My teaching

The point of the courses I teach is to provide students with the analytical tools they need in order to understand, explain and critically evaluate the world in which they live. The point is to teach them how to think, how to analyze, rather than simply to teach them facts and provide information. The best way to achieve these aims is to confront the students with important texts that challenge their convictions and open their minds to new ways of thinking. Students too should be part of the intellectual conversation of our societies. Intellectually equipped in this fashion, they are able to go into any field of activity — government service, NGOs, private business, academia.

These aims are particularly important today when young people increasingly are living in the echo-chambers created by the Internet. Universities are not echo-chambers but instead one of the last bastions of the old-style public sphere — where different people, with different views, come together to discuss common concerns. At the university, students are forced to engage with people with whom they disagree; they are forced to give rational reasons for their positions, and there can be no “alternative facts.” I want my courses to make such conversations possible.

Courses I’ve taught

I have taught a broad range of courses over the years. At the LSE in London my focus was on comparative politics. Here I gave courses on “Nations and Nationalism,” “National and Ethnic Conflict Regulation” and on “Democracy and Democratization.” I also developed a side-line in political economy, teaching a course, “The State and Prosperity,” on the interaction of markets and politics, and a summer-school course on the “History and Politics of Financial Institutions.”

My first job in China — at NCTU in Taiwan — was at a Department of General Education which provided a broad range of liberal arts courses. I sociology, a course on entrepreneurship, and courses on international political economy. In addition, I was affiliated with the Institute of Cultural Studies and here I taught courses on “Orientalism,” an international relations course on “China in World Affairs,” and one on “Theories of International Relations.”

At SJTU i Shanghai where I was professor in international relations, I gave courses on “Introduction to International Politics,” “Theories of International Politics,” “China’s Role in World Politics,” and a course on international political economy.

At Lund University, where I currently work, I’ve focused on courses in international politics and the history of political ideas. I give one course, “Comparative International Systems” which provides a historical introduction to international politics understood from a non-European point of view. This course follows closely a textbook on non-European IR that I am working on. The online reading list is here; the textbook itself is here.

Another course at Lund, “Rationality, Emotions and War,” relates to my current research project on embodiment and rationality and investigates war understood in terms of the experiences that soldiers go through. Themes include how wars are prepared for, lived through, remembered and memorialized by its participants. The reading list is here.  At Lund I am also giving lectures on “Introduction to Political Science,” and a course on the history of political ideas, “Modern Society and Its Critics.”

Course formats

I have taught classes in all sorts of formats over the years — from small seminar groups of about 10 students to large lecture courses with 200 plus students. I am equally comfortable in all settings. I am, moreover, very used to teaching a diverse student body which includes people from a variety of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. At the LSE in particular it was common to have representatives of 10 different countries in a class of 30 students. I am also very used to teaching students whose first language is not English. I know how to explain myself simply and effectively.

For the past 15 years I have made extensive use of the Internet in my courses, often relying on the Moodle course platform. Depending on the material to be covered, I like to combine traditional readings with podcasts and video clips.  Learning can happen in many different ways after all. I have also experimented extensively with alternative forms of examinations, such as oral exams held on-line.

I tend to use Powerpoint sparingly in my lectures, preferring instead to lecture in the classical mode (“chalk and talk”). Students, rather endearingly, interpret my lecture style as a “innovative.”

Academic writing

In supervising student essays, I emphasize the importance of good research questions. Unless there is something you actually want to know, it is very difficult to do good research. Other issues concerning academic writing, such as the use of theory and methodological problems, are of secondary importance and follow from the choice of research question. I have a short essay, “How to Write an Academic Paper,” which explains my views on these topics.

Use of my work on reading lists

Academic articles and books I’ve written have been extensively used on reading lists around the world. Well known international relations scholars such as Joseph Nye, Robert Jervis and Emanuel Adler have put my texts on their reading lists and they have been used at all Ivy League Schools in the United States and widely across Europe. For a while two separate courses at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard used texts I have written. My work has also been used at History, Sociology and Economic History departments. A partial list of universities that use my work is here.

Student evaluations

Students have always evaluated my courses in very positive terms. In fact, my courses have regularly been among the most popular in the departments where I have worked. This was the case at the LSE in London, but also in China and now in Sweden. I often hear that one or another of my courses was “the best course I took at the university.” Students appreciate my informal style, my enthusiasm for the material, and my emphasis on ideas and analysis.

My research

My research agenda is quite eclectic and combines international politics, history and social theory. My approach, broadly put, is to use historical examples in order to philosophize regarding international events. Although they deal with quite different empirical material, my research projects have all in one way or another been examples of this method. In terms of theory, I have a particular interest in international politics understood as performance, focusing on issues of identity, self-presentation and recognition. My empirical focus has often been on wars — the Thirty Years War, colonial wars, the First World War, the Iraq War.

I have written four academic books and some 50 academic articles, published with the most prestigious publishers and journals in the field, including Cambridge University Press, Routledge, International Organization, European Journal of International Relations and International Theory. My work has been translated into German, Chinese and Korean.

I currently have 1,650 citations on Google Scholar. The number of citations has increased steadily over the years, and 2017 was the best year ever with 200 plus citations. I expect this trend to continue. I have published a lot in the past year, and several articles are scheduled for the coming year. At the moment I am finishing work on three books under contract with publishers.

I am a strong advocate of open source publishing.

Previous research

My PhD dealt with the connection between warfare and state-building in early modern Europe. A crucial mechanisms here, I argued, is recognition. States, and other international actors, act not only in order to achieve certain goals but also because they want to be actors of a certain kind. Actions are undertaken in order to achieve interests but also in order to secure identities. States who fail to be recognized may resort to war. Discussions of recognition were rare in international politics when I first wrote about it, but I’m excited to see that the topic now is mainstream. My PhD was published as a book, Identity, Interests and Action, CUP, 1996, which until now has been cited over 500 times by others. This research project is still active and I return to it from time to time.

The next research project after my PhD concerned international political economy and the famous “Needham question” of how to explain the differences in economic development between Europe and East Asia. My answer focused on the role of institutions. Or to be more precise, what made the difference was the institutionalization of processes of reflection, entrepreneurship and pluralism. While countries in East Asia may have been more reflective, entrepreneurial and pluralistic, I argued, they lacked the requisite institutions. This study was published by Routledge as The Mechanics of Modernity, and in paperback as Why Europe Was First. It has been cited mainly by economic historians, including repeatedly by Deirdre McCloskey.

Following on from this study was a book, Surviving Capitalism, which picked up themes first introduced by Karl Polanyi. The topic was once again political economy. Capitalism is necessary, I argue, in order to produce economic prosperity, but it is also destructive of social relationship. This is why all societies need a way of surviving capitalism. The book surveys some of these ways and compares Europe with East Asia. Surviving Capitalism has been used as a textbook in economic sociology on reading lists around the world and has been translated into Korean.

The next project dealt with colonial warfare in the 19th century, and more specifically with the Second Opium War in China. The event which I sought to explain was the European destruction of Yuanmingyuan, the palace compound of the Chinese emperor. This act of barbarism, I argue, was undertaken in order to “civilize” the Chinese. Similar acts of barbarism undertaken for civilizational aims have been conducted by Western powers ever since — including recent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. My book, Liberal Barbarism, was published with Palgrave and an article spun off from the project was published in International Organization.

Current research

I am currently working on three separate projects, all under contract with book publishers. The projects have so far resulted in a number of published articles.

The first project is a textbook on the history of international politics which develops ideas first introduced in my IO article. The idea is to describe international relations as they were organized in different parts of the world before the Europeans arrived, that is, before European colonialism. By comparing these international systems we can obtain a non-European perspective on international relations which allows us to think more creatively about alternatives to the Westphalian system. The book will be published by Open Book Publishers in Cambridge, as an open source textbook. A first draft is available here.

The second project takes off from my interest in Chinese history, or, to be more precise, from my interest in the life of the nomads living on China’s borders. In today’s world we are all becoming increasingly nomadic, is the argument, and under the impact of processes of globalization borders come to mean less and less. At the same time, nationalism is a growing force and many want to reassert the power of borders. The aim of this project is to investigate what, if anything, the life of traditional nomadic peoples can tell us about how to organize life in an increasingly nomadic world. What we seem to need are political systems which are as mobile as we are ourselves. This project has so far resulted in a number of separate articles, but I have put the book project aside for a while in order to focus on my third project.

