Principles Enshrined by the NAM Summit in Tehran

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Manijeh Navidnia
Doctorate Degree in Sociology and Faculty Member, Islamic Azad University

The recent summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran has been analyzed and discussed from various viewpoints across the world. However, since any time that politics come to the fore, sociology is marginalized, the void of sociological analyses is also felt here. Therefore, without a review of the reasons behind holding this meeting and its consequences, this article casts a merely sociological glance at the meeting in order to explore some of its fundamental principles which have been rubberstamped, willingly or unwillingly, by the holding of the NAM Summit.

1. Today, we are dealing with a global society. No country can ignore viewpoints of other countries on ground of its political independence. No country’s measures are actually independent and other countries, depending on the degree of their diplomatic relations with the given country, will influence its policies and equations. No country can really develop by merely relying on its own domestic forces and resources and performance of countries at global level plays a major part in facilitating the process of economic development. On the other hand, solving problems, eliminating obstacles, reducing restrictions and similar measures cannot be taken by a country alone and it needs assistance from other countries. This situation has been described by Mark Poster, the post-modern sociologist, as dispersion and fragmentation.

2. Dependence is quite natural. In the past however, it had been associated with such negative concepts as colonialism, exploitation, and imperialism and was rejected by nations. Today, “dependence” means multilateral give-and-take and is quite ordinary and natural. Various dimensions of dependence and its intensity, especially in political and cultural fields, vary according to the degree of a country’s development; however, no country can be excluded. The recent NAM Summit represented a more profound form of dependence in which countries depend on one another for determining their “future fate.” Technological advancement and man’s control over natural disasters and mishaps has been considered a major turning point in human life as the developed human beings claim to be masters of their own fate. However, interdependence among countries proves that humans have a long way to go before being actually able to reign and determine their fate.

3. Cooperation seems inevitable. Cooperation and collaboration has always been the main basis and fundamental principle of human societies. However, what differentiates between modern and old forms of cooperation is that cooperation no more hinges on total uniformity in two sides’ ideologies and responsibilities. Factors paving the way for cooperation including unity, empathy and solidarity are no more general concepts as cooperation in modern times does not need consolidation of those concepts into a coherent set of ideas. Cooperation has been divided into different components and every country gets hold of the components which fits it the most. This is like when people are walking on the street and different cultures are dealing with one another without having to mix. This is what François Leotard, also a post-modern sociologist, calls “meta-narratives.”

4. “Pluralism” is currently the rule of the modern day. Plurality and diversity which was the vogue of traditional societies, faded away as collective ideologies dominated the society and assimilated various people and groups in the society. Countries, alike, were assimilated into hegemonic domains of big powers. Today, however, small and big countries with different cultures and customs are recognized and their participation in global developments is encouraged. Of course, Gregor McLennan differentiates between social - cultural plurality and political plurality.

5. Exchange of ideas has emerged as an efficient means of promoting and achieving the goals of the global society. Military might, army equipment, espionage systems, as well as dreadful intelligence agencies were considered dominant means of international interactions in the past. However, the NAM Summit in Tehran proves that achieving global goals is quite possible through dialogue and exchange of views and opinions. In fact, relations among countries are no more based on hardware, but soft methods have turned into effective tools for the establishment of relations and achievement of goals. This is how Michel Foucault, the post-structuralist sociologist, has described the role of diversified human discourses in giving birth to the dominant discourse of every era.

6. The NAM Summit’s agenda consisted of two main economic and political parts. This proves that “economy” is present as an intermediate power between the hard and soft forms of power. On the one hand, it needs hardware systems while, on the other hand, it produces added value by taking advantage of skilled manpower and soft power resources. Therefore, while “power” was the sole player in the field of politics until recent past, it has now found a new partner in politics. The capacity to produce and generate wealth is the main criterion for measuring the worthiness of this new partner. Thus, a successful politics is one which can increase a country’s capacity to generate wealth and help to increase capital return by encouraging creativity and innovation.

Given the above brief account, will future situation of the world be one which would inherit the characteristics of a post-modern society while remaining loyal of capitalism? Will the future take strides toward development and progress by learning from the past, and take steps to set the direction of politics toward a globalized society? Will future society overlook conflicts and configure interactions on the basis of cooperative models? Only patience and passage of time will, probably, provide proper answers to these questions.

Key Words: Non-Aligned Movement, Sociology, Mark Poster, Dependence, Cooperation, Pluralism, Michel Foucault, Gregor McLennan, Economy, Political Parts, Navidnia

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