Vital Signs

Global Democracy, Ideology, Empire

Today, as state-sponsored American corporatism is being extended around the globe, we are witnessing a gross overproduction of official ideology—the rhetoric of human rights, democracy, and free trade—which conceals some sordid realities. With the state replacing God as the source of all values, human rights and democracy have become key justifying themes for our overseas activities. There is a growing din of criticism regarding the human-rights shortcomings of other states, and many even suggest that the right to live in a democracy is universal and must be enforced.

Democracy as an item for political export is not entirely new. During World War I, following the lead of President Woodrow Wilson, the Cleveland Americanization Committee called for “carrying democracy...to all peoples...in order that the world may have a greater industrial, educational, economic, and political freedom.”

For insights into global democracy, we may turn first to political scientist William I. Robinson, who crossbreeds world system theory with Gramscian Marxism. Under globalization, he writes, “capitalist production relations are displacing . . . all residual pre-capitalist relations.” How this is coming about is significant: The new order “is unfolding” under the aegis of U.S. power. This has involved a practical change of strategy.

U.S. policymakers once employed local strongmen, writes...

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