Posts Tagged ‘leftism’


Re: On the weakness of the global left

August 10, 2009

Flying Whale, quoting Immanuel Wallerstein, writes that the most audible voices in the world left are either “free-standing intellectuals or…located in very small organizations.” This assertion strikes me as not-quite right. I think it’d be more accurate to say that the principal voices who advocate a comprehensive leftist world-view are free-standing intellectuals or in very small organizations.

I’d argue that there are plenty of powerful voices within large organizations, but that their work (if not their ideology) is confined to a relatively small number of issues. The weakness here is not necessarily that the folks who best articulate a comprehensive leftist world-view are within weak institutions (or no institution at all)– it’s also that the single-issue experts haven’t found better and more consistent ways to build sustainable coalitions that actually aggregate power in meaningful ways.



On the weakness of the global left

August 7, 2009

Once every two weeks, world historical sociology scholar Immanuel Wallerstein writes a lengthy commentary on whatever world affair is currently foremost on his mind. His latest piece, “The World Left and the Iranian Elections,” discusses the fragmented views taken by self-identified leftists around the world. Some support Ahmadinejad openly (for example, Hugo Chávez); others are “virtually unconditional opponents.”

It’s an interesting read but I want to skirt the topic and highlight a single parenthetical sentence: “The principal voices of the world left today tend for the most part to be primarily that either of free-standing intellectuals or of activists who are located in very small organizations.”

I have no real way of evaluating this statement, but it strikes me as fairly accurate. The leading leftist governments of the world are either not particularly “left” per se or are often politically unhelpful (Exhibit A: the aforementioned Hugo Chávez). No one is ready to proclaim Evo Morales or Rafael Correa as a spokesperson of the global left. When I think of such spokespeople or leaders, I think of people like… Noam Chomsky, or Martin Khor, or Naomi Klein, or Vandana Shiva. All of these people have their flaws, but more importantly they fit perfectly into Wallerstein’s characterization. For who they are they have remarkable influence, but on a global (and surely on a world historical) scale their power is extremely limited.

All of which goes a long way towards explaining why – for example – in the midst of a tremendous global financial crisis that could and should be seen as an implication of the neoliberal, deregulatory agenda of the past 20-some years, no real reforms are being proposed in any of the circles that matter. The power dynamics are titled too far to one side.

Flying Whale