Thursday, 16 March 2017

International Development Assistance: Or, why you won't shut-the-fuck-up about foreign aid

“The evolution of foreign aid has been largely shaped by structural changes in the international system, such as decolonisation, the failure of the New International Economic Order, the end of the Cold War and the acceleration of globalisation…the USA used it as an instrument of containment…; the UK and France turned it into a substitute for colonial domination…in France, development co-operation was confined essentially to French-speaking prĂ© carrĂ©, while the bulk of British aid resources went to Commonwealth members…development assistance was used in these two countries to maintain their positions world powers at a time when their status was being eroded by the progressive dismantling of their empires”.

Jean-Hilippe Therien 2002, 449-454

“The plain fact is that  the Neo-Liberal policy reforms have not been able to deliver their central promise – namely economic growth.  When they were implemented, we were told that while these ‘reforms’ might increase inequality in the short and possibly in the long term as well, they would generate faster growth and eventually lift everyone up more effectively than the interventionist policies of the early postwar years had done.  The records of the last two decades show that only the negative part of this prediction has been met…growth has markedly decelerated during the last two decades, especially in developing countries, when compared to the 1960-1980 period when ‘bad’ policies prevailed”. 

Ha-Joon Chang 2013, 127-128

Politicians with hair far exceeding their IQs are actualising the end of the world by manically posting FB memes about 'looking-after-our-own-backyard', before those disgusting-needy-foreign scum, but the reality is that Official Development Assistance (foreign aid) is at a historic low under the current Australian Coalition government. First pledged as a target in 1970, The United Nations (UN) sets a minimum of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to be spent by developed countries on foreign aid. On perusal of the websites of the three major Australian political parties, the Australian Greens are the only party with a clear commitment to achieving this foreign aid spending target.

Primarily a fact-checker addressing quantitative aid spending, this recent Conversation article does not scrutinise the quality of donor aid. Traditionally seen as a developed country’s selfless effort to alleviate poverty, some critics acknowledge donor states use it as a foreign policy tool. Foreign aid is also used as a method, for both developed donor nations and multinational corporations, to pursue their commercial interests (Engel 2014, 1385-1386).

Susan Engel (2014) highlights some problems with the ability of the international aid system to meet its goal as a development device.  In 2005, for example, only 37% of foreign aid was spent on programmable aid, the rest going to extraneous issues (Engel 2014:1379).   Donor states have been criticised for what they count as aid, including the cost of maintaining militaristic refugee regimes, technical assistance and debt cancellation (Engel 2014, 1386). Donors often highlight the problems of governance in recipient States (Therien 2002, p.460-461; Nunnenkamp & Thiele 2013, 77).  In striking contrast to the donors’ rhetoric, the empirical findings point to a vicious circle of donors granting aid indiscriminately to inefficient and dishonest governments (Nunnenkamp & Thiele 2013,77).  Some theorists scrutinise the neoliberal policy imposed by developed donor countries on developing recipients.  In practical terms, these policy reforms involved reducing public spending, devaluing currencies, liberalising trade, restricting credit and promoting free enterprise (Therien 2002, 456).  Nair (2013, 641) points out that the Australian aid agency (AUSAID) adopts fundamentalist ideas about economic growth, compromising foreign aid.

To further deconstruct the myth of the generosity of donor states, it is necessary to examine the broader processes affecting development (Engel 2014, 1383). While foreign aid was once crucial for development, today, money flows from finance and trade far outweigh the amounts allocated by governments as foreign aid.

In discussing trade, for example,

“the protectionism of the developed countries entails an annual cost of around US$100 billion for the developing countries, that is, much more than the total volume of aid. In the agricultural sector alone, it is estimated that the trade policies of the rich countries generate losses of $20 billion a year in export earnings for the Third World.  In short it seems increasingly evident that the benefits of aid can be neutralised by the deleterious consequences of other policies”.

