Following the alarming disappearance of a Saudi journalist and political dissident, John Oliver examines America's uncomfortably comfortable relationship with Saudi Arabia.
IN WATCHING the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history. The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial. If Mr. Gorbachev were ousted from the Kremlin or a new Ayatollah proclaimed the millennium from a desolate Middle Eastern capital, these same commentators would scramble to announce the rebirth of a new era of conflict.
And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an "end of ideology" or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.
The political scientist argues that the desire of identity groups for recognition is a key threat to liberalism.
I’m also reminded here of Mark Granovetter’s ideas that getting a job is more closely tied to who you know. One’s job is often very closely tied to their identity, and even more so when the link that got them their job was through a friend or acquaintance.
I suspect that Fukuyama has a relatively useful thesis, but perhaps it’s not tied together as logically and historically as Menand would prefer. The difficult thing here is that levels of personal identity on large scales is relatively unknown for most of human history. Tribalism and individuality are certainly pulling at the threads of liberal democracy lately. Perhaps it’s because of unfulfilled promises (in America at least) of the two party system? Now that we’ve reached a summit of economic plenty much quicker than the rest of the world (and they’re usurping some of our stability as the rest of the world tries to equilibrate), we need to add some additional security nets for the lesser advantaged. It really doesn’t cost very much and in turn does so much more for the greater good of the broader society.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
Fukuyama’s argument was that, with the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, the last ideological alternative to liberalism had been eliminated. ❧
“Last” in the sense of a big, modern threat. We’re still facing the threats of tribalism, which apparently have a strong pull.
August 27, 2018 at 10:26AM
There would be a “Common Marketization” of international relations and the world would achieve homeostasis. ❧
Famous last words, right?!
These are the types of statements one must try very hard not to make unless there is 100% certainty.
I find myself wondering how can liberal democracy and capitalism manage to fight and make the case the the small tribes (everywhere, including within the US) that it can, could and should be doing more for them.
August 27, 2018 at 10:29AM
But events in Europe unfolded more or less according to Fukuyama’s prediction, and, on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union voted itself out of existence. The Cold War really was over. ❧
Or ostensibly, until a strong man came to power in Russia and began its downturn into something else. It definitely doesn’t seem to be a liberal democracy, so we’re still fighting against it.
August 27, 2018 at 10:32AM
This speculative flourish recalled the famous question that John Stuart Mill said he asked himself as a young man: If all the political and social reforms you believe in came to pass, would it make you a happier human being? That is always an interesting question. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:33AM
George Kennan, who was its first chief. In July of that year, Kennan published the so-called X article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” in Foreign Affairs. It appeared anonymously—signed with an “X”—but once the press learned his identity the article was received as an official statement of American Cold War policy. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:33AM
Fukuyama’s article could thus be seen as a bookend to Kennan’s. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:36AM
The National Interest, as the name proclaims, is a realist foreign-policy journal. But Fukuyama’s premise was that nations do share a harmony of interests, and that their convergence on liberal political and economic models was mutually beneficial. Realism imagines nations to be in perpetual competition with one another; Fukuyama was saying that this was no longer going to be the case. ❧
And here is a bit of the flaw. Countries are still at least in competition with each other economically, at least until they’re all on equal footing from a modernity perspective.
We are definitely still in completion with China and large parts of Europe.
August 27, 2018 at 10:38AM
Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). ❧
Get a copy of this to read.
August 27, 2018 at 10:39AM
The demand for recognition, Fukuyama says, is the “master concept” ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:40AM
Fukuyama covers all of this in less than two hundred pages. How does he do it? Not well. ❧
Now I have to read it.
August 27, 2018 at 10:41AM
Fukuyama gives this desire for recognition a Greek name, taken from Plato’s Republic: thymos. He says that thymos is “a universal aspect of human nature that has always existed.” ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:43AM
To say, as Fukuyama does, that “the desire for status—megalothymia—is rooted in human biology” is the academic equivalent of palmistry. You’re just making it up. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:45AM
Rationality and transparency are the values of classical liberalism. Rationality and transparency are supposed to be what make free markets and democratic elections work. People understand how the system functions, and that allows them to make rational choices. ❧
But economically, we know there isn’t perfect knowledge or perfect rationality (see Tversky and Khaneman). There is rarely even perfect transparency either which makes things much harder, especially in a post-truth society apparenlty.
August 27, 2018 at 10:48AM
Liberalism remains the ideal political and economic system, but it needs to find ways to accommodate and neutralize this pesky desire for recognition. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:50AM
Enrollment was small, around twenty, but a number of future intellectual luminaries, like Hannah Arendt and Jacques Lacan, either took the class or sat in on it. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:52AM
For Kojève, the key concept in Hegel’s “Phenomenology” was recognition. Human beings want the recognition of other human beings in order to become self-conscious—to know themselves as autonomous individuals. ❧
This is very reminiscent of Valerie Alexander’s talk last week about recognizing employees at work. How can liberal democracy take advantage of this?
