Tagged: leadership

Jizhou Zhao

Power Decides Order?

GEAS_poster_Acharya_930On June 24, 2014, Prof. Amitav Acharya gave a talk on his new book “The End of American World Order” at Freie Universität Berlin. Interestingly, this event took place in the Henry-Ford-Bau, which was constructed (1952-1954) with American funding and where John F. Kennedy gave the programmatic speech associated with his iconic declaration: “Ich bin ein Berliner” in 1963.

In the same building, the topic now was “Rising Powers and the End of American World Order”. A timely and provocative talk, as domestic critics in the US, such as Senator John McCain, blamed President Obama’s administration’s “naïve” approach to Russia in the Ukraine Crisis. Also, look at US impotent reactions recently to a turbulent Iraq with the rise of ISIS. As the US can no longer co-opt rising powers to support its own strategies and approaches, Amitav Acharya wrote in The Hindu of May 29th that Ukraine was not so much a failure of Obama’s foreign policy, but a sign of general decline of the U.S. to many outsiders!

Generally, Prof. Acharya’s talk deals with a fundamental question of what the world order looks like today, and what it will be in the future. According to the author, the US remains a major force (with its huge military advantage) in the world yet it has been gradually losing its ability to shape the world order. Subsequently, the US-dominated liberal world order is over with the emerging other anchors, including rising powers like the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), and regional forces (like the AU, ECOWAS, Mercosur and ASEAN) which have become more sophisticated organizations with multiple purposes and expanding functions.

In this way, a concert of the old powers (esp. the US) and the mentioned new powers is believed to shape the world order. Instead of following such tags as “multipolar,” “bipolar”, “unipolar,” or “G-Zero” (as Charles Kupchan argued in No one’s world), Prof. Acharya likens the emerging world order to a “multiplex theater”, where movies are showed simultaneously but don’t necessarily share many characteristics. According to the talk, “multiplex” refers to multiple plots (ideas), directors (power), and action (leadership) under one roof, while complex interdependence happens at multi-levels while facing multi-restrictions. The US thus should share with the rising powers its leadership in world affairs.

However, I have at least two questions inspired from this interesting talk.

Firstly, where is the EU’s position, or how to see the EU’s role, in the world? Prof. Acharya seems to see the EU as an Old Power rather than an emerging global player with significant overall economic strength, and unique civilian and normative capacities in world affairs and global governance. He argued that the EU has many faces, but can hardly be considered as a real “power” due to its lack of hard power (military forces, assets and let alone strong political wills). Many of the EU member states also joined NATO, and even today they don’t want to or can’t develop credible security capabilities. Prof. Acharya also pointed out EU weakness in responding to the recent crisis in Ukraine, which the emerging powers (like the BRICS) don’t see as a global problem but one of Europe and Europeans, nor do they care about it.

This negative view of the EU seemed a bit confusing to the audience of Acharya’s talk of “Rising Powers and the End of American World Order”. While emphasizing the emerging regional organizations like the AU, ASEAN, and their growing roles, the EU as the model of regional integration and most mature regional organization (even with common foreign, security and defence policy) is somehow humbled by the emerging other regional powers!? If the EU is categorized as one of the Old Powers (along with the US), that means the world order so far is not purely dominated/shaped by the US alone. If the EU is seen as one of the many emerging powers (actors), it has also benefited from and been challenging the “American World order” after WWII. So, what kind of power (actor) is the EU in the current and future world order?

Related to the first one, my second question concerns an old and new debate of “power” in IR theories. What does “power” really mean in the 21st century, especially for political scientists? Is there a commonly accepted evaluation standard of power, for example, the number of military troops as one of the physical and visible power resources, enjoyed by different actors in the world? And if so, what about those non-physical and invisible resources of power, like ideas, strategies, political will and international legality of different actors? It is commonly believed that an actor’s power refers to its ability to achieve desired outcomes, which depends on not only physical assets like national population, economic wealth, natural resources and armed forces, but also whether and how an actor can mobilize these assets to achieve its various goals in different context (concerning time and areas). That means, power is not simply a static matter; it is also about dynamic process and consequence. According to Joseph Nye, converting assets into outcomes is a process in which politics and strategy regulates how power can or should be exercised, with what assets, for what goals and in what context as well as possible back-ups once failing to produce desired “power”/ “influence”.

