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Does The Rise Of States Like China And India To Great Power Status Render Postcolonialism Irrelevant As A Theory Of International Politics?

2311 words - 9 pages

Postcolonialism is a very broad theory. At its most basic postcolonialism deals with the effects of colonialism on societies and states.Ashcroft, 2000: pp.188 To do this it looks at the origins and focus of concepts that are used to characterise these states and societies. In doing so postcolonialism sees how the concepts do not just originate on one area and then propagate to others. Concepts are constantly changed and modified by the interaction with people, states and other concepts. Many concepts owe their existence to the interaction between say the West and the non West. As well as concepts being modified and changed by their interactions both the West and non West's character is changed in these interactions. They are mutually constituted. Postcolonial theory however, is not limited to just the effects of colonialism on former colonies. Postcolonial theory can be applied to the interactions between minorities and majorities, the underprivileged and the privileged. In these circumstances postcolonialism looks at how the different parties relate to each other. How the different parties and the system itself is represented and what those representations lead to. This essay will argue that postcolonialism is not irrelevant as a theory of international politics. It will examine different ways in which postcolonialism still provides insight.

The place to start is to look at the question itself. Specifically what the term great power status entails. Behind this phrase is a specific idea of what a state is, how states interact in the international system, what makes a state great within that system and how to rise to that greatness. Primarily these concepts are taken for granted as the basis of international theory but postcolonial theory examines them.
Firstly the idea of the state is that of a Westphalian sovereign state. Each state is a self contained unit. All the units interact with each other strategically, given us international politics. This interaction is based on the idea that states are self contained units.Barkawi and Laffey, 2003: p.3 Within this system of sovereign states some states are recognised has being great powers. Here what is seen as power is taken for granted. For example millions of Muslims look to Saudi Arabia for spiritual guidance but this does not mean that Saudi Arabia is considered a great power. Power is considered to be mainly a factor of military and economic might. So to be considered a great power a state must be sovereign self contained unit that interacts with other states in a Westphalian way. The state must have a certain type of power and enough of it relative to the other great powers.
To be considered a great power a state must internalise a very Eurocentric conception of what a state is and how it acts. Arundhati Roy talking about India's testing of nuclear weapons, an important part of great power status, said that India had "traded" a "moral position" (nuclear disarmament) for...

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