The article illustrates the role of love in two romantic relationships based on two novels. Conrad and Jeanine are the two main characters in “Ordinary People”, a novel by Judith Guest , and also Don and Rosie have similar roles in “The Rosie Project,” which was written by Graeme Simsion. The books were published at different times and were written about different societies and conditions. Although Conrad’s relationship with Jeanine and Rosie’s friendship with Don have some similarities, their relationships are mostly different. Don and Conrad have various mental disorders. Conrad’s problem appeared because of events that happened in his life, but Don’s disorder is genetic, and he needed to learn how to communicate with people. The relationship between Conrad and Jeannine helps Conrad to get better and accept that horrible event as the reality of his life. On the other hand, Don has problems with socializing and cannot communicate with women well. Finally, he fell in love with Rosie, and the power of that love caused him to fix his behavioral problem. Rosie and Jeanine’s presence and love affected Conrad and Don and helped the two men began to heal considerably.
According to the novels “Ordinary People” and “The Rosie Project,” their relationships happened at different times and in different regions. Conrad and Jeannine are younger than Don and Rosie. Naturally, their thoughts and feelings were different from Don and Rosie’s. For example, in the first meeting, it seems that Conrad had a positive attitude about Jeannine and just looked for her beauty. The first time when they talked to each other, they had a friendly greeting. After the greeting, Jeannine and her friend turned away, and Conrad walked blindly behind them, down the hall toward history class (Ordinary People, p.21). In contrast, Don, when he first visited Rosie, did not empathize with her. He could not tolerate her differences, and though her lifestyle and characteristics were not familiar to him; then, he found her unsuitable for his Wife Project. For instance, when Rosie said she was a vegetarian, he thought vegetarians and vegans could be incredibly annoying (The Rosie Project, p.51). He also found her smoking inappropriate and criticized her smoking habit; “Smoking is not only unhealthy in itself and dangerous to others in our vicinity, but it is also a clear indication of an irrational approach to life” (The Rosie Project, p.57). In fact, Conrad found Jeanine more attractive at the first meeting, but Don showed no interest in Rosie, and he was agitated when he saw Rosie was completely different than he expected. Moreover, during Conrad and Jeanine’s relationship, it can be recognized that they loved each other, and Conrad was a very kind partner to Jeanine. For example, when she talked about her parents and cried, Conrad lifted her chin with his hand and kissed her (Ordinary People, p.200). The events in the novel showed that Conrad always had romantic behavior. Jeanine also had a good agreement with him. For instance, she encouraged him to write the song and notate it. “I love it. Let’s notate it, okay? I have got some paper. Here, play it again. It is so lovely and clean” (Ordinary People, p. 245). Conversely, Don was very selfish. He just set his schedules, thought about himself and did not care about Rosie’s feelings. In the laboratory, when he was testing the DNA samples for the Father Project, he hurt Rosie’s feelings and said, “Presumably, you think it is to initiate a romantic relationship.” Rosie answered, “The thought had crossed my mind.” Don continued with this sentence, “I am extremely sorry if I have created an incorrect impression. I am not interested in you as a partner. I should have told you earlier, but you are completely unsuitable.” Rosie said, “Well, you will be pleased to know I can cope. I think you are pretty unsuitable too” (The Rosie Project, p.125). Consequently, Don and Rosie’s relationship was completely different from Conrad and Jeanine’s affair. It seemed that it was one-sided love that eventually changed during the relationship.
