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"Freedom" through Repression: Epistemic Closure in Agricultural Trade Negotiations


Gruin,  Julian
Projekte von Gastwissenschaftlern und Postdoc-Stipendiaten, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;
University of Oxford, UK;

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Gruin, J. (2011). "Freedom" through Repression: Epistemic Closure in Agricultural Trade Negotiations. Review of International Studies, 37(5), 2465-2490. doi:10.1017/S026021051000152X.

A central concern of critical theory is that of how the forces of Modern reason cause certain logics to become reified in the name of rational progress. Two such logics – the ongoing spread of liberal capitalism, and territorial particularism – are simultaneously embodied within social institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) that regulate the global economy, a phenomenon that occurs on the premise of maximising global welfare. Building upon a critical reading of Jürgen Habermas' theory of communicative action, this article undertakes an empirical immanent critique of the extent to which such logics repress the possibility of normative imperatives being considered within agricultural trade negotiations. Specifically, it argues that the dialectic of functionalist and communicative rationality, operating as a theoretical heuristic, reveals that the DDA is susceptible to an ethical indictment that arises from its inability to countenance the alternatives to the dual logics of neo-liberalism and state-interest that could otherwise emerge from a free and rational discussion. The nature of the WTO as a site of social action is revealed to be that of a closed epistemic community in which important normative claims are repressed, and as such, one in which the underlying rational bases for communication are fundamentally distorted.