In my previous post I waxed eloquent on the elusive subject of world government and the even more slippery concept of the self/other dialectic inherent within human nature. To say that I did no justice to the complexity of the topic is to put it slightly, and it does warrant further attention which I will dutifully attend to in the future. For the moment, however, a slightly different topic emerged out of my lacklustre attempt to bolster my theory with real world trends.
As I rather bluntly stated that human kind is incapable of moving beyond a minimum of two states due to the need of ‘another’ community to define it, I brought up rather limp examples of world nations proliferating in numbers and even stable modern states under threat of dissolution. I say limp because, as I was rather quickly called on, the connection between those facts and the theory is tenuous and requires much more in substantive research to be qualified as being on the side of the theory proposed. I surrender this point for the moment, if only for the lack of time to delve deeper into the topic at present. What is intriguing is that those who called me upon this fallacy did not actually disagree with the underlying premise. In fact, their criticism primarily rested on my extension beyond Habermas who should have been sufficient to demonstrate the point.
Now, in light of the length of these posts, I agree wholeheartedly. It would have been much more prudent to delve in more depth on the writings of one or two authors, Habermas alone worthy of tomes, not a paragraph and a half! Yet underneath the stylistic rebukes there lay a more dangerous trend which plagues the world of high theory: real world examples are seen as not necessary because they are either insufficiently explored or fundamentally flawed to ever act as concrete defence of such nebulous concepts as self/other dialectic. The world of social theory is thus viewed as existing somehow outside of the real world which it attempts to explain.
Unfortunately there is some validity to this, especially in International Relations, notorious for its proliferation of opposed theoretical schools of thought. The nature of the beast is that the complexity of trying to explain human interactions on global, as well as historical, scale requires a certain ‘subdivision of reality, usually dictated by convention. (See Robert Cox, 126) In other words, a theory must decide which factors it will take into account and which it will leave aside. For those new to the field this can be rather disconcerting as theorists are seen to pick and choose which parts of reality to consider and which to discard. Deconstructionists made a living isolating socio-economic and political motivations behind such selective behaviour. Fundamentally, though, such method remains largely unavoidable. Social science, IR in particular, remains far from being able to create an overarching theoretical construct that can be truly world-inclusive. (Though they do try, bless their soul!)
Does that mean that the real world is just too complex and messy to ever truly act as a proving ground for the battling theories of the Ivory Tower academics dealing with the most abstract of social constructs? To return to our example, is it enough to say that a world government is not possible and the lack thereof is enough to prove the point, the ‘on the ground’ trends simply too chaotic and varied to really point one way or another? I view this proposition with distaste. Yes, IR is terrible as a predictive theory, but so is economics, as I never get tired of pointing out. For now it is overwhelmed with the complexity of empirical data before it. It will not be so forever.