Paul Musgrave:西方政治学者觉得《权力的游戏》写实,多半因为他们历史不过关|2019-05-28

2019年5月28日08:44:14 发表评论

《外交政策》网站5月23日刊登美国麻省大学阿默斯特分校政治学助理教授保罗·马斯格雷夫文章《国际关系理论和「权力的游戏」都是魔幻作品》

文:Paul Musgrave

译:李翠萍

来自:官方翻译

美剧《权力的游戏》系列自开播以来,便引起了世界各国政治和外交学者的极大兴趣。

他们热切地发挥才华,反复套用学术理论来分析各个角色赢得王位的机会,并进行排名。甚至有学者在学术期刊上发表论文,专门讲如何通过模拟剧情来教授国际关系理论。美国智库兰德公司专家曾把将该剧中的龙比作核武器。《外交事务》不久前刊登的一篇文章写道,尽管该剧呈现了一些暴力元素,但它并不是一部现实主义文本,而是“要批判对国家安全短视的关注,以至于忽略了个人和集体利益。”该文章的作者试图以丹妮莉丝·坦格利安对平民的关心来支撑其论点,但(由于她最后发狂屠城)这似乎不太成立。

 

这其中有一个很重要的原因。很难想象还有什么奇幻世界会比《权力的游戏》里的维斯特洛大陆更能吸引国际关系学者。毕竟,从许多方面来看,国际关系理论和维斯特洛大陆属于近亲关系,它们来自同一个源头——(没学好的)欧洲历史

或许正由于这个原因,才会有那么多学者和爱涉足学术的媒体人如此严肃认真地对待这部剧。许多国际关系学者竟然认为这部剧是写实的,多么讽刺!专门研究中世纪的学者们虽然乐于见到大量剧迷突然开始对他们的作品和课程感兴趣,但他们也担心该剧会扭曲人们对中世纪世界的看法。

早在剧情里出现龙和异鬼之前,专门研究中世纪历史的学者就指出,这部剧呈现出的中世纪生活完全不符合现实。简单说来就是,真正的中世纪生活节奏更慢,宗教色彩更浓,种族更多元化,统治者可能比剧中更关心税收问题。事实上,一位学者指出,与其说《权力的游戏》讲述的是中世纪时期的故事,不如说它是部以欧洲早期现代史(比如三十年战争时期或殖民美洲时期)为背景的演义。

这就从侧面解释了为什么国际关系学者会认为这部剧如此具有吸引力。不是我故意给同行拆台,但整体上来说,我们政治学者的历史研究不太过关,正如历史学者不太擅长提炼理论一样。当政治学者研究某个案例时,通常更关心根本的理论趋势是如何通过事件发展反映出来的,而不是逐条厘清所有事实。

这就是为什么除了深入钻研某段历史的少数人以外,大多数国关学者都是浮在三万英尺高空鸟瞰历史的。这便是为什么国际关系教学和研究会如此重视1648年(译注:学者普遍认为威斯特伐利亚和约开创的国际体系是现代国际关系体系雏形)和1919年(译注:巴黎和会重新安排世界格局,建立国联,也为更大的冲突埋下种子)这样转折点,以至于给它们披上神话色彩:因为与全面领会历史变化的复杂性相比,固定用某一年来标记重大变化要容易的多。

《宣读明斯特合约的批准誓词》,杰拉德·泰尔博赫【荷】

 

正因为历史知识有所欠缺,所以国际关系学者才会觉得《权力的游戏》比较写实。当观众接触虚构作品时,叙事必须成功地将观众对现实世界的感受转移到一个连贯的故事世界中去,并在那里逐步展开。所以观众可以期待在《权力的游戏》中看到龙,但却看不到星际飞船。如果违反了这种故事规则,比如在维斯特洛大陆出现了星巴克咖啡,就会让观众因为觉得违和而脱离必要的悬疑感。

