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Why It’s Worth Reading the Austrian International Cultural Policy Concept

May 27, 2015

Austria has recently issued a new version of its Auslandskulturkonzept.   I haven’t worked through previous versions of this document and from a quick look at the 2011 version I can’t see that much change (previous versions are here) but I thought I’d flag it for two reasons, firstly, it strikes me as a succinct and typical representation of how a small-medium continental European country approaches the outreach to foreign publics in a cultural mode, secondly, there’s an English version and it struck me that it would be a useful example for teaching.

European cultural relations concepts take for granted nations as cultures as a result the concept of culture is pretty fluid – it includes the arts, sciences, religion and view of the world. Implicitly cultural representation is also national representation. There’s an emphasis on dialogue but at the same time a concern to project the image of Austria. Politics creeps in via a commitment to ‘building trust and securing peace’ through intercultural and interreligious dialogue.

The concept with the minister’s foreword totals five pages but the annexes are useful in that they lay out the different elements of the Austrian cultural network; 80 embassies, 29 Cultural Fora, 64 Austria Libraries (collections of resources in foreign universities) and eight Austrian Institutes (which provide language teaching). Much of this representation, as is typical of European states, is in the neighbouring countries plus major capitals. The concept also draws attention to the possibilities of cooperation with Austrian Trade Centres, the Tourist Office, Austrian Centres in foreign universities, foreign representation of the federal provinces, the development organization and foreign Austrian associations – there’s a lot more to the foreign representation of modern states than embassies.   There’s also a list of methods that can be employed by the different types of representation.

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Ask Max Weber: What’s Wrong With British Foreign Policy

May 20, 2015

Britain’s lack of appetite for international affairs attracted some negative commentary during the election campaign, even the Iranians weight in calling for a more active foreign policy. Given that there’s a widespread belief in Iran that the British are as malevolent as the Americans this was a pretty big deal. The three main parties all had pretty much the same foreign policy in their manifestos so it wasn’t going to become a big issue.

So what’s going on? One explanation is that it’s to do with popular war weariness after Iraq and Afghanistan. Public opinion won’t wear an active foreign policy. Given that Chatham House’s regular survey continues to show 60% support for a significant international role I’m not convinced. In fact Max Weber offers an alternative explanation; it’s the elites that are the problem.

Weber’s argument goes like this.* Support for active foreign policies come from elite groups who gain material (arms contracts?) or other benefits (status, promotions) from success in the international sphere. The success generates prestige that serves as one mechanism to legitimize the elite. In this scheme nationalism is the tendency of the ruled to identify with the rulers – and the more successful they appear to be the more popular they are.

So how is British foreign policy going? Well we invaded Iraq and then having told everyone we knew what we’re doing discovered that we didn’t. The army decided to have another go and got us involved in Helmand, and made it clear that we still didn’t know what we were doing. David Cameron’s Libya mission has gone south and on Syria I’m not convinced that he was really trying that hard. The political, military and foreign policy elites have all been thoroughly deflated on foreign policy. The politicians don’t know anything about foreign affairs and are more interested in clinging to office. I get the impression that senior military, FCO, and intelligence people are anxious to pass the buck – which explains their enthusiasm for the NSC. And the Iraq fallout isn’t over yet because we’ve still got the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War to come it covers the period up to 2009 which means that there are people still in senior positions who are implicated in events – so don’t expect brilliant new initiatives coming up from below to enthuse the political leadership any time soon.   New thinking is going to have to come from outside the government.

*Randall Collins discusses this in chapter 6 of Weberian Sociological Theory (Cambridge: CUP, 1986), this draws on the argument in Chapter 9 of Weber’s Economy and Society (Berkeley: University of California, 1968).

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UK Defence Decision-Making: Still Broken

May 19, 2015

As the election approached Parliamentary Committees were clearing the decks and one of gems that you may have missed came from the Defence Committee on Decision-Making in Defence Policy. Guess what? It’s still rubbish.

The report looks at five decisions: the decision to deploy UK forces to Helmand, Afghanistan in 2005 and the decision to disperse available forces in small bases the following year; the 1998 decision to build aircraft carriers without catapults and rely on the short take off/vertical landing version of the F-35, the decision in 2010 to switch to catapults and the 2012 reversal of this.

