THE ISSAM FARES INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
In collaboration with the Department of Philosophy at the American University of Beirut, IFI held a talk on July 26 with Loubna El Amine, Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University titled “Thinking Beyond the Modern (Western) State.” El Amine reimagines the frameworks of non-Western states by looking back at the histories of two ancient Eastern empires, suggesting that if political theorists “think beyond” the Western state, unrestricted ideals and aspirations would be tapped into.
El Amine spoke on non-Western state failure, noting that this lack of success is often widely denoted to issues of democracy, breaches in human rights, and constitutionalism, yet the real issues lie in the Western state as an ideal. She explained that the state as we know it began in Europe and thus its fabric does not make it functional within non-Western states, particularly because of a different history of development and the effects of colonialism. She asks about the reason for thinking beyond the modern (European) state, and looks at past oppositional manifestations of state within the East, stressing that the past can bring solace to the “hole” of the present, but is not necessarily a model for emulation. El Amine discussed the state of affairs in both the last Chinese Qing Dynasty and the Ottoman Empire, noting that though Western nations run their state on models of uniformity and homogenization, the abovementioned empires aimed to stray away from pluralism and attempted diversity.
The talk ended with a note on the decentralization of sovereignty in light of some Lebanese proposals calling for federalism. El Amine noted that although that may work for countries of the European Union, it wouldn’t fit with Lebanon’s people or state. She mentioned that it is not creating a solution but is rather “shifting the problem around.” There will always be a center of power with an upper hand; counterproductive to the “un-bonded” sovereign, El Amine said.