It’s been a while since Francis Fukuyama declared an end to history. His thesis was simple: Liberal Democracy triumphed in the Long War over all possible alternatives. Just a decade after that victory, I think the idea that political evolution came to an end is discredited.
Islamism is not a potent enough force to tear down Liberal Democracy. The challenges arise elsewhere, like the authoritarian capitalism of East Asia and Russia. In Europe, John Fonte describes the rise of “Transnational Progressivism” (pdf) (shorter version here).
Transnationalism is a merger of classic socialism with international legalism, both of which are failed ideologies on their own. Transnationalism as an ideology is spreading and evolving in Europe to challenge the legitimacy of classical Liberalism.
International interactions occur between states and agents – such as free trade, diplomacy, and most other activities. Transnational interactions include non-state activity which crosses state lines. Scientific research and cooperation is a beneficial form. Criminal organizations with global operations are a parasitic form.
Transnationalism is an ideology. After communism collapsed, many former Leftists and literary intellectuals set off on the next big idea. They branched off into multiple directions – some embraced Multiculturalism, others became Green environmental activists, some neo-socialists, some international legalists and so on. However, they are starting to recombine into a unified force again, which we can dub transnationalism.
Randolph Bourne appears to have suggested it first. It takes the ancient idea of cosmopolitanism – universal citizenship – and combines it with a mixture of Cultural Marxism, multiculturalism, and international legalism.
This is why the United States is the #1 target of criticism in Europe. The US represents the epitome of classical liberal democracy – individualism, consumerism, and international realpolitik. It was everything the Old Left hated.
The US goes even further than classical liberalism. It presents a contrasting vision of the world. The USA is not a “nation” of people. It’s a diverse range of ethnicities united through capitalism, in the most raw sense of the idea. It assimulates people from across the world into an economic machine that grants relatively vast individual autonomy. Older “cultures” are reshaped and then mass marketed with a happy face and price tag. I love it! America is the antithesis of multiculturalism.
John Fonte highlights the key concepts of transnational progressivism.
It begins with the more extreme European version of Multiculturalism and the New Tribalism.
The ascribed group over the individual citizen. The key political unit is not the individual citizen, who forms voluntary associations and works with fellow citizens regardless of race, sex, or national origin, but the ascriptive group (racial, ethnic, or gender) into which one is born.
A dichotomy of groups: Oppressor vs. victim groups, with immigrant groups designated as victims. Transnational ideologists have incorporated the essentially Hegelian Marxist “privileged vs. marginalized” dichotomy.
Group proportionalism as the goal of “fairness.”…
The values of all dominant institutions to be changed to reflect the perspectives of the victim groups. Transnational progressives insist that it is not enough to have proportional representation of minorities in major institutions if these institutions continue to reflect the worldview of the “dominant” culture. Instead, the distinct worldviews of ethnic, gender, and linguistic minorities must be represented within these institutions.
Only the tribe matters. You are a White, or a Black, a Feminist or a Muslim or a Mexican. You are no longer a free individual. You gave no consent to joining these groups – you are born into them and can never leave.
The goal of fairness is to achieve equal or proportional results for the collective tribe; this is “social justice” – this is not about individual liberty, opportuny or equal protection under the law. Historically “victimized” groups should be granted greater proportional power over “hegemonic” groups – although how they justify reverse-hegemony is beyond me.
Deconstruction of national narratives and national symbols of democratic nation-states in the West…
Promotion of the concept of postnational citizenship…
The nation-state must be rejected in favor of the new group identities.
This forms the basis of what Fonte calls the “demographic imperative.” Demographic changes in the form of immigration – largely Hispanic in the US, Muslim in Europe, are beneficial because they challenge the “hegemonic” power of the West. The older concepts of European nationhood and American assimulation must be abandoned to accomodate multiple unassimulated cultures and their unique “perspectives.” This overlaps with the post-modernist critique of science as just another version of white male hegemony.
This Cultural Marxist framework provides the core axioms about society. It views society, not as a collection of individuals with liberties, but as cultural tribes. People are born into their gender/race/ethnic/religious tribe and must identify with it.
There is a natural deduction from this core axiom. If tribal interests and results are more important than individuals, then tribal decision-making is more important than individual voting. Democracy is not about “one-man, one vote”. It is about ensuring group proportionalism and sharing power in coalitions.
The redefinition of democracy and “democratic ideals.” Transnational progressives have been altering the definition of “democracy” from that of a system of majority rule among equal citizens to one of power sharing among ethnic groups composed of both citizens and non-citizens…. Hence, American democracy is not authentic; real democracy will come when the different “peoples” that live within America “share power” as groups.
Power-sharing between cultural tribes instead of individualism.
So who actually rules? Transnationalism is intrinsically authoritarian. It does not just revive fixed tribes, it elevates an enlightened aristocracy to represent group interests. Transnationalism is an attractive ideology because it places the elites in charge. The common people, while deprived of decision-making, are given incentives and benefits through group-loyalty.
The leaders of transnationalism – the bureaucrats of the European Union, Transnational NGOs, International Law academics, etc – try to install a new international structure of binding laws, governance, and group socialism.
