Taking Down Bad Cards 2- Tuathail 96

This one isn’t so much a “bad” card, its more so just wrong the way it is used in debates. Here is a typical version of the card in question


Tuathail ‘96

(Gearoid, Department of Georgraphy at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Political Geography, 15(6-7), p. 664, science direct)

While theoretical debates at academic conferences  are important to academics, the discourse and concerns of foreign-policy decision-  makers are quite different, so different that they constitute a distinctive problem-  solving, theory-averse, policy-making subculture. There is a danger that academics assume that the discourses they engage are more significant in the practice of foreign  policy and the exercise of power than they really are. This is not, however, to  minimize the obvious importance of academia as a general institutional structure  among many that sustain certain epistemic communities in particular states.  In general, I do not disagree with Dalby’s fourth point about politics and discourse  except to note that his statement-‘Precisely because reality could be represented in  particular ways political decisions could be taken, troops and material moved and war  fought’-evades the important question of agency that I noted in my review essay. The assumption that it is representations that make action possible is inadequate by itself.  Political, military and economic structures, institutions, discursive networks and  leadership are all crucial in explaining social action and should be theorized together  with representational practices. Both here and earlier, Dalby’s reasoning inclines  towards a form of idealism.  In response to Dalby’s fifth point (with its three subpoints), it is worth noting, first,  that his book is about the CPD, not the Reagan administration. He analyzes certain CPD  discourses, root the geographical reasoning practices of the Reagan administration nor  its public-policy reasoning on national security. Dalby’s book is narrowly textual; the  general contextuality of the Reagan administration is not dealt with. Second, let me  simply note that I find that the distinction between critical theorists and post-  structuralists is a little too rigidly and heroically drawn by Dalby and others. Third,  Dalby’s interpretation of the reconceptualization of national security in Moscow as  heavily influenced by dissident peace researchers in Europe is highly idealist, an  interpretation that ignores the structural and ideological crises facing the Soviet elite at  that time. Gorbachev’s reforms and his new security discourse were also strongly self-  interested, an ultimately futile attempt to save the Communist Party and a discredited  regime of power from disintegration.  The issues raised by Simon Dalby in his comment are important ones for all those  interested in the practice of critical geopolitics. While I agree with Dalby that questions  of discourse are extremely important ones for political geographers to engage, there is  a danger of fetishizing this concern with discourse so that we neglect the institutional  and the sociological, the materialist and the cultural, the political and the geographical  contexts within which particular discursive strategies become significant. Critical  geopolitics, in other words, should not be a prisoner of the sweeping ahistorical cant  that sometimes accompanies ‘poststructuralism nor convenient reading strategies like  the identity politics narrative; it needs to always be open to the patterned mess that is  human history.



My problem is that the fundamental premise of this cad is that it relies on a distinction between policy makers and academics and then argues that academics inflate the importance of discourse analysis that isn’t really that relevant to policy makers. Ignoring for a second potential problems with that distinction, if you had to categorize debate as either a group of academics at a conference OR policy makers it seems pretty clear that they are more likely to be the academics. In essence this evidence requires you to have already won a pretty aggressive framework argument about the role of the activity for this card to really have an impact. This is an argument I have never seen made against this card , but it seems so facially obvious to me I’m not even sure what the response from the aff would be.


The latter part of the card about how fetishizing discourse can ignore material factors is perhaps a better argument, but it is somewhat dependent on how the negative explains their framework/explains the role of discourse/representations in the debate. If they make the stock reps influence policy or reps first arguments it is debatable whether or not they link (obviously more so in the later than the former). That’s not an issue you see debated very often, which is funny given how many times this card gets read and how easy it should be to prepare for. Critiques like apoc warming which don’t contest the truth value of the aff reps but instead just argue that those reps are not productive politically would seem to link more to the argument that they ignore material/too much focus on reps bad. An argument like the security kritik, ironically, are less likely to link because they also call into question the accuracy of aff reps in addition to are they politically useful.


Barring all that, here is the response card

Dalby, PhD IR , 1996

(Simon,  Writing critical geopolitics: Campbell, Tuathail, Reynolds and dissident skepticism,  Political Geography, Vol. 15, No. 6/7 )