(Therien 2002, 459)

Some theorists recognise that a key step in addressing poverty and inequality is the transformation of both the international economic order and the organisation of international trade (Engel 2014, 1385).  Neoliberal policies (e.g. structural adjustment) imposed on developing states (in the 1980s and 90s) sometimes barred these countries from accessing the same trade policy options (e.g. infant industry protection) that fostered massive development in their own countries.  Chang (2003, 51-52) adopts a historical approach to the study of trade to reveal that,

"It was the USA, and not Germany as is commonly believed, which first systemized the logic of infant industry promotion that Britain has used so effectively in order to engineer its industrial ascent...The US government put this logic into practice more diligently than any other country for over a century (1816-1945).  During this period, the USA had one of the highest average tariff rates on manufacturing imports in the is clear that the US economy would not have got where it is today without strong tariff protection at least in some key infant industries".

Chang (2003, 51-52)

In the Australian media, in the words of Australian politicians, and in wider public discourse, it is rare to hear discussion of the historical and structural causes of inequality.  We could look to Engel's (2014, 1384) review of books on foreign aid (that made an academic and media impact), in the ten years since 2001, to conclude that the 'true' left have disappeared from a critique of aid.  When I see the shallow level of debate within the academic sphere, I wonder if the general public have any grasp on the key issues surrounding aid and development.  Are they aware of the international aid architecture?  Are they well versed in the history of the international economic order?  Have they grasped the problems with integrating countries into a historically and socially constructed world economy (Nunnenkamp & Thiele 2013: 82)?  What about a history of industrial, trade and technological policies?  Can peeps summarise the evolution of international institutions involved in managing transnational capital flows and international monetary stability? What about the history and evolution of sovereign states? Do FB crazies have a clue about the politics of international trade, and the extent to which preferential trade deals compromise the multilateral trade system?  Do they have an understanding of the connections between the international financial system, the global division of labour, the international trade system, and the international migration system?  Have they studied the best methods in international development policy making?  Do peeps have the fucking guts to evaluate the covert forms of power operating in the structures of international organisations?  Do they have any ability to apply the work of theorists such as Marx, Gramsci, Foucault, Agamben and Mauss? Just sayin'. Just askin’.

I wonder if the result of this lack of nuance, the inability to acknowledge the role of history, and the incapacity to understand the complex workings of power leads to a meme-aliscious Facebook, urging white trash to fester in their own self-congratulatory generosity. While the West appear to give and give, Kimmy, (and histrionic, racist people with too much dumb on their hands manically offer pats-on-the-back to their sloppy friends who are part of the 1% who have the guts to share their meme-aliciousness on FB), an examination (you know, using actual peer-reviewed, evidence-based research, not some shit someone shit posted on FB) of the practices of international organisations (i.e. The World Bank, the IMF and the UN) governing foreign aid, trade and finance reveals that these left-wing-loony organisations are often right wing loony organisations.  Torres (2007, 446) explains that the IMF's decision-making process is heavily weighted towards developed countries, (the G7 countries having 41.72% of votes, and advanced economies having 61% of voting power).  Therien (2002, 454) examines the complex workings of power in the World Bank, concluding that, “the postwar multilateral system was consistent with the economic interests of the major powers and contributed to the strengthening of US hegemony” (Therien 2002, 453).   Many theorists in International Political Economy have begun to examine how the conditionalities at the centre of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO limit the ability of developing countries to catch up to the developed world.

More recently, a proliferation of peer-reviewed literature across the social sciences  (in disciplines such as international relations, international political economy, history and sociology...using methods including historical materialism, postmodernism, post-colonialism, critical geography and critical anthropology) has critically analysed the negative effects of neoliberal development policies on developing/poorer countries (Nunnenkamp & Thiele 2013).  Both mainstream economists and the key international institutions (responsible for governing finance and trade) have begun to question neoliberal practices in the areas of aid, trade and finance (Thirkell-White 2007).  There are growing signs of resistance to neoliberalism at popular are elite levels in the developing world (Thirkell-White 2007, 36).  While reform of both Australian aid, and the wider international aid architecture, is important, failure to pay attention to trade and finance makes an narrow examination of foreign aid seem like tinkering at the edges.


