Assorted Links

18 01 2017
  1. Theresa May announces her intention to go for “hard Brexit” or “clean Brexit” — exiting the EU without complicated special arrangements, no Norway-style status, nothing but trade on WTO terms. One reading of the situation is that this reflects the victory of the Hard Brexit faction in the Conservative Party. Another is that the British state simply lacks the administrative capacity and human capital needed to negotiate a complicated soft Brexit without two years. Given that the government that is charged with handling Brexit lacked offices (!) until recently, held meetings in Starbucks, and is finding it difficult/impossible to recruit decent staff, I would say that state capacity is a key limiting factor here.
  2. Donald Trump is about to be inaugurated. Many American critics of Trump are fond of referencing Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire. Americans have long analogized their country’s experience with the totally dissimilar society of Ancient Rome, a habit of thought that probably has legitimacy because of the architectural style of the US capitol. Anyway, for those of you who are interested in the use and abuse of historical analogies taken from classical antiquity, it is worth checking out the blog of Professor Neville Morley, who writes about these things. Morley has noted that the “wretched” Thucydides Trap historical analogy recently cropped up in a discussion of Sino-American relations on Newsnight. Check out Morley’s amusing Twitter account: The Thucydiocy Bot ‏@Thucydiocy
  3. Trump’s apparent support for Brexit has revived 2003-era talk about the Anglosphere and the dreams of sort of union between the White, English-speaking countries. [Somehow, wealthy, English-speaking Singapore is rarely or never mentioned in the Anglosphere imagined by British Conservatives and Anglophile Americans. Neither is India or the other Commonwealth countries of the wrong sort]. The understand the historical roots of the perennial Anglosphere concept, see A Genealogy of a Racialized Identity in International Relations  by Professor Srdjan Vucetic of the University of Ottawa.
  4. Over in Davos, the World Economic Forum is continuing to make vigorous use of another historical analogy in its sessions on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Public officials can learn all about the five skills they will need to survive the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  5. The UK Foreign Secretary is using historical analogies taken from the film The Great Escape, which is about Anglo-American POWs escaping from a German camp. He did so in the course of discussing Britain’s “escape” from the evil, German-dominated European Union.
  6. Moldova appears to be turning away from the EU and towards Russia by joining a Russian-led trade bloc. Putin’s game plan appears to be going well– the EU contracting rather than expanding, Trump about to move into the White House, NATO’s core principles under attack.



2 responses

18 01 2017
((Jonathan Weisman)) (@JJWeisman)

Good observation on state capacity, Andrew. It`s an issue often overlooked by state actors, and underappreciated by citizens calling for action. The state may be supreme, but that doesn`t make it all-powerful.

19 01 2017

I think that the private-sector leaders who are urging a complex deal with the EU may not realise that the UK government’s capacity to suddenly expand the relevant departments is limited. Government departments are hardly fleet of foot.

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