The New New World Order
JUSTIN FOX |HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
IN ‘No One’s World,’ Charles Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, starts in about the same place as Bremmer. But his ambition is higher: He’s trying to call a great historical turn, akin to the economic rise of the Western world that began in the Renaissance.
“Deviations from the Western way represent not minor diversions along the one-way road to global homogeneity,” he writes, “but credible alternatives to the Western model of modernity.” After a while it becomes clear that Kupchan is aiming at the same target a zillion other wonks have attacked over the past two decades: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘The End of History,’ a famous 1989 essay in the journal The National Interest that later grew into the book ‘The End of History and the Last Man.’ Fukuyama’s argument was not that interesting things were going to stop happening in the world but that political and economic progress had reached their logical ends with liberal, capitalist democracy (‘liberal’ meaning respecting individual rights, not leftwing).
Communism had clearly been a wrong turn, and with its demise there was no credible long-run alternative to that Western model of modernity.
We may never know for sure if Fukuyama was right. But current challenges from China and political Islam surely aren’t enough to prove him wrong.
The Communist Party’s legitimacy in China rests almost entirely on its ability to deliver rising living standards, which at some point will inevitably falter, while no state run along Islamist lines has achieved much economic success outside of selling oil.
A more significant ideological challenge, Fukuyama writes in a new article in Foreign Affairs (titled, ‘The Future of History’), comes from the failure of liberal democracies, especially those in the US and UK, to protect the economic interests of the group that makes liberal democracies possible: the middle class.
“It is more the variety of capitalism that is at stake,” he writes. “The new ideology would not see markets as an end to themselves; instead, it would value global trade and investment to the extent that they contributed to a flourishing middle class.” Sounds like a nice ideology.
But it would require serious power behind it to triumph on a global scale. That’s what Kagan, another critic of Fukuyama’s end-ofhistory thesis, is really arguing. To ensure a democratic, middle-class global future, Kagan is convinced that America will have to maintain its political and economic dominance.
But can it?