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Alternatives For Political And Economic Organisation In The New Century

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It was indeed in Vienna. Austria in 1979 that the International Progress Organization called

For shifting "the emphasis from having to being and from consumption to quality of life". In the opinion of the socialists and of all those who reject the concept of "making a gain out of money itself and not from the natural object of it" (ibid.), the speculative basis of minimally regulated liberal capitalism is "a misunderstood notion of individual freedom".


The previous school of thought leads us into the realm of older, simpler and more stable societies in which harmony, re-distribution and balance are held in higher esteem than growth, change and material accumulation, to the extent that many aspects of scientific and technological progress may be shunned in order to preserve the modest but familiar, low-stress quality of life that many yearn for.

Archaism may be regarded as true conservatism because it regards the past as the sole reliable repository of knowledge we can draw from. In the view of archaicists such as Thoreau, Tolstoy, Liang Shu Ming and Mahatma Gandhi, science and technology must be regarded with suspicion, even when some of their discoveries are adopted because they are not really relevant to the core human condition and its permanent genuine needs and aspirations. Therefore they tend to amount to a distraction rather than provide real solutions.

Archaicists focus on the deepest problems affecting man and are more concerned with the ways of dealing with them than with the visible result of the remedy being applied. They hence emphasize the need to provide food, clothing and shelter to all but, along with and above those demands, they look for collective and spiritual wellbeing which they define as independent from the provision of superfluous amenities through scientific progress and capital intensive industry. On the contrary they regard harmony with nature and within society as a critical factor in ensuring happiness and health and don't want it to be compromised or neglected in order to provide a more comfortable, affluent and idle lifestyle to a section or even the majority of the population.

Most ecological philosophers and social activists belong to that school of thought but none of them has quite shown how our highly complex global society on its heavily inhabited planet can transition to a mainly rural low-energy state without going through a massive -- almost "Extinction Level" -- crisis.

In order to prevent a collapse of the supporting mechanisms of mankind, such a transition would have to take place very gradually, over several decades during which the current rush to industrialization, urbanization and greater consumption would have to be reversed and at present no human agency is powerful enough to mandate and enforce such a change of course.

If we leave out the extreme choices made by some minorities to return to a pre-industrial existence, thereby reverting to the condition still experienced by hundreds of millions in Asia, Africa and Latin America, we will find that attempts to recreate some conditions of the past are carried out at two levels, that of states trying to recapture lost greatness, from both nostalgia and necessity and that of smaller entities inspired by charismatic and influential thinkers who draw from a national or universal spiritual and political tradition.

1-The resistance of nation-states and the Return of Empires

Various authors have noticed that while nation-states, some of them quite recent, are fighting the dominant trend of globalization and world federalism in order to keep their hard won liberties, there is a revival of some of the age-old empires that ruled most parts of the world in previous centuries. In China, the USA, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia and India the two notions: nation and empire, are almost inseparable due to historic and geographic realities, such as size and physical, ethnic and cultural diversity but those continental states are threatened by fissiparous tendencies in regions that claim to have a distinct national identity justifying independence.

Other powers, such as Germany, Turkey, Spain, Mexico, Australia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria and Egypt have inherited imperial legacies which are getting a new lease of life from present geostrategic factors, often at the expense of weaker neighbouring states. For instance, Turkey, with a large population, dynamic economy and an assertive foreign policy founded on national pride is extending its influence over smaller nations which it ruled during centuries, from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Albania to Syria, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, the Caspian region and the Central Asian Turkic republics. Likewise Iran benefits from the destruction of Iraq and subjection of its Gulf Arab neighbours to the USA as well as from the disintegration of Afghanistan  and eclipse of Pakistan to project its power over the Middle East, West and Central Asia.

There is little doubt that the USA is a not-so-original sort of empire with a global outreach and an increasingly heterogenous population, though it mainly extends to the North and Central American "homeland" and to Latin American where it is however receding. The ethnic plurality of this formerly mainly Anglo-Germanic Imperium enables it to send "proconsuls" and military commanders ancestrally hailing from the areas where they are deployed (such as Indians in South Asia, Chinese and Japanese Americans in the Far East, Slavic Americans in formerly Soviet lands and Latinos in South and Central America) as most Caesarian states (i.e. Ancient Persia, Rome, Russia, Germany and Spain) did in the past.

As for the European Union under German-French leadership, it tends to assume the shape of a post-modern, neo-medieval empire if we are to hear Adrian Pabst in an as yet unpublished 2010 article, with ""overlapping jurisdictions, horizontally diffuse sovereignty and vertically arranged, concentric circles of integration".

Thus those ancient empires are renascent, though in a modern form which Pabst defines as marked by --more or less -bureaucratic capitalism and authoritarian plutocracy. The independent or more or less autonomous nations or states which are either outside or within those empires are in turn struggling to enforce their writ, no less centralized and bureaucratic (we can think at random of Croatia, Belarus, Georgia, Serbia, Taiwan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Paraguay or Honduras) on territories and people which they regard as inalienably theirs.

In both empires and nations there is a strong archaic component which is not on the wane but rather threatens to trigger many long-term or recurrent, low or high intensity wars, of the kind recently or currently seen in Georgia, North Western Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Turkish Kurdistan, to name only a few.

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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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