The Department of Political Science organized a talk by Prof. Jeffrey Legro, from the University of Virginia, USA, on the topic “New Architecture of World Politics and Who Controls it” on Monday, March 12, 2012
About the Speaker
Prof. Jeffrey Legro is a notable professor at the University of Virginia. He is the author of “Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order” (2005) and “Cooperation under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint during World War II” (1995).
Prof. Legro is also the former chairperson for the American Political Science Association (APSA) Task Force on U.S. Standing in the World. He has been a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Researcher at the Institute for Defense and Strategic Analyses in New Delhi, in the year 2011.
Prof. Legro began his talk with “one big idea.” “We have taken shape in the international political structure,” he said. He believed that the study of political structures of national governments was important because these affect what happens in the world. In his brief talk, he described what the international structure looks like and how much influence that structure has.
Prof. Legro called the international arena as anarchic and “because there is no government at the international level, politics should be about power unlike rules that are within governments,” he said.
However, in the same tone, he said that while studying comparative politics, it is important to notice that even powerful actors within countries have to work according to some structures. It becomes important to be within the structure to build influence. In his talk,Prof. Legro confidently stated, “Position can give you influence, just like power. But position is a different kind of influence.”
He went on to describe the four dimensions in the international political structure. The first one being the global or the multi-lateral institutions like the UN, WTO, and IMF. He also placed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime in the same category.
The second dimension of region holds a significant position in the international scene as “the types and natures of regions we have in the world affect the whole structure,” he said.
Bi-lateralism or the relations between countries form the third dimension in the international structure. Prof. Legro said that each country has their bi-lateral flight maps. In other words, each country has a network of relations. The last dimension includes the transnational links between societies. “Relations are not necessarily between governments,” he expressed stating the example of transnational social movements.
Then, Prof. Legro moved on further in his talk and posed the big question: who controls the international political system?
“No one,” he answered.
He argued that countries have different levels of influence and that resources and position on the international stage defines influence. “What gives you influence is how capable you are to move into a level or move across levels,” he said.
At the end of his talk, he spoke about how US has become a country that has the most influence in the international arena. “The US didn’t set up the international structure,” he said, “but it played a great role in the structuring of it because there was no international structure at all after the Second World War.”
Prof. Legro’s conclusion included an insight into India’s foreign policy wherein he commented: “The fear for India’s foreign policy is not moving from non-alignment to entanglement. But the fear is not having enough entanglements.” Thus, he advocated the idea of having multiple options and developing in-roads into the international structure that would work in ways that would serve India’s interests.
As the floor was opened for questioning, Prof. Legro answered on subjects ranging from India’s non-alignment to Afghanistan and Iraq, and to Indo-US Nuclear Deal, which is also the current subject of his research.
“When we look back, the nuclear deal will be a small actor in the transformation of distrust between US and India into a working relationship. There could be ups and downs but this partnership will stay solid,” he said with resolve.