Category Archives: introductions

Dusting Away Cobwebs

It’s been about a year and a month since my last blog. About this time last year I found myself very busy with the exam season and the job season… and then the pressure didn’t relent as I started preparing to teach a new slate of courses for the academic year. Living in three different countries during that time didn’t help either. But I miss blogging, so I thought I clear away the cobwebs from the front page and make another go of it. I’ve found Twitter to be a poor substitute. 140 characters is insufficient to express an argument, the medium tends towards chatter and soundbites. Good for sharing witticisms, bad for conducting an argument. I’m also leery of the medium due to the scope it seems to provide for bullying and harassment. It offers a sort of one-way anonymity, rendering the targets of attack very exposed but preserving the invisibility of the assailants, whose identities are (usually) indistinguishable in the virtual crowd.

Blogging seems to offer at least the possibility of reasoned discussion. I wonder though if twitter hasn’t leeched quite a lot of energy away from what used to be called the blogosphere (urgh). A lot of the sites that I used to read as part of my routine seem to be moribund or less active than they once were. The Progressive Realist stopped updating around the same time I did, although many of the blogs it aggregates are still going. Blood and Treasure features new posts less often than it once did, although the discussions on the blog are usually excellent. Duck of Minerva is still trucking though, as is Crooked Timber – which I’ve benefited from reading since 2003.

LFC has made a success of his blog with short, snappy and interesting posts. That’s something I plan to emulate from this point on. My plan is to write a series of short posts on things I’ve learned or changed my mind about in IR, modeled on Walt’s article from a couple of weeks ago. After that, I hope to move to a more regular publication schedule, commenting on issues in world politics and occurrences in the IR field whilst they are still reasonably fresh and relevant!

Normal Service Will be Resuming Shortly

Just a note that I plan to revive the blog in the very near future. After the last post things got very busy: I underwent my viva examination for my thesis (I passed!) and moved country twice. As a result updating the blog fell off my ‘to do’ list. But have no fear, in short order I’ll be back to launching the occasional intellectual RPG at the Panzer of social-scientific orthodoxy once again.

In passing, I should thank Nicholas Rowland for inadvertently prompting me to return to the blog with his interesting comment on a post I made about Skocpol and Fukuyama’s perspectives on the Tea Party movement.

For now, here’s a shameless plug for my article ‘The dimensions of the divide: vertical differentiation, international inequality and North–South stratification in international relations theory’, published recently in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs. If the title wasn’t enough of a hook, here’s the abstract as a teaser:

Recent attempts at developing social-structural accounts of the international order have suggested that the international system might be analysed in terms of patterns of vertical differentiation and stratification. Taking up this challenge, this article argues that inequality should be understood as part of the ‘deep structure’ of the international system rather than in terms of the attributes of individual states. It suggests that we can understand how stratification and vertical differentiation emerge by examining five dimensions along which processes producing asymmetry occur, focusing on transactions between actors. These dimensions are: inter-state political hierarchy; secular socioeconomic development within societies; global stratification within the world economy; the dynamic of competitive development; and the process of overall collective management and supranational governance of the international system/global order. The historical intersection of these forms of stratification has produced an emergent, historically contingent division within the international order familiar to students of international politics as the North–South divide.