The ACRPS has published Reviews and Alternatives: Foundations for Innovative Political Thought? by Moncef Marzouki (312 pp.), with an introduction by Faisal al-Qassem. The book attempts to answer questions such as: what sets the 21st century apart from previous centuries, including the 20th? On what facts can we rely? Does the concept of “the truth” still have meaning, given that the greatest challenge we face on the individual level today is the tsunami of rapidly changing data? On the collective level, in addition to all the successive political, economic, and health crises humanity has known throughout the ages, the greatest challenge today is the worsening of environmental dangers and pandemics to the extent that they now threaten the survival of the human race. How do we understand our world, and how should we engage with it bearing in mind that the five great ideologies that govern our thoughts and actions appear to have been passed over by reality and become entirely irrelevant?
Marzouki argues that all ideologies are lived intellectual, social, and political experiences and thus call for a review of the major concepts on which they have constructed their view of reality, and especially of human beings: the cause of all difficulties and failures. Hence, Marzouki finds that nationalism has assumed, to guard against the violence and hostility of other human groups, that there is no choice but for a threatened people to hold firm at all times and take protection in an armed, war-ready state; in this way it is possible to maintain peace and security. Historical experiences have proven that this logic, despite being in the background of intermittent periods of peace, remains the cause of all the atrocities of war. The nation-state, to impose its existence, needs war, which itself needs peace.
On the subject of liberalism, Reviews and Alternatives focuses on the fact that freedom is the most important value whose success will lead to the liberation of man from the bonds with which he has fettered himself. Moreover, historical experiences have proven that freedom brings out the best constructive forces and creativity in people, as well as the worst instincts toward greed, subjugation, and exploitation. It has also become clear that in its economic form known as capitalism, it poses the greatest danger to the environment and, hence, to man himself.
Democracy, according to Marzouki, has assumed that the values and rules it has promulgated to guide people will guarantee the creation of the best systems of government capable of achieving human ambitions for peace, freedom, equality, and justice. Historical experiences have shown that the results have been meagre because democracy has overlooked or underestimated the evil, stupidity, and recklessness of human nature. It has produced unscrupulous donors, corrupt politicians, journalists-for-hire, and ignorant or misguided voters, thereby putting it under direct threat by this quartet internally while battling the external threat of despotism and populism.
The book asks: what do we gain in exchange for broadening our sense of belonging and responsibility to humanity as a whole? Life gave us an entire world at birth, and globalism, when we adopt it as an intellectual and moral method, will give us everything human genius has produced across the ages. Marzouki argues that contrary to what nationalist and religious fundamentalist ideologies claim, global identity does not entail people abandoning their cultures and religions, but rather that all the peoples of the Earth share in a collective material heritage produced by their species.
Marzouki mentions that when it comes to the appropriation of the ideas and values of other peoples, one finds nationalists and religious extremists objecting, posturing, and staging protests against the “cultural invasion” that threatens their racial, intellectual, or religious purity. When it comes to each person’s appropriation of the best ideas, values, and arts that cultural particularities offer, how comical it is that it is easier to persuade the stomach of globalisation than the heart or the mind!
Reviews and Alternatives explores the nature, enormity, and mounting danger of the problems facing the human project, and the fact that we no longer have the old ideologies we desire to effectively deal with these problems. No longer are nationalist solutions in an increasingly interconnected world part of the answer, but rather the foundation of the issue. Experience has sufficiently shown that they are unable to address dangers that pay no mind to borders, not to mention that, now more than ever before, they are the greatest source of tension within a given nation and of violence and wars between nations.
Reviews and Alternatives summarises the larger goals as follows: an unprecedented political, societal, economic, and technological mobilisation to combat the growing danger of climate change; the implementation of international policies to regulate the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and vaccines and ensure they are used well and fairly distributed; and the management of technology, especially artificial intelligence.
This essentially requires the return of the state as a necessary component in defending public interests from private interests; rescuing the democratic regime through legislation to minimise the dangers that threaten it from outside and eat away at it from within; constructing an international order based on the power of legitimacy, not the legitimacy of power as understood by nationalist ideology; and forming a new layer of belonging to the world and responsibility toward all of humanity.
Hence, significant work awaits decision-makers at the level of states and societies to translate this into programmes and policies that continually adapt to the circumstances of the here and now. Such policies will be no simple task, not only due to the complexity of problems but essentially because they will collide with various short-sighted policies inherited from the past that constitute ongoing roadblocks and pitfalls along the way.
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