The idea of transnationalism as a major conceptual tool. Transnationalism is the next stage of multicultural ideology. Like multiculturalism, transnationalism is a concept that provides elites with both an empirical tool (a plausible analysis of what is) and an ideological framework (a vision of what should be). Transnational advocates argue that globalization requires some form of “global governance” because they believe that the nation-state and the idea of national citizenship are ill suited to deal with the global problems of the future.
Fonte continues, and it’s all worth a read. This is the core concept of what Transnationalism represents. How is it put into practice?
He describes the European Union as the bastion of Transnationalism. The EU bureaucracy is being installed as the great alternative to American-style Liberal Democracy. The EU is not Socialist – insofar as it rejects central economic planning, although there may be bits of socialist ideas in the structure. The EU is transnationalist – the new ideology.
European democracy is weaker than ever before. Many of the new laws and regulations in Europe are first issued by the EU bureaucracy. The nation-state parliaments then pass the laws to conform with EU standards. Notice that this is a top-down process rather than a bottom-up democratic process. In Germany, Italy and elsewhere, up to 80% of the laws and regulations come from the EU rather than voter demand.
The EU epitomizes the “one government, one vote” philosophy.
The EU is a large supranational macro-organization that embodies transnational progressivism. Its governmental structure is post-democratic. Power in the EU principally resides in the European Commission (EC) and to a lesser extent the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EC, the EU’s executive body, initiates legislative action, implements common policy, and controls a large bureaucracy. It is composed of a rotating presidency and nineteen commissioners chosen by the member-states and approved by the European Parliament. It is unelected and, for the most part, unaccountable.
A white paper issued by the EC suggests that this unaccountability is one reason for its success:”[the] essential source of the success of European integration is that [it] is independent from national, sectoral, or other influences.”
Bluntly, the EU is freed from the selfish demands and interests of individual voters. The EU bureaucracy creates laws and regulations to enforce group proportionality, comparative worth pay regulations, coupled with some concepts of socialism. Internally, I could care less what the EU does to its citizens so long as they keep it to themselves. They don’t obviously.
Internationally, the transnationalists want to make the EU the counterbalance to the “American Hyperpuissance.” The EU demands a new form of global governance modeled after the EU. They call for the creation of international courts like the ICC and a horde of “binding” international treaties to force changes in domestic politics.
The EU has pushed a new concept of international law – which Fonte describes as “transnational law.” This is correct – these are two different concepts.
Traditional international law is non-binding customary behavior of states and agents in the international system. It does not resolve conflicts of interest – which remains the in the realm of diplomacy. In other words, primitive laws are non-binding agreements to facilitate day-to-day functions and transactions between states. International law only covers the interactions between states – it had nothing to do with internal domestic politics of states. These “laws” are non-binding because the needs of states change as economies, demographics, and technology change so state behavior changes over time.
International Legalism was an IR Structuralist theory that tried to transform these “laws” into something binding and capable of resolving conflicts of interest. This is an idealization of the world system because it creates a fixed status quo legal structure and defines it in terms of morality.
Law is no longer viewed a pragmatic tool which adapts to the behavior and needs of the state. Transnational Law coercively reshapes state and individual behavior to conform to Transnationalist Ideals.
I do not believe that laws can become permanent, lack consent, and be considered moral without encouraging revolutionary overthrows of the system. George Kennan attacked international legalism for this reason and made this conclusion:
It is a curious thing, but it is true, that the legalistic approach to world affairs, rooted as it unquestioningly is in a desire to do away with war and violence, makes violence more enduring, more terrible, and more destructive to political stability than did the older motives of national interest.
Transnationalism also attacks the concept of national identity. As Fonte points out, this is why words like “patriot” have become insults on par with racism. To the transnationalist, patriotism is racist and simple-minded. American Patriots prize their social-economic system above all others in the world, which degrades alternative prospectives.
Americans are the enemy of the European Transnationalist and self-proclaimed American intelligensia because Americans are populist, anti-elitist, anti-“intellectual” and are technology supremacists. This populism is a strong part of American consumerism and capitalism and inherent in our political system. This means Americans are bad people, especially the Jacksonians.
Transnationalists want transnational laws to take primacy over the American Constitution and other domestic laws. Americans refuse.
This is not a evenly divided American vs European rivalry. It’s an ideological war where both views extend into the other’s territory. Now that Marxism is dead, Transnationalism represents the newest alternative to the hated American capitalism.
Fonte calls this the the Ideological War within the West. It is about the fundamental question: “What kind of government is best?”
This intracivilizational Western conflict between liberal democracy and transnational progressivism accelerated after the Cold War and should continue well into the twenty-first century. Indeed, from the fall of the Berlin Wall until the attacks of September 11, the transnational progressives were on the offensive.
Since September 11, however, the forces supporting the liberal-democratic nation state have rallied throughout the West.
Given the EU’s explicitly stated objective of becoming a geostrategic rival of the US, I see the EU’s governing philosophy of transnationalism as the gravest long-term threat to American security. More so than China, Islam or anything else. Europe will soon be undergoing major demographic, political, economic changes. Transnationalism encourages a collectivist ideology along with a belief in absolute moral superiority and anti-American rhetoric not heard since the 1930s. I do not think the radical European Left went peacefully into the night.
Ever hear the phrase “root causes”? There you go.