Precisely these concerns were involved in the initial development of the discipline of international relations after the (misnamed) First World War. Concerned to bring the methods of social inquiry to matters of war and peace, international relations was established in Britain, at least in part, as an attempt to understand the causes of the carnage at Flanders, Verdun and Vimy. Subsequently (and the irony is considerable), in one of what the ‘tradition’ of international relations was later to construct as the discipline’s ‘great texts’, E. H. Carr (1946) wrote very critically, in The Twenty Yearn 0i.si.s of some of the illusions of the ‘utopians’ who advocated international law as the solution  to global conflicts. The ‘realist’ alternative, codified at the beginning of the Cold War, in Hans Morgenthau’s (1948) Politics Among Nations, focused on power and national interest as key themes of analysis. As the discipline became institutionalized in the USA, in particular, its presuppositions of anarchy and enmity among states operated as a powerful discursive support for the Cold War politics of the period. The practices of realism may not be pervasive in political geography, or in most of the journals of social theory, cultural criticism or social science that most geographers read on a regular basis, but they continue to be very important in the literature of international relations and in the military, security and foreign-policy-making halls of power in Washington (Gusterson, 1993). Despite the demise of the Soviet Union as a military power, the national security establishment in Washington continues to plan global wars and spend large amounts of money on military preparations (Borosage, 1993-4). Crucially it uses the practices of realism to continue to justify this activity, and as Campbell (1993) argues, used them effectively to formulate a military response in the Persian Gulf situation in 1990. The pervasiveness of realist practices was one of the key points stimulating the dissident literature in international relations in the 1980s. Scholarly procedures reproducing these practices continue to train numerous students in the conventional understandings. A crucial point in Campbell’s Writing Securi[y (1992) is to decenter the basic premise of so much conventional thinking in foreign policy. This premise assumes that states are stable territorial entities prior to the practices of foreign policy. This convenient ‘politics of forgetting’ powerfully occludes practitioners of statecraft from responsibility for many things by imputing agency to those ‘outside’. David Campbell’s analyses are among the most trenchant critiques of the conventional practices of foreign-policy-making which also operate to undermine conventional practices within the discipline. This point about disciplinary context is important because, when viewed from outside the discipline, the disciplinary politics are not necessarily obvious. 6 Tuathail (1996) argues that the early dissident international relations writers were political theorists ‘who tend to understand discourse as political theory discourse’ and produce metatheoretical deconstructions while ignoring questions of political economy, an approach which he argues should have been a matter of concern. But put in context precisely these critiques are necessary to investigate how the practices of international relations have so effectively worked to exclude emancipatory politics for so long. This at least is the theme of R. B. J, Walker’s (1993) Inside/Outside, arguably the most theoretical contribution to the recent dissident international relations literature, and of Richard Ashley’s (1984) early, theoryladen critique of neorealism. 6 Tuathdil(1996) develops his critique of early dissident international relations writing by arguing further that its practitioners were divorced from practical ‘materialist struggles’ or, even worse, were ‘politically disabling to those fighting for economic, political and social justice outside the cotnfottable zones where dissident IR flourished‘. Two brief points are worth noting here. First is simply to point out that R. B. J. Walker’s (1988) book One World/ Many Worldswas an investigation of emancipatory, or in his terms ‘critical’, social movement practice. But more importantly is to note that international relations as a discipline is a predominantly Anglo-American enterprise. Even more so is its crucial subdiscipline, strategic studies, which is a complex series of discursive practices that have operated to maintain American hegemony for the last half-century (Klein, 1994). What dissident international relations writers have been trying to do is unravel the discursive logics of these practices to show how their descriptions, explanations and resultant policy prescriptions are enabling of precisely the power relations that are resisted by the ‘materialist’ struggles for social justice outside the comfortable zones of the western academy.  The silences in political geography, and indeed elsewhere in the social sciences, on matters of war, violence, militarism and, in particular, the policies of ‘national security’, in reproducing the inequities of the global political economy easily lead to ignoring the importance of the discourses of international relations in policing the global order and maintaining injustice, poverty and violence. The crucial point that is missed in 6 Tuathail’s (1996) dismissal of the early dissident international relations literature is the function of the discipline’s knowledges as practices of hegemony, practices that work, in part, by the very operation of geopolitical identity tropes of ‘them’ and ‘us’, or in David Campbell’s formulation, the construction of differences between which obscure differences within, practices that in Ashley’s (1984) apt phrase, operate to ‘rationalize global politics’. If the dissident writers were very ‘metatheoretical’, it had much to do with the politics of the discipline and the necessity to establish intellectual grounds on which to speak that undercut the standard ideological moves used to silence dissent (see Ashley and Walker, 1990). The difficulties of doing these things were staple fare in conversations among dissidents within international relations at academic conferences at least until very recently. The deconstructive toolkits of at least some of the poststructuralist writers offer powerful intellectual weapons with which to challenge power when it lurks in the discursive disguise of supposedly disinterested ‘objective’, ’ realist’ knowledge. In so far as dissidence is about challenging the reasoning practices of power, it is not surprising that these approaches have been, and continue to be used. (657-8)



Incidentally if you are trying to learn about K debate the exchange between these two would be a great thing to go back and read.











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