August 27, 2018 at 10:53AM
Kojève thought that the other way was through labor. The slave achieves his sense of self by work that transforms the natural world into a human world. But the slave is driven to labor in the first place because of the master’s refusal to recognize him. This “master-slave dialectic” is the motor of human history, and human history comes to an end when there are no more masters or slaves, and all are recognized equally. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:55AM
Kojève’s lectures were published as “Introduction to the Reading of Hegel,” a book that went through many printings in France. ❧
Maybe it was Kojève and not Covfefe that Trump was referencing?! 😛
August 27, 2018 at 10:56AM
Encouraged by his friend Saul Bellow, he decided to turn the article into a book. “The Closing of the American Mind,” which Simon & Schuster brought out in February, 1987, launched a campaign of criticism of American higher education that has taken little time off since. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 11:00AM
In 1992, in the essay “The Politics of Recognition,” Taylor analyzed the advent of multiculturalism in terms similar to the ones Fukuyama uses in “Identity.” ❧
August 27, 2018 at 11:03AM
Fukuyama acknowledges that identity politics has done some good, and he says that people on the right exaggerate the prevalence of political correctness and the effects of affirmative action. ❧
There’s a reference to voting theory about people not voting their particular views, but that they’re asking themselves, “Who would someone like me vote for?” Perhaps it’s George Lakoff? I should look this up and tie it in here somewhere.
August 27, 2018 at 11:05AM
He has no interest in the solution that liberals typically adopt to accommodate diversity: pluralism and multiculturalism. ❧
Interesting to see an IndieWeb principle pop up here! How do other parts dovetail perhaps? What about other movements?
August 27, 2018 at 11:06AM
Fukuyama concedes that people need a sense of national identity, whether ethnic or creedal, but otherwise he remains an assimilationist and a universalist. ❧
Is it a “national” identity they need? Why not a cultural one, or a personal one? Why not all the identities? What about the broader idea of many publics? Recognition and identity touch on many of these publics for a variety of reasons.
August 27, 2018 at 11:08AM
He wants to iron out differences, not protect them. He suggests measures like a mandatory national-service requirement and a more meaningful path to citizenship for immigrants. ❧
What if we look at the shrinking number of languages as a microcosm of identity. Are people forced to lose language? Do they not care? What are the other similarities and differences.
Cross reference: https://boffosocko.com/2015/06/08/a-world-of-languages-and-how-many-speak-them-infographic/
August 27, 2018 at 11:10AM
Wouldn’t it be important to distinguish people who ultimately don’t want differences to matter, like the people involved in #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, from people who ultimately do want them to matter, like ISIS militants, Brexit voters, or separatist nationalists? And what about people who are neither Mexican nor immigrants and who feel indignation at the treatment of Mexican immigrants? Black Americans risked their lives for civil rights, but so did white Americans. How would Socrates classify that behavior? Borrowed thymos? ❧
Some importatnt questions here. They give me some ideas…
August 27, 2018 at 11:12AM
History is somersaults all the way to the end. That’s why it’s so hard to write, and so hard to predict. Unless you’re lucky. ♦ ❧
This is definitely more of a Big History approach…
August 27, 2018 at 11:12AM
The death of a Palestinian baby during the protests in Gaza became a rallying cry for critics of Israel. Within hours, the family’s story was being questioned.
On today’s episode:
• Declan Walsh, the Cairo bureau chief for The New York Times, who has been reporting from Gaza.
• Layla Ghandour, an 8-month-old Palestinian girl, inhaled tear gas during the protests at the Gaza border on Monday and died hours later. The tragedy became a focal point of outrage for critics of Israel’s use of force, while the Israeli military and its supporters questioned the narrative around her death as a political ploy by Hamas.
• The child was one of more than 60 Gazans killed during this week’s demonstrations, which were held to draw attention to the 11-year Israeli blockade of the territory. The violence gave way to mourning on Tuesday, the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands fled their homes upon the creation of the state of Israel.
President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, calling it “decaying and rotten.” Why did President Barack Obama sign it in the first place?
On today’s episode:
• Mark Landler, a White House correspondent for The New York Times.
• Mr. Trump’s decision creates a rift between the United States and its European allies, who have committed to honoring the nuclear deal but whose involvement in Iran may be affected by U.S. sanctions.
• The withdrawal is a risky display of Middle East brinkmanship from the Trump administration that exacerbates economic and political fissures within Iran and may set off a military confrontation.
• Here’s an overview of what is likely to change as a result of the United States’ exit from the deal.
President Trump has chosen John R. Bolton to be his new national security adviser. In 2005, a Republican-controlled Senate committee refused to confirm Mr. Bolton as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations. We look back at those confirmation hearings, which portrayed Mr. Bolton as a threat to national security.
