Was it really the end of history? The review of an era.

A decade has passed since the bubble had burst. In the decade that followed 2008 financial crisis, the world has been home to a number of major changes that have happened locally but with a global impact. The notion of global comes with a range of explanations depending on the subjectivity of its origin. The questions of How global are we? Or Has the world really transformed into a global platform? have been addressed by a lot of nation states and powerful actors; and to say the least, they have been addressed well. Sceptics for long did challenge an order that would truly be global by nature but with the turn of the last decade of the twentieth century it was seen as the “end of history”, with an international order that worked with “universal principles” headed by a state that is considered as the ultimate model of democracy and liberalism. The period post ’91 till 2008 was a period of American hegemony over the world economy, flexible and free market conceptualizations becoming true, free movement of labour and capital, a loosening constraint on national boundaries, more inclusivity and last but not the least the technological boom that has its seeds in silicon valley where a series of technological innovations and advancement was about to change the course of humankind.

The era which started with the toppling of a challenging order in 1991, that announced the victory of the liberal international order and rejected a world that can survive without any democratic stability was also the era which was enthusiastically described by Fukuyama as, “the end of history?”. But when Dr.Fukuyama wrote about it, it was just a mere celebration of democratic-liberalism winning an ideological battle. Had Fukuyama known what was about to become a world that will see a growing challenge to the status quo of the United States, an increase in religious extremism along with a complicated thread of terrorist activities and a society that adopts to “market fundamentalism” – leading to world’s inequality at its highest in human history, he might have refrained from merely “celebrating” an ideological victory. Briefly, “end of history” meant an end to the political evolution of humankind , an end to looking for the best possible political order, an end to human intellectual conscience of looking for solutions to address politics of a nation or the international community. But what came in the following years can be described more aptly as the “beginning of the end”.

In the famous write up where John Ikenberry writes about the process of degradation of the present international order, he mentions that the very fact that liberal internationalism stood as a victor with no possible challenger- the fundamental reason why it is in crisis today. In the period between 1990 to 2000 and later on with the Arab spring, more and more countries have become democratic. The Central Asian and East European countries were the first ones to adopt it after the collapse of the USSR, which meant their desire to be included in the unions and alliances formed between the US and western Europe. The world during this period saw an increasing reluctance and resistance for a more inclusive EU and NATO with countries like Russia and Turkey wanting to be members of such institutions; In fact a major take of this event was questioning the purpose of the organisations. During the cold war, these institutions served a purpose of protecting the interests of democracies along with developing a model for economic and social progress. An organisation like the NATO was primarily built to protect and safeguard security of western Europe against the soviet sphere of influence but with the [USSR] collapse, its purpose seems to be dwindling; same is the case of EU. Since these democratic institutions posed a model that the world could look upon, they could no longer defend their purpose. With the arousal of a desire for democracy almost every country in the world aspired to be one. This in a large way affected the leadership of United States as its champion and torch bearer. With countries like Brazil, India and Russia posing their own models of democracies the US was no longer able to exercise its leadership on the issue of governance and inter-state relations. As mentioned by Ikenberry, authority was accompanied by the “crisis of social purpose”. The US and its allies lost the purpose of promoting democratic values. Their win only resulted in them loosing what served the democratic and liberal values. Democratic promotion was only to become a tool to worsen the situations in regions like Latin America and Middle East.

One of the most controversial yet mind boggling article by Samuel Huntington The Clash of The Civilisations provides challenging contrast to our way of understanding global issues and the crisis of liberal internationalism. Huntington talks about religious identity as the main challengers to the political system. Strategists, political gurus and theorists have for long ignored the presence and impact of the civilisational identity that individuals possess. An event that made it something to think about was the September 11 attacks. Although a crisis had started with the refugee issue in Iran in 70s, it only took shape in the minds of western thinkers after the attacks on the twin towers. The reason for this being the enlightenment age and the treaty of Westphalia; religion was separated from politics as a process of modernization. The conflicts were mainly among states before twentieth century and with the two world wars and during the cold war it was about the conflict of ideologies. Under the roof of one ideology what has become its biggest threat is something that was totally not anticipated. As religion and extreme fundamentalism take part in shifting every foundation brick that supports this system, it will be interesting to watch how the “ultimate political order” prepares to battle it.

The market opened post 90 for most of the nations of the world. Privatization, standardization and liberalization became the norm for “economic prosperity”. With its regulatory bodies like the Bretton Woods, United States influenced the world market in a major way. Many countries became the beneficiary of the capitalist system and showed phenomenal economic growth rates and rapid industrialization. What nobody paid attention to was the impact of financial activities that was boosting the economy. A lot many countries’ economies showed a rapid generation of wealth which was solely based on the financial markets. It showed a proxy development and growth model that lasted on non-regulatory and flexible bonds and complex financial derivatives. The very character of this type of a flexible market which was least intervened by the state was the reason for the crisis that was to follow. Although the realization post 2008 that a nation’s economy cannot be fully dependent on its finance markets was evident, market fundamentalism and the want for a even freer market remains. What people fail to understand is that, the understanding of what is free and flowing is purely based on contextual and periodic basis. Market fundamentalists in eighteenth and nineteenth century worked on free flow and trading of slaves which they considered to be yet another commodity in the world market.

Observers have noted that imperialism never ended with the end of colonies, it has continued under the name of ideology and further continued in the complex dynamics of globalisation. With both the world wars ending the supremacy of Britain as a status-quo power and emergence of the US, fundamentally it can be argued that great powers act in the same manner which more or less is concerned with their “influence”. The present decade after the 2008 crisis has seen the rise of yet another power which has evolved and uniquely shaped its political and economic influence. What might be seen as a crisis of the present system can also be nearing an end of it. If China replaces the US as yet another revisionist power that takes the lead, it will really be interesting to see how it addresses questions of market, civilization and social purpose. What still remains as a mystery is if the future redefines the present system of liberal internationalism or it embraces a new kind of order with a new leader championing its cause, but most importantly how it goes about with the issues of nationalism, inequality , unemployment, refugee, religion and so on. Globalization has divided people more than it has brought them together be it socially or economically. Unfortunately although the human intellect has been evolving politically with instances of “end of history” celebrations, it has not been able to separate itself from the clutches of the powerful influences. If there were generations that fought imperialism and ended it, there is yet again a few generations required to fight an imperialism that has been reborn, which is even more powerful and even more complex. The confusion whether it will infest from the present system or a system with a new power like China will be a thing to witness, but in order to prepare and work towards a world like that, one needs to continuously enrich her conscience.

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