World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

 < NOT_DEFINED backto SUMMARY OF PANELS

RETHINKING THE MEDITERRANEAN: NEW PERSPECTIVES ON INTERACTION BETWEEN ‘US’ AND ‘THEM’ - 1/3: Theoretical Aspects (226) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel
 

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED, 21 / 2.30 - 4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Institute for International Politics, Institute for International Politics, Helmut-Schmidt-University, University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Annette Jünemann and Jakob Horst

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Prof. Annette Jünemann, Institute for International Politics, Helmut-Schmidt-University, University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg

Paper discussant: Dr. Martin Beck, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Amman

This is the first of three corresponding panels that will focus on various processes of interaction with and within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The overarching aim is to overcome the traditional role models that dominate the interregional discourse in northern as much as in southern Mediterranean countries. We can learn a lot about political realities if we analyze the logic of action of relevant political actors within their social environment. While the first panel will address the topic from a conceptual and theoretical perspective, the second and third panel approaches the same issue through empirical case studies.
The analytical focus is on patterns of interaction between governmental institutions, economic entrepreneurs, religious groups and other diverse groupings. Their complex – individual and/or collective - logic of action, determined by a multitude of interrelated parameters like political and economic interests, norms and values, is in the center of the research. This may also include academic discourses such as “democratic peace“, “securitization” or “neo-colonialism”. Since interaction does not happen outside time and space, social and political contexts on a global, regional and local level have to be considered as well as institutional and legal frameworks of interaction and the specific rationale of organisations.
This diversified analytical approach transcends the established perception of interregional relations as mainly intergovernmental and as predominantly driven by particular interests of national and/ or regional powers. Popular notions like ‘dominance’ or ‘partnership’ might change their meaning if interests and strategies of actors that are neither ‘north’ nor ‘south’ are taken into account. This does not mean that notions of power, dominance or exploitation will become irrelevant. However, we believe that interregional relations are much more complex and truly interdependent than the prevalent discourse with its focus on ‘south’ versus ‘north’.

Paper presenter: Eva-Maria Maggi, Visiting Scholar, Henry M. Jackson School of International Relations, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, “Changing logics of action: European impact in the Mediterranean”
The European Union (EU) is changes states and societies. That is not only true for those countries directly involved in the process of European integration, but also for the numerous states in its neighborhood. Yet there is little known about the various effects the European Union`s policies actually have on the ring of countries surrounding it, nor is there a coherent theoretical framework for this evaluation. This paper proposes an actor-centered theoretical perspective on Europeanization research to analyze and measure the impact of the “North” on its neighborhood to the “South”.
Here, Europeanization is defined as „an incremental process of reorienting the direction and shape of politics to the degree that EC (European Communities, E.M.) political and economic dynamics become part of the organizational logic of national politics and policy-making“ (Ladrech 1994: 69). Combining the concept of Europeanization with actor-centered Institutionalism (Scharpf 1993), this paper proposes a theoretical framework which focuses on the political actors and their logics of action, rather than on processes and institutions. Because of the lack of direct impact, like conditionality or the implementation of community regulations, political actors in non-EU countries are expected to play a greater role in translating European impact into their national system.
When characterizing the logics of political action within the Mediterranean, the Europeanization of Europe`s neighborhood is a central phenomena. First, because it tells us more about the various impacts of the European Union as well as the interrelations with its neighbors to the south. And second, because Europeanization is like Globalization; an undeniable force in global politics whose influence should be recognized in our future research. The theoretical framework proposed in this paper could aid in explaining European impact on its neighbors.

Paper presenter: Taysir Nashif, United Nations, New York, USA, “Enlightenment and Enhancement of conceptual and Cultural Communication”
One of the more important causes of cultural differences among peoples is the difference in the understanding and, hence, the definition of concepts, such as ‘culture,’ ‘politics,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘achievement’ used by different peoples. In the context of the European, Asian and African Mediterranean societies, the dynamic complex of seen and unseen, internal and external, quantifiable and unquantifiable, short-, medium- and long-term intellectual and practical, value-ridden and material factors have given form to the logics of action. I argue that one way to remove or, at least, reduce the differences in the understanding and definition of concepts is the promotion of the presence of enlightenment in the conduct of human affairs. Enlightenment is taken as mainly meaning the following interrelated factors: pursuit of a greater degree of objectivity, of distinction between objective and subjective statements, explanation and professionalism. In the treatment of such factors, contents of several “same concepts” as understood and used in the Mediterranean countries will be analyzed and compared to point at their similar and different aspects. The paper at hand sets out to: firstly, substantiate this thesis, treating the above-mentioned factors in the context of the cultural-intellectual relations between European and South-Western and North-African Mediterranean countries; secondly, show that enlightenment can make the Mediterranean logics of action more susceptible and responsive to the achievement of better understanding.