The third project, under contract with Cambridge University Press, returns to my long-standing interest in international politics understood as performance. My aim here is to investigate the notion of a “world stage,” a metaphor first introduced in early modern Europe. Apart from the historical investigation, the project has philosophical aims. I want to investigate the role of embodied knowledge — precognitive, non-rational, knowledge — in our understanding of international politics. This project is roughly half-finished and it too has so far resulted in a number of research articles.

Talks and lectures

I continuously give talks and lectures on all of the themes of my research. During the past five years I have been invited to give lectures at Yale University, New York University, University of Michigan, SOAS, LSE, University of Warwick, the Goethe University in Frankfurt, and many others.

Universities that use my work

These are some of the university courses that use books and articles I have written on their reading lists. The collection is not complete but includes only reading lists discoverable by Google.

Identity, Interest and Action 

  1. 4SSW1007: History of the International System,” King’s College London. Fall 2017.
  2. Oliver Turner and Nicola Perugini, “International Relations Theory,” School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, fall 2016.
  3. Peter Haldén, “The Use of Force,” Försvarshögskolan, Stockholm, Sweden. Fall 2015 – Fall 2018.
  4. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.
  5. Jack S. Levy, “Political Science 522: Theories of War and Peace,” Dept of Political Science, Rutgers University, USA.
  6. Paul Kowert, “INR 5315: International Relations, Foreign Policy Analysis.” Florida International University, USA.
  7. Jeffrey Alexander, “Introduction to Cultural Sociology,” Dept of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, USA.
  8. Jeffrey Alexander, “Introduction to Cultural Sociology,” Dept of Sociology, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA.
  9. Aliaksei Kazharski, “IESIR: Russian Politics,” Institute of European Studies and International Relations, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia.
  10. Vincent Pouliot, “POLI 575: Honours Seminar in International Relations, Culture and Identity in World Politics, Dept of Political Science, McGill University, Canada.
  11. Hsiao, “Narrative and the Analysis of Identity.” Taiwan National University, Taipei, Taiwan.
  12. Justin Massie, “API 5505: Concepts et enjeux en affaires internationales,” Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, Canada.
  13. Alison Rowlands, “HR259: The Thirty Years War: A Military, Social and Cultural History,” Dept of History, University of Essex, United Kingdom.
  14. Amalendu Misra, “The Nature of Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict,” School of Politics and International Studies, Queen’s University, Belfast, United Kingdom.
  15. Marie Demker, Dept of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
  16. Alexander Astrov, “IRES 5186: Evolution of European Political Order,” Dept of International Relations and European Studies, Central European University, Hungary.
  17. Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, “SIS680.AO1:’Qualitative Research Methodologies,” School of International Studies, American University, USA.
  18. Berthold Rittberger, “Internationalen Beziehungen,” Geschwister-Scholl-Institut, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Germany.
  19. FHSS1103: Magisterkurs i statsvetenskap med inriktning krishantering och internationell samverkan,” Dept of Political Science, Swedish Defense University, Sweden.
  20. Aliaksei Kazharski, “Russian Politics,” Pristina International Summer University 2013.
  21. Robert Blackey, “Absolutism and Enlightenment,” California State University, San Bernardino, USA.
  22. Xavier Guillaume, “PGSP11156: International Relations Theory,” School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, UK.

Why Europe Was First

  1. Deirdre McCloskey, “Ideologies, Ideas, and Values during the Industrial Revolution,” Summer School, Dept of Economic History, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
  2. Deirdre McCloskey, “History 480: How the West and the Rest Grew Rich,” Dept of History, University of Illinois, USA.
  3. Erik Vanhaute, “Economic History: The Great Divergence,” Dept of History, Ghent University, Belgium.

Surviving Capitalism

  1. Fred Block, “Sociology 138,” Dept of Sociology, University of California, Davis, USA.
  2. Kalypso Nicolaidis, “International Political Economy,” Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
  3. David Hall-Matthews, “PIED2220: NorthSouth Linkages,” 2010/11. Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, United Kingdom.
  4. Seok-Choon Lew, “Cultural Sociology of Economic Development.” Dept of Sociology, Yonsei University, South Korea.
  5. Alan Hutton, “ECOE431: Political Economy of Economic Performance,” Glasgow Caledonian University, United Kingdom.
  6. “Economic Sociology,” Dept of Hakka Studies, National Chiaotung University, Taiwan.
  7. Brian Trinque, ECO327: Comparative Economics Systems,” Dept of Economics, University of Texas, Austin, USA.
  8. David Blaney, “320: Global Political Economy: Capitalism and Global Inequalities,” Dept of Political Science, Macalester University, USA.

A Blogger’s Manifesto

  1. Timothy Patrick McCarthy, “MLD-717B – ARTS OF COMMUNICATION,” in Harvard Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University, Cambridge, USA, 2010)
  2. Nolan A. Bowie, “PPP180: Vision and Information Policy: Considering the Public Interests,” John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA.
  3. Virtual Sociability: Purdue Online Interaction Theory Seminar,” Perdue University, USA. 
  4. English 1A: Composition, Critical Reading, and Thinking, Foothill De-Anza Community College, United States.
  5. David J. Vergobbi, COMM5320: Freedom of Expression, Dept of Communication, University of Utah, USA.
  6. 4JN503: Reporting Reality,” Dept of Journalism, University of Derby, United Kingdom.
  7. Valentina Cardo, FTVMS Special topic: Online Media and Democracy, 2013. Faculty of Arts, Department of Film, Television and Media Studies, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

“The ‘spirit of 1914’: A redefinition and a defence”

  1. Stephan Petzold, “GERM1060, Introduction to Modern Germany,” Leeds University, autumn 2017.
  2. Stephan Petzold, “From Unification to Reunification: Introduction to German History 1870-1990,” Leeds University, autumn 2017.
  3. Colin Storer, “HI290:History of Germany, from 1890 to today ,” Dept of History, University of Warwick, Autumn 2017.

“How the World Stage Makes Its Subjects”

  1. Elisabetta Brighi, 1ISP7C3 Theories of International Security, Autumn, 2015, University of Westminster, London.

“The Search for Dialogue as a Hindrance to Understanding”

  1. Hans-Martin Jaeger, “PSCI 5207 F International Political Sociology,” Carleton University, Canada.
  2. Vincent Pouliot, “POLI671: International Relations Theory,” McGill, Canada. Fall 2015.
  3. Ayse Zarakol and Philippe Bourbeau, “MPhil Option in IR Theory,” Cambridge U, United Kingdom, Fall 2015.
  4. Emanuel Adler, “POL486/2205HI: Advanced Theory Workshop on Change in International Relations,” Dept of Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada.

“Alexander Wendt: A Social Scientist Struggling with History”

  1. Andrew Neal and Vassilios Paipais, “IPGSP11156: International Relations Theory,” Dept of Politics, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
  2. Mark Aspinwall, International Cooperation in Europe and Beyond,” University of Edinburgh.
  3. Victoria Loughland and Wilifiried Swenden, “Approached to Politics and International RElations,” School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
  4. Trine Flockhart, “3007IBA International Relations Theory,” Dept of Politics, Griffith University, Australia.
  5. Marshall Beier, “4M106: Issues in International Politics,” Dept of Politics, McMaster’s University, Canada.                 “The International Politics of Recognition”
  6. Jack S. Levy, “Political Science 522: Theories of War and Peace,” Dept of Political Science, Rutgers University, USA.
  7. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.
  8. Erika Simpson, “International Relations 9511A-001,” Dept of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, Canada.

“Free Trade by Force”

  1. Jozef Bátora, “EU Foreign Policy,” Institute for European Studies and Internaional Relations, FSES, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia.
  2. Jozef Batora, “Diplomatic history,” Webster University, Vienna.

“Liberal Barbarism and the Oriental Sublime,”

  1. Catherine Goetze, “AS4001: Current Debates in World Politics,” Dept of Politics, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.

“On the Ontological Status of the State”

  1. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.
  2. Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Theories of International Politics , SIS, American University, Washington DC, United States.
  3. Desmarais, POL 6100A: Analysis of International Politics, Dept of Political Science, University of Ottawa, Canada.
  4. Jonathan Hopkin, “Introduction to Political Science,” Dept of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom.
  5. 7SSWM158: Concepts and methods in international relations, Dept of Political Science, King’s College, London, United Kingdom.
  6. Mathew Watson, POLS 312D, Contemporary International Political Economy, Dept of Political Science, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.
  7. Nicholas Lees, PP2065, International Relations, Brunel University, 2016.
  8. Kevin McMillan, “POL6100A: Analysis of International Politics,” Dept of Political Science, University of Ottawa, Canada.

