Research explains a global reality turned upside down

Pierre Lizée

Pierre Lizée

A professor’s new book is shedding light on the study of global politics in what is increasingly being referred to as the “post-Western world.”

A Whole New World by Pierre Lizée, an associate professor of Political Science who specializes in international relations, argues that the very discipline in which he works must change in order to make sense of our current global political climate.

“Past models of international studies can no longer adequately explain what is happening in the world,” said Lizée.

“History is reversing itself all around us. For the past four centuries it’s been the West that has defined the rest. And what we’re seeing now is the exact reverse movement. The rest is now defining the West, and a lot of this has to do with the rise of countries like China and India.

“History is changing its course and that’s what this book is about,” he said. “The very nature of how we think about global politics needs to be readjusted.”

Taking into account the hierarchical changes that Lizée talks about on the global stage, how are we to understand a new world order no longer primarily focused on the West? How should we think about and interpret ideals like power, democracy and economic development in our changing world?

“All of these themes have traditionally been understood in relation to the Western experience of these realities,” Lizée said. “But now we have non-Western actors defining these global realities.

“The image the West has of itself is changing,” he said. “The West always defined itself, not only as a leader, but as a force for good in the world. Now the West has to accept that others are defining its destiny and that’s something completely new.”

According to Lizée, these seismic shifts in global politics have rendered past models of understanding international relations wide of the mark. This is due to the fact that scholars from America and Europe produced these paradigms, which is where global power has resided for the past century.

“There is a gap between the world we need to explain and the explanations we have for that world,” he said.

Going beyond the U.S.-centric slant of many other works on these issues, Lizée questions our notions of global politics in order to catch up to the new world emerging around us. He also asks how the U.S. should reinvent its international role now that the rise of China has brought an end to American exceptionalism.

So what does that mean for Canadian foreign policy?

“The U.S. is no longer the U.S.,” said Lizée. “The U.S was the one pole of power for so long and Canada acted on that basis.

“The answer seems to be ‘we need to do more with China’.” “Well, it is much more that. It is helping to rebuild an entire global system that can no longer operate on the basis upon which it has operated for the past 100 years.”

Lizée, who received a Brock Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence to support his work, has researched this project for years.

“I worked on this book for the past 10 years — travelling, living and teaching in Asia,” he said. “I’ve essentially been living in two worlds. And it’s been very interesting being a Westerner in Asia during this period because during this period we have seen the remarkable rise of Asia.”

Lizée is a well-known commentator on world politics. His opinion pieces have appeared in Canadian and international newspapers like the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Japan Times and Jakarta Post.

He has also done work in diplomatic and policy circles in North America and Asia, and recently helped write a report on the Responsibility to Protect for the office of the U.N. Secretary-General.

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