Ok, it’s getting serious. My current module ‘Theories of International Relations’ draws to a close, although it still feels like it started only last week. It’s amazing and chilling at the same time how mercilessly quick time flies by!
Anyway, there are now four weeks left, all of which are assigned to the end of module essay. This essay consists of around 5000 words, which is absolutely doable, although it’s going to take heavy effort – just the way I like it! Aome weeks ago, as part of the essay preparation, we were required to hand in an essay plan. Some days ago feedback and the mark came in. The mark was a real downer, I was quite frustrated as it was far below the threshold I set for myself. Nevertheless, one has to see to get the best out of any situation, and so I focused on the comments provided by the module convenor and associate tutor. The feedback was spot on and will help a great deal to structure my essay, and fill it with substance, rather than words. I acknowledge that my plan was pretty thin, though. The task I chose is to evaluate how Marxist International Relations scholars use the concept of ‘structure’ to explain changes in the global capitalist economy. There is lots of political economy and international theory, so it’s an awesome topic, don’t you think!?
Marxism is quite a wide ranging philosophy, with at least millions of strands and influences. Thus, there is lots of material available and even more to ponder. I didn’t quite know where to go with all of this. Focus on imperialism? World-systems theory – or is it analysis? Hegemony? Which one – Leninist or Gramscian? How to conceptualize the ‘global capitalist economy’? Does it even exist, or is what is called ‘global’ actually ‘international’, i.e. state regulated exchange?
The most difficult thing in writing an essay, in my view, is to get going. And this is exactly what my plan lacked – something like an ignition that kicks the entire work in provocative and creative fashion off. Now, due to the feedback I know that this ignition should be a brief survey of what ‘structure’ means in other international theories and schools of thought. Never mind that this topic alone is apt fill several books, doctoral theses, and treatises. In my essay I’ll have to boil it down to 800-1000 words. After that I can use the survey and pitch these conceptions of structure against those employed by Marxist thinkers. So thanks to the feedback I now have an idea of the direction I should take, although still no clue where this will actaully end up.
Of course, it is also important to pay attention to the feedback provided in preceding modules. This kind of feedback is well useful to evaluate progress and lower the chance of repeating mistakes. So, although it’s not very pleasant to be lectured it, pays off in the end, I’d say.
Oh, and the mark for the essay plan? It is meant to give orientation; it has no influence on the module mark, and thus I’ll take it is a warning shot, so to speak. Sometimes, fortune favours the lucky ones….