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Whether one favors the U.S. global projection of force or is horrified by it, the question stands - where do we go from here? What ought to be the new global architecture? Amitai Etzioni follows a third way, drawing on both neoconservative and liberal ideas, in this bold new look at international relations. He argues that a "clash of civilizations" can be avoided and that the new world order need not look like America. Eastern values, including spirituality and moderate Islam, ...
Whether one favors the U.S. global projection of force or is horrified by it, the question stands - where do we go from here? What ought to be the new global architecture? Amitai Etzioni follows a third way, drawing on both neoconservative and liberal ideas, in this bold new look at international relations. He argues that a "clash of civilizations" can be avoided and that the new world order need not look like America. Eastern values, including spirituality and moderate Islam, have a legitimate place in the evolving global public philosophy.
Nation-states, Etzioni argues, can no longer attend to rising transnational problems, from SARS to trade in sex slaves to cybercrime. Global civil society does help, but without some kind of global authority, transnational problems will overwhelm us. The building blocks of this new order can be found in the war against terrorism, multilateral attempts at deproliferation, humanitarian interventions and new supranational institutions (e.g., the governance of the Internet). Basic safety, human rights, and global social issues, such as environmental protection, are best solved cooperatively, and Etzioni explores ways of creating global authorities robust enough to handle these issues as he outlines the journey from "empire to community."
The evidence next presented suggests that out of discordant, often strident, conflicting voices that emanate from the East and the West a new composition is slowly arising. The blended tune has a limited register, on many issues divergent voices will continue to be heard, and it is sure to be accorded divergent interpretations in various parts of the world and over time. Yet the new tune suffices to provide stronger support for global institution-building than was available in recent decades. The metaphorical "voices" I refer to are expressions of basic normative positions, worldviews, and ideologies. They concern values that define what is considered legitimate, a major foundation of social order, and good government.
My position articulated here greatly diverges from two major themes that underlie much recent foreign policy thinking in the West; both claim to predict the direction in which the world is moving, as well as to prescribe the ways it ought to progress.
One theme holds that the world is proceeding (and needs to be encouraged) to embrace several core values, as well as the institutions that embody them, all of which the West possesses: individual rights, democratic government, and free markets. This position has been advanced by Francis Fukuyama, Michael Mandelbaum, and Fareed Zakaria, among others. It has been embraced by the Bush administration, whose 2002 strategic document states:
The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. ... People everywhere want to be able to speak freely; choose who will govern them; worship as they please; educate their children—male and female; own property; and enjoy the benefits of their labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society....
Tony Blair, who based his New Labour party on the themes of community and responsibility, departed from these communitarian values when he addressed the global society. He stated: "Ours are not Western values, they are universal values of the human spirit. And anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police."
The other theme holds that the world outside the West is largely governed by religious fundamentalism or other alien sets of values, which are incompatible with Western ones, and, hence, these antithetical civilizations are bound to clash. Samuel P. Huntington and Bernard Lewis are proponents of this view. To provide but one quote from Huntington:
At a superficial level much of Western culture has indeed permeated the rest of the world. At a more basic level, however, Western concepts differ fundamentally from those prevalent in other civilizations. Western ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often have little resonance in Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, Hindu, Buddhist or Orthodox cultures.
Both viewpoints imply that non-Western nations have little to contribute to the global development of political and economic institutions or to the values that they embody. Rights, liberty, and capitalism are, after all, Western contributions to the world. (In Thomas L. Friedman's succinct journalistic lingo, the West has the slick, modern Lexus; the East, old and dusty olive trees.
I beg to differ. First, as we shall see, there are significant lessons concerning both the development of domestic polities and economies, as well as international relations and the design of new global architectures, that the world can and should learn from non-Western cultures. This is especially true in matters concerning respect for authority, obligations to the common good, and the nurturing of communal bonds, although only if these values and the relevant institutions are greatly moderated.
Moreover, I will present evidence to suggest that the world actually is moving toward a new synthesis between the West's great respect for individual rights and choices and the East's respect for social obligations (in a variety of ways, of course); between the West's preoccupation with autonomy and the East's preoccupation with social order; between Western legal and political egalitarianism and Eastern authoritarianism; between the West's rejection of grand ideologies, of utopianism, and the East's extensive normative characterization of "dos" and "don'ts"; between Western secularism and moral relativism and visions of the afterlife and transcendental sets of meanings, found in several Eastern belief systems including Hinduism, Confucianism, and select African traditions. The synthesizing process entails modifying the elements that go into it; it is not a mechanical combination of Eastern and Western elements, but rather it is akin to a chemical fusion. For reasons that will become evident, the emerging synthesis might be referred to as "soft communitarianism."
