Every once in a while, a philosopher emerges from quiet labors in the vineyards of the text to speak with striking relevance to our turbulent times. Charles Taylor, who this week was awarded the first Berggruen Prize for influential ideas, is such a scholar.
The philosopher’s long body of work (he’s 84) ranges widely from meditations on secularization to alternative modernities to the authenticity of the expressive individual. But it is Taylor’s thinking on the recognition of irreducible diversity in an interdependent world of plural identities ― and how societies can cope with this reality ― that gives him urgency in this era of Trump, Brexit, the burkini ban and the rise of the anti-immigrant right in Europe.
Taylor’s approach does not deny clashes of cultures, whether of the French-speaking Quebecois with the English-speaking majority in his native Canada or pious Muslims in predominantly secular societies. Rather it acknowledges the frictions head-on through what he calls “a language of perspicuous contrast,” or the clearly expressed delineation of differences as the basis for reconciliation and “reasonable accommodation” of each to the other. This “intercultural” undertaking contrasts with the identity pillars of multiculturalism that encourage separation instead of integration.
“To have this bland neo-liberal view that there are no major cultural contradictions at all, and things will all go swimmingly, that we’ll all just globalize. This is the absolute nadir of blindness,” he said in a recent interview in Philosophy Today. “That’s what we have to aim at,” Taylor continued in that interview, “if we want to get these differences out into a sphere where there can be a rational and calm discussion of how to live together with tension between different groups. It’s only by coming to such a language that we can have a discussion that doesn’t degenerate into a kind of stigmatizing of the other. … We need it very badly in our diverse societies.”
Taylor walks the talk. He led the effort to keep Quebec as part of Canada through recognition of its distinctive character in a key 1995 referendum. More recently, he co-chaired a commission appointed by the provincial government of Quebec on how to accommodate immigrants.
The intercultural tensions roiling Europe found expression this week in a referendum in Hungary over whether to reject or accept European Union quotas requiring member states to shelter a minimum number of refugees. The majority of those voting rejected the EU quota, but the voter turnout fell short of the 50 percent threshold of eligible voters needed to make the vote valid. Patrick Martin-Genier, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris, notes with concern that the referendum campaign, like the Brexit campaign in Britain, was characterized by “an avalanche of foul and racist discourse.” Though not legally binding, he says, it has nonetheless created a poisonous political atmosphere and encourages other states to follow suit. “It is high time to rebuild Europe,” Martin-Genier concludes, “excluding these countries who, under unethical leaders, are deliberately deciding to forsake and destroy the founding values of the European Union.”
Cas Mudde thinks Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban made a political mistake by so thoroughly touting a referendum that failed at the polls. “Though Hungary’s leader might be a master in exciting and expressing widespread prejudices,” Mudde writes, “he is as vulnerable to overreach and popular dissatisfaction as other politicians. But without serious opposition, he will remain unchallenged, even in the wake of defeats.”
Andras Simonyi is hopeful: “This was a serious warning [to Orban] that the patience of the Hungarian people is running out,” he says. “This is a victory of the Hungarian people, the majority of whom, against all odds, embrace Europe, openness, solidarity and democracy.”
Another hopeful sign on the global horizon is that one of the world’s top diplomats most experienced in dealing with the refugee crisis, Antonio Guterres, has been picked to take over as the new secretary-general of the United Nations. The former Portuguese prime minister stepped down last year as the head of the U.N.’s refugee agency. He outlined his vision for the U.N. in an op-ed for The WorldPost earlier this year.
The other shocker on the referendum front this week was the rejection by Colombian voters of a recently concluded peace deal that sought to end the long war between the government and the the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels. Miguel Urban is worried. “The shocking ‘no’ vote puts the peace process at risk, fragments the population even further, and badly injures the legitimacy of the government at this key moment,” he writes.
From Perth, Australia, Helen Clark draws on an interview with former Australian Defense Minister Kim Beazley and taps into how a Trump presidency might hurt the legitimacy of U.S. government relations with its Australian ally and its “pivot” to Asia.
In a new collaboration with the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, we examine the future of Mongolia’s legendary nomads as that country modernizes.
In their Q & A series on China in Africa, Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden this week discuss how China’s policy of “non-interference” in the affairs of other states is being tested in Africa, especially by conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan.
In a powerful dispatch from Qayyarah, Iraq, WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones talks to women who are reclaiming their lives after two years until brutal rule by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. “Now, we are free,” they tell her.
As bombs continue to drop in neighboring Syria and Russia and U.S. cease-fire efforts collapse, World Reporter Nick Robins-Early profiles the Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets, who though lost out on the Nobel Peace Prize this time, are admired around the world for their work. World Reporter Jesselyn Cook points out a hypocritical promotional video from the Assad government, which urges tourists to flock to the war-torn country.
Finally, our Singularity series this week looks at the likely prospect that, if life is ever found on Jupiter, it may well be discovered by robots.
WHO WE ARE
EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at The Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Nick Robins-Early and Jesselyn Cook are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is World Social Media Editor.
CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul.
EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa),Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).
VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS: Dawn Nakagawa.
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.
The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.
Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.
ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as theAdvisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk,Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy,Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen,Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail and Zheng Bijian.
From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair,Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing,Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.
The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.
We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.