These essays engage principle that no necessary gap exists between the professional identity of critics, their moral beliefs, and their subjective commitments. Criticism involves engaging the world light of one’s values. Such criticism transcends academic provincialism to engage the world-as-lived by the people who occupy it. Given the on-going struggle for social justice -- the continuing gravity and ugliness of the United States' military and quasi-military activities abroad, and the increasingly successful effort among conservatives and the religious right to suppress dissent in the United States and to reify inequality, I consider it politically and morally necessary to reject quietism and the alienation that leads to political ineffectiveness.
Here, I engage the twin phenomena of cruelty and greed and the moral myopia that often follows. Rather than accept these undesirable traits as ''givens'' with which our society, or any society, has to ''put up with'' as part of human nature, these essays challenge us to see them instead as choices that we make about how to structure our society and our lives. Specifically, I engage the New Patriotism that has risen in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States. Any society is only as good as the practices of its citizens. Patriotism, I argue, is a problem because it obscures this fundamental moral sentiment. Patriotism makes it difficult for our society to understand who we are in practice and what we represent as a nation, making it difficult for us to live up to our own stated values of justice, tolerance, and freedom.
While I do not know what the future will look like, our best chance of a satisfactory one will be one that’s internationalist, philosophical, and secular, one dependent upon the cultivation of a species-wide identification grounded in a profound sense of human solidarity.