Interview – Michael Hardt

Marxist scholar Michael Hardt. Image: Grupo de Estudo de Fotografia da UFES GEF/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 11 November, 2015.

Michael Hardt is a political philosopher and literary theorist based at Duke University and the European Graduate Institute. He is best known for his collaboration with Antonio Negri, with whom he wrote the Empire trilogy. His work has been linked with autonomist Marxism. His most recent book is Declaration, co-written with Antonio Negri, which refers to the Occupy and other social movements. He currently serves as the editor of the South Atlantic Quarterly.

How has the way you understand the world changed over time, and what (or who) prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?

Maybe more significant for me is something that hasn’t changed. When Toni Negri and I were writing Empire, in the late 1990s, our first intuition was that the United States would soon no longer be able to dictate global affairs, that it could no longer “go it alone,” unilaterally. But we didn’t therefore think that some other nation-state, such as China, would occupy that position or even that a multilateral alliance among dominant nation-states would be able to control global affairs. Our hypothesis instead was that a network of powers was emerging – including the dominant nation-states together with supranational institutions, corporations, NGOs, and other non-state actors – to control global relations in a shifting and contingent way. » More

Religious Politics and the Rise of Illiberal Religion

“Beware of God”. Image: James~Quinn/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 1 November, 2015. 

It has been argued that the twenty-first century will be ‘God’s Century’.[i] By this it is meant that religion—not God, but religion—will remain a central feature of both international and domestic politics for the next several decades. The basis for this claim can be found in the recent past. Over the last twenty-five years, the world has witnessed an increased level of political activism by religious individuals and organisations. This resurgence of religious politics is evident in the violent sectarianism and exclusive religious identities of the contemporary Middle East, the persistent communalism in South Asia and the continued salience of an illiberal religious politics in the United States and elsewhere. Conceptually, the trend is interesting given the assumptions of secularisation theory, which predicted that the influence of traditional belief systems would diminish with the onset of economic and political development. The persistence of religious politics has also given rise to the view that diplomats, politicians and political scientists all need to better understand religion if they are going to understand contemporary international politics.[ii] » More

THINK AGAIN: Is Somaliland Still a Good News Story?

Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo, President of Somaliland, speaking at a Chatham House Event on Friday, 26 November 2010. Image: Chatham House/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on October 28, 2015.

In Somaliland, most politicians are known by their nicknames. So President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud is ‘Silanyo,’ which translates to ‘skinny lizard’ – a throwback to his youth when he was tall and slim. President Silanyo is not skinny anymore, however, and nor should he be president – his term in office was supposed to expire on 26 June 2015.

But after the scheduled elections were repeatedly postponed, Silanyo is still in charge, and no one is particularly surprised. Although Somaliland is famed for its regular, peaceful elections – an oasis of peace and democracy in a region usually associated with authoritarianism and conflict – almost every election in its history has been subject to lengthy delays. » More

Obama’s Failure to Demilitarize US Foreign Policy

Obama exiting a camouflaged Air Force One. Image: Truthout/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 30 October, 2015.

The Obama administration has received much attention for its policy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region. The rebalance has been described as President Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative. Launched in 2009, it has received much attention from academics, practitioners, think tanks, and the media. In reality, the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has been more evolutionary than revolutionary; a U.S. shift in focus and grand strategy began well before President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.

If the Obama presidency in fact initiated a revolutionary rebalancing, it was his effort to rebalance American foreign policy generally from over-reliance on the military and toward greater reliance on diplomacy and development. Despite a concerted effort, when viewed through several lenses it seems clear that demilitarization has failed and U.S. foreign policy remains very, perhaps overly, militarized. As a result, the Pentagon can expect to be handed messy military operations short of inter-state war that it may not be prepared, equipped, or organized to handle efficiently or effectively. » More

The Political Pope Comes to Africa

Pope Francis I. during his inauguration mass. Image: Catholic Church of England and Wales Photostream/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Institute for Security Studies on 22 October, 2015.

Can the ‘political Pope,’ as he is increasingly being called, advance peace and promote reconciliation in Africa where so many others have failed?

In his brief 30 months in the Vatican, Pope Francis has shown himself unafraid to venture forth from the cloisters into the messy world of politics in pursuit of his spiritual agenda. Nowhere was this more evident than in the key role he played in restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba earlier this year, ending 54 years of bitter isolation. » More

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