Editor’s Page

Editor’s Page

Whatever questions dominate this year’s presidential campaign, however they are reported in the media, the context in which they will eventually be answered has been “globalized.” We are all internationalists now. Politics is still local, of course; as Göran Therborn argues in this issue, it is still possible to have social democracy in one country—and then, one by one, in many countries. This is a critically important argument, seconded here by Sheri Berman, who emphasizes the primacy of political decision over economic choice in social democratic thought. And the state remains the key instrument of political decision. Still, we live in an expanding universe: what happens elsewhere is of more and more importance for what happens here. Borders are more readily crossed—by money and commodities, movies and music, migrants and refugees, soldiers and their weapons—than ever before in the history of the nation-state.

And the market is the driving force of the expansion. Unions, political movements, the associations of international civil society, lag far behind. The primacy of politics in the globalization process has not yet been established. The place where it most needs to be established, according to Thomas Pogge, is the place of greatest human suffering and market failure—the poorest countries in the world, where hundreds of thousands die each year of preventable starvation and disease, which no one with wealth or power is sufficiently interested in to prevent. He puts the claims of these people into the language of justice, the most powerful language of modern political discourse. The same claims could also be expressed in the language of solidarity or compassion. In any case, they require answers to hard questions about commitment, agency, and personal and institutional responsibility beyond the bounds of the nation-state. Who should respond, and how, to distant suffering? My own essay is an effort to describe the political arrangements within which responses might take place and to appraise their strengths and weaknesses. Robert Daniels provides a skeptical view of the ability of the United States to play a leading role in shaping this new global politics.

Dissent has carried many articles about the military forms of humanitarian intervention—forceful responses to massacre and ethnic cleansing—but not much about the political and economic forms recommended by Pogge, which respond to poverty, famine, and illness. His article breaks new ground, which we intend to cultivate further.

The case is the same with Jim Rule’s article on the new electronic technologies. The left was once focused with great intensity and at least intermittant hopefulness on technological advance (which some Marxists, indeed, took to be the driving force of history). Then leftist intellectuals became more skeptical, or fearful, or maybe just uncertain; the topic virtually disappeared from our pages. But so many people are so str...

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