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Reclaiming Public Space: Drawing Lessons from the Past as We Confront the Future

Sustainable Development Goal 16
  • Chester NewlandEmail author
  • Demetrios Argyriades
Chapter

Abstract

At the dawn of the 2018 New Year, Chief Strategist R. Sharma of Morgan Stanley Investments looked to the recent past, asking a probing question: “Why Experts get it wrong all the time?” (Sharma, “Why Experts Get It Wrong All the Time” The New York Times, December 31, 2017: SR2). After a Great Recession, which hit large swaths of the world, a likewise sharp recovery currently raises questions, with markets hitting the roof, only to self-correct days later. What makes some people wonder is the relative absence of government, at least in “Western democracies”, from such momentous changes, and the uneven distribution of both benefits and burdens resulting from developments in the economic sphere. It looks as if the governments and markets have gone their separate ways, having little effect on one another. With political activity in disarray, not only in the United States but also in Western Europe, and the political class in very low esteem, inevitably questions are raised, especially by those old enough to remember the days when “government was good”. A yawning disconnect has been allowed to grow between what people need and what governments—increasingly beholden to the socio-economic elites (far less than 10 per cent of all the people)—deliver or facilitate. The government’s retreat from people’s staple needs and from preparing the future has been matched by an escalation of military spending, as proxy wars, invasions and covert operations, all mostly in violation of international law, have multiplied. Harking back to distant days, nationalistic rhetoric is on the rise once more. It seeks to rally people around the flag, with governments “exporting discontent”, invoking foreign “enemies” largely in order to divert attention from corruption and failures at home. Endless “forgotten wars” mask a skewed priority order, as pressing claims emerging from growing pockets of poverty and from the UN-sponsored Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) clamour for greater attention.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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