Commentary Magazine

Egalitarianism & International Politics


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.”1 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 inequaliities of income and wealth. Provided it were to persist, and eventually extend to publics and governments, the consequences could be momentous.

The origins of the new political sensibility may be traced back to the years of the middle to late 1960's. It is in this period that liberal intellectual elites in the West become increasingly preoccupied, in a way they had not been preoccupied before, with the issue of international inequalities of income and wealth (it is in the same period that they become increasingly preoccupied with domestic inequalities of income and wealth). And it is in this period that the conviction develops of a duty on the part of the rich nations to reduce such inequalities. Those who, like Myrdal, find the “new idea of collective responsibility” emerging in the years following World War II have taken the exhortations of no more than a handful for what was only later to become a substantial group and an increasingly pervasive intellectual climate.

There are of course elements of continuity between these earlier years and the period of interest here. Nevertheless, the elements of continuity are clearly outweighed by the elements of change. In its emphasis on equality as the principal moral imperative of our time,2 in its insistence on the duty of the rich to redress global inequalities,3 and in its conviction that inequalities of income and wealth represent the most serious long-term threat to world peace, the new political sensibility may be distinguished from views that prevailed during the years of the classic cold war. Whereas earlier views were inevitably influenced by the hegemonic conflict and the security-power necessities it imposed or, at any rate, was thought at the time to impose, the new political sensibility is clearly a post-cold-war outlook. It is so in the narrow and literal sense of regarding the hegemonic rivalry that once dominated world politics as largely spent (and, to the degree that rivalry persists, as no longer of central significance). It is so in the broader sense of seeing the cold war as a response to forces which even at the time had become increasingly atavistic and which certainly no longer accurately characterize the international scene. The period of the cold war, then, was the last great manifestation of the old politics with its parochial interests, its obsession with national power, its hierarchical ordering of states, and its reliance on forcible methods. By contrast, the new political sensibility proclaims a politics of interdependence for a world that must cope with problems the nature and dimensions of which will no longer yield to the particularistic methods of the past, and surely not to the forcible methods of the past. In place of a world in which the hierarchical ordering of states seemed natural and inevitable, interdependence holds out the promise—as another sanguine analyst puts it—of “a world in which nobody is in charge.”

Although it is apparent that the rise of the new political sensibility is a response to the decline of the cold war, it is equally apparent that this outlook must be traced to the disappointment bordering on despair over the results of development strategies and projections confidently set forth in the 1950's and early 1960's. With few exceptions, these optimistic projections did not materialize, though for reasons—the rapid growth of population apart—which are still a matter of dispute. Of relevance here is that a growing despair over achieving the goal of converging per-capita growth rates coincided in the early 1970's not only with an increased militance on the part of the new states but with the new-found concern in the West that the process of industrial growth itself was no longer to be taken for granted, whether because of the constraints imposed by limited natural resources or because of the constraints imposed by the growth process itself in the various forms of pollution.

Thus what had once been seen as a story that would have in the not too distant future a happy ending for the new states, and that would involve only the mildest of sacrifice—if sacrifice at all—on the part of the developed states, was suddenly seen as a story that might have a very unhappy ending indeed, and not only for the poor countries. The most striking presentation of the dark night that all too likely awaits us has been made by Robert Heilbroner in An Inquiry into the Human Prospect. In Heilbroner's words, “whether we are unable to sustain growth or unable to tolerate it, there can be no doubt that a radically different future beckons.” That future does not portend cooperation but rather intense conflict between the rich and the poor of the world. “We are entering a period,” Heilbroner concludes, “in which rapid population growth, the presence of obliterative weapons, and dwindling resources will bring international tensions to dangerous levels for an extended period. Indeed, there seems no reason for these levels of danger to subside unless population equilibrium is achieved and some rough measure of equity reached in the distribution of wealth among nations, either by great increase in the output of the underdeveloped world or by a massive redistribution of wealth from the richer to the poorer lands.” Little in the Heilbroner analysis suggests the likelihood of reaching such an equitable arrangement by either route. On the contrary, given the world he projects, the state, both in the developed and underdeveloped worlds, must be expected to exhibit more separatist and self-centered behavior than in the past.

If the Heilbroner assessment—and similar assessments—form one reaction to a world divided between rich and poor, and confronted with the twin prospects of resource scarcities and pollution as limits to growth, the new political sensibility may be seen as another and, on the face of it, altogether different reaction. Whereas the Heilbroner assessment points to increased conflict between rich and poor, to “wars of redistribution” or “preemptive seizures,” the new political sensibility emphasizes the prospect—indeed, the necessity—for greater cooperation among nations precisely because of the dangers that confront them all if they do not acknowledge their interdependence through cooperative arrangements which, among other things, must clearly reduce present disparities in standards of living. To Heilbroner such arrangements appear very unlikely, given human nature and the behavior of collectives; at least they appear unlikely in the absence of catastrophe—whether social or natural—which would force us to mend our present ways. The new political sensibility, however, finds in these alternatives to interdependence precisely the incentives required to effect needed change. Thus what are for Heilbroner despotic forces—above all, the despotism of the industrial mode of production—relentlessly driving us ever closer to perdition, are to the new political sensibility benevolently despotic forces which will ultimately lead—and are leading—humanity to true community.



It is seldom possible to delineate with precision an outlook that is both novel and still emergent. Even so, a number of the features characteristic of this outlook are reasonably clear. The new political sensibility proceeds from the acute awareness of a condition that is considered at once politically dangerous and morally intolerable. It would be tedious to cite expressions of this conviction. Suffice it to say that the conviction of the political and moral hazards presumably inherent in an interdependent world that remains sharply divided between rich and poor has attained the status almost of a received truth.

To be sure, this does not prevent a substantial measure of disagreement among the adherents of this received truth, who, if on the whole of broadly liberal persuasion, still represent considerable diversity of view. The absence of consensus over the scope of the duty to reduce present disparities in income and wealth clearly does not extend, though, to the point of principle itself, that is, to the point of questioning whether there is in principle a duty of the rich to reduce such disparities, even though the fulfillment of this duty will require sacrifice. Still less does it extend to what is commonly taken as the core meaning of the duty the rich have toward the poor, which is to insure minimal subsistence to all. That those who have should share with those who have not is considered unchallengeable.4

The new political sensibility accordingly proclaims a collective responsibility of universal application that heretofore has been applied only within the state and then only in this century (and in the United States only in this generation). In doing so, a parallel is drawn between the growth of equality within the domestic societies of the West and the greater society of states. On this view, what we are witnessing in international society is a historical development that, in its broad outlines, we have already experienced in domestic societies. In a world that becomes increasingly interdependent with each passing day, and that is no longer divided between the subjects of history and those who until recently were its mere objects, the processes which have characterized the internal development of the more advanced societies cannot be contained at the boundaries of the state. Some years ago an international jurist articulated the parallel that has come to form a central tenet of the new political sensibility:

