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This week's editor


Phoebe Braithwaite is openDemocracy’s submissions editor.

A day to define a century

The attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 raise profound questions of American power, human rights, and international law. How Washington responds will define the world's next decade and beyond, says Timothy Garton Ash.

All is changed

On day two of the post-disaster era, the lines of opinion are being drawn up across America. It’s impossible to say which way the mood will swing. But, says Steven Lukes, it is certain that the American way of life is now forever changed.

Justice and democracy will prevail

We’re all interconnected now, and this tragedy will harm even those the terrorists profess to represent. But democracy is resilient: nations, peoples and networks must speak out and insist on their basic rights and freedoms.

The Nauru Solution

The attempt of Afghan asylum-seekers to reach Australia on a Norwegian ship graphically illustrated the global nature of the issues of asylum, refuge, and immigration. How has the latest crisis impacted on the politics and consciousness of the quintessential immigrant nation?

Is this our fate?

openDemocracy’s North America editor witnessed the events in New York. This is his first response.

Public legitimacy: ICANN at the crossroads

The debate about governing the internet is intensifying. Does the new medium need new forms of representation, or simply an application of “real world” norms? If the former, how can the public interest be best secured? The net’s governing body, ICANN, is meeting this weekend to thrash out the issues. A representative of the Markle Foundation sets out the principles he, and other independent experts, believe should guide it.

Think tanks in the global marketplace of ideas

Think tanks can survive the pressures of competition, and maximise their resources of independence and flexibility, argues the director of the Italian organisation Vision. But they must adapt to a change of scale, and start thinking globally – without maps.

Crafting the mental goods

The fragmenting of traditional politics is making the life of think tanks more difficult. Their potential recruits are seduced by the glamour of power, their funders prefer topicality to thoughtfulness, their university rivals are raising their game. In a political culture transfixed by “delivery”, an experienced grant-maker asks: where will the independent ideas of the future come from?

The era of the local

Sue Goss’s recent book “Making Local Governance Work” explores the changing experience of local centres of power in Britain under the impact of political reform and cultural change. Geoff Mulgan of the Performance and Innovation Unit in the Cabinet Office (writing here in a personal capacity), welcomes the space of debate she has opened up, but warns that the forces of local revival must still negotiate some traditional obstacles.

Three pinches of salt

Bjorn Lomborg’s “The Sceptical Environmentalist” is guilty of the very faults he ascribes to the green movement: from exaggeration to selective quotation and uncertain logic. In taking pot shots at a caricature, he discredits his own case. Environmentalists have nothing to fear from serious criticism. This is not it.

Turn on, tune in - pay up?

Democracy needs probing and accessible broadcasting news sources which commercial stations are unlikely to provide. David Elstein’s strong case for marketplace virtue remains at the level of potential. But, concludes the media co-editor, the shadow of audience tune-out threatens us all.

The past after the future

As grand visions of national and social freedom have collapsed, the losers of history compete to seek recompense for past injustice. This tidal wave of “memory” and “reparation” is also a turning away from the hope of progress. Can our engagement with the past be connected to the imagining of a better future?

Listen and lead - the challenge from the women of Worcester

The diverse, refreshing voices of Worcester women share a fundamental disillusion with mainstream politics. Yet the project to market politics like a consumer brand can only reinforce this trend, says a scholar and former New Labour policy advisor. Instead, we need empowerment of citizens, communication and better leadership if the bonds of trust are to be restored.

Coming or going? NGOs in the new political landscape

The influence of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - on governments, corporations, and public opinion - has not been matched by a clear understanding of their own role in the global order. What is their relationship to power? Are they agents of positive change, or merely of protest?

Phoolan Devi: from travesty to tragedy

She was shabby, spoke Hindi roughly, and came from a lower caste. The violence of revenge, and media voraciousness, made her notorious. Yet she never lost herself, nor her confident disdain for her adversaries. Two Indian observers pay their respects.

Bollywood: beyond the boundary

Lagaan is a vibrant Bollywood film with the classic masala mix of love, pathos, and heroic deeds. But equally important, Aamir Khan’s epic may pioneer an exciting future for Indian cinema

'Everyone is Creative': artists as new economy pioneers?

The flexible, multi-task lives of creative people in the modern city are celebrated by media and political cheerleaders as evidence of the liberating potential of the new cultural economy. But they are also part of a remorseless polarisation which glamourises its young meteors, and disciplines the rest. Can a generation of post-individualists find freedom in equity?

Another way of doing world business?

International businesses operating in Europe are seeking to become more "European", argues the communications specialist whose mordant reflection on Washington appeared in openDemocracy 1. But a corporate US-style monoculture doesn’t fit a plural continent. Instead, Europe is tending toward a different business model - one that turns its diversity into a strength.

Purpose first, value second - but only if you mean it

Social purpose is indeed essential to broadcasting – something ignored in the recent “market farces” of the UK sector. But funding sources and methods are still crucial in judging performance and value when the public’s money is being spent. The emotional preference for the public over the commercial sector inhibits the rational assessment of either.

Experiencing the city anew

Roger Scruton and Sophie Jeffreys are right that a planning process which fits people’s needs must be aesthetic rather than only economic or technical. But people seek novelty as well as coherence in their urban experience. The static certainties of classicism cannot contain modern longings. We must make cities feel, and be, ‘creative’.

Money can't buy you broadcasting value

The old David Elstein understood what the new one has seemingly forgotten, that an obsession with cost leads to the worst of both worlds – inefficiency as well as an erosion of the creative spirit. It is time to rethink.

Making the space for creative dissent

The protest movements against global capitalism have mobilised the energies of a generation. But to change a system requires creative imagination as well as the power of numbers or ideas - and the sense of an alternative. The real debate is just beginning.

To want to be different is now normal

The language of ‘normality’ has defined the contest for the Tory leadership. But its coded power in Conservative politics only reveals the gap between the political culture and the society it rules.

Where have all the bookshops gone? Into coffee shops, every one

Everyone these days is calling themselves a liberal, while bookshops close in an ancient seat of learning. If you’re not confused about the logic of this, how can you understand what’s going on?

Participation is bigger than voting

In Issue 3 of openDemocracy, we published an interview with Esther Dyson on governing the Internet. She described how ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was created - and called for global parties to keep it open and accountable. Our members had the opportunity to put their questions to her in our debate section. Just back from a meeting of the At-Large Study Committee of ICANN, she responds to six of them, dealing with issues of both process and principle. She finishes by examining notions of global democracy.

Neither history nor mystery but reality

The core arguments against the way public sector broadcasting operates in the UK are restated by the media section co-editor: excessive cost, inefficiency, and (in the context of a fragmenting audience) anachronism. By the valid criterion of good value for public money, BBC and Channel 4 simply do not cut the mustard.

Chemical warfare in the bathroom

The morning shave and hair wash was once so simple. But life for a man is getting harder… especially when you examine the shampoo bottle.

The Indian media: a response to Page and Crawley

Those who have endured decades of perverse Bollywood fantasies bombarding their own besieged cultures will point to darker shades cast by India’s pretensions to world power status.

Hybrid media helps democracy breathe

Latin America has been stony ground for public broadcasting. In the era of privatisation, political timidity in the face of business has facilitated “state capture” by media moguls. But can local, democratic vitality and imaginative use of new technology add diversity to the media landscape?

Everyone comes to Café Europa

People are reassembling communities in the global public spaces between home, work, and country of origin. Researching her play about the hard road from Macedonia to London, a dramatist discovers the exile café to be not just a place of refuge, but a metaphor for the continent’s future.