« Book review: The Lexus and the Olive Tree | Main | Skeidar vs. IKEA »

June 30, 2006

An education for globalists?

"Today more than ever, the traditional boundaries between politics, culture, technology, finance, national security and ecology are disappearing. You often cannot explain one without referring to the others, and you cannot explain the whole without reference to them all. (...) I am a globalist. That is the school of thought to which I belong. That means I am not a realist, who thinks everything in foreign affairs can be explained by the quest for power and geopolitical advantage - and markets don't matter. I am not an environmentalist, who looks at the fate of the world only through the prism of the environment and what must be done to save it - and development doesn't matter. I am not a technologist - one of those Silicon Valley techno-nerds who believe that history began with the invention of the microprocessor and that the Internet will determine the future of international relations - and geopolitics don't matter. I am not an essentialist who believes that people's behaviour can be explained by some essential cultural or DNA trait - and technology doesn't matter. And I am not an economist who believes that you can explain the world with reference only to markets - and power politics and culture don't matter. (...) Unfortunately, in both journalism and academe, there is a deeply ingrained tendency to think of the world in terms of highly segmented, narrow areas of expertise, which ignores the fact that the real world is not divided into such neat little beats, and that the boundaries between domestic, international, political and technological affairs are collapsing." - Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Ah, this is just what a student of International Studies wants to read! Over the past year, I have taken classes at the departments of Political Studies, History, Economics and Law. I believe that the boundaries between these fields, not to mention the strange cultural differences within the university, are an obstacle to students and faculty. It is confusing when professors and the university administration insist on seeing the world as being divided when the whole point of my bachelor program is that the boundaries in the world are being torn down. When wondering what courses to take next semester, I noticed that in every department, there were a lot of classes where you could basically learn the same facts, but seen from different angles - using the tools of economics, history or political studies to learn about the same world. By choosing courses wisely, I can (in theory) get a good mix of these different views, but I also have to spend (or waste, depending on attitude) time figuring out how to study, referance, write papers and sit for an exam the way the different departments want me to do so. We can joke about the way "students in the other buildings" dress or act, but the fact remains that there are different ways of doing things, and that the students and faculty who always stay in one building, never find out that their way isn't the only way.

There is a debate within the university over whether International Relations should have its own Master program at the University of Oslo. It seems that the main reason not to do so, besides the university's economy and the fact that many International Studies students want to get their Master's degree outside Norway anyway, is that International Studies is really just a subcategory of Political Studies. But the whole point of International Studies is that it crosses the boundaries of the different departments. A Master's degree in Political Studies may mean losing the economic, historical and legal perspective - not to mention the technological, ecological and cultural perspective, which International Studies is already lacking. Yes, you should be allowed to concentrate on one area of expertise, but should you have to? I don't know, but I think it's worth thinking about.

The world still needs experts, but unfortunately, we seem to have a tendency to believe that you can't know much about anything unless you have a degree in it, and that if you have a degree in something you automatically know everything about it, but are unable to know anything about anything else. In reality, remember that you are studying the world, not your textbooks.

Posted by Julie at June 30, 2006 2:03 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Du bør pille deg inn i PU til høsten. Matlary og øko-dama er keene på å lage master til oss, og denne Ulltveit-Moe er ram til å slå Claes sine motargumenter tilbake. Vi kommer til å sette ned et lite utvalg som begynner å jobbe litt mot master. Tror du har noe der å gjøre. Etter de undersøkelsene som ble gjor nylig, er det bare 25% av oss som blir igjen på UIO for master, og alle var enige om at det er totalt stupid å la så flinke folk bare dra. De begynner å innse behovet, og har dessuten en idé om at SV trenger et prestisje-flaggskip nå som vi må slåss for å bevise at vi er verdt noe i arbeidslivet. MA inter skal således bygges opp og markedsføres på en skikkelig måte. Får vi tro. Så får vi kanskje jobb etterpå også.

Posted by: Annamor at July 3, 2006 7:17 PM

In MY school in Canada IS used to be under the dept of multidisciplinary studies, and is now its own dept, clearly separated from the poli sci dept.
One of my teachers, for a paper I wrote last semester, insisted that we use sources from at least two disciplines ( ie poli sci AND sociology etc).
IS in Oslo has a thing or two to learn, you don't think...?

Posted by: Anne at July 7, 2006 12:49 PM