A clear parallel can be drawn between the sociological development of the international and the national community. . . . Between the national and the international process of democracy there exists a connection. It is no mere accident that, after the supremacy and hegemony of the Western world, universalism in the community of nations was accepted once the process of democratization had been completed in the Western democracies.5

It is not difficult to see why this parallel has proved attractive. It responds to the persuasion of the “spill-over” effects of advanced societies, that is, to the presumed tendency of such societies to project abroad their deeper tendencies at home. Thus a society that moves toward greater internal equality will, on this view, eventually move toward the goal of greater equality abroad. This will be so particularly in an increasingly interdependent world yet one in which the disparity between the conditions of domestic and international life is both marked and apparent. Then too, the parallel drawn between domestic and international society is found to draw considerable support from recent history. Although the formal inequalities endemic to the traditional international system have not altogether disappeared, they are no more than vestiges of an order that today has lost almost all semblance of legitimacy. Even if it is argued that in a number of respects a de facto colonialism persists, the point remains—and it is an all important one—that as a de jure institution colonialism has passed into history.

In the extension of statehood to peoples formerly held outside the system, in the steady abandonment of formal inequalities of status among those comprising the system, and in the growing restraints placed upon the use of power, the international society of today is seen as scarcely resembling the international society of only yesterday. An emergent political equality has been attended by the rising demand for a greater measure of protection for the economic interests of the new states and, finally, for a greater measure of economic equality. Reflecting the development of the more influential domestic societies, the conclusion seems only reasonable that “the world community is bound to become a welfare community, just as the nation state became a welfare state.”6



It is often assumed that there is a marked affinity between the new political sensibility entertained in the West today and the new egalitarianism entertained by the elites of the new states. In one sense this assumption is evidently well-taken, for both look to a significant shift—or redistribution—of income and wealth. Yet it is perhaps only in this sense that the assumption is well-taken. In other respects, the world projected by the new political sensibility is very different from that projected by the new egalitarianism. The latter does not confuse a global redistribution of income and wealth with a “new beginning” in history when this redistribution is to be largely effected by, and in the name of, states. The shift in power expected to attend a shift in wealth is not identified with a change in the “essence” of power, just as a sought-after change in the present international hierarchy is not mistaken for the disappearance of hierarchy. Interdependence is not seen as a means for drawing the sharp teeth of sovereignty but as an opportunity for obtaining maximum concessions from the developed states.

In a word, it is not the essential structure of the international system that the new egalitarianism has challenged, but the distribution of wealth and power within this system. Viewed from one perspective, this challenge may seem revolutionary, as indeed it is. Viewed from another and yet more profound perspective, this challenge appears altogether traditional. Whatever the view we may take toward the demands the new states have addressed to the industrialized states, in dealing with those demands for greater equality we are at least standing on familiar terrain.


The nature of the indictment the underdeveloped states have brought against the present international order has been examined on so many occasions that it need not be detailed once again here. The crux of this indictment concerns not only the disparity of benefits the present order presumably confers as between the developed and underdeveloped countries, but the way in which these disparities are seen to have been created and the manner in which they are even today sustained. A colonial past, based upon force, gave rise to present disparities. A neocolonialism, even when no longer based upon force, perpetuates these disparities by virtue of the overwhelming advantages conferred by an unjust history.

Thus formal independence and an unexpected measure of political equality have only served to sharpen the demand for what is presumably “real” independence, that is, economic independence. But economic independence, and in consequence a new and vital dimension of equality, can only be achieved once the backward of the world enjoy a level of economic and social development which begins to approximate that enjoyed by the industrial countries. On this view, inequality does not inhere simply in a disparity of power per se, but in a particular form of disparity. It is not the disparity of the strong and the weak, for this is an inequality inherent in the very nature of the state system, but the radical disparities in levels of development that give rise to a special kind of inequality.

It is the same disparities which, more than anything else, give rise to a sense of humiliation and of resentment more potent than the sense of injustice bred by normal disparities of power. Even if Thucydides is right in saying that justice is possible only between equals (in power), there remains the argument that a special kind of injustice arises between unequals who are also at different stages of economic and social development. To sympathetic liberal elites in the West, the injustice of the international system is to be found in present disparities in living (consumption) standards and, above all, in the extreme poverty endured by almost one-third of the world's peoples. To the elites of the developing states, whatever their resentment over present disparities in living standards, the essential injustice of the international system is to be found in the very condition of collective backwardness and in the special vulnerabilities felt to result from this condition. The deeper significance of the need for economic growth is explained by one observer in these words:

The need for economic growth in a developing country has few if any economic springs. It arises from a desire to assume full human status by taking part in an industrial civilization, participation in which alone enables a nation or an individual to compel others to treat it as an equal. Inability to take part in it makes a nation militarily powerless against its neighbors, administratively unable to control its own citizens, and culturally incapable of speaking the international language. Pre-industrial man is human, in the modern world, only in a latent sense, by courtesy.7

It is not individual inequality, then, that forms the gravamen of the indictment brought by the new egalitarianism against the present order, but collective inequality, and above all the inequality of states at very different stages of development. The point cannot be emphasized too strongly, given the propensity of Western observers to view “global inequality” primarily in terms of individual disparities of income and wealth, thereby implying that in dealing with this issue we are in effect dealing with a familiar issue of domestic justice, though in this instance writ large. Instead, we are dealing with a quite different issue and one that may bear only limited resemblance to the issue of domestic justice. The greater measure of collective equality the new states demand, and may eventually obtain, does not insure a greater measure of individual equality. It is OPEC's founding state, Venezuela, that has provided a striking demonstration of what the fruits of the new equality may mean—or rather not mean—for greater internal equity of distribution. In the new egalitarianism, states are both the agents and subjects of equality, just as they are the agents and subjects of justice generally. If the claim to a greater measure of collective equality is made in the name of international justice, the domestic purposes to which this equality may be put are nevertheless largely beyond the purview of that justice. And they are so because the state is the moral unit around which center claims for equality, just as the state is the moral unit which is held to endow these claims with legitimacy.



The moral basis of the claims the new egalitarianism has addressed to the developed countries reflects the way in which present inequalities are seen to have arisen. If the division of the world into the developed and the underdeveloped is largely the result of a system that for so long deprived the underdeveloped of their independence, obstructed their path toward development, and denied them the true value of their rightful inheritance (natural resources), then the moral basis for claims to resource transfers today—whatever the forms these transfers may take—is apparent. Though given a variety of expression, the principle of justice invoked in support of these claims is one of reparations for past wrongs. In many respects, moreover, an exploitative “past” is found to have persisted into the present. Thus the OPEC states have sought in part to justify their recent actions by pointing to the history of the past twenty-five years, a history that is interpreted in such a way as to entitle them today to what is in effect a form of reparations. This is, for example, the well-known view of the Shah of Iran, who finds the present prosperity of Europe and Japan to be based on a generation of cheap fuel.8 In the 1974 United Nations Declaration on the Establishment of a New Economic Order, the theme of reparations, though never directly alluded to, forms the pervasive justification for a new equality that appears to entail as many duties for the developed states as it does rights for the underdeveloped states.

