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Egalitarianism & International Politics

- Abstract

THAT the attitudes of Western liberal intellectual elites toward international inequalities have altered, and-on the surface at least-quite markedly so, is by now a commonplace. Indeed, so apparently pervasive has this alteration been that the articulate few who do not share it are seen as eccentric, if not perverse. Yet until only very recently an outlook now considered virtually incontestable would itself have been viewed as eccentric. Writing of the sudden awareness of the “world poverty problem” and of the emergent conviction of a “collective responsibility” on the part of the rich nations for alleviating the plight of the world’s poor, Gunnar Myrdal declares that “we have been living through one of history’s most abrupt reversals of political climate.” Myrdal associates this reversal not only with elite opinion but with public opinion generally in the Western nations. In fact, there is little evidence for asserting so broad an association and a good deal of evidence that points to a quite different conclusion. At the same time, it is apparent that among the regnant intellectual elites of the developed and capitalist states of the West we have been witnessing a change in attitude that for the time being at least is extraordinary. A new political sensibility has arisen with respect to international inequalities of income and wealth. Provided it were to persist, and eventually extend to publics and governments, the consequences could be momentous.

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