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Racial tensions have been at the center of American political debate recently, but the story of racial and ethnic division is actually a global one. So for the March/April issue, we did a deep dive into racial issues in comparative and historical perspective.
Nineteenth-century intellectuals saw races as biological and political facts. Their twentieth-century successors rejected both propositions—but identities rooted in the reality or fantasy of shared ancestry remain central in politics, both within and between nations.
What accounts for the continuity of racial inequality in a postracist America? The fact that an earlier era’s racism was built into the structure of various economic, social, and political institutions, so that even their race-neutral operations today produce imbalanced outcomes.
Multicultural policies accept that societies are diverse, yet they implicitly assume that such diversity ends at the edges of minority communities. By forcing people into ethnic and cultural boxes, they help create the very divisions they were meant to manage.
In Latin America, questions about racial and ethnic differences used to be ignored or suppressed. Now they’re increasingly on the political agenda. Here’s how that changed.
Apartheid’s legacy of mistrust and prejudice has prevented South Africa from establishing a truly stable multiracial democracy. But increasing contact among the races and the emergence of a black middle class offer hope of reducing the role of race in national politics.
Across the globe, the lessons from affirmative action programs are clear: they can occasionally help in the economic sphere, produce mixed results in improving social cohesion, and are an unmitigated disaster when it comes to politics.
Shale isn’t the only energy story of interest, nor even the only potentially revolutionary one. The electricity sector is quietly undergoing its own transformation, and it is likely to yield dramatic economic and social benefits.
Solar power has been declared a winner before, only to flounder. But these days it is expanding faster than any other power source, with momentum that has become unstoppable. The potential benefits—both economic and environmental—could be profound.
When it comes to energy, new technologies can upend the status quo almost overnight, surprising everyone. And just as the shale revolution, unleashed by fracking, has largely triggered the current oil upheaval, so progress in improving batteries could roil geopolitics and business in major ways.
The U.S. electrical grid has hardly changed since the 1880s, and its reliability, effectiveness, and affordability are increasingly being brought into question. To prevent disaster, regulators must abandon outdated electrical architecture and redesign the grid.
International donors have many compelling causes to choose from, but reducing energy poverty—a plight afflicting over two billion people—should rank among the very top. The poor need energy to alleviate all their other problems, from poor health to unemployment to instability.
The U.S. intervention in Libya was a complete failure. Libya has not only failed to evolve into a democracy; it has devolved into a failed state. Violent deaths there have increased, and the country now serves as a safe haven for terrorists.
To deter Chinese expansionism, the United States must deny China the ability to control the air and sea around the “first island chain”—Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan—and offset the PLA’s efforts to destabilize the region’s military balance.
ISIS may use terrorism as a tactic, but it is not a terrorist organization. Rather, it is a pseudo-state led by a conventional army. So the counterterrorism strategies that were useful against al Qaeda won’t work in the fight against ISIS.
Ten years from now, the CIA’s primary mission will be covert action; the NSA will move away from collecting personal data; and traditional espionage—the use of spies to gather human intelligence—will become less valuable than open-source intelligence.
The civil war in Syria will soon enter its fifth year, with no end in sight. On January 20, Foreign Affairs managing editor Jonathan Tepperman met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to discuss the conflict in this exclusive interview.
Reviews & Responses
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vaunted “stability” has turned into spoliation. The methods he used to fix the corrupt, dysfunctional post-Soviet state have produced yet another corrupt, dysfunctional state—and unfortunately, there is no end to it in sight.
A recent book of essays by top economists suggests that many of the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis were ones that should have been learned long before the meltdown. The problem is that during good times, people forget.
With the existing world order under assault, Henry Kissinger still champions the traditional building blocks of the international system—sovereign states—even as he recognizes the rising influence of global markets and liberal values.