The World Does its Duty & Conforms to Social Science: More on Korea & Japan

May 9, 2012

If academia’s taught me anything taught me, it’s that the real world is flawed, not theory, and that facts should change for me, not the other way around. As Marxists would say, ‘future is certain; it’s the past that keeps changing,’ and Orwell famously quipped that academics would love to get their hands on the lash to force the world fit theory. (I guess Heinlein agreed; check the vid.) So I am pleased to say that the world meet its obligations to abstraction this week a little: Japan and Korea edged a little closer toward a defense agreement (here and here). A little more of this, and I can safely ignore – whoops, I mean  ‘bracket’ – any real case knowledge…

Last week I argued that Korea and Japan seem like they’d be allies according to IR theory, but weren’t. I wrote, “Koreans stubbornly refuse to do what social science tells them;” obviously they don’t realize that abstraction overrules their sovereignty. I thought this was fairly puzzling, but I got an earful from the Korea/Asia studies crowd about how I was living in the clouds of theory. I also learned that area studies folks don’t really like it when you throw stuff like ‘exogenous’ and ‘epiphenomenal’ at them. Once they figure what ‘nomothetic’ actually means, they think you’re conning them. D’oh!

So for those of you argued I didn’t know anything about Korea or Japan (a fair point) but was just blathering on about theory that had no necessary time-space application to this case, I thought I’d put up this bit from Starship Troopers. It’s hysterical – when PhDs rule the world, apparently the military has to step in to prevent us from running it over a cliff. Didn’t Buckley once say he’d rather the first 2000 names of the Boston phone book run the US government than the faculty of Harvard?

Cross-posted at Asian Security Blog.

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Associate Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy, Pusan National University, Korea
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Twitter: @Robert_E_Kelly