Banter from Brabant

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Five Weeks in Brussels

So, I figure I should write something about the school I am attending in Brussels. The school is small with about 100 Master's students and a few PhD students. The faculty is compromised by four main professors and a couple adjuncts.

"The Dean" is the main professor for the dominant International Relations program. (My program is International Political Economy). He is very difficult to take seriously. He is about 45 and, as it is the very first thing posted on his public resume, his "Marital Status is Single.' He obtained his PhD from the University of Kent when he was 23 -- a fact that he has stated more than once. He has meticulously styled long hair that he continually brushes back in a deliberately dramatic fashion while giving lectures about the merits of Positivism in Social Science. If any of you have SS degrees, you will know that positivism is the use of natural science methodology in the social sciences and suffers from the severe shortcomings. Not only does it masquerade as objective truth when contradictory empirical evidence usually exists, it also fails to capture the 'unobservables' such as cultural distortions on reality perception. He of course used natural science examples in medicinal advancement as proof of the validity of Positivism in Social Science. Such is an invalid set of examples.

Another fact he oft reminds us of is his regular attendance at the 'gym' to pump some iron. However, this he does through obviously conscious body language rather than actual words. For instance, he will have a sport jacket on at the beginning of lecture but, sometime through the hour, when the attention is focused on him, he will casually take it off and drape it over the chair. Lo and behold, what does he wear under the jacket but a ridiculously tight muscle-shirt! And soon we have him flexing like Uncle Rico. The guy is an eye-roller I tell you. Of course the general consensus is that he is after the female students -- but nothing has thus far been confirmed.

However, with said personal opinions aside, some of his lectures are clear and useful. I would not however think him up to par with the faculty member responsible for the International Political Economy (IPE) program. She is originally from Bulgaria and was an active student during the 1989 revolution there. She obtained a PhD from the New School of Social Research which is a highly influential university for a particular strand of contemporary Social Science Theory -- along with Frankfurt in Germany (The Frankfurt School). A likeable strand of thought in my opinion. She is more of a 'teacher' than the Dean and is easily approachable with questions. I am taking a class with her called ‘States, Markets, and Society.’ Good stuff.

The other two main professors of the school are leaders of the Law and Migration Studies areas and therefore I have less contact with them. However, I am taking a law class entitled International Economic Regulation, which, I must say, is quite enlightening. This is taught by the main Law Professor – a Dutchman with a British English accent. The class mainly points out the lack of actual international economic regulation from a legal point of view. If one were to compare the amount of regulations for domestic commerce, the international scene is quite light. Because international commerce has been accelerating faster than legalities can be worked out between countries, private companies have been opting for arbitration of disputes by an ‘international arbitration tribunals’. These are also private. Therefore, the international commercial/legal field could be described as having two groups of lawyers (private corporate representation, and lawyers from arbitration tribunals) creating de facto laws of international commerce behind closed doors. From this critical point of view, the argument states that these groups are undermining democratic legitimacy in the creation of de facto laws without congressional debate. However, because the arbitration panels have no enforcement mechanism, the value of the judgement is based on the good-will of both parties. Therefore, these tribunals only erode democratic legitimacy if national governments enforce the arbitration results. Evidently, for the sake of free-markets, governments tend to do so. Perhaps a student of law could tell me how I am oversimplifying this? Hmm...

ANYWAY, we could say its all a bunch of biased academic BS spewed forth by 'liberal professors', and even worse, liberal European professors! I need some no-spin O'Reilly Factor over here to relieve some of this mind-pollution with dose of O’Reality! Har har. So, by the way, how is the media environment now that elections are almost upon us? I bet it is fun.


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Doug and Beth, at 8:00 PM  

  • doug, you never cease to bore me, even from across an ocean.

    By Anonymous martha, at 3:24 AM  

  • Hey Beth ad Doug!
    You guys are hilarious. Election time, well the TV ads are great, forget prime time tv. YOu can simply be entertained by watching them!
    PS I will be showing your story about your amin professor to everyone!
    Well I better get back to work!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:36 PM  

  • Hey, my knowledge of international law is a bit sparse - one 2 credit class called trade and the environment. Essentially, the class addressed issues arising when U.S. environmental laws might/do violate free trade agreements. See Tuna/Dolphin I GATT Report panel 30 I.L.M. 1594 (1991); Shrimp/Turtle U.S. Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS58/AB/R. (Nov. 6, 1998) Lots of fun with the GATT/WTO there. Your comments on the closed door aspect of most internationa corp. arbitration is right in line with what I have learned. Though, I am unaware of any government enforcing an agreement between two privet entities behind closed doors in this context. Unless that agreement amounted to a binding contract. My understanding is that whatever nations have agreed to whatever free-trade treaty, tend to agree that the disputes will be resloved confidentially. Thus, no oversight whatsoever by anyone. The problem is less that the it cannot be enforced and more about how can something be enforced if you don't know whether its been violated. Imagine yourself in court - The Court: "What is your cause of action?" You: "Your Honor, I feel like the U.S. has violated is international obligations to reduce CFC emissions under the Montral Protocal." The Court: "Your feel like????" "What the fuck is 'you feel like,' what are talking about?." So do you have any evidence? no. Etc. So anyway, let me know about that. I'm glad you and Beth are enjoying things over there. Also, how is your french? let me know.


    By Blogger JGVT, at 2:42 AM  

  • are you guys dead?

    By Anonymous martha, at 7:44 PM  

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