Thursday, April 21, 2011

Toward a politics of radical engagement

Talking at conferences always leaves me oscillating between nervous anxiety and overconfident bravado. Yet, in between, there are these moments when you once again come to believe in the social sciences, in the possibility of communication and when you realize exactly how much the world needs a politics of radical engagement.

As intellectuals, we cannot hide. We need to be on the barricades, to challenge our own partiality and parochial beliefs, and make good on the promise of the Enlightenment.

The neoliberal order is not written in stone. We can change it, but it will require us to outsmart the neoliberals: to think in new ways, to show them why their profound pessimism about the human condition is unwarranted, and explain step-by-step why we need trust rather than repression, or as the Germans say, “Freiheit statt Angst”.

It is so easy to “resist” things; the real challenge is to find democratically plausible ways to transform them. That was the great idea of social democracy in the 20th century. Now it is our responsibility to take these ideas further and to show why we should aspire for the greatest in all of us rather than the lowest.



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