Modes of Expertise: Response to David Cohen
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Professor Cohen has done an excellent job of reformulating the nature of international expertise. He has, at least for me, broadened my perception of what today is meant by the word ``international. At the same time, he has alerted us to some of the dangers that exist if specialists in different facets of internationalization pursue their separate paths too uncritically and without communication among, and respect for, the different contributions that each can make. The role of the university and of the International Institute in particular ought to be to facilitate that communication and respect.
As discussions leading ultimately to the formation of the International Institute have proceeded during the last several years, I have sometimes pondered the differences between what I then regarded as the two main components of internationalization. I now recognize, with the help of Professor Cohen's remarks, that at least a third component exists. I would like to take a few minutes here to identify these three components of international inquiry, and to comment further on the pitfalls of allowing the three to proceed independently.
To put my remarks into perspective, I should first identify where I myself fit into this scheme of things. I tend to identify myself as an ``international economist, and sometimes more narrowly as an ``international trade theorist. As such I have spent my career teaching, and exploring in my research, the causes and effects of international trade, primarily the export and import of goods, but also occasionally the international movement of people, capital, and ideas. I also study on occasion the institutions that attempt to influence and regulate these international flows, including both national trade laws and international agreements. Like most in my discipline, I am strongly in favor of the free international flow of goods and of most other things, and I object to actions taken for other purposes that needlessly impede these flows.
Let me now turn to what I see, with Professor Cohen's help, as the three components of international inquiry. All three can arise within a single discipline, and I will illustrate them with the field I know best, economics.
The first is simply the study of other nations. This would include specialists and courses in, say, the economics of China, or Japan, or Russia: you name it. With my own background I am actually inclined not to label these specialties as international, since they do not necessarily involve relations among nations. Rather, I would prefer to call them ``other national, or ``heteronational, since these topics are viewed as distinct specialties, I presume, only in other nations. We have no ``U.S. specialists in the U.S., and I suspect that the same can be said in other countries. However, it is clear that country and area specialists do constitute a large part of what most people include in ``international studies, and also that they are an important part of the structure of the International Institute. So I gladly yield to this view and include heteronationalism by which I mean country and area studies as the first component of international inquiry. The second component is my own, that is, the study of relations among nations. In economics this includes my own specialty of international trade, but it also includes international financial markets, exchange rates, and macroeconomic interdependence. In political science it includes the study of international politics and international organizations; in business the study of multinational enterprises; and in law the interactions among national legal systems and how they may be constrained by a higher international law, to name only a very few of the available examples. Since the word ``international is normally interpreted more broadly than this, I will refer to this as ``metanational.
There is a marked difference, at least in economics, between heteronationalists and metanationalists. On the one hand, metanationalists may have no particular expertise in the specifics of any nation but their own. I, for example, study the trade of many countries, but I know little more about the economies of any one of them than my non-international colleagues, except where particular features of those economies happen to impinge importantly on trade. At the same time, heteronationalists may study relations among nations only to the extent that their specialty nation is also involved in those activities. For example, until recently, specialists in the economies of the communist countries as well as of a number of developing countries could largely disregard international trade, because the countries that they studied were closed off from international markets.
Thus, while the heteronationalists and the metanationalists might reasonably be regarded by others as very similar, in fact their areas of expertise may differ sufficiently that they are no closer than scholars from other separate fields.
There is another distinction that is perhaps worth mentioning within the metanational component. One can study the relations among nations from the perspective of a single one of them, or from the perspective of the world. Within economics the earliest contributions to international trade were by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who founded our discipline in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and who viewed international trade as a means for their own country, England, to make itself better off. They also discovered, more importantly, that all countries gain from trade, of course, but their arguments in favor of trade, as I understand them, stressed the benefits to England.
Most economists today, I am glad to say, evaluate trade policy from the perspective of the world. When a policy benefits all countries together, there is of course no conflict. But when a policy can be used to benefit one country at the expense of another, most of us will argue against it even when it is our own country that stands to gain. But note that there is nothing intrinsic about metanational expertise that requires this perspective.
