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Podcast review: Thinking allowed April 14, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Reviews , 2comments

podcastIn my series of reviews of political science podcasts, I’ve arrived at the BBC Channel 4 program “Thinking Allowed”, that is podcasted through the BBC web pages.

This radio program about research in social science really interested me. It features interesting topics and interviews with leading social scientists and thinkers. Political science seems to have a pretty good presence among them. I’ve listened to the broadcasts for the past three weeks – of particular interest in those were a discussion with Michail Rykin on Russian democracy and the rehabilitation of Stalin, with Anthony Giddens on the politics of climate change and with Kevin Doogan on “New Capitalism”. A pretty impressive lineup.

As a program from perhaps the most established public broacasting institution in the world, we expect the technical quality and the host to be of top notch quality, and they are. There isn’t anything to put my finger on there. The host, Laurie Taylor, isn’t a scientist himself, but he seems to have enough insight paired with being a good radio host. It all makes for interesting radio. (more…)

South Ossetia: More than a Caucasus matter August 11, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , 2comments

The conflict in South Ossetia (and Abkhasia for that matter) drags on, and the Internet is crawling with different accounts. Most of which have very strong opinions of who has right on their side. As a political science student, I have been taught to take interest in moving one step back and look at the chessboard in large rather than the details of who shot first and how many troops and planes are coming from where.

The myriad of opinions of great strength are confusing, and tell little but that each side has a lot of patriots willing to characterize the other in very strong terms. This suggests that the picture is most likely not as black and white as either side claims. Finding good balanced reports is not as easy, see the bottom of this post links to some of the better sources I have found – both strongly biased and not.

As I have formerly commented, I believe this conflict is a test of the new world order, in a way quite different from Iraq. Previously we saw a defeated Russia at the end of the cold war, a Russia in tatters and under Yeltsin a Russia that was succumbing to corruption and organized crime. Russia made careful advances towards becoming a part of the European community of nations, with the the scars of the cold war not yet healed, Europe wasn’t prepared to accept them.

Under Putin, however, Russia slowly turned around. Helped by skyrocketing oil prices and a huge demand for natural gas in Europe that has been filling Mother Russia’s coffers with gold, the urge and drive to once again become a great power has grown. And an introduction into Europe on uneven terms no longer seems as attractive. (more…)

South Ossetia: A challenge for the new world order. August 8, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , 3comments

Numerous media sources inform us today about a Georgian offensive against South Ossetia, its separatist state. At first glance, it sounds like yet a minor border dispute in a forgotten corner of the world. But this is something more, bound to have an impact on geopolitics. For the South Ossetian sepraratists are under the protection of Russia, which reportedly have started bombing Georgian targets. And Georgia has since 2006 been on the path towards becoming a NATO member, having signed an “Individual Partnership Action Plan“, which has repeatedly raised russian protests.

So what are the implications of Russia bombing a “near-NATO-member”? Is this a direct military challenge to NATO? Or have Georgia blown their chances for good relations with NATO by escalating aggression with South Ossetia? European commentators have barely woken from their sleep, and have yet to get to their keyboards and radio microphones to let us know what this all means. But all the ingredients of an international relations crisis seem to be there… (more…)