Dr. Roberto Unger was born and educated in Brazil and is the Roscoe Pound Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Professor Unger’s work is directed to the reshaping of present institutions as well as to a re-orientation of our experience and a re-interpretation of our ideals. This transformative intention, animated by a committed interest in unrealized human opportunity, unifies his writing.

This morning – Saturday – the CIGI’ 09 attendees were ‘blown away’ by a tour de force from Professor Unger on his vision of the world – both as it is and as he’d like it to be.

To summarize Unger on the current crisis – actually impossible to do – the world today is led by policy makers and officials that fail to address the true needs of world.  There is no debate in the face of the global financial crisis.  What is needed is active vibrant ‘experimentalism’ – revolutionary innovation – a world dependent on ideas.

One must struggle slightly in listening to Unger with what amounts to a private language; but it is worth the effort to try and grasp both Unger’s analysis of the current crisis and the necessary transformation of global society. 

Unger is quite clear.  Progressives have failed to take the crisis as an opportunity.  The crisis could have provided the means to overthrow current policy directions but this opportunity largely has been squandered.  Progressives have been unable to restructure the current international order; and progressives have failed to initiate strong national projects.

Unger insists that there have been only two types on the left in this non debate – ‘the recalcitrant left’ who seek to slow down globalization to defend those interests that hold advantages that markets and society have provided; and the ‘surrendered left’ – progressives that have accepted globalization as it has been imposed from above but are unwilling to humanize markets and society.

Unger demands a ‘reconstructive left.’  This reconstructive left, he insists, must reorganize market activity and restructure globalization and create greater inclusiveness. The agenda for Unger is to:  (i) overcome structural inequalities and those living off borrowed money; (ii) reshape the relationship of finance to production; and (iii) devise policy that links recovery and redistribution.  The Order established by the great powers after World War II has sought to create greater and greater uniformity that humanity, according to Unger, rejects.

Unger is waiting for a debate – the debate – built on ideas that will bring liberation – liberation from uniformity and convergence – a maximum of openness and a minimum of restraint and institutionalism.   

Unger’s worldview is not a feeble one.  It looks to national mobilization – not for war but for devising social inclusiveness and growth – what Unger calls originality in the forms of life. The national mobilization will seek to democratize the national economy and promote service to society; it will bring a revolution in education – true honest experimentalist education; and it will deepen democracy by raising popular mobilization.

What he wants is true national experimentalism – making a world increasingly different but more humanized. 

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.