliance or to weaken and shrink an opposing one" (118). Interestingly, Waltz claims that his theory does not require rationality on the part of the actors - they simply emulate more successful rivals, or else they perish. Thus, "balances of power tend to form whether some or all states consciously aim to establish and maintain a balance" (119).
Why should we expect to see alliances balancing one another, as opposed to bandwagoning onto a winning alliance? Again, the structural logic does the explanatory work. Because the international system is self-help, "balancing is sensible behavior where the victory of one coalition over another leaves weaker members of the winning coalition at the mercy of the stronger ones" (126). In other words, nobody wants anybody except themselves to "win", and so states gang up against a likely winner, meaning that the structure induces security (not power per se) as the primary concern. Waltz even characterizes this induction as a kind of sociological process, positing that the "socialization" of nonconformist states (he gives the Soviets as an example) is inevitable, given that isolationism is not an option: "one party may need the assistance of others. Refusal to play the political game may risk one's own destruction" (128).
For Waltz, then, the only important changes are structural ones. Since anarchy will not disappear, the only structural changes that can happen is changes in the distribution of state capabilities. Given that Waltz has solved the puzzle of alliances and balancing by showing how they are structurally necessary if states hope to survive, he then goes on to link changes in the distribution of state power with the question of the likely configuration(s) of alliances that will arise from these changes. In order to do so, he first establishes how to measure power and "polarity" (number of alliances/powers in the system). After rather sarcastically rebutting critics who think the world is not bipolar, and arguing that his theory boils down to "common sense", Waltz predictably defines power as the total and combined distribution of material capabilities across states, meaning that only the U.S. and the Soviet Union qualify. For Waltz, this bipolarity is a normatively good thing, because his argument touts its peace-enhancing characteristics. Since interdependence is dangerous, and since interdependence decreases as the number of powers decreases, security is enhanced, and uncertainty is reduced. Waltz even goes so far as to claim: "now governments are more involved in their national economies than they are internationally. This is fortunate" (159).
The key point to highlight here, for Waltz's theory of alliances, is that alliances are formed and balanced in response to structural conditions. Preferences, costs and benefits to individual states do not matter, because the structural properties of unitary states, anarchy, and the distribution of power determine the configuration that assures outcomes. If the distribution of power happens to be in a certain configuration, meaning that states only make gains or losses relative to that overall distribution, then the likely resulting alliance pattern is pre-ordained. Any "deviant" path taken by any state will result in certain defeat for that state, and thus states will avoid taking this path in the first place.
Of course, rationalist or strategic choice theorists would say that Waltz neglects the role of calculation and doesn't provide microfoundations, while constructivists would proclaim that Waltz ignores the role of identity. However, by ignoring these (probably important) factors, Waltz reaps a large payoff in terms of parsimony and explanatory leverage.

The Failure of Political Islam
The Failure of Political Islam
by Olivier Roy
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 19.92

3.0 out of 5 stars He Might Be Right In the Long Term, Sept. 17 2003
Unlike Orientalists like Bernard Lewis, Olivier Roy's book sees Islamist movements as sharing only a spurious connection with traditional religious texts, law and culture. Instead of arising out of an Islamic religious specificity, for Roy, Islamist movements are direct products of the political sociology of the modern, nation-state era.
Other scholars, like Burgat, also make this argument, but Roy departs from Burgat's conclusions in one major area, which is his evaluation of the logic of the Islamists' mission, and its likely political fate. This evaluation forms the major argument of his book; the so-called "failure" of Islamism because of its necessary reliance on the very modernity that it seeks to counter. For Roy, Islamism will fail because it contains internal contradictions that will be the seeds of its own downfall. These contradictions are in the relationship of Islam to politics. Roy claims that Islamism rejects political philosophy, since it sees no separation between religion and politics (unlike traditional Islamic culture, he is careful to point out, differentiating himself from the Orientalists), it sees no role for institutions, and sees "virtue" as the only necessary leadership quality. Thus, Islamism, by self-definition, writes itself out of the very political arena it seeks to enter. "The magical appeal to virtue masks the impossibility of defining the Islamist political program in terms of the social reality" (71). In other words, there can be no Islamic state without virtuous Muslims, but there can be no virtuous Muslims without an Islamic state. Islamist ideas, because they do not match social reality, end up in self-negation, since the arise from and rely upon this social reality.
Empirically, Roy sees this social reality as mainly an urban one, which bears little or no resemblance to traditional Muslim village culture. Not only do Islamists come from urban, educated and non-traditional backgrounds, but they also seek to "construct a new urban space, in which relationships would no longer be mediated solely by family or guild bonds" (59). Thus, those who see Islamists as wanting to return to a medieval or traditional society are misreading the movement's program, which differs from traditional Muslim culture in many areas, such as the acceptance of social differentiation in society, including conceptions of political parties, and new roles for groups such as women and ulamas. However, Roy sees this acceptance of social differentiation as an internal contradiction in the logic of Islamism, since the ideal of Islamist movements is a wholly egalitarian society, without classes or political parties.
Politically, Islamists depart from their own traditions in replacing the concept of the caliph (a religious ruler, of the tribe of the Prophet) with that of the amir, who can of course spring from a new (modern) social elite. This provides evidence against a traditionalist, orientalist reading of the Islamist program, since the amir is elevated to a position above even the ulamas, who are religiously sanctioned interpreters of the holy text. Thus, if the Islamic religion were the causal factor, then we might see the ulama or a neo-caliph touted as leader, instead of an amir that can be adapted to modernity. In fact, Roy claims that Islamists compromise with modernity by departing from the positions of the ulama on three issues: political revolution (they favor it), the role of sharia (they favor it less than the ulama does, and want to go beyond its limited reach), and the role of women (they are more emancipatory).
More generally, Roy argues that there has historically been a de facto autonomous public space in the Muslim world, a separation between religion and politics, with the ulama and the sharia on one side, and the ruler on the other. This goes against cultural arguments that see "despotism" as inherent to Islam throughout history. But the paradox, for modern Islamists, is that in seeking a Muslim state, they break this tradition. By concerning themselves with politics, they reject the autonomous space of politics that the ulama accepted, "specifically, the possibility for the state to elaborate a positive law to legislate in areas not covered by the sharia" (64). Thus, they revive politics even as they seek to negate it. For Roy, "no matter what the actors say, any political action amounts to the automatic creation of a secular space or a return to traditional segmentation" (23). In order to destroy secular space, the Islamists are required to create it.
There are many different ways to phrase these contradictions and paradoxes, which show that Roy has identified some inherent tensions in the logic of political Islam. However, the most pressing critique that can be made of his book is that logical inconsistencies in the ideas of a political movement do not automatically translate into a death sentence for that movement's practice, as Roy seems to want us to believe. One only need think of the contradictions inherent in democracy, i.e. between liberty and equality, or between majoritarianism and minority rights. Would democracy be called a failure because it contains these contradictions? No. Political movements are pragmatic and synthetic, and they often endure despite problematic ideational underpinnings. Followers make compromises and adapt to social realities, while attempting to stay in touch with ideational inspirations as well. Roy seems to hold Islamists to unrealistically high standards, chastising them for failing to rapidly create new societies and states, and even to redraw world borders. If the bar were set lower, Roy might acknowledge that Islamists have achieved substantial political change despite their supposedly contradictory relationship with modernity and the realm of politics.

The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy
The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy
by Kenneth Pomeranz
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 28.60
27 used & new from CDN$ 25.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Trying to Explain It All, Sept. 17 2003
The Great Divergence is a multi-causal explanation for the economic rise of Western Europe. The book draws upon diverse existing accounts, including those that see the root causes within Europe itself, and those that see the causes as being related to overseas enterprises by the European powers. However, the book goes beyond these existing accounts by offering a synthetic, multi-stage story, showing how each factor mattered at a certain point in time, but was not alone sufficient to trigger the rise of the West. Thus, one comes away with a belief that the story of the West's ascendency cannot satisfactorily be told by Marx's focus on "primitive accumulation" in the New World, nor by North's focus on institutions of property rights in Europe, nor by Braudel's focus on intra-Europe trade and accumulation.

