IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Community is as community does

I have just finished grading some papers, etc…and so I have some reflections.

A lot of my students of international relations write about how the “international community” should do this or that.  At the same time they are well enough informed to know that this community is at best a hope and at worst a euphemism for something like “the loose coalition of the rich and powerful who more or less make the “rules” by assertion”.

There are actually a number of interesting issues here, not all of which I can discuss now; but here are a few points.  First, I think that the average person talks about the international community because the feeling is that it really ought to exist in a meaningful way.  There ought to be some collective entity on whose desk the “buck” stops.  While the power politics people would say the buck “really” stops on the desk of the strongest power or powers (usually the U.S. in our era); many can see that that is not really good enough.  We have numerous cases where the U.S., for reasons of pure national interest narrowly defined, simply doesn’t want the buck.  Or, as is more often the case the U.S. uses some derivative of the “international community” idea to suggest the buck should be shared by others.

OK..of course, one can also argue that the international community does have an objective existence, as reflected in those present at the U.N. or at global summits, when collective issues are discussed..well…collectively.  But there really should be more to “community” than that, shouldn’t there?  As far as I can tell, many people–particularly as they learn more about world affairs–seem to think so.

What can we conclude from this?  Well, it is sort of a glass half full or half empty situation.  On the one hand, I suspect there is not enough real “community” in operation often enough to really justify the term at the moment.  On the other hand, the increasingly strong feeling that it should be there and should be doing things in the human interest, is probably a very positive sign.  We might be justified in thinking it will continue to emerge and strengthen in what will be, overall, positives ways.   Or, put differently, I don’t think the “powers that be” can go on indefinitely “hijacking” the term for their own ends.  It is probably acquiring a real existence.

Again, these are just my current thoughts on the subject.  They may change (and probably will 🙂 )

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July 26, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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