On occasion, it is true, the demand for greater equality is placed on a very different moral basis. The obligation of the rich countries to assist the underdeveloped, and particularly the very poor, states has been expressed in terms of a larger and common good that finds its ultimate expression in the sense of a shared humanity. Yet however attractive may be the appeal to Western elites of a solidarity that transcends the confines of the state, that appeal can have little attractiveness to elites of most of the new states. For the latter, it is not the vision of a sudden (and qualitative) extension of sympathy culminating in a shared humanity that will facilitate the ordeal of rapid development, but the vision of a far more limited solidarity that is at once given tangible expression by and enforcement through the state.

The vision of a shared humanity is one thing for those who have long enjoyed the sense of status and worth that is largely conferred, for better or worse, by the independent state. It is quite another thing for those who have only recently achieved collective independence and whose sense of status and hunger for recognition as equals are still far from appeased. Similarly, it is one thing for those who have long played a salient role in history, largely by virtue of having achieved that independence and solidarity for which the state has been indispensable, to invoke today the imperative of human Solidarity. It is quite another thing for peoples who have been the objects of history rather than its subjects to respond to this imperative. Before those who have only recently, and then with uncertainty, entered history can proceed to the stage of mankind, they must first pass through the stage of the state.

The appeal to a shared humanity (or to human solidarity, the brotherhood of man, etc.) not only places primary emphasis on the individual, and on individual equality, an emphasis that, as already observed, can have but limited attraction to the new states, it also suggests that the response to demands for greater economic equality is, after all, in the nature of a concession on the part of the developed states. This concession may be couched in terms of duty, but whatever the precise moral formulation, there will remain the psychological reality of a concession which can only confirm for the recipient a sense of inequality. It may be argued that resource transfers, though taking the form of reparations, must also be seen by the new and underdeveloped states as a concession. Even so, such transfers are a concession that more readily preserves the sense—or the illusion—of equality, in that reparations are not something merely given but something given back that was unjustly taken in the first place. The claim to resource transfers as a form of reparations suggests an equality which might have been had it not been for the depredations of the now rich. It represents the hardest possible “moral bargain” that the poor can strike.

These considerations must of course be set apart from the intrinsic validity of claims to reparations. What are the circumstances which validate claims to reparations, however expedient or not it may be to press such claims? In principle, there is little difficulty in answering this question. The claim to reparations is justified in response to wrongful and injurious action. But what is the nature of the wrongful and injurious action that validates claims to reparations? The standard response, as we know, is action that constitutes exploitation. Here again, however, one question only serves to provoke another. What is essential to comprise a relationship of exploitation?

In a recent discussion of this protean term, Barrington Moore, while recognizing the “penumbra of emotive vagueness” marking its use, nevertheless concludes it is possible to give exploitation “a meaning independent of the feelings, preferences, and even whims of the parties to any given social relationship.” “As a useful working definition,” he writes, “we can say that exploitation forms part of an exchange of goods and services when (1) the goods and services exchanged are quite obviously not of equivalent value, and (2) one party to the exchange uses a substantial degree of coercion.” Moore freely acknowledges the difficulties that in practice attend the determination of “equivalence” but he assumes that “a relatively disinterested observer . . . could make adequate distinctions most of the time. To believe otherwise forces one to hold that human society has never been and never can be based on anything but a mixture of force and fraud.”9

It seems to me that Moore's assumption and his conclusion are open to question. On the notorious difficulties of establishing equivalence, little need be said here save to remind ourselves that—notwithstanding the claims of liberals and Marxists alike—the notion of equivalence is socially determined, hence normative in character. This notion is not objective in the sense that it is somehow inherent or immanent in the nature of social—or economic—relationships. No doubt a “relatively disinterested observer” could determine equivalence—or the absence thereof—once given the socially relevant standards. Experience does not vindicate the view that such determination can be made in the absence of agreed-upon criteria. And it is precisely the absence of agreed-upon criteria for determining equivalence that is normally at issue. Certainly, it is at issue in the claims of underdeveloped states for reparations.

Even if the determination of equivalence should prove next to impossible, it does not follow that all social relationships must be based on a mixture of force and fraud. Indeed, there is no reason why exploitation cannot be defined as a relationship in which, to quote Moore again, “one party to the exchange uses a substantial degree of coercion.” To be sure, the concept of coercion is not without its own difficulties. But coercion has, despite these difficulties, an objectivity that equivalence does not have, and this is surely the case if we concentrate on the most important manifestations of coercion—the threat or use of force. So, too, fraud has an objectivity that equivalence does not and cannot have. A fraudulent relationship, it is agreed, is one based on the element of deception. What is common to both force and fraud is that they constitute relationships which presumably would not be entered into freely (in almost any sense of the term) by one party to the relationship. Equally, in both cases one party is deprived of some value against his will. In the case of force, however, this need not be a wrongful deprivation if the value taken by force was wrongfully obtained in the first place.


Are we then to accept claims of reparations where such claims are based on relationships in which one party has evidently been made the object of substantial coercion, particularly in the form of the threat or use of force? Of course, we may do so in the case of most of the underdeveloped states. If we do, however, we must at the very least be clear that these are claims based on moral, not legal, grounds. Prior to the contemporary period there was little, if anything, that forbade a Western state from threatening or using force against a people not considered as constituting a recognized subject of international law. And even if so recognized by international law, the latter still permitted ample scope for the threat or use of force.

As a moral basis for claims of reparations, it is equally the case that coercion—even in its extreme forms—cannot provide such basis unless we are to read present moral standards back into the past. What was true for the international law of an earlier period was also true for international morality. In the period that extended, for all practical purposes, from the origins of the state system down to the interwar years, a relationship based on a “substantial measure of coercion” was not considered for that reason as illegitimate by international society. The prevailing notions of legitimacy—naturally enough, the product of Western powers—did not condemn coercion exercised over the “backward” peoples of the world. On the contrary, until at least World War I the use of coercive methods against such peoples was considered justified, and certainly if the purpose was to improve the conditions of those against whom coercion might be employed. To those who determined what constituted legitimate behavior, what mattered was not the employment of coercion—including force—but the purpose and results of coercion. We shall return to this point presently.


There is a still larger, if not always an apparent, issue that is inevitably raised when claims for reparations are based on the contention that such disparities in income and wealth as exist today grew out of relationships based largely on force. We are dealing with a system of relations that historically has not only been centrally based on force, but a system that institutionalized force as a method for effecting change. If the position is to be taken today that such change as was affected by force cannot be regarded as legitimate, and must give rise to valid claims for reparations, then these claims may well go very far toward unraveling the entire system. It is not only the material aspects of the status quo but the territorial as well that fall within this challenge. In this respect, the difficulty of the reparations claim is not simply that it is a backward-looking one (how far back?) but that if it is based on force, simpliciter, it must open up a Pandora's box.

