The Asian Century?
19 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2011 Last revised: 11 Sep 2014
Date Written: August 4, 2011
How might an Asian Century to come differ from the American Century just past? Will an Asian Century, should it come to pass, mark a retreat for human rights, including women’s rights and gay rights? In this introduction to a UC Davis Law Review symposium, I contrast Henry Luce’s vision for an American Century with the internationalism of his near contemporary, the Indian Poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. As the United States entered World War II, Luce, publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune, asked, “What are we fighting for?” Luce’s manifesto declaring an “American Century” answered that it was the internationalization of American ideas - promulgated from Hollywood to Washington. Luce’s vision presaged American support for human rights after the war and its forceful, if inconsistent, critique of despots during the latter half of the Twentieth Century.
In the Post-War era, China and India embraced the sovereign nation-state, often proving reluctant to support intervention in the affairs of other countries, even when human rights were at stake. Tagore offered an alternative vision. Hailing from a land that long suffered at the hands of British traders and imperialists, Tagore proposed an internationalism led by neither the merchant nor the soldier. Instead, Tagore offered a world order founded on a kind of critical friendship, unflinchingly focused on human dignity for all.
Keywords: Henry Luce, Rabindranath Tagore, Asian Century, cosmopolitanism, international law, Westphalia, human rights
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