This said, if the world order is like what Prof. Acharya called the “multiplex cinema”, it might be good to bear in mind that there exist different levels of power assets among the large number of Old and New powers (actors), even between the US and the EU; more importantly, who can give a definite statement that all the new rising powers, or just the BRICS, would work jointly for a common goal to overturn the “US-lead” or American world order, and by using what kind of power? And will the rising powers compete among them for more power out of individual interests?

Amitav Acharya’s “The End of American World Order” is not an American-centric analysis of the 21st century world order. At the same time, it not anti-American, either. But it’s very likely that his arguments serve as good food for thought to policy makers and academia about US hegemony/leadership, and any alternative order for global peace, stability and development. Prof. Acharya warned in his presentation that no single rising power would be able to replace the US to dominate or lead the world in the short and even medium- term. Previously he made a similar argument in “Can Asia Step Up to 21st Century Leadership?”. He suggested “sharing leadership” for the US to face the rising powers in the “multiplex” world. But questions come up again, what is “leadership”? Does the US really want to share its leadership with others, who would also like to shoulder their part? And if so, to what extent will a sharing be like? It’s hard to tell; maybe we could just quickly think about the EU and the US within the NATO: is there some “leadership sharing” in effect?

To conclude, Acharya’s “The End of American World Order” is worthy to put on desks of policy makers; but his prescription and suggestion (leadership sharing) may be unlikely to persuade them. What I would argue, finally, is that leadership is more of a soft power consisting of elements like values, norms, culture and policy, and it can shape the global governance framework rather than change the world order on its own. Soft power does not always work well for an actor if without backups such as hard (military) power, and more importantly strategic thinking. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of “power” in today’s world needs to be developed, and it’s better to bear in mind that “leadership” and “sharing” are two things that might not easily happen together.

In this way, terms like “American world order” or “multiplex” or any other alternative to label the world are not what people really care about. It’s “power” (in complete sense) that shapes and decides the fundamental structure of the anarchic international system, on which the world is based to appear in some “order”. Yes, both the US and the rising others enjoy their resources of power, but usually politics and strategies determine under which context (when, how and why) these resources are used. History has, and will continue to witness the process of how “power” defines and decides world order.

Jizhou Zhao is a Research Fellow at the NFG Research Group “Asian Perceptions of the EU”. Further inquiries are very welcome. Jizhou would like to thank Olivia Gippner, from whose input this blog post benefited.

Daniel Clausen

Policy Entrepreneurs and IR

Koizumi_in_Graceland_2006
Koizumi in Graceland (Wikimedia)

It was not too long ago that I found myself elbow deep in articles with titles such as “Toward a theory of the political entrepreneur” and “A general theory of entrepreneurship.” I was becoming more and more convinced that policy entrepreneurship–as a powerful and potentially disruptive kind of 21st century leadership–was becoming more relevant than ever in International Relations.

Definitions of “policy entrepreneurship” have often highlighted the qualities of risk-taking, the ability to introduce new ideas, and a willingness to work with unique resources and methods that other actors ignore. In addition to these traits, I have found it important to highlight the qualities of alertness and creative discovery.

In my own research on Japanese defense politics, I saw the “entrepreneurial spirit” in many of the endeavors of former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro. His bold political strategy allowed him to overcome significant political obstacles and implement important changes in the US-Japan security relationship and to achieve his chief political goal of postal reform. Few who watched Japanese news at this time will forget reports of Koizumi serenading President George W. Bush with Elvis’s “I Need You, I Want You, I Love You”.

I could see a similar appetite for risk and the use of unusual resources in the activities of Ishihara Shintaro, former governor of Tokyo. Ishara’s attempt to purchase several of the Senkaku islands from their private owners in 2012 spurred the national government to nationalize the islands before he could get his hands on them. This action in turn has sparked increased hostilities with China that have led to spiraling nationalism in both countries.

Perhaps this was simply a case of a researcher diagnosing a phenomenon where he we looking for it, and I had to caution myself against over-estimating the influence of these upstarts.

I am still convinced, however, that the current era is ripe for policy entrepreneurs. Whether the current period is still the “post Cold War,” or whether we have entered the Asian Century or a post-international world or a new interwar period, one thing is certain—policy entrepreneurs are more relevant in times of uncertainty. Their appetite for risk, their ability to recognize and exploit hitherto underutilized resources, to stir the pot and try to open up new policy spaces can have consequences–both good and bad.

Policy entrepreneurs will be just as influential through their dramatic failures as they will through their dramatic successes.

