If the folly of this world is interminable, so too is the search for a better world. A portion of a lecture by English philosopher John Gray recently emerged on the internet. In it, the former LSE professor speaks on the question ‘can we live together in the world’, a question this blog has touched on before. Gray suggests the answer, yes.
The question of belonging has emerged as a central concern of our times, but it entails the question of global as well as national belonging. The question of belonging somewhere in the world necessarily raises the question of belonging as a part of the world, not apart from it. The 2017 World Economic Forum fumbled this question. Although it was asked, it went wildly unanswered.
The forum, on the whole, was a wash, adding nothing new, but neither conceding globalist pretences. Over the past few days, Continue reading “Myopic Global Futures Past at Davos”
It is too easy and too often thought that because nothing is perfect, humankind will forever be divided, at odds, even doomed. A fitting read for the Christmas holidays, Peter H. Wilson’s 2016 The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe’s History rebels against that dumb-headedness. With impressive scholarship and humane writing, Oxford prof. Wilson overturns prevailing notions of the Holy Roman Empire as a failed state-building project. He argues the Empire, as it was called for much of its history, should be taken seriously as a distinct political form, and not as a confused way station in the rise of modern nation-states. It endured for a thousand years, twice as long as imperial Rome. Wilson arrays the 900 plus pages into four digestible parts: Ideal, Belonging, Governance, and Society. He shows how the Empire had a political order with pragmatic political institutions, distinct ambitions, and an historically distinct form of belonging. This is an important contribution for rethinking European political experience and expands our awareness of possible political forms.
What brings this work into the concerns of the BBP, is how Wilson understands why Continue reading “Why the Holy Roman Empire Did and Does Not Matter”
Gianpiero Petriglieri’s thoughtful essay makes a helpful distinction between cosmopolitanism and globalization. He argues:
If we want to fend off the globalization of ultra-nationalism, now is the time to take a stand for cosmopolitanism—extricating its broadminded attitude from its elitist parody, and putting it to work to temper nationalism and humanize globalization.
In the technologically ‘shrunk’ globe of the 21st century, it is challenging but important to re-imagine the ways in which humankind does not need a ‘global village’ to be ‘one’.
The defeat of Hillary Clinton brings down many things and people. Amongst them is the neoliberal vision of a global society. Nationalist, racist, and prejudicial politics will square off against alternative and new visions of global solidarity, but the last and greatest defender of the globalist neoliberal brand of cosmopolitanism, HR Clinton, has been defeated.
Trade will continue, on new terms perhaps, but the neoliberal vision of a global village of entrepreneurial individuals has been denied power. The liberal social imaginary of ‘atomistic’ global individuals was always gendered and racialized, but the revival of xenophobic politics has triumphed over the liberal vision of a global society.
With roots reaching to the 19th Century’s Richard Cobden, the vision will likely be reformulated and resuscitated again, sometime in future, but the present force of its neoliberal form is spent. What we are approaching is a post-liberal era of global disorder, a moment perhaps, but a post-liberal shift in world politics overall, where neoliberal internationalism has been knocked-out.
By post-liberal, I mean both an era in world politics where many liberal principles are challenged, overturned, and rejected, as well as an era marked by the trace of the former ascendance of those principles. Liberalism, in a broad sense, has a kind of way of life to be defended in Western democracies, but the US-centric world order hallmarks of democracy, human rights, global trade, and so on are hollowed-out, their neoliberal content is sapped. What will fill them is the contest between the revived illiberal vision of a racially, religiously, nationally divided humankind, and alternative, as yet unclear, unannounced, post-liberal cosmopolitanisms.
Professor Appiah’s masterful Reith Lectures are amounting to a question, one the late Jacques Derrida put best: what is the meaning of “living together well”? Like his first lecture on religion, Appiah’s second and third lectures on the nation and race raise this question, but in a preliminary way, leaving the question itself untouched. In each lecture he argues these ideas are incoherent and he suggests we might find more open and less prejudicial ways of living together, without saying much about what that entails, beyond the vague notion that, as he puts it at one point, we can work it out.
In a time when religious fundamentalism, nationalism, and xenophobia are enjoying a revival in global politics, the cosmopolitan thinker Kwame Anthony Appiah has come to show us how confused we are about what these things are and how they shape our identities. In the first of a series of lectures, to be aired on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service, Appiah tackled the question of religion and identity. His argument is that religious identity is not so much constituted by a set of creedal beliefs or orthodoxies, as it is a set of evolving religious practices performed in a community. The idea that religion is not something that we have but is something we do is appealing and I appreciate Appiah’s cosmopolitan live and let live attitude, but I am not convinced his argument leads us down a coherent or entirely helpful path. Continue reading “Encounter I: Kwame Anthony Appiah”