To what extent has the modern Liberal Party adopted the evidence about the failure of neoliberalism in addressing development and inequality?  What can an examination of AUSAID reveal about their continued adherence to these dangerous policies?

Can foreign aid be understood as one element in the wider structures of the international systems, which include the international financial system; the global division of labour; the international trade system; and the international migration system? What can we learn from an examine of the history and structure of these systems?

To what extent are developed countries restricting paths to development by dictating the rules for developing countries?  In what ways can international organisations and non-government organisations (NGOs) help facilitate room to move in development policymaking?


Chang, Ha-Joon (2003).  Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective, Anthem Press, London.

Engel, Susan (2014). The not-so-great aid debate, Third World Quarterly, Vol 5, No 6, 1374-1389.

Nair, Sheila (2013).  Governance, representation and international aid, Third World Quarterly, Vol 34, No 4, 630-652.

Nunnenkamp, Peter & Thiele, Rainer (2013).  Financing for development:  The gap between words and deeds since Monterrey, Development Policy Review, Vol 31, No 1, 75-98.

Therien, Jean-Philippe (2002).  Debating foreign aid: Right versus left, Third World Quarterly, Jun 2002, Vol.23, No 3, 449-466

Thirkell-White, Ben (2007).  The International Financial Architecture and the Limits to Neoliberal Hegemony, New Political Economy, Vol 12, No 1, 19-41.

Torres, Hector (2007).  Reforming the International Monetary Fund - Why its legitimacy is at stake', Journal of International Economic Law, Vol 10, No 3, 443-460.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Studying the relationship between politics and economics: theory and ideology

At uni, it is the end of week 3 in our examination of the way the International Political Economy has been understood in undergraduate textbooks. We have explored some of the history behind 3 general theories; Realism, Liberalism and Marxism. We've added complexity, by exploring strands of thought within (and in relation to) these theories: Realism (Structural Realism, Historical Realism, mercantilism, nationalism), Marxism (Marxist, Structuralist, Radical and Critical), etc.. We've compared British to U.S. schools of thought, and hinted at moving toward an examination of more recent, sophisticated critical theorists, including feminist and environmental academics.

We have discussed the influence of key events in the organisation of the 'modern' world and the international political economy, including the Treaty of Westaphilia, the rise of nationalism, the industrial revolution, the Corn Laws, the Great Depression and the Oil Shocks of 1973 and 1979.

We examined the way many theories have been misread and oversimplified, in the textbooks that teach them (and by the organisations/governments/policymakers/ individuals who utilise them). One of our readings examined the extent to which two of the foundational theorists of liberalism, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, have been misread and misused. According to Watson (in Ravenhill 2008), in International Political Economy textbooks, Smith is interpreted as uncritically endorsing market based liberalism. Watson goes on to argue that Smith, at the time of his writing, accused the business classes of being "almost pathologically incapable of acting according to the demands of a genuinely liberal economy" (Watson in Ravenhill 2008: 42).  He accused them of "fundamentally illiberal activities of conspicuous profit-taking from the economy" (Watson in Ravenhill 2008: 42). In examining Ricardo, Watson argues that most International Political Economy textbooks fail to contextualise adequately Ricardo's notion of comparative advantage. The author goes on to argue that Ricardo's perspectives emerged within "a deep seated contempt for the commercial policy enacted in the Britain of his day...Ricardo objected most forcefully to the influence that an unaccountable cadre of landowners had been able to exert over commercial policy. At one point in his treatise he even calls the landowning classes 'parasites' in his attempt to signal as clearly as possible that they were responsible for the immiseration of others through their illiberal and wholly self-serving activities" (Watson in Ravenhill 2008: 43-45).

