Research Seminar | Progressive Pragmatism: A future Ethos for British Foreign Policy
British foreign policy has been criticised as ideological, irrational and populist over the last decade. In that light, one would expect assertions by Rishi Sunak and James Cleverly of a pragmatist turn to be welcomed. However, voices on the left have criticised this approach as bland “unimaginative vanilla”, unsuited to the scale of the challenges the UK faces and antithetical to progressive values and a commitment to human rights. While this may be true of a narrowly defined conservative pragmatism, in this paper the authors assert that a progressive pragmatism is best placed to inform a future British foreign policy aimed at achieving progressive outcomes. They begin by identifying key aspects of philosophical pragmatism (inclusivity, respect, reflexivity and practicality), and then link these to progressive foreign policy goals (human progress, emancipation, other-regarding behaviour and attitudes, and redistribution). They then explore how a progressive pragmatist ethos might approach some of the key challenges of our era, such as global governance reform, security, and development. Rather than being inherently conservative, they conclude that pragmatism is imbued with a progressive ethos and offers useful tools to achieve progress in an era of global multipolarity, competition and existential threats such as climate change.
Jamie Gaskarth was appointed Professor of Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Open University in February 2021, having previously been a Reader in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the University of Birmingham, and Senior Lecturer at Plymouth University. His research focuses on practical ethical problems in foreign policy and security and he is the author/editor of six books on international relations and foreign policy.
He is currently co-Editor in Chief of the ISA Journal of Global Security Studies and serves on the editorial board of Foreign Policy Analysis and International Studies Perspectives. Jamie also provides a regular lecture on National Strategy, Risk and Defence to the Defence Academy, Shrivenham.
He was ISA English School Section Chair, (2017-2019), appointed Visiting Professor at Sciences Po, Lyon (2018), elected trustee of the British International Studies Association (2013-2015), Convenor of the BISA Foreign Policy working group, (2008-2014) and Visiting Scholar at Berkeley, UC in 2011.