Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ayşe Zarakol's "After Defeat"

Ayşe Zarakol is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West, and reported the following:
The general lack of attention given to the particular cultural and historical origins to the modern international system may be one of the most glaring oversights in the discipline of International Relations. The emotional price that the majority of peoples around the world had to pay as a result of joining a system of states with very specific cultural origins (in Western Europe)—the rules of which they did not create, the norms of which were unfamiliar at best, the major players of which judged and explicitly labeled them as inferior, and the ontology of which convinced them that they indeed were lacking in someway—is swept under the rug as being irrelevant to international affairs.

People who have grown up in countries whose modernity is never in question may not fully consider how all-consuming the stigma of comparative backwardness may become for a society; how tiring it is to conduct all affairs under the gaze of an imaginary and imagined West, which is simultaneously idealized and suspected of the worst kind of designs; or how scary it is to live continuously on the brink of being swallowed by a gaping chasm of “Easternness”, which is simultaneously denigrated and touted as the more authentic, the more realistic, choice. There is an important story to be told behind each instance of socialization (and, therefore, stigmatization) around the globe which have, until now, been treated as unproblematic.

In After Defeat I focus on three of these stories: those of Turkey, Japan and Russia. The term “defeat” in the title stands for two things. On the one hand, the title refers to the larger defeat of the Eastern agrarian empires (or “the East” in general) by Western modernity. On the other hand, it refers to the particular defeats these former empires suffered in the 20th century after their last-ditch efforts to fight the West on equal terms. In the immediate aftermath of defeat, each country has preferred policies that were meant to signal an understanding and acceptance of the international norms that stigmatized them. For instance, having been charged with a lack of “civilization,” Turkey directed all of its efforts to obliterating signs of “Easternness”; Japan swore off its militarist past to embrace pacifism; and enigmatic Russia set upon (an albeit unsustained) course of transparency and openness to foreign advice. Each state dealt with its status deficit by choosing policies that would increase its international social capital, given the norms of international society at the time of their defeat: a secular European model of modernization and nation-building in the case of Turkey; economic development within the American parameters in the case of Japan; and a “triple-transition” in the case of the former Soviet Union. The book consists of two parts: in the first part I advance a theory of insider-outsider dynamics in the modern states system; the second part consists primarily of case studies.

The Page 99 Test works pretty well for After Defeat – page 99 [inset left, click to enlarge] is towards the end of my third chapter, where I develop a theory of international stigmatization. It may not be the most accessible point in the book (for that see the introduction or the case studies), but it is representative of the theoretical thrust of the chapter. I argue on this page that countries that are not colonized will have different response to international stigmatization than those that were. Whether stigmatization precedes or follows modern state-building process is important. Page 99 also has the beginning of the section where I argue that stigmatization affects states in a similar way as it does individuals because of the collective memory generating institutions of the modern nation-state.
Read an excerpt from After Defeat, and learn more about the book and author at Ayşe Zarakol's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue