Tuesday, August 29, 2006

hoping to see multinational experience
evolve the Rawlsian tradition

I wanted to host a discussion group on Rawls, but it didn’t happen. This is an early post, intended to address presumed interest; so, it’s directed to casual interests.

Though I’m not actively developing this theme, I’m engaged with political philosophy for the long term and know that I’ll be focusing on the Rawlsian tradition again eventually and in detail. So, I hope that others will share their thoughts relative to their own traditions, and not worry a lot about looking Rawlsian enough. Theory should evolve relative to the hybridity of regional practices as much as practices strive to participate in a cosmopolitan universalism.

I’m struggling with many issues, including anxiety about theory as a practice or enterprise in a world so full of obvious practical needs that the theorist can’t directly inform, such as managing the hard work of development in so many regions needing basic health care, literacy, or so-called "human capital" development for economic self-sufficiency in a World Trade Organizationed world dominated by powers who won’t give up their addiction to domestic subsidy of industries that can be done better by Latin Americans or Africans or Asians. And on and on one could go about real needs; and questioning of the purpose of doing theory in a practical world.

How may a Rawlsian tradition among other traditions evolve to discern a “law of peoples” that enables and furthers a multiculturalism that energizes democratic progress, not mapping an English cosmopolitanism into fellow societies, not theorizing the other as abstract kindred?

Particularly important for Americans (who hardly appreciate it) is to learn from non-American experience and thinking, for the sake of becoming better prepared to live in a multi-regional, multilateral world no longer dominated by its EuroAmerican experience.

I have to be particularly sensitive to my place in the western hemisphere as autonomous or panAmerican area, where I’m living through the Latin Americanization of North America, but I’m regrettably still monolingual.

The notion of "America" doesn’t belong to the U.S.! Rather, U.S.America belongs to an entirety of America that is the western hemisphere. But the idea of America belongs to the world, and is often expressed better outside America than within, in terms of non-American’s enthusiasm for the idea of America (which should embarrass many Americans) and in terms of their disappointment with the gap between idea and reality.

We may all be somehow living to express an ethic of humanity that maybe the European idea of “America” first expressed, but it’s an idea that belongs to all lives, all inquirers, all discursants, ideally gathering all public goods into the good of humanity in each place. I hope.