Religion is not major determinant of international actors' behavior: Hunter

TEHRAN, Nov. 13 (MNA) – Shireen Tahmaasb Hunter, a professor of political science at Georgetown University, says that Analysis of international relations has shown that very seldom religion per se determines behavior, whenever it does, it is by being part of the states' and non-state actors' ideational, ideological and value systems.

“All IR theories, including the realist theory that emphasizes the role of power and search for security, account for the impact of ideational and value related factors and thus they can address the role of religion as well. The problem is that religion as such is not a major determinant of international actors' behavior,” Hunter tells the Tehran Times.

Following is the text the interview:

When did the religious issues has been a matter of great in Theorizing of International Relations?

Focus on religion and its role in international affairs occurred after the fall the USSR and the end of an ideological era in international relations best exemplified in the Cold War. The end of ideology left a paradigmatic vacuum which was filled by theories such as the Clash of Civilizations. Prior to that, the ideologization of religion especially in Muslim societies increased its impact on the domestic politics of some countries and on their foreign policy. However, this ideologized religion is different from the traditional religion and is similar to secular ideologies and plays the same role.

Some argue that if the theory of International Relations means a constitutive and critical theory, then bringing religion into International Relations is possible, but if the theory of International Relations is an explanatory-empirical theory, the theorizing religion in International Relations is not possible and, in fact, there is not theological positivism theory in International Relations. What is your opinion?

Most theories, certainly those related to social sciences, which includes international relations, are explanatory. They try to make sense of what is happening and identify consistent patterns and factors that help shape these patterns. If the observations show that religion is impacting the behavior of international actors, then they will factor that in. So far, however, analysis of international relations has shown that very seldom religion per se determines behavior. Whenever it does, it is by being part of the states' and non-state actors' ideational, ideological and value systems. All IR theories, including the realist theory that emphasizes the role of power and search for security, account for the impact of ideational and value related factors and thus they can address the role of religion as well. The problem is that religion as such is not a major determinant of international actors' behavior.

Some scholars such as “Michael Allen Gillespie” in the book “The Theological Origins of Modernity” believe that modernity was not initially against religion, and in later years, as a result of social, cultural and political conditions, it has led to secularism. So Based on this conception, religion is not in conflict with modernity, so can it be said that religion is not in conflict with the International Relations theory stemming from modernity?

The foundation of modernity is based on rational thinking. According to this way of thinking, the reason is the source of knowledge and there is no magical explanation for natural phenomena. Religion, by contrast, believes that revelation is the source of knowledge. As such, all religions are at odds with rational thinking. The other foundation of modernity is secularism. Secularism is not against religion. However, it believes that it should be relegated to the private sphere of life. In public life, religious people can express their views, but they cannot demand special privileges as representatives of a higher truth or value. The foundation of legitimacy in modern societies is the will of the people and not some divine source and those who claim they represent this divine source. Thus a modern society is one that as Max Weber puts it is disenchanted and does not rely on metaphysical explanations for natural phenomenon.

Some argue that the current International Relations theory cannot explain some of the current phenomena of international relations and we need a religious theory of International Relations, especially with regard to religious issues. What is your opinion? In general, theorizing Religion in International Relations is feasible?

I do not agree with this view. Exiting theories of international relations do explain the current phenomenon. In particular, the realist theory based on the centrality of power and security is still valid. Most of the post -Soviet era developments have their roots in states' quest for regional and international hegemony and other states' efforts to prevent and defeat their ambitions. I don't see how religion can explain these realities unless we accept Huntington's thesis of the clash of civilization and his contention that all civilizations are based on religion.

If theorizing Religion in International Relations is possible, can this religious theory in International Relations explain all the unresolved issues and problems?

Religion cannot solve today's problems any more than it was able to solve problems of bygone eras. Some of the most terrible wars in history were caused by religious differences and zealotry. Remember the Crusades, the thirty years wars, the Sunni-Shia conflicts etc. Religion tends to make compromise more difficult because adherents of every religion believe that they alone are the representative of God's word. If religion was a source of unity, the Christian world would not have been divided into states nor Muslims would have been fighting one another. To some extent conflict is inevitable. The important thing is how to create a condition that actors' would be inhibited from acting in violent ways. This is best achieved through an adequate balance of power and the cultivation of a culture of compromise.

Interview by Javad Heirannia

MNA/TT

News Code 139571

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