For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, we are engaged in a serious debate about the shape and character of global politics. What produced the debate was, first of all, the growing arrogance and recklessness of the remaining superpower and, second, the odd combination of irresponsibility and opposition in the rest of the world-most of all in Europe. The significance of the rift between
Europe and the United States is hard to gauge right now, but it already provides an opportunity to think about and work toward a more balanced world order and a more equal, even if only a little more equal, division of power and responsibility. We feature a group of articles dealing with these questions by two Americans, a German, and a British American. In subsequent issues, we will try, in the name of internationalism, to extend the argument.
For reasons that are hard to figure out, we are not engaged right now in a serious debate about the shape and character of domestic politics. None of the Democrats running for president has managed to describe a clear alternative to the agenda of the Bush administration, even though this is the most right-wing government in American history. Because arrogance and recklessness are features of its domestic as well as its foreign policy, we need (whatever its global value) a rift at home. As in the world, so in the United States, countervailing powers would make for a better society. I remember when writers in Dissent criticized John Kenneth Galbraith’s call for countervalence: they wanted a victory for the workers and the poor, not a balancing act. But right now, a balance would be a victory.
Some of the important domestic issues are addressed in this issue:
the failure of welfare reform, the inadequate attention to public health, the radical inequities in the way we compensate victims of
natural and human disasters, the threat to abortion rights (and the
sharp disagreements about how to deal with it). We have articles coming on the extent of unemployment and the erosion of civil liberties. If there is a common theme here, it is vulnerability: more and more Americans find themselves living under threat, with a government that despite its putative commitment to “homeland security” is doing less and less to make its citizens secure.
There has been an interesting argument on the left-some of it in our pages-about the connection (or disconnection) between multiculturalism and welfarist or social democratic politics. It’s mostly been a theoretical argument, but now Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka have looked for the actual correlations. It isn’t often that we get a chance to demonstrate our commitment not only to socialism but also to empiricism.