How the new states will eventually come to view this Pandora's box will depend upon interest. Of this, we have already had several examples in the form of territorial disputes. Thus, in the forcible Indian seizure of Goa in 1961, the Indian government justified its action by pointing out that Portuguese possession of Goa was simply a case of “standing aggression,” though lasting for four centuries, and a question of “getting rid of the last vestiges of colonialism.” But this was not the Indian government's position in the territorial dispute with China, where the Indian border territories China claimed had admittedly been the result of coercion applied at the turn of the century by the British against a weak Chinese government. In the latter case, the results of colonialism were considered to have created the basis for legitimate title to territory.

It may of course be argued that claims to reparations need not be based primarily on the coercive character of a relationship but on the results held to follow from the relationship. In varying measure, this distinction is drawn by those who press claims for reparations today. Although the coercion exercised in the past by the West over the underdeveloped world continues to be roundly condemned, it is not so much the fact of this coercion that is emphasized in terms of reparations claims as the results commonly held to follow from it. The distinction is important, if only because the argument emphasizing the results of coercion, rather than the fact of coercion itself, appeals to a standard of moral judgment that was laid down by imperialists themselves, liberal and conservative alike. Nor is the argument merely one of emphasizing the benefits that flowed to the West in consequence of its past hegemony over the underdeveloped states. Even more the argument is one of stressing the injuries presumably suffered by the underdeveloped states as a result of this hegemony. The insistent claim that “you are rich today in large measure because of us” is complemented by the still more insistent claim that “we are poor today in large measure because of you.”


Is this distinction between the fact of coercion and the results of coercion on closer inspection a distinction without a substantial difference? Clearly, the answer must depend on whether the fact itself creates a strong presumption in favor of the results here imputed to it. It is disingenuous to distinguish in principle force from theft, while also insisting in principle that where force is exercised the burden rests upon those who exercised force to prove that they did not steal (and, even more, that where they did not steal they also did not retard the development of those made the objects of coercion). At least it is disingenuous in those situations where “theft,” or “retardation,” although not made dependent on such protean concepts as exploitation (and its principal ingredient of “equivalence”), invokes an “as if” historical process that we have no reliable way of confirming. There are, of course, specific instances where force did clearly amount to theft. But an immense, and still growing, literature, and a decades-old controversy testify that these instances must be regarded as the exception and not as the norm.

The objection will be made to these considerations that they suggest the burden of proof must rest upon those who set forth claims of reparations. In fact, they do not do so, though there is no apparent reason why that suggestion should provoke surprise or indignation. After all, claims of reparations are ordinarily considered justified only when they rest upon an established wrong or injury. With respect to the claims set forth by the underdeveloped states, however, the particular injuries alleged have not been established, at least they have not been established in a large number of cases. What is established is simply that the relationships between Western states and most underdeveloped states were once based upon coercion. Reparations claims may be held to follow from this fact. But if they are, they must run the difficulties already noted.

In emphasizing the claims of reparations, I do not intend to suggest that this is the sole moral basis of the claims the new egalitarianism has addressed to the developed states. In some degree, it is clear that the elites of the new states have moved beyond reparations and the intractable issues thereby raised. The call for a new social contract in which those who played no part in establishing the old order will now participate in the creation of the new is, in many respects, a call that goes well beyond the reparations issue. It is not simply present standards of equity projected onto the past that support the claims of the new egalitarianism. In part, at least, it is present standards of equity applied to the present and, even more insistently, to a hoped-for future.

In part, however, it is also clear that the new order urged by the underdeveloped states does not simply put aside claims rooted in what are seen as an unjust past. The proposed new order does not proceed on the basis that the historical slate may and should be wiped clean. On the contrary, it is apparent that the equality called for today is one which can be achieved only through measures many of which are in purpose the functional equivalent of reparations. Certainly, the discriminatory treatment that, if accepted, would form a central feature of the new international order must be seen in part at least as a form of reparations.

At any rate, whatever the precise significance we accord to the reparations claim in assessing the moral bases of the new egalitarianism, the essential outlines of the order projected by the elites of most new states are reasonably clear. Apart from the forbearance the developed states are to display in the exercise of their power, the order of the future is to be one whose principal moral imperative is to facilitate the transfer of resources by whatever means from the developed and capitalist countries of the North to the underdeveloped states of the South. The ultimate disposition of these transfers, however, is to remain the exclusive determination of the recipient states. For the new order remains an order of states and issues of equity remain issues between states.



Although the new political sensibility and the new egalitarianism converge in questioning the legitimacy of an international order based on striking disparities of income and wealth, they do so on quite different grounds and with quite different purposes. As between the two, it is the new political sensibility that, ironically enough, appears the more radical in outlook. For the challenge the new egalitarianism has made to the existing order is clearly recognizable as seen from the vantage point of the traditional competition of states. A change in the world's distribution of wealth and power is demanded. It is demanded by states and is justified in terms of the equality of states, for the order the new egalitarianism presupposes is an order par excellence of states. It may be argued that the “real” equality sought on behalf of the collective will ultimately be employed primarily on behalf of individual goals, that national self-fulfillment must be seen to form the precondition for individual self-fulfillment, and that the present emphasis on collective equality is therefore a temporary, though necessary, phase in a historical process the path of which will not be dissimilar from the path traced by the more advanced societies. Whatever the merit of this view, for the present and foreseeable future it is not a “shared humanity” so much as a “shared statehood” that will be emphasized. This being so, it is not the disappearance of hierarchy but a challenge to the present hierarchy and, perhaps, the eventual creation of a new hierarchy that is foreshadowed. (Not, of course, in the rhetoric of the new egalitarianism, which foreshadows the passage from an oligarchic international society to one that is democratic and egalitarian. But there is little that is new in such rhetoric. Any good Wilsonian liberal would instantly recognize it.)

However we may assess the outlook and claims of the new egalitarianism, we remain, then, in a familiar world. Not so with the outlook reflected by the new political sensibility. For the essential characteristic of this outlook is not simply its call for an international redistribution of income and wealth but its marked ambivalence toward the state. In contrast to the outlook of the elites of most of the new states, Western liberal elites look increasingly to a global order the basis of which is no longer centered exclusively, or even primarily, on the state. Accordingly, the justice imperative that legitimizes this order is no longer one which is seen in terms of the interests traditionally entertained by states.

