The earlier individual civilizations of this planet constantly went
through cycles of various kinds including a general "order" of the
forces at play in them.
We have for some recent time now had a planet-wide dynamic
world order as communications and transportation innovations
eliminated the earlier physical boundaries between hitherto distant
and separated civilizations.
Although one can describe the world in terms of various cycles,
including those of technology, climate, sociological relationships,
health, demography/migration, religious belief and so on, the
nation-states which arose from innumerable nomadic tribes, and
the notions of power and aggression, have, in recent centuries,
created the modern versions of a so-called world order.
There seems to be, in terms of this particular notion of a “grand”
world order, alternating cycles of integration and dissolution which
evolve over several decades each, and which serve as clarifying
markers for their times.
Those who are now fifty years old or older grew up in a period of
post-World War II integration of a new order resulting from the
aftermath of World Wars I and II, just as the previous world order
was a dissolution following the upheaval of the Napoleonic wars
in Europe and the colonial “possessions” of European states
around the world.
There has been an a mega-political process going on now for
many years --- a dissolving of the attempt to create a lasting order
in Europe, the western hemisphere and Asia. The United States has
played a certain and growing role in the ordering of the world
for the past one hundred and fifty years or so. Clearly, the population
giants of China and India are now asserting their place more
aggressively as this old order dissolves. Other nations, including
Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, and Russia, are asserting themselves
by virtue of their large populations and growing market share
of world trade. But this transformation is no longer limited to
nation states, just as the earliest transformations were not
limited to regional tribes. In the latest dissolution, we observe
transnational economic entities such as the European Union and
OPEC; international ideological entities such as Islamic jihadism
and radical environmentalism; and international regions
such as South and Central America, and the trans-Pacific area,
attempting to take a significant part in the creation of a new
International organizations such as the United Nations, the World
Court, regional military alliances increasingly appear unable to
bring any true cooperation for an emerging new world order
(whatever it is to be). The most dynamic factor of the
modernization of the world, democratic capitalism, seems
momentarily paralyzed in the face of aggressive new forces.
In the period after 1945, and again in 1990, there was a provisional
belief in the West that first, fascism, and second, communism,
both cruel and totalitarian phenomena had been temporary and
“overcome.” It now appears, as their malign offspring reappear
in the world, this was an over-optimistic conclusion.
The “level” of the world, as Ortega y Gasset described it in 1928,
does continue to rise because of technology and invention (human
beings live longer; more persons are fed; daily life is more varied),
but the state of the world (its “order,” if you will) has seemed to
become more uncertain and perilous.
It has taken some time, especially for the post-war generations
in the West, to understand this fully. For many of these generations,
in fact, they cling to a belief in the old order and its “comprehensible”
optimism, security, rationality and reassurances.
Daily events all over the globe, and even at home, however, signal
another kind of process is at work. It is time for some new thinking.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.