In all of these cases there was a disturbing lack of clarity about how decisions were reached, who made the decisions and an absence of knowledge about the implications of those decisions.

The report looks at two set of reforms that were intended to improve things the 2011 Levene report on the Ministry of Defence and the creation of the National Security Council.

The Committee, consistent with previous reports, are less than convinced that these have helped that much. The Levene reforms have downgraded the role of the service chiefs of staff in strategic decision-making. NSC discussions tend to ignore prepared papers. There is a general lack of interest in strategy, decision-makers lack knowledge of strategic issues, even senior military officers lack the advanced education of their American counterparts. Civil service reforms aimed at increasing mobility across Whitehall and between the Civil Service and the outside world have had the effect of placing a premium on general management skills and have downgraded specialist expertise.

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Five Quick Thoughts on the Diplomacy and Development Review

May 13, 2015

I’ve been reading Enduring Leadership in a Dynamic World, the State Department’s recent Quadrennial and Development Review. There been some interesting commentary  for instance here, here and here

Four quick thoughts

  1. A few years back people began to talk about the fusion of diplomacy and public diplomacy. If you do that though what happens to the identity of diplomacy and public diplomacy?  On the basis of this report the dialectic gives you something new. There is remarkably little diplomacy or public diplomacy (or for that matter development) in this report what you get is diplomacy as the construction of a civil society centred model of governance.
  2. If you follow the Western practice of statecraft this isn’t surprising but I think that this is something of a challenge to academic Diplomatic Studies (either in the ‘classical’ or ‘modernist’ variants) and International Relations – the routine theoretical opposition between states and civil society doesn’t work when civil society is the chosen instrument of foreign policy.
  3. Practically every page of this report has new examples of programmes, initiatives, partnerships with business, civil society, foundations, international organizations and I’m left wondering how much of this is ‘real’ in the sense of making a significant difference and about the fragmentation of management attention and resources that this implies.
  4. Joe Nye and others have argued that in the contemporary world that there is diffusion of power from the established power centres to rising powers and a diffusion of power from states to non-state actors.  The key bet in this report is that it’s the latter that will win out but the resulting civil society will be a liberal and pro-American one.   I’m not convinced that this end run around nation-states will work out as well as the QDDR seems to suggest, not least because, as I’ve argued civil societies have a substantial national component.
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Public Diplomacy and The Question of Governance

April 16, 2015

Discussions of public diplomacy have frequently broken the activity down into three elements; information, education and culture and international broadcasting.

But…if we look around at what public diplomacy/cultural relations organizations actually do there’s a sizeable chunk of work that would be better labelled as concerned with governance. Bruce Gregory (2008) has made the connection between public diplomacy and the literature on international governance but we can also add the mode of organization within the state. For example a project that is concerned with capacity building for civil society organizations involved with conflict resolution or election monitoring or women’s rights. This is an area that overlaps with work done by development agencies or on their behalf.

This potentially an thought that can be developed along at least three related lines:

For the critically inclined this can be read as the export of a particular mode of neoliberal governance (Foucault 2007, 2008, Neumann and Sending 2010).

This would imply that as a practice of statecraft public diplomacies are about creating foreign publics not just ‘engaging’ them. However it could be argued that this has always been the case – even back in the 1890s creating a committee of the Alliance Française was creating a public [what a public is links to Walter Lippmann, John Dewey and Bruno Latour (Marres 2005)] Or another starting point would be the linked appearance of the Cold War and the question of development where statecraft becomes particularly involved with the internal organization of states.

This then casts light on the ever elusive search for dialogue.   At least since the early 1960s the era of dialogue in foreign public engagement has been proclaimed but never quite arrives (explaining why it is constantly being proclaimed. If a country sees itself as exporting the future there’s an implied hierarchy. Dialogue happens between equals so this tension between the explicit rhetoric of dialogue and the implicit hierarchy generates some interesting tensions.

References

Foucault M (2007) Security, territory, population. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foucault M (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-79. Senellart M (ed). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gregory B (2008) Public Diplomacy and Governance: Challenges for Scholars and Practitioners, in Cooper AF, Hocking B and Maley W (eds) Global Governance and Diplomacy: Worlds Apart, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 241–56.

Marres N (2005) Issues Spark a Public into Being: A Key But Often Forgotten Point of the Lippmann-Dewey Debate, in Latour B and Weibel P (eds) Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 208–17.

