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A Viral New World Disorder
Harry J. Bentham   Oct 25, 2014   clubof.info  

As we continue the collective journey into the unexplored territory of the Twenty-First Century, nation-state after nation-state is crumbling under the contagion of popular dissatisfaction at their arbitrary and unjust claims to power. Unable to contain the crisis, every nation-state now seems to live under the specter of imminent possible crisis and collapse. No-one is immune.

The world IS falling apart!
 
For the well-informed student of International Relations, everything is proceeding exactly as predicted.
 
On 29 August, US President Obama told us to resist the notion that the “world is falling apart”. Of course, what he really meant by the “world” in that phrase is the US-led international community that had seemingly prevailed since 1990. Beyond this, however, the Westphalian nation-state is finding itself seriously challenged by the rise of unprecedented new actors like, in the Middle East, the Islamic State.
 
The phrase “new world disorder” has been used, perhaps most notably by pundit Peter Foster in The Telegraph on 18 July and by Victor Davis Hanson in National Review on 2 September. In both articles, the conflicts in Ukraine and in Syria-Iraq are oddly depicted as challenges that the US state is facing, rather than problems facing each state where the violence is taking place. Such a one-sided narrative overlooks the true contagions threatening states today.
 
For a student of International Relations, there should be nothing surprising about the new wave of crumbling modern states, from Somalia to Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Mexico, and beyond. Since the 1990s, many theorists of International Relations have been making predictions about the kind of crisis that should dominate security thinking after the Cold War. Despite their different schools of thought, most seemed to agree that traditional nation-states will at least begin to lose their social cohesion as a result of forces like migration, ecological damage, and the expansion of middle classes.
 
For example, in Immanuel Wallerstein’s Utopistics (1998) as well as other theoretical works authored by the same author, there are predictions of a period of 50 years that can be called “hell on earth” or “chaos”. We can surmise that we are in such a period now, and hence the perception that the “world is falling apart” is not far from the truth. While it is grave news for many, it is also inevitable, if the models of global crisis authored in the 1990s are accurate.
 
Pseudostates, states recognized by few if any other states, seem to be proliferating rapidly. The Islamic State is an exceptional example of a pseudostate in the modern world, in that it is recognized by no-one but itself. It did not come into existence without the support of certain states, with Qatar and Saudi Arabia usually being named as the suspects, but the result is still something fundamentally alternative to the traditional nation-state, and will have profound consequences for the future. The rebels fighting to establish the pro-Russian pseudostate of Novorossiya also do not care if no-one recognizes their state: they only care that they control the ground upon which it rests – preferably including every port north of the Black Sea.
 
Intrastate conflicts and power vacuums are proliferating, helped along unwittingly by the states most threatened by them, as a way of sabotaging one another while avoiding the consequences of openly attacking each other. Iran supports non-state actors against Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia supports non-state actors against Iran. The US supports Kurdish non-state actors against another non-state actor, the Islamic State, but risks arming enemies of its own ally Turkey in the process.
 
The result of these mutually corrosive policies is that the foundation many states rely on for their own legitimacy and mutual recognition is crumbling, as a result of their own actions. International law has descended into comedy, ineffective because it relied on the support of the disintegrating “international community” to work, while far too many states try to escape accusations of aggression by arming non-state actors against each other. In every instance, such policies backfire.
 
As grave as it is, it is possible that the Islamic State is now a political fait accompli, here to stay, regardless of the US campaign to destroy it. If so, its solidification and endurance in the face of international pressure will in turn weaken the foundations of what had been called the “international community”. Coupled with Novorossiya’s defiant entrenchment along the Black Sea, events taking place now might later be seen as the beginning of the end of the “international community”. With the community of “nations” incapable of agreeing on much, future political entities might no longer bother to solicit recognition from one another, thereby relying solely on physical force for legitimacy.
 
As violent and bloodthirsty as the Islamic State is, we might be looking at a forerunner of the kind of post-nation-state entities that will engulf the entire world in coming decades. Throwing acid on the states system by supporting non-state actors anywhere, whether this action is carried out by the US, Saudi Arabia or the Russian Federation, threatens the legitimacy and claims of all states everywhere.
 
At the same time, another unabated pressure continues to weaken the state. We still have not seen the end of the standoff between the state and the internet, most climactically told through the tug of war between the United States government and WikiLeaks. It does not take much thought to realize that while the Islamic State represents repressive and coercive statelessness, WikiLeaks represents literate and public-serving statelessness. Despite their different values, both are transnational in nature, basing their causes on transnational solidarity and the rejection of traditional arguments for national security.
 
Julian Assange has argued in works like Cypherpunks (2012) and When Google Met WikiLeaks (2014) that in the age of the internet, information has been able to outmaneuver the brute force of the state for the first time in history. State attempts to suppress information in the public interest have become increasingly futile due to this revolution, and the result is inimical to state legitimacy. It is not hard to see that the most fundamental change has come about due to technology. Technology, as Assange has argued, is “not neutral” but can be used to bring about forms of liberty and transparency that had formerly been thought impossible.
 
The transition to a post-state order can be understood in terms of losses of control of information by governments and the disintegration of mutual respect of sovereignty among actors in the international system. The end result of such processes, in the long-run, would appear to be a form of transnational anarchy. In this anarchy, effective mechanisms of global governance will be weakened, borders will be universally ignored, and each individual regime will need approval from no-one but itself to justify its authority.
 
Where the crisis of our archaic nation-state system will lead is impossible to predict, but one way of understanding it is in terms of an eventual global dilemma between peaceful statelessness and endless warfare. Coincidentally, the Islamic State’s black banner resembles another banner: the anarchist flag compelling us to conceive of a peaceful and cooperative post-state order, based on values of voluntary and open governance rather than repressive authority.
Harry J. Bentham is a British writer, an IEET contributor, and futurist member of the scientific Lifeboat Foundation. He has authored well-received sci fi stories, book reviews and essays on science and culture that can be found at a growing number of diverse publications.



COMMENTS

This is a great article - and I have to say that the conclusion is right on - but we still need proper political education in the middle-east (and the world for that matter), and I hope the internet will help with that: reinforcing your conclusion “the anarchist flag compelling us to conceive of a peaceful and cooperative post-state order, based on values of voluntary and open governance rather than repressive authority.”

I think this the direction the future may be leading to, a world of cooperation and the destruction of “repressive authority.”

However - in our current time and place I do have much respect for governments that reinforce the concepts of good housing, water, healthcare, education, and food for ALL it’s people.

As technology brings us together in the future we will see everyone requesting the same thing, and it can be accomplished by voluntary cooperation in my opinion, and we need to give human intellectualism and autonomy the respect it deserves.

Excellent to see that Immanuel Wallerstein is reaching a wider audience.

Also well worth pursuing is the work of Ilya Prigogine whose “science of complexity” has had a strong influnce on Wallerstein’s world systems analysis.

http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/5352

As as the futurism of Roberto Unger.

http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/unger/

Some make the claim that leftists are Luddites, and I do agree that when it comes to GMO’s and many other technologies leftists and some liberals do reject them. There is a claim that one should look at the world in a “realist” fashion, and being “realist” according to this context would mean that leftist and liberal ideals fall under what we call “idealism.”

However futurists are in the business of predicting, through sci-fi and non-fiction analysis, carefully going through statistics and trends to make decent predictions.

We have thought of concepts such as the technological singularity, space elevators, gene-therapy for brain enhancement, to even “Jupiter brains”.

But I would like to make a claim, or prediction of my own: People who carefully analyze culture, society, and politics tend to make mostly accurate predictions as well.

So I would like to say that there is a “Leftist-Liberal Futurist Gap.”

This gap is also a result of culture and society. Perhaps people like Ursula K. Le Guin have noticed this gap, and it is reflected in her literature. However it is hard to find people who fall under “anarchist”, “futurist”, and “technoprogressive” in our society and culture in ways that Le Guin has so marvelously written about.

This gap may be explained by the culture of the Left: constantly criticizing the modern world of technology for being too violent, too powerful, too warmongering, too “unnatural.”

