In my outreach effort to get both more conservatives and more liberals to be part of the conversation, many of my fellow liberals are writing back to say that they will discuss economics when we get there, but that they can’t discuss moral issues because they do not believe in morality.
I was afraid that would happen and in fact, it’s been in the back of my own head for quite a while now. HispanicPundit even brought it up in his latest response to my latest response in the abortion debate. And so I wonder, is it all really so black and white like everyone is arguing? Does it all boil down to the absolute versus the relative in the end?
A political world view is a way of looking at how power is organized and how conflict emerges across the globe. It is a pardigm for how we should enact international policy given our current ideological, political, and economic situation.
The two most famous world views of the 1990’s were Francis Fukuyama’s End of History and Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations. Fukuyama essentially argued that after communism, the ideological divide was over and that the entire world would globalize under liberal capitalism and that the only quibbles of the 21st century would be over “trade wars.” Huntington argued that cultural differences trump ideological ones, that they always have, and that conflicts in the 21st century will be caused by “civilizations” who feel threatened by a hegemonic, materialistic, global culture.
Obviously, both have been write so far. We are engaged in both trade wars and cultural wars. Benjamin Barber has made a sophisticated argument that the two are in fact related and interdependent.
But what has occured to me is that beneath both Fukuyama and Huntington’s world views, is a deeper divide, which is not restricted to what Huntington calls “civilizations” or Fukuyama’s nation states and trading blocs. And that is the divide between the absolute and the relative. It’s Nietzche versus God. Humanism versus Moralism. Liberals versus Conservatives.
Since 9/11 a whole new set of emerging world views have been put forth by policy experts to accomodate what has happened in the world since the Twin Towers fell. (Do yourself a favor and listen to Thomas Barnett‘s provocative presentation at Pop!Tech 2004 about his post 9/11 world view)
But I can’t help but wonder if the real point of contention beneath it all is this great schism which Nietzche opened up by arguing that morality is arbitrary, that there is no great list of true commandments of what thou shall do and shal not do. That creates two sides of policy makers – those who see policy as a fluid, dynamic framework of utilitarian guidelines to maximize collective well-being and those who see policy as a legal code to enforce an absolute morality. So while today’s world views discuss trade wars and cultural wars, I wonder if tomorrow’s won’t examine the real root of contention: The Abolute versus The Relative.