Centre for Comparative European Union Studies
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS)
Indian Institute of Technology Madras
  First International Workshop Summary:
“Re-interpreting the State” (http://www.hss.iitm.ac.in/eu/firstworkshop.htm)


The first international workshop of the Centre for Comparative European Union Studies (CCEUS) was held during 28 June-3 July 2010 IIT Madras. The broad theme of the workshop was Democracy, Global Politics and International Relations and the topic of the workshop was “Reinterpreting the State”.

Professor Gerard Delanty and Professor Rajesh Rajagopalan were the two resources persons for this workshop. Provided below, is a brief summary of the workshop.

The conventional notions of the nation state have changed dramatically following the rise of multi-regional power centres. Sovereignty as we have known it thus far - the idea that the State possesses the ultimate authority or power has weakened considerably. Drawing on these two themes this workshop has demonstrated that we cannot conceive of “the Nation State” in conventional terms. The workshop traversed a vast gamut, both in terms of disciplines and the issues covered.

The debates and discussions ranged from Citizenship and Political community, the concepts of Multiculturalism and Cosmopolitanism to theories in International Relations. Guest lectures by eminent speakers discussed issues on, “Parliamentary Democracy in India” by N. Gopalaswami, “EU’s Foreign Relations” by Pilipp Oliver Gross and “the Unique Identity for Transparency and Accountability in Indian Governance” by Gopalakrishnan Devanathan (Kris Dev) enriching our practical understanding of the theoretical frameworks engaged with throughout the course of this workshop.

Professor Gerard Delanty began the first session of this workshop with a discussion on citizenship and political community. He highlighted the issues and problems of concepts such as democracy, liberalism, republicanism and communitarianism. He spoke about citizenship and nationality; post-national citizenship and the post sovereign state, and Cosmopolitan citizenship.

Multiculturalism was a topic of extensive debate with its various straits such as egalitarian multiculturalism based on assimilation; liberal multiculturalism which is a celebration of difference and focused on a legal mode of integration and the consequent move towards ethno-pluralism and radical multiculturalism. He spoke about the problems of multiculturalism in the non-western societies as multicultural groups in these societies posses very different sets of characteristics from that of the West. Several non-western countries are not federations and have experienced some form of multiculturalism much before democracy emerged. Asia is characterised by normative pluralism and sets forth claims based on religion, local groups and pre-state groups. Multiculturalism is thus based not so much in the West as it is in the process of democratization.

Delanty introduced the concept of cosmopolitan multiculturalism which is far more inclusive and based on deliberation and exchange. He spoke of the relationship that Europe has with Christianity and the fact that secularism is fundamentally based in Christianity and therefore only allows for a limited pluralism. In his understanding, secularism primarily arose to neutralise the influence of Christianity in Europe and is hence problematic, as it cannot easily be applied to other societies.

Delanty’s discussion on Europe in a Global Age and the idea of a post-national community argued that Europe has seen a high degree of trans-nationalization and severe disequilibrium between democracy and capitalism. He spoke of the increasing tendency of nationalism being anti-systemic and an expression of national crisis rather than national identity. In this sense the idea of cosmopolitanism and nationalism of a certain kind are both manifestations of solidarity. The Europeanization of national identity has increased the relevance of cosmopolitanism. He also discussed the various contradictions in the process of Europeanization and their social, political, cultural as well as economic aspects.

Delanty discussed the concept of cosmopolitanism at length- its relevance and ramifications in today’s world. Cosmopolitanism is based on the law of hospitality and the idea of universal community where a violation of rights anywhere would be felt everywhere. The cosmopolitan right is in this sense a universal right of humanity. He explained the varieties of cosmopolitanism as discussed below.

Moral cosmopolitanism began with the family and encompasses all of humanity. It has to do with identification with humanity and emphasizes the importance of education.

Political cosmopolitanism is related to the normative realm and goes beyond moral cosmopolitanism. It deals with issues of citizenship, democracy and global ethics.

Cultural cosmopolitanism is linked to everyday manifestations and examines multiple forms of belonging and identity.

Sociological cosmopolitanism tries to measure the extent to which cosmopolitan values influence a society. It focuses on the increasing inter-connectivity of the world and a common sharing of problems.

Alternative / post-colonial cosmopolitanism is close to cultural cosmopolitanism. It focuses on global diasporic populations, hybridity and the importance of non-western forms of cosmopolitanism.

Delanty introduced critical cosmopolitanism, which is a critique of the other approaches mentioned above. It highlights the transformational possibilities of cosmopolitanism, the importance of openness, interaction, plurality, hybridity and most importantly the need for evaluation and reflexivity. It is an exploration of otherness within the self and a response to globality with an emphasis on dialogue and deliberation.