While I would find it entertaining to prescribe the term "pathological parasites" to modern day politicians and theorist prescribing to ultra neo-liberalist practices, Watson (in Ravenhill 2008) actually reveals the extent to which theories overlap.  We can see Marxist elements in Liberal theorists, Liberal elements in foundational Marxism...all theories have problems, depending on the case study...all theories and ways of thinking have elements that can be drawn from, in understanding/minsunderstanding modern events.  I think I might be particularly interested in the way the uncritical adherence to capitalism and to the concept of nation states permeates our current understands of, and adherence to, neoliberalism.   

On a more personal level, i've begun to understand some of my own fundamentalist biases, and my tendencies misunderstand (and to generalise about the negative aspects of), in particular, liberalism. I've begun to revisit the foundations of my knowledge of social scientific theory, questioning the extent to which my own uncritical allegiances shape my ability to think critically.   I also feel like I have to revisit the basic theories on which a lot of current thinking is based, with a more enhanced capacity to read in order to gain a more sophisticated understanding of the International Political Economy.


Watson, Matthew (2008) 'Theoretical traditions in global political economy' in John Ravenhill (ed.) Global Political Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press):  27-62.

Thursday, 11 June 2015


Waiting for Japanese master of horror, Takashi Miike

Watch the trailer for his film, Imprint

to direct, SAW BOW-WOW.


Background:  The compelling story of our little baby girl's SUDDEN ABDUCTION by a WIND-TURBINE SYSTEM (SAWS).  Our family tell the chilling tale to investigating police...We truly and honestly believe that our little baby girl was pulled into the WINDFARM

one tragic and spine-chilling night.

There had been several supernatural occurrences since we moved to 'town'.  We write a list of all these nasty symptoms, before the police come to interrogate us.  I get my wife to type it up on our computer, so it looks nice and professional:

We know it was the wind-turbine because we did the research using Google, Wikipedia and we used statements from the Liberal-National party and other experts.  Also, we had taken the following steps to protect our baby girl:
  • We installed that video monitoring system 
  • Fed her a life-affirming paleo-diet
  • Ran any former/potential pedophiles (and any homosexuals, to be sure, to be sure) out of town, before we bought at this tranquil rural location in Queensland's west
  • We made sure our baby girl didn't get vaccinated
The twist:

Our pet American Staffordshire Terrier named, Doggie Bow-Wow, goes bonkers rapid (and maybe develops superpowers?), as a result of the mindless Southern drawl of the cheap imported wind farm.  Imported from America, the parts were assembled by exploited factory workers in Indonesia, many of whom were crushed in the machines that assembled the turbine's parts.  As the tragedy unfolds, we realise the local manufacturing industry had been closed down years before, after the implementation of regional trade agreements made subsidies on goods manufactured in Australia totes illegal.

Here is a video of when the Opposition leader tried to save the manufacturing industry in Australia, using protectionist racist rhetoric:

The End.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Politics of Pleasure

In 'Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex' and 'Some Psychological Consequences of the Anatomical Distinctions Between the Sexes', Freud claims to understand the body/sexuality/pleasure beyond culture and history (Laqueur 1990).  Freud's narrative, detaching sexuality from reproduction and problematising the notion of exclusive heterosexuality, ultimately does more to serve the primacy and value of both heterosexual relations and the conventions of the patriarchal organisation of the family (Appignanesi & Forrester 1993).

Freud accounts for the transition from the pleasure of the clitoris in younger women, to the primacy of the vagina, in adult females.  Prior to the 20th Century, medical and pornographic representations of women's orgasm were only clitoral (Laqueur 1990: 233).  Freud's mythology around the development of the healthy adult female asserted vaginal pleasure and an abandonment of clitoral pleasure.  Freud, as an authority on mind, body and normality, was a powerful figure, defining acceptable ways for middle class women to use their bodies.  The medical profession, emerging out of the Middle class, further defined acceptable/rational/healthy ways to use the body.  Internalised notions of normality became powerful forces, where individuals internalise ideas and shame, and label their bodies/pleasures/identities in relation to the sexual degradation of the Other, in this case the mentally disturbed and the lesser classes (Laquer 1990: 235).

