Posted by: aboutalbion | April 27, 2012

Bridge the gap

Last night, I went to a lecture at Oxford Brookes University by Professor Math Noortmann on international law and international relations.  He described vividly the gap between the rules and the realities of transnational relations.

On the one hand, he identified Hugo Grotius as starting a line of thought that leads to an emphasis on ideals and ethics and rules, with a current expression in international law.  On the other hand, he identified Thomas Hobbes as starting a line of thought that leads to an emphasis on realities and the politics of power, with a current expression in asymmetric international relations.  Both these lines of thought depend on the sovereignty of nation states.

Professor Noortmann argued that, since there was now a stalemate between the two sides entrenched on opposite sides of this gap, an appropriate way forward was the trans-disciplinary study of international law and international relations.  He suggested that it was the duty of universities to facilitate this by down-playing the sovereignty of nation states in their courses.

[This conclusion recalls the remarks I made (a few posts ago) that the advocates of world history find themselves in a minority because other historians find that there is a ready market for the writing of national histories.]

[In last night’s lecture, I appreciated being introduced to a quotation that derives rather loosely from Plato’s ‘The Phaedrus’.  “The real university is a state of mind.  …  The real university is nothing less than the continuing body of reason itself.]

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