What is the structure of Pomeranz's argument? Again, it sees different factors as mattering at different times. Thus, the argument is causally sequential, going from technology, to war, to colonization, to markets, with supplies of natural resources a constant bonus and an important final step to industrialization (coal). All of these causes are necessary, for Pomeranz, but none are sufficient, explaining why Asia, despite having many of these same variables (some in even more favorable combinations than Europe), was not able to match Europe's rise.
Part 1 begins with the puzzle of "why Europe and not Asia?", going back to pre-1800 times. Against those who would see crucial pre-industrial differences between the two regions, with Europe having some kind of proto-industrial edge, Pomeranz demonstrates with statistical and secondary evidence that Europe possessed no edge over Asia in either life expectancy, fertility, or supply of capital. While he does find a slight technological edge in Europe, as other scholars have posited, he argues that this edge would not have alone been sufficient to cause Europe's rise, without the later use of favorable stocks of natural resources, and overseas conquest and exploitation. Thus, the sequential nature of the argument comes in here, showing how an earlier technological edge, combined with later colonialism and accidents of natural resource endowment (e.g. coal), allowed Europe to escape the Malthusian trap of population growth under constrained resources.
Indeed, Pomeranz demonstrates that the "silverization" of the Chinese economy, coupled with slavery, plantations and precious metals extraction in the New World, were the only factors differentiating markets in Europe from those in Asia - otherwise, the relationship between consumers and goods was relatively similar in both regions. Against Braudel and North, who emphasize economic institutions, Pomeranz shows that nonmarket factors like colonization and wars between European states, coupled with lending institutions that had lower interest rates than in Asia, laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution. This groundwork wouldn't have mattered, however, if continued New World settlement didn't ease the growing scarcity of land, since more plentiful labor and capital would have been bottlenecked in the absence of a new land supply.

The focus on nonmarket factors like war is important, because it ties in with later developments that impacted market forms. Because states projected interstate rivalries overseas, according to Pomeranz, organizational forms like joint-stock companies and licensed monopolies arose. This is because armed long-distance trade and export-oriented colonies required "exceptional amounts of capital willing to wait a relatively long time for returns" (20), which could only be provided by these new organizational forms.
However, the book is not a simplistic account that sees colonization as the sole solution, since Pomeranz spends an entire chapter showing how overseas colonies alone could not provide a market impetus for the Industrial Revolution, due mainly to the initially high costs of transport and low demand for manufactured goods in the colonies. Instead, Pomeranz sees the growing use of coal as a key factor in spurring industrialization in Europe, and combining with increasing use of slavery (since slaves produced less subsistence products and thus lived more off imported, manufactured goods) to begin the construction of a world market that traded manufactured goods for raw materials and land-intensive products, while further easing Europe's ecological burden through continued settlement.
The New World had another advantage over Asia. In Asia cash-cropping was through free labor, meaning that exporters and manufacturers were free to shift away from activities with diminishing returns. This efficiency was a double-edged sword, however, since it allowed rising incomes and population growth, which Pomeranz claims diminished Asians' need to both import manufactured goods and to export surplus products. In the case of China, well-functioning regional markets, because of growing population, scarce land, and proto-industrialization, precluded empire-wide markets that could take advantage of more scale and specialization. In the New World, however, production was much more specialized (again, because of slave-based colonies), meaning that larger surpluses of people, raw materials and products were exchanged between the New World and Europe. This dynamic of increasing returns continued even after independence and emancipation, leading eventually (with coal) to the Industrial Revolution.
Again, Pomeranz's argument is about timing as a key factor. Since his Malthusian trap and balance between factors is delicate and fragile, if variables appear at the wrong historical time in this balance, their impact can go awry. An example is the timing of coal and colonization, which, had they appeared later, might have come too late to rescue Europe from Malthusian crisis. Methodologically, Pomeranz acheives much of his arguments about timing through counterfactuals, which generally do a good job of showing how Asia originally had much of the potentiality that Europe did, thus illuminating the large amount of sheer luck that factored into Europe's rise.

Pomeranz's other methodological tool is statistical data. The book has exhaustive appendices with detailed data on soil, timber, grain acreage, etc. Further, the breadth of his historical scholarship is impressive, showing an ability to cite widely from area experts in both Asia and Europe; no mean feat. In short, the high quality of the data, coupled with the reassuring, causally multidimensional sophistication of the argument, make the book a formidable target for any potential criticisms.

Face to Face With Political Islam
Face to Face With Political Islam
by Francois Burgat
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 37.00
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.13

4.0 out of 5 stars An Uncommon Perspective on Political Islam, Sept. 17 2003
According to Burgat, the movements that we call "Islamist" arise out of three sequential factors: 1) a disjuncture between Western-dominated international politics and the authentic identities and experiences of Muslims; 2) the need for a mobilizing device or oppositional rallying point to counter Western domination and re-assert authentic identity; and 3) defensive responses to the savage repression that has been visited upon Islamists (those who offer this mobilizing device) by unrepresentative states that are propped up by the West. While the first two factors explain the political appeal of Islamism to "the masses", the third factor explains much of the violence that has in turn sprung from Islamism.
This account obviously goes against the two main conventional explanations for political Islam: materialism and theology. Against those like Bernard Lewis, who would argue that political Islam springs directly from the texts and laws of the religion, Burgat makes the case that Islamist individuals have themselves created political Islam, to serve social needs, rather than Islam creating them. In other words, Islam is a device to be used for emancipation from domination - the religion does not mold "fundamentalists" in its image. Islamists are not directly inspired by actual religious doctrine or belief. Burgat feels that if "theologists" like Lewis actually talked to Islamists, they might come away with a different viewpoint.
Burgat's account also goes against those that would seek explanations for the rise of political Islam in poverty and underdevelopment alone. While Burgat cannot ignore the additional force of poverty in pushing recruits into the arms of Islamism, he eschews a materialist approach even for this dynamic, arguing instead that the lack of meaningful unemployment alienates one from one's true identity - "who am I, if I am not given the right to exist by working?" (21). Thus, poverty only exacerbates (but doesn't cause) the identity crisis that Burgat sees as fomenting political Islam.

But what is the actual nature of the "authentic" Muslim identity that is in crisis? Burgat never really offers a concrete definition of its content, other than a continual narrative of Islamism as a new nationalism (a reincarnation of an older Arab nationalism, he says at one point), which grants to the Arab "a beneficial reconciliation with the categories (real or mythical, it is not important) of the culture he lives in intuitively" (50). Thus, the categories are not defined, and the content seems unimportant for Burgat. It doesn't even matter if it's real. What is more important is the "vocabulary or terminology based on local references", and the "precious symbolic continuity interrupted by . . . Western categories" (50). Thus, the argument seems to be a post-modern kind of process-based, discourse-based argument, using symbols and language as key variables in defining identity and difference.
But not only does this "precious symbolic continuity" have a rather utopian quality to it, but we are not sure of the actual benefits of the reconciliation. What is gained? Dignity? Is this some kind of psychic therapy? One answer is offered by one of the Islamists that Burgat interviews, who, while undergoing a personal transformation from socialist to Islamist in Egypt, realized that "if I feel tied to these people in many ways, that must mean we share a common culture, and this culture should be infinitely more respected than it is at the moment [under Nasser]" (41). Acting on this feeling of tied-ness is presumably what Burgat means by reconciliation (one shudders to imagine a rational choice scholar attempting to calculate a utility function based on "symbolic continuity" and reconciliation with intuitive cultural categories!).

So if we are to believe Burgat that Islamism is just organic nationalism, why should the West fear this social change? Is nationalism inherently chauvinistic? Burgat makes a strong case that political Islam's violence is itself a response to state repression and violence, carried out by unrepresentative leaders who are propped up by the West. The West itself props up these leaders, and turns a blind eye to their savage tactics, partly because the West is fed a steady diet of distorted media, in which reporters focus on a few tidbits that reinforce conventional stereotypes of Islamists, while selectively framing what little positive information that leaks through (about possible moderation by Islamists) as mere political ploys to gain power. Burgat implies that some Islamists may not recognize the universality of democratic rights, but only because they have never themselves been granted these rights. How can one be a democrat when one's government routinely makes a mockery of democracy? Thus, being anti-democratic has become a symbolic marker of identity assertion against the West, which sadly reinforces the West's perceptions of Islamists.
The book has a hopeful theme, however, which is the future likelihood of Islamism adapting to modernity. Burgat seems to feel that Islamism has within itself the seeds of this adaptation, once it has gone through a seemingly necessary phase of self-definition free from Western "categories". Indeed, several of the Islamists interviewed seem to show a strain that we would simplistically call "moderate"; namely, seemingly mocking people that read only the Koran, disapproving of people who are "dogmatic", etc. And the strongest real-world case for this potential future adaptation, of course, is Iran, where a terrifying "Islamist" government was (after a rough transition, to be sure) able to achieve something that no pro-Western (thus ostensibly pro-democratic!) Muslim government could do: achieve a peaceful transfer of power at the ballot box. But why should we expect that Islamism would necessarily adapt to modernity? Burgat's explanation is that after taking power, Islamism would lose its utopian quality (the ideological shine that comes from being in opposition), and would be forced to adapt to social reality. Thus, political Islam might just be like socialism and secular nationalism, another passing political fad.

Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law
Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law
by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.90
16 used & new from CDN$ 12.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Challenge to Orthodoxy, Sept. 17 2003
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, as a scholar of Islam and law, offers an analysis of Islamic decline and possible reformation that is much more clearly delineated and rigorous than the cultural accounts given by authors like Bernard Lewis. An-Na'im's argument rests on the separation of "historical Shari'a" (often wrongly treated as if it were itself divine revelation) from the essence of Islam itself, as revealed by the early tenure of Mohammed in Mecca, before he moved to Medina and grappled with the difficult and immediate imperatives of political power.

Like a good lawyer, An-Na'im's case in "Toward an Islamic Reformation" unfolds like a geometrical proof, proceeding deductively from an axiom (a universal principle of reciprocity) and reasoning from there; namely, that all peoples have rights of self-determination, as long as they don't clash with others' rights of self-determination. To this norm, An-Na'im adds two sociological observations. The first is that Muslim majorities are now becoming politically assertive, exercising their right to self-determination, which is in itself a healthy thing. However, the second observation is that the hitherto weakened and disorganized condition of the Muslim community has usually been attributed to departure from "true" belief and practice, as well as to outside interference by non-Muslims. Thus, An-Na'im reasons, secular solutions to social problems will not appeal to most Muslims. Even the doctrine of necessity (darura) is not enough, although it has been used with some degree of success in the past, because only a truly Islamic solution will satisfy Muslim demands for self-determination. Thus, any proposed reforms must be seen as Islamic in origin.