Finally, at the end of the novel, Conrad and Jeanine’s love affair raised their life expectancy and helped them to forget their pasts that had subjected them to terrible events. The author illustrated that they were happy after forming a deep relationship, and portrayed the result of their relationship with the following sentences: “He squeezes her tightly, feeling the sense of calm, of peace slowly gathering, spreading itself within him. He is in touch for good, with hope, with himself, no matter that” (Ordinary People, p.251). Therefore, the presence of Jeanine helped Conrad’s mental problem got better and returned to a healthy life. In contrast, Don and Rosie’s relationship process was different. They went to New York City, and in the hotel, when Rosie opened the door wearing only a towel, he recognized that she was extremely attractive and fell in love with her (The Rosie Project, p.221). First, Rosie kissed him, and then he kissed her back; again, she responded (The Rosie Project, p.223). When he declared his marriage intention to her, she refused and said, “Don, you do not feel love. You cannot love me” (The Rosie Project, p.269). After that, he began to change his behavior. He thought he should open his life socially to a wider range of people and decided to fix his behavior. In fact, he struggled to solve his communication and empathy problems, which were defining symptoms of the autism spectrum, to win Rosie’s love and feeling.
In conclusion, Conrad and Jeanine’s relationship in comparison with Don and Rosie’s dating have happened at different times, in different places, and involved different situations. Despite the differences, both events lead to similar results. The presence of Jeanine and her love helped Conrad to improve his mental problem. Additionally, when Don fell in love with Rosie, he decided to change and socialize more to obtain Rosie’s good impression. The power of love treated Conrad and Don’s mental disorders significantly. On the whole, love is a powerful impression and profound feeling that often can help people overcome psychological problems. Research also has shown that individuals can obtain good health and long life via having a romantic relationship, and falling in love also can improve critical mental disorders.
1. Ordinary people is a novel by Judith Guest that first published in 1976. The novel talks about life of the Jarretts, a typical American family who try to cope with the consequences of two traumatic events.
2.The Rosie Project is a 2013 Australian novel by Australian novelist Graeme Simsion. The novel is the New York Times bestseller book. The novel was written about genetics professor Don Tillman, who struggles to have a serious relationship with women.
Meritocracy in the Age of Mediocrity
Authors: Ash Narain Roy and Sophia Thomas*
Meritocracy, political theorist Hannah Arendt famously says, “contradicts the principle of equality. Without equality, it is no less than any form of oligarchy.” Until there is equal opportunity for all, meritocracy will only be a facade. In the best global universities ranking in 2019, eight of the 10 best were American in terms of academic research, academic reputation, international collaboration, publication and citations. The US, thus, may claim to be an “aristocracy of talent”. In reality, it is what French sociologist Jean Baudrillard says a land of “utopia achieved”. In the name of meritocracy, inequality has grown. As President Obama said during his presidential campaign, “a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules from Wall Street to Main Street.”According to Oxfam, the richest 1 % today has as much wealth as rest of the world combined. The richest 62 people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the total population.
Meritocracy is the new aristocracy. It is a myth perpetrated by the rich and the elite. Meritocracy as it is being practiced is a great delusion and a smokescreen for a system which is rigged. It is another form of plutocracy. Industrial sociologist Alan Fox poses a question rather succinctly, “Would you give more prizes to the already prodigiously gifted?”
Meritocracy has figured prominently in both ancient Western and Oriental political theory and practice. But the earliest practical example of meritocracy finds mention in ancient China. Daniel A Bell, author of The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, says that China has a long history of debates over political merits and a concept of “elevating the worthy.” Confucius and his followers saw worthiness in relation to morality.(Bell D. A., 21-23 May 2014)
China is known to have invented the civil service examination system. For over 1300 years, Bell says, public servants have been selected in China through the public service examination which is in line with Confucian tradition of meritocracy. As Confucius said, society should select those who are both virtuous and capable of public service. Bell describes China as a “vertical democratic meritocracy”. From Confucius to Mencius, there have been debates throughout Chinese history “how to select able and virtuous political leaders”.(Bell D. , 2015)
Zhang Weiwei, Fudan University professor of international relations refers to shangshangce, the best of the best which is the Confucian tradition of meritocracy whereby “competent leaders are selected on the basis of performance and broad support after a vigorous process that includes screening, opinion surveys, internal evaluations and various types of elections.”(Weiwei, 2018)
Plato in The Republic says, only a small number of people, the philosopher-kings are naturally suited to rule because only they are able to know how. They alone have the ability to make morally informed political judgements and the power to rule over the community. However, it is common knowledge how Athenian democracy later evolved into what Herodotus called, “the one man, the best”.
