Afrikan contribution to international relations theory: an Afrocentric philosophical enquiry.

Author:Moloi, Tshepo Mvulane
Position:P. 411-455 - Book review
 
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O' Neill and Vincent: On the West and the Third World (1990)

Robert O'Neill (211) and R.J Vincent (212) as the editors of this text inform readers that they compiled it in honour of the realist scholar J.D.B. Miller, a past IR scholar, who dedicated himself to the study of the relationship between the West and the Third World. For Miller, this field was one of his central concerns. This text lists, a number of essays by various notable IR scholars, ranging from F.H Hinsley, William T.R. Fox, Corall Bell, James Mayall, T.B Millar, Jack Spence, James Piscatori, Andrew Hurrell, Peter Lyon, Susan Strange, J.L Richardson and Richard H. Ullman who submitted articles, notably under the following subtitles Part II-Western Policy Towards The Third World, Part III--Third World Policies Towards The West, Part IV-Multilateral Linkages Between The West and The Third World.

J.D.B. Miller is first introduced elaborately by Vincent, before progressing with the business of the text. A few points about this IR scholar may be of interest here. Belonging to the school of Realism, scholars are informed that Miller's realism "has two aspects, substantive and procedural. The substantive aspect is his view of international politics, as ordered by certain inevitable regularities. The procedural aspect is his disdain for the elaborate methodological paraphernalia, which those who are not realists place, between themselves and their subjectmatter" (Vincent, 1990:3).

Miller in his Nature of Politics (213) is believed to have dealt, with the substantive aspect of his realism. The foundation of all kinds of politics (domestic and international, as long as it involved various issues by people), and later in Miller's The World of States (1981 (214)), the theme of inequality was addressed formally. For Miller the core interests of politics was the addressing of "plurality of human experience, common concerns of the various sections within this plurality produce, and about the way differences among them are resolved or played out" (Vincent, 1990:3). Miller's interest with the Third World led him to pen one of the volumes in the Chatham House Series titled Survey of Commonwealth Affairs: Problems of Expansion and Attrition 1953-1969 (1974). This was followed by another Chatham House paper The Politics of the Third World (1966). Other themes pursued included foreign policy, international organisation and international political economy (via an applied empirict method in most of these themes).

For me, all the authors mentioned, delivered typical Afrikanist rhetoric. The language expressed did not shift from mainstream IR dialogue; hence the tools of engagement with the Third World remained confined to the standard Westerncentric perspectives or Westerner's viewpoints on the subject of Afrika.

With regards to Miller's definition of politics (as expressed above) which is a train of thought, that in the admission Miller and the other author's of under discussion can be traced and categorised into the Realist tradition of IR. At best the effort of the contributors to this text may be classified as participants of the Third debate in IR. Hence, debate between realism/neorealism and neo-marxism is believed, to have "further complicated the IR discipline because it shifted the subject of IR, away from political and military issues. It also introduced the distinct socioeconomic problems of Third World countries" (Jackson and Sorensen, 2003:58). In short, nothing substantial with regards to Afrikan contribution to IR could be derived from this text.

Ojo, Orwa and Utete's: Afrikan International Relations (1990)

A collaborative effort of O. Ojo (215), D.K. Orwa (216) and C.M.B Utete's (217) expressions on the theme at hand. Given the title of this book, I was quite disappointed with what was found in its content. The text was organized in such a way that all its three contributors were allocated whole chapters under a specified theme. From its opening chapter under the title Theories of International Relations (as was done here), background of IR is provided. Already from that point, one may deduce that the usual names of IR scholars were mentioned. Throughout this division, views of those introduced as mainstream IR theorists before ranging from Quincy Wright (1955), T.R.W. Fox (1959), Stanley Hoffman (1960), J.K. Holsti (1967),Charles McClelland (1961), Paul Nitze, Hedly Bull (1969), John Spanier (1972) and Roger Spegele (1980) were noted.

