Bruce Sterling on Mon, 26 Aug 2002 08:58:26 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> "Transnational Progressives"

*At last, a right-wing epithet for "global civil society" that I kind of
like!  Will 'transnational progressives' get their own detainment camps,
perhaps in some handy transnational a-legal space such as army bases in

*How long before the heroic Bush Administration destroys the WTO?


Anglosphere: Cracks in the wall

By James C. Bennett
 From the International Desk
Published 8/24/2002 3:42 PM
View printer-friendly version

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The Euro-American culture and values gap,
real or imaginary, has become a staple of geopolitical commentary,
particularly since Sept. 11 and its subsequent developments. Some of it,
of course, is real. There is a genuine political consensus in Continental
Western Europe to accept a comfortable and relatively static prosperity
for the majority of the population at the expense of dynamism, opportunity
and risk -- traits more often associated with American "gumption."

But beyond this basic difference, many of the further supposed differences
do not reflect a deep values gap between ordinary Europeans and Americans.
Rather, it reflects the fact that a relatively narrow
political-intellectual class has come to hold power in many of the
industrialized democracies outside of the United States, devoted to an
ideology dubbed "transnational progressivism" by Hudson Institute
researcher John Fonte.

This ideology recognizes that much of the class-based agenda of the
classic left has been rendered unworkable by economic developments, and
that popular electorates have been rejecting it at the ballot box whenever
they have had the choice. They substitute a new agenda of medicalized
misbehaviors: the state must prevail over the individual not because one
individual has committed a specific act against another, but because the
individual must be exorcised of the demons of sexism, racism, homophobia
and so on. Since nobody can ever be demonstrated to be completely cured
from such ills, this is a recipe for eternal control.

Because this agenda actually has relatively little appeal to the general
electorate, they therefore concentrate on the judiciary, appointed
bureaucracies and other controlling institutions insulated from popular
jurisdiction. But even these are still occasionally called to account by
voters, so transnational institutions such as the United Nations and the
European Union are far more suitable for their purposes.

The truly desirable mechanisms are, by these criteria, transnational
pseudo-judicial institutions with direct jurisdiction over individuals.  
Once codified into a transnational law of jurisdiction over persons
(unlike traditional international law, which existed to mediate disputes
between nations), the values of transnational progressivism can be applied
to these supposedly demon-possessed individuals without effective appeal.
Thus the program of the transnational progressive elite can gradually be
imposed on nations that will not vote for it willingly.

In pursuit of this agenda, the transnational progressives have had the
advantages of controlling the governments, major political parties, and
academic-media institutions of most of Western Continental Europe. This
has permitted them to use the institutions of European unification, almost
entirely unaccountable to electorates, to create a model of transnational
progressivism to hold up as an example elsewhere.

During the 1990s, the transnational progressives were in power or strongly
influential throughout most of the industrialized world. Using their power
bases in the United Nations and the European Union, they promoted a series
of transnational institutions and agreements, mostly for unarguably
beneficial ends, that were endorsed almost universally.  The United
States, whose foreign-policy apparatus included many transnational
progressives, assented to most such measures, at least to the point of
signing them.

It was the advent of George W. Bush in 2001 that signaled an end to the
seeming global unanimity on the progress of the transnational progressive
agenda. By withdrawing from or refusing to ratify a number of highly
visible international structures, including the Kyoto Agreement, the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the International Criminal Court, the
Bush administration presented the first substantial threat to the
transnational progressive agenda.

As a result, the transnational progressive sectors in academia and the
media have piled on Bush and America in general (for they are quite aware
that Bush's stance on transnational governance is popular) by attacking
American "unilateralism." They enjoy painting America as the lone holdout
against an otherwise-unanimous consensus of democracies.

This ignores the fact that this supposed consensus is actually quite thin.
In fact, public opinion in most of the rest of the Anglosphere tends to
track American opinion closely on most of the issues that supposedly
reflect a values gap between America and the world.

And now cracks are beginning to appear in the wall. Australia is the only
other principal Anglosphere nation beside the United States in which a
party is in power which is not controlled by transnational progressives.
Thus Australia joined the United States in a principled rejection of the
Kyoto agreement and has recently rejected international interference in
its handling of asylum applicants.

Once the crack in the wall begins, it will spread because it depends on
the illusion of world consensus. Canada, for example, has appeared to
support the transnational progressive agenda. However, this support is
primarily a bone thrown to the left wing of the ruling Liberal party.  
Canada's foreign policy, with the sole exception of its relations with the
United States, is essentially irrelevant to Canadian life, and the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs is, as Canadian columnist Mark Steyn observed,
viewed as a training ground for really important jobs such as minister for

Similarly, transnational progressivism is a popular ideology in the
British Foreign and Commonwealth Offices, but it no longer reflects an
all-party consensus of opinion, and is a debated, rather than settled
issue, in the press. Although the British conservatives still seem a long
way from power at this moment, sooner or later they will return, and when
they do almost any potential leader will be much less likely to support
the full transnational progressive agenda than his predecessor.

Other potential cracks in the facade are likely. Several Eastern European
states remain uneasy about the full transnational progressive agenda;
having only recently reestablished their independence from one
transnational Union, they are not entirely happy at the prospect of
surrendering it again to another one, no matter how democratic it
proclaims itself.

Other defectors may be surprises. France is at heart divided in its
support for the transnational progressive agenda. On the one hand, it has
always hoped to use transnational institutions to balance and contain the
threat to its internal arrangements from globalization and the
"hyperpower." On the other hand, it alone of Continental Western Europe
still has ambitions to be in the nation-state business, ambitions which
will eventually be constrained by the transnational progressive agenda. If
enough other nations drop out, France too could begin to demur.

Only a few years ago, the transnational progressive agenda appeared to be
implementing itself by stealth and inertia. The construction of a
transnational legal and institutional regime is now no longer a foregone
conclusion, particularly now that more than one crack has appeared in the
wall of seeming consensus.

Copyright  2002 United Press International

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