Nationalist (sometimes racialized) identity politics, promoted by demagogues and irresponsible, profit-seeking media which benefit from the frisson, is resurgent. It's not just confined to the tired, European democracies and post-Communist states, but it has resurfaced, scented with violence, at the center of the imperial power. In its wake population and demography (writing the people) take on a greater urgency not just because of looming conflict due to ecological pressures, but also because ways of lives are re-identified with being on the right side of a (walled) border in superior numbers. Meanwhile, technology is permitting new forms of reproduction and sexual identity, opening up new ways of constituting population.
Local narratives of irreversible progress have been undermined: Schengenland border controls have returned and even the break up of the three hundred year old Union between Scotland and England is conceivable again. About a decade ago, Stephen Davies presented me with a scenario in which a military coup Stateside was a natural outcome. I laughed at it, and still think it an unlikely development. But I will change my mind if the 2016 election campaign turns violent, which is certainly not impossible given that the most nationalist and dissatisfied bits of the electorate are also armed to the teeth.
Mistrust of electorates* is allowing lotteries and epistemic-aristocracies to gain new audiences among the economic and political elites. Yet, even the hardiest intellectual elitist should take note of the huge technocratic social experiment unfolding at the Ruckertstrasse in Frankfurt: the unaccountable, European central bankers are deliberately trying to debase the currency by buying up government and corporate debt in unprecedented numbers. What could possibly go wrong? (Answer: asset bubbles, etc.) When the final reckoning is made, Central Bank independence may turn out to be the costliest institutional arrangement devised in the modern era. (Moral: money is too important to be left to experts.)
The possibility of descent into the state of nature is taken seriously again because it is a lived reality in places (Syria, Somalia, etc.). Hospitals are attacked and the use of gas on the battlefield is so routine that news stories about these are increasingly met with a shrug. The causes of such descent are varied (tyranny, great power politics, reckless arms-sales, un-managed regional rivalries, etc.), but it's accompanied, and given greater ferocity, by a willing resoluteness to die and kill in the name of merciful higher, invisible power(s).
Because of the increased intellectual division of labor, none of the special sciences can provide us with a systemic map to help us navigate the multiplicity of interlocking, simultaneous challenges (although some historians and artists may well try to do so). So, it falls to political philosophy (and theory)--that abandoned orphan of the great parental battle between Carnap and Heidegger--to meet this intellectual and imaginative challenge. Perhaps, its future is being written in Hindi or Hanyu.
*A striking bit of evidence of this mistrust is this: when commentators discuss possible electoral outcomes of the 2016 Presidential election, Trump's electoral defeat is predicted with confidence not because the electorate will reject him after an evaluation of his merits as a candidate, but because of demographic trends in the US electorate (increasing number of non-white population, the women's vote, etc.).