WORLD PUBLIC FORUM DIALOGUE OF CIVILIZATIONS RHODOS, GREECE, OCTOBER 2008 SHIFT IN GLOBAL POWER THE RISE OF EURASIA
Come Carpentier de Gourdon
Convenor of the Editorial Board
World Affairs Journal, New Delhi, India
Dty. Director, Euro-Asia Institute, India
The post-modern world, characterized so far by the predominance of a “unipolar” power is increasingly taking on a multi-polar character, primarily due to the rise of China as the “world’s factory” (what the USA was with regard to the declining British Empire until the aftermath of the second World War) and by the expansion of Europe which, howbeit tied to the USA and mostly deferential to American leadership, is gradually regaining some independence, as an inevitable consequence of the decline of the United States and the gradual strengthening of European institutions.
Russia’s return as a major actor on the world stage is also a factor that has helped regional powers such as India, Brazil, Venezuela, the ASEAN countries, Turkey, Iran and other Middle Eastern oil and gas producing states to exercise a larger influence in their regional neighbourhoods and in the world at large.
By countering the hegemonic power of the USA and its Atlantic allies, China and Russia have ressuscitated the Eurasian Katechon, a theological and political concept borrowed from Saint Paul’s Epistles (2 Ts,2, 6-7) by the influential German political philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt.
Schmitt in his mature, definite works such as “The Earth’s Nomos” (Der Nomos des Erde, 1950)“Three Possibilities for a Christian Vision of History” (1950) and “The unity of the World” (Die Einheit der Welt,1951) envisions the Katechon as a factor of order, for the true conservation of essential values and eventually for their restoration, against the dissolving and subversive influence of the “Enemy”, the Antikeimenos who in Theology is alluded to as the Antechrist and in its modern geopolitical incarnation is the technocratic, utopian, liberal-consumeristic imperialism promoted by the sea powers (i.e. the Britain and the USA to which he had specifically referred in his Beschleuniger wider Willen oder:die Problematik der Westlichen Hemisphare (1942)). To the Promethean scientific-technological, materialistic and pragmatic philosophy of the Anglo-Saxon empire Schmitt opposed an Epimethean doctrine, fundamentally Christian in that it is aware and respectful of the mystery that surrounds mankind’s true role and destiny, in line with the theo-political tradition of the Medieval Holy Roman Empire as articulated by the great scholar and statesman Otto von Freising.
However, this reverence for transcendence and this search for an optimal order, as opposed to the maximalistic call for agnostic self-liberation championed by both Communism and Capitalism applies to all great religions which remind us that without mysticism all reality is mere abstraction, in the words of contemporary philosopher Constantin von Barloewen in his Anthropologie de la Mondialisation (Ed des Syrtes, 2003).
If in Eastern Europe, the Orthodox Churches may be better candidates to embody the Katechon than modern Catholicism which is so pervaded by left-wing social theories and abstract views on human rights as to become inconsistent with its own traditional doctrine.
In China Confucianism, in India Hinduism and in its traditional sphere of influence Islam may also represent diverse avatars of the Katechon through their various ways of resisting a westernization which is at once anarchic and totalitarian under the pretense of imposing freedom. In his “The Concept of the Political” (Der Begriff des Politischen) (1932) Schmitt observes: “…We know that today the most terrible war can only be waged in the name of peace, the most ruthless oppression in the name of freedom and the most infamous inhumanity in the name of humanity” (this author’s translation).
The reemergence of Geopolitics in the public discourse, after decades of eclipse when it was regarded as immoral ( it is in fact merely amoral) because of its explicitly realistic take on events, is a consequence of the demise of the ruling ideologies of the twentieth century. If Leninist universalism is long dead, its Wilsonian-Rooseveltian enemy twin is still standing tall but is increasingly discredited after showing its true colours as a servant of American imperialism.
Though the USA still tries to claim moral superiority, the intellectual, financial and strategic bankruptcy of its system in the last few years, highlighted by the current global recession and the military failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have practically wiped out its credibility as a self proclaimed “force for good”.
The USA is now forced to fight bare-faced and admit that it is mainly concerned with preserving or extending its global empire and more specifically with protecting the interest of its ruling elites and their allies and subordinates abroad, which is hardly a democratic ideal even if we acknowledge that it is a traditional national imperative.
The return of geopolitics however, paradoxically allows for a return of the moralistic notion of Justus Hostis , (just foe) invoked by the Carl Schmitt against the current US-supported theory of Justum Bellum which implies the diabolization or dehumanization of the enemy and justifies his extermination in the name of the God-given duty to eradicate Evil. The principle of Justus Hostis, adhered to during much of European history under the Church-inspired system of Jus Gentium (reaffirmed by the 17th Century Westphalian Treaties after the breakup of Christendom into Catholic and Protestant states), but also in ancient civilizations such as India’s and within the Islamic Ummah implies that the adversary is given full consideration as a human being against whom military recourse might be required but must be limited in its means, ends and duration.
The eclipse of the “Sea Power” successor to the British Empire which Schmitt described as the thalassocratic Leviathan, is bringing the world’s centre of gravity back towards the Eurasian island where it remained for most of the last 4 000 years. The concurrent rise (or rebirth) of China and Russia in all dimensions, replaces the axis firmly in the heartland of the “world island” evoked by late 19th century geopoliticians in Central Asia, and around it revolve the reemerging rimland powers in concentric circles: Turkey, Iran, India and Japan… and in the outer reaches, the Arab states of the Near East, the EU and the ASEAN nations.
This new global configuration calls for the institution of new Jus Gentium as Schmitt advocated, at least in the Eurasian mass that by definition constitutes what he called a Grossraum, a great geographical and political space, a pluralistic and diverse medium term between an empire and a mere free trade area.
Let us consider what influence this emerging power configuration may have on the evolution of the mega-trends which David Pearce Snyder, the lifestyle editor of the Futurist Magazine defines as key factors in the ongoing global transformation. He identifies five and specifies that they are “composites of trends” and “evolutionary system-wide developments”:
- Cultural modernization which both assaults and undermines traditional cultures and values and simultaneously sends the societies that embrace it on a path of consumeristic excess and demographic decline. Some response to this threat may be contained in the Confucean-Buddhist revival in China and in the Orthodox Renaissance in Russia, as envisioned by the late Alexandr Solzhenitsyn who saw the Church as one of the two pillars of a reborn authentic Russia striving to avoid the West’s “horrifying culture of intellectual self-indulgence, licentiousness and spiritual poverty” as George Friedman put it in his eloquent article (vijayvaani, September 7th, 2008) on Solzhenitsyn. Friedman concludes that “Today’s Russia is…moving in the direction that Solzhenitsyn wanted. And that could make (her) extraordinarily powerful”.
- Economic Globalization. It is significant that China is at present the biggest beneficiary of this process, alongwith some other Asian and Latin American states. Oil and gas producing nations such as Russia and the Gulf states profit from the high prices and rising demand in developing countries while the richer nations are suffering from their uncompetitive wage levels, onerous social welfare systems and aging demographics which put them at a major disadvantage and lead to an inevitable fall in western incomes and standards of living as a global leveling and equalization gradually take place.
- Universal Connectivity. By 2012 one third of the world’s population, that is 2 billion people will have access to the Internet, mostly through web-enabled phones and many sociologists conclude that this widespread connectivity will bring about the “death of distance” and truly globalize the consumer culture, especially in the youth. However, the flip side of this uncontrolled, unpredictable phenomenon is what the recent report in Jane’s Strategic Weekly from the Joint Doctrine and Concept Centre of the British Armed Forces describes: a breakdown of the global order and a fragmentation of most states, political and social institutions leading to worldwide chaos and an uncontrollable atomization of societies and organizations (www.janes.com/events/conferences/uxdc2007). That result was indeed foretold by Schmitt in his unforgiving analysis of the American-led technocratic liberal utopia. The digital ethnologist Mark Pesce describes an “accelerating disintegration of hierarchies of all kinds – economic, academic, cultural and…political”.
- Transactional Transparency. The current demand for transparency is in principle to be welcomed as manifestation of the revolt against oligarchic secrecy which protects corruption and other very visible ills. However the infinite proliferation of information and disclosure which has already yielded significant exposures about some of the great state-sponsored and supranational conspiracies of the present age also leads to information overload and confusion. Faced with the precipitous increase in the amount of data and allegations made available to all about everything, societies that want to protect themselves will have to find together a new “modus vivendi”
- Social Adaptation. The decline and rejection of traditional institutions such as organized religion and the state are manifest in all “advanced” countries of the techno-scientifically developed world, as people are trying to become more self-regulated and are listening less and less to traditional hierarchical authorities. This is also an unpredictable trend which can easily lead to conflict amongst spontaneously constituted groups within the same disintegrating society whose ability to mediate their differences and enforce order is waning. Barloewen warns us that “Demos (the democratic system) can have an effect only within a given myth which provides to a culture its inner balance, its consensus” (ibid.).
Snyder concludes that the three great cultural consequences of industrialization, namely urbanization, work institutionalization and family atomization are already being reversed as a result of changing circumstances. In the USA for instance, in the nineties people tended to migrate back to rural and semi-rural (exurban) areas for the first time in nearly a century.
What effect the current rise in gas prices and concurrent economic crisis has on this trends which makes people more dependent on transportation (by road or rail) is still to be assessed but the parallel trend for people to work more from their homes may be reinforced by the energy price factor. Also, the rising tendency for middle aged people to live together with their parents and adult children is caused by straitened financial circumstances but it harks back to the days of the joint or extended family of pre-Industrial ages.
