The United States in Opposition

"The United States in Opposition," Commentary, March 1975.

Excerpt: “We are far from living in a single world community,” writes Edward Shils, “but the rudiments of a world society do exist.” Among those rudiments, perhaps the most conspicuous, if least remarked, are the emerging views as to what kind of society it is. A measure of self-awareness has appeared, much as it did for smaller polities in earlier times. These assessments tend at the international level to be as diverse as those commonly encountered concerning national societies, or local ones. Some will think the society is good and getting better; others will see it as bad and getting worse. Some want change; some fear it. Where one sees justice, another sees wrong.

The notion of a world society is nothing new to Americans. It dominated the rhetoric of World War II, of the founding of the United Nations, of much of the cold war. It is now a received idea, and its impress may be measured by the success with which advocates have found audiences for issues defined in international terms: the world environmental problem; the world population problem; the world food problem. Not a generation ago, these were national issues at most.