Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cultural relations versus political calculations

In his controversial book of “The Clash of Civilizations”, Samuel P. Huntington firstly claims that civilizations – and not the nation - states – are the units of international relations, and secondly separates the cultures by cultural limits, rather than geographical boundaries..

Even if we reject Huntington’s theory, and believe that his theory suffers some conception ambiguities, and is not totally compatible with the global developments, we can however be unanimous with him in saying that the New World Order goes beyond nation – state relations and that the civilizations are the units of international relations..

Of course, what are quite significant in the concept of a civilization, are its cultural norms and elements, and as said before, a specific civilization is mostly distinguished by its norms and other cultural specifications, rather than by geographical limits..

The very point indicates the significance and status of culture in the world, and notes the necessity to ponder it. However, from among a culture’s relations with different aspects of a human life, its relation with politics – with regards to the power and influence of politics – is of great significance and requires a deeper thinking..

Therefore, it seems necessary to outline the following points::

- Politics is the scope of temporary, fleeting, result-centered, reactionary and conventional relations. However, possessing all these characteristics does not way connote the idea that politics is an insignificant science but the aforesaid are the specifications of politics.

According to Aristotle, politics is the best of all sciences, which is supposed to deal with the daily demands of the human being and so is obliged to be transient.

On the other hand, the foundation of all cultural relations is mutual understanding, and so apparently all contradictions between cultural and political relations are created due to the very reason.

Contradictions between political and cultural relations are normal as far as they happen in the social life, but they will become problematic, when they are so mixed to lose their main role and performance. Moreover, considering the status of political relations in the modern world, politics may turn into a way to achieve political objectives. Therefore, the limits of these two areas should be always kept in mind.

We are living in a world in which the challenges and crises are not solvable by political relations and a great number of problems including violation, poverty, corruption, racism, social discrimination, dictatorship and insecurity are deeply rooted in cultural and intellectual reasons, and so are not solvable but through cultural relations.

For instance, the current contradiction between the world of Islam and the West has deep historical, political, economic and cultural roots and is not solvable by mere political negotiations, rather, if we are determined to turn the current contradiction into a cooperation, a deep cultural movement is required.

That is to say, both the World of Islam and the West do not have a positive attitude toward each other and changing these negative attitudes require a cultural movement, the ultimate goal of which is to achieve mutual understanding.

A particular part of cultural relations are cultural dialogues and a specific part of political calculations are political talks. Regardless of the conceptions’ values, the final target of all political dialogues is to achieve more objectives; therefore, one of the main characteristics of every political dialogue is “bargaining”.

We hold a political dialogue to gain more and lose less, and this is the ideal status of all political talks. In addition, every political talk has another presumption and that is the fact that the public opinion supervises political negotiations, and so these negotiations should focus on the interests of the people.

But, what about cultural negotiations? The ultimate goal of every cultural talk is to approach the truth and so its failure or victory is depended on following the correct logic, rather than on gaining more and losing less.

In such a kind of dialogue, the more the negotiators get far of emotions, the more they approach an ideal negotiation.

Also in this kind of dialogue, interests adopt such a vast meaning, that they actually change their nature and so are categorized under the name of “Being loyal to the others and truth”.

In his famous book, “I and Thou”, Martin Bober refers to “human being” (the other), not “that” (thing) or “she/he” (mere listener), but “you” (human) who should be assumed as the “target” and not the “means”, and should be addressed. Such an assumption is albeit quite different from what the political negotiators latch on to in every political dialogue.

- While comparing political calculations with cultural relations, we should keep in mind that politics as a science is beyond looking for transient interests and so one can be unanimous with Aristotle in saying that Politics is one of the most significant and most necessary kind of sciences without which the human society will lose one of its most vital elements.

On the other hand, underlining oppositions between cultural and political relations does not necessarily mean to reject political calculations, although some of the most sophisticated contemporary intellectuals intend to weaken the role of political relations when talking about the aforesaid opposition.

Also, considering a kind of performance independency for each of the political and cultural relations, can make their performance more effective.

Rene Descartes used to say, “divide to win”; of course one can assume that he definitely did not mean to divide all affairs, but his theory can be used in separating political and cultural relations.

Through making such a separation, our expectations from these two areas would become specific and we can also prevent any kind of mistake in both cultural and political relations.


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