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Alternatives For Political And Economic Organisation In The New Century

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As noted by Lucio Caracciolo (in Nomos & Chaos, 2009-10) the PRC still has to build a specific "global brand" for its evolving politico-economic system that includes elements of Manchesterian Capitalism, State planning and social mobilization that are reminiscent of Fascism, if we consider that definition objectively, absent the moral stigma which has been attached to it for historical reasons.

Beijing will have, sooner or later, to devise a cultural message clearly understandable and attractive to the outside world if it is to export successfully its "magic formula" as an alternative to the still dominant Western model.

One attempt in this direction is the "circular economic model", first defined by the US economist K Bohrtin in the 1960s and refined in German industrial and economic state policy. It is being  implemented in ruling circles of the PRC in order to strike a balance between material development and

environmental restoration and maintenance, according to the principle enunciated by the ancient statesmen Lu Buwei of the Warring States Period (c.475 BCE-221 BCE). In 2008, the 4th session of the 11th National People's Congress passed the Circular Economy Promotion Law and on May 29th, 2010, the Fifth Circular Economy Development Summit Forum was held in Beijing and it outlined four growth modes within that overall model which the PRC wishes to promote on a worldwide basis as a sustainable formula for the future of mankind.

2-Post-Democratic Aspirations

In some affluent countries which have come to take a certain amount of freedom for granted, as in North America, Western Europe and East Asia (mainly Japan), the pervasiveness of advanced communication technologies have made it possible to envision and even experiment with certain forms of "direct democracy" mediated by the Internet and its many offshoots.

It is significant that in most of those states, popular participation in the ballot box- based electoral process is usually low or very low, mainly because it is not regarded as very important in view of the fact that people's expectations from their representatives is limited, partly because they are regarded as relatively powerless to change existing institutions and partly because real power is generally believed to lie with big business and the state bureaucracy. As a result, many people are tempted to seek local, decentralized governance mediated through the cell phone and the personal computer as a high-tech reincarnation of the age-old village assembly.

In the economic domain, local self-government is taking roots in a number of smaller communities in Europe and North America due to the failure of many banks and of the increasing problems associated with credit and debt in areas affected by high unemployment and falling incomes. A number of economists are championing the recourse to local currencies, community-owned banks or even a universal "real resource" based currency, to be called Earth according to James Robertson of the New Economics Foundation (Creating New Money: A Monetary Reform for the Information Age, London, 2000).

For instance Ellen Brown in an essay entitled Escaping the Sovereign Debt Trap (Web of Debt, 2010, advocates the creation of people's banks, backed by the wealth and credit of a country, such as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia established by a Government Bill in 1911 as an instrument not to amass sovereign debt but rather to extend sovereign credit. It logged a very successful service record to the young country until it fell to the privatization drive of the 1990s.

Some states of the USA still have such banks which have protected them in large measure from the present credit crunch and moves are afoot to create new ones, in the face of determined opposition from the transnational private banking lobby, determined to protect its monopoly under the aegis of the Basel Bank of International Settlements. Reclaiming the power of emitting money for the legislative arm of government is part of a proven strategy to prevent the massive depressions recurrently brought about by the financial consolidation and centralization of globalised super-capitalism bent on keeping a stranglehold on the economy through the leverage of debt.

However, it is far from clear that local management systems can be efficiently coordinated on a larger  scale according to the same principles and, given that many problems and resources are global or at least require cooperation on a national, multi-national or global level, there is a clear need for an overarching superstructure or mechanism which will certainly have to be aided by advanced technology but cannot be reduced solely to technology.

Colin Crouch's Post-Democracy (2004, Cambridge, UK) observes that democracy and modernization both follow a parabolic trajectory so that the latter often goes hand in hand with a slow decay of the former which then turns into what Adrian Pabst calls "post-ideological managerialism" based on a "Centrist Status Quo" and possibly later into an inverted totalitarianism.

3-A New Scientific Socialism -- National or Global?

This third option within the Modernist perspective consists in taking stock of progress in natural and social sciences in the last hundred years to revise and refurbish the basic principles of Marxism in order to avoid the pitfalls which doomed both the Soviet and the Maoist regimes in the last century and build a truly user-friendly and functional socialist (or why not, communist?) system with a human and ecological face. Many proponents of this new avatar have freed themselves from the old anti-religious phobias of their predecessors and speak of integrating the "otherworldly" needs of mankind into the equation, recognizing that spuriously scientific materialism  is outdated and untenable in our age when science and spirituality are converging in many areas and when preserving the environmental balance has become a priority  higher than industrial productivity, even in the eyes of Leftists.

However one of the pitfalls of much of socialist thinking even today is that it fails to take into account the drastic and irreversible changes brought about in the global economy by new manufacturing and communication technologies which make it impossible to recreate the industrial oligopolies of the past, as Kessel (ibid.) points out. Thus trying to restore the great, labour intensive manufacturing firms to their former glory in the affluent societies of the North is doomed to fail in the face of competition from poorer high growth, nations against which protectionism is not a viable option in the long term. The rust-belt socialism of the 20th century must give way to a still vaguely defined "green socialism" that must primarily address self-employed people, small entrepreneurs and innovators.

Although in the USA, the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama has grudgingly taken over the majority of the stock of major insolvent companies and banks, thereby practicing a form of "temporary (and probably failing) limited socialism" in the judgment of his Republican critics, Europe is probably the continent most hospitable to a revived socialism at present, firstly because of its long experience with the welfare state and generous system of social protection and secondly as a result of its bitter present experience with the crisis caused by the excesses of "casino capitalism" since, in the words of Hans Koechler: "the states gradually gave way to powerful, but unaccountable vested interests at the transnational level" (World Affairs vol. 14, No2, 2010). Jeff Faux has described this process from an American standpoint in his 2006 book The Global Class War.

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Come Carpentier is a French writer, traveller, editor, consultant and researcher born in the Canary Islands, who lives and works in India and in Europe (France, Italy.Switzerland), helping manage a private foundation and contributing to various (more...)

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