That the justice imperative the new political sensibility proclaims rests in substantial part upon prudential calculations of self-interest is quite clear. Equally clear is the uncertainty that must continue to mark such calculations. We do not and cannot know whether the failure to reduce present global disparities in income and wealth will eventually have the rather threatening, if not apocalyptic, consequences for the developed states which are now almost ritualistically invoked in discussions of international inequality. The power of the poor that has been made so much of in recent years is either largely a piece of romantic nonsense or—more likely—a reflection of an underlying, if largely unexpressed, conviction that the patrimony of the developed and capitalist states is, after all, hardly worth defending—whether because it was largely achieved through the exploitation of others, an exploitation on which its material achievements even now depend, or because the affluence that has been created is itself a form of corruption, particularly in a world where so many remain in or near a condition of poverty, or because material well-being has become an end in itself and, as such, is not only devoid of purpose but ultimately self-destructive. Whereas the first theme is stressed by the counter-elites in the West, the other two themes have increasingly become the possession of regnant elites. But if the emphasis is different, the end result may be very nearly the same. For both, it is not the power of the poor that is at issue but the status of an order either that never possessed legitimacy (the counter-elite) or that is being increasingly shorn of the legitimacy it once enjoyed (the liberal elites).

Even if the prudential considerations on which the new political sensibility rests were persuasive, there would remain the practical difficulties attending its implementation. These difficulties are not resolved, they are merely illuminated, by drawing upon domestic experience. What, for example, does a minimal or adequate level of subsistence mean when applied to international society? At the very least, the determination of this meaning must prove far more complicated than the determination of minimal subsistence within domestic society. Even within the latter, we are by this time painfully aware that such determination continues to provoke widespread and deep disagreement.10


Let us assume, however, that the context of the obligation to insure minimal subsistence for all peoples can be determined. Who are the subjects of this responsibility: states or individuals? The answer surely must be states. It is only very infrequently that the proposal is made that resource transfers be shifted from the province of the state to the private individual. And not without reason, for the results of such transference are not difficult to forecast. Thus the principal agents of the obligation to effect the international redistribution required to insure minimal subsistence for all are, and will remain, states. So, too, the bearers of the obligation to effect a greater measure of international “equality of opportunity” are, and will remain, states.

Nor is it easy to see how the bearers of the rights proclaimed by the new political sensibility will be other than states, or governments. This is apparent in the case of equality of opportunity, since even a casual examination of contemporary discussions of this “right” as applied to a new international order confirms that it is the equal opportunity of states that is demanded by the elites of the new countries and accorded growing sympathy by the elites of the developed states. What is less clear is how one may conclude that the right presumably corresponding to the obligation to insure minimal subsistence is a right of states. In theory, of course, it is not, for the responsibility in question is intended as one owed to individuals qua individuals. In practice, the matter is bound to be otherwise unless the underdeveloped states concede what they have heretofore shown no disposition to concede. If they persist in this disposition, as may be expected, then any attempt to insure minimal subsistance would have to be undertaken through the medium of the state.

The principal burden of these remarks should be clear enough. While the order we have today is an order of states, the justice sought by the new political sensibility is, for the most part, a justice for individuals which can be guaranteed only by the atrophy of the sovereign powers states continue to claim. The ambivalence, even the tension, that marks the new political sensibility is evidently one that centers on the state and its role. For the state is at once the principal instrument through which a hoped-for redistribution is to be effected and the principal obstacle in the way of such redistribution. It is the principal instrument in the absence of effective alternative institutions for redistribution. It is the principal obstacle by virtue of its reluctance to act save on the basis of demonstrable self-interest and its resistance to yield any functions identified with its sovereignty. There is not one concept of order presupposed by the new political sensibility but two, and there is no apparent way by which these quite disparate and often conflicting concepts may be reconciled.

If this essential dilemma inherent in the new political sensibility is given but modest recognition, it is, as we have already seen, largely because of the conviction that we are entering, or have indeed already entered, a new period in history, a period marked not only by quantitative but also qualitative change. Given this conviction, the above dilemma must prove of decreasing relevance, since it evidently presupposes that the international system, together with the states comprising it, remain unchanged in kind. But the new political sensibility presupposes that the international system is being transformed in kind and that this transformation will render marginally significant the obstacles heretofore placed in the way of a global redistribution of income and wealth. For the growing restrictions on the states' traditional freedom of action presumably create the necessary, and even sufficient, condition for the development of an international society that increasingly resembles a civil society.

In the vision of a global society entertained by the new political sensibility the state will remain and still perform many important functions but it will no longer be the state we have known. The transformation wrought by a growing interdependence will eventuate in what might be called the “tamed” state, the state from which the sharp teeth of sovereignty have at last been drawn, and the state in which the parochial interests of the past have been replaced by the planetary interests that the logic of interdependence presumably necessitates. Moreover, the transformation of the state in turn signals the transformation of man. Indeed, to many who share the outlook described here there is no need to project man's moral transformation; there is only the need to remove the obstacles which impede the transforation that is already occurring from finding its natural expression. Thus in a recent call for a global redistribution of income and wealth we read: “It is not because men of good will find it hard to agree on what sorts of things ought to happen in the world. It is because it is so very hard to see how to make these things happen in a nationally fractionated system that is politically ill-structured for coping with the world's increasingly dominant needs.”11 Alter that system through taming the state and the promise of the new political sensibility will become a reality. For then all that will be necessary to consummate it, as one writer has observed in words that sum up an entire literature, “is that people in Maine should feel the same degree of responsibility toward the people of Japan or Chile or Indochina as they feel toward California.”12



Although regularly defended in terms of an enlightened self-interest, the moral claims of the new political sensibility are not only accorded a central position, their persuasiveness is taken largely for granted by those who share the new outlook. Thus Gunnar Myrdal deems the principle that the world's rich have a duty to share their wealth with the world's poor as one that is so apparently compelling it needs no extended defense. So, too, Robert McNamara sees no reason why anyone should seriously question the duty of the developed nations to promote a least minimal equity in the distribution of wealth among nations. And John P. Lewis asserts that for all the world's ideological diversities there is not “a modern social ethic anywhere that could pretend to provide enduring justification for the existing, let alone worsening, inequality in international income distribution.”13

This is not the first time that a novel moral position has been so presented. What Myrdal thinks is a necessary truth that needs no defense is, by his own admission, something that was foreign to men's imagination prior to the postwar period. In McNamara's case, a duty he now sees no reason to question is one he is not on record as having been aware of before becoming president of the World Bank. John Lewis's assertion may be true, but even in its narrow truth it is misleading. The material issue is not whether any modern social ethic could pretend to provide enduring justification for existing inequality in international income distribution, but whether there is any modern social ethic that has sought seriously to justify income redistribution beyond the confines of the state. In this regard, it is perhaps significant that the most widely discussed “theory of justice” to appear in the West in many years has scarcely a word to say on the subject.14

Moreover, it is hardly necessary to add that publics in advanced Western countries do not on the whole find the moral claims articulated by the new political sensibility compelling. These claims do not coincide with what continues to represent broadly held intuitive notions about distributive justice as applied to the relations between states. On the contrary, what evidence we have points to the conclusion that the great majority persists in drawing a sharp distinction between the welfare of those who share their particular collective and the welfare of humanity, and to assume that the collective is quite entitled to what its members have created. The distinction does not preclude acts of humanitarian assistance taken in response to catastrophes, natural and social. Even here, however, such assistance is seen to be rendered as a matter of grace or bounty. Although often characterized as a duty, the characterization is misleading in that humanitarian assistance is not given as a matter of duty. In view of the moral freedom enjoyed by the giver, it may just as well be characterized as a right.