What led me to think of the Leftist-Liberal Futurist Gap was a few reviews of Arundhati Roy’s speech “Come September” that she presented in 2002, just one year after 9/11.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHz8cpULupo

When one fact checks the speech there are a few errors, but the overall predictions were amazingly spot on. For her to be called a “Leftist” instead of a “Futurist” is misleading from my perspective. She clearly did enough research about culture and society (and our use of technology, especially that of war technology) to make predictions that came true for the last 13 years.

Others would want to say she is an “idealist” out of touch with reality, yet her grip on reality can’t be better.

For people to think of gene-therapy, Jupiter brains, space elevators, anti-aging technology, synthetic meat, and geoengineering: isn’t that somewhat “idealistic”? All these future technologies will help sentient minds live better lives, and I only want to relate idealism to these technologies for critical thinking purposes here, in this comment.

It seems obvious to me that the “idealist” anarchist or “Leftist” and liberal are not idealists at all, they are futurists looking for ways to communicate a better, more compassionate and peaceful society.

Futurists, technoprogressives, and the liberal-left must come together to enhance our capacity to not only predict where technology is going, but also how to achieve peace, prosperity, and radical democracy wherever oppression and repressive authority may exist – Luddite? I think not.

What do you think? Can the “Leftist-Liberal Futurist Gap” be filled to envision an even brighter future than that which we are conceiving of today?

@Kris Notara

Thanks for your reply.

I think that what unites our positions - my political “Leftism” and your technological Futurism - is a shared desire for Progress. Summarily, Leftist politics will generally tend to be “futurist” or “progressive” insofar as they are
anti-conservative, anti-reactionary, anti- ancien regime etc.

What you refer to as “Luddism” is the left-wing *Critique of Instrumentalist Reason* which can be found in various places.

E.g Adorno and Horkheimer “Dialectic of Enlightenment”.

(This bears some resemblance to the “rightist” ontology and the critique of technology found in Heidegger. See also Hubert Dreyfuss) 

Most importantly is the Marxist critique of the commodity form. The instrumentalisation of Nature. And above all the commodification of *human beings*. The commodification of human labor and of social relations.

(There’s also the anthropological “Left” of such groups of Survival International,

http://www.survivalinternational.org/

but discussion of them would take us too far afield)

This is not the whole story however.

Such figures as Marx, Chomsky, Immanuel Wallerstein, Roberto Unger are all in various ways *post-Capitalist* futurists or progressives. So is Joseph Schumpeter if read from a “leftist” perspective as Wallerstein does.

A Marxist, post-modernist literary critic and cultural theorist that will probably interest you is Fredric Jameson.

Especially his “Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions”

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/36297.Fredric_Jameson

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/298972.Archaeologies_of_the_Future

Do you think that I am mistaken in thinking of Kim Stanley Robinson as a “leftist” sci-fi writer?

His “Three Californias Trilogy” adopts a critical view of technology. exploring the dystopian as well as the utopian.

Robinson’s “Mars Trilogy” shows a fine appreciation of politics including revolutionary politics.

“The Years of Rice and Salt” displays a distinctly liberal and cosmopolitan conception of culture and religion.

Finally Robinson’s “Science in the Capitol” shows his ecological concerns which is also to found in his “Mars Trilogy”.

Especially in the post Cold War period - the failure of that form of monolithic blue-print utopianism and teleological conception of History - I think that one can characterize the Left of today as “critical-left post-capitalist futurists”.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-silent-transformation

http://www.un.org/en/events/coopsyear/

P.S.

I forgot to add a further link to the World Social Forum.

“Another World is Possible”.

http://www.forumsocialmundial.org.br/main.php?id_menu=4&cd_language=2

“Where the crisis of our archaic nation-state system will lead is impossible to predict, but one way of understanding it is in terms of an eventual global dilemma between peaceful statelessness and endless warfare. Coincidentally, the Islamic State’s black banner resembles another banner: the anarchist flag compelling us to conceive of a peaceful and cooperative post-state order, based on values of voluntary and open governance rather than repressive authority.”

