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Politics 212: International Relations – 2019 Summer Online

Week 1 – July 2 – Introduction to Online Learning, and A Peek Ahead

(click here to return to our course’s home page)

These are the materials for Week 1, beginning July 2.  If you haven’t already, please begin with our notes on Blackboard and with our course home page

This first week we introduce a couple of things:  questions about online learning, and some background – warm-up material, really – on international relations

It’s a holiday week and I know many of you will have competing obligations this week.  We’ll expect full “presence” beginning next week, but just essays, not replies to classmates, this week

Part 1 – Online Learning

We start with a video about how the Internet is changing how we do political science and international relations.  Watch this eight-minute video.  This video is now several years old – what has changed since she first shared this?

The second video is two professors (including me) and two online students, investigating what online students want.  You don’t need to watch the whole hour – you can just watch a few minutes to see who I am, if you are interested.  You should  read the article in EduCause and the PowerPoint that come from the video.

The third video is part of a conference on online learning.  It has me (again – but for just five minutes) talking about an online learning method called MOOCs – massive open online courses.  These are online courses with thousands of students – we have 10 or so in our class (which is actually a nice size for this kind of course).   If you click here it will take you to the five minutes I want you to watch – you do not need to watch the whole hour.  But watching the five minutes will offer you some insight on how I am approaching our course.

Finally, take a look at Clay Shirky,  “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World” (2010) – (watch at least first seven minutes)

Part 2 – International Relations?

(And yes, for reasons we’ll explore, the term “international relations” is a bit outdated)  

Intro to International Relations

Let’s start with a couple of easy articles that really give a sense of some of the basics of IR.  Is the world a world of realism – states in anarchy, each seeking merely its own survival and security?  Or is it something more like globalism (or liberalism, if we use that word carefully), where sometimes states compete for power but other times they decide that cooperation for things other than power is in their interest? Or is the world best characterized as some flavor of Marxist, with oppressors and oppressed – capital states and labor states (North and South? White and not?)?  Finally, in a more recent approach to IR, is the world constructivist, made up of identities and ideas and interests other than simple power?

We’ll look at a couple of other approaches later.  But for now, let’s ask ourselves – do we see the world as realist, liberal, marxist, or constructivist?

Let’s begin with these short articles, in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.  You can access these articles when you subscribe – choose the student rate of $20 per year for full online access to foreignaffairs.com (or splurge for $26 and get the print edition as well as online access).

These articles are all available here once you’ve subscribed. We’ll get into each of these – and some other approaches – more deeply, but these will serve as good introductions.

Workers set up a bronze sculpture of Karl Marx in his hometown Trier, Germany, April 13, 2018.

Marxist World

Robin Varghese

Ok, your turn

Each week you’ll be asked to respond to one or more prompts here at the bottom of the page.  Please use your real first name and first initial of your last name.  The first time your post, it won’t appear until I approve it – use your american.edu email address – I will see it but it will not appear anywhere for others to see.  After your first post is approved, your subsequent posts (in future weeks) should appear immediately.  In most weeks, you will also reply to your classmates’ posts – we will not do that this week.

Before you write, please be sure to review What Makes a Good Post

By Sunday, July 7, 9 pm Washington, D.C. time, please answer one or more of the prompts in approximately 400-500 words (total) in the What do you think? box, below.

1 – What was interesting to you from the Charli Carpenter video or other online learning items – what struck you as important, surprising, wrong, or something else?  Probably about 150-200 words

2 – What were two things that you heard or read in the Foreign Affairs articles materials above that you didn’t already know – what struck you as new, important, insightful, oversimplified, strange, surprising, or something else?  Probably about 200-300 words.

Before you write, please be sure to review What Makes a Good Post

Ok, let’s have fun (keep scrolling down)


10 Replies to “212-ir-2019-july2”

  1. Yes, this is where you write your essays –

    It’s useful to have a one-line intro to your posts – essays or essayettes, really – like this one does, to help orient readers. You might (re-)write that one line at the top of your post – your “title”, if you will – after you have completed writing your essay, so it most accurately suggests to the readers what to look forward to.

    It’s also helpful if you use regular paragraphs with line breaks or paragraph breaks, like this example. It will help you organize your own thoughts, and again it’s useful visually and logically for the reader.

