Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Richard Rorty, World Federalist

I was combing through Richard Rorty’s Philosophy and Social Hope, looking for a passage to mulch into an awkward pause in my dissertation, when I came upon this passage which pretty much makes a fellow World Federalist out of him. I must admit I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for Rorty, who often seems to me to conjoin an enjoyably insufferable authorial ethos with a social democratic political ethos in a way I find it hard not to identify with in the strongest possible terms.

The passage that drew my attention (despite being one that is hardly insufferable at all) is this:
The absence of a global polity means that the super-rich can operate without any thought of any interests save their own. We are in danger of winding up with only two genuinely global, genuinely international, social groups: the super-rich and the intellectuals, that is, the people who attend international conferences devoted to measuring the harm being done by their super-rich fellow cosmopolitans.

How can such cosmopolitan, jetsetting intellectuals help increase the chances of a global egalitarian utopia? I suspect that the most socially useful thing we can do is to continually draw the attention of the educated publics of our respective countries to the need of a global polity, which can develop some sort of countervailing power to that of the super-rich.

Of course, there is a rather resigned and awfully patronizing edge in this diagnosis (which is, by the way, from a piece almost a decade old now), which could use a bracing corrective or at least complementary dose of bottom-up social-software enabled WorldChanging sustainable democratic experimentalist politics. But there are days when I think the converse is exactly equally true.

(I should note that elsewhere in the essay from which I scooped the quote above Rorty actually explicitly despairs of efforts to reform and buttress the United Nations -- campaigns to which the World Federalists are explicitly devoted. But it is Rorty's hope rather than his despair that interests me most here.)

Anyway, others who might find the World Federalist Movement as attractive as I do should check out their website, and Americans especially should delve deep into the Citizens for Global Solutions site which is an offshoot affiliated with the former, or possibly even represents an overall refurbishment of WFM.

(I have to admit I hope this CGS –- which is certainly doing fine work, and whose website is plenty snazzy as these things go -- isn’t some attempt at an overall makeover for WFM, since “Citizens for Global Solutions” has something of the bland uneasy vacuity about it as do those amorphous “Green” thinktanks that end up being sponsored by Exxon-Mobil when you look more closely, where “World Federalism” has the more portentious utopian zing and programmatic specificity of “abolitionism” or “suffragism” to my ears.)

1 comment:

Josh said...

interesting post..and an interesting blog.
keep up the good work..and please, if you check mine, even if you dont comment..at least use the map and place a pin where you are located!
thanks!