Lee Jones: Researcher, International Politics, Oxford

Lee Jones researches and teaches international politics at Oxford, where he is Rose Research Fellow in International Relations at Lady Margaret Hall, specialising in the Asia-Pacific region and the politics of sovereignty and intervention. He has lived in Japan and Italy and has travelled extensively in Asia. Lee’s current research is on intervention in Burma, Cambodia and East Timor and his next research project will be on international sanctions.

Many of his reviews are driven by his interests in IR and political theory, but he is also interested both in the demise of progressive politics domestically, and changes in the developing world, including the rise of China; and also the ways in which both developments are expressed culturally - through, for instance, the growing power of religion and Chinese cinema respectively. Lee reads a lot of fiction from developing countries, recently shifting his obsession from South American to Indian authors, but he rarely reads anything new enough to merit a review. A collection of his essays can be found on Lee Jones’ website.

November 2011

Oddly calm and plodding

Some of the issues Krumwiede raises have real validity. As the Indonesian controversy suggests, the WHO and big pharma really are – as he puts it – like ‘a hand in a glove’; global health governance is big business and that profoundly shapes how it works and how the benefits are distributed. Yet the relevance and import of this point are profoundly discredited by wild conspiracy-theorising.

August 2009

Historicising the therapeutic turn

Durkheim’s warning against expecting education to be a magic wand capable of resolving social problems seems especially apt today, as the government loads ever greater responsibilities onto schools – nutrition, emotional well-being, citizenship, environmental awareness – without seeking to transform the social and economic problems that give rise to the problems these initiatives are naively expected to resolve.

July 2009

Adapting to alienation

The nineteenth century viewed the mind as a machine, reflecting the Industrial Revolution; the late twentieth century saw it as a computer, expressing the Information Revolution. The view of the human mind operating through instinctive emotion prior to reason is perhaps no less specific to today’s ‘therapy culture’.

February 2009

Resisting emotional education

Therapeutic apparatuses have particularly insidious ways of reincorporating dissenters as people who are ‘in denial’, as Nolan’s disturbing paper showed. However, we should never overestimate the power of officialdom to manage society and recast subjectivity by fiat.

January 2009

What makes community?

While it is perfectly apt to question the state’s capacity to perform these functions on citizens’ behalf (and the propriety of the state fulfilling this role), it is far from obvious, as the book repeatedly asserts, that ‘left to their own devices’ citizens will spontaneously recreate communities.

November 2008

Schrödinger’s Villain

None of this is in the slightest bit coherent. Perhaps constantly changing our understanding of what Greene does is meant to express the mysterious nature of his ‘Quantum’ network.


Slam-Dunk the Funk - Defending Progress in the Age of Environmentalism

This essay defends the material basis of progress and the right of developing countries to undergo development, and finally argues that material development offers the only way to avoid the environmental disasters that we are constantly warned are just around the corner.

October 2008

Therapy culture and its critics

Ecclestone and Hayes hope that restoring humanist education would provide people with the means to reconceptualise their plight and develop new, transformatory visions. But if social atomisation produced the therapeutic turn, it also constitutes a barrier to escaping it, and cannot simply be willed away by an exhortation to rediscover subjectivity.

July 2008

Ideal growth?

There is no reason to assume this ideological vacuity will last: if nothing else, the class struggle that economic development will produce means that history is not yet dead.

June 2008

Heroes buried by development

To an audience accustomed to seeing Chinese men gliding around in flying silken robes, Assembly presents them as just soldiers – not rarified, not Orientalised – just men in wartime, with all their human strengths and frailties.

May 2008

The most disappointing generation ever produced?

The end of the Vietnam War took much of the wind out of the sails of the American ‘68ers, many of whom were more interested in dodging the draft than fighting imperialism.

April 2008

A poster-nun for the West

It is precisely this humanitarian culture of low expectations, of ministering to a romanticised poor, coupled with her reactionary social perspective, which endeared Mother Teresa to right-wing politicians in the West.

March 2008

A cycle of agent-less violence

The film lurches way beyond any legitimate attempt to avoid a simple morality tale by putting the killings into a comprehensible context, instead ending up positing a moral equivalence between those involved: insurgents and soldiers alike were forced into this scenario by circumstance, not choice, and, as fundamentally decent people, they all suffer.


Radical Oxford Blues

If anything came out of the Forum at all, however, it was a snapshot of the radical state of confusion on the left today, combining nostalgia for the themes and slogans of the past with many of the prejudices of the present.

November 2007

The bomb is not the problem

Shorris is surely right to dismiss the ‘left-liberal’ thesis of people like Thomas Frank that people are simply voting against their own interests as tantamount to calling people stupid, an anti-democratic thesis. Yet his own view of the masses is scarcely better, since he suggests that racism is ‘the most widely held value in America’ (p284).

August 2007

Liberalism is dead

Evangelicals care more passionately about politics, and in greater numbers than their liberal counterparts. Their enormous fundraising power makes them a force to be reckoned with. Are they wrong to subject their children to brainwashing? Most certainly – but what alternative are kids being offered?

September 2006

Battlefield: Decisive Conflicts in History

There is never any sense of what is at stake. Holmes remarks that ‘it is the deepest irony that the French Revolution, with its ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, led to a quarter-century of bloody war’. There is nothing ironic about this at all: these are things human beings have always had to fight for.


Empire in Denial: The Politics of State-building

There is obviously a lot of truth in Chandler’s characterisation of post-Cold War Western elites as exhausted and visionless, but I wonder how we get from the clueless elite to the deep, costly interventions of ‘empire in denial’. Why isn’t simply doing nothing an option?

July 2006

European Universalism: The Rhetoric of Power

Wallerstein attempts no less than a history of European universalist thought from the sixteenth century to the present day. What emerges is a thin overview that continues to treat ideas as mere epiphenomena of the only logic that matters to Wallerstein: the inexorable expansion of capitalism.

June 2006

After the Neocons

Fukuyama’s latest book provides a clear summary of the origins and beliefs of the neoconservative movement. But given that the central promise of After the Neocons is the provision of alternative means to promote democracy short of war, Fukuyama’s institutional suggestions are remarkably flaccid. 

April 2006

DC Confidential: The Controversial Memoirs of Britain’s Ambassador to the US at the Time of 9/11 and

The character that emerges from these ill-judged pages is a dubious one at best. His public school brand of anti-intellectualism, betrayed most starkly in his unquestioning acceptance of pre-emption, is his worst failing.

Culture Wars was included in creativetourists’ Top 25 UK Arts & Culture Blogs 2009.