    Yes, I’m ests11, long story, but you should be your initials or your first name and last initial or something equally easy for me to recognize, please. And yes, your posts will appear timestamped Zulu time, that’s fine

    Ok, everyone – think, reflect, reconsider, then write – make us think – make us smarter – challenge us and challenge yourself…. Go!

  2. 1.) Dr. Charli Carpenter talks about the development of the International Relations community in relation to the increasing use of the Web. One thing she mentioned that I found particularly interesting was how to use of the internet can be used for an activist platform. The example she used was KONY 2012, which of course now is a little outdated. While having the internet at our fingertips is a great advancement, we must remember how dangerous this can also be. If people can spread the truth fast to expose what is really happening, the same can be said for “fake news.” If anything, I think this is more significant today than ever before simply due to the polarization of our nation. Some may say that the Trump Administration is doing something that may not be entirely true if this becomes trending on twitter, this is now a global issue that changes the world view on our country. Additionally, in relation to “negative” activism, you also have those who have developed online platforms to form terrorist groups – internationally and domestic. Activism can be a very powerful thing but it is important for us to remember that evil still exists and for every technological advancement we make to help positive change, we also make those advancements available to those that want to change for the worst.

    2.) My knowledge of world economics is definitely something that needs some help. However, while reading the article “Realist World” by Stephen Kotkin, I couldn’t help but think that the explanation of the way the U.S. and China have gained their economic power was oversimplified. A huge part of the reason the U.S. is an economic superpower is due to the fact that we are a democracy that supports capitalism. China is a communist society and I don’t think the article explained well why they will continue to grow. The article explained how globalization creates wealth which would make sense, but it also talked about the benefit of free trade and free society which I think is definitely a lot more regulated in China than the article made it out to be. The second thing that caught my attention early on was paragraph 2 of “Liberal World” by Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry. The article starts off by discussing the worrisome rise of illiberal forces, while I also agree this is concerning, I couldn’t help but think this is just something that happens in cycles. Think about World War II. I think it would have been easy to say that liberalism was on its death bed then, but if anything the ending of World War II led to more liberal leaders/societies. While this political-philosophical school has been called into question many times, it is something that has always existed in some sense. I feel as if this article was almost repetitive and self- explanatory, as it opened it saying liberalism is on its way out then sat on the fence going back and forth between the longevity of it.

  3. Sophia Czerniecki – so much good here –

    (and thanks for being the first to post 🙂

    You raise great questions about social media being used for good and for the Dark Side… I’d forgotten about Kony 2012 – but you’re right that it could be used to raise a zillion dollars for ALS research by getting people to post clips of ice-bucket dumping at the exact same time (2014) it was being used to raise money and support for ISIS. A candidate can use it to announce they are running for president, to share clips or comments on the news of the day, and to fundraiser small amounts from millions of people – and that same candidate can be targeted by “fake news” coming from Macedonian truants https://www.wired.com/2017/02/veles-macedonia-fake-news/

    How China Got Rich is a complicated story that people debate, but it has at least two parts – a government steering a lot of the economy, choosing winners and losers, and directing the attention of the country not to military gains or personal freedoms or environmental stewardship, but to economic gains for the good (stability) of the country (and thereby for the benefit of the elites that run the party) – and that government after 1979 and more so after 1989 began using some elements of market economics to permit the creation of private wealth – not for individual freedom’s sake, but again for the best interests of the country (and party). Some combination of these two – government direction and [limited] market economics – has fueled China’s now 40-year economic boom. Yes, the US came to its wealth with some very different emphases.

    And I especially like your question about Liberalism and whether liberalism and democracy are failing, falling out of vogue, or something else. You might have read somewhere that in the depths of the Great Depression even FDR is said to have nearly given up on market economics and with that an important element of American democracy…. and yet the US emerged eventually from that too….

