The essays in this volume treat dimensions of the broader trends of policy and governance at all scales of analysis, examining the elemental issue of democratic agency and obstacles to its exercise, the difficulties inherent for self-governance in inter-governmental cooperation and in racial, ethnic and religious diversity and the antagonisms resulting from rapid widespread economic, social and technological shifts. These articles investigate the dynamics of political change and movements in a time when the prevailing social imaginary makes such action, always difficult, especially tough to achieve. While we have divided the essays into seven sections, as they address a variety of topical concerns at discrete levels of analysis, all may be said to treat in one form or another the consequences for Western liberalism of its embrace of neoliberalism’s elevation of capitalism to a governing role and its view of freedom as atomistic individualism. Adherents have embraced this perspective without acknowledging the daily reality that human beings live in families and societies and that freedom will never be sustained by the pursuit of material goods alone.
In many ways, neoliberalism as orthodoxy, and especially its extreme ideological variant, which fuels today’s GOP in the United States, seems content to allow capitalists to rule, rather than the people. Those embracing this view appear to hope such will provide employment for the masses while, and this may be the truth of the matter, also enriching the employment- providing class. But, as these essays reveal, this view of governance has only created penury for millions, anger and disillusionment for millions more and diminishing job and life security for still more citizens. The result is a current United States politics of cynical exploitation by demagogic leaders of often confused and angry citizens that realize that they have lost freedom and economic standing and are deeply resentful of that fact. These individuals also often lash out in anger at the only means available to right their situation, democratic institutions, out of the insecurity and rage arising from undue reliance on markets in the first instance. As inequality and hopelessness grow and those in power exploit citizen disaffection by blaming self-governance, we fear these trends are likely only to deepen unless elected leaders see the broader folly of their power-fed ideological stance, and/or the populace awakes and punishes those now abusing their trust at the ballot box.
These essays illuminate these deeper political trends and both give hope and signal the alarm that social change is necessary if self-governance in the United States and beyond is to be preserved. Taken together, the articles in this volume speak truth to power and highlight forcefully the need for democratic change. It has been our privilege to compile them for a broader readership.
Stephenson Jr. M. & Kirakosyan L. 2017. RE: Reflections and Explorations: A Forum for Deliberative Dialogue. Blacksburg: VT Publishing. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21061/vtipg.re.v2
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Published on Dec. 21, 2017