One can, of course, compare various belief systems on many other scales and come out with different results and groupings. To give but one example: If we grouped belief systems according to their level of parsimony or belief in monotheism, several Eastern religions would line up with the Western ones against some other Eastern ones. However, it is not my purpose to provide rich typologies or add more intercultural comparisons. I merely argue that, for several key issues at hand, the grouping of cultures into East and West suffices as a first approximation. I shall show that, on some points, there are two camps. This generalization will be followed by highlighting the differences within each camp.
A Western Exclusive?
Francis Fukuyama advanced the thesis that the whole world is in the process of embracing liberal democratic regimes and capitalism, a process he famously called the "end of history." He recognizes that many nations are still "in history," but since the collapse of the communist bloc, he sees a trend toward an increasing and worldwide dominance of individualism. (Because the values and institutions involved are all centered around the respect for individual dignity and liberty of the person—protected from the state—to make his or her own political and economic choices, I refer to these concepts jointly and as a form of shorthand as individualism.)
Fukuyama's thesis (and those of others who developed related lines of argument, such as Mandelbaum and Zakaria) is that the whole world is in the process of embracing Western values. These scholars tend to see these individualistic values as "universal" ones that non-Western societies were slow to recognize but now are discovering as compelling. ("The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity" is the way President George W. Bush voiced this idea. We also should note that reference is to a global trend of intranational developments, not to the development of some global society and government. Thus, China and India are said to be gradually liberalizing and opening their markets; the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and international nongovernmental agencies are not held to undergo such changes.
As I see it, the argument that individualism is gaining a growing worldwide following is valid, yet only half right. It is valid because, despite some setbacks (such as in Latin America), there is considerable and accumulating evidence that numerous nations gradually are inching—some even rushing—in this direction. It is only half true because the East, despite the fact that it is even more heterogeneous than the West, does bring several key values of its own to the global dialogue, and it lays moral claims on the West with even greater assurance of their universal validity than the West does with its claims on the rest of the world.
Before I proceed, I should reiterate that to speak about two normative approaches as if that were all there is, as many do, is of course merely a first approximation. Huntington lists nine civilizations; others have still longer lists. Recently much has been made about differences between European and American belief systems. A whole library of books just on the differences among various Eastern beliefs could be found. Nevertheless, there are significant commonalities among the various Western beliefs and among all the others. The fact that the West shares a commitment to rights, democracy, and capitalism—despite differences as to how raw various countries are willing to stomach capitalism—is common knowledge. These beliefs are cardinal to the West's view of itself and of others. They are central to its public philosophy and what it seeks to bring to others.
Similarly, although less clearly, non-Western belief systems, often referred to as the East, share some important commonalities. These commonalities may not encompass every single culture, but they do include most, including those of which many millions of people are a part. (Because, like many others, I use the term "East" to mean all that is not "West," I must find a place for Latin America. For the purposes of this analysis, it is where geographers put it, part of the Western Hemisphere.)
The normative positions championed by the East might be called "authoritarian communitarianism." While the Western position is centered around the individual, the focus of the Eastern cultures tend to be a strongly ordered community. In its strongest form, the East's core tenets are not individual rights, but social obligations, toward a very extensive set of shared common goods and toward various members of the community; not liberty, but submission to a higher purpose and authority, whether religious or secular; not maximization of consumer goods, but service to one or more gods or to common goods articulated by a secular state.
These social order values are at the heart of Islam, at the core of several Asian philosophies and religions, and play a central role in traditional Judaism. The preceding observation is so widely held and has been so often documented that I merely provide a few quotations to evoke the flavor of these belief systems. For instance Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore, states:
[A]s a total system, I find parts of it [the United States] totally unacceptable: guns, drugs, violent crime, vagrancy, unbecoming behavior in public—in sum the breakdown of civil society. The expansion of the right of the individual to behave or misbehave as he pleases has come at the expense of orderly society. In the East the main object is to have a well-ordered society so that everybody can have maximum enjoyment of his freedoms. This freedom can only exist in an ordered state and not in a natural state of contention and anarchy.
Similarly, Hau Pei-tsun, former prime minister of Taiwan, notes:
It is very important, I believe, for one to pursue success and to realize one's ideals, but it is even more important that individual successes are accumulated to make it the success of the nation as a whole, and the realization of individual ideals will result in the attainment of goals of the entire society.... Individuals in the society are like cells in a body. If the body is to be healthy, each cell must grow likewise. The aim of education is to make every citizen a healthy cell in the body of our society.... Everyone should know precisely one's place in the society, establish one's proper relationship with the society, then set up one's personal goals and begin working for them.
