Culture, 'Relationality', and Global Cooperation

Morgan Brigg

Global Cooperation Research Papers 6, Duisburg 2014

Keywords: Culture, relationality, cultural difference, conflict resolution, global governance, cooperation research, chaos theory, non–linearity, unknowability, becoming, non-western traditions

DOI: 10.14282/2198-0411-GCRP-6


What is the relationship between cultural difference and global cooperation, and what challenges and opportunities does this relationship pose for cooperation research? This paper examines how culture is a potential resource for global cooperation while grappling with its enigmas and ambiguities. It explores the paradoxes of culture to argue that the partly unknowable character of the concept ‘culture’ may be an advantage for cooperation research rather than a problem to be solved. The paper casts culture and cultures as examples of a wider class of ‘relational’ phenomena that arise through interaction and that rely upon this interaction for their standing. This proposition foregrounds relations over entities, becoming over being, and dynamism over fixity in line with a range of contemporary philosophical developments and the burgeoning of interest in relationality. Thinking of culture in relational terms offers a way of modulating culture; of simultaneously respecting cultural difference and allowing that difference is a shared human resource. Relationality can be deployed to help facilitate cooperation by re-opening interaction within political, social, economic, and institutional arrangements, including through processes for generating relational and cooperative effects have been developed in the field of conflict resolution. However, doing so requires that the fields most obviously related to global cooperation (political science, international relations, and global governance) engage relational approaches at the limits of the precise sciences and through philosophy, religion, and non-western cultural traditions.

The Author

Morgan Brigg is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland, Australia. As a Senior Fellows he conducted research at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research in Research Unit 2 ‘Global Cultural Conflicts and Transcultural Cooperation’ from March to November 2013.

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