India’s has been a case of meritocracy trap. Its much-maligned caste system saw its worst perversion with Brahmins becoming a class with prerogatives and access to sacred knowledge. It perpetuated the presumed supremacy of one small group against the ‘inferiority’ of others on the basis of ancestry.
Age of mediocrity
Meritocracy in the age of mediocrity and reckless demagogues has become even more farcical. Today one sees an assortment of mediocrities all around. The educated members of government, parliament and bureaucracy appear too happy to submit before the autocrat. Voters across the democratic world too have remained ignorant despite rising educational levels.
Ironically, mediocrity in the post-modern world is new genius. With the rise of mediocrity, a bubble of mediocrity has been created and citizens have slowed down their aspirations. Mediocratic and demagogic leaders have patronized mediocrity and fraternalized sycophancy.
Technology and technological violence have resulted in our mediocrity and cultural-intellectual morass. As Adrian Chiles says, “long before the machines get too clever for us, we ‘ll all be too stupid for words.”.(Chiles, 2021)
This has prompted some scholars to go beyond meritocracy. Jason Brennan in his book Against Democracy argues that it is entirely justifiable to limit the political power that the irrational, the ignorant have over others. Plato had first articulated such a view.(Brenan,2017) John Stuart Mill also favoured giving more votes to the better educated. Some suggest extra votes for degree holders, a council of epistocrats, with veto power, while others prescribe qualifying exams for voters. From around 1600 to 1950, people in Britain who had college degrees, had an extra vote.
Is epistocracy the answer? Is it even desirable? What about those not qualified to be in power? Epistocracy is antithetical to democracy. Jennifer Senior, New York Times columnist, writes that 95 % of Representatives “have a degree. Look where that’s got us”. In the 17th Lok Sabha, lower house of Indian parliament, 394 of 545 members have at least a graduate degree which is almost three times the number of graduates in the first Lok Sabha. And yet, bills are often passed without much discussion and critical scrutiny. A few years ago, President Pranab Mukherjee asked lawmakers to improve the quality of deliberations, discussions and debates in the House, saying India can’t remain a role model to the world simply because of the size of the electorate.
As Mark Bovens and Anchrit Wille maintain, representative democracy has become “diploma democracy” ruled by those with higher qualification but to what good.(Bovens & Welle, 2017) Modern democracy has become vulnerable because of institutional weaknesses. Strong institutions and enlightened citizenry, not degree holder MPs, are the sine qua non of robust democracy.
Many political leaders, industrialists, bureaucrats and intellectuals owe their leading position to their bloodline. Michael Young argues how stratification “becomes inevitable in a perfect meritocracy. Each individual has an equal chance of becoming unequal.”(Young, 1994)
Another analyst maintains, any system which rewards “through wealth and which increases inequality don’t aid social mobility”.(Littler, 2017) Half the students of America’s 12 top universities come from the richest 10 % of families. Robert Reich, professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley, says that 60% of US personal wealth is inherited.
Nearly two decades ago, The Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Golden wrote a series of investigative articles how donations and influence helped undeserving students to grab elite university seats at the expense of meritorious students. That practice has not only continued but become worse.
Nathan Robinson maintains that the college admission scandals “reveal the lies that sustain the American idea of meritocracy”.(Robinson, 2019) He further adds that there are three ways in which a rich student gets into top college or university. The front door is when one gets in on merit. The back door is “through institutional advancement”, often ten times as much money. The third way is through what he calls “side door” that is by paying bribes and faking test marks.
Infantilisation of higher education
There is another worrying trend what Frank Furedi of University of Kent calls “growing infantilization of higher education”. Referring to the practice of The University College, London, permitting students to leave class if they find historical events “disturbing,” Furendi says, “today one can’t teach the Holocaust without unsettling students.”
He further laments how universities which nurtured intellectual experimentation are today becoming conformist and censorial. Earlier university students “were treated as young adults, capable of independent living and learning”, says Furendi.Today, that distinction “has eroded as institutions of higher education have become reorganised around the expectation that their students require paternalistic support.”. Furendi further says that the infantilisation of higher education is based on the premise that “undergraduates are emotionally vulnerable and lack the psychological resources for the conduct of independent life.”(Furedi, 2006)
Educationist Jonathan Zimmerman echoes Furendi’s views. He argues that allowing administration to solve every problem infantilizes students and that time has come to wrest control of the educational process from an administrative bureaucracy. It is time to stem the rot or else colleges and universities will become courses in “self-infantilisation.”
In universities across Europe, often students are educated to accept ideas that don’t challenge them. They are also encouraged to adopt the role of “biologically mature school children.” In 2018, when Toby Young, co-author of What Every Parent Needs to Know, wrote a stinging comment on the state of British universities describing them as “left-wing madrasas”,(Young,2018) he was brutally attacked from all quarters including Higher Education Minister Charles Camosy. Even in Sweden, known for its egalitarianism, the academia is no model of meritocracy as it is plagued with an entrenched culture of cronyism.
In China and East Asian countries, teacher-student relationship is hierarchical. In China, teachers are seen as transmitters of truth and students as passive recipients of knowledge. Chinese academics have long believed that the task of the students is to learn about the world until 40 or so and only then try to critically examine the world. Several Western scholars have noted a big difference between in and out-of-class of Chinese students. As one scholar writes, often the Western teachers find “the deathly silence of students rather unnerving”. Even open-ended questions “mostly meet with no response.”(Biggs, 1999) However, such behaviour could be cultural. For example, asking question during a lecture is considered impolite and unrespectful.
Meritocracy is the new face of inequality.In fact, as Francois Crouzet argues, the “image of the self-made man as the mainstay of the Industrial Revolution is a myth.”(Crouzet, 2011)
Daniel Markovits, author of The Meritocracy Trap, sees meritocracy itself as a problem.It produces radical inequality, stifles social mobility, and makes everyone — including the apparent winners — miserable. These are not symptoms of systemic malfunction; they are the products of a system that is working exactly as it is supposed to.(Markovits, 2019)
About 140 million people in the US are categorised as poor and with low income. About 24 million people of colour, 38 million Latinos, eight million Asian-American, two million Native people and 66 million Whites fall under this category. Many Americans have argued that riches are the “fruit of industry” and that America must “honour the fruit of merit”. Such meritocracy is of course a false narrative and a plutocratic fraud. China may have evolved a sophisticated system of selecting and promoting political officials, involving decades of training and examinations at different stages of their career, but its much-touted political meritocracy too is anything but meritocratic. Meritocracy remains a dystopia.
The culture of mediocrity is growing. The alternative to meritocracy should not be to stick with the status quo. Thinkers like British Social Democrat R N Tawney argue that we must strive for “equality of result” and “democratic equality of condition.” David Civil, author of The Rise of Functiocracy, has come up with a formula:Social Need +Democracy=Function. Social need, he stresses, must be “democratically identified by the community as a whole.”. It, however, raises more questions than answers. American civil rights theorist Lani Guinier, author of The Tyranny of the Meritocracy,underlines the importance of “educating a class of students who will be critical thinkers, active citizens and publicly spirited leaders.” She lays emphasis on “democratic merit”(Guinier,2016) that measures the success of higher education “by the work and service performed by the graduates who leave.”