“Performing International Systems”

  1. Youngmi Kim, “Korea in International Relations” (American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, 2016).
  2. Jacinta O’Hagan, “The Evolution of the International System,” Australian National University, Fall 2015.
  3. Kevin McMillan, “POL 6100A: Analysis of International Politics,” Fall 2013, University of Ottawa, Canada.
  4. Devon Curtis, “PPS TRIPOS: Pol 7 Conflict and Peacebuilding,” University of Cambridge, UK.
  5. POLI0052: East Asia IR,” Dept of Political Science, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong.
  6. Ronald Krebs, “Advanced IR Theory,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
  7. Sangbae Kim, “Postmodern International Studies,” Dept of International Relations, Seoul National University, Korea.
  8. Chen Xin, “International Relations Theory,” Political Economy Research Institute, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan.
  9. Emanuel Adler & Seva Gunitsky, “Pol 2200YIY, International Politics,” University of Toronto, 2013-2014.
  10. Youngmi Kim, “East Asia in International Relations,” Dept of International Relations and European Studies, Central European University, fall 2012.
  11. Gregory P. Williams, “International Law and Organizations,” University of Northern Colorado, fall 2013.
  12. Robert Jervis, “Theories of International Relations,” Columbia University, fall 2012.
  13. Mate Nikola Tokic, “Foundations of the Contemporary International System, 1815-1920,” Dept of International Relations, Central European University, Hungary.
  14. PO384: East Asian Transformations: A Political Economy Perspective,” Dept of Political Science, University of Warwick, UK.

“The Recognition Game”

  1. Chris Alden, “IR202, Foreign Policy Analysis,” Dept of International Relations, LSE, Fall 2015/16.
  2. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.
  3. Fabio Petito & Stefanie Ortmann, “G915M1: Geopolitics and Grand Strategy,” School of Global Studies,” Dept of International Relations, University of Sussex, United Kingdom.
  4. Josef Batora, “Theories of International Relations,” Comenius University, Bratislava.
  5. Vincent Pouliot, “POLI 575: Honours Seminar in International Relations, Culture and Identity in World Politics, Dept of Political Science, McGill University, Canada.
  6. Sergey Verigin, “Crucial Issues of Russian Political History,” Petrozavodsk State University, Russia.
  7. Dept of East-European Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden.
  8. Matthew Krain, “PSCI 400: Tutorial on Diplomacy and Conflict Management,” Dept of Political Science, College of Wooster, USA.
  9. Ole Jacob Sending, “Global Environmental Governance.” Thor Heyerdahl Summer School, Norwegian University of Life Science, Norway.
  10. Defne Günay, INRL454 IDENTITY AND POLITICS, Yaşar Üniversitesi,Yaşar University, Izmir, Turkey.
  11. Marina Duque, “PS3910: Identity Politics,” Dept of Political Science, Ohio State University, USA.
  12. Marina Polugodina, “Economic History of Central-Eastern Europe,” Dept of Economics, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.

“The Relevance of International Law”

  1. M. Rafiqul Islam, “International Law,” MacQuarie Law School, MacQuarie University, Australia.
  2. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.

“Empowerment Among Nations”

  1. Joseph Nye, “Power in the 21st Century,” John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA.
  2. Mai’a K. Davis Cross, “HPUBD522: Hard Power, Soft Power and Smart Power,” Dept of Political Science, University of Southern California, USA.

“Audience for a Giraffe”

  1. Xin Chen, “East Asia in World History, 1500-present,” Dept of History and Classics, U of Alberta, Canada. Fall 2015.
  2. Veronika Miťková, “International Economics,” Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia.
  3. Erika Edwards, “LBST 2101-005: Global and Intercultural Connections, Africana Studies, University of North Carolina, USA.
  4. Elizabeth Brake, Fahad Bishara, Risha Druckman, Robert Penner, “Globalization: A Hitchhikers Guide to World Capitalism,” Dept of History, Duke University, USA.
  5. Whitney Walton, “HIST40602: Rebels and Romantics: Europe 1815-1870,“ Dept of History, Purdue University, USA.
  6. Richard Abels, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. HH215P, Western Civilization in a Global Context, to 1750: Ethics, Society & Culture, Spring 2007.
  7. Richard Abels, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. HH215 The West in the Premodern World, Spring AY2017.
  8. Michael Seth, “453: World History,” Dept of History, James Madison University, USA.
  9. Dr. Foray, “History 413: Europe in the Age of Empires,” Dept of History, Perdue University, USA.
  10. HIST 125, Dept of History, Arkansas Pine Bluff University, USA.
  11. SAST063, SAST006, SAST008: History of SouthEast Asia, University of Pennsylvania, USA.
  12. Monique O’Connell, “HST 106, Medieval World Civilizations,” Wake Forest University.
  13. Elizabeth Onasch, “SOC324: Global Capitalism,” Dept of Sociology, Northwestern University, USA.

“Nationalism: The Idiocy of Intimacy”

  1. Eric Gordy, “SSEESGS60: Empires, Nationalism and Communism: States and Societies of Southeast Europe,” School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, United Kingdom.
  2. PS390, “Multiethnic States,” Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, Bosnia, 2008-2014.
  3. Eric Wood, “Introduction to Nationalism, Ethnicity and Religious Conflict” Birkbeck, U of London, 2012-13.

“Inter-textual Relations”

  1. Federico Merke, “Sistemática de las Relaciones Internacionales,” Dept of International Relations, Universidad del Salvador, Argentina.
  2. University of Louisville, USA, Fall 2015.
  3. Markus Fraundorfer, “Narratives in International Relations,” Institute of International Relations, University of Sao Paolo, Brazil.

“The Institutionalization of Modernity”

  1. German and Swedish 20th Century History in a Comparative Perspective,” Department of History, Uppsala University, Sweden.

“Terrorism, Francis Lieber and the American Way of War”

  1. Rosemary Anway, Terrorism, Hodges University, United States.

“Territory and Identity Crises”

  1. Ben-Gurion University, “Ethno-nationalism in Post-Soviet Societies,” Jerusalem, Israel.

“The International Politics of Recognition”

  1. PS3249: Singapore’s Foreign Policy,” National University of Singapore, Singapore.
  2. Claudius Wagemann, “Ringvorlesung Theorieparadigmen der Politikwissenschaft,” Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, Germany.

“Modernity, Boredom and War”

  1. Oded Lowenheim, “Science Fiction and International Politics,” Dept of Political Science, Hebrew University, Israel.
  2. Oded Lowenheim, “Honors Seminar: New Topics in IR Research,” Dept of Political Science, Hebrew University, Israel.

“Reimagining Sweden: The Rhetorical Battle over EU Membership”

  1. SAS H64: Swedish History from a Nordic Perspective,” Dept of History, Lund University.
  2. Ragnar Björk & Heiko Droste, “Historia C,” Historiska institutionen, Södertörns Högskola.
  3. University of Wisconsin.
  4. Telhami, “POS 202: Foreign Policy Analysis,” Dept of Political Science, American University in Bulgaria, Sofia, Bulgaria.

Curriculum Vitæ

  • Born: December 10, 1960, Luleå, Sweden.
  • Citizenship: Swedish.
  • Address: Margaretavägen 3E, 222 40 Lund, Sweden.
  • Married, four children.
  • E-mail: erik@ringmar.net
  • Twitter: @lingreigu
  • Languages: Swedish, English, French, Chinese, Japanese.
  • Wikipedia page, “Erik Ringmar” (English, Swedish, Bahasa Indonesia)

Education:

  • Filosofie doktor, Dept of Government, Uppsala University, Sweden. January 1997.
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Dept of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, USA. Spring, 1993. (Committee: Alexander Wendt, James C. Scott, Walter Carlsnaes).
  • European University Institute, Florence, Italy, 1991-93. Dissertation work (supervisor: Alessandro Pizzorno).
  • Master of Philosophy, Dept of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, USA, autumn, 1989.
  • Master of Arts, Dept of International Relations, Yale University, New Haven, USA, autumn, 1988.
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Uppsala/ University of Stockholm, spring, 1985. With a concentration in political science and Japanese language.