This traditional, and still prevailing, attitude toward distributive justice in the relations between states may be deplored, but to deplore it is not to explain why it remains so broadly held when it denies what is alleged to be a compelling moral position. Nor will it suffice to argue—as do Myrdal, McNamara, and many others—that this failure to acknowledge the obvious dictates of justice is due to a persisting failure of leadership. For then the question must arise why governments, which are presumably made up of men who are neither extraordinarily stupid and misinformed nor unusually deficient in moral judgment, fail to acknowledge the self-evident and, accordingly, to provide the great publics with the necessary understanding and leadership.

What is of interest here is not the answer a skeptic might be expected to give to this question, but the attitude that prompts its being raised in the first place. Why do those who share the new political sensibility simply assume that the case for gobal distributive justice is so apparent that it scarcely deserves moral argumentation? To some extent, the answer must be found in the conviction, however inarticulate, that the present international distribution of wealth is illegitimate in that it has come about by unjust means, that is, through “exploitation,” whether forcible or not. To this extent, the call for distributive justice is indistinguishable from a call for reparations.

In the main, however, it is clear that the answer rests on the assumption of a shared humanity. There is in this assumption nothing novel. What is novel is the insistence that men now act upon this assumption in a manner they have not acted in the past, that they draw positive duties of distributive justice from it that they had not heretofore drawn, and that they give a scope to those duties they have never before been willing to give. The simple, though decisive, claim of the new political sensibility is that we no longer differentiate, for certain purposes, between fellow citizens and mankind.

It does not seriously detract from the novelty of this claim to point out that its content is in many respects unclear. Nevertheless, it is so, even in the elementary sense that it leaves uncertain what is the inequality that cannot be justified. Presumably, this inequality pertains to individuals and not to collectives (or, to the extent it pertains to collectives, it still does so only to satisfy individual standards of welfare). Presumably, as well, it does not content itself simply with meeting the individual's barest physiological needs—that is, with such food, fuel, shelter, and medical care as are necessary to maintain existence—but with insuring a minimal or adequate level of subsistence to all. We have earlier remarked on the difficulties inherent in taking this concept from its domestic context and attempting to give it satisfactory meaning in a global setting. One difficulty is that there is no “normal life” of international society that is comparable to the normal life of a domestic society. (Does this mean, as seems not unreasonable to infer, that within the same scheme of justice a variable sense of relative deprivation will be understood to permit variable meanings given to a “normal life,” thus permitting in turn considerable disparities in international income distribution?) Another difficulty arises from the consideration that in Western countries (and clearly in the United States) the goal of minimal subsistence such as will enable the individual to participate in the normal life of the community is largely equated with the goal of equal opportunity. Indeed, the purpose of minimal or adequate subsistence is largely seen in terms of insuring equal opportunity. But if this is so then the meaning of “equality of opportunity” can be no more apparent in the context of international society than the meaning of a “normal life.” If the absence of roughly comparable levels of development renders obscure the meaning of a normal life, this absence must render similarly, if not more, obscure the meaning of equality of opportunity.


It is significant that despite the insistence of the new political sensibility that its concern is with individual welfare standards, and that these standards must insure a minimal subsistence to all, equality of opportunity as applied to individuals receives very little emphasis. This silence may be taken to indicate the belief that in the context of international justice equality of opportunity has no more than a limited relevance to individuals. Presumably it has a great deal of relevance to the collective, though, as spokesmen for the new states never tire in pointing out. Yet the meaning of equality of opportunity cannot simply be transposed from its domestic setting to the greater society of states, and this not only because within its domestic setting it is applied to individuals but because its application presupposes a given social order. As supporters and critics of the principle alike point out, equality of opportunity is meaningful only within an order the goals or values of which enjoy general acceptance to the point of being taken for granted. Unless we assume the society of states constitutes such an order, enjoying a comparable degree of acceptance, the relevance of equality of opportunity must remain limited.

Even if this assumption is made, however, difficulties remain in applying equal opportunity to states. The equal start that is indispensable to the operation of the principle is not satisfied only by the removal of formal inequalities. In addition, there must be the removal of social and material inequalities or the introduction of measures designed to compensate for, or balance out, such inequalities. In the case of states, then, it is not enough to be rid of unequal treaties and other disadvantages associated with formal inequality. One must also compensate for such social and material inequalities as will otherwise inhibit equality of opportunity. How does one do this, however, for collectives at very different levels of development? We do not have here the prospect of providing an equal start, as it were, with each new life or with each new generation. The collective is not “renewed” as is the individual, and differences in levels of development may not be overcome save over long periods. Even in the case of groups within domestic society, it has been argued that these same conditions of social and material inequality, persisting over long periods and also resulting in different “levels of development,” must frustrate attempts to apply the principle of equality of opportunity. The case for discrimination in favor of racial minorities has been made on these grounds. Does the new political sensibility join with the new egalitarianism in making a similar case for the poor countries? If it does, the way is opened to going beyond equality of opportunity in the case of the poor states and discriminating on their behalf. But how far beyond and how much discrimination? The answer, once again, remains unclear.

These considerations need not be extended. Despite the failure to clarify what is the inequality that cannot be justified, this failure may be seen as much less significant than the insistence upon realizing a pattern of distributive justice, though one presently undefined, that no longer draws a distinction in principle between fellow citizen and mankind. What is the argument made for regarding as morally intolerable today a distinction that has heretofore been viewed with moral equanimity, if not indifference?

The answer, it appears, may be found in the premise that our moral obligations follow upon the fact of community and are indeed coincidental with it. What establishes a community, though, is not the state; rather it is the preexistence of community that makes possible the liberal state. In this view, then, the state is the superstructure of community, and though the superstructure is important it is not to be confused with the base, the underlying reality of community. Nor may it be accorded the same value as the community, for the justification of the state is ultimately no more, though it may be much less, than the justification of the community. But the community is, in turn, nothing other than the individuals who comprise it and who are related to one another by a certain mutuality and intensity of interest. It is this mutuality and intensity of interest, manifested in the main by a variety of economic and social relationships, that transforms the concept of a shared humanity from a noble aspiration, an ideal principle, though one without practical consequence, into a source of positive moral obligation.

