In Our Orbit

In Our Orbit

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BEYOND WESTPHALIA

One of the most remarkable–but unremarked, other than superficially–aspects of globalism is its erosional effect on the role of the state as we’ve known it since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Indeed, as Nation editorial board member Richard Falk notes in opening Human Rights Horizons, “The sovereign state is changing course due primarily to the widespread adoption of neoliberal approaches to governmental function…. There exists a broad cumulative trend toward the social disempowerment of the state,” and “market forces operate as an impersonal agency for the infliction of human wrongs.” Advancing their cause despite the privatizing of government functions–the ultimate in deregulation–may be “the most pressing framing question for human rights activists,” Falk asserts in this scholarly meditation.

Falk moves between the specific and the general, whether geographically (from Rwanda to Kosovo to the Gulf War) or institutionally (the UN, NATO, World Bank, IMF), to try to tease out the foundations and implications of a new world moral order. He eschews easy answers–“it remains premature at this point to set forth ‘the lessons of Kosovo'”–and is skeptical, yet he presents signs of hope: Global media provide “vivid images…of popular activism and makes the struggles in one setting suggestive…in another,” for instance, and in one of its dynamics, globalization “is creating a stronger sense of shared destiny among the diverse peoples of the world.”

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