Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer who has dominated Russian political life since 2000, delivered this remarkable oration after annexing the Crimea region from the nation of Ukraine in March 2014. This move came after a protest movement had driven the pro-Russian president of Ukraine out of office, and as tensions between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians in the country had erupted into violence in several Ukrainian cities. Once a referendum was held in the Crimean Peninsula about whether to remain within Ukraine or to be united to Russia, Putin, believing that “the numbers speak for themselves,” authorized the annexation of the region as Russian territory. In this speech, justifying his country’s move against a fellow former Soviet Socialist Republic, Putin appealed to both recent and distant history—and, perhaps, signaled his further intentions for the future.
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.
Born in Belgium in 1930, feminist, philosopher and psychoanalyst, Luce Irigaray earned Ph.D.’s in philosophy and linguistics, as well as studying psychology at the university of Paris. She trained as a psychoanalyst under well-known theorist and analyst Jacques Lacan. In the 1960s she began to work at the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifiques, where she became director. Irigaray played a significant role in the women’s movement (MLF) in the 1970s, being a leading figure in “Third Wave” feminism. The central theme of her work is the struggle to create an authentic understanding of femaleness. Ideas of gender, she says, are socially constructed around a system of binary relations, and these revolve around a male “norm” which is based in “gendered” languagew. An Ethics of Sexual Difference puts forward the idea that all thought and language is gendered, there being no purely neutral thought.
From Luce Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexual Difference. Trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993, pp. 111–5.
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.
Osama bin Laden
In 1992, al-Qaeda (“the base”) under the leadership of Osama bin Laden (1957–2011) had emerged as a significant terrorist organization operating on an international scale. Bin Laden, the multimillionaire son of a Yemeni-born Saudi Arabian contractor, had fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979–1989). He now turned his attention to the United States (who had covertly funded the “mujahid” Afghan resistance in the interest of its own Cold War ambitions). In bin Laden’s eyes, America was a godless country without moral principles, bent on a Western crusade to destroy Muslim independence. The al-Qaeda campaign of terrorism climaxed on September 11, 2001, but bin Laden had already ordered bombings and terrorist attacks in several parts of the world in the 1990s. This fatwa (an opinion or ruling based on Islamic law) was issued by bin Laden against the “Zionist-Crusader alliance” in 1996.
World Economic Forum
The Global Gender Gap Report was introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 to analyze disparities between genders in a worldwide context. It assesses national gender gaps in political, economic, health, and education-related areas and ranks countries according to data, allowing comparisons across regions, time, and income groups. According to the report’s introduction, these rankings “are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.” This excerpt looks at women’s impact on economic growth through increased education, participation in the labor force, and women’s role as consumers, or the “power of the purse.”
From “The Global Gender Gap,” World Economic Forum, 2010. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2010.pdf (downloaded November 20, 2012).
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.
J. R. McNeill is an environmental historian at Georgetown University. In Something New Under the Sun (2000), McNeill provides a broad and comprehensive history of environmental change in the twentieth century, which he claims was the most intense period of environmental change in world history, change that was overwhelmingly the result of human action. In the excerpt that follows, McNeill explains why the twentieth century was so peculiar and why a historical understanding is both desirable and crucial for a more complete appreciation of environmental conditions as we enter the new millennium.
From J. R. McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century World, 3–5, 16–17. Copyright © 2000 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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.
This “upside down” map is oriented so that south is up, north is down, east is on the left, and west is on the right. The Southern Hemisphere is thus at the top of the map, instead of at the bottom. “Upside down” maps are not new. It was only in the sixteenth century that the convention of orienting maps with north on top became standardized in Europe, and for millennia Islamic maps were oriented with south on top. But with decolonization, globalization, and the end of the Cold War, it has become popular in Australia, New Zealand, and South America to show the “Global South” on top, literally.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress