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New Left Review 63, May-June 2010


stefan jonsson

THE IDEOLOGY OF UNIVERSALISM

Universalism today is not just an ethical aspiration. Nor is it simply a religious conviction or an epistemological principle; it is, rather, the dominant ideology of our time. It has become an explicit political aim, implemented now by voting booths, now by trading agreements, in international courts of justice or so-called humanitarian interventions, or through the distribution of laptop computers to African schools. Why is this idea now of such paramount importance? Whence the urgency to affirm or deny, to support or question, the existence of universal truths, values or rights? The idea of universalism has become an apparently self-evident signifier, yet, as we shall see, there is another notion of universality that works against this ideology.

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