Conflict Trends 1999/3

Power, Wealth and Global Order: An International Relations Textbook for Africa

Book Review

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Dedicated to the thousands of students in Africa who, often under difficult conditions, study International Relations, and commissioned by the Foundation for Global Dialogue, this publication is a collaboration by contributors from a number of South African and United States institutions.

In the first chapter on the study of International Relations (IR), McGowan and Nel introduce the student to the subject matter of IR. They refer to state and non-state actors in IR and the scientific study of this field.

The interface between IR and economics is introduced by Leysens and Thompson in their chapter. They base their discussion of the global political economy on the approach of Susan Strange, who explains the global political economy in terms of four primary and secondary power structures. This chapter also reviews the historical development of the global political economy and the transition from the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Nel’s chapter on the theories of IR introduces the reader to theory and its application in the study of IR. Various IR theories, such as realism, liberalism and transformative theory are discussed.

The origins and development of the modern interstate system are discussed by Adar. He also discusses the units of the modern interstate system, as well as related concepts such as nations, states, sovereignty, power and national interests.

Vale and Mphaisha define foreign policy in their chapter on analysing and evaluating foreign policy as “the sum total of all activities by which international actors act, react, and interact with the environment beyond their national borders.” Four policy-making environments are discussed, as well as the goals of foreign policy. The chapter concludes with an evaluation of foreign policy-making, the characteristics of foreign policy-making and ethical questions regarding foreign policy-making.

Murphy’s contribution deals with international institutions against the problem of co-operation among sovereigns. The reader is introduced to international law and its facets. The main focus of the chapter is on regimes, multilateral conferences, global and regional organisations. This is followed by Vincent’s chapter on non-state actors in IR, ranging from intergovernmental organisations, liberation movements, secessionist groups, terrorists, criminal organisations, international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), transnational social movements, multinational corporations and individuals. The strong focus on Africa and Southern Africa, in particular, is one of the major strengths of the book. Osaghae’s chapter positions Africa in the global system from 1600 to the period of decolonisation. This is followed by Southall’s contribution on Africa in the contemporary world. He discusses the impact of the Cold War on Africa. Africa’s economic problems are also addressed under a section on structural adjustment and political liberalisation. Schoeman discusses the features of the African state. This determines the patterns of Africa’s IR. Osaghae’s second contribution to the book is on the post-colonial African state and its problems. He asks why the post-colonial African state is so weak, and points to external and domestic factors playing major roles.

In their contribution on making foreign policy in South Africa, Le Pere and Van Nieuwkerk concern themselves with the processes that underpin and inform the making of foreign policy in South Africa. South Africa’s foreign policy settings are discussed, as well as the actors involved. The decision to normalise South Africa’s relations with the People’s Republic of China is presented as a case study in foreign policy decision-making.

The chapter dealing with South Africa in the context of South-South relations by Alden, outlines the rise of the South, its institutions and South Africa’s position in it. This is followed by a consideration of the regional subsystem of Southern Africa by McGowan. He traces the historical development of the region and its current structure, as well as the main features of the regional subsystem. Building on the previous chapter is Ahwireng-Obeng’s contribution on the dimensions of sustainable development in Southern Africa. The development question and challenges in the region are discussed.

Power, wealth and global order contains two very useful appendices. The first appendix (by McGowan) provides useful information on using the Internet to gather information on IR. The appendix compiled by Lamprecht offers students insight into possible careers in IR. An elaborate glossary is also included. The textbook has a friendly and modern layout, including maps and graphics. Each chapter includes a chapter outline, a list of key concepts, as well as a list of suggested reading material.

If there is any criticism against the book, it is that there is a lack of African contributors from outside South Africa. Perhaps a concluding chapter on power, wealth and global order could have been added. The question of Africa’s marginalisation is not addressed satisfactorily. Another useful contribution could have been on African conflict and efforts to resolve it. The book is also silent on both the Muslim and the African Renaissance. This notwithstanding, it offers a sound introduction to global political and economic relations. The strong focus on Africa and Southern Africa makes it a must read for anyone interested in Africa and particularly in Southern Africa.