The strangest thing about the transnational progressives 10 years ago, and the social media justice warriors today, is their strange client-patron relationship with business. If Fortune 500 companies stopped supporting this kind of thing, it would quickly evaporate. It would be easy to point to government pressure as the critical factor here, but I think there is something else.
The one thing the tranzies couldn't, and the SMJW can't, actually do is bring a corporation to its knees. If they tried, a nasty self-defense reaction would set in, and then nobody would be happy. Sure, you get a sacrificial goat from time to time, like Brendan Eich, but it is never anyone really important in the business world, and never all that many. Do you really think the executive class of America is gung-ho for the progressive cause of the week? There is a kind of perverse sense in this, because all of this really does provide an important social safety valve/smokescreen that allows for business as usual. It is just a cost of doing business.
The American left's progressive movement is broader based than the transnational progressives, but it lacks truly popular support. As such, it has power, but isn't really a threat to the status quo. What is a threat? To judge by the behavior of the wealthy and powerful, it is this:
It is fine if you hound someone from their job for their political opinions, but God forbid the hoi polloi express their dissatisfaction in the polling booth.
Once upon a time, everyone knew that the great and small states of "Germany" needed to be hooked up. For about two generations in the 19th century, between the end of the Holy Roman Empire and the beginning of Bismarck's, liberal democrats tried to do this through consensus, negotiation, and subversion. It didn't work; the problem of order was finally solved by force and acquiescence
The global system seems to be taking a similar trajectory. This is the real significance of events like the World Summit for Sustainable Development, which ended this week. Media commentators are full of praise for the practical approach taken by the conferees, especially as represented in the Final Statement. In fact, what seems to have happened is that the international environmental and social-welfare activists have entered into the sort of patron-client relationship with industry that characterizes much of the domestic politics of the West these days, particularly in Europe. This means that the activists will rarely be seen trying to close down whole industries. It also means that they will receive subsidies that will make them immortal.
In some ways, this is a step forward; the totalitarian tone that characterized the Rio Summit of 1992 has been mitigated. The pure looter element was still present, of course. Claims were made at the Summit that hunger, particularly in southern Africa, is caused by the liberal economic order. However, the claims were made in part by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, whose country is the most perfect example in the world today of hunger caused by aggresively bad government.
The people who attend meetings like the Summit represent international civil society, a small population that exists largely but not exclusively in the developed West. It consists of foreign policy bureaucrats, academics, businessmen, and the representatives of not-for-profit organizations. Writing in American Diplomacy, John Fonte has described the characteristic ideology of these people as "transnational progressivism." We may note that such people are sometimes derisively called "tranzies," but I will forbear to use the term. For now.
Transnational progressivism is post-democratic. It seeks to implement a new, global environmental and cultural regime, whether majorities can ever be found to support the agenda or not. Indeed, it seeks out international forums precisely because the agenda experiences relatively little success in domestic politics. It is therefore naturally anti-national. It supports group rights and opposes the assimilation of immigrants. It interprets "fairness" to mean the distribution of social goods in proportion to the size of recognized social groups, most of which are defined as victim groups. It goes without saying that it is anti-American. For its American adherents, it is a post-American identity.
Fonte goes on to suggest that transnational progressivism could eventually defeat liberal democracy, whatever Francis Fukuyama says. It is, after all, "modern" too, and maybe modernity still has some evolving to do.
I think perhaps this does transnational progressivism too much honor. It is, after all, a loser ideology. As we have seen, the "transnational" element comes in only because the progressive agenda has been largely rejected by democratic electorates, and indeed by most non-democratic regimes, too. What we are dealing with here is a corrupt fragment of liberal democracy, the worldview of reactionary social-welfare bureaucracies and environmental jihadists. Though it is a persistent feature of domestic politics, its role can never be more than parasitic. It is capable of impairing necessary governmental functions, such as law enforcement and education, but experience has shown that it is not impossible to reduce its influence.
Transnational progressivism has fastened onto the nascent institutions of the international system and is draining them of life. The primary practical interest of its adherents has always been patronage, which might not in itself be unmanageable. The problem is that it has hijacked the concept of international law, by reinterpreting it as the hortatory measures enunciated by unelected and irresponsible global conferences. When these exhortations are embodied in multilateral treaties, that simply undermines the seriousness which has traditionally been accorded to treaties.
We are entering a period in which most necessary measures for the maintenance of world order will be made "lawlessly," because the institutions that might make the necessary law are in the hands of a tranzie rabble. There: tranzie; I said it and I'm glad.