  4. 1) Each time I engage in thought or discussion of political importance the only thing on my mind is the business of The People, and so I must depart from Dr. Carpenter’s speaking to greater access for Academics because in the present day I find her points to be more relevant to how The People have put out their ideas than how Academics have. I truly believe that the Internet will be what the historians credit with the taking again of political power out of the hands of the elite and into those of The People, for I cannot place my faith in the Mainstream or Alternative medias, and it is because of the plethora of access to ideas that the Internet provides us as well as the platfroms for The People to put out their own, as Dr. Carpenter speaks to. Having now advanced from blogs to more sophistacted versions of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, the world is exposed to the all-encompassing nature of human ideas: ideas which motivate justice and virtue in government, but also ideas promulgated by manipulation and ill-hearts. And so, while there are unavoidable threats to virtuous politics because of the Internet, I am in complete agreement with Dr. Carpenter that the Good we must remain focused on—as I’m interpreting her intention to be due to how she laid out her observation—is that of unadultered access to countless outlets for the ideas of Man to be expressed. The reality, as we have seen in political movements and revolutions, is that the international affect on politics is profound and dynamic, as people are able to inspire one other quickly and through a high volume of content because of the lack of communicative barriers. The dangers this has caused, like the Russian disinfromation campaign in our 2016 Presidental election, are, however, something we must be careful in reacting to because when it comes to the exchange and promotion of ideas by The People, we can’t just drink the milk, we have to buy the whole cow. If a government sours the milk, we must be careful that we don’t slaughter the cow.

    2) In the article “Realist World” I find myself in agreement with Ms. Czerniecki that the economic powers of China were far too simplified. The article read as though Kotkin himself didn’t even accept that which he was preaching: that the United States had not taken China too seriously. A Merchantilist economy like that of China, while highly prone to burst due to its being a bubble, does not seem to be one in even remote danger of reaching stagnation for the express reason that China has had success in marketing their form of government to African countries, as we have seen through such nations self-sacrficing themselves for quick return on China’s One Belt One Road initiative. I found the lack of exploration into this point worrying. In the article “Marxist World” I found it insulting remarkable the attitude of Varghese when they wrote “[Marx] predicted that capitalism’s internal logic would over time lead to rising inequality, chronic unemployment and underemployment, stagnant wages, the dominance of large, powerful firms, and the creation of an entrenched elite whose power would act as a barrier to social progress.”—as if no one who would read their article has ever read The Communist Manifesto. I have read the Communist Manifesto three times, for simply the sake of understanding Marx, and what is most seared into my memory is the list of requirements demanded of the People to the Government his political structure demanded: in short, a total submission of the People’s economic mobility to a select few elite who were designated by the Communist elite to, as Varghese writes, create “an entrenched elite whose power would act as a barrier to social progress.” The arrogance just whafs over you like an obnoxious cologone.

    1. Welcome, Francisco Flores-Pourrat – your passion is contagious –

      As someone with one-foot in the academy, let me offer that scholars are people too…. Some of course are elites, but increasingly it is a collection of professionally-credentialed people who care deeply about working with young adults but have none of the professional security that K-12 public school teachers or traditional professors have. And elites or not, their profession as political scientists is to look at the world critically and share what they see. People such as Thomas Pliketty (a new look at the importance of economic left), Samuel Huntington (a post-Cold War look at the kind of conflicts that come in a post-“conflicts between states” era), and Russell Kirk and Leo Strauss before them were academics whose own scholarship influenced politics, policymakers, and The People.

      Your caveats about Web 2.0 are important. How do we properly distinguish between credible, serious people and those who are not credible, not serious, or specifically malevolent? We have to pay special attention to this, yes –

      I like too that your read Foreign Affairs critically – it’s an invaluable resource but one to be engaged, not simply received. You skip ahead a few weeks to correctly identify that realism and mercantilism go together – in China today as in Britain in its heyday. Hamilton calls for it by his young nation, as List does. China’s unique success has come in part by its ability to exploit some of the most economically profitable aspects of [limited] market freedoms and a global market as tools in its larger mercantilist strategy.

      Great –

  5. As more and more technological advancements become commonplace in not only our learning environments, but also our world, I think that it is critical to examine the effects that technology is having within the educational field. First, I think that Carpenter does a very skilled job of bringing some of the positive aspects of platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to light. While there are some negative aspects, I think that technology has been increasingly helping the world connect and advance. There are more resources available to students and professors for research and a much larger community to consult with. “Relations” involves people and a connection between them. These platforms have enabled students to learn and acquire materials from all over the world and discuss topics, whether they be controversial or not, with many different people, who all bring new perspectives. However, there are also negative concepts to a more accessible database; one being the quality of the data being used. While the internet is a fantastic tool for research it is also filled with unedited, false information. For many students, they have to research topics that they know little about, so deciphering whether the information is false or not can be challenging. I also found the video that discussed “MOOCs” to be very interesting. Personally, I believe that teachers in a classroom setting could learn valuable lessons from MOOCs. Having specific times when items are due, a very concise and clear syllabus, and multiple different medias to explain concepts are all very useful tools to help students in their academic careers.
    The Foreign Affairs article, Realist World was a very interesting read that brought many important questions to light. China and the United States have a very complex and intricate relationship that is only going to continually change and become more complicated. China and the United States both depend on one another (especially in terms of economics and trade), yet I would still not consider the United States and China to be allies in all senses of the word. First, with China’s Communist government, and our Democratic beliefs, there is already a fundamental disconnect between the two nations. I think that it is very important to closely monitor the United States and China’s relationship with one another, because as the article stated, China is only gaining more power. I would be interested to learn more about the dynamics between the two countries and what other political theorists predict for the future.