Paper presenter: Jakob Horst, PhD candidate, Institute for International Politics, Helmut-Schmidt-University, University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg, “Rethinking the logic of EU-democracy promotion in the Mediterranean: A critical view on modernization and spillover assumptions”
The policy approach of the European Union in the southern Mediterranean, as conceptualized in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) 15 years ago, was strongly influenced by the belief that by promoting economic restructuring and liberalization processes, logics of action of political decision makers could be influenced in order to produce liberalizing effects in the political area as well. In this regard the EU’s policy approach was and is shaped by assumptions of classical modernization theories.
The paper in the a first part criticizes the teleological bias of the aforementioned “democratization by modernization”-paradigm of the EU’s policy approach and its economic focus by comparing it to actual findings of research on political development dynamics in the MENA-region, specifically in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia). The paper argues that a teleological modernization paradigm which assumes an automatic causal link between economic reform and restructuring processes on the one hand, and political liberalization on the other finally culminating in full-fledged democracy, lacks an idea of the complexity of interrelations between different societal spheres.
Secondly this paper works out that the EU’s policy agenda in the Mediterranean, focused on economic liberalization, restructuring and free trade, on the contrary can have counterproductive effects on what democratization- and transition-theories identified as structural preconditions for democracy, e.g. distributional equality and social cohesion. Within this context the paper gives a special focus to the effects of the implementation of free trade, a central subject within the association agreements between the EU and southern Mediterranean countries. Bridging the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ this paper relates local political logics to the ambitious self-declared goals of the European policy in the southern Mediterranean.

Paper presenter: Delf Rothe: Energy for the masses? Exploring the political logics behind the Desertec initiative
The vision of the Desertec Foundation is ambitious: the large-scale installation of solar thermal plants in the deserts of the MENA-Region countries, they promise, will not only provide clean energy for Europe and the producing host countries but will provide solutions for the challenges of food and water scarcity, global climate change and overcrowding. The aim of this paper is to explore, how the private sector interests that stand behind the Desertec initiative were transformed into political action both at the regional level of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the local level in one of the “target countries” – in this case Egypt. It will be asked for the discursive narratives that back up this political process as well as for political actors at the regional, national and local level which promote those narratives. Lastly, interactions between these different political levels and possible forms of opposition/resistance of the Egyptian population or civil society are analyzed.
For this purpose the paper draws on the concept of logics of critical explanation by David Howarth and Jason Glynos. Opposed to both the causal law paradigm in social science as well as the causal mechanism approach by critical realists, logics provide a solution for explanation in social science that sticks to a relativist ontology as developed by discourse theory and radical constructivism. Political processes, programs or regimes in this respect can be analyzed at three different dimensions which will be applied respectively for the case study of the paper. Social logics firstly refer to established “sedimented” norms, role-models and rules at the national level of Egyptian society as well at the regional level of the UfM. At the political dimension on the contrary actions are analyzed that question and try to change existing social orders. The Desertec initiative in this respect represents a political attempt to overcome established role-models in the MENA countries (such as constructions of differences between “us” and “them”) and related notions of Eurocentrism, paternalism and/or post-colonialism. Political actions are always backed by a certain set of narratives or story-lines that give reason and weight to the promoted arguments, problematizations and solutions. A third dimension of explanation can be identified as the ideological one which deals with fantasmatic logics at the level of discourse that back up political movements and give reason and weight to their promoted arguments. It will be shown in the case-study that Desertec mainly draws on a fantasmatic narrative that presents contemporary crises as an overarching enemy of humanity and blurs the differences between countries, communities or classes.