Those post-industrial trends may take some time to reach emerging societies which are still going through the ascending part of the curve but since in our information age all processes are dramatically accelerated or even collapsed, the developing countries should learn from the experience of their predecessors and draw solutions from their own unbroken traditions of collective solidarity and family-based coexistence. Mark Pesce points out that “50,000 years of cultural development (are collapsing) in about 20”. We can no longer assume that we have the time to se change coming and adapt to it gradually.
The laws of economics and power dynamics are compelling the USA to become gradually more authoritarian, arbitrary and threatening to others in order to enforce the mounting human, financial and political costs of its empire on the rest of the world and on the majority of its own population as it can no longer secure a global or at least a sufficiently broad international support for its policies which are inevitably proving increasingly harmful to most nations and peoples.
In the last few decades the USA has had almost a monopoly on the discretionary use of military force in the international arena, which has enabled it to impose its views on others but in the emerging multipolar world Russia and major Asian states are able to call Washington’s bluff and thereby put an end to a dangerous and unsustainable unipolarity, as was recently shown in the case of Georgia’s failed attempt to regain control of South Ossetia with US backing.
The realist analysis of globalization describes it not as a spontaneous, inevitable phenomenon but as the outcome as systematic, intentional policy pursued by a leading actor, mainly the USA in our time since the current system of international relations is still based on the role of states.
Ian Clark (in “Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the 20th Century”(1998)) pictures the interplay of two opposing but dynamically entwined tendencies that swing the historic pendulum between the twin poles of individualism and collectivism, manifested at various levels as nationalism, regionalism and heterogeneity for the former and as universalism or homogeneity for the latter.
After the uninhibited and triumphant individualism championed by the USA and neoliberal economic policies in the last thirty years, we are witnessing a return of the communitarian, social aspirations that Asian countries and Russia traditionally upheld. Borrowing Boguslaw von Selchow’s terminology, we could say that the latest age of “Ichzeit” is being replaced by a new era of “Wirzeit” but, given the context of global interdependence, we need to achieve an awareness of “Allzeit” which von Selchow described as a defining feature of the Holy Roman Empire’s worldview.
However what we are witnessing now is a new war between open and closed economic systems, as defined by Charles Maier (in his book “‘In Search of Stability” (1988)), since the US-dominated global regime is falling apart, as it did already once in 1929. The EU and other giant blocs are becoming or are likely to turn into closed economic systems like the British and French Empires, the Third Reich, Italy and Japan were until the end of the second world conflict, when the victorious USA imposed its Bretton Woods regime on both the defeated and the allied powers. In the light of Clark’s analysis, the last century can be divided into three successive eras: the Age of catastrophy between 1914 and 1945, the Golden Age from 1945 to 1971 and the Age of systemic breakdown that began after 1973 and is leading to a multiplication and a rise in military tensions. Indeed, as was the case in the years just before World War II, more and more countries are having recourse, by choice or obligation, to military options to addresse challenges or crises, as we have seen in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, lately in Georgia and now in Pakistan.
Protectionism, which was gradually scrapped away under US influence, especially between 1960 and 1973, is making a comeback as the rich states are less and less able or willing to bear the internal costs (unemployment, deregulation, privatization and dismantling of the welfare state) of the globalized free-market. However, the transnational economy is now largely autonomous from its US godfather and can survive the withering away of the latter. International society is also, on the other hand giving strength and support to new pockets of ethnic and cultural resistance to globalization which are replacing the weakened and largely discredited nation states in what was their primary role.
The discontented sectors that are often coming together in that ideological and existential insurgency include, across the political spectrum, the working classes that see their livelihood shrink or disappear, the politicians who are afraid of losing their power bases and traditional societies whose ethno-cultural identity is at risk.
According to the analysis of Anthony D. Smith, modern technology disintegrated many traditional communities but has also built new social networks and reinforced some older ones. Their increasingly coordinated resistance to the diktat of an arbitrary, utopian and anti-juridical one-world system shows the very limits of Karl Popper’s paradigm of a supposedly boundless open society.
Between diverse regional, ethnic, religious and occupational communities, instead of the supposedly universal laws of “Free Market Liberal Modernity”, we must envision a dialogue based on what Kimmel calls “Intercultural Exploration” (“Cultural Perspectives on International Negotiations” in Journal of Social Issues, April 1994, vol. 50, n.1) in order to properly comprehend and take into account alien values and characteristics hitherto largely ignored or neglected by dominant western societies which were taught to regard them as being “pre-modern”, hence destined to disappear and unworthy of serious considerations outside the province of cultural anthropology. On the other hand, cultural pluralism is linked with its political counterpart and, to quote Barloewen once more, interculturality is a philosophical imperative for building a civilization of the “Holos”, i.e. a holistic, sustainable, balanced global community.
September 11, 2008
The author wishes to acknowledge his debt to the articles by Massimo Maraviglia and Stefano Vernole in the EURASIA Rivista Issue no. 1, 2008, vol. 5.