According to the modern linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky “You can’t study the United States without recognizing that there is an unusually class-conscious power business community, always fighting the bitter class war”. And he continues that without introducing that power dynamic you are not studying the country. He has pointed us in a very important direction that should not be missed when studying any society on earth.

It is not always advisable to resort to grand narratives when analyzing international politics as political and social dynamics in different areas are an outcome of their respective social and historical conditioning. Hence, the superimposition of any grand narrative can be justifiably deemed as unjust. Arguably, the tendency of imposition of the grand narrative has witnessed a surge in centuries followed by the emergence of modernity. Instead of going into the empirics of whether it is true that it has surged or not, it is even more convenient to see the universalism entailed by the sort of progressive mode of thinking entailed by modernism.

The mode of thinking attached to the paradigm of modernism was considered superior to other modes of thinking. It is not possible in this article to make a case for or against the ideals of modernism. The central concern here is to first look at the imposition of grand narratives through different means such as culture, education, etc. This imposition, of course, carried with it the shallow hope that the world would become a better place if the ideals of modernism unfolded in those areas of the world which did not experience enlightenment.

A recent example would clarify the argument being made. In Afghanistan, the USA and its allied forces mostly from the region which has seen the fruits of enlightenment thought that institutions designed on the fundamentals of modernity such as rationality, individualism is the way forward for a country like Afghanistan. However, according to most of the political commentators, the USA, and its allies were not successful in their mission in Afghanistan.

Whatever the reasons are, two extreme views can emerge out of the case studies like Afghanistan. One is that even force should be used to impose the grand narratives of social justice and liberal democracy etc. The other is that every area has its own context and therefore they should be left on their own to decide what kind of ideals they would pursue: modern or otherwise.

Both views have serious flaws and/but they are sustainable. The view of using force is misunderstood among many intellectual circles. The use of force involves bringing into play the global power dynamics which do not adhere to the republican ideals of emancipation. For example, an American President may truly be committed to the dissemination of liberal values in a country ruled by a brutal dictator, but that true commitment does not mean anything to the agnostic global power structure. The agnostic global power structure in this regard means that the exercising of power involves the collective pursuit of interests of different power groups who are only concerned with their profits. And the use of massive power is only possible by the combined use of different powerhouses driven by their interest. For the sake of clarity, in order to invade a country several weapon industries, oil companies, and the business of local areas come into play, such as poppy business in Afghanistan and oil in Iraq. 

As mentioned above that the merger of these powerhouses involves powerhouses of the invading countries as well as whose area is being invaded for the sake of imposing something foreign to that land. This point is the answer to the second view who very neatly bifurcates between foreign and local contexts. For instance, there were local Afghans who allied with the USA and became a part of the fragile government structure formed there. Likewise, in Iraq, there were groups aggrieved from Sadam Hussain’s government and therefore allied with the USA to pursue its own benefits. This pushes two clusters of powerhouses into a conflict. In this mess, a question arises that what is that local context that should hold sway? Do the powerhouses opposing foreign invasion represent local context? 

In order to save ourselves from the vicious cycle, it is important to change the semantics. Instead of emphasizing the binary of local context, it is more important to look at the composition of the context. Who is the agent in the context? How is power divided in the context? Many contexts which we deem as local and indigenous are representative of unequal power dynamics spread over centuries. Therefore, one should be aware of the historical formation of the context before emphasizing its sanctity. On the other hand, the foreign power that apparently wants the betterment of the local area resorts to a chunk of local context that once was a part of the unjust power structure or is ambitious about it. This is also evident through the example of the USA supporting militias like the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.  

The noteworthy part in this whole scenario is that there is inter-penetrability at a very deep level between the two opposing forces which also implies that the survival of their power concentration is dependent upon the existence of each other. Although the wisdom of realpolitik compels policymakers on the ground to become a part of either of the powerhouses, it is an intellectually ill-conceived solution for those who are aspiring for the ideal of emancipation. Taking an aerial view of conflict over the period of human history, it becomes evident that it is the concentration of power that results in the perpetuation of the vicious cycle. The scenario directs us towards the identification of a problem that is structural in nature. It is the power structure that denies the genuine unfolding of context. In traditional societies, there is an orthodox unequal power structure but the interesting part is that this very unequal power structure receives strength from the modern-capitalistic power structure in the form of trade. 

The historical example of British alliances with feudal of the subcontinent clarifies the point being made.  

 Both benefitted from it. Feudals in the subcontinent represented local power context and controlled the politics of their area with or without a foreign hand. Currently, when businesses and landowners of developing countries very smoothly become a necessary component of global capitalism. For example, the injustice entailed by the Coltan mining in Congo. In spite of those injustices, global capitalism benefits from the Coltan used in mobile devices. The directs us towards the conclusion towards a point that the utmost importance lies in letting the indigenous context unfold and the unsurpassable obstruction in this unfolding is the local power structure that is constantly fuelled by the sophisticated global economic system.

Haider teaches Political Philosophy and International Relations at UMT. He is interested in the theoretical roots of oppression and exploring historical and sociological structures in our society. He tweets at @SYEDMUHAMMADHA6.


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