然而,造成叙事转移的不是叙事本身的准确性,而是它在特定受众眼里的合理性。比如一名律师在看律政剧的时候,除非是像《我的堂兄维尼》那样以准确著称的剧,否则他们将对种种谬误感到震惊,但绝大多数人仍然会觉得剧情很写实。观众们天然倾向于呈现在他们眼前的情节,如果缺乏背景知识来验证故事里的各种说法,他们会把能合乎情理的情节当作真相。

 

《我的堂兄维尼》剧照

这里就必须提到维斯特洛大陆了。乔治·R·R·马丁曾说,他在写作《冰与火之歌》时采用了“混搭”的方法,吸收借鉴了英国和欧洲的历史。这同样也是美国国关理论界的做法,至少从1948年以来——那一年政治学家汉斯·摩根索在《国家间政治》中将国际政治定义为“权力斗争”——他们劫掠欧洲历史中的只鳞片羽用以构筑合乎情理的说法,来阐述政治进程,哪怕所选材料的性质截然相异。

 

书中的狼狮大战参考了英国的玫瑰战争

马丁洗劫了不同的历史典籍,然后创作了一系列关于权力的故事。几十年来,国关理论家的所作所为与马丁相差无几,他们号称在构建一种关于权力的科学,但实际上产物往往更像是故事而不是科学

美国国际关系学者辛西娅•韦伯在《国际关系理论》一书中写道:“国际关系理论是一部关于国际政治的故事集,它展现出的真实性有赖于国际关系的种种神话。”由于马丁和摩根索在创作中都回顾了一种想象出来的欧洲历史,因此他们都把主权和国家间的战争视为自然概念,并在故事中给予其突出地位。

 

这种做法自然而然地为马丁的魔幻小说和国关学者们的“科幻”理论引入一种欧洲中心主义偏见。几十年来,课堂里教的都是各个国家如何为了生存而维持权力均势,以抗衡可能毁灭它们的对手。直到2007年,学者们才开始系统地研究非欧洲环境下的均势案例,并发现这些国家没有追求均势的倾向性。其实今天看来,欧洲历史里比较近乎无政府状态的时期更像是世界历史中的例外,而不是常态

当国际关系理论学者邂逅《权力的游戏》时,他们兴奋地发现整个文本都纠缠于权力、暴力、权威以及个人与结构孰轻孰重等问题。他们在该剧中看到了自己研究领域的镜像,但这个镜像的实体本身其实也是一部虚幻作品,可它衍生出来的著作却奠定了国际关系理论的基础。在中世纪史学家们看来,该剧充满不准确的描述,但在国际关系理论学者那里,这些谬误却是学科内部代代相传、人人奉为圭臬的古老真理。

欧洲强权维持的均势

这也解释了一个更深层次的问题:为什么国际关系学者非常不愿意反驳剧中的不准确之处呢?许多中世纪史学家在讨论《权力的游戏》时,既解释剧中哪些情节符合历史,也指出哪些纯属谬误,就好比科普作者既要讨论流行文化中符合科学的东西,也要指出其中的误读。但相对而言,很少有国关学者愿意深入细节来讨论该剧有失准确的地方。

他们保持缄默的原因很多。部分原因在于,该剧许多场景可以帮助本科生直观理解“安全困境”等抽象概念,因此授课的学者自然不会过于苛求这个免费的礼物。另外一部分原因是,许多学者对大众文化产物发表评论占用的是他们的私人时间,所以他们不仅是作为学者来写这些文章,也是作为书迷,因此不太愿意深究自己喜爱的作品有什么瑕疵。

 

然而,有个原因可能比以上两条更重要。那就是人类对世界政治和流行文化的研究仍处于起步阶段。现在正在进行着一场悄无声息的革命,学者们开始从宽泛的理论构想(比方用《星际迷航:原初系列》来解释上世纪60年代的美国外交政策)转向更为严谨的研究。有实验证明,对科幻作品中描写的杀手机器人了解程度越高,就越抗拒现实世界中的自主武器;阅读反乌托邦小说会为激进、暴力的政治行动提供更多现成的辩护理由。我们有充分的理论和实证理由相信,即便政策制定者也会被虚构的外交政策描述所影响,比如美国前总统罗纳德•里根就高度接受汤姆•克兰西(译注:美国军事作家,代表作包括《猎杀红色十月号》、《赤色风暴》、《迫切的危机》等)的小说。