Professor Rajesh Rajagopalan acquainted the participants with the basics of International Relations theory, including the Realist, Liberal and Constructivist notions of the State and International Politics. Subscribing to the Realist School, Rajagopalan combined hard theory with applied practice in the field of global politics. He provided a realist analysis of the Cold War- its trajectory and after effects and spoke extensively about the bipolar rivalry between the two super powers that dominated world politics post 1945. The Soviet Union perceived the “West” as an extension of capitalism and as targets for Socialist Revolution; while the US saw the Soviet Union as an extension of European neo-mercantilism and wanted them opened up to free trade and self- determination. Both super powers came to see the “Third World” as an important realm for their military and ideological rivalry. The Cold War assisted the formation of several regional security complexes in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The intense military rivalry between the two, their proxy wars in Asia and Africa and the dramatic end of the Cold War left International Relations theorists to grapple with the why’s and wherefore’s of the demise of the Soviet Bloc. The ending of the Cold War brought a shift in the nature of the security agenda to include a range of non-military issues and actors which had been visible in IR theory since the 1970’s.

Rajagopalan discussed the Realist stance at length covering the work of scholars such as John Meisenheimer and E. H. Carr. He emphasised the Realist focus on the concept of balance of power concluding that balance of power- both hard and soft, is an inevitable phenomenon. However, he reiterated the fact that the rise and fall of powerful nations is an intensely complex process and cannot be explained in the language of inevitability alone. The issue of non- proliferation of nuclear weapons was also discussed at length. The five nuclear powers brought in the Non proliferation regime as a way of maintaining their supremacy and this linked back to the Realist perception of materiality as the basis of power. While recognising other forms of power Realism regards material and military power as the bases of domination. Realism focuses on anarchy in international relations and privileges the State as the most significant unit of analysis.

Liberalism, on the other hand, has its roots in the notions of free trade and democracy. Liberalism has several streams; there is the notion that economic dependency will ultimately lead to peace or the Wilsonian School which advocates the building up of international institutions to ensure dialogue and peace. Liberalism is fundamentally based on the notion of absolute rather than relative gain.

Constructivism arose from the Critical Theory tradition and as a critique of the modern tradition. It critiques structuralism and stresses the importance of identity and its influence on behaviour. Constructivism, as its name suggests, holds that reality is constructed and not something tangible or pre-existing, emphasising the need for inter-subjective understanding. There is a dialogical relationship between agent and structure. The final sessions of Professors Delanty and Rajagopalan dealt with global processes. Since the two scholars had divergent approaches, this provided an engagement with critical theoretical issues in discussions on the concept of state.

Delanty spoke about modernity from a global perspective which deals with the issues of euro-centrism and post colonialism and their short comings, moving beyond these into new vistas of global modernity. Modernity must be envisioned in multiple forms – social, political and philosophical. He discussed the concepts of liquid modernity (of Zygmunt Bauman’s), second modernity (of Ulrich Beck’s), the Jurgen Habermasian modernity as a struggle between communicative and instrumental rationality. To cite a few examples: he arrived at the possibilities of an entangled modernity which is not universal but global; neither western nor an institutional form. Modernities are intermeshed and interconnected. They have a self transformative capacity and the key processes and dynamics of modernity can be found in every society. This lays the foundation for the development of cosmopolitanism which focuses on the processes of interpenetration, interpretation, selection, translation, adaptation and combination leading to cross civilizational interaction in which third cultural forms emerge.

On the other hand, Rajagopalan spoke of globalization and the challenges it posed to realism. He identified two key challenges- firstly, Globalization makes existing theoretical challenges greater and secondly, he raised an important question; does the state still remain the primary actor?

Rajagopalan addressed the diminishing role of the state as a unitary actor and the influence of State leaders in shaping global policies. The issues of identity, internal civil wars and failed states have also emerged as new problems which require a redefinition of perspectives. Sovereignty as a model for nation states no longer retains primacy, and the survival of nation states is not certain. Rajagopalan argued that in the Realist perspective, this is in fact of little relevance, for as long as some form of State persists, realist theory will hold strong. The emergence of the EU and the growing trend of regional integration further dilutes the idea of Nation State; but, as Rajagopalan argued, the outcome of this trend is unpredictable and can only be dealt with as it unfolds. The growing importance of interdependence at the global level along with the emergence of non- state actors also requires special attention from the Realist school. The Realist notion of power as being purely material is arguably limited in some respects and may require some revision.

The presentations from the participants addressed a wide range of issues- from performance, issues of health, gender and education and their influence on the state, to the application of Lacanian and Latin American models to the changing nature of the state.

Summery in PDF format

Dept. of HSS IIT Madras India-EU Study Centre Programme