Whatever one may think of this argument, there seems little question but that it is the essential argument underlying the new political sensibility. It is men's interdependence, rather than their common membership in the state, that is taken as constitutive not only of order but of justice as well. If this essential truth has been obscured it is because the history of humanity to the present period has in fact been a history of communities which, though related in varying degree, nevertheless could and did maintain a discrete existence. Given this condition, obligation was expectedly coincidental with the state, since the state was coincidental with community. Moreover, being coincidental with community, and serving effectively on the whole to protect the interests of community, the state came to be seen if not as the source of value (hence of obligation) then as the indispensable condition of value. But the historic circumstances which made the state coincidental with community and which allowed the state to be seen as the indispensable condition of value expressed no permanent truth. In a period when this coincidence no longer obtains, when the interests that comprise community transcend the state and, in consequence, can no longer be guaranteed by it, what was once an indispensable condition of value is readily transformed into the principal impediment to value.

There is no difficulty, then, in answering the question of why those who share the new political sensibility assume that the case for a global distributive justice is apparent. They do so because they consider such interdependence as exists in today's world as constitutive not only of order but of justice as well. And if one—indeed, the—essential ingredient of that justice is a greater measure of equality, it is presumably because an interdependence that cannot be avoided save at prohibitive cost also cannot be expected to function without substantial reduction in present disparities of global income and wealth. It is the commonalty of fate imposed by a growing interdependence that creates the need for, while making possible, a greater measure of individual equality.


One may question the essential premise of this argument as well as its reading of the contemporary scene. There is no need to accept the view that it is the community which makes possible the state. Quite the reverse may be argued and with considerably greater plausibility. It is the state that, more often than not, has created the degree of interdependence identified with community. Surely it requires a curious reading of the experience of the new states to find in their brief history a vindication of the premise that it is only the preexistence of community which makes possible the state. So, too, it requires a curious reading of the international scene to find in a growing interdependence the certain harbinger of the state's decline. Even if we accept the prospect of a world that is increasingly interdependent, the implications of such interdependence as we may reasonably expect hold out as much a threat as they do a promise (at least, this is so if we do not accept the sanguine view that interdependence is itself constitutive of order). Is it reasonable to expect that governments and publics will embrace the promise while refusing to resist the threat? If not, one may find in interdependence precisely a reason for governments eventually intent on increasing the powers of the state.

In a way, the new political sensibility also acknowledges the possibility, and even the desirability, of a world in which states, far from declining, will instead grow in the powers they yield. This is the expectation, at least, with respect to the underdeveloped countries, for the herculean task of development is not viewed as one that can be readily undertaken by weak governments. But the prospect of strong governments in the new states presents problems. Will these countries be receptive to transfers of resources from the rich states which are intended to reduce individual income distribution not only as between rich and poor countries but within the poor countries as well? We do not seriously raise here the condition that such transfers be also designed to promote the growth of fundamental personal freedoms, for the new political sensibility shows little apparent interest in this. It is the persistence of material disparities which commands primary attention rather than the persisting denial of personal freedoms, and this despite the fact that the latter may surely be included in the proposition of a shared humanity.

Clearly, the new political sensibility is oriented toward equality, not liberty, at any rate in the sense that if a choice must be made between liberty and the reduction of material inequality, it will be made in favor of the latter. This preference should be recognized for what it is and not obscured by the specious arguments which attempt to show that, after all, in the circumstances of most underdeveloped states the choice itself is meaningless (or an illusion), or that personal freedoms will be the consequence of an improved standard of living (which may or may not be the case), or that personal freedoms can only be guaranteed by measures of intervention in the domestic affairs of states (which may be true, but if so is equally applicable to attempts to insure internal equity of income distribution). While the preference for equality in the case of the poor countries is not compelling, it is surely a plausible and, in many cases, even a persuasive position. But nothing is gained by the political claptrap that regularly attends this preference.

Still, how does one insure the proper conditions for the realization of greater internal equality? Although the equality that the new political sensibility places so high a premium on is equality of individuals, this equality must still be achieved through the medium of states. Accepting the view that international redistribution must be determined above all by the criterion of need—that it is the needy rather than the efficient or the good who have prior claim to the resources of the developed states—the problem remains of insuring that the needy will be served. On this critical issue, what otherwise appears as an impressive consensus begins to fall apart. To some there is no way of insuring internal equity without setting political conditions for the recipient government which will almost surely prove unacceptable for the reason these conditions touch the nerve root of its domestic order. In doing so, they must also strike at the equality of state doctrine. There is thus a potential, and in practice a growing, conflict between the goal of individual equality, sought by Western elites, and the goal of collective equality, prized above all by the elites of the new states. A McNamara draws the conclusion from this conflict that the developed states, and of course international agencies, are limited to mere exhortation. A Myrdal draws the conclusion that governments which refuse to address themselves to correcting internal inequities should be denied outside assistance, no matter how needy their populations. Myrdal's position is one of aid with political conditions, and stringent political conditions at that, though they are aimed at obtaining greater internal equality not liberty. Even so, there is no more than a marginal prospect that such transfers of resources as we are likely to see in the near future will be attended by more than exhortation to the developing states. Whatever the pretensions of the new political sensibility, the rights of the “needy” will, in practice, remain first and foremost the rights of states and not of individuals.



There is no need to provide more than the barest summary of the contrasting outlooks examined in these pages. The point has been made time and again that in dealing with the new egalitarianism we remain in a familiar world. The claims put forth by the elites of the new states leave little room for doubt or speculation; they are as old as the state system. When stripped of their rhetorical trappings, they call for a redistribution of wealth and power, a redistribution that is to be sought through the state and for purposes determined by the state. It is an old game, placed in a new and vastly expanded setting and carried on by partly different means, but an old game nonetheless. With the new political sensibility, however, we find ourselves in a world, the nature of which we can but only partially discern. For the game we are asked to play here does appear new, whether it is seen from the vantage point of the players themselves or in terms of the interests for which the game is presumably to be played.

It is the very familiarity of the new egalitarianism that enables the observer to project its future with a reasonable degree of assurance. Unless one indulges the assumption that the new states indeed represent something new, their future behavior will not be determined indefinitely by their common past. For some time yet, this past may be expected to preserve a measure of solidarity. But such solidarity may not be expected to persist in the face of growing disparities of wealth and power among the new states and the attending differences in interest these disparities bring. Even today, the degree of solidarity of the new states vis-à-vis the developed states is not, after all, a matter of higher principle divorced from ordinary considerations of interest. Although the result of a shared experience, its continuing strength is evidently dependent upon perceived interest. This is now apparent in the actions of the OPEC states as well as in the reactions of those among the poor states who have suffered in consequence of the measures taken by the oil cartel. What has so far held the two groups together is the fear of the cartel that its position will be weakened by the open defection of the poor states and the hope of the poor that they will somehow benefit, whether directly or indirectly, from the example set by the oil producers. Even so, the erosion of what has been from the outset a rather shaky common front may be seen today in the reception black Africans are giving to the Arab effort to represent OPEC as a sacred cause of the Third World.

