Not without reason do China critics tend to observe a rival across the Pacific strong everywhere the US is weak, especially under the sway of coronavirus. For most on the Right, the focus of such criticism centers around ideology: if only the Chinese weren’t communist, we wouldn’t find ourselves in this mess. Some anti-communists take a more globalist bent (“true capitalistic democratization hasn’t been tried”), others a more nationalist one (“America must once again defeat an evil empire”).
“I will not live in the pod.” This commonplace rallying cry among younger Right-aligned people on social media is approaching the status of a credal opening statement.
Just a few years ago, it was possible for nationalist Americans to warn foreign enemies like North Korea that the US was a “hyperpower.” A few decades ago, however, the label was a term of abuse: French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine used it to describe an America that had gone beyond even the bounds of superpower, to become “a country that is dominant or predominant in all categories.” In fact it was the globalized power of the Clinton-era US, according to Vedrine (and many others at the time), that had become “abusive.” The only antidote, he ventured, was “steady and persevering work in favor of real multilateralism against unilateralism, for balanced multipolarism against unipolarism, for cultural diversity against uniformity. None of that will happen automatically and our influence in the world isn’t going to grow all by itself. A strategy, a tactic, a method, are necessary. It’s possible.”
Faced over the past few years with a deepening sense of dread around the increasing irrelevance of academic political theory, I shifted much of my perspective on the accelerating unraveling of the modern order to media theory–specifically, media theory rooted in the work of Marshall McLuhan and his son Eric. While political theory as an endeavor is far from dead, the profound disconnect between the conceptual frameworks dominating the discipline and the reshaping of our inner and outer realities by digital technology has made it difficult to push the political debate around “tech” today in the direction the McLuhans draw us.
Matt poses some important questions below about how conservatives must defend anti-corruption statecraft against (tellingly) American libertarians and Chinese communists. I think it is right to suggest that the founders and their generation generally shared a robust sensibility that opposing, combating, and defeating corruption was properly political activity at the regime level.
No particular worldview or ideology is necessary to see the reality of our political situation today. Due to the reshaping of our psychological and social environment by digital technology–a process laid bare by the unfolding coronavirus pandemic–our “map” of America is now out of date.