In Freud (in Appignanesi & Forrester 1993: 419), women are "made capable of an erotic life based on the masculine type object-love, which can exist alongside the feminine proper, derived from is the baby that makes the transition from narcissistic self-love to object love possible". Freud's narrative, while problematising exclusive heterosexuality (and societal ideas about what women find pleasurable), ends in an adult female, like the homosexual male, defined as narcissistic.  She is able to transcend this authentic selfishness via reproduction and sexual practices/pleasures that are defined in relation to men, and to the penetration of the penis of the vagina.  The sordid complexity of Freud reveals/suggests the extent to which powerful men and dominant institutions consciously and unconsciously prescribed myths about bodies/pleasures/identities.  While Freud may have seen himself as beyond the conventional morality and irrationality of religion, the key organiser of bodies (and identities) before scientific disciplines (gained authority), it would be interesting to explore the extent to which Freud furthers the patriarchal organisation of gender and sexuality through complex modes of self-discipline.  Indeed many feminists have examined the extent to which Freud's theory and practice involved the dismissal of sexual abuse in childhood, explaining his/her patients' complaints of abuse as mere problems of development of the individual and his or her Oedipus Complex (Appignanesi & Forrester 1993: 472). This alludes to a history of the ways in which religion and its supposed anti-thesis science reproduced an existing sexual and gender order (in the modern West) which favoured the powerful, and the ambitions of a society dominated by the Gods of sexual reproduction and the power of men over women, of the middle class over the others, of normality over insanity, of rich over poor, of object over subject, of heterosexual over homosexual.


Appignanesi, L. & Forrester, J. (1993).  Freud's Women, Virago: London.

Freud, S. 1973, New Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis, Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Freud, S. 1977 (1923), 'Infantile genital organisation', in On Sexuality ed. Angela Richards, Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Freud, S. 1977 (1924), 'Disolution of the oedipus complex', in On Sexuality ed. Angela Richards, Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Freud, S. 1977 (1925), 'Some psychical consequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes', in On Sexuality, ed. Angela Richards, Penguin: Harmondsworth.

Laqueur, T. (1990), Making Sex:  Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Cambridge:  MA.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Je Suis Ollie

The statistics are in and they tell me that stupid ape is going down.  The frenzy of likes on a facebook page I co-administer (Too Informed to Vote for Tony Abbott) provides evidence of the demise of your friend Tony Abbott.  After over a year of limited interest, the facebook page has become a veritible hotbed of populist rage.

As co-administrator of the page, perhaps I should be fullfilling my job, posting something witty and thought provoking, engaging with debates about the failure of the trickle down effect, tracing the parallels between the fundamentalism of the Coaltion and that of extremist terrorist groups, or postulising about whether ice or Tony Abbott is the true scourge of society.

Inevitably, I will be read as a green, nihilistic, homo-terrorist in an open relationship with a communist Staffodshire puppy dog.  In all my smug self-assurdness, I don't care so much about how tragic humans perceive me, however, I remain highly succeptible to anger managment issues that the Daily Telegraph would define as 'spiralling dangerously out of control'.

On Easter Sunday, a walk in the park descended into a battle between your innocent staffy loving commrad and the world of Lovejoy, and other human-centric 'people' that are so close to death that they really should know the joy of puppy-love.  Ollie (or Olive, as I like to call him) was "straying".  It's common for him to hang out behind the pack when in the woods.  The possibility of food, pats, dinner, shade, scratches, ball, love, eggs, puppies increases loitering likeliness.  I returned to the cafe where Ollie was performing.  I like to watch him entertain his peoples with his staffy antics.  He pretended to hug some some children while nudging toward their sandwiches.  They seemed to laugh at the way his ears perked up, pushed to the top of his head like a little girl with piggy tails.  They mimiced his snorting as he sniffed the ground while similtaneously peeing on the ice cream freezer.  He used his ninja moves and drew on a number of his favourite styles of walk, from the grapevine to the rocking-chair, conducting his own circus of joy.  In private this great magician is known as a "little lamb", "pie of the Ollie", "sweet Olive of Olliebama" and even "Bubby bearskin Rug", as he outstretches his body to form one line of delightfullness.

