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Month: September 2016

Why the EU is suddenly marching to a different drumbeat on defence

Written by Richard Whitman.

Now that the most militarily capable member state is on the way out of the European Union there have been proposals for greater defence collaboration between the countries that remain.

Without Britain, the EU is left with substantially degraded defence capacities. As they meet in Bratislava to discuss life after Brexit, EU leaders have taken the bold but risky move to draw attention to the EU’s continuing ability to deepen integration.

It is risky because, despite being a central commitment in the Maastricht Treaty, the EU has only made modest progress towards establishing a shared defence and security policy. Member states disagree on how much they should merge their military capabilities and have made slow progress towards their Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). This has so far progressed via a series of civilian and military conflict management missions.

England’s new grammar schools: playing with fire?

Written by Glen O’Hara.

Prime Minister Theresa May has recently announced that she wants to allow more selection by ability in England’s schools, and will remove New Labour’s ban on expanding or opening grammar schools. Now that’s probably because she wants to appeal to older voters who might be tempted to come over from the United Kingdom Independence Party to the Conservatives. Maybe she also wants a flagship policy that will stamp her authority on the Government, or a new initiative that will stake out her differences with outgoing premier David Cameron. If so, she should be careful what she wishes for: because grammar schools are an academic, intellectual and above all politicalhazard that might be best avoided.

Entirely as expected? What the voting data tells us about Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election

Written by Peter Dorey and Andrew Denham.

In Labour’s 2015 leadership contest, a major question had been how a rank outsider and perceived political maverick, like Jeremy Corbyn, could possibly be elected leader of a Party in which he enjoyed very little support among its MPs, and in which he had never held even the most junior Ministerial office. In the 2016 leadership contest, the main question was no longer whether or how Corbyn could win, but by what margin.

Twin crises in Syria and Ukraine prove the West cannot restrain Russia

Written by David Galbreath.

Only days after the latest ceasefire agreement came into force in Syria, a United Nations aid convoy en route to Aleppo was attacked and destroyed. The UN was quick to declare this both a premeditated attack and a war crime. Citing air space intelligence, the US government released a statement accusing the Russian Air Force of responsibility, detailingthe presence of two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 fighter aircraft in the area at the time of the attack.

The Russian government has denied the accusations, stating that the US has “no facts”, and responded with drone footage of the convoy allegedly showing that anti-government militias were using it as cover. At the same time, it argued that the explosion did not come from the air, and was in fact a militant attack on the convoys. (The convoy was travelling through militant-held territory at the time of the strike.)

Keeping the Enlightenment Spirit Aloft – Faraday’s Democratising Science

Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Recently I was in Derby and, arriving early to an event, I popped into the Derby Art Museum. There are two famous paintings on the wall next to each other by the Derby enlightenment painter Joseph Wright – one celebrating the new Newtonian physics and the other celebrating the dangerous work of the blacksmith as a heroic figure. Wright’s painters are a reminder that the Enlightenment was not just in Paris or other national capitals but that its intellectual ferment had a broader social reach. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in International Relations?


Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Martha:            Truth or illusion, George; you don’t know the difference.
George:           No, but we must carry on as though we did.

                                                Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened on 13 October 1962 under the shadow of the Cuban missile crisis and its literary interpretation has been shaped by the threat of nuclear war. I saw Albee’s play at the National Theatre in 1981, the start of the decade which witnessed the Cold War reignited politically and the threat of nuclear war renewed. The play had not been performed in London for a generation, but the film version starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had maintained its appeal.

David Cameron escapes parliament just as a committee blames him for Libya’s collapse

Written by Victoria Honeyman.

After a summer recess, the House of Commons has returned with one fewer member: David Cameron announced that he was stepping down as MP for Whitney in Oxfordshire. Apparently, he wants to get on with writing his memoirs and undertake new challenges. But conveniently, it also means that he was not in Westminster to hear the damning conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which has released a report on the British government’s 2011 action in Libya.

The committee has found that the action “was not informed by accurate intelligence”, that the threat to civilians was overstated, and that the opposition to Gaddafi contained a “significant Islamist element”. It argues that the planning for a post-conflict Libya was flawed, that that failing has led the country to collapse – and that the blame lies with Cameron.

Post-typhoon Haiyan: Housing and Water Problems in Resettlement Areas

Written by Jan Robert R. Go.

Two years and ten months since typhoon Yolanda, the effects on the lives of the survivors are still felt. Families are still in search of stable livelihood and decent resettlement. The government has not yet addressed the major concerns of the survivors and their families. Problems on land for relocation, clean water, and drainage and sewer systems, among others, remain. With a new administration, there is a new hope that these concerns will be given attention and eventually resolved.

On 8 September 2016, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) and Oxfam Philippines held a press conference ‘Resettling Communities, Unsettling Realities,’ which focused on the alarming situation of resettlement in Tacloban City, a typhoon Haiyan-affect area. The panel of guests includes representatives from the Council of Yolanda Survivors Association of Tacloban (CYSAT), Philippine Network of Rural Development Institutes (PhilNet-RDI), Tacloban City Community Affairs Office, PLCPD, and Oxfam. In the press conference, two major concerns were highlighted by the panellists: (1) the quality of housing facility provided by the National Housing Authority (NHA), and (2) the demand for safe and clean water for the communities.

Chinese labour in the global economy: exploitation and strategies of resistance

Written by Andreas Bieler and Chun-Yi Lee.

China is generally regarded as the new economic powerhouse in the global political economy. Some even talk of an emerging power, which may in time replace the US as the global economy’s hegemon. And yet, there is a dark underside to this ‘miracle’ in the form of workers’ long hours, low pay and lack of welfare benefits. Increasing levels of inequality have gone hand in hand with widespread working conditions characterised by super-exploitation. Nevertheless, Chinese workers have not simply accepted these conditions of exploitation. They have started to fight back. In a new special issue of the journal Globalizations, co-edited by Chun-Yi Lee and myself, the contributors have analysed these various forms of resistance by Chinese workers and the way they are organised. In this blog post, I will provide a brief overview of the contents of this special issue.

Tony Blair, Corbynism and the ‘sociological imagination’

Written by Glen O’Hara.

Since we’ve all recently been challenged to take our sociological imaginations on a journey around Corbynism, and because it’s always important to analyse what’s going on rather than just shout about what we might think of it or believe about it ourselves, the new blogging season kicks off this week with a (we hope) honest look at the belief structures behind Jeremy Corbyn supporters’ support for ‘their’ man. Since he seems almost certain to be re-elected leader of the Labour Party later in the month, this seems all the more important. Mr Corbyn, someone like him, or someone who shares most of his views and outlook, seems likely to lead Labour for a long time to come. So what do Corbynites believe, and why?