Neumann IB and Sending OJ (2010) Governing the Global Polity: Practice, Mentality, Rationality. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

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Locating Public Diplomacy in International Relations

April 14, 2015

The thing that started me working on the public diplomacies project was the observation that people were very keen to make suggestions about how public diplomacy could be improved but were very vague about the basis for these suggestions. As I’ve argued on several occasions discussions of public diplomacy tend start with the question ‘how can we make it better?’ But to answer this question we need to answer two other questions; what do people do (and why do they do it)? And why does whatever they do succeed or fail?

As the project has proceeded I’ve realized that there’s another question that needs to be addressed: how does the engagement of foreign publics fit into the broader picture of International Relations both as a field of study and as a field of practice? The difficulty with dealing with this question is that in order to fit in public diplomacy you need to some serious re-engineering of how we think about IR.

In a paper at ISA earlier this year Networked Realism? History, Theory and Transnational State Action I had crack at this. The first part of the paper reviews the background of the work that I’ve been doing on the history of public diplomacy/cultural relations and all the other sorts of foreign public engagement. I then go on and make three claims (all of which have been made on this blog at some time or another).

Firstly, IR tends to work with an opposition between a territorially defined state and a transnational civil society with an assumption in some quarters that the latter will overcome the former. History suggests that that this opposition is wrong. Civil society has been a major carrier of ‘the national’ not just in terms of expectations of mutual support from state actors, ngos, business, disapora etc but in the export of national models. Consistently from the late 19th c. non-state actors have initiated, pushed for, and participated in public diplomacy and cultural relations activities.

Secondly, history also tells us that states are relatively incoherent networks (which sometimes manage a degree of coordination), that need to draw resources from, and interact with other actors. Their ability to do this successfully explains quite a lot about the ability of states to act internationally.

Thirdly, parts of these networks extend well beyond the territorial boundaries of the state and as do civil society networks. Rather than discuss power (or soft power) as a single attribute of a state it needs to be broken down spatially and across issues to become a set of questions about influence in defined situations.

A lot of IR writing tends to use nation-state as a synonym for ‘state’ but my argument is that the ‘nation’ bit needs much more attention – less because of extreme expressions of nationalism – but because of the pervasiveness of routine national identification of compatriots and others. This ‘nation centrism’ gives a picture of world politics where states rest on a more robust foundation of national identifying civil societies, and where international competition is pervasive albeit less associated with military competition than in state-centric versions of realism.

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Morocco’s New Public Diplomacy Network: West African Sufi Brotherhoods

March 23, 2015

In theory public diplomacy is about building relationships. In practice countries rarely start from scratch they build from a base provided by relationships that already exist.

There’s an interesting example of this in a new report from FRIDE on Morocco’s Religious Diplomacy in Africa. Morocco has tended to ignore Africa but because of the economic situation in Europe and the regional security situation it has launched a diplomatic offensive to build relations with African countries. One of the relationships it is activating is that with the Tijaniyyah Brotherhood a Sufi network with millions of members spread across west Africa. Because the Islam in the region was originally spread by the Moroccan Almoravid dynasty the king of Morocco is regarded as a religious leader and Fez as destination for pilgrimage this network is being activated as an asset for Morocco. This means pledges to build mosques, offers of training for imams and cheap flights for those coming to Morocco on pilgrimage. The promotion of Moroccan sufi Islam is extremely welcome in Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria, Niger and Benin presumably as a balance to the activities of more hardline varieties of Islam.

Of course this being International Relations there’s a competitive element here – Morocco traditionally regards Algeria as a rival and the sufi card is one that Algeria, as a formally secular state lacks.

It’s also worth noting that as with many things public diplomacy initiatives that new tend to be repetition of things that were done in the past Kane (1997) points to previous efforts, from the 1960s to the 1980s, by the Egyptians, the Iraqis and the Saudis as well as the Moroccan to engage the Sufi brotherhoods as part of their public diplomacies.
Kane O (1997) Muslim Missionaries and African States, in Rudolph SH and Piscatori J (eds) Transnational Religion and Fading States, Boulder  Colo.: Westview, pp. 47–62.
Tadlaoui G (2015) Morocco’s Religious Diplomacy in Africa. Madrid: FRIDE.
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