Monday, May 19, 2008

Women and Freud

History 5 has long finished, but I am still lagging behind, but also still intent on reviewing the cycle two lectures at a time. The next two are moving us thematically into the end of the 19th century. About women (video, audio) and about Freud (video, audio).

Professor Anderson ventures into making a joke. "I apologize for always talking about sex so much. I know it is nothing you are interested in, but in any case [...] it would be an appropriate introduction to Freud." The shackles of Victorian society has everything to do with these two lectures. The prudery was both a cage, as well as a protection for women. Prudery, especially in England, was imposed, not only on women, but also on men. It allowed women to gain some development and this pathed the way to emancipation.

At the same time, these shackles turned our attention to the suppressed instincts and Freud is presented as the necessary, if not logical proponent of the thought train triggered by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. I wonder if you could add to that pessimism some more of the tormented thinkers and artists, Kierkegaard for example. I am not sure it Anderson intended not to make a very explicit link from romanticism to the late century pessimism, but I saw it clearly. The real shock of the lecture are the grim experiments Freud and a nose doctor engage in on one of his patients.

More History 5:
Romanticism and Bismarck,
Capitalism and Socialism,
Enlightenment and French Revolution,
Absolutism and Science,
Witches, plague, war and Hobbes.

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The State in The International System

Stanford's podcast The History of the International system (feed) has come to its conclusion. The lecturer, professor James Sheehan, spends a large part of his last lecture pondering what power could compete with the supremacy of the United States in the international system. Undoubtedly that is a very compelling question, but it is also a rather speculative one and there is another subject that had me thrilled even more.

The central agent within the International System, as Sheehan has painted it over the 28 lectures (earlier I wrote there would be 29, but I counted the mid term exam as a lecture - my bad), is the state. The international system is a community of national states, some more powerful and large, some puny and unimportant, but each a legitimate player. This we can see until today in an organization such as the UN. Its members are states and only states are its members. The uneven distribution of power among its players has always put this system under pressure, but the state as such is problematic, so Sheehan shows.

One problem is that of failed states. States that do not control their territory, are not representing their populace neither effectively, nor in a legitimate way. Furthermore, there are more players that influence the system: international organizations, non-governmental organizations and multinational business. On a deeper level, the state has always been a fiction, an imagined community. Many states are not nation-states, never have been and nobody really wants to reorder the nations into states or states into nations.

The thought occurred to me, that the whole idea of assuming the sovereign (the state) as the sole player internationally has been a stretch and become more so under modern circumstances. It is a presumption of isolation; the national sphere isolated from the international. The citizen of a state is only related to his own sovereign and not beyond. Other sovereigns are related to the sovereigns, but not to each others subjects. That seems workable as a fiction and has conceptually organized our idea of the international system well so far, but effectively this has never completely been true and with subjects of human rights, intellectual property, economy, ecology and more, we even accept and applaud non-sovereigns to act within the international system. Maybe the idea of states is going to go away.

Previous reviews:
A century of geopolitics,
History of the International System.

More geopolitics:
Nuts and bolts of empire,
Global Geopolitics - Martin Lewis,
A listener's guide to Geography of World Cultures,
Geography of World Cultures by Martin W. Lewis,
The End of Hegemony.

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