The naggy, know-it-all Anzac rattled me with a tone that exibited my lack of respect for my Christian elders.

"Your dog is being a pest".
"What's wrong with you", I asked, a statement demanding a list from the psychologist that he never realised he needed.
"There's nothing wrong with me".
"Shut up", I concluded.

"You just told MY father to shut up", another human pestering me unnecessarily in Ollie's favourite park.
"You're a stupid b***h".
I don't know what it was, maybe it was the frenzy of Erskineville Kings, the fact that it was Ollie's park, or that it was Christ's eternal birthday that made me react in such a manner.
Having made eye contact with the stupid bitch, I looked up and a couple of very stupid looking faces appeared shocked.  Murmers of disgust further fueled my outburst.
"Hey, watch your language.  There are kids around, you know", said the father whose wife was clearly flirting with Ollie, when I watched her from a distance.
"Just fuck off.  F-u-c-k off", I said.  My manner was abrupt as I placed Ollie on the lead.

My smug, narrcistitic grandiosity is only reinforced by the fact that I am bragging about this incident on my blog.  Amused by my own behaviour, most disappointed that I didn't add "Just fuck off...back to your trashy white suburbs you god fearing breeders".

The page I co-administer, why don't you click like on it?  You can be part of his downfall.  You can tell your grandchildren that you helped make the moment.  I might post something on there too, before I lose my job.  When you read it, remember that I wouldn't tell you how to fix your car, bring up your children, how to make Anzac cookies or that Jesus doesn't really love you.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Democratisation or Neo-liberalism: The role of Western powers in the Middle East

“After the events of 11 September, the US and the EU both looked at methods of promoting democracy in the region, but…only if it did not challenge their interests…The free flow of oil and gas, the movement of military/commercial traffic through the Suez Canal, commercial infrastructure construction contracts, the security of regional allies such as Israel, and cooperation on immigration, military, counter-terrorism…the expansion of free markets and free trade in a neoliberal modality…reduced democracy promotion to little more than a technology of US and EU external governance…The Obama administration initially attempted to replace “market driven modernisation” with “development driven modernisation”…in the aftermath of the 2011 revolutions, however, the Obama administration would increasingly come to see the Bush administration’s approach as the preferred policy agenda”.

(Ruth Santini and Oz Hassan 2012: 66-75)

At uni last week we looked at democratisation, specifically, the movement of individual states toward democracy from autocracy.  We touched on the role of external powers [Western democracies] in supporting/imposing democracy on developing countries. It isn’t until recently that there are more democracies than autocratic regimes. We also looked at different forms of democracy and academic debates about whether democracy is good for development. 

We also briefly discussed a range of other issues that challenge popular ideas about democracy (and led to significant insight into why autocratic regimes have persisted in many countries).  The formation of many developing states is largely born out of the borders imposed on areas, often under colonial rule, not natural formation, fails to address ethno/religious difference.  Significantly, modern Western democracies took 100s of years to be formed in their current state.  Movements toward democracy were often violent, and were often built on the exploitation of the rights of others within and between States (i.e. slavery, exploitative labour practices imposed on women).  Some authors acknowledge that the formation of the democratic modern nation-states (and their neo-liberal -philosophies, -policies,  -institutions) exemplify deep structural inequality, both within and between countries [See Nicholas (2012: 213) : “We can observe the formation of such institutionalized patterns of hierarchy not just among preexisting sovereign states but actually in the historical process of state formation.  Many contemporary European nation-states, most notably Britain and Spain, emerged out of struggles among adjacent kingdoms to impose authority over one another in conflicts uncategorizable as either domestic or international.  Outside Europe, many societies were inserted into the international system through the imposition of colonial authority and, on decolonization, inherited a set of state institutions designed to enable colonial administration.  Hierarchy amongst polities has often preceded and shaped the genesis of modern states”].

