A Paper by Come Carpentier de Gourdon
(for the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilisations, Rhodes, Greece: http://www.wpfdc.org)
ALTERNATIVES FOR POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ORGANISATION
IN THE NEW CENTURY
With the relatively recent eclipse of the Socialist-Communist ideology and the ongoing structural crisis of Capitalism, mankind has left behind the theory of the "End of History" as defined by Francis Fukuyama (1992) in his paean for Liberal Globalised Democracy on the Anglo-Saxon model as the Summum Bonum.
Instead, we have entered an era of great doubt and uncertainty with regard to the political and economic systems which should be adopted, both at the national and international levels and a number of theories and practical models are competing for acceptance. Unsurprisingly, many of those formulas are inspired by current advances and achievements of science and technology in "frontier areas" but others hark back to ancient religious teachings and cultural traditions while others still try to create a blend of the old and the new for the future.
It is convenient, therefore to divide those politico-economic frameworks into three broad categories: the modernist or technocratic, the archaic (as distinct from the conservative because it is not always clear what one wants to conserve: sometimes it is the present at the expense of the legacies of the past) and the archaeo-futuristic.
All those three sorts of system or model claim to be pragmatic though they generally refer to an ideology in explicit or implicit terms. All state that they are grounded in or at least tailored to human nature even when they allege they are inspired by a divine message.
It should also be pointed out that the borders between those categories are not sharply defined as they appear to be. Indeed modernism and archaeo-futurism naturally overlap as much as the latter borrows from tradition but no traditional system, even a "fundamentalist" one can ignore scientific and economic developments completely in practice just as no modernist theory is devoid of inputs from cultural heritage with which, sooner or later it makes accommodations in order to become viable.
In the following we will make a rapid survey of some of the major, influential or innovative systems that are being implemented or proposed in various parts of the world, in the wake of the disintegration of global or super-capitalism (Robert Reich, 2007) that gradually took shape during the 20th centuries and which Bob Woodward calls Jungle Capitalism.
1- The Beijing Model
The most potent, though not the most popular rival to the collapsing Washington Consensus is surely the peculiar Chinese combination of state-owned and private enterprise under the efficiency-seeking guidance of the National Party apparatus. China presents many features of a technocracy in which politics is in the service of economic performance and prosperity. Even in the USA, various economists and social scientists have paid grudging tribute to the PRC's achievements and seemingly irresistible rise to the top of the global pyramid.
Though the Beijing Model is obviously specific to Chinese historical, demographic and cultural conditions, it nevertheless holds at least some valuable lessons, and especially for developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America, especially since in effect a sort of 2G if not a G2, a partnership fraught with rivalry, is forming between Washington and Beijing under the pressure of their growing financial, commercial and industrial interdependence.
An interesting aspect of China's statute is that, contrary to some traditionally democratic or semi-democratic polities which now tend, under the influence of economic and social factors (such as high unemployment and the threat of terrorism) to lose many of their democratic attributes and liberties, China is gradually opening up under the influence of globalizing technologies, an inevitable and rapid opening to the outside world and spreading prosperity so that it projects a picture of hope, in keeping with the belief of its leadership that freedom must be gradually learnt when a sufficient level of public literacy and stability obtain.
China offers at least a partial response to the question that Elton Kessel (World Affairs, Vol. 14, no. 3, Autumn 2010) has formulated as "Is it"possible to surgically remove dangerous aspects of capitalism while preserving its basic structure?" which entails, in his view, controlling the "animal spirits" that drive an insufficiently regulated economy into cycles of boom and bust in which "irrational exuberance" (Greenspan) is followed by depression. The other question is of course whether China can free itself from the totalitarian structure that Friedrich von Hayek identified as the nearly inevitable corollary of socialism.