Scott Turner’s Article ‘Global Civil Society, Anarchy and Governance’ Essay Sample
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Introduction of TOPIC
To what extent are the ideas of Hobbes and Kropotkin relevant today? Discuss with reference to Scott Turner’s article ‘Global civil society, anarchy and governance’.
Modern day technological advances and globalisation are posing challenges for the traditional realist state centric system. Through the development of organizations such as the European Union and also non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty international the concept of a global civil society emerges. While the idea that a global civil society more accurately describes modern day political and international relations than the assumptions of realism is debatable, it poses a different perspective. It terms of Hobbes and Kropotkin they offer conflicting views on the state and anarchism. Hobbes’ ideas are fundamentally realist and Kropotkin’s ideas revolve largely around cooperation characterised by the organizations aforementioned. This essay will explore Hobbes and Kropotkin’s ideas in more detail in order to derive if they are relevant today with close reference to Scott Tuners article ‘Global civil society, anarchy and governance’.
To derive to what extent Hobbes and Kropotkin’s theories are applicable to modern day societies their key ideas must be understood; Hobbes’ anarchist argument is structured around the belief that there must be a social contract and an overarching sovereign to prevent a constant state of war. His realist views constrict him to believe that as there is no international governing authority, no global leviathan, states will be in constant pursuit to validate their power. Tuner epitomises this when he explains that ‘the only law is the natural right of self-preservation’ between states. Hobbes views societies that exist without a sovereign and state as barbarian cultures. Kropotkin however believed an ideal society is a stateless society, one that could be attained through anarchy. He believed an ideal society could be conceived in which a sovereign did not exist. He described the state as a product of capitalism which he believed to be unjust as the strife for profit is at the expense of others. He claimed “Societies already begin to encroach everywhere on the functions of the state, and strive to substitute free action of volunteers for that of a centralized state” demonstrating his affliction to capitalism.
He proposed that harmony could be attained by agreements amongst people and not submission to an overarching authority for the sake of ‘production and consumption’. The major factor that has prompted the formation of such apposing theories is based on the fundamental claims regarding human nature. Kropotkin understands human nature to be social and peaceful allowing for society to strive without a state power. Hobbes on the other hand believed humans are much more animalistic in nature meaning we act individually to satisfy our own needs regardless of how our actions may affect others. Turner has provided evidence to support both Hobbes and Kropotkin’s theories of human nature and anarchy in modern day societies through conflicts and peaceful demonstrations. This essay will provide evidence for their continuing relevance and seek to discover which, if either is more prominent in today’s society.
Kropotkin’s foresight was accurate as his conclusions and ideas seem no less valid today than they were when he wrote. Rebellions against dictators and governmental regimes are still extremely prevalent nowadays demonstrating Kropotkin’s theory of anarchism in action. Kropotkin criticised the centralized system in which the bureaucratic elite thrived while failing to provide sufficiently for the masses and persistently emphasised that the state is a source of violence. He believed “The law is an adroit mixture of customs that are beneficial to society, and could be followed even if no law existed, and others that are of advantage to a ruling minority, but harmful to the masses of men, and can be enforced on them only by terror.” Turner’s article calls upon the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 to emphasise this point. The protest conducted predominantly by students fought for liberalisation and against the corrupted government. The state responded with violence and the number of death is unknown but expected to be in the thousands. Here Kropotkin’s theories of human nature and the state are optimised; the demonstration shows how people are
able to co-operate peacefully together without a legitimate authority in order to bring about policy
The Tiananmen massacre exposed the emerging global citizenship that has been made possible through technological advances. The students were able to broadcast the events of the protest unbeknown to the government which les to global response. These actions challenge the traditional conception of individual states operating exclusively to arbitrate social values and norms as social interaction occurs on a global scale. Turner’s article highlights that the concept of global civil society is not exclusively about policy changes and state orientated but about changing societal outlooks on a global scale in the hope of fashioning peaceful societies often achieved by the work of non-governmental international organizations such as Greenpeace. These organizations blur the geographical boundaries and create global communities which undermine the realist conception of the state in favour of Kropotkin’s anarchist society. Turner calls upon Duedney to argue that environmental issues almost always lead to a global response rather than a statist one again demonstrating the interdependence of modern day politics.