《猎杀红色十月号》

 

学者们应该如何认真对待流行文化?这些研究指向一条新路:不要试图逐条指出《权力的游戏》反映了哪些真实的历史,甚至无需罗列它的谬误,而是要探寻它被观众接受的背后反映出观众对政治有怎样的理解,以及这部剧是否改变了他们对权力运作的看法。类似的方法也可以帮助学者们理解,一部流行文化作品——比如中国的爱国电影《战狼2》——究竟是纯属娱乐,还是切实干预改变了中国观众看待世界的方式。

探索这些问题有助于解释人们如何理解复杂事物,比如国际关系。研究这样的问题也有助于国关学者摘掉“叉腰大师”的帽子,真正着手去创造现实世界所需要的深刻知识。

IR Theory and‘Game of Thrones’ Are Both Fantasies

Since the start of the series, Game of Thrones has been catnip for scholars of world politics and foreignpolicy.

They eagerly applied their talents and theories to ranking each character’s chances of winning the throne—repeatedly. There are scholarly journal articles about how to use a simulation based on the show to teach international relations theory. Rand Corp. has compared the show’s dragons to nuclear weapons. A Foreign Affairs article argued that, despite its use of violence, the show was no realist text but “a critique of the myopic focus on national security over the needs of individuals and the collective good.” (The author cited as evidence Daenerys Targaryen’s concern for civilians, a point that didn’t fare so well.)

There’s a good reason for this. It would be hard to imagine a fantasy world better concocted to appeal to international relations scholars than that of Westeros, the setting of Game of Thrones. After all, in many ways, international relations theory and Westeros are cousins since they descend from the same source material: bad European history

That, perhaps, explains how seriously and earnestly many scholars, and journalists on the academic beat, have approached the show. It’s ironic that many international relations scholars see the show as realistic. Although medievalists welcome the surge of interest the show has produced in their work (and courses), they also worry about the distorting effects the show has had on how people perceive the medieval world.

Medieval historians argue that its depiction of medieval life is anything but realistic (and that’s before the dragons or ice zombies). Bluntly, life was slower, more religious, more racially diverse, and probably more concerned with taxation than the show was. Indeed, one scholar points out that, if anything, Game of Thrones is more a romance of the early modern European age (think the Thirty Years’ War or the conquest of the Americas) than of the medieval period.

This offers a hint about why international relations scholars find the show so compelling. If I can speak against my tribe, on the whole we are pretty bad at doing history for the same reasons that we are better at doing theory than are historians. When a political scientist approaches a case, he or she is usually more interested in seeing how the unfolding of events reflected some underlying theoretical trend than in getting the facts right.

That’s why most international relations scholars engage with history at the 30,000-foot level, except for those few who have developed a particular specialization. That’s one reason why mythical turning points like 1648 and 1919 loom so large in international relations teaching and scholarship: It’s easier to pin major changes on a single calendar year than to appreciate the complexity of historical change.

That gap in historical knowledge helps explain why Game of Thrones seems more realistic to international relations scholars. When audiences engage with fiction, the narrative must succeed in transporting the audience from their real-world sensations into a consistent story world within which the narrative unfolds. Audiences can expect dragons in Game of Thrones but not starships. Violating those story rules (like having a Starbucks cup in Westeros) kicks audiences out of their necessary suspension of disbelief.

What generates narrative transportation, however, isn’t the accuracy of a narrative but its plausibility to the specific audience. A lawyer watching a courtroom drama—unless it’s the famously, if incongruously, accurate My Cousin Vinny—will be jarred into disbelief by errors that most people will accept. Audiences are predisposed to believe what they’re told, and if they lack the background knowledge to verify claims within the story, they will accept plausible presentations as true.

