Owen Harries Boyer Lectures on Radio National

How to Avoid the Parochialism of the Present

Globalisation and International Relations are two important fields for individuals to engage with at this present time given the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the US as the world’s only hegemon. Globalisation is an vital field to comprehend, not simply because of the actualities of globalisation (which are themselves at times difficult to understand) but because the field has caused much equivocation. It is a term broad enough (similar to the term ‘terrorism’) to encompass a range of activities. But sometimes partisan political beliefs, adversarial convictions, and attenuated world views prevent individuals from pursing the path of truth and honesty in research but instead use a somewhat nebulous and misunderstood term to conceal their own partisan beliefs.

Own Harries is not one of these people. His lectures on Radio National for the Boyer series are honest, well balanced, considered, and well historicised. He embeds ‘globalisation’ within the realist school of international relations and realist history, both of which are impossible to dismiss in any conversation that claims to engage with ‘the global’.

His major gaps in discussing the global political typography are that he fails to mention Green politics and environmentalism, corporate globalisation and the limits to consumerism: All of these forces promise to become major political entities in shaping global political consciousness.

I will list some of the major points that he uses to schematise the global political economy:

The US is in a unique position at the moment as the only global hegemon. Before the second world war there were many (which is the usual state of affairs), then there were two during the cold war, then there was only one. The US has an unwritten script and this was not tested until the terrorist attacks of S11 2001.

He claims that the most important policy document to be produced by the US (in terms of foreign affairs and since the Truman Doctrine of 1947) is The National Security Strategy of the United States of America: This sets out how the United States is to use its hegemonic position: http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.pdf

Harries makes a realist attack on the Utopia School of globalisation (about time). He quotes that Utopia is always one of the world greatest countries.

He makes the contentious point that countries are no more economically integrated at the end of the 20th Centuray as the were at the start of the 20th Century. This refutes the Manual Castells ‘network society’ view of the global economy.

Harries discusses the term ‘democracy’ and discusses how this world is now used is a superficial manner. He makes the distinction between liberal democracies, democracies, liberalism and illiberal democracies. He states that all democracies are different and it is not a system that can work with a great deal of poverty or without liberalism.

In his ‘challenges’ lecture he discusses the enormous risks being taken by China and Europe and how both these powers could drastically influence the world order. He concludes that perhaps some of the greatest challenges posed to the US may be the US itself, especially considering the reckless nature of its government and the collapse of the institutions that moderate the individual. He discussed the changing demography of Europe, in terms of an ageing and falling population, and how this is exactly the opposite in the US and could pose internal challenges for both societies.