Meritocracy inevitably metastasizes into oligarchy.Yet, even a flawed meritocracy is far better than epistocracy, feudal aristocracy or Brahminical caste system. John Rawls provides an interesting alternative. He says, “those who have been favoured by nature, may gain from their good fortune only on terms that improve the situation of those who have lost out.”Working towards radical egalitarianism is the right model. Of course, that work is never done. It is like Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus—to struggle perpetually and without hope of success. As they say, sometimes it is better to travel than to arrive.
*Sophia Thomas is Masters in Public Policy and Governance from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, India
- Bell, D. (2015, December 17). Chinese Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy. (E. Pastreich, Interviewer) Diplomat.
- Bell, D. A. (2016). The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy. Germany: Princeton University Press.
- Bell, D. A. (21-23 May 2014). On the selection of good leaders in a political Meritocracy. Third Nishan Forum on World Civilizations. Shandong University, Jinan, China.
- Biggs, J. (1999). What the Student Does: Teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 18(1).
- Bovens, M., & Welle, A. (2017). Diploma Democracy: The Rise of Meritocracy. Oxford University Press.
- Chiles, A. (2021, January 20). Never mind machines getting cleverer : Is technology making me stupider? The Guardian.
- Civil, D. (n.d.). The Rise of Functiocracy.
- Crouzet, F. (2011). The First Industrialists : The problem of Origins. University of Cambridge.
- Furedi, F. (2006). The Culture of Fear Revisited. Bloomsbury Publishing.
- Guinier, L. (2016). The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America. United States: Beacon Press.
- Littler, J. (2017, May 20). Meritocracy: The great delusion that ingrains inequality. The Guardian.
- Robinson, N. (2019, May 14). Meritocracy is a myth invented by the rich. The Guardian.
- Weiwei, Z. (2018, 03 17). Selection and election: How China chooses its leaders. Retrieved from https://news.cgtn.com/news/3341444e796b7a6333566d54/share_p.html
- Young, M. (1994). The Rise of the Meritocracy. Routledge.
Media, Democratic Politics and Citizen Journalism
Media plays a key role in liberal democratic regimes. There are many functions of media in enhancing democracy. Media freedom is essential to a working democracy as agenda-setting is one of the significant roles of media. There is a constant relationship between the ruling elites and those governed in democratic countries. Public opinion is shaped in this process of interaction. The main tool of this relationship and interaction is the media.
Media is seen as the “fourth estate” in modern democracies. It acts as a “watchdog” for state affairs. The media coverage of issues—why and how they have emerged, why they are important for influencing people’s understandings of political and social reality – is very important in agenda setting (Blumber, 2015)
Journalism serves various democratic functions such as giving information, making investigation, providing society a public forum, and democratic education (Schudson, 2014). Ruling elites need media support in order to be able to create effective public support. The Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci’s (1971) conceptualization of “hegemony” states that rule must be based on both coercion and consent. Thus it can be said that media has a major role in providing a solid ground for consent.
Historically, the press has been an indispensable building block for a democratic regime. In a democratic regime, the media actors must provide a basis to the public that will enable the free expression of thoughts and opinions, the freedom of criticism of every institution and organization, including political power-holders. It can be said that, media discourse plays a key role in shaping the dynamics of the relationship between governments and the masses. Media through using a discriminatory or even stigmatizing language can undermine the legitimacy of certain actors while stressing the positive features of other actors to make them have legitimacy in the eyes of the masses. The powerful actors such as elites shape news discourse by setting time and space, agendas, participants, and news language. It is known that, the media is generally under the influence of diverse ideological forces.
In the course of time, with changing dynamics including technological advancement, democracy and media relationship has changed too. After 1945, a new type of democracy emerged. John Keane (2009) calls this as “monitory democracy”. If assembly democracy is linked to the spoken word, today’s democracy [monitory democracy] is linked to the digitalized societies.