Nevertheless, against the backdrop of this increasing policy entrepreneurship, I remain skeptical that policy entrepreneurs can or should be theorized, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’m skeptical that they can be theorized beyond a certain point. At a basic level, this observation follows logically from a definition of the subject matter. Policy entrepreneurs are interesting because of their differences. They are often products of very unique environments, thus our ability to generalize about them across different policy contexts may be limited even within their unique subgroup.

I also draw my skepticism and pessimism from the attempts of others who have written in the field of leadership more broadly. As James MacGregor Burns wrote in his book Leadership (1978):

Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.

Or, as Patricia Maclachlan wrote in a paper presented at the Stanford Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Japan in 2010:

Leadership matters deeply in political studies, but the social scientist who cares about theory and methodological purity would be well advised not to touch it. As most scholars would agree, the definition, causes, and consequences of political leadership are conditioned by a complicated web of variables ranging from the leader’s individual psychological characteristics and his relationship with his political constituency, to the structure of the institutional arena in which he operates.

To an extent, theorizing about policy entrepreneurs has not been a completely fruitless affair. Principles developed thus far in leadership studies more generally will be relevant to understanding policy entrepreneurs. Authors have been able to hypothesize (and find solid evidence) for several general principles: that leaders matter more in times of crisis; that leaders matter most when they are more risk-accepting; and that the more dramatic the means by which leaders come to power, the more potential for dramatic impact once they are in power.

However, rather than seeing policy entrepreneurs as objects of theorization and hypothesis testing, perhaps it is better to view them as sources of new insights about the world. Thus, rather trying to explain the emergence of policy entrepreneurs or identify their constitutive features, researchers may find it more useful to ask questions such as: “What motivated policy entrepreneur A to try action B? Was the actor acting irrationally or capriciously, as others contend, or was there another underlying motivation?”

Since alertness and creative discovery are key qualities of policy entrepreneurs, their bold new actions can often serve as natural experiments. Not all of these experiments succeed, of course. But even an exploration of failed policy entrepreneurship can yield insights into how policy environments are evolving or what opportunities leaders expect to see in the future. Paying close attention to why they act, what assumptions drive their actions, and what limitations they are testing can yield valuable new insights about the policy space they inhabit.

In addition, attempting to “see the world like a policy entrepreneur” may provide the habits of mind that can more easily bridge the gap between policy and research.

This was a guest post by Daniel Clausen, who is a graduate of Florida International University’s PhD program in International Relations. He graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and American Studies. His research has been published in Strategic Insights, Asian Politics and Policy, Culture and Conflict Review, and the Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies. You can follow Daniel’s work at Academia.edu.

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Mandela and Great Leaders; WTO deal in Bali; How Money Works

Frederik de Klerk with Nelson Mandela - World Economic Forum 1992
Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in Davos, 1992. (CC) World Economic Forum

On December 5, Nelson Mandela passed away. For political scientists, discussing  Mandela’s legacy is of course connected to questions about the role that great leaders can play in world politics. Or, more generally: how to analytically deal with individuals.

  • Alex de Waal argues that “[t]he way he has become idolized and idealized tells us more about the world’s need for such a figure, than about Nelson Mandela himself.”
  • Joshua Tucker writes that waiting for great persons to come along and single-handedly push democratization “has the potential to lead to dramatic lost opportunities”.
  • Also at the Monkey Cage, Stephen Dyson replies: “A worthy goal of science is to provide systematic, rigorous knowledge about issues of social importance. But science should also engage with the moral and empathetic possibilities that come from taking leaders seriously.”

Dan Drezner comments on the WTO: “Why the Trade Deal in Bali Was A Game Changer”. Drezner happily points out that positive news on the WTO are in line with his forthcoming book, which argues that post-Lehman financial governance has worked quite well:

Of course, not everyone shares this view, and there has been no shortage of arguments that say the opposite.  One of the strongest data points in their empirical quiver has been the failure of the Doha round of WTO talks to be completed.  Indeed, for the past five years, “Doha” has been wonk shorthand for “dysfunctional global governance that accomplishes nothing but gridlock.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that other observers (#1, #2) are not too excited about the outlook for future WTO negotiations.

From the WTO, we move on to finance – and somewhat away from political science. Forgive me, but you will thank me as soon as one of your relatives brings up “the financial system” and/or Bitcoin at the next family reunion. I highly recommended reading the next three items in preparation: