Identity Crisis: Power and Freedom in the 21st Century

Identity Crisis: Power and Freedom in the 21st Century

. 2 min read

In the Fall 2020 Issue

The social contract ranks among the greatest political innovations in human history. Regular people depend on governments for a lot of things: welfare, security, infrastructure, justice, healthcare, financial stability. And in exchange, we agree to honor laws, pay taxes, and profess allegiance to the state. The social contract allows millions of people to live happy, healthy, peaceful lives when it works as it should.

Sometimes, though, the social contract doesn’t work. Sometimes, those we appoint as guardians abuse our trust. Sometimes, innocent people pay with their lives. George Floyd is the most obvious victim of this injustice in recent memory, but security forces around the world have deprived minority groups of fundamental freedoms for as long as security forces have existed.

It would be easy enough if the story ended there; abolition would be the only logical solution. But security forces also tend to make their communities safer in the aggregate, introducing a difficult tension. Is it possible to guarantee security and freedom simultaneously? And can we translate the language of peaceful protest into meaningful political reform? These are not issues in the abstract. Will Schrepferman describes how international law in its current form fails the victims of emerging surveillance technologies. Indu Pandey draws parallels between the militarization of Brazilian and US police forces. Samar Ahmad details the dismal conditions millions of prisoners around the world face as victims of forced labor. No matter where you look, there’s work to be done.

Besides the cover topic, this issue features diverse coverage of our unique moment. Natalka Bowley reconsiders the stimulus plans of the United States and European Union in the wake of COVID-19. Salomé Garnier analyzes how young people are changing the ethnic politics of Kenya. And jazz musician Daryl Davis reveals his side gig: persuading over 200 members of the Ku Klux Klan to leave the organization for good.

After being arrested in Birmingham in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “I am here because injustice is here.” Nearly 60 years later, injustice is still here—and so are we. This issue is our last as editors-in-chief of the International Review, but we know this magazine will maintain the same commitment to truth and integrity that has guided our staff for four decades. That is our promise, that is our privilege, and particularly in times like these, that is our duty.

Until next time,

Garrett Walker and Haig Cholakian