Daniel W. Drezner

What to read today in political science [UPDATED]

The most important thing to read in political science today was not written by a plitical scientist.*  Instead, check out Christopher Beam’s Slate essay about how a standard politics story would read if written by someone who cares a lot more about structural factors in political life than bulls**t narratives the human element. There is ...

The most important thing to read in political science today was not written by a plitical scientist.*  Instead, check out Christopher Beam’s Slate essay about how a standard politics story would read if written by someone who cares a lot more about structural factors in political life than bulls**t narratives the human element.

There is already an IPE version of this kind of story, but I can’t find it.  I know a Financial Times reporter (or maybe it was The Onion) had something out there on the interwebs that writes up a standard G-8 meeting.  To update it for the G-20: 

Today the Group of Twenty Nations issued a series of meaningless exhortations which will be ignored as soon as the heads of government leave the summit city. 

President Barack Obama said, "it is critical to global stability that we agree on these vital economic issues of the day.  Unfortunately, because we all face serious domestic constraints during this global economic downturn, there’s not a chance in hell that we’ll be able to abide by these pledges." 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, standing next to Obama, gave the slightest of Gallic shrugs in an effort to draw the press corps’ attention to him. 

Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva dissented as well, arguing, "These words will have meaning for next year’s very important summit, which will be held in Brasilia, I hasten to add." 

The communique promised action on the Doha Round, financial regulation, redressing macroeconomic imbalances, and reapportioning power within the international financial institutions.  A prior, leaked draft of the communique also pledged greater efforts to create a global tax on the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns, as well a greater subsidies for Santa Claus.  Chinese premier Hu Jintao objected, however, arguing that the communique should stick to moderately unrealistic pronouncements and not edge over into complete and total fantasy. 

In light of this and this, readers should be able to replay this report for several years to come. 

UPDATE:  Hat tip to William Winecoff for finding Alan Beattie ‘s generic column on international institutions, which really does outshine my own feeble efforts: 

An ineffectual international organisation yesterday issued a stark warning about a situation it has absolutely no power to change, the latest in a series of self-serving interventions by toothless intergovernmental bodies.

“We are seriously concerned about this most serious outbreak of seriousness,” said the head of the institution, either a former minister from a developing country or a mid-level European or American bureaucrat. “This is a wake-up call to the world. They must take on board the vital message that my organisation exists.”

The director of the body, based in one of New York, Washington or an agreeable Western European city, was speaking at its annual conference, at which ministers from around the world gather to wring their hands impotently about the most fashionable issue of the day. The organisation has sought to justify its almost completely fruitless existence by joining its many fellow talking-shops in highlighting whatever crisis has recently gained most coverage in the global media.

“Governments around the world must come together to combat whatever this year’s worrying situation has turned out to be,” the director said. “It is not yet time to panic, but if it goes on much further without my institution gaining some credit for sounding off on the issue, we will be justified in labelling it a crisis.”

The organisation, whose existence the White House barely acknowledges and to which hardly any member government intends to give more money or extra powers, has long been fighting a war of attrition against its own irrelevance. By making a big deal out of the fact that the world’s most salient topical issue will be placed on its agenda and then issuing a largely derivative annual report on the subject, it hopes to convey the entirely erroneous impression that it has any influence whatsoever on the situation.

The intervention follows a resounding call to action in the communiqué of the Group of [number goes here] countries at their recent summit in a remote place no-one had previously heard of. The G[number goes here] meeting was preceded by the familiar interminable and inconclusive discussions about whether the G[number goes here] was sufficiently representative of the international community, or whether it should be expanded into a G[number plus 1, 2 or higher goes here] including China, India or any other scary emerging market country that attendees cared to name.

The story was given further padding by a study from an ambulance-chasing Washington think-tank, which warned that it would continue to convene media conference calls until its quixotic and politically suicidal plan to ameliorate whatever crisis was gathering had been given respectful though substantially undeserved attention.

*Unfortunately, that’s not an uncommon occurrence.   

The most important thing to read in political science today was not written by a plitical scientist.*  Instead, check out Christopher Beam’s Slate essay about how a standard politics story would read if written by someone who cares a lot more about structural factors in political life than bulls**t narratives the human element.

There is already an IPE version of this kind of story, but I can’t find it.  I know a Financial Times reporter (or maybe it was The Onion) had something out there on the interwebs that writes up a standard G-8 meeting.  To update it for the G-20: 

Today the Group of Twenty Nations issued a series of meaningless exhortations which will be ignored as soon as the heads of government leave the summit city. 

President Barack Obama said, "it is critical to global stability that we agree on these vital economic issues of the day.  Unfortunately, because we all face serious domestic constraints during this global economic downturn, there’s not a chance in hell that we’ll be able to abide by these pledges." 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, standing next to Obama, gave the slightest of Gallic shrugs in an effort to draw the press corps’ attention to him. 

Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva dissented as well, arguing, "These words will have meaning for next year’s very important summit, which will be held in Brasilia, I hasten to add." 

The communique promised action on the Doha Round, financial regulation, redressing macroeconomic imbalances, and reapportioning power within the international financial institutions.  A prior, leaked draft of the communique also pledged greater efforts to create a global tax on the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns, as well a greater subsidies for Santa Claus.  Chinese premier Hu Jintao objected, however, arguing that the communique should stick to moderately unrealistic pronouncements and not edge over into complete and total fantasy. 

In light of this and this, readers should be able to replay this report for several years to come. 

UPDATE:  Hat tip to William Winecoff for finding Alan Beattie ‘s generic column on international institutions, which really does outshine my own feeble efforts: 

An ineffectual international organisation yesterday issued a stark warning about a situation it has absolutely no power to change, the latest in a series of self-serving interventions by toothless intergovernmental bodies.

“We are seriously concerned about this most serious outbreak of seriousness,” said the head of the institution, either a former minister from a developing country or a mid-level European or American bureaucrat. “This is a wake-up call to the world. They must take on board the vital message that my organisation exists.”

The director of the body, based in one of New York, Washington or an agreeable Western European city, was speaking at its annual conference, at which ministers from around the world gather to wring their hands impotently about the most fashionable issue of the day. The organisation has sought to justify its almost completely fruitless existence by joining its many fellow talking-shops in highlighting whatever crisis has recently gained most coverage in the global media.

“Governments around the world must come together to combat whatever this year’s worrying situation has turned out to be,” the director said. “It is not yet time to panic, but if it goes on much further without my institution gaining some credit for sounding off on the issue, we will be justified in labelling it a crisis.”

The organisation, whose existence the White House barely acknowledges and to which hardly any member government intends to give more money or extra powers, has long been fighting a war of attrition against its own irrelevance. By making a big deal out of the fact that the world’s most salient topical issue will be placed on its agenda and then issuing a largely derivative annual report on the subject, it hopes to convey the entirely erroneous impression that it has any influence whatsoever on the situation.

The intervention follows a resounding call to action in the communiqué of the Group of [number goes here] countries at their recent summit in a remote place no-one had previously heard of. The G[number goes here] meeting was preceded by the familiar interminable and inconclusive discussions about whether the G[number goes here] was sufficiently representative of the international community, or whether it should be expanded into a G[number plus 1, 2 or higher goes here] including China, India or any other scary emerging market country that attendees cared to name.

The story was given further padding by a study from an ambulance-chasing Washington think-tank, which warned that it would continue to convene media conference calls until its quixotic and politically suicidal plan to ameliorate whatever crisis was gathering had been given respectful though substantially undeserved attention.

*Unfortunately, that’s not an uncommon occurrence.   

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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