Reference to Power Theory (as informed by the school of Realism), specifically derived from Carr's Twenty Year's Crisis andMorgenthau's Politics Amongst Nations is made. Subsequently, the scientific school of international relations is introduced and discussed. Perceived as important because it "arose, as a reaction to the limitations, inherent in the power theory" (Orwa, 1990). On reference to dependency analysis, which I read as almost similar to Murphy and Augelli's International Institutions, Decolonization and Development (1993), Orwa's tone in this particular article, reminded me of Chan's earlier text of attempting to place a pro-Afrika argument, in as far as Afrika having been a role player in IR. Noble as the gesture may have been, the problem with is that it has been done within the standard reference and jargon of Western engineered approaches to IR.

Only once under the confronted topic of theory and the study of Afrikan international relations did I refreshingly observe references captured by Claude Ake (1978), Ali Mazrui (1977), Nzongola-Ntalaja (1978) and William Zartman (1966 and 1967). The overall message from these scholars however Inoticed, was not much different to that captured from the earlier Afrikanists. The following remarkalmost comes across as a disclaimer:

The study of Afrikan international relations is only just beginning to attract the interest of scholars and students. This fact is underscored by the lack of relevant texts on the subject, and by the absence of debate on the theoretical framework for the study of Afrikan international relations. The systems theory of international relations is not particularly well suited to Afrika. This is partly because it was developed to explain international relations in the industrialized world, partly because much of the data that is needed to make it applicable to Afrika, simply is not available, and partly because of the uniqueness and complexity of the Afrikan case (Orwa, 1990:13-14).

Meritous as the remark may seem, it is my view that IR scholars who may read the gist of the above quote, as a form of submission to the superiority of mainstream IR, may not really be faulted. Indeed from the above quote, one may arrive at a conclusion that Orwa (1990), was giving a confession that any reference to what may be labeled as Afrikan international relations may be nothing more than a myth if presented outside of the scope of mintream IR. For Orwa (1990), this was as a repercussion of the major debates in IR, dating back to Carr and Morgenthau's seminal texts.

It is for the above reason, why Orwa (1990), made reference to Power Theory. "Power theory, resting on certain universal assumptions, about the nature of man, is easier to apply to Afrika. Its emphasis on the importance of struggle, for survival (achieved through the acquisition of power), finds many sympathetic listeners in Afrika" (Orwa, 1990:14). In augmenting his view, Orwa (1990) goes on to refer to Ali Mazrui and somehow, even takes the effort to paraphrase him. "Ali Mazrui, for example, who approaches Afrikan international relations from the perspective of political philosophy and political sociology, sees Afrikan international relations, as a struggle against dependency, a situation imposed upon the continent, by its historical experience" (Mazrui, 1977).

I find the above expression(s) of Orwa (1990) thoroughly problematic on the grounds of Orwa's (1990), because for him the study of Afrikan international relations is still in its infant stage, and it should not compel him to fall back to mainstream theory in order to attempt to secure a way of engaging phenomena related to Afrika. Secondly the point made with regards to Mazrui's use of political philosophy and political sociology does not vindicate him nor Mazrui, for falling into the same trap of the Afrikanist worldview.

Chinweizu's concern about prominent Afrikan scholars such as Mazrui, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiong'o (although with age most of these leading voices in Afrikan literature begun to be critical of their misgivings, as inspired by the oversight, as noted from their respective works) remains meritous to date. The classic case of Ngugi Wa Thiong'o is provided further on.

Amongst other factors, this last point affirms the view that these scholars have become recognized predominantly based on the Westernised audience, which they had kept in mind,at the time of writing their most infamous/renowned projects.

This was opposed to the consideration of their own fellow Afrikan kith and kin, while they were in the process of authoring, what became incredibly commercialized pedagogic cultural projects, focused on Afrika(n) based stories.

I noted for example from highly acclaimed texts such a Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958), interestingly this title was initially derived from W.B. Yeats's poem 'The Second Coming'. Given Achebe's earlier self confessed Africanist position, this should not have been as astonishing to fellow readers. For such an acclaimed book in the Afrikan postcolonial library, such Eurocentric inspired influence was unexpected; thus, this should consolidate Mphahlele's earlier remark which suggested the process of becoming.

A stanza of the poem, where the title of the above text was derived is paraphrased as follows "Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world" (Yeats...

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