  6. I apologize for the late submission, work held me later than expected tonight.

    I found the Foreign Affairs article on the Liberal Worldview pretty interesting so I’ll focus on that for my response. My focus is primarily on the ideological conflict and the viability of the liberal world order in view of this conflict.

    2. The first thing that I found important in the Foreign Affairs article on the Liberal Worldview was the mention of the so-called “end of history” and the return of ideological rivalry. As the article states, ideological rivalry has returned, specifically with China and due to the flawed logic of the end of history assertion, I assess that we are not prepared for this mode of conflict. The United States has allowed many of its soft power tools to wither after the Cold War and we are now facing two determined adversaries. We face a CCP that uses various soft power tools and influence operations in a strategically coordinated and aggressive fashion. Additionally, although China and the CCP are the long term strategic threat, we also face an emboldened Russian government that seeks to discredit liberal values and democratic systems through hybrid warfare and influence operations. Acknowledging the fact that we face an ideological struggle is an important step in addressing the threat.

    The second thing I found interesting in this article was the optimistic view of liberalism in this ideological struggle. To a degree, I share this optimistic view however, in the face of a new ideological conflict the U.S. has taken few (if any) concrete steps to prepare to fight an ideological conflict, which is very concerning. I assess that this is partially connected to the “end of history” idea but the obscurity and blurred lines that define 21st century conflict play a role too. During pervious ideological conflicts, there has been a well defined enemy which meant efforts could be coordinated. However, although we have definined Russia and China as competitors, it is harder to define where and how we should compete with them due to some of the modes of competition and conflict they employ.

  7. From RICHARD V. –

    1. The clear and concise point Dr. Charli Carpenter makes is that the world has been forever transformed with the expansion of citizen based social media. Social media sites have given millions of people from around the globe the ability to communicate with each other and share ideas, metaphorically breaking the boundaries of boarders and allowing our thoughts to travel across our now transnational world. It is interesting to see how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs have been a release for political frustration, as well as new ideas and standards for political policy. The internet, as a global think-tank assists citizens in being able to hold not only their own government accountable, but also others. Perhaps the best example in Dr. Carpenter’s video is the Arab Spring. The civil unrest of the Arab Spring in order to gain better living standards, was partially fueled by the spreading of thoughts across social media platforms. We now can transmit ideologies, news, and cultural values and be heard, because Social media and the internet broadens the distance of our voice, thoughts, and ideas and can put them on a global pedestal. With the rise of the internet the chances that ordinary citizens thoughts get heard increases drastically, giving governments and politicians incentives to listen to the will of the people.

    2. One of the things that I read that I never really thought much about is tribalism. The part on tribalism in the “Tribal World” article by Amy Chua, made me really evaluate political polarization. Prior to reading this article, I was not aware just how powerful tribalism can be. It has shown me how important winning is for both members of the left and right and how sometimes our competitive natures put our ideology above self and national prosperity. In recent years, more American’s have veered further away from the center and have either become more liberal or more conservative and have seemed to grow disdain for each other and for moderation. Tribalism explains that it is this divide and competition to feel good which keeps us apart, because rather than debate, talk, or compromise, we want our side to win regardless of whether it is positive or negative for us or our country. It has explained to me why things such as nationalism, ethnicity, and ideology are winning issues for candidates around the world. The second thing I was unaware of that caught my attention was in the article, “Realist World”, by Stephen Kotkin. It was about how China is attempting to steer Austrailia, Europe, and other nations away from its opposition, such as the United States. I felt the article clearly posed the most important question on this subject, which is whether Chinese influence, economic opportunity, and trade can compete or triumph above the existing United States’ dominance and influence internationally? It is interesting because the United States has long been a model of economic success, democracy, and human rights for other countries and it seems hard for an authoritarian government like China to grab the torch and be the world’s largest influence.