On today’s episode:
• Elizabeth Williamson writes about Washington in the Trump era for The New York Times.
• Not since the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, have national security leaders so publicly raised the threat of armed confrontation if foreign adversaries do not meet America’s demands.
Most outlet’s I’d seen early on simply used shorthand to call Bolton a hawk, but without digging back into history to actually show the broader facts. I love how The Daily has done it here. The fact that he’s a hawk actually seems to be the least of his issues. Worse is that he comes off as a bully and doesn’t understand what facts are.
Eight years ago, the United States and Russia agreed to a spy swap that sent a Russian double agent to safety in Britain. That former spy and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent this month, and the Kremlin has been accused of orchestrating the attack. Why did it happen now?
On today’s episode:
• Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times.
• President Trump joined a coordinated campaign by more than 20 countries to retaliate for the poisoning of a former Russian spy, ordering the largest-ever expulsion of Russian officials in the United States.
• It may not be a new Cold War, but relations with Russia are in some ways even more unpredictable.
Happy to renew my annual subscription to Foreign Affairs. Ipsa scientia potestas est.Syndicated copies to:
The world’s connections have become more important than its divisions. To reap the rewards and avoid the pitfalls of this new order, the United States needs to adopt a grand strategy based on three pillars: open societies, open governments, and an open international system.
This may be one of the most interesting things I’ve read in the past six months. I like the overarching philosophy of the policy direction the writer presents. It feels to me like a policy built from the basic principles from César Hidalgo‘s book Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies, which describes some of the underpinning science and physics for such an approach without getting too deep into the weeds of the underlying mathematics.
This article also definitely seems to take a broader historical approach to the general topics and is nearly close enough in philosophy that I might even begin considering it as a policy case with a Big History point of view.
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
Think of a standard map of the world, showing the borders and capitals of the world’s 190-odd countries. That is the chessboard view.Now think of a map of the world at night, with the lit-up bursts of cities and the dark swaths of wilderness. Those corridors of light mark roads, cars, houses, and offices; they mark the networks of human relationships, where families and workers and travelers come together. That is the web view. It is a map not of separation, marking off boundaries of sovereign power, but of connection.
…the Westphalian world order mandated the sovereign equality of states not as an end in itself but as a means to protect the subjects of those states—the people.
The people must come first. Where they do not, sooner or later, they will overthrow their governments.
Open societies, open governments, and an open international system are risky propositions. But they are humankind’s best hope for harnessing the power not only of states but also of businesses, universities, civic organizations, and citizens to address the planetary problems that now touch us all.
…when a state abrogated its responsibility to protect the basic rights of its people, other states had a responsibility to protect those citizens, if necessary through military intervention.
But human rights themselves became politically polarized during the Cold War, with the West championing civil and political rights; the East championing economic, social, and cultural rights; and both sides tending to ignore violations in their client states.
The institutions built after World War II remain important repositories of legitimacy and authority. But they need to become the hubs of a flatter, faster, more flexible system, one that operates at the level of citizens as well as states.
U.S. policymakers should think in terms of translating chessboard alliances into hubs of connectedness and capability.
According to systems theory, the level of organization in a closed system can only stay the same or decrease. In open systems, by contrast, the level of organization can increase in response to new inputs and disruptions. That means that such a system should be able to ride out the volatility caused by changing power relationships and incorporate new kinds of global networks.
Writing about “connexity” 20 years ago, the British author and political adviser Geoff Mulgan argued that in adapting to permanent interdependence, governments and societies would have to rethink their policies, organizational structures, and conceptions of morality. Constant connectedness, he wrote, would place a premium on “reciprocity, the idea of give and take,” and a spirit of openness, trust, and transparency would underpin a “different way of governing.” Governments would “provide a framework of predictability, but leave space for people to organise themselves in flatter, more reciprocal structures.”
Instead of governing themselves through those who represent them, citizens can partner directly with the government to solve public problems.
…an open international order of the twenty-first century should be anchored in secure and self-reliant societies, in which citizens can participate actively in their own protection and prosperity. The first building block is open societies; the second is open governments.
The self-reliance necessary for open security depends on the ability to self-organize and take action.
The government’s role is to “invest in creating a more resilient nation,” which includes briefing and empowering the public, but more as a partner than a protector.
…much of the civil rights work of this century will entail championing digital rights.
Hard gatekeeping is a strategy of connection, but it calls for division, replacing the physical barriers of the twentieth century with digital ones of the twenty-first.
In this order, states must be waves and particles at the same time.
The legal order of the twenty-first century must be a double order, acknowledging the existence of domestic and international spheres of action and law but seeing the boundary between them as permeable.
In many countries, legislatures and government agencies have begun publishing draft legislation on open-source platforms such as GitHub, enabling their publics to contribute to the revision process.
The declaration’s three major principles are transparency, civic participation, and accountability.