However, An-Na'im here makes a strong case that the implementation of "historical Shari'a" (he calls it historical, obviously, to emphasize its man-made, temporal quality), while seen as a solution by many (due to the yearning to go back to tradition), will likely oppress others, and limit their right to self-determination, because it conflicts with modern norms of constitutionalism, human rights, international law and criminal justice. However, historical Shari'a was constructed by early jurists, written for a specific time and place, and does not come directly from revelation. So, given that secular and Shari'a solutions both are inadequate, the question becomes: how can Muslims' rights vis-à-vis others be exercised, while also being legitimately limited in accordance with universal principles (and the earlier, more tolerant words of Mohammed)?
An-Na'im acknowledges that any attempt to answer this question and "evolve" alternative principles will be difficult, due to the likely suspicion that tampering with the weight of tradition will inflame, but must be done, and can be based directly on revelation. This is the task that he sets himself to in the second half of the book, once he has demonstrated how Shari'a: 1) is man-made; 2) is non-divine; 3) originally arose for political expediency; 4) goes against the early word of Mohammed (much of which it "abrogated" under the doctrine of naskh); and 5) will likely violate the rights of non-Muslims, women, slaves, etc., and be incompatible with the very idea of the nation-state, international law, and human rights. In this, An-Na'im is clearly a modernist, in that he takes the nation-state, etc. as a given, and holds that there are benefits from secularism that would be lost (self-expression, women, religious minorities, slavery) if Shari'a were to be implemented. He also makes a very specific negative judgment about the application of Shari'a in today's "fundamentalist" states (Iran, Sudan), arguing that "it has created more problems than it has solved" (67). While an "anti-imperialist" might take issue with this statement, arguing that the worst excesses of fundamentalism are preferable to "western" institutions, An-Na'im's mission is to make Islam palatable to western institutions, and vice-versa, by "rehabilitating" the "early Mohammed" in much the same way that neo-Marxists drew upon the "Young Marx" to get away from the stale determinism of scientific socialism. Thus, the early Mohammed of the Mecca period is portrayed as a tolerant, "reasonable" leader, while the Mohammed of the Medina period, and the later rulers under whom Shari'a developed, were forced to adapt their ideas to the expediencies an extremely harsh, violent political world.
What is An-Na'im's program for rehabilitating Islam from the legacy of this world? The four main areas of law concerned are constitutionalism (how can Islam reconcile itself to self-determination, but with limits on power?), criminal justice (how can Islam democratically enforce Islamic justice without violating the rights of non-Muslims?), international law (how can Islam reconcile itself to interactions between nation-states, some of whom will be non-Muslim?), and human rights (how can Islam leave behind the legacy of subordinate status for women, slaves and non-believers, and grant universal rights to all people?).
While the program is well-argued and eloquently framed, obviously drawing much inspiration from the mentorship of the Sudanese reformist martyr, Mahmoud Taha, An-Na'im himself, though an optimist, admits that the book is not likely to receive a warm reception in the Muslim world. Though he doesn't admit it, part of the problem with this reception might be a feeling that he is engaged in sophist apologism for the West, finding parts of Islamic teaching to justify a wholesale adaptation to modern, secular developments. For those Muslims who feel their identity under attack, and thus advocate a return to tradition, the particular tradition that An-Na'im cites might seem a bit too conveniently Western. And after all, arguing that the Prophet went against his own early teachings out of expediency might seem unfathomable for one who believes that everything the Prophet did was divine!

