THE COLLAPSE OF THE POST-COLD-WAR OFFICIAL FUTURE.
In the United States for much of the last quarter century, the Official Future might be described this way: Domestically, the United States was destined to remain what it had always been: a two-party multicultural federalist democracy, dedicated to capitalism, technological optimism, and creating better lives for our children; likewise, internationally, the United States would remain the center of the global order as well as the world’s greatest military power, what Madeline Albright called “the indispensable nation,” dedicated to promoting economic growth, democracy, and human rights the world over.
As Schwartz pointed out, the Official Future always entails a certain degree of wishful thinking, and arguably self-delusion. When the assumptions embedded in the Official Future are named explicitly, we can readily recognize that they may not, in fact, be entirely reliable. The future, after all, is inherently uncertain, especially over the medium to long run. An unwillingness to challenge the assumptions of the Official Future can lead to strategic blindnesses. At the same time, however, the Official Future is a necessary form of delusion. It represents a kind of ideological glue that holds a collectivity together by defining a shared horizon of expectations. It makes social and political peace possible, and creates a basis for collective action.
Today in the United States, a year after Donald Trump’s improbable election, an event that the Official Future had declared was categorically impossible, the post-Cold War Official Future has collapsed. For better or worse, the aura of inevitability associated with old Official Future has evaporated.
Indeed it has.