Academic jobs:

  • Lund University, Lund, Sweden. Dept of Political Science, Associate Professor, Spring 2014 – present. “Introduction to Political Science,” “Comparative International Systems,” “Rationality, Emotions and War,” “Modern Society and Its Critics.”
  • University of Malmö, Malmö, Sweden; Mid-Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden. Adjunct Professor, Fall 2013. “Introduction to Political Theory”; “Introduction to International Politics,” “Democracy and Democratization.”
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China. Zhi Yuan Chair professor of International Relations, School of International Public Administration. Spring 2011 – June 2014. Head of Department of International Relations. Courses on “Theories of International Relations,” “Introduction to International Politics,” “China’s Place in the World.”
  • New York University, Shanghai. Adjunct Professor, Fall 2012 – Spring 2013. Course on “Orientalism.”
  • Xinzhu Jiao Tong University, Taiwan, China. Professor, Institute of General Education and Institute of Social and Cultural Studies. Spring 2007 – Fall 2010. Convenor of courses on “International Relations and Organizations,” “Advanced Topics in International Politics,” “Global Political Economy,” “Orientalism,” “The State and Prosperity” and “Culture & Identities,” “Free Speech on the Internet,” and “Politics of Resistance.”
  • London School of Economics & Political Science, Dept of Government, London, United Kingdom. Michaelmas term, 1995 – 2007. Senior lecturer with tenure. Convenor of MSc and BSc courses on political economy, the history of political institutions, democracy, power, nationalism and ethnic conflict resolution.
  • London School of Economics & Political Science, Dept of Government, London, United Kingdom. Michaelmas term, 1998 – 2005. Convenor Master’s program in Comparative Politics with responsibility for student admissions.
  • London School of Economics & Political Science, LSE Summer School, London, UK, 1998 to 2006. Course proprietor ”Financial Institutions: History, Politics & Crises,” and ”Cultures of Capitalism: East and West Compared.”
  • University of Notre Dame, Adjunct professor, London campus, Spring 2003. “Introduction to Political Economy.”
  • University of Dalarna, Sweden, Visiting professor, September 2002. “Global Political Economy.”
  • Chulalongkorn University, Visiting professor at the Dept of International Relations, Bangkok, Thailand, 2001/02.
  • Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Stockholm, Sweden. January 1994 – September, 1995. Research fellow.
  • Yale University, New Haven, USA. Editorial Assistant, Journal of Conflict Resolution. January 1987 – December 1990.
  • Yale University, Dept of Political Science, New Haven, USA. Teaching Assistant, September 1989 – December 1990. Courses in international relations and political theory.

Selected awards and research projects:

  • Kaiyuan Excellent Teacher Award, Shanghai Jiaotong University, fall 2012.
  • National Science Council, Taiwan, China, research grant, 2007-2010.
  • Ministry of Education, Taiwan, China, Human Rights Education Award, November 2009.
  • National Jiao Tong University, Xinzhu, Taiwan, China. Distinguished Scholar Award, October 2007 – 2010.
  • MacArthur Foundation, Yale Dissertation Scholarship, 1988-89.
  • SAAB/ Sweden-America Foundation Scholarship, 1986-87.
  • Fulbright Foundation, Fulbright Scholarship, 1985-86.

Monographs:

  1. International Movements: The body politic on the world stage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2018. 
  2. History of International Relations, Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, forthcoming 2018. 
  3. Liberal Barbarism: The European Destruction of the Palace of the Emperor of China, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Paperback 2015. 
  4. The Mechanics of Modernity in Europe & East Asia: The Institutional Origins of Social Change and Stagnation London: Routledge, 2005; paperback 2009. ISBN: 978-0415547703. Also published in paperback as Why Europe Was First: Social Change and Economic Success in Europe and East Asia, 1500-2050, London: Anthem Books, 2007. ISBN: 978-0415547703. 
  5. Surviving Capitalism: How We Learned to Live with the Market and Remained Almost Human London: Anthem Books, 2005. ISBN: 978-1843311751. In Korean translation, Seoul: Book & People Publishing Company, 2011. 
  6. Identity, Interest & Action: A Cultural Explanation of Sweden’s Intervention in the Thirty Years War Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Paperback edition, 2006. ISBN: 978-0521026031.

Edited volume:

  1. Erik Ringmar & Thomas Lindemann, eds., The International Politics of Recognition. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2012. Paperback, 2014.

Articles in peer-reviewed journals:

  1. The Problem with Performativity: Comments on the Contributions,” Journal of International Relations and Development, 21:1, 2018.
  2. What Are Public Moods?,” European Journal of Social Theory, Online First, October 20, 2017.
  3. ‘The Spirit of 1914’: A Redefinition and a Defense,” War in History, Online First, June 1, 2017.
  4. Comments on McCloskey and Weingast.” Scandinavian Economic History Review, 65:2, 2017. pp. 124-126.
  5. Outline of a Non-Deliberative, Mood-Based, Theory of Action,” Philosophia, Online First, February 2017.
  6. The Problem of the Modern Self: Imitation, Will Power and the Politics of Character,” International Political Anthropology, 9:1, May 2016.
  7. How the World Stage Makes Its Subjects: An Embodied Critique of Constructivist IR Theory,” Journal of International Relations and Development, Online First, September 28, 2015.
  8. The Search for Dialogue as a Hindrance to Understanding: Practices as Inter-paradigmatic Research Program,” International Theory, 6:1, 2014. pp. 1-27.
  9. On the Reality of Mental Constructs,” Global Discourse, 4:4, 2014.
  10. Recognition and the Origins of International Society,” Global Discourse, 4:4, 2014.
  11. How to Fight Savage Tribes’: The Global War on Terror in Historical Perspective,” Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence, 25:2, 2013. pp. 264-283.
  12. Imperial Vertigo and the Themed Experience: Yuanmingyuan and Disneyland Compared,” Human Geographies, 7:1, May 2013.
  13. Performing International Systems: Two East-Asian Alternatives to the Westphalian Order,” International Organization, 66:2, Winter, 2012.
  14. “Thinking Men and Ideals Betrayed: Bentham, Coleridge and British Imperialism in China in the Nineteenth Century,” Nineteenth Century Studies, vol 26, no. 1, 2012. pp. 101-114.
  15. with Jorg Kustermans, “Modernity, Boredom and War: A Suggestive Essay,” Review of International Studies, 37:4, October 2011.
  16. Malice in Wonderland: Dreams of the Orient and the Destruction of the Palace of the Emperor of China,” Journal of World History, 22:2, 2011. pp. 273-297.
  17. Francis Lieber, Terrorism, and the American Way of War,” Perspectives on Terrorism, vol. 3, no. 4, 2009.
  18. Inter-Textual Relations: The Quarrel over the War in Iraq as a Conflict between Narratives Types,” Cooperation and Conflict, 41:4, 2006. pp. 403-21.
  19. Liberal Barbarism and the Oriental Sublime: The European Destruction of the Emperor”s Summer Palace,” Millennium, 34:3, 2006. pp. 917-33. Published in Chinese translation as 壯美常理火燒圓明園, (Liberal Barbarism and the Oriental Sublime), Cultural Studies Quarterly (Taiwan), March 2006.
  20. Audience for a Giraffe: European Exceptionalism and the Quest for the Exotic,” Journal of World History, 17:4, December, 2006. pp. 353-97.
  21. The Recognition Game: Soviet Russia Against the West,” Cooperation and Conflict, no 2, 2002. pp. 115-36.
  22. Nationalism: The Idiocy of Intimacy,” British Journal of Sociology, 49:4, 1998.
  23. Reimagining Sweden: The Rhetorical Battle over EU Membership,” Scandinavian Journal of History, 23: 1/2, 1998.
  24. On the Ontological Status of the State,” European Journal of International Relations, 2:4, 1996. pp. 439-466.
  25. Relevance of International Law: A Hegelian Interpretation of a Peculiar 17th Century Preoccupation,” Review of International Studies, vol. 21, no. 1, 1995.
  26. Historical Writing and Rewriting: Gustav II Adolf, the French Revolution, and the Historians,” , 18:4, 1993.

