We asked 100 writers and thinkers to answer the following question: Left and right defined the 20th century. What's next? The pessimism of their responses is striking: almost nobody expects the world to get better in the coming decades, and many think it will get worseby prospect / March 22, 2007 / Leave a comment
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The answers are spread across four pages. Use the links below to navigate.
This is Page 1 (A-D)
Page 2 (E-I) Page 3 (J-M) Page 4 (N-Y)
Bruce Ackerman, political writer
Cosmos vs patriots. Cosmopolitans come in two varieties: for left cosmos, the pressing need is to deal with world problems—global warming, nuclear proliferation, and the unjust distribution of wealth and income. For right cosmos, it is to break down barriers to world trade. Cosmos of all stripes demand a big build-up in the powers of world institutions, and a cutback on state sovereignty. For local patriots, the cosmos represent a new imperialism of Davos-man and his do-good hangers-on. Left pats insist on protecting local workers from foreign competition and local cultures from McDonaldisation. Right pats want to protect the natives from strange ethnics and engage in pre-emptive strikes against threatening foreign powers. Pats of all varieties insist that the nation state remains the best last hope of democracy against the meritocratic pretensions of cosmo-elitists.
Lisa Appignanesi, writer
Global vs the local. Environmental issues seem to belong to the first, but their political reality will be translated by the wind farm or nuclear station next door. Web and new technologies connect us globally, but can be banned locally; ditto with human rights. Meanwhile, we have no institutions, bar an emasculated UN, with which to deal with the global, while local politicians—from oil barons in Russia and the US to Sunni or Shia militants in the middle east—instrumentalise all problems in the name of power. Goodbye, oh heating world.
Arthur Aughey, political writer
Immanuel Wallerstein defined the politics of the 20th century in terms of an irresolvable tension between the modernity of technology—the capacity of human inventiveness to increase our material wellbeing—and the modernity of liberation, the capacity of political action to enhance our secular wellbeing. The ideological faithful on the left and the right, albeit for different reasons, believed in the harmony of technology and liberation; the ideologically sceptical on the left and the right, again for different reasons, agonised about technological enslavement masquerading as emancipation.
However, for both, the distinction between technology and humanity was the commonsense complement to an ethical system that distinguished between the determined (our creations) and the autonomous (our capacity for freedom). That tension…