Being part of a community is central to Islamic teachings: "Every Muslim is expected to feel and to accept responsibility for those who are near to him, and even for others who are outside his immediate circle." (Much more about Islam follows.) In the Jewish tradition, initially founded in Asia, which has maintained some of its original communitarian elements, Rabbi Herbert Bronstein writes that the "interrelated cluster of terms (Torah, mitzvah, b'rit) implies a spiritual mindset that assumes an authority which transcends the individual ego and personal choice, fostering a sense of obligation to an 'Other' beyond the individual self. Torah, mitzvah, and b'rit, therefore, imply not only a strong sense of obligation to God, but since God's covenant is with the community of Israel, a communal consciousness as well, a sense of we: which transcends the individual self." Thus, according to Jewish tradition, the poor are not entitled to welfare, and have no right to charity, but members of the community have a responsibility to attend to the poor.
These quotes provide the flavor of the main tenets found in Eastern belief systems. Furthermore, from almost all these viewpoints, it follows that the West is anarchic, materialistic, hedonistic, and lascivious; its citizens are self-centered and woefully bereft of community and authority. When these criticisms are leveled at the West, its representatives and spokespersons often react as defensively as do those in the East when their lack of respect for rights and liberty is challenged. The West has a point, to the extent that it responds that Western society is not without a sense of responsibility, community, common good, and authority. But, as sociologists such as Ferdinand Tönnies, Emile Durkheim, Robert Park, Robert Nisbet, Robert Bellah and his associates, Alan Ehrenhalt, and I have pointed out—backed up by more data presented recently by Robert Putnam and Fukuyama—the trend in the West has been to delegitimate authority, to weaken communal bonds, and to diminish a sense of obligation to the common good in favor of individualism of both the expressive (psychological) and instrumental (economic) kind. That is, what the East has in great excess, the West is lacking, and not merely the other way around.
Because the United States has been leading the individualism parade (followed by other nations of Anglo-Saxon ancestry—the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia—and trailed by the rest of the West), its history is particularly relevant to the point at hand. Some historians have depicted the United States as a society centered around Lockean values, those of rights, liberty, and individualism. Actually, it is now widely agreed that the United States had from its inception both a strong communitarian and an individualistic strand, a synthesis of republican virtues and liberal values. However, because communal institutions and authority, as well as a sense of obligation to the society, were strong and well-entrenched (indeed, as the American society evolved, the nation was added as an imagined community to the local and regional ones) during the first 190 years of the republic the main focus of attention was on expanding the realm of individual rights, democratic governance, and market forces. This attention was reflected in developments such as allowing people without property to run for office; extending voting rights (and, much later, a measure of social and economic rights), to women, minorities, and younger adults; expanding de jure and de facto rights of disabled persons, immigrants, and people of divergent sexual orientations; providing for the direct election of U.S. senators; curbing corruption in government; and deregulating markets. However, as has been often observed, over the last decades—roughly since the 1960s—the United States and increasingly Europe have developed what might be called a community deficit (or a social capital shortfall). The same holds for authority, as shown by a high level of distrust of leaders—from school teachers to elected officials, from generals to clergy.
Excerpted from From Empire to Community by Amitai Etzioni. Copyright © 2004 Amitai Etzioni. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
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Part I: The Emerging Global Normative Synthesis * Basic Contours * Specific Elements of the Synthesis * Containing Capitalism * Moral Dialogues * Implications for American (and Western) Foreign Policy * Part II: A New Safety Architecture * The War Against Terrorism and Saddam's Iraq: Contrasting Designs* Hobbesian Versus Lockean Global Agendas * Curtailing National Sovereignty: For What? * Part III: Beyond Global Safety * The Old System Is Overloaded * Global Civil Society: Its Scope and Limitations * New Global Authorities * Supranational Bodies * A Global Government and Community?
Posted May 30, 2004
If you are a fan of any of the following... you will like this book: 1. World Government 2. Abolishing the American Constitution 3. Government policing the internet 4. Socialism / Communism 5. Abolishing freedom 6. World bankers running the country. Sound scary? It should! This is a great book because it comes from the horses mouth. That's right, the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Etzioni is a proud member. This is the organization that all of our political elite come from. Call it what you wish (Conspiracy or yet another coincidence), but it frightens me.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.