It can be said that, in the age of globalization, the media structure has transformed. This transformation has an impact on democratic politics as well. In this new era, digitalization is on the rise and this is a major factor paving the way for citizen journalism. Citizen journalism is conducted by people who are not professional journalists. These people disseminate information using web sites, blogs, or social media platforms such as Twitter. Citizen journalism is also known as network journalism, and Web 2.0 journalism and it makes reference to the shifts in the nature of news and the media professionalism in a general sense. According to Chris Atton (2003) citizen journalism presents a “radical challenge to the professionalized and institutionalized practices of the mainstream media.”
The monopolies that constitute an obstacle to the freedom of having access to information erode democracy. However, citizen journalism offers small-scale, decentralized and interactive communication tools to ensure the freedom of having access to information and this empowers democracy.
As final remarks, it can be said that, the developments in digital communication have facilitated the proliferation of small companies and citizen journalism practices in the environment which once was dominated by a more rigid structured media sector. The developments in technology have attached a major importance to social media. The advent of new technologies and grass-roots media tools has created a significant shift in collecting and sharing information. Citizen journalism as an alternative form of news gathering and reporting is conducted outside of the traditional media boundaries. The technological improvements created a new platform for both news makers and news consumers. Thus, citizen journalism made the access to news easier and cheaper. Moreover, the global crisis like Coronavirus pandemic has shown that digital news consumption has become more critical and this ultimately increased the importance of citizen journalism.
- Atton, C. (2003), “What is ‘alternative journalism’?” Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism 4, No. 3: 267-400.
- Blumler, J. G. (2015), “Core Theories of Political Communication: Foundational and Freshly Minted” http://commres.net/wiki/_media/comt12077.pdf (Access Date: 24.1.2021)
- Gramsci, A. (1971), Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Translated from Italian by Hoare, Q. and Nowell Smith, G. London: Lawrence and Wishart.
- Keane, J. (2009), The life and death of democracy. London: Simon & Schuster.
- Schudson, M. (2014). “How to think normatively about news and democracy”, In: Kenski, K, Jamieson, KH (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Political Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
An Analysis on Marshall McLuhan’s concepts
Marshall McLuhan is an important scholar who has made major contributions to communication discipline through introducing new concepts like “global village” and “medium is the message”. It can be said that ideas of McLuhan can be applied to new technologies and social media discussions today.
McLuhan introduced the idea of “medium is the message” in his book called Medium is the Message that was published in 1967. According to McLuhan, what is said by the message is not very significant. The media actors which can be regarded as the medium hold a more major influence on the masses than the message it presents.
The medium (or media in other terms) does not only have the role of being the carrier of the message but it is also the message that shapes people’s views and perceptions (McLuhan, 1967). McLuhan, based on the idea of “medium is the message” gave examples to support his claim in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man published in 1964. According to McLuhan, the content of any medium is always another medium. For instance, the content of writing is speech; the written word is the content of print; and print can be seen as the content of the telegraph (McLuhan, 1964).
Another important concept coined by McLuhan is “global village”. This concept was introduced in the 1960s to say that mass media will spread all over the world and make the world become a global village (McLuhan, 1962). According to McLuhan, the electronic interdependence of today’s world produces a world in the sense of “global village”. The global village has been created by the instant electronic information movement according to McLuhan.
McLuhan believed in the usefulness of communication technologies. One of the most important emphases McLuhan made was about drawing attention with his findings about the global communication revolution. According to McLuhan, TV has been a critical invention that ensures that nothing remains a secret, and that eliminates privacy, and he believed that the change of societies is possible with the development of communication tools in various forms. McLuhan made one of the most important predictions of the 20th century. This was the Internet.
In contemporary world, social media is used by millions of user all over the world. New technologies have turned the world into a “global village” Although McLuhan said almost 60 years ago, his ideas about media (medium is the message) and the “global village” concept are still relevant today.
- McLuhan, M. (1962), The Gutenberg Galaxy: The making of typographic man. London: Routledge.
- McLuhan M. (1964), Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan, McGraw Hill
- McLuhan, M. (1967). The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. London: Penguin Press.
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