Indian writer Arundhati Roy (b. 1961) won the Man Booker Prize for her brilliant novel The God of Small Things (1997), but she is better known today for her speaking and writing on political causes. A strong advocate for the rights of lower-caste people in Indian society, she has extended her concern to matters of Indian domestic and foreign policy, protesting in particular the speed and direction of globalization in her own and in other countries. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Roy has continued her criticism of global capitalism and has often come into conflict with the Indian government and leading figures in the Indian business world.
Arundhati Roy, “Capitalism: A Ghost Story,” Outlook India, March 26, 2012, available online at http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?280234.
Samuel Huntington (1927–2008) was an influential political scientist who taught for most of his career at Harvard University. He was the author of numerous books and articles on politics and government, including the Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil–Military Relations (1957) and The Political Order in Changing Societies (1968). The latter provided a critique of modernization theory, which had driven much of U.S. policy in the developing world in the prior decade. In Clash of Civilizations, which appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs, Huntington argues that the main drivers of history in this century will not be political or ideological, as they have been in the past, but civilizational. Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world.
From Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, pp. 209–18.
Richard Rorty (1931–2007) was an American philosopher who taught at Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Virginia. Rorty became associated with a form of American philosophy known as pragmatism, which followed the writing of the philosopher John Dewey. He came to believe, following Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, that meaning was a sociolinguistic product and did not exist in and of itself. In Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes, Rorty, an avowed atheist, argues that we should not ignore the inspirational qualities of great works such as the gospels, or the Communist Manifesto, simply because their predictions fell short of reality. Christianity and Communism, he wrote, need not be judged for their predictive qualities but for their appeals to what Abraham Lincoln referred to as the “Better Angels of our Nature.” They stirred men and women to good deeds, which arguably benefitted society in general.
From Richard Rorty, Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes, 1998.
On December 17, 2010, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in a spectacular act of despair that triggered the “Arab Spring,” the initial results of which continue to reverberate throughout the Middle East and the wider world. His act of defiance, and the reactions to it, led to the ouster of Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (ruled 1987-2011), and, once the revolt had spread to Egypt, of Hosni Mubarak (ruled 1981–2011). While this article profiles Bouazizi, and the confrontation with a policewoman that led to his action, at greater length than most portraits, it also connects the street vendor with the media-savvy young leaders of the revolt in Tahrir Square that brought down Mubarak.
Marc Fisher, “In Tunisia, Act of One Fruit Vendor Unleashes Wave of Revolution through Arab World,” Washington Post, March 26, 2011, available online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-tunisia-act-of-one-fruit-vendor-sparks-wave-of-revolution-through-arab-world/2011/03/16/AFjfsueB_story.html
Francis Fukuyama (b. 1952) is an American political scientist and author best known, perhaps, for his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama received a doctorate in political science from Harvard University and worked at the Rand Corporation and the U.S. Department of State, specializing in Middle East and then European affairs. He has also taught at Johns Hopkins University and at Stanford. In The End of History, Fukuyama made the case that the ideological struggles that had beset Europe in the 20th century had largely been resolved with the end of the Cold War in favor of the West, or at least of the Western idea of liberal democracy. This had triumphed over Communism, bringing the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
From Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press, 2006, pp. 3–8.
George W. Bush
Less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed Congress. In his speech he attempted to walk a fine line between pointing the finger at the Muslim terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and reassuring Muslims that America was not an enemy of Islam. He argued that the Muslims who carried out the attacks “blasphemed the name of Allah,” that they were “traitors to their own faith.” In the speech he defined what was to become his “War on Terror,” vowing not only to bring the terrorists to justice, but also to take on any government that harbored them (such as Afghanistan and its Taliban). He also claimed that the terrorists acted because they “hate our freedoms,” pitting Islamic militancy staunchly against democracy.
From George W. Bush, “Address to the Nation.” Washington, DC, September 20, 2001. http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com/speeches/09.20.01.html (accessed November 24, 2012).
United Nations Drafting Committee
While there has been considerable debate over the last several decades on the nature and degree of global warming, there is general scientific consensus that greenhouse gases are the main contributors to temperature increases on earth. Scientists generally assume that at current rates of greenhouse gas production the earth will reach a “tipping point” of 450 parts per million, with catastrophic consequences for the planet’s climate, before the middle of this century. Although 169 nations joined the 2005 Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse emissions, the United States refused to sign the agreement. However, the United States did eventually sign on to an international agreement regarding climate change and the reduction of its global threat under President Barack Obama. This framework document, resulting from a conference held in Copenhagen in 2009, pledges the international community to action on the environment, in both specific and principled terms.