This distinction between heteronational and metanational inquiry and expertise is, I suspect, as far as I would have gotten had I thought about these issues without the benefit of Professor Cohen's remarks. But he has drawn our attention to a third component that is equally valid and is probably of growing importance. This is the study of a particular issue, or group of issues, that is then extended beyond national boundaries to the world as a whole. Because the emphasis here is on issues that transcend national boundaries and that may override national concerns, I will call this component the ``hypernational inquiry.
Examples are not hard to find, once the phenomenon is pointed out, and in fact the hypernationalists have become increasingly powerful voices in areas where we metanationalists once thought we had exclusive province. Environmentalists now challenge the GATT. Human rights activists challenge international diplomacy. Labor rights advocates challenge the NAFTA. In so many areas, issue-oriented interests have taken their fights beyond their own countries and are challenging international agreements and institutions because of what they view as the overriding importance of their own concerns.
In some cases this extension of an issue to a hypernational concern is inevitable. Once one accepts, for example, that ozone depletion is a legitimate danger, then it hardly makes sense to confine one's attempts to solve the problem to a single country. Intrinsically, global problems require global solutions.
However there are many other issues that are not intrinsically global in this sense, but that have nonetheless been taken to be global by their advocates. Human rights provides a most obvious example. There are humans everywhere on earth, of course, but it is at least possible to secure rights for some of them without elevating the rights of others, something that cannot be done with ozone depletion. Similarly, in the area of environment, air quality can be improved in one country, or even one locality, without necessarily improving it world-wide. Nonetheless, I suspect that many environmentalists would be loath to accept air quality as only a local concern, and I am sure that advocates of human rights would view it as immoral to press for those rights in less than the entire world.
Thus hypernationalists are international in the sense that they reject the right of a nation, their own or any other, to interfere with their concerns. They push for international rules, international agreements if those can be obtained, but also international standards that are somehow imposed on dissenting nations when agreement is not obtained. Hypernationalists tend, as Professor Cohen has pointed out, to reject the sovereignty of nations as a legitimate obstacle to achieving their objectives, and they will work around and above nations, as well as through them, to achieve their international goals.
Those of us with more traditional metanational interests tend, as I did before hearing from Professor Cohen, to leave these hypernationalists out of our conception of international scholarship. And once we are forced to acknowledge their presence, we may find it an irritant. For the narrowness and single-mindedness of their concerns may suggest to us that they are oblivious of the broad picture, the world view that only we as metanationalists can truly comprehend.
A current example involves the interaction between the NAFTA the North American Free Trade Agreement and the environmental movement. The NAFTA was negotiated primarily by trade types, like myself, without much regard initially to environmental concerns. These were regarded as national, not international, issues. When environmentalists raised a cry, our first reaction was to dismiss them as ignorant of the higher subtleties of international trade diplomacy, and to ask them to mind their own business. They viewed the NAFTA as very much their business, however, and the result was that the NAFTA itself was changed, as well as being supplemented with an environmental side agreement. This accommodation between the metanational trade negotiators and the hypernational environmentalists has resulted in a package that will arguably be beneficial from both points of view.
Thus it is a mistake for metanationalists to discount the roles of hypernationalists. Run-of-the-mill metanationalists such as myself usually specialize just as narrowly on metanational issues as hypernationalists do on hypernational issues. The world will benefit most if their separate specialties can be combined or coordinated and solutions found that will achieve one set of aims while respecting, or at least doing minimum damage to, others.
The same must be true, I am sure, of the first component of international inquiry that I mentioned above, the heteronational specialties in particular countries and regions. Without them involved in the discussion, there is the clear danger that both the metanationalists and the hypernationalists will push for solutions that ignore the special needs and characters of individual countries and cultures. All three must come together in any enlightened solution to the world's problems.
And where better to achieve such a coming together than in a great university? I am sure that there are many roles that the new International Institute will play in the coming years. But if it can foster communication among these three components of international expertise at the University of Michigan, if it can engender a respect among us for the contributions that each can offer, instead of the suspicion and competition that is the more natural result of our different perspectives on the same issues, then it will be a great success.
Alan V. Deardorff is Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan.