A progressive response to the new need for security: Initial guidelines on “progressive security”

We live in uncertain times. Economic shocks, technological changes, pandemics, the climate crisis and numerous conflicts contribute significantly to a feeling of general uncertainty in Western societies. This uncertainty appears to be an important factor in the consolidation of the political right in Europe – in favour of policies that focus on preserving the status quo, demarcation and outdated world views. In recent years, we have seen how the populist right in Germany in particular, but also in many other countries, uses frustration and tensions in society to exploit fake conflicts – cultural differences that are problematised by portraying individual groups as scapegoats or enemies.

For progressives, whose political mission is based on progress, optimism and belief in the power of collective endeavour, all of this presents a major challenge. Their political responses to war, the economy, social hardship and the climate crisis are based on liberal values – and they do not seek to vent frustration and insecurity through simplistic messages, stylisation and exclusion. Progressive politics also has answers to insecurity – answers that have a different focus than those of the right-wing populists and large parts of the conservative mainstream. The root cause analysis is different. It begins by recognising that the instability lies not so much in the connections between individuals, classes and nations as in the inadequacies in building these connections – or in the inadequacies in dealing with them. It focuses on the root causes of insecurity rather than just its immediate manifestations.

The three C’s: What answers do progressive policies have to the causes of insecurity?

“Cooperation”: Stronger collaboration across denominational and national borders

Of course, national governments must focus on their national interests. But at a time when the causes of insecurity – from destabilising financial flows, money laundering and the threat of terrorism to pandemics, uncontrollable technologies and the climate crisis – have a global impact, it is also in the national interest of governments to cooperate ambitiously with each other and align their efforts with inclusion and democratic values.

“Cohesion”: stronger cohesion for a more resilient economy and society

A policy of “them and us” or “them against us” contributes to the deepening of polarisation and inequalities, which in turn become a stress test for democratic institutions and social cohesion. For example, various studies have established a close connection between material inequality and the increase in violence and crime. However, cohesion also contributes to people’s subjective sense of security, which is dependent on their sense of belonging and self-worth and therefore on their social integration – a progressive project in itself.

“Capacity building”: the ability to collectively manage crises

Our societies cannot provide security if they deprive themselves of their institutional and financial capacities. The crises of recent years – the pandemic, the climate crisis, Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine – have shown us the value of states, supply chains and civil societies that are capable of action and resilience in a way that could hardly be more at odds with the outdated laissez-faire assumptions about the value of small-state, short-term efficiency. Progressive security therefore also means strengthening the state’s resilience and ability to act – for example, by reconsidering investment-inhibiting measures such as the German debt brake and the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact in its current form.

A plea for progressive security

In their concept paper, written by the German-British journalist Jeremy Cliffe and Florian Ranft, member of the Executive Board of Das Progressive Zentrum, on the occasion of the Progressive Governance Summit 2024, they explore the question of what progressives can do to counter the widespread feeling of insecurity in our societies. Their conclusion: Progressive actors should continue to boldly challenge the status quo in order to achieve a better society in the midst of a new reality of military threats and the associated difficult domestic policy decisions. Progressive security, in their view, goes far beyond security in the military sense. It is both protective and emancipatory and not just a wall that externalises threats; it is also a hill on which capabilities can converge to reduce these threats in the long term.

You can also read the guest articles on the “progressive security” approach at Table.Media [GER] (here also without login barrier) and in The Guardian.

“Finding a new answer to security issues is THE challenge of our time”

At the Governance Opening Session of the Progressive Governance Summit 2024 in Berlin at the end of June 2024, Jeremy Cliffe and Cathryn Cl├╝ver Ashbrook, Executive Vice President of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, discussed the question of how we can move beyond the poly-crisis to a comprehensive, inclusive understanding of security that provides answers to the pressing security issues of our time at a global, local and personal level.


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