Professor William Thompson Reflects on HSE April Conference
At the April International Academic conference William R. Thompson, Rogers Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington and Managing Editor of International Studies Quarterly, gave an honorary lecture on 'Norms, Behavioral Compliance, and Status Attribution in International Politics'. He also participated in the session on State Capacity and Durability/Vulnerability of Authoritarian and Hybrid Regimes with a paper entitled State Capacity, Democratization and Public Policy, co-authored with Thomas J. Volgy.
In his lecture the professor put forward a number of factors that may spell the end for one state acquiring a disproportionate share of political, economic and military power as in the past. The factors encompass lead economies, technological innovation and diffusion, energy transition (or its absence) and global war. Professor Thompson stated that ‘if the interpretation is accurate, we are in for a long period of limited systemic leadership in which the United States maintains a weak lead on other actors and can only operate as something approximating a 'first among equals.' On the other hand, that development could create space for the emergence of alternative political leadership institutions.’
Professor Thompson has talked to HSE News service about his impressions of the conference.
— What would you say is the significance of conferences such as the April International Academic Conference?
— The practical value of such conferences is encountering people with different perspectives, different backgrounds, different training. I think it’s good for the people of Russia to hear Westerners come in and describe the problems, and it’s good for us to hear people react to those descriptions and also to present alternative arguments and sometimes there are things you haven’t even thought about, and that’s the value of these international conferences.
— Have you heard anything at the conference to give you food for thought?
I’ve been in this business for a long time. And I’ve been to Moscow a few times, too. So I haven’t yet heard anything I hadn’t heard before. But, for example, the last question in today’s discussion was, why haven’t you looked at trade linkages between the countries? And my answer is, we haven’t got around to it yet. But when somebody says this, then you sort of feel obligated to try it and see if it works. That’s worthwhile.
Speaking of other papers that were presented, one paper was on comparing Russia and Turkey. I hadn’t thought about that, but they have some similarities in terms of their political processes. That’s good. That’s why we do these things as we are looking for new ideas, things we hadn’t thought about. Sometimes you go back home and something you heard lays dormant for a while, and then pops up in your head.
— What can you say about HSE as a global university?
I’ve interacted with various universities in Moscow, and I like HSE better than the others. I think the students are more interesting here. Some universities are too authoritarian: the faculty tells the students what to think, in other places students don’t seem all that interested in the topic. HSE students are more interested and dedicated to their work.
I think HSE is more open to Western techniques, and that makes it more interesting for me, since I find this approach more valuable than other approaches. The other universities are stuck in the kind of analysis that they’ve always been used to. There doesn’t seem to be much likelihood that they’ll change in that respect. This makes them very isolated from a world perspective, because the rest of the world is changing in a particular direction, and they are not following it. This makes their students less competitive on the open market. This means difference for students on the undergraduate level who want to go on the graduate level outside of Russia: you have to be very careful about where to go because you just wouldn’t have the skills to be competitive. The HSE students have a better chance of success at that.