Articles in edited volumes:

  1. Samuel Huntington and the American Way of War,” in The Clash of Civilizations: 25 Years On, edited by Davide Orsi, E-International Relations, 2018.
  2. The Great Wall of China Does Not Exist,” in Walling, Boundaries and Liminality: A Political Anthropology of Transformations, edited by Agnese Horvath, Marius Benta and Joan Davidson (London: Routledge, 2018)
  3. The Anti-Nomadic Bias of Political Theory,” in Nomad-State Relationships in International Relations: Before and After Borders, edited by Jamie Levin (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2018)
  4. Order in a Borderless World: Nomads Confront Globalization,” in Theorizing Global Order, edited by Gunther Hellman (Frankfurt: Campus, 2018)
  5. Heidegger on Willpower and the Mood of Modernity,” In Heidegger and the Global Age, edited by Antonio Cerella and Louiza Odysseos (Lanham, Rowman and Littlefield, 2018)
  6. Eugene Gendlin and the Feel of International Politics,” in Researching Emotions in International Relations: Methodological Perspectives on the Emotional Turn, edited by Maéva Clément and Eric Sangar (Springer, 2017)
  7. Attention and the Cause of Modern Boredom,” in Boredom Studies: Postdisciplinary Inquiries, edited by Michael E. Gardiner and Julian Jason Haladyn. London: Routledge, 2016.
  8. The Making of the Modern World,” International Relations: Beginner’s Guide, edited by Stephen McGlinchey. E-International Relations, 2016.
  9. Chinas Place in Four Recognition Regimes,” Recognition in International Relations: Rethinking an Ambivalent Concept in a Global Context, edited by Christopher Daase, Caroline Fehl, Anna Geis & Georgios Kolliarakis (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
  10. The RitualPerformance Problem in Foreign Policy Analysis: European Diplomats at the Chinese Court,” in Fredrik Bynander & Stefano Guzzini, eds. The Agency-Structure Problem and the Study of Foreign Policy: Essays in Honor of Walter Carlsnaes, (London: Routledge, 2012) pp. 68-80.
  11. Free Trade by Force: Civilization against Culture in the Great China Debate of 1857,” in Jozef Batora & Monika Mokre, eds. Culture and External Relations: Europe and Beyond (Ashgate: 2011)
  12. The International Politics of Recognition,” in Erik Ringmar & Thomas Lindemann, eds., The International Politics of Recognition. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2010 .ISBN: 978-1594518096.
  13. “Metaphors of Social Order,” in Politics, Language and Metaphor, edited by Terrell Carver & Jernej Pikalo (New York: Routledge, 2008)
  14. Empowerment among Nations: A Sociological Perspective,” in Power in World Politics, edited by Felix Berenskoetter & M. J. Williams (London/New York: Routledge, 2007)
  15. The Power of Metaphor: Consent, Dissent & Revolution,” in Discourse, Identity and Politics in Europe, edited by Richard C. M. Mole (London: Palgrave, 2007) pp. 111-36.
  16. The Institutionalization of Modernity: Shocks and Crises in Germany and Sweden,” in Culture and Crisis: The Case of Germany and Sweden, edited by Lars Trägårdh and Nina Witozek (New York: Berghanh, 2002) pp. 24-42.
  17. ”Alexander Wendt: A Social Scientist Struggling with History,” in The Future of International Relations: Masters in the Making, edited by Iver B. Neumann & Ole Wæver (London: Routledge, 1997) ― in Chinese translation, 2011.
  18. ”Two Case Studies: the United States Leaves the ILO and Unesco,” (with Jens Bartelson), in The United Nations at Forty: International Cooperation in Crisis, edited by Bo Huldt and Maria Falk (Stockholm: Swedish Institute of International Affairs, 1985)

Review articles and book reviews:

Other academic articles:

  • Pontus Fahlbeck, tidsandan och folkrörelserna,” (“Pontus Fahlbeck, Popular Movements, and the Mood of the Times,”) Statsvetenskaplig tidskrift, 116:3, 2014:323-346. In Swedish.
  • “Performing International Relations,” Center for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, working paper, 125/10, April, 2010.
  • “‘Wie man wilde Stämme bekämpft’: Der globale Krieg gegen den Terror in historischer Perspektive,” Osnabrücker Jahrbuch Frieden und Wissenschaft (Osnabrueck, V&R Press, 2009)
  • “Liberal Barbarism and Imperial Transgression,” Naked Punch, October, 2006.
  • “Critical Thinking as Institutionalised Practice: East and West Compared,” in Manusya, (Thailand) no. 1-2, 2001.
  • The International Politics of Recognition: Soviet Russia Against the West, 1917-1939, Stockholm: Swedish Institute of International Affairs, research report, no. 24, 1996.

Referencing (as of January 2018):

Universities that use my work

Selected journalism:

Selected conferences and lectures (past five years):

  • “Boredom as a Public Mood.” Keynote address, Third International Boredom Conference, University of Warsaw, Poland. June 16-17, 2017.
  • “Gandhi, Home-rule and the Critique of Modernity,” South Asian Studies Student Association, Lund University, October 20, 2016; State-Making in the Nineteenth-Century. Dept of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden, May 19-20, 2016.
  • “Recognizing Recognition: A Research Program, and a Few Additional Thoughts,” Comenius University, Dept of Political Science, Bratislava, Slovakia, October 7, 2016.
  • “’The Huns are Coming’: Anti-Nomadic Prejudice in an Era of Globalization,” Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, October 5, 2016.
  • “History of International Relations: “China and East Asia,” and “The Muslim Caliphates,” Dept of International Relations, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, October 4 and 6, 2016.
  • “Liberal Barbarism: Why Did the Europeans Destroy the Palace of the Emperor of China?” talk at the Center for East Asia Studies, Lund University, Jan 19, 2016; Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Sept 29, 2015; Dept of Political Science, U of Gothenburg, October 20, 2014; London School of Economics, May 21, 2014; School of Oriental and African Studies, May 22, 2014; University of Warwick, May 23, 2014; University of Michigan, October 2, 2012; New York University, October 4, 2012; Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University, October 5, 2012.
  • “Heeding the Call of Being: Heidegger on Attention and Authenticity,” Heidegger in the Global Age, University of Sussex, Brighton, Oct 29-30, 2015.
  • “The theater, hypnosis and suggestibility,” Malmö Theater Academy, Malmö Sweden, Oct 8, 2015.
  • Discussant, “200 Years of Conference Diplomacy. From the Congress of Vienna to the G7 Meeting”, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin. June 8-9, 2015.
  • “Political Theory for Nomads,” Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany, June 24, 2015; Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia, October 30, 2014.
  • “Performance, Not Performativity: An Embodied Critique of Post-Structural IR Theory,” Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia, October 30, 2014; Workshop on Agency and Performativity in International Relations, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany. February 21-22, 2014.
  • “What Are Public Moods?,” Dept of Political Science, Mid-Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden. Dec 20, 2013.
  • “The Dream of the China Market: In the 19th Century and Today,” Dept of Society and Globalization, Roskilde University, Denmark, Sept 4, 2013.
  • “Performing International Relations: Ontology, Recognition, Performativity,” Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, December 4, 2012; IDAS Conference, Chengchi University, Taipei, June 1, 2010; Dept of Public Administration, University of Macau, June 4, 2010; International Sociological Association, World Congress, Gothenburg, Sweden, July. 12, 2010; Shanghai Jiaotong University, China, Oct 21, 2010.
  • “Ourselves in the Other: China’s Place in Four Recognition Regimes,” Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany, June 22-23, 2012.
  • “Practices, Performances, and How to Make War with a Hammer,” International Studies Association, San Diego, April 1-4, 2012.
  • The Remembering European Imperialism: The Memory of Humiliation in Contemporary China,” Johns Hopkins China Forum, Shanghai, Feb 28, 2012; Institute for Advanced Study in Social Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, November 21, 2011; ThinkIn China, Beijing, October 27, 2011.

Examiner, PhD examinations:

  1. Dept of Political Science, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany, October 12, 2017.
  2. Dept of Philosophy, University of Karachi, Pakistan, January 22, 2015.
  3. Dept of Political Science, University of Queensland, Australia, August 7, 2014.
  4. Dept of Political Science, University of Tampere, Finland, August, 2009.
  5. Dept of Government, LSE, United Kingdom, February 3, 2006.
  6. Dept of Political Science, University of Lund, Sweden, June 8, 1998.

External PhD supervision

  • Dept of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark, March 2017-present.
  • Dept of Political Science, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany, January 2015-July 2017.

