The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Weekend Waterfowl

May 26, 2013

centurion duck

What’s worth reading this weekend? Lots of stuff. Here’s a list of a few things, from analytic to oddities. No drones, machetes, or tornados. But it would be silly if none of our resident experts weighed in on recent developments in these domains. Right?

My reaction is that he’s (1) choosing, as he notes, one particular domain of explanation–interest-group lobbying during process–and (2) treating ‘ideas’ as synonymous with ‘broad, public ideological forces.’ Neither of these, by themselves, really tell us very much about the relevant debate.

  • Roland Paris publishes part of his Perspectives on Politics review essay on the Afghanistan War at The Monkey Cage.

This is the start of a new collaboration between TMC and academic journals: “The goal is to have posts from authors whose research is featured in just released issues of political science journals provide a short guest post highlighting the research in conjunction with an agreement from the press to make that article available ungated for a specified period of time.”

  • Robert Art and Robert Jervis memorialize Kenneth Waltz in Foreign Affairs.

I’ve seen some pushback, both at academic blogs and in emails, to these kinds of testimonials on the grounds that they constitute ‘hagiographies.’ Either, the argument goes, Ken doesn’t deserve that because of his terrible influence on the field, or it’s just somehow wrong to single out particular works and authors as canonical. I find this genre a bit asesine. On the one hand, there’s a long tradition in certain international-relations circles of projecting every wrong of international-relations theory onto structural realism. This tradition is grounded in confused and superficial readings that have been passed down from teacher to student. For examples, this post uses dismissive language about Waltz’s belief in his “perfect theory” that are utterly and completely alien to Waltz’s approach to theorization. Or you have stuff like this, which, amidst some reasonable insights into disciplinary intellectual politics, embraces a radically asocial understanding of knowledge production–one in which a scholar’s ideas can only be influenced by canonical works if she has read those works.

  • Here we have a bid for a “MOOC fellowship” to teach a class on the intersection of Harry Potter with International Relations.

I shudder at the appropriation of Iver Neumann’s and my classic edited volume of astounding genius and breathtaking insight for this purpose. Particularly because the “MOOC fellowship” appears to be firmly on the genre of rent-seeking that characterizes too much of what goes on in this arena. Scholars compete to receive one of five €25,000 stipends to produce a MOOC. This isn’t a bad sum for most academics — although most of it will likely be eaten by production costs. The purpose of the contest and fellowship is to promote a well-financed startup, iversity, which hopes to provide turnkey platform services for MOOCs. Because with beautifully produced courses, how could students not excel?


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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.