Aside from a small assortment of political extremists, religious fanatics, and rabid ideologues, few today are more certain of their position, or less open to the views of others, than those who profess general notions of relativism. This fact will no doubt strike many as paradoxical, for strictly speaking a relativist can possess no basis for being, in current jargon, “judgmental.” But sociological reality does not always respect logic. In the political realm, relativism is invoked to put a neutral and fair-minded gloss on a critique of the nation state. This critique proceeds on three levels: from “below” in the form of multiculturalism; from on the same plane in the form of non-foundationalism; and from “above” in the form of transnationalism.

Before examining these doctrines, I need to pay homage to the previous generation of academic relativists that educated the current professoriate. I still can...


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