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Ballet for the Bear?


Misapplication of International Legal Norms in Socially Abnormal Situations (Part #7)


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It should be asked whether requiring legal conformity of Russia to international legal norms does not have some resemblance to expecting a bear to learn ballet. A bear has many qualities and strengths. Constraining the bear to the niceties of a legal ballet may be possible -- briefly, or to some degree (possibly with some coercion). But it should be asked whether this does not entirely miss the point.

Russia may well be able to adopt legislation conforming to international legal norms --and there has been considerable progress on this front. But there may be no ability to enforce that legislation within the foreseeable future, even if there continues to be the political will to do so -- which is extremely doubtful.

Clearly ballet can have great appeal in the country of the bear -- and the reknown of Russia dancers needs no comment. Ironically 'ballet' is in fact the metaphor selected by Martin Gannon (1994) as the most appropriate to clarify understanding of Russian culture for the benefit of international managers. But the point to be made is that this aspiration is disconnected from other dimensions of the socio-political dynamic. Ballet does not appeal to all classes of Russian society. Russia is a powerful country, and the strengths of that culture manifest in other ways -- some of them quite foreign to Western ways of thinking.

It should be asked whether conformity to legal norms is the most appropriate route for the bear to follow. Maybe ballet is not the most appropriate dance for that complex set of cultures as a whole. The Russians might effectively see the invitation to adhere to legal norms as being as exotic as inviting Mick Jagger to join the Bolshoi Ballet Company.

The increasing incapacity of Western countries to deliver justice to the underprivileged, and the economic pressures to repeal measures guaranteeing social justice, suggest that the West might also fruitfully reflect on its obsession with legal norms and the rule of law.