Editor’s Page

Editor’s Page

Should “Americanization” take place by consent of the governed? The question was posed eight decades ago by a rebellious intellectual, Randolph Bourne. He was responding to polemics—both political and cultural—about “hyphenated-Americanism,” roused by immigration but more broadly by a changing world. Those disputes anticipated today’s arguments about multiculturalism. They also presaged an important democratic question for our times: can there be “globalization” by consent of the governed? n In this issue of Dissent, David Miller takes a critical look at some of the implications of the current process of “Europeanization.” He makes a claim that is controversial for many in the European left: to turn from politics on a national level risks the left’s basic purposes, namely, democracy and social justice. Miller acknowledges, however, that some major issues, like the environment, cannot be addressed within national confines. This last point dovetails with Ken Conca’s reproach to the Clinton administration for “repackaging” environmental issues as “strategic” matters. A “security” definition of environmentalism, he argues, works against what is needed: cooperative globalism. n Cooperative globalism will be increasingly important for trade unions. Surely, this is one implication of the announced merger of Chrysler with Daimler-Benz. This transcontinental corporate marriage will also oblige expanded ties between America’s United Auto Workers (now moving toward consolidation with our Steelworkers’ and Machinists’ unions) and Germany’s IG Metall. A “globalizing” era presents new challenges to unions. Steve Fraser, in his important article on union democracy in America, notes that unions have always played multiple, sometimes incongruous roles. Democracy becomes a complex matter when you are sometimes a fighting organization (in strikes), sometimes a diplomatic corps (in negotiations), and at other times a vehicle for democratic mobilization. The left calls for democratic unionism as a vital element of social emancipation. The right, on the other hand, does so to undermine any balance of power between labor and the corporate world (which hardly functions democratically). It hastens to deregulate business, globally and within U.S. borders, but to regulate unions. n Fraser worries lest union elections replicate the worst in our general elections—the dominance of money, sound bites, personalities. This sort of politics reflects some distressing aspects of our culture; watch the evening news and see how much of it is devoted to celebrities or sensation or trivia and how much to, well, news. News has become, as Todd Gitlin remarks, whatever happens to “newsworthy” people. n The future left will have to think on many levels—global as well as national and local, cultural as well as political and economic. And it will have to address the mediations among these levels if it is to provide a persuasive voi...


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