Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Age of Nations

I argued in “The Second Twentieth Century” that the current era, since the mid-seventies of the last century, was characterized by an IT revolution-induced fragmentation of all large hierarchies – private as well as public – and, as a consequence, by a return of nations versus international or global organizations.

If true, this would mean the end of the utopia of a united Europe as a potential federal state having a powerful say in world affairs.

Now The Economist publishes in this week’s issue a paper by “Charlemagne” titled: Even if it spoke with one voice, how much would Europe really count? .

“John Hulsman, an American writer on foreign policy, recently noted that rising powers such as China, Russia, India and Brazil are, if anything, even more hostile to the idea of binding rules or treaties that impinge on their sovereignty than the Americans are. Citizens of these powers “see much of the current international architecture as a confidence trick designed to keep their country from assuming its proper place in the world,” Mr Hulsman commented.

The rise and fall of little voice

Does this mean the Euro-establishment is wrong about the benefits of speaking with a coherent message and forming alliances to get things done? That would be to go too far. If Mr Obama finds multilateralism hard work, that does not necessarily mean that unilateral swagger would be more effective. Nor would cacophony give the EU more clout than speaking with one voice. But Europeans need to be less starry-eyed about what they can achieve through dialogue and political integration. Some still dream that the EU’s pooled sovereignty can serve as a “model” for systems of global governance, transcending the nation-state. Right now, that looks like a fantasy. The 21st century is instead shaping up to be a brutal testing ground for relative power.”

As I claimed in the conclusion of the book:

“The abundance of information determines its diffusion. Information diffusion decentralizes power and weakens hierarchies. It frees the individuals. Or best hope can thus only be that the second twentieth century tendencies will be vindicated and extended as far as possible, well into the coming decades of the twenty-first century.”

It appears that they are.

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