The Liberal State and its Alternatives in the Indian Ocean World
Message from the organizers
Professor Anatol Lieven
Professor Harry Verhoeven
The 2017 Faculty Conference, to take place in March 2017, will be devoted to the theme of “The Liberal State and its Alternatives in the Indian Ocean Region”. It will form the basis for a series of workshops and solicited papers leading to an edited book which we hope will be adopted by a leading academic publisher. The conference will also include a panel for SFS-Q students to present papers on subjects of their choice that are relevant to the main theme.
The particular form of western-led globalization of the past two generations is coming to an end, together with many of its intellectual, political and economic assumptions. What will come next is very unclear, though we may well fear with Gramsci that this period of one world dying and another struggling to be born will produce monsters. This conference will therefore analyze some of the various forms that modernity and the modern state have taken in the Indian Ocean region, and how these differ from the standard version of the liberal state promoted by the West in recent decades.
The conference is structured around the following five main overlapping themes.
I. The Weberian State and its Opponents
A central assumption that requires questioning is the understanding of stable and enduring states only in terms of Max Weber’s definition of modern statehood; and which therefore creates an exclusive binary opposition between “strong states”, framed in Weberian modernist terms, and “weak” or “failed” states.
II. Nationalism, Religion and Civil Society
The conference’s second area of study will be the roles played by nationalism, religion and civil society as competing sources of legitimacy and organizational principles to exercise, resist or mediate power.
III. Urbanization, Ethnicity and Organized Crime
Despite a rich history of trade, the states of the region have until very recently been overwhelmingly rural. The contemporary explosion in the number and size of cities is not only transforming the traditional political economies of individual states and the macro-region, but also rekindling the importance of ethnicity in these contexts. This latter development has been catalyzed by the growth of informal economic sectors –largely based on kinship and existing in the black or grey markets beyond state surveillance and control– at the expense of previous “classical” patterns of urbanization.
IV. Neoliberal Development and its Alternatives
In this part of the conference we will seek a historically rooted but new understanding of the Indian Ocean’s constitutive role in the global political economy of the 21st century, and the combination of a new era of capitalism with a very general rejection of neoliberal economic rules and theories, especially concerning the role of the state.
V. The Geopolitics of the Indian Ocean
The final axis of inquiry will analyze the IR component of the Indian Ocean world by studying both relations between states within that geographical space and better understanding the Indian Ocean in the world. A new understanding of these issues is vital because of the risks created by the simultaneous growth of tension between the USA and China and increase in Indian power.