Tutor profile: Mariam K.
Subject: Political Science
How is the study of political economy different from the study of economics?
The study of political economy requires an understanding of neoclassical economics. Both subjects divert on the types of questions they ask. On one hand, economics is concerned with issues of efficiency and the advantages of economic exchanged. On the other hand, political economy is primarily concerned with the distributions of gains from said market activities. Another difference is that economists tend to consider markets as self-regulating systems, unaffected by politics. While specialists in political economy tend to emphasize the impact of the world economy on power, values, and interests within and between nation-states. Nation-states are incentivized to protect their own values and interests and thus may attempt to manipulate market forces to influence global politics. Additionally, economic analysts are generally ambivalent about the role of institutions in the economy as they focus on the market. For political economy specialists, the role of international institutions and the regimes of economic governance constitute a central point of analysis. Indeed, states, especially the powerful ones, attempt to influence institutional functioning and design in service of their own political and economic interests. Although economics is a necessary foundation for the study of political economy, the discipline itself focuses on the interaction between markets and political actors. Thus, the study of political economy deduces that states, corporations, and other powerful agents would attempt to use their power to influence the nature of national and international regimes towards their own economic ends.
Subject: International Relations
There are several theories of International Relations. What do these theories differ about?
Although theories in IR have many commonalities, there are several points of divergence between them. The first point of divergence is the object of analysis. Note that there are three levels of analysis in IR theory, these are human nature, political systems, and the nature of the international system. These levels of analysis are the objects of analysis. For instance, take the example of war, those aligning with the liberal theory of IR argue that war is a product of autocratic political systems whereas Marxists have argued that is a product of capitalism. Hence, for the liberal school of thought, a liberal regime is necessary to reduce the propensity of war. For the Marxists, wars can be abolished by establishing socialist forms of government. They are both working on the second level of analysis: political systems. Anyone working on the third level of analysis, that is the international system, would argue that war is a product of the anarchic nature of global politics and is therefore inevitable. IR theories also differ in their purpose of social inquiry. One can imagine that the purpose of IR theory would be to understand the international order, however, the various schools of thought offer more specific perspectives. The liberal school of thought proposes that the purpose of inquiry or analysis is to promote economic and social interdependence between individuals and to create new forms of solidarity. For the neo-realists, the purpose of the analysis is circumscribed by the fact that any such vision of utopian solidarity is unrealistic due to the anarchic nature of the international system. The opposition of this perspective is established by Marxists and Gramscian schools of thought which argue that domestic and international class forces, states, and international institutions form a global hegemonic order. The purpose of inquiry then is always informed by whom it serves, the ones that ask the questions inform the level of analysis. Lastly, a point of difference between the theories is the appropriate methodology. Debating the purpose of social and political inquiry ultimately leads to differences in the appropriate methodology for the discipline. The main issue in this arena is the nature of normative claims, is it possible to provide an objective answer to why human beings should value autonomy? Proponents of the scientific approach would argue that objective knowledge of political phenomenon is inaccessible. While post-modernist schools of thought have argued that any dogma of ideal ends will only exacerbate current and/or create new forms of power. Nevertheless, the scientific approach remains the dominant one in the study of IR. So much so that the liberal peace theory, the idea that liberal states do not go to war with each other, is claimed to be the only fact that can be close to a law in international politics.
Subject: Comparative Government and Politics
What impact has social media had on the tone of political debate?
It is usually assumed that new communication technologies are always beneficial and liberating. However, in the context of social media that entirely depends on who is wielding the power at any time. The role of social media in politics has been hailed by giving the example of the Arab Spring where social media was used by the public against despotic governments. However, this is the same social media that can be accredited with the rise of right-wing, racist and anti-immigration rhetoric. In the last decade there has been a tendency in political debate to take a crass tone, sometimes to shock or as a calculated attempt to cause offense. However, it can be reasonably argued that in the age of social media, the center-ground of politics has been lost. This can be attributed to the rise of populism and nationalist sentiments, but the impact of social media cannot be denied. The rise of blogs and personal column-style posts online has allowed new voices into the discourse. Especially the type of commentators that take pride in their abrasive speech, termed ‘straight talking’ and a virtue. This approach would have normally been ill-suited for the traditional types of journalism, where even today editorial standards must be maintained. An example of this is the Breitbart media, seen as a key agent of the alternative right-wing in the USA and especially close to the former US president, Donald Trump. Additionally, views expressed online tend to be less civil than the ones expressed in real life. A reason for this can be the anonymity that social media can provide. Even without anonymity, it is generally easier to sound harsh comments in writing than to an actual human being, in person. Note that being able to shock people may even provide monetary gains, as can be noted from the boom of the careers of many right-leaning commentators on YouTube elsewhere before the election of Donald Trump and throughout his presidency. In short, social media has created space for all kinds of voices, especially views that cannot be easily expressed face to face. This has resulted in a polarised environment online, that usually produces crass political discourse, at least online.
needs and Mariam will reply soon.