The end of the neo-liberal world order

For all its global reach, the neo-liberal world order will likely prove to have been exceptionally short-lived in the historical sense:

Though the press is obsessed with President Trump defining a change we are seeing, that is a classic case of mal-educated Amerocentrism. The shift started before him. He is just a symptom, not a cause. It isn’t even an American phenomenon. If anything we are lagging the global trend.

What period started to come to an end at the start of this century? The end of the post-Cold War as a period by itself? I don’t quite buy it. There is a lot of talk of an end to the post-WWII, “Liberal World Order” (LWO). I think that might be right.

The LWO began at the end of WWII. The period after the fall of the Soviet Union that people call as the Post-Cold War Era wasn’t really an era. It was either the final or the penultimate chapter of the long running LWO that the Cold War was just a longer chapter of. Even while the Soviet Union was on its death bed we saw the next chapter, AKA Bush41’s “New World Order” (NWO).

One could argue the NWO was the penultimate chapter, and 2001-2008 the final chapter of the LWO.

Hard to say right now, but if forced, I’d put my chips on that argument.

The NWO lasted less than a decade, if that. It was a period of unchallenged American dominance, but that rode on the back of the “The Liberal World Order” built in the post-WWII period.

What I would call the final chapter, somewhere from the attacks of September 2001 and the newly elected President Obama’s apology tour and welcoming of a rising China, I’m not sure – but it marked a shift to something new. The pivot is not yet complete – it is a slow turn that took awhile to get here.

The last two chapters of the LWO saw the falling apart of those structures – the EU, ascendency of Western culture, extra-national international legal bodies, American dominance of the high seas – that defined the success of the old age. The vacuum left behind by them, and the fragility of remaining ones like NATO, is feeding change.

This new era is a movement of returns, reckoning, and realization. Strangely, end of the LWO can probably can be traced back to the Muslim world. They were an the early adopter or canary in the coal mine of the structural culmination of the LWO. There you find the first place where the assumptions of the ruling Western elite began to fail.

Just look at the pictures of Cairo and Kabul in the 1960s and 1970s. Western dress, cultural norms, secularism, and political systems (socialist, capitalist, or a mixture of both) dominated. At the end of the 1970s the wave crested first there when you saw decades of progress for women in the public space begin to retreat from Islamabad to Alexandria.

Those were indications that the West had lost its confidence and its appeal. Once that support goes soft, everything it underpins weakens. Much of the weakening started with the anti-Western efforts in our own universities and popular culture. Jesse Jackson’s “Hey, hey, ho, ho; Western Civ has got to go” was just one of a long series of notes to the outside world that things were well along the way to being not quite right.

If you value Western values of tolerance and progress, how do you expect them to grow and expand abroad when you cannot support them at home? In their absence, something will fill the void.

I don’t believe there is any difference between the LWO and the NWO. Both were aspects of the neo-liberal world order championed by the same people. Globalism was always the objective of certain elements behind the neo-liberal world order, and the ongoing rise of nationalism represents the inevitable reaction to globalism that is described in the old Chinese aphorism.

 The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.

But remember, what fuels the drive for global institutions is the result of widespread failures at the national levels. As we have seen in the USA, when centralization fails, the response is not to abandon it, but to try to salvage it through expanding its reach. As fast as the neo-liberal world order has failed, any globalist order would fail even faster due to the greater stresses upon even more fragile bonds.


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