Greetings and welcome! My name is Rayden Vidal, and from here on, I'll be filling this space with personal musings from the fields of International Law and International Relations. A quick introduction is perhaps in order.
My fascination with the field of IR began over a decade ago during my undergraduate years at the University of Alberta. Having flirted with idea of becoming a computer programmer, I enrolled in an Introduction to Political Science as an elective unit and immediately found myself intrigued with the course. It was only in the following semester, however, that I encountered the subject of theoretical IR and found myself enamoured of its timeless scope and seemingly irreconcilable contradictions.
Immediately a problem arose. I absolutely detested the liberal inclinations of my fellow students and of the university in general! Now, the problem of liberal dominion within academia is a well-documented one, and I am sure I will return to it in future posts. For the moment, it is enough to say that I found myself very firmly within the minority as an adherent to the 'realist' camp of IR, specifically, the classical realism of Morgenthau and all the rest. The reasons for this are worth a moment of consideration, though those not versed in the feuding theories of IR might want to skip two paragraphs down.
For one, a penchant for childish rebellion, which fuelled me through my younger years, had yet to leave me fully, and demanded I not subscribe to the majority opinion. Secondly, having spent the first decade of my life in the slowly crumbling remains of the Soviet Union, I found liberal optimism a peculiarly Western creation distasteful to my, rather Darwinian, early experience of human existence. I remember finding the idea of 'human rights,' this conception of an almost god-given entitlement, a most baffling concept. (More on that in the future.) In the end, realism appealed to my young, nihilistic nature. And having been fed a steady diet of classical literature since early years, my mother a teacher in the field, I embraced the Thucydidean concept of human nature as the root of the cyclic history of war and peace, the realm of classical realism.
The curse of the International Relations theory did not escape me, of course, and the gaps and pitfalls of classical realism soon began to grate on my need for a simplistic answer as they do on all who, perhaps foolishly, embrace any one theory for their explanatory needs of the world as we know it. Thus, I turned to the perennial refuge of disillusioned structuralists not ready for the postmodernist limbo: constructivism. Doing my MA at the Australian National University, I was fortunate to have been able to work with a leading constructivist scholar within the field, Christian Reus-Smit. Embracing the constructivist, and to a lesser degree deconstructionist, toolbox, I attempted to fuse the 'ideas all the way down' constructivist approach with the biological pre-determinism engrained in classical realism (and biopolitics, but I'm not touching that one quite yet). The results were not promising.
My search for an understanding of the complex, and often cruel, world we live in did not end there. Weary of these ontological and epistemological battles, I have recently waded into the cold and logical embrace of Law. Unsurprisingly with my background, International Law immediately drew much of my attention. Not yet properly codified yet ever present, it is a field which will both define this century and be defined by it. It is a code which will dictate how humanity will deal with itself and the ever changing world when isolation and unilateralism are not an option.
Or so it seems. I am still very much a student of the rather dystopian view of classical realism, still inclined to see the world as forever locked in the cycle of war and peace and war, regardless of laws we bind ourselves by. As Thucydides said: "Peace is an armistice in a war that is continuously going on.” But I hope I'm wrong.
I leave you on this hopeful note, and will return twice a month with my reflections on humanity's continuing search to reconcile the curse of human nature with our desire for justice and, ultimately, peace. I am strangely hopeful…