Who wants to conquer the world?
October 24, 2010 9:14 AM   Subscribe

What modern political theorists/essayists write very explicitly about the end-result they'd like to see in the world, rather than focusing on piecemeal reforms?

I've been reading a lot of political philosophers/commentators lately who, I realize, have one thing in common: they're all arguing for a very specific end vision of what they'd like society to look like. Some examples of this:

* Gary Francione, who writes about achieving an eventual worldwide abolition of all animal exploitation, specifically by spreading veganism as a global moral baseline, and eventually achieving legal 'personhood' for sentient beings;
* Derrick Jensen, who basically wants an end, or an extreme dialing-back, of industrial civilization; and
* Ted Rall, whose latest book (as I understand it, haven't picked it up yet) argues for a full-on revolution.

I'm looking for more writers who argue full-throatedly for the world, or a single nation, to work in a very specific way, as opposed to arguing for reforms that'd still require further reforms to get us closer to an ideal scenario.

While the examples are all in some sense left-affiliated concerns, this need not be the case - if you know a neoconservative writer who very concretely outlined the ideal neoconservative state or global power balance, then please have at it. But something that outlines principles (like, say, Russell Kirk) isn't so much what I'm looking for here - and while most Burkean conservatives will by definition be against remaking the world into a certain mold, there are certainly traditional conservatives who have not been so constrained.

In short, I'm just really fascinated by theorists and advocates going all out to say, unabashedly, this is the world I'm looking to create, as opposed to "This is how I think we could make a current set-up marginally better." (Not because I agree necessarily, but I want to know the arguments.)

Also, I'm quite aware this list is very white-dude-ish - any non-white-dude suggestions would be especially helpful.

(The question is anonymous for professional reasons, as I would be concerned about having my interest in this out there.)
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I am a complete fangirl of Amartya Sen, and his The Idea of Justice, though not a Theory of Everything, presents a pretty broad vision for human interaction.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:49 AM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, a Brazilian-American political theorist who teaches at Harvard Law School. He argues in most detail in his three volume work, Politics (The three volumes are: Social Theory: Its Situation and Its Task; False Necessity: Anti-Necessitarian Social Theory in the Service of Radical Democracy; and Plasticity Into Power: Comparative Historical Studies in the Institutional Conditions of Economic and Military Success). It is powerful, dense, carefully argued, with a very detailed description of his proposed institutions.
posted by jayder at 9:53 AM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's an ongoing tradition of socialist, Marxist, and post-Marxist writing that would fit the bill (though admittedly it's sometimes hard to get the specifics you're asking for about what exactly happens after the revolution). There's so much I hardly know where to start providing links; I tend to prefer writing from the eco-socialist perspective, for instance John Bellamy Foster, who calls for socialism as an ecologically sustainable alternative to capitalism. You might also be interested in Enrique Dussel's Twenty Theses on Politics as another possible entry point, this one coming out of Latin America.
posted by gerryblog at 10:16 AM on October 24, 2010

Adolph Hitler - Mein Kampf. tl;dr? Try the 25 point program of the Nazi Party. Not saying you or I are Nazis, am saying it fits the book type you are after.

The Black Panthers were pretty explicit about their end-goals. Not saying you or I are black, am saying it fits the text type you are after.

SCUM Manifesto. Not saying you or I are lesbian separatists, am saying it fits the book type you are after.

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged. Not saying you or I are objectivists, am saying it fits the book type you are after.

The Republic by Plato. Not saying you or I are philosopher kings, am saying it fits the book type you are after.

Considering Suicide by Andy Nowicki. Not saying you or I are anti-natalists, am saying it fits the book type you are after.

Most world planners never get a chance to see their plan tried out. Most who try, fail entirely. Those who succeed to some degree always amend their plan based on necessity and opportunity. Since it is known that changes to the plan must occur, such changes matter as much or more than the end goals. Killing all killers ends murder, but the problems with that are obvious. The piecemeal reform of not killing while I pursue an end to murder is preferable. The end-goal authors are good to read for improving my piecemeal reform, and because I sometimes enjoy pretending I have All The Answers, but they lead to violence and tyranny when carried out more often than they lead to peace and prosperity.
posted by eccnineten at 10:26 AM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Michael Albert writes a lot about his vision of the world under an alternative economic system (participatory economics).
posted by Rykey at 1:37 PM on October 24, 2010

Not to open this can of worms again, but we Transhumanists are pretty explicit about what our utopia looks like. Of course, Transhumanists have widely-varying political views, from free-market libertarianism (which seems to be the stereotype, though I've never personally met one of this type) all the way to social democracy (see techno-progressivism), viridianism, and even communism, and obviously each of these kinds of people seeks a techno-utopia with a different flavor. I don't have any specific people I would like to recommend, but there are a ton mentioned in that first link.

On the other side, Ted Kaczynski has an extreme anarcho-primitivist vision, which he actually tried to bring into being through violence. (Most other anarcho-primitivists are kind, nonviolent people and are not similar to him in any way, and I don't mean to imply otherwise. I'm just mentioning him because he is such a strange and notable individual and fits the criteria of someone with a specific vision.)
posted by Xezlec at 1:56 PM on October 24, 2010

Perhaps a challenge to the question: "Shouldn't you be asking, is there a fair/right way to decide what that 'end result' should look like? I.e., what are the ideal rules/principles for that future society?"

This is a simplified version of what John Rawls addresses in "A Theory of Justice" (and "Political Liberalism" with more specifics):

If we knew just about everything from the hard and soft sciences, but didn't know where we would end up in society, "what principles of justice would we agree to if we desired to cooperate with others, but would also prefer more of the benefits, and less of the burdens, associated with cooperation?"

He suggests that we would want rules to ensure that the least well off had their lot improved before or to a higher degree than that of the better off. Thus, such rules are principled beyond strict greed (Objectivism would be an example though Nozik is a better representation) or the inhumane results of strict utilitarianism (see Mills as an example, Nozik for a critique)

For more, see Stanford's page on the "Original Position" / "Veil of Ignorance".
posted by unclezeb at 9:20 AM on October 25, 2010

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