These organisations can be classed under Kropotkin’s ideas of an ideal society. Kropotkin was not suggesting an order-less society when he proposed the abolition of the state rather a society of institutions such as NGOs that are voluntary and do not seize power through the use of violence. Turner points out however that not all NGO’s attain results in a peaceful manner and it is with regards to violence that the distinction between a global civil society and a state-centric system is hazy.
Turner briefly refers to the Sea Shepherds incident in 1986 to relay this point. The Sea Shepherds were a whale conservation group who upon hearing 120 whales were to be killed for a scientific investigation sunk two ships. This example demonstrates that NGOs are not united in their opinions on violence to achieve results. Terrorist movements are exempt from the global civil society to which this essay is referring as they are simply in pursuit of power to control or form new state however violent demonstrations cannot be excluded. Peaceful protests occurred in London during August 2011, they were in pursuit of more jobs and against the inequality that is inherent to a capitalist society however drastically more prominent in the UK since the financial crisis. The protests however became violent and sparked the London Riots. These examples undermine Kropotkin’s theory on human nature and the type of non-violent NGOs that characterise global civil society in favour of the traditional Hobbesian realist assumptions. Hobbes’ underlying theory of human nature being self-interested is exhibited by these riots; the few who turned to violence caused severe damage to the lives of others in pursuit of personal gain.
Yet Hobbes’ claimed that willing submission to the state causes a peaceful society, he declared that“…during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war.” However the riots demonstrate completely the opposite; that people are not in ‘awe’ of the state system and even if it is an elected government, a state-centric system ignores individuality and generic submission to one authority will not equate to a peaceful society. His argument that a state will be ‘able to defend them from . . . the injuries of one another . . . is, to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man’ is essentially flawed. It is also impossible to ignore the two world wars that have occurred as a result of the Hobbesian state-centric system of governance since it was implemented in the mid-17th century. Turner draws attention to the fact that it is international conflict not street crime or terrorists that have been the most prominent committers of violence.
The fundamental question remains however as to whether Kropotkin’s stateless society and Hobbes’ realist state-centric system of governance are relevant today. Turner’s article demonstrates that their theories do not necessarily have to be ‘mutually exclusive’ and the ideas of both are evident in modern society. Turner highlights the fact that a global civil society (which closely resembles Kropotkin’s idea of an ideal society) has a ‘different set of priorities’ than the state but does not reject it. Turner does not completely agree with Kropotkin in a stateless society suggesting his ideas are not completely relevant today but rather aspects of them. He discusses how NGOs and the state should work together in order to obtain the best society. It is in fact the state that implements the changes NGO’s want to see. Amnesty International for example fights for universal human rights and only through the state system have they been able to ‘secure the compliance of states in enforcing international standards of human rights’. The NGO’s cannot achieve their aims without the state and therefore Turners Global civil society is a combination of civil society and the state.
The world is advancing and transforming into a more global society away from the traditional state-centric system that much is obvious however Turner is quick to emphasis “It should not be misconstrued to suggest that global civil society threatens to replace the state centric system”. Hobbesian society is still extremely relevant but it is greatly improved when allowed to be influenced by NGOs which operate under the ideas of Kropotkin demonstrating the presence of both in modern day politics.
Society today does not operate under the strict ideals of Hobbes or Kropotkin. It has aspects of a state-centric system but it also greatly influenced by stateless organisations demonstrating the relevance of both Kropotkin and Hobbes’ today. The influence of globalisation is changing the traditional state-centric ideas as influences are global and not confined to geographical boundaries however the incidents aforementioned and discussed by Turner throughout his article emphasis the state is needed to implement law and maintain control hence the persistent relevance of Hobbes’ argument. Kropotkin’s ideas have become more relevant since technology has advanced and global interaction that has occurred as a result of it. The concept of global civil society is within itself, stateless supporting his argument and again demonstrating its significance today. Turner’s article has shown that to a certain extent both Kropotkin’s and Hobbes’ ideas hold relevance today.
Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/p/peter_kropotkin.html#ixzz1oFjyGKMr http://lse.academia.edu/AlexPrichard/Papers/354060/Introduction_Anarchism_and_World_Politics
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