It is another matter entirely to speculate on the future of the new political sensibility. Will the new outlook continue to be held by those who presently subscribe to it and, if so, will its influence gradually spread to governments and publics? To attempt an answer even to the first question seems very difficult, if only for the reason that we are dealing with a view that is held with varying intensity and with varying motivation. The common root of the new sensibility in all its manifestations is of course the proposition of interdependence. But interdependence may still be seen to convey quite different lessons. To some, it conveys the lesson that though the methods of the old politics must be changed, the interests of the old politics remain essentially unchanged. In this sense, the politics of interdependence is a new way of having one's way and the new political sensibility is an ingenious—or artfully disingenuous—rationalization for what remains an imperial policy that makes such concessions as appear necessary to placate and, hopefully, to co-opt the disaffected.

If this is not an unfair characterization of some who subscribe to the new political sensibility, such subscription may still prove significant. It is easy enough to say that should the price entailed by the politics of interdependence become too great, it may always be abandoned along with the new outlook which serves as its ideological handmaiden. At the same time, there may be a substantial price to pay in abandoning methods to which one has become increasingly committed in act as well as in word. Those who have assumed that they could always “manage” interdependence in such a way as to serve their particular interests might find that in large measure they have instead become the managed. It would not be the first time this has happened. At any rate, even if harshly put down for some as hypocrisy, the new political sensibility may yet prove significant when we recall that on more than one occasion hypocrisy has been the advance wave of a new truth.15

In the case of others, there seems no reason to doubt the sincerity of their commitment to the new political sensibility and, in consequence, the substantial sacrifice they would be willing to make in keeping with that commitment. But is it reasonable to foresee that commitment spreading to governments and to publics? John P. Lewis finds it reasonable and occurring through the mechanism of “subversion in high places.” “Among nation-state decision-makers,” he writes, “loyalties to parochial national interests will be progressively loosened and displaced by furtive, disguised, apologetically held but increasingly insistent loyalties to planetary interests. Actually, such subversion already is rather well advanced. . . .”16

In fact, there is very little evidence to support this projection. The transformation the new political sensibility momentarily expects shows few signs of materializing. There are solid indications that we are moving, however tortuously, toward the time when governments and publics will view acts of humanitarian assistance—not to be confused with provision of minimal or adequate subsistence—as a duty rather than a matter of grace to be taken or not at one's discretion. As measured against the past behavior of collectives, this represents a marked change. And it is through such changes that men progress. Yet it is a far cry either from the collective responsibility called for by the new political sensibility or from the claims set forth by the new egalitarianism.



1 Gunnar Myrdal, “The World Poverty Problem,” Britannica Book of the Year 1972, p. 22.

2 Zbigniew Brzezinski finds that “equality is becoming the most powerful moral imperative of our time, thus paralleling the appeal of the concept of liberty during the 19th century.” So, too, he finds that “the problem of the less developed nations is the moral problem of our time.” “U.S. Foreign Policy: The Search for Focus,” Foreign Affairs, July 1973, pp. 717, 726.

3 “The developed nations . . . must do more to promote a least minimal equity in the distribution of wealth among nations.” Robert S. McNamara, Address to the Board of Governors, the World Bank, September 25, 1972.

4 The opening words of the above sentence are a paraphrase of the often-quoted sentence that appeared in the report of the Pearson Commission: “The simplest answer to the question [why the rich should concern themselves with the plight of the poor] is the moral one: that it is only right for those who have to share with those who have not.” Partners in Development: Report of the Com mission on International Development, 1969, p. 8. A stimulating review and analysis of this and similar expressions is found in Theodore A. Sumberg, Foreign Aid as Moral Obligation, The Washington Papers I, 1973.

5 B.V.A. Röling, International Law in an Expanded World, 1960, p. 56. Thus Röling sees international law proceeding from the law of freedom to the law of protection to the law of welfare (and beyond this, to the law of social and economic planning).

6 Röling, op. cit. In 1971 Barbara Ward expressed confidence that the rich countries, “having accepted the principle of ‘the general welfare’ at home, . . . were ready to apply it to the whole family of man.” The Widening Gap, 1971, p. 13. A 1972 Brookings Institution reassessment of international economic relations declared: “The same motivation that leads the more advanced regions within a country to alleviate poverty in the less advanced may well be extended to the far deeper disparities that exist among different regions of the world.” A Tripartite Report by Thirteen Experts, 1972, p. 4.

7 Ernest Gellner, “Scale and Nation,” in Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 3, 1973, pp. 15-16.

8 This claim has found a responsive echo in the West. Geoffrey Barraclough writes that “the virtually continuous economic growth among the industrial nations of the West since the early 1950's was subsidized, and probably made possible, by the oil-producing countries.” “The Great World Depression I,” New York Review of Books, January 23, 1975, p. 22. Barraclough cites approvingly the Shah's remarks as well as the much quoted comment of Giscard d'Estaing that in the oil crisis we are witnessing “the revenge on Europe for the 19th century” (and, apparently, the mid-20th century as well). In a more recent essay, “Wealth and Power: The Politics of Oil and Food” (ibid., August 7, 1975, p. 30), Barraclough ostensibly dismisses the reparations argument by declaring that: “It is not so much wrong as irrelevant. The West has as much right—no more and no less—to defend the existing system as the Third World has to attack it and pull it down. The question is, of course, at what cost.” In fact, however, the entire thrust of Barraclough's article belies this stance of grand detachment, since his identification with the Third World and its claims is only too apparent throughout.

9 Barrington Moore, Reflections on the Causes of Human Misery, 1972, pp. 53-54.

10 J. R. Lucas is no doubt right in saying, in reference to the developed societies of the West, that “the argument of the rising minimum . . . is by far the most pervasive argument in political thought today.” “Against Equality,” Philosophy, 40, 1965, p. 302. What is true of political thought is equally true for the practice of politics today in most Western states.

11 John P. Lewis, “Oil, Other Scarcities, and the Poor Countries,” World Politics, October 1974, p. 83.

12 Kenneth Boulding in Lester Brown, World Without Borders, 1972, preface. Boulding adds, “This is pretty small, really, but it is apparently enough to create the United States.”

13 John P. Lewis, op cit.

14 A number of critics have emphasized this omission in John Rawls's A Theory of Justice, 1971.

15 Geoffrey Barraclough in “Wealth and Power” is singularly obtuse on this point. While sensitive to the special interests interdependence is often invoked to serve, he refuses to see that the new political sensibility serves any interests other than those of a Henry Kissinger or a George Ball. Barraclough's analysis is a striking example of a sophistication that can become profoundly naive in its disregard of intellectual currents and political moods.

16 John P. Lewis, op. cit.


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