Today's date:
Winter 1996

Absolutist vs. Pluralist Legitimacy: The New Cold War

Nicholas N. Kittrie is University Professor and Edwin Mooers Scholar at American University Law School. An adviser to the United Nations as well as various African and Asian countries, Professor Kittrie is author of The War Against Authority: From the Crisis of Legitimacy to a New Social Contract (Johns Hopkins, 1995), from which this extract is adapted.

Woe to him that claims obedience when it is not due;
Woe to him that refuses it when it is. - Thomas Carlyle

Washington - It is more and more evident that the much-heralded end of the Cold War, the reduction of superpower rivalry and the proclamation of democracy's "total victory" have provided no respite to the old conflicts between the "they" and "we ," between majorities and minorities, between those exercising power and those striving for greater autonomy, between those asserting the legitimacy of their authority and those challenging it. The shredding of the Iron Curtain simply yielded center stage to a new struggle in which old, as well as newly empowered, nations, peoples, tribes, castes, classes and other political or socioeconomic groups confront each other and the world around them - all competing for more power and authority and, above all, for attention.

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