In the examination of democratisation, we briefly discussed that, throughout the twentieth century, Western liberal democracies have supported autocracies in the Middle East.  This has been for political, economic, security reasons.  Gilley (2013: 659) acknowledges the United States (U.S.) and European powers have a history of supporting authoritarian regimes.  A 2006-2008 Arab public opinion poll indicated that 65% did not believe the US was sincere about promoting democracy (Gilley 2013: 674).  In, 2010 another Arab opinion poll suggested that the majority of public (across Arab states) believed that of U.S. Foreign policy was to preserve regional and global dominance.  Only 3% of respondents believed that U.S. foreign policy was to promote democracy (Gilley 2013: 680).  Curiously, while Gilley acknowledges that other theorists, like Baroudi (in Gilley 2013: 676) believe that “democratization of the Arab world is far more likely to hinder the American agenda than to serve it”, Gilley (2013: 659) continues to conceptualise Bush’s “Freedom Agenda’ (659) as sincere in its objective of promoting in the Middle East.

While Gilley emphasises that democracy would have been more successful if it had been democracy in the hands of domestic actors (683), Santini and Hassan (2012) are more critical of the notion that Western powers support democratisation of the Middle East.  Of U.S. policy and its influence on international institutions, Santini and Hassan (2012: 75) argue that Obama initially attempted to replace market driven modernisation with development driven modernisation.  However, they argue that Obama increasingly applied Bush’s approach arguing that “the problem with the region was its “close economies” and that the region needed “trade” and “not just aid”; “investment” and “not just assistance” ; and that “protectionism must give way to openness”.  (Santini and Hassan 2012: 75). Santini and Hassan (2012) argue that European Union’s (EU) concept of democratisation is embodied in regional institutions and processes (e.g. the Barcelona Process, 2000 EU Common Strategy on the Mediterranean Region and 2004 Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East.   While, they acknowledge that the EU has been less prescriptive in tying economic liberalization with democracy, they conclude that both the U.S. and the EU need to learn to engage and support civil society more effectively, rather than defining freedom for the region in neoliberal economic terms (Santini and Hassan 2012: 79)

Strasheim and Fjelde (2012) look more closely at the role of interim governments in changes from autocratic rule to democracy.  These authors specifically look at the problems with intervention from Western powers (Strasheim and Fjelde 339-341).  With their analysis in mind, I think it would be interesting to examine the extent to which interim governments were installed in Afghanistan, examining the extent to which Western powers undermined peace and security in Afghanistan.  I think a lot of other interesting questions emerge from the readings:

By supporting movements toward democracy for late 'developing' countries, are Western democracies supporting democracy or neoliberalism?

To what extent do modern liberal democracies function as democracies?  Discuss the role of the media, treatment of minorities and informed citizenship as key elements of a democracy.

To what extent should Western states intervene (particularly unilaterally), in the Middle East? 

To what extent are interventions in the Middle East genuine interest in the rights of women or minority groups, or are human/women’s rights discourses used to justify interventions with more sinister motives?

To what extent are international institutions a product of the powerful States that formed and reform them?


Gilley, B. (2013) ‘Did Bush Democratize the Middle East?  The Effects of External-Internal Linkages’, Political Science Quarterly, 34(8): 1323-1338.

Lees, N. (2012) ‘The dimensions of the divide:  vertical differentiation, international inequality and North-South stratification in international relations theory’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 25(2): 209-230.

Santini, R. & Hassan, O. (2012) ‘Transatlantic democracy promotion and the Arab Spring’, The International Spectator:  Italian Journal of International Affairs, 47(3): 65-82.

Strasheim, J. & Fjelde, H. (2014) ‘Pre-designing democracy: institutional design of interim governments and democratization in 15 post-conflict societies’, Democratization, 21(2): 335-358.