What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East
What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East
by Bernard Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.54
115 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Islam Is Not a Timeless, Monolithic Culture, Sept. 17 2003
"What Went Wrong?" Is a cultural explanation for the relative decline of the Islamic World. The book operates at three levels of analysis: religious text, religious authority/interpretation, and the broader cultures of Islamic societies. Thus, to call the analysis "culturalist", while a crudely accurate labeling, does not capture the nuance of the book's important focus on Islamic theology itself, in addition to the ways in which this theology has interacted with culture directly through text, and indirectly through the ulema and other mediating forces. Lewis often uses phrases like "according to Islamic law and tradition . . ." (67), without specifying the relative impact of law versus tradition.

Obviously, the reader then sees immediately that Lewis' project leaves itself open to suspicions of Orientalism, reification, and other postmodern pathologies, not only because the book conspicuously implies that the Islamic world is "backward", inferring that progress equals some degree of Westernization, but also because Lewis "essentializes" Islamic religion itself, treating religion as though it is a coherent, consistent factor throughout history. Not only does this focus ignore political, economic, demographic and other accounts of problems such as poverty and autocracy in the Middle East, but it also provides an account of Islamic "backwardness" that blames fundamental problems within Islam itself, as opposed to any external force. This is a highly controversial line of argument, and is sure to anger many.
Nonetheless, Lewis pushes on, drawing on history, text, and interpretation to trace the roots of the decline. In doing so, he combines disparate strands of argument into a broad indictment of Islamic culture's ability to flexibly adapt to Western success and regain a position of relative power. Speaking historically, his first strand of argument is the Muslim world's lack of curiosity about the West, coupled with a fatal case of civilizational over-confidence, due to its long historical zenith as the center of civilization and learning. This lack of curiosity, Lewis admits, was more due to the actual status of superiority, and had little to do with Islamic culture itself. Lewis seems to greatly respect the early achievements of the Islamic world.
However, religion truly comes into play as a negative force, for Lewis, when the Muslim world realizes that the West has gained the upper hand, and yet is unable to do anything about it. Why does religion prevent the catching-up process? Because Lewis argues that religious authorities, "classical jurists" in his terms (36), ruled that Muslims could not live among the infidels, thus obviously blocking the necessary technical, scientific and educational exchanges that could have transferred some of the West's learning to the Middle East. Muslims were prevented from learning from Christians by their own theological prejudices, prejudices which Christians lacked, or at least were able to overcome by necessarily traveling to the Holy Land, trading, learning Middle Eastern languages, etc. Lewis also argues that a recurring theme in Muslim discourse is blaming the decline of the Muslim world on having strayed from religion itself: "if things are going badly, we are being punished by God for having abandoned the true path" (45). This has led to a social re-trenchment of religious tradition, of course, which for Lewis only exacerbates the problem of backwardness. Thus, Islamic societies are caught in a vicious cycle, because they attempt to address their backwardness with more of the very factor that made them backward in the first place.
Another factor is the Muslim attitude towards science itself. Lewis claims that, for Muslims, "philosophy was the handmaiden of theology and science merely a collection of pieces of knowledge and devices" (46). This argument is problematic, however, because it doesn't explain the flourishing of science and secular knowledge under the Muslim golden age. Thus, the danger of arguments like this is that they treat religion as an unchanging, timeless force, obviously losing sight of important interactions between religious interpretation and real-world events, through which religious law and culture can be changed over time.
More blame gets parceled out to the subordinated role of women in Islamic law, tradition and culture. Again, the reader isn't sure how much these forces stem from theology, and how much from the broader society. Lewis attributes the lesser status of slave, woman, and unbeliever to "revelation", "the precept and practice of the prophet", and "the classical and scriptural history of the Islamic community" (84). While the first two are certainly theological, one might argue that the third variable could be entirely cultural, shaped by economics, politics and demography, and have little to do with actual sacred texts. Thus, even if we follow Lewis on this point regarding the status of women, we wonder why similar revelations regarding the role of women in Christian theology are not so zealously enforced. Obviously the rise of secularism in the West is responsible for the liberated status of women, and Lewis has a theological cultural story for why secularism has not taken root in the Middle East: "certain profound differences of belief and experience in the two religious cultures", such as different "foundation myths" (100). Again, we are not sure if a "religious culture" is the same thing as an entire culture whose members happen to practice the same religion, at least nominally, or whether it is something much more narrow and specific. Are all nominal Muslims part of Islamic religious culture? Lewis seems to imply that they are. Thus, in the final analysis, Lewis' ambiguity keeps him from sounding dangerously simplistic. However, this game becomes too much of a stretch, even for his considerable talents, when he audaciously argues on page 156 that it is not "plausible" to blame Islam itself for the decline of the Middle East, as if he had been doing anything else for the previous 155 pages!

Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science
Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science
by Stephen Van Evera
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.95
30 used & new from CDN$ 9.86

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Got Arrow Diagram?, March 15 2002
In this book Mr. Van Evera introduces the reader to the gospel of arrow diagraming, in which all political science theories must be drawn as letters, representing variables, with arrows (representing causality) connecting them. Thus, to quote Van Evera, "a theory that cannot be arrow-diagrammed is not a theory and needs reframing to become a theory." Thus, by his measure, much of the poli sci "theories" are not theories at all. So what are GOOD theories, for van Evera, besides those that are easily arrow-diagramed?
Theories are general statements that describe and explain the causes or effects of classes of phenomena. They are composed of causal laws or hypotheses, explanations, and antecedent conditions. Explanations are also composed of causal laws or hypotheses, which are in turn composed of dependent and independent variables. A good theory has 7 characteristics: it has large explanatory power (importance, explanatory range, applicability), and is parsimonious, satisfying, clearly framed, falsifiable, explains important phenomena, and has "prescriptive richness."
In short, the book might teach newbies a thing or two about methodological rigor and research design, but is certainly no model of sophistication. In fact, the book is a perfect example of why American political "science" is sometimes mocked by the rest of the academic world.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5