Other professional activities:

  • Member of the Academia.edu Editor Program, Nov 2015-present.
  • Reviewer of research projects for The European Science Foundation, October 2010; The Dutch Council for the Humanities, January 2011; The Research Foundation – Flanders, June 2017.
  • Reviewer of book manuscripts for Anthem Press, Cambridge University Press, Open Book Publishers, Polity Press, Sage, University College Dublin Press.
  • Reviewer of articles submitted to American Historical Review, American Journal of Cultural Sociology, Asian Perspective, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, British Journal of Sociology, Contemporary Sociology, Cooperation & Conflict, Eighteenth-Century Life, Ethnic and Racial Studies, European Journal of International Relations, Geoforum, Geopolitics, Human Geographies, International History Review, International Organization, International Political Sociology, International Relations, International Security, International Studies Review, International Studies Quarterly, International Theory, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Culture and Technology, Journal of Development and International Relations, Journal of Politics, Millennium, Nations & Nationalism, Pakistan Journal of International Relations, Political Studies, Review of International Studies, Security Dialogue, Security Studies, Sociological Theory, Terrorism and Political Violence, and Third World Quarterly.
  • Faculty Fellow, Yale Center for Cultural Sociology, 2005 – present.
  • International Advisory Board, The Sage Handbook of the History, Philosophy and Sociology of International Relations.
  • Fellow at the Global Advisory Program, “Brain Korea 21 Plus,” Dept of Sociology, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
  • Member of the International Advisory Board, Centre for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. 2003 – present.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Human Geographies, spring 2014 – present; Journal of International Relations and Development (JIRD), fall 2012 – present; Perspectives: The Review of International Affairs, 2009 – present; Pakistan Journal of International Relations, 2008-present.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the book series on Media and Communication Studies at Anthem Press, London, UK. 2011 – present.
  • Conducted tenure review, Dept of Law, Singapore Management University, January 2013.
  • On the list of international referees, 1) BASR, University of Karachi, Pakistan. Jan 2015 – present; 2) Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan, March 2016 – present.
  • Examiner, MA theses, Zhejian University, Hangzhou, China, June 2012.
  • Member of the International Studies Association and the Heterodox Academy.

A New Language for a New World: Review of Laust Schouenborg, International Institutions in World History

The basic insight that drives the argument presented in this book is that we need a new way of thinking about international politics which does not privilege European experiences and the idea of a sovereign state. This is required since we need to be able to talk about other parts of the world, about European history before the rise of the state, and about a future in which the state no longer will be with us. World history, simply put, is not about the state, and it really isn’t the case that der Gang Gottes in der Welt daß der Staat ist. And people who claim that this is the case — not only Hegel, but all philosophers of history from Adam Ferguson to Walt Whitman Rostow — are simply mistaken. Compare the recently fashionable idea of a “failed state.” To identify a state as having failed is to identify it as not living up to a European standard. It is like saying that a woman is a “failed man.”

Laust Schouenborg‘s suggestion is to dispense with state-talk in favor of a discussion of political functions. We should stop talking about what political entities are and focus instead on what they do. Perhaps we could think of this as a move from ontology to practice. We are in Durkheimian territory, in other words, or Talcott Parsonian. The state, says Schouenborg, can be disaggregated into four functions having to do with 1) legitimacy and membership; 2) conflict regulation; 3) trade, and 4) governance.

Since all polities of whichever kind they may be fulfill these basic functions, this, not the state, should be our focus. Instead of a state-centered vocabulary which only allows us to talk sensibly only about Europe, a function-centered vocabulary allows us to talk sensibly about all of world history and everyone everywhere.  This taxonomy provides a “basic grid,” says Schouenborg, which is neutral between historical and geographical contexts. “So, my general argument in this book is not only that four functional categories can be used to capture social institutions throughout history. I also argue that we should discard the main alternative conceptual framework in the form of the state and the attendant stage models.”

In order to demonstrate the viability of this idea, Schouenborg goes looking in some pretty remote places; the remotest ones, in fact, that he can find: nomadic Central Asia, the rainforests of tropical Africa and the Polynesian islands. If his four functions operate in these environments, is his argument, they should operate everywhere else too. This is why we are treated to a review of topics as diverse as lineages and kinship systems in Polynesia (legitimacy and membership); tribute giving in Northeastern Asia (conflict regulation); the use of raffia cloths among the Lele (trade); and sacral kingship among the Khazars (governance). Schouenborg has a predilection for the terminology recycled by anthropologists and he sprinkles the terms evenly throughout the book: bo’ol, qarachu, qariki, tapu, aloha, trombash, gama, malaang, lemba, nenekisibwami, and so on. And he likes bizarre examples: in battle the Marquesans would beat their enemies to a pulp, cut a slit through their bodies and then wear them as a large, rather unwieldy, poncho; among the Lele there were “village wives,” purchased with funds from the village treasury, and employed to provide local youths with sexual experiences. Apparently the occasional married man could rely on their services too.

The world really is a weird and wonderful place, and world history even more so, and strange people have done the strangest of things, but — and this is the point of this disparate collection of trivia and obscure terminology — it can all be summarized by means of Schouenborg’s four functions.

The conceptual framework

One obvious question is why we should focus on these four functions and not some others. States are doing many other things after all — dispensing bread and circuses, enforcing religious truths, organizing child care, planning highways, handing out unemployment benefits, and much else besides. Schouenborg’s strategy here is to argue either that these other functions are unimportant or that they can be subsumed under one or the other of the four functions he has identified. We might decide to trust him on this, or we might not, and it is interesting in its own right to ask how we ever would decide such an issue. Let us think some more about this.

A problem for all functionalist accounts of society — Schouenborg’s included — is that a given social practice simultaneously can serve many different functions. What is the function of a family dinner, we might ask. Surely it is to feed the family members, but it is also to give cohesion to the family, affirm its difference from the outside world, or perhaps to prop up the patriarchal system, or bourgeois society, or the agro-industrial complex. Which of these functions to pick is not obvious, and there is always a temptation — from Marx to Bourdieu — to pick the function which is least obvious to the naked eye. This is one of the ways in which social scientists make themselves into “truth tellers” who reveal the “mechanics” that “underlie” the surfaces of our everyday world. The better hidden the function, we are supposed to believe, the more fundamental it is — and the more remarkable its discoverer.

On the other hand, once we have decided that a certain function must exist, we will always manage to find it. It is a bit like reading a medical dictionary. If you read about the symptoms for “gout,” for example, you will inevitably discover that you have them, and the same goes for the symptoms of “tennis elbow” and “housemaid’s knee.” If we say, for example, that all societies must provide answers to questions regarding “the meaning of life,” we will find that this function is fulfilled by churches in some societies, by mosques and temples in others, but also that some societies rely mainly on technology for answers or even on slivers of wafer-thin mints. Likewise, if we decide that all societies must find a means of assuring social stability, political legitimacy, justice or freedom, we are bound to find that they all, somehow or another, do. Functionalism, in other words, is difficult to falsify.

Functionalism is also, as Dennis Wrong once famously argued, bad at explaining social change. And this is the case since functionalism cannot stipulate the conditions for functional breakdown. And this, in turn, is a result of the bracketing of human agency and the inability to account for the appearance of the new. There is a stasis at the heart of all functional models. Schouenborg inherits these problems but at least he is explicit about it. What interests him is the “second-order dimension” of society, he says, not the “first-order dimension,” that is, individual human beings.

Besides, as he makes clear, he is not in the business of providing explanations anyway. “The functional categories are a typology, a system of classification. They do not explain anything; we are not dealing with an explanatory theory.”  The typology may explain something in the future but “that is beyond the scope of this book.” “I have made an argument for a new measuring rod. That is all for now.”

But this is also the problem. There is no given way in which the world must be and there is consequently no particular way in which it must be divided. There are no concepts, taxonomies or basic grids out there in the world. Instead you divide, conceptualize and taxonomize for a certain purpose, in order to explain a certain thing. Ontology is theory-dependent. This is the reason why you cannot, in abstracto, say which conceptual scheme that is better and which one that is worse. This is also why attempts at conceptual legislation fail. The only way you can establish a new conceptualization, and its attendant vocabulary, is by showing what work it can do. If others are convinced by your explanation, they will use the same framework and the taxonomy will eventually stick. But Shouenberg is explicitly not theorizing, only legislating.

The issue here is very similar to the problem that plagues Emanuel Adler and Vincent Poulliot’s recent attempt to convince colleagues to make use of “practices” as a key notion in the study of international politics. “Adler and Pouliot make the mistake of treating practices as though they were “raw data” ― data which is given prior to any theorization ― yet there can be no such thing as a practice apart from the theories and research questions which identify it.” Shouenberg, we said, has moved from ontology to practices and he too forswears theories and explanations, but you will never know which way to slice up the world unless you know which slices your theoretical framework requires. Thoughts come before words, not words before thoughts; you need to know what to measure before you design your measuring rod.  Schouenborg’s conceptual framework may be brilliant, but him saying so isn’t enough.

The empirical cases

Since the empirical case studies are illustrations of the conceptual framework and not studies in their own right it is nitpicky to criticize them. What we are given are not research notes but the notes which Schouenborg’s took as he was reading the works of others. And as he rather disarmingly admits, these readings were neither as extensive nor as detailed as he would have wished. This is fine of course. No one really cares about the Lele or the Xiongnu anyway. They are just illustrations. It is the big picture that counts.

