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POS360_realism_Fall2011-1 - POS360 Fall 2011 Realism Review...

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1 POS360 Fall 2011 Realism Review: By this point of the course you should be very familiar with theories of humor. You should be able to distinguish and explain the significance of 1) Incongruity Theory, 2) Relief Theory, and 3) Superiority (see Crtichley). In addition, our last set of readings deal with the issue of rationality in detail (Odysseos, Morreall). Since the Enlightenment, social science and academic inquiry have been centered on the notion of rationality. While there is nothing inherently wrong with inquiry based on rationality, the thinkers in this section of the course make the point clear that rationality has been elevated above all other modes of discourse. The focus on the rational eclipses all other modes of inquiry or discourse. One other mode of thought or inquiry that these authors introduce is humor/comedy. That is, instead of explaining events in the world through rational narrative, other narratives—like the comedic, may reveal very interesting insight and descriptions about global events. We must think about the role and/or purpose of humor as we engage the second part of this course: IR concepts. As we continue through this course we will juxtapose IR concepts (presented in the readings and lectures) with humor (presented in the films). We will critically engage the use of humor in understanding world politics. We will examine how many assumed, rational, and obvious IR concepts like deterrence, inevitable conflict, rational state action, balance of power, sovereignty, anarchy, international law, the importance of international institutions (ex: UN), etc. are turned on their heads or “defamiliarized” by humor. Humor will offer us a new lens for critically engaging traditional IR concepts. For example, within IR paradigms, realists generally argue that conflict is inevitable. It is assumed that states interact in an anarchical international society. Lacking any global government or authority, states must act in their own self-interest to survive. Under conditions of limited resources, imperfect diplomacy and communication, the threat of aggressive states, and the desire for self-preservation, it is inevitable that states will compete and engage in conflict. Not engaging in conflict and not desiring self- preservation is “irrational.” Now, as we watch Catch-22, for example, we examine how this issue of rationality is addressed. This film presents war as a very irrational enterprise. In addition, this film also encourages us to think about bureaucracy within war, the “military industrial complex,” and the treatment of soldiers as interchangeable. What else does this film do? How else does it challenge IR assumptions?
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2 I am getting ahead of myself. Now that we have completed the first week of the course (theories of humor), it is important for us to engage IR theories and concepts in more detail. We will begin with realism---one of the most recognized and used paradigms in the study of International Relations.
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POS360_realism_Fall2011-1 - POS360 Fall 2011 Realism Review...

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