A special issue of Human Figurations has just been published. Its theme is ‘Reflections on Global Power Relations’. Its contents are:
Katie Liston: Editor’s Introduction
Stephen Mennell: ‘Explaining American hypocrisy’
Bruce Mazlish: ‘Rejected modernity’
Michael Mann: ‘Incoherent Empire revisited: against interventionism’
André Saramago: ‘Problems of orientation and control: Marx, Elias and the involvement–detachment balance in figurational sociology’
Probably the least expected essay is my own, on American hypocrisy in international relations. Unexpected, because we figurationists are noted for our preoccupation with ‘problems of involvement and detachment’ and a general avoidance of direct political controversy – which indeed is the topic of André Saramago’s paper. But Elias always allowed for the possibility of ‘secondary re-involvement’ following a ‘detour via detachment’. Here I discuss the origins of the conflict in Ukraine, using Eliasian ideas: the established–outsiders model, hegemonic fevers, and the duality of normative codes in nation states. I have always believed that Elias’s work was politically highly relevant, even if he tended to describe his aim less directly as ‘improving the human means of orientation’.
Bruce Mazlish focuses attention on the consequences, notably in the Middle East, of rejecting ‘modernity’.
Michael Mann revisits his 2004 book Incoherent Empire, written in the run-up to and immediately after the catastrophic American invasion of Iraq. While few lessons seem yet to have been learnt, Mann gives a good Machiavellian argument for why they need to be.
The special issue can be found at: