Politics and International Scope

Many humanists share an emphasis on democratic principles such as equality, freedom of speech, and rule of law, but differ in their understanding of how such principles are best implemented and promulgated in society. Author Ayn Rand, for example, was a strong proponent of humanist ideologies, and believed that the principles of democracy are best ruled by individualism and a free market economy. Marxist humanism, on the other hand, understands humans as free producers whose essential natures are alienated by capitalist societies. Within these two widely varying positions on economics, there exists a broad range of humanist ideologies on what a “humanist” government or economic system might look like.

Elvert Barnes, Atlas Shrugged; Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/2b0yKww

Many humanists understand their ideology in terms of a global community, contending that only a humanism which believes in the potential of all humans and which seeks to better the lives of all humans is truly ethical. Thus, documents such as the collaborative Humanist Manifestos call for the abolition of travel bans, renewed efforts toward ending world poverty and hunger, and a stronger individual identity as a citizen of the world.

Kevin Gill, Earth; Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/2avI2Cq

Some have argued that humanism’s global perspective will best be realized by paying attention to cultural differences. Because humanism includes a core principle of subjectivity—that is, allowing one’s circumstances to inform one’s choices—some humanist scholars argue that each culture must first come to value the humanist ideologies found in their own cultural histories. For Muslims interested in bridging the gap between the East and the West, for example, humanist scholars like Bassam Tibi have advocated for embracing the humanist strains of Islam “in the spirit of establishing commonalities based on reason and human-centered view of the world” (“Islamic Humanism” 241). Similar to womanist critiques of humanism, these culturally sensitive understandings of humanism suggest that true humanism must remove assumptions about Western progress from its center and instead consider all cultures from the lens of their potential contributions and deviations from humanist values.

Image Sources: 

Elvert Barnes, "Atlas Shrugged," Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/2b0yKww 

Kevin Gill, "Earth," Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/2avI2Cq 

See also: Humanism