Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Second World - UChannel podcast review

Parag Khanna was invited at the University of Chicago to speak about the new global order. This connects with his recent book: The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order. Khanna elegantly resuscitates the term Second World. What once was the Soviet block and distinguished thus from the Capitalist Block and the poor Third World, in his mind, actually still exists. The lecture was recently podcast at the University Channel Podcast (also known as UChannel).

There still are many states, at various advanced stages of development, that neither can be put in the block with the US, nor can they be written off in the Third World section, where we gather the lost, hopeless and failed states. These are the states that thrive in the modern new balance of power in which they play all sides.

The US is no longer the world's hyper-power. It shares super power status with others, notably with rising China, but according to Khanna also the EU. Other economies come in second place as balancing powers: Brazil, Japan, India and so on. They and especially yet another group, make up the second world. Khanna traveled around and analyzed them. Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela and Libya and observes their new way to success: playing all sides. Hiking along with not just either US, EU or China, but with all of them. As I listen I thought: I hope Israel does the same.

More UChannel:
Repairing Failed States,
The Collapse (Republicans and America),
New Map for the Pentagon,
Slavery and the Supply Chain,
Iran 2009.

More Parag Khanna:
The end of Hegemony.

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UCSD MMW 6 - history lecture podcast

Following lecture podcasts by UCSD is something of an ordeal as a result of the technical setup the lecturers use for recording. The only reason to put up with this is the high quality of the content. In the MMW (making of the modern world) series, I reported about MMW 3 which is roughly about the Middle Ages, and they were excellent.

UCSD has the recordings automated. Lecturers sign up and then at the set time and place, recording starts. At best this means some silence at the beginning and end of the lecture. It gets worse when lecture starts early, or the automation goes into effect when the series is already past the first lecture. Then you simply jump right into the middle. A final problem is that the feed goes off line at the end of the semester, which in cases can be a mere handful of days after the last lecture. Or you have to make do with whatever you downloaded.

MMW 6, of this summer is about modern times. Say, World War I until today. The first three lectures have been omitted from the feed (late sign up), so you'll drop in the middle of an expose about the history of Israel and the course moves on from over there.

The good thing I noticed immediately, is that the Professor - Ivan Evans - didn't start the Palestine history in 1948. We get a lot of facts and analysis from what happens before that. However, there were some rather weak points I noticed. Evans is not a very well ordered speaker, so it is hard to follow him. At the same time he is very outspoken in his opinions, which, together, leaves you wonder about various foundations for these opinions. On top of that, he slips up with the data, he is either inaccurate, vague, unsure, or on some points wrong. (For example, he persistently refers to the Israeli prime minister as 'the president of Israel')

There are quite a few good podcasts out there that in one way or the other touch upon the modern era (for example the closing lectures of Berkeley's History 5 or Stanford's The history of the International System). As a consequence, this MMW 6 installment falls short. Also with respect of Evans's standing as a professor and the quality of his opinions suffer from the errors and ambiguities. There are a lot of good and interesting points he makes, but in order to be able to have a good framework and not be distracted or misinformed, I'd advise to hear other podcasts first, before embarking upon listening to this course.

MMW 3:

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