Sorry.. But I find this conclusion just wishful thinking/non-sequitar. The protection of borders is the only means to protect against Stateless feudalism by Humans for land and resources. And it should be obvious and even more so right here, right now, today, (IS), that nations need to “collectively” cooperate to stop such anarchy, violence and murder, (yes indeed IS can be equated to reckless anarchy)

 

@CygnusX1:

“Where the crisis of our archaic nation-state system will lead is impossible to predict, but one way of understanding it is in terms of an eventual global dilemma between peaceful statelessness and endless warfare. Coincidentally, the Islamic State’s black banner resembles another banner: the anarchist flag compelling us to conceive of a peaceful and cooperative post-state order, based on values of voluntary and open governance rather than repressive authority.”

“Sorry.. But I find this conclusion just wishful thinking/non-sequitar. The protection of borders is the only means to protect against Stateless feudalism by Humans for land and resources. And it should be obvious and even more so right here, right now, today, (IS), that nations need to “collectively” cooperate to stop such anarchy, violence and murder, (yes indeed IS can be equated to reckless anarchy)”

I agree with this if it means the nation state has not had its day. I think we actually need effective government more than ever, though in contradictory more internationalism as well, in order to solve our problems. The countries that thrive in the new order will be those whose state’s best represent the common good amid a sea of chaos.

Borders can be useful for the oppressed. While we are all human, some people do not want to be forced to think and act a certain way according to imperialistic forces.

@ Rick ..

Yes, “more internationalism”, or moreover, more cooperation and less global feudalism, (competition) = greater consensus/understanding for Collectivism?

My views/position on global confederalism/confederation of global states has not changed, (and not surprising for an ST fan)?

The End of Nation States May Enhance_Humanity


So where is the problem with the world at large today?

As usual and customary, every nation state is out for it’s own best interests and despite of any negative and debilitating long term effects to the environment and civilization?

So.. More democracy required - yes?

As discussed previously, even nation states can be further subdivided into democratic confederal states, (modern German democracy comprises “Hamlets”). Demographic borders and protections of integrity can still apply, and I believe they should. It is pseudo representative democracy that requires reflection/re-evaluation - is it working for the best interests of it’s peoples? For the world at large?

Even for the small community there must be healthy demarcation of borders and integrity, and these require to be protected, by force if necessary. And these borders are merely extensions of personal boundaries of culture and beliefs and values, the house, the home, the family, that surely even the “true” anarchist can understand and agree which require respect and protections from violation?

So.. greater democracy = nation states comprising/delegating more democratic and local governance yet provide still an “executive function” that is answerable to these, and also representative at a global/nation state level for these communities?

The problem is really that nation state politics has assumed itself as above and unanswerable to the peoples, which is why the social and global unrest in the first place?

Yet to make real progress mitigating world poverty, disease, global violence, abuse of Human rights and climate change, intermediary nation state representation, (of communities), by nation state executive is/will still be required - and so to, borders?

 

@CygnusX1

I struggle with the academic progress in science and philosophy, independent of politics, (though they most definitely do influence progressive politics) of ontology and epistemology (mostly dealing with the nature of the universe seen through the senses of humans and then their “critical thinking”) all three mainstream ontologies and epistemology: Western, Eastern, and “Continental.”...

What do you think?

@ Kris.. I’m not sure what your question is?

Yet let me say this, we all struggle to reconcile the worlds problems through our limited experience/knowledge/longevity - for those of us that care that is? There are many, many that do not care - and representative democracy relies heavily on this demographic to support itself?

If something does not work we should make “our” best efforts to analyse the problems and fix it and be less hasty to discard it altogether, this should be the focus? This includes nation state governance, (although my views of Capitalism sustainability are changing/evolving).

Collectivism yes..

Anarchism?

As I usually say, Libertarian, Marxist and Anarchist will find themselves “shoulder to shoulder” seeking radical socioeconomic change from “statist” economic oppression?

 

@CygnusX1:

Oh, I completely forgot we explored this road before, though I did have a sense of
deja vu as I was typing…

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