Yet Schouenborg is a prisoner of the books he has come across and this does influence his analysis. Jan Vansina‘s work on the Kuba and the Anziku in Congo is indeed pathbreaking, but Vansina discussed societies of sedentary farmers not the societies of Pygmies who also live here. Since Pygmies are hunters and gatherers the logic of their social and political organization is quite different. Compare the unforgettable account of the “forest people” provided by Colin Turnbull.

Similarly, in his discussion of Central Asia Schouenborg relies heavily on the work of David Sneath and Nicola di Cosmo, but there are no references to Anatoly Khazanov, Etienne de la Vaissière, or even Owen Lattimore. As a result he doesn’t confront Khazanov’s insistence that the nomads of the steppes always and inextricably were dependent on their farming neighbors and he doesn’t deal with Lattimore’s claim that the walls of northern China were built to keep Chinese farmers in as much as to keep the nomads out. The Chinese tributary system was not, as Schouenborg implies, a way of extorting revenue from the peoples of the steppe but rather a way for the Chinese to forge a social, patrimonial, relationship with potential enemies.

These facts matter not only for the sake of the historical record but also for the conceptual framework. Take territoriality. The four functions are bound to operate quite differently in a society which is peripatetic rather than sedentary. Indeed they may operate sufficiently differently for the functions no longer to be the same. One example is social control. The steppe is vast, and as long as you have two rested horses and a saddlebag of supplies you can escape most attempts to control you. This means that questions of membership and conflict resolution will function quite differently in such a society, but so will questions of trade and governance. If running away and being judged by state courts both are ways of “conflict resolution,” the concept is stretched to breaking-point. A hole made in the sand by a child’s shovel, as Alasdair MacIntyre famously argued, and a hole made in the ground by a B52 bomb plane are both “holes,” yet comparing them is unlikely to be all that enlightening.

Moreover, the Mongols did indeed, as Sneath points out, have an “aristocracy,” but aristocracy among nomads is not the same institution as in medieval Europe where aristocrats controlled a piece of territory as well as the peasants who worked on it. You can call both “governance” if you like, but again the conceptual framework is creaking rather loudly.

Or take stateless societies. Many societies of hunters and gatherers have a flat social structure with no inherited inequalities of social status. Indeed societies on the move tend to be more egalitarian than sedentary societies since the kinds of resources that sustain sharp inequalities are difficult to transport. Moreover, in societies where there is no storage of food or other resources, there are no wars. These cases of stateless societies do not seem to fit into Schouenborg’s conceptual categories. They are further out, further away, than he is able to go.

Conclusion

Schouenborg is very much a card-carrying member of the English School. He dedicates the book to two of its leading proponents — one of whom, he reveals in the preface, writes letters of recommendation for him. He is a professional, in other words, and there is no doubt that he has a promising career ahead of him. At the same time, some of the references to the English School canon are pretty oblique and a bit difficult for non-card-carrying colleagues to follow. It is as though one has stumbled upon a conversation that has been going on for a while: it is difficult to pick up the arguments since we don’t know what already has been said, by and to whom.

We can nitpick regarding details; we can rehearse hackneyed critique, but in the end Schouenborg is right of course. We do indeed have to undo, unthink, the sovereign European state. This is imperative both for intellectual and for political reasons. It is only in this way that we properly can understand world history and only in this way that we creatively can confront our future — not to mention avoid making a mess of things today. Schouenborg’s book is an imaginative and thought-provoking contribution to these crucial tasks.

Comments on Comments

My short, 1,500, word piece with “Comments on McCloskey and Weingast” was just published in Scandinavian Economic History Review. You can read it here.

Remarkable how this happened. Once I finally realized that McCloskey had discussed my work to some considerable extent in her original article, I contacted the editors of the journal and suggested that I’d write a short comment. They agreed but gave me a tight deadline. It was a Thursday and they wanted the final version the following Monday. Putting other work aside I happily obliged. The article was accepted the same day, and now only a month later it is actually published. I wish all articles I write were as quick to get into print.

While the piece was in draft form I put it up on Academia. edu where I got first-rate comments from Michael Schmitz, Astrid Nordin and Göran Sonesson among others. I’m much obliged. Deirdre McCloskey also commented in an email. Deirdre and I agree on many things, but we disagree on the role of institutions.

A newer, more radical, modernity

I just finished another article, “A Newer, More Radical, Modernity: A Prolegomena to a Politics of the Potential.” You can read it here.  The abstract goes like this:

Radical politics in modern society was premised on a constructivist ontology which now increasingly has been abandoned in favor of political solutions based on an ontology of self-organization. As a result, radical politics is in decline. Yet the self-organizing model is unable to explain the most salient feature of modern society — the relentlessness and automaticity of social change. Change can only be explained by an ontology which focuses on the self-actualization of the potential. This alternative ontology can also serve as the foundation for a new form of radical politics.

Truth be told, I originally wrote this a long time ago as a sort of summary of the best ideas from my Why Europe Was First book. I sent it to a journal, forget which, and the editor got back to me to say that although the article was very interesting it was really a summary of a book. He was right of course.  This version is entirely reworked and has a different focus. It’s all about the potential, man, and what only could happen if we took our imagination seriously and found a way of embedding it into the institutions that organize our lives.

Comments on McCloskey and Weingast

I wrote this brief, 5-page, article in response to the articles by Deirdre McCloskey and Barry Weingast in the Scandinavian Economic History Review.

A few quotes:

“McCloskey is provocative to be sure, passionate as always, but also perfectly persuasive. Yet something is still missing from the analysis.”

“Barry Weingast makes this point eloquently and he too is right. Indeed, there is no contradiction here only a dogmatic refusal, on McCloskey’s part, to expand the analysis to include the blatantly obvious.”

“Instead of rejecting institutions, we need to pay more attention to them. Weingast’s suggestions provide a first step, but his perspective is needlessly constrained to “incentives” and their permutations. In a self-actualizing social ontology three sets of institutions are relevant.”

McCloskey on Why Europe Was First

This is an excerpt from an article by Deirdre McCloskey where she discusses my book Why Europe Was First.

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The Swedish political scientist Erik Ringmar’s answer to the question Why was Europe first? begins from the simple and true triad of points that all change involves an initial reflection (namely, that change is possible), an entrepreneurial moment (putting the change into practice) and ‘pluralism’ or ‘toleration’ (I would call the toleration the ideology of the Bourgeois Era, namely, the Bourgeois Revaluation, some way of counteracting the annoyance with which the naturally conservative majority of humans will view any moving of their cheese). ‘Contemporary Britain, the United States or Japan’, Ringmar (2007 Ringmar, E. (2007). Why Europe was first: Social change and economic growth in Europe and East Asia 1500–2050. London: Anthem. [Google Scholar], p. 31) writes, ‘are not modern because they contain individuals who are uniquely reflective, entrepreneurial or tolerant’. That’s correct: the psychological hypothesis one finds in Weber or in the psychologist David McClelland or in the historian David Landes does not stand up to the evidence, as for example the success of the overseas Chinese, or indeed the astonishingly quick turn from Maoist starvation in mainland China to 9 or 10% rates of growth per year per person, or from the Hindu rate of growth and the License Raj in India after independence to growth rates per person since 1991 over 6%. Why would psychology change so quickly? And now could a rise of an entrepreneurial spirit from, say, 5% of the population to 10%, which could have also characterised earlier efflorescences such as fifth century Athens, cause after 1800 a uniquely Great Enrichment of a factor of 30?

