Cultural Creatives and the Cosmopolitan Class

I labor under no illusions, however, about how likely it is that the philosophical musings of a college professor will have world-changing implications. No one pays much attention to philosophers anymore. Thomas Nagel (another philosophy professor) has written that, “philosophy, when it has an impact on the world, affects the world only indirectly, through gradual penetration, usually over generations, of questions and arguments from abstruse theoretical writings into the consciousness and habits of thought of educated persons, and from there into political and legal argument, and eventually into the structure of alternatives among which political and practical choices are actually made” (quoted in Alterman, The Nation, 2002), 10). Given the urgency and seriousness of the global threats we are now facing this is hardly good enough. Philosophical ideas need to put on a faster track and made more politically relevant. In an age of instantaneous global communication philosophers need to give careful consideration to the question of how they are communicating their messages and to the audiences they are addressing. Writing for the audience of professional philosophers may be a good way to earn tenure and the respect of one’s professional peers, but it fails as a method for getting one’s ideas into mainstream social consciousness. For this to happen, the important theses and conclusions derived from philosophical analysis and reflection need to be taken up by social movements that will disseminate them to audiences who are in a position to do something about them.

This is the reason why I have chosen to address this book to what have been called "cultural creatives", or to members of what I call the “cosmopolitan class”. Paul Ray, who coined the term, says that,

Cultural Creatives tend to reject the hedonism, materialism, and cynicism generally associated with one-sided elite globalization. They are less concerned with making a lot of money, although most live comfortably. The also tend to walk their talk, three-fourths being involved in volunteer activities. On the deepest level, they are powerfully attuned to global issues and whole systems. Their icon is a photograph of the earth as a blue pearl hanging in black space. (Ray, P.H. Cultural Creatives: How Fifty Million People are Changing the World. New York: Harmony Books, 2000)

Another interesting discussion about this group of people, has been published by Paul Hawken who describes a social movement of "global citizens" consisting of (roughly) 100 million people and 2 million civil society organizations. (Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. New York: Viking, 2007). This movement has no leader, no headquarters, and no unified agenda. However, what unites the various individuals and groups who identify with this movement is the perception that human civilization is reaching a critical inflection point in the current century, and that a major course correction will be needed if we are to avoid a global catastrophe.

While there have always been a few people who had this kind of cosmopolitan outlook, recent changes in communication and transportation technologies are creating a global civil society, and within that society there is emerging a significant class of people who are, I believe, in the best position to take up and enact the kind of ethical framework I develop in this book. This cosmopolitan class is composed of people from all nationalities and religious faiths, all racial and ethnic groups, and from many particular walks of life. It includes scientists and scholars, politicians and statesmen, business men and women, social activists and social entrepreneurs, and others who are involved in progressive social movements. Cosmopolitans tend better travelled, speak more languages, and are more conversant with international affairs than many of their compatriots. To be sure there are some professional philosophers and other academics that belong to the cosmopolitan class; but this book is not addressed only to them. Rather, the audience I have in mind for my moral philosophy are members of progressive social movements, and the leaders of socially responsible corporations, and nongovernmental organizations, who can give these philosophical ideas and theories the legs they will need in order to inspire the mass movement of cultural creatives, the members of the cosmopolitan class who are changing the world.

I hope that the audience of culturally creative cosmopolitans to whom this book is addressed will not find it odd to be counseled by a professional philosopher about an ethical theory for thinking about the global threats of the twenty-first century. There is in fact a great deal of recent philosophy that is highly relevant to addressing and solving these big problems of the world, but little of it manages to get outside of the ambit of peer-reviewed specialty journals and academic books. In the current age of mass media, pundits and spin-doctors get a lot more air time than philosophers, whose voices barely manage into penetrate public discourse. My hope is that by publishing this book as an Internet blog its fate will be different, and that it will serve as a means of making the insights of moral and political philosophers available to a wider audience of committed social activists who can translate the ethical ideas discussed here into practical solutions to the global problems of the twenty-first century.

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