And here’s where Westeros comes in. George R.R. Martin has said he used a “mix-and-match” approach to drawing on British and European history to motivate A Song of Ice and Fire. Since at least the publication of Hans Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations in 1948—which defined international politics as a “struggle for power”—U.S. international relations theory has done the same, plundering disparate parts of European history to construct plausible arguments about the underlying processes of politics.

Martin ransacked history books to build a series of novels about power. For decades, theorists did much the same under the trappings of constructing a science of power that often turned out to look more like stories than science.

As Cynthia Weber writes, “IR theory — a collection of stories about international politics — relies on IR myths in order to appear to be true.” And since both Martin and Morgenthau were looking backward to an imagined European past, they took as natural concepts such as sovereignty and interstate war that loom large in those stories.

That move naturally introduced a Eurocentric bias to both the fiction and the “science” fiction about the past. For decades, classrooms were filled with lectures about how the incentives of states seeking survival inclined them to maintain a balance of power against rivals that could extinguish them; it wasn’t until 2007 that scholars began systematically looking at cases of balancing in non-European contexts and found that there was no such propensity toward balancing. These days, if anything, the more anarchical parts of European history look like an exception rather than the rule.

When international relations theorists encountered Game of Thrones, then, they were excited to discover a text that grappled with questions of power, violence, authority, and the importance of individuals versus structure. Yet they were simply discovering a mirror image of the fantasia that foundational works in international relations theory had been drawn from. Where medievalists saw only inaccuracies, international relations theorists saw the same sorts of errors they were reared on and welcomed them as old truths.

That also explains the even deeper puzzle of why international relations scholars were so unwilling to rebut inaccuracies in the show. It’s telling that medievalists sought to explain how Game of Thrones got it wrong as often as the show got things right, much as science communicators seek to explain not only what popular culture gets right about science but also what it wrongly shows as true. But comparatively few international relations scholars wanted to go into detail about how the show was inaccurate.

There are many reasons for that reticence. Partly, it’s because having a popular show that really can be used to illustrate important concepts on a scene-by-scene basis is like a gift horse for scholars who teach undergraduates who don’t always immediately grasp concepts like the security dilemma. Partly, it’s because many scholars who engage with popular culture do so on their own time, so they write not just as scholars but as “scholar-fans” who aren’t inclined to probe too deeply into their beloved’s flaws. (If international relations scholars wrote about popular culture just on the basis of how large an audience a show attracts, there’d be way more think pieces and hot takes about the NCIS universe and how it shapes mass perceptions of international relations.)

Possibly even larger than those reasons, though, is that the study of world politics and popular culture is still in its infancy. There’s a quiet revolution going on now, as scholars turn from broadly theorizing about how (for instance) the original Star Trekexplained 1960s U.S. foreign policy toward more rigorous studies. There are experiments showing that greater knowledge of science-fictional presentations of killer robots leads to greater resistance to real-world autonomous weapons and that reading dystopian fiction produces more ready justification for radical, violent political action. And there are good theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that even policymakers can be affected by fictional portrayals of foreign policy, as with U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s receptivity to Tom Clancy’s novels.

These studies point to one way that scholars can continue to take popular culture seriously: seeking not to catalogue instances in which Game of Thrones reflects the world (or even listing its mistakes) but rather how its reception shows that audiences understand politics—and even how the show might have changed their perceptions of how power works. Similar approaches could also help scholars understand whether a piece of popular culture like the patriotic Chinese film Wolf Warrior 2 is just a piece of entertainment or a meaningful intervention in changing how Chinese audiences see the world.

Exploring those questions holds a lot of promise for explaining how people make sense out of something as complex as international relations. Investigating them would also help international relations scholars stop playing at being critics and instead start producing the sort of deep knowledge that the real world needs.

(End)

 

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