But then unhappily Ringmar contends in Douglass-North style, ‘A modern society is a society in which change happens automatically and effortlessly because it is institutionalized’ (2007 Ringmar, E. (2007). Why Europe was first: Social change and economic growth in Europe and East Asia 1500–2050. London: Anthem. [Google Scholar], p. 32). The trouble with the claim of ‘institutions’ is, as Ringmar himself noted earlier in another connection, that ‘it begs the question of the origin’ (2007 Ringmar, E. (2007). Why Europe was first: Social change and economic growth in Europe and East Asia 1500–2050. London: Anthem. [Google Scholar], p. 24).99 Ringmar’s remarkable literacy in an English not his native tongue, by the way, shows in his accurate use of the phrase ‘begs the question’, which is widely used to mean ‘suggests the question’.View all notes It also begs the question of enforcement, which depends on ethics and opinion absent from the neo-institutional tale. ‘The joker in the pack’, writes the economic historian Jones (2010 Jones, E. L. (2010). Locating the industrial revolution: Inducement and response. London: World Scientific. [Google Scholar]) in speaking of the decline of guild restrictions in England, ‘was the national shift in elite opinion, which the courts partly shared’:

The judges often declined to support the restrictiveness that the guilds sought to impose … As early as the start of seventeenth century, towns had been losing cases they took to court with the aim of compelling new arrivals to join their craft guilds … A key case concerned Newbury and Ipswich in 1616. The ruling in this instance became a common law precedent, to the effect that ‘foreigners’, men from outside a borough, could not be compelled to enrol. (p. 102–103)

Ringmar (2007 Ringmar, E. (2007). Why Europe was first: Social change and economic growth in Europe and East Asia 1500–2050. London: Anthem. [Google Scholar]) devotes 150 lucid and learned and literate pages to exploring the origins of European science, humanism, newspapers, universities, academies, theatre, novels, corporations, property rights, insurance, Dutch finance, diversity, states, politeness, civil rights, political parties and economics. But he is a true comparativist (he taught for some years in China) – this in sharp contrast to some of the other Northians, and especially the good, much missed Douglass North himself. So Ringmar does not suppose that the European facts speak for themselves. In the following 100 pages, he takes back much of the implicit claim that Europe was anciently special, whether ‘institutionalized’ or not, by going through for China the same triad of reflection, entrepreneurship and pluralism/toleration, and finding them pretty good. ‘The Chinese were at least as intrepid [in the seas] as the Europeans’; ‘The [Chinese] imperial state constituted next to no threat to the property rights of merchants and investors’; ‘already by 400 BCE China produced as much cast iron as Europe would in 1750’; Confucianism was ‘a wonderfully flexible doctrine’; ‘China was far more thoroughly commercialized’; European ‘salons and coffee shops [were] … in some ways strikingly Chinese’ (Ringmar, 2007 Ringmar, E. (2007). Why Europe was first: Social change and economic growth in Europe and East Asia 1500–2050. London: Anthem. [Google Scholar], pp. 250, 254, 274, 279, 280–282). He knows, as the Northians appear not to, that China had banks and canals and large firms and private property many centuries before the Northian date for the acquisition of such modernities in England, the end of the seventeenth century. (So too on many counts did England itself, for that matter.)

The economist and historian Ogilvie (2007 Ogilvie, S. (2007). ‘Whatever is, is right’? Economic institutions in pre-industrial Europe. Economic History Review, 60, 649684. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2007.00408.x[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]) criticizes the neo-institutionalists and their claims that efficiency ruled, arguing on the contrary for a ‘conflictual’ point of view, in which power is taken seriously:

Efficiency theorists do sometimes mention that institutions evoke conflict. But they seldom incorporate conflict into their explanations. Instead, conflict remains an incidental by-product of institutions portrayed as primarily existing to enhance efficiency … Although serfdom [for example] was profoundly ineffective at increasing the size of the economic pie, it was highly effective at distributing large slices to overlords, with fiscal and military side-benefits to rulers and economic privileges for serf elites. (pp. 662–663)

The same can be said for the new political and social ideas that at length broke down an ideology that had been highly effective at justifying in ethical terms the distribution of large slices to overlords.

Why, then, a change in a system so profitable for the elite? Ringmar (2007 Ringmar, E. (2007). Why Europe was first: Social change and economic growth in Europe and East Asia 1500–2050. London: Anthem. [Google Scholar], pp. 72, 178, 286) gets it right when he speaks of public opinion, which was a late and contingent development in Europe, and to which he recurs frequently. The oldest newspaper still publishing in Europe is a Swedish one of 1645, Post- och Inrikes Tidningar (Foreign and Domestic Times), and the first daily one in England dates to 1702. Benjamin Franklin’s older brother James quickly imitated in Boston in 1721 the idea of a newspaper and became, with the active help of adolescent Ben, a thorn in the side of the authorities. That is, the institutions that mattered the most were not the ‘incentives’ beloved of the economists, such as patents (which have been shown to be insignificant, and anyway have been universal, as state-granted monopolies, from the first formation of states) or property rights (which were established in China and India and the Ottoman Empire, often much earlier than in Europe; and after all the Roman law was clear on property). The important ‘institutions’ were ideas, words, rhetoric and ideology. And these did change on the eve of the Great Enrichment. What changed circa 1700 was a climate of persuasion, which led promptly to the amazing reflection, entrepreneurship and pluralism called the modern world.

It is not always true, as Ringmar (2007 Ringmar, E. (2007). Why Europe was first: Social change and economic growth in Europe and East Asia 1500–2050. London: Anthem. [Google Scholar], p. 37) claims at one point that ‘institutions are best explained in terms of the path through which they developed’. He contradicts himself on the page previous and there speaks truth: often ‘the institutions develop first and the needs come only later’. It is not the case for example that the origins of English betterment, if not of individualism, are usefully traced to early medieval times. It is not the case that, say, English common law was essential for modernity. The historian David Le Bris (2013 Le Bris, D. (2013). Customary versus civil law within Old Regime France. Unpublished paper, KEDGE Business School. Retrieved from http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/52123/1/MPRA_paper_52123.pdf ) has shown that within France before the Revolution the French north was a common-law area, while the south was a civil-law area, but with little or no discernible differences in economic outcome during the next century. Places without such law, further, promptly developed alternatives, when the ideology turned, as it often did turn suddenly, in favour of betterment.

Why England? English rhetoric changed in favour of trade-tested progress. To illustrate the change in one of its aspects, it came out of the irritating successes of the Dutch. The successes of the Dutch Republic were startling to Europe. The Navigation Acts and the three Anglo-Dutch Wars by which in the middle of the seventeenth century England attempted in mercantilist, trade-is-war fashion to appropriate some Dutch success to itself were the beginning of a larger English project of emulating the burghers of Delft and Leiden. ‘The evidence for this widespread envy of Dutch enterprise’, wrote the historian Paul Kennedy (1976 Kennedy, P. M. (1976). The rise and fall of British naval mastery. New York: Scribner’s. [Google Scholar]), ‘is overwhelming’ (p. 59). Similarly, the historian Kadane (2008 Kadane, M. (2008). Success and self-loathing in the life of an eighteenth-century entrepreneur. In M. C. Jacob & C. Secretan (Eds.), The self-perception of early modern capitalists (pp. 253271). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.[CrossRef][Google Scholar]) recently accounted for the English shift toward bourgeois virtues by ‘various interactions with the Dutch’. The English at the time put it in doggerel: ‘Make war with Dutchmen, peace with Spain / Then we shall have money and trade again’. Yet it was not in fact warring against the Dutch that made England rich. Wars are expensive, and the Dutch admiraals Tromp and De Ruyter were no pushovers. It was imitating them that did the trick. It was ideas.

Thomas Sprat, in his History of the Royal Society of 1667, early in the project by some Englishmen of becoming Dutch, attacked such envy and interaction and imitation. He viewed it as commendable that ‘the merchants of England live honourably in foreign parts’ but ‘those of Holland meanly, minding their gain alone’. Shameful. ‘Ours … [have] in their behavior very much the gentility of the families from which so many of them are descended [note the sending of younger sons into trade]. The others when they are abroad show that they are only a race of plain citizens’, disgraceful cits. Perhaps it was, Sprat notes with annoyance, ‘one of the reasons they can so easily undersell us’ (1958 Sprat, T. (1958). The history of the Royal Society. J. Cope, & H. Jones (Eds.). St. Louis: Washington University Studies (original work published in 1667). [Google Scholar], p. 88). Possibly. John Dryden in 1672 took up Sprat’s complaint in similar words. In his play Amboyna; or, The Cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants the English merchant Beaumont addresses the Dutch: ‘For frugality in trading, we confess we cannot compare with you; for our merchants live like noblemen: your gentlemen, if you have any, live like boers’ (Dryden 1994 Dryden, J. (1994). The works of John Dryden: Vol. 12. In V. A. Dearing (Ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (original work published in 1672). [Google Scholar], 2.1.391–393). Yet Josiah Child (1668/1698, arguing against guild regulation of cloth, admired the Dutch on non-aristocratic, prudential grounds: ‘if we intend to have the trade of the world we must imitate the Dutch’ (pp. 148, 68). Better boers we.1010 The Swedish historian Erik Thomson has shown that the English were not the only Europeans startled by the economic success of the United Provinces and ready, with some reluctance, to imitate them (Thomson, 2005 Thomson, E. (2005). Swedish variations on Dutch commercial institutions, 1605–1655. Scandinavian Studies, 77, 331346.[Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]).View all notes

Ideas, not capital or institutions, made the modern world.

 

The complete article is here; http://www.tandfonline.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/doi/10.1080/03585522.2016.1152744.