  8. From JAIME A. –

    1-In this video Dr. Charlie Carpenter talks about how the IR profession has developed with the appearance of social media. One important aspect about this presentation that I found interesting was when she mentioned the way in which the IR profession has changed as a hole, first because the way in which people work with each other, and second because the way in which socio-political movements are studied nowadays with the help of social media. The hierarchies are flattening with social media, and the work is more dynamic, attractive and fun in general. The boundaries between professional and personal, she says, are getting blurred, since now we share our political views, our hobbies, our families, and everyone has access to that information. In the other hand, we have the way in which IR institutions and particulars study political movements, with the appearance of social media we have a detailed, quantifiable, text record of how people reacted to a certain political movement, this is priceless, as this gives the IR people a lot more tools to study international political movements, and foresee the way in which people will react in the future. 192 palabras

    2- What struck me as important was that the future of the coming century will be largely determined by how China and United States are able to manage their power resources. It is very important because I think that these are the fundamentals of international relations nowadays, the whole Asian region is compromised by North Korea because China is under its protection, and the way in which the United States manages the North Korean problem while managing China will determine the future of the years to come. One thing that I didn’t know and that I read on the Tribal World article, was how important the human tribal instinct can be to understand politics even nowadays, studies confirm that group identity can produce physical sensations of satisfaction. And other studies show that our rewards center can activate when we see members of a rival tribe failing. This can easily be related to how we understand politics nowadays as people tend to identify themselves with groups more: Vegans, meat eaters, feminists, Socialists, libertarians, Capitalists, Communists, etc… This matches with the conception that people find physically rewarding the act of being part of a group that they can identify with, and we see how hostile some groups can be to others, and how much joy some find in the suffering of others. A very good example is the presidential elections, some find more joy in seeing the other ‘tribe’ fail, and suffer, that in the fact that they won the election.
    I think there was an oversimplification in the Marx article, when the author states that Marxism has never been implemented in Capitalist countries. I think it is important to note, that Marxism was extremely popular even inside the Capitalist countries during the 20th century, but it was the power in many cases that destroyed Marxism, that appeared in Europe mainly as a movement of reaction against fascism.

  9. 1) I have certain concerns about the rise in power social media and tech companies have over a nation’s culture and knowledge about certain subjects, as well as the governments across the globe ability to control and compel another person speech and beliefs. For the past few months social media networks major tech companies such as Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter have been silencing conservative pundits from their websites for “hate speech”. Yet according to the United States Supreme Court speech is a right reserved to everyone and there is no legal definition of “hate speech”. This admittedly is a problem I have no idea how to solve. I am not a fan of the certain people who have been banned from Twitter such as Alex Jones, Milo Yinnapolis, ect. Twitter and Facebook are private companies and have every right to decide who should be allowed access to their website. Yet it is concerning that these companies have a clear political bias against conservatives. While Alex Jones and Milo have been removed raging Anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan is allowed to keep his social media profile as well as organizations such as Hamas and ANTIFA. All these organizations and individuals have engaged in Facebook and Twitters definition of “hate speech” yet remain on their platforms. Internationally people are being arrested for their speech on Facebook and Twitter. In the UK a Catholic woman was arrested for misgendering someone online. The defendant in the alleged crime is Catholic and believes people cannot change their gender. Asking her to go along with misgendering guidelines on social media and UK laws against misgendering is against her religion. This isn’t a singular phenomenon happening across Europe, in the United Kingdom according to the Register 2,500 people in 2016 were arrested for “offensive speech” online. Twitter and Facebook also regularly block or suspend people from their platforms for misgendering. A clear ideological bias against conservatives that forces and compels their speech. Recently a Vox journalist Carlos Maza attempted to get social and tech companies to remove Steven Crowder for his speech on his channel on YouTube. Maza was partially successful having demonetized Crowders entire YouTube channel and forcing YouTube to remove “hateful content”. The problem with this move is now educational videos about Nazi’s and other dangerous ideologies and organizations have also been removed from YouTube. I once again state I have no idea how to solve these problems. Companies should be allowed to run their platforms as they see fit. However, the massive level of influence and control these companies have over people’s rights to communicate with their common man is highly concerning. It even more concerning that governments will use these sites to enforce and compel another person’s speech. Even if the government demands they conform against their religious beliefs.





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