The Cosmopolitan Circumstance of Realism

October 14, 2009 at 3:40 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

To continue the topic on geography, we’ll discuss how realism and idealism differ in geographic circumstance, how tolerance and relativism are more prevalent in some areas, and how the tendency for absolutes and proselytism abounds in others.

Asians possess a circular concept of history, Westerners possess a linear one.

Asians possess a cyclical concept of history, Westerners possess a linear one.

The nature of secular statehood, is found quite early on when Christians refused to acknowledge the divinity of the Roman polytheistic emperor. As Christian kings emerged throughout the former Roman Empire, the already established church recognised – in the west – only the pope as a “messenger” from the now one god.

As opposed to the other faiths where the prince led the theological revolutions, the Christians inherited the Jewish legacy of a transnational faith. While the Jews resorted to such a solution in order to preserve their national culture whilst in exile, the Christians unwittingly or otherwise, used this philosophical idiosyncrasy to effectively subvert the Roman Empire. The Jewish secretive and endogamic liturgy had been designed to outlast the secular power so that the minority’s culture could be preserved. The Christians however, perverted this purpose by adopting Greek and later on Latin as liturgical languages – instead of Hebrew – and in effect expanding the methodology of a recluse and transnational faith to entire sections of the Hellenic and Latin majorities – mainstream ethnicity of the Empire.

Thus the birth of the modern western secular separation of church and state that was consolidated in 1648, has its roots in antiquity, with the promiscuity between incompatible structural faiths. The monotheism of the Jewish protectorate of the Roman Empire was not conceived as an imperial and all encompassing system and the proof that it was badly adapted remains the perpetual fragmentation of the so called Respublica Christiana. In other words, a less tolerant and more absolutist doctrine, deriving from an outcast, relatively marginal and peripheral people, contaminated a tolerant and pragmatic polity contributing to its downfall.

If one were to bear in mind the history of Political-Realism, the classic authors that inspired this modern school of thought, one would clearly realise that they all become pragmatic out of necessity and not through some gratuitous gospel of good intentions. Concurrently, Machiavelli, Bismarck, Morgenthau or Kissinger, were all working at the centre of their respective geopolitical worlds when they realised that only a pragmatic approach that separated morals from politics and emphasised machtpolitik, could ensure their respective governments success.

The idealists originate in a different spectrum. For it was the Scottish liberal school that gave birth to some of the most influential idealist classical authors that are revered today such as Smith or Hume, and lest we forget, Scotland was much more pervasive in religious colonisation of America than England.  The jihadists for example, find their ideological justification in the Salafi doctrine, of which the Saudi Wahhabi branch is a particular extremist source. Where did the Wahhabis come from, in the Arabian peninsula? Not from the southeast where the merchants were based, but rather from the central and northeastern deserts near the Iraqi border, and also one of the most isolated areas of the Mashrek. Similarly, English philosophers have differed from Scottish ones in terms of idealism. Granted that we’ll find pragmatists and idealists everywhere but it is a constant of international politics that the least cosmopolitan are the ones who argue for more unilateral and moral solutions.

Isn’t it a marvellous quirk of events, that the Neocons and the militant Salafi – both with puritan and iconoclastic philosophical origins – brewed a conflict against each other? Is it perhaps a coincidence that the states that most easily integrated the Coalition of the Willing in 2003 and trusted US arguments, were also peripheral – east and central European states also did but their reasoning had something of a russophobe flavour to it – European states?

In fact, the most atlanticist sentiment is today found in Scandinavia, the British isles, the low countries and the Iberian peninsula – the most sceptical about atlanticism being located in continental Europe. Incidentally, these regions are also the most exceptionalist: evangelical-Lutheranism in Scandinavia, Anglicans in England, Presbyterians in Scotland, very conservative Catholics in Ireland and the Iberian peninsula. The Porvoo Communion for example, clearly separates these regions from continental Protestantism. Likewise, Catholicism in Spain is a patriotic value (perhaps we could include Italy) which is in great contrast with continental Europe.

It is pertinent to ascertain what is peripheral and what is central. The Arabian peninsula is globally central but it is a peninsula. If one adds deserts to the equation, its centrality diminishes. Likewise, the British Isles have been an integral part of European geopolitics for millennia but they are isles. Scotland and Switzerland are dynamic and very commercial but they remain topographically more distant than other regions, to the centre of Europe. The Americas are a continent and the US are in many ways the centre of the world. That does not prevent the Americas from being an isolated continent.

It is not a coincidence for example that the providential strong men that emerge and carry out universalist doctrines, come very often from the periphery of the polity in question. It happened with Napoleon (Corsica) as it happened with Hitler (Bavarian-Austrian border) or Trotsky (Ukrainian Crimea).

These constants serve as a reminder: the fringes do not argue for relativism and tolerance because they do not know the need, their historical experience is one of self involvement and based on an exceptionalist and often messianic narrative.

Realists are the by-product of cosmopolitism, of the need to tolerate in order to prosper, of the application of scientific methods in spite of the established political correctness and morality.


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2 Comments

  1. Archangels in America – America’s Realists’ Crisis of Conscience « The Westphalian Post said,

    […] find Realists. They are the essence of diplomacy, with their obsession for national interest and little appetite for the values of whatever may be the ideological soup du jour. Unfortunately they are also few: be […]

  2. M. Silva said,

    Geert Hofstede
    http://www.fsa.ulaval.ca/personnel/vernag/EH/F/cause/lectures/hofstede.doc.html#RTFToC12

    Content :

    THE COUNTRIES SURVEYED WITH THE HERMES QUESTIONNARE AND THE LANGUAGES USED
    POWER DISTANCE INDEX ( PDI) VALUES
    ANTECEDENTS AND CONSEQUENTS OF 4 CONCEPTS AS MEASURED AMONG MALE STUDENTS
    A SUMMARY OF CONNOTATIONS OF POWER DISTANCE INDEX DIFFERENCES
    THE POWER DISTANCE SOCIETAL NORM
    ORIGINS OF POWER DISTANCE NORM
    CONSEQUENCES OF NATIONAL POWER DISTANCE INDEX DIFFERENCES
    COUNTRY UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE INDEX (UAI)
    CONNOTATIONS OF UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE INDEX DIFFERENCES
    ORIGINS OF NATIONAL UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE INDEX DIFFERENCES
    CONSEQUENCES OF NATIONAL UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE INDEX DIFFERENCES
    COUNTRY INDIVIDUALISM INDEX (IDV)
    CONNOTATIONS OF INDIVIDUALISM INDEX DIFFERENCES
    THE INDIVIDUALISM SOCIETAL NORM
    CONSEQUENCES OF NATIONAL INDIVIDUALISM INDEX DIFFERENCES
    ORIGINS OF NATIONAL INDIVIDUALISM INDEX DIFFERENCES
    COUNTRY MASCULINITY INDEX
    SUMMARY OF CONNOTATIONS OF MASCULINITV INDEX DIFFERENCES
    ORIGINS OF NATIONAL MASCULINITY INDEX DIFFERENCES
    CONSEQUENCES OF NATIONAL MASCULINITY INDEX DIFFERENCES
    CONNOTATIONS OF THE 4 COMBINATIONS OF POWER DISTANCE AND UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE LEVELS

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