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Economic and Cultural Nationalism in the 21st Century

31 August 2014 07:37 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A peaceful, prosperous and equitable world order is what most people want to see during their life -time. Yet, climate change, global economic crises, international conflicts and increasing ethno-religious violence make this dream increasingly unrealizable.

Globalisation of production and consumption has made different parts of the world more and more interdependent. But most political leaders continue to take the nation-state for granted. This is understandable because most people remain confined to the boundaries of nation-states and expect their leaders and governments to take care of their interests, first and foremost, before helping those outside their national boundaries. The developed countries can easily cut back their overseas assistance budgets, but it is not so easy to reduce domestic welfare expenditure. So, the political leaders from around the world would talk passionately about the need for international cooperation to arrest the worsening trend in climate change, eradicate global poverty, safeguard human rights across the world and promote world peace, but when the perceived national interest is at stake, which is usually determined by powerful vested interests, all these larger concerns usually take a back seat. This is what the political leaders have demonstrated in the sphere of global cooperation to halt global warming and worsening trends in other areas.

"Human civilizations have come and gone. But, much of their basic material, cultural, social and political contours remain ingrained in the minds of historically conscious people even after centuries since the collapse or disintegration of such civilizations"



The developed, western countries, of both liberal and social democratic varieties, for some years after the Second World War, appeared to provide a socio-political framework for the rest of the world to emulate, though the socialist bloc countries continued to resist the western capitalist model. Yet, due to endogamous and exogenous factors, the socialist bloc began to disintegrate and succumbed to the pressures of neo-liberal, globalised capitalist model of development. The world’s largest economy led the way by exporting its capital abroad, to tap enormous labour resources hitherto underutilised in the developing world, particularly in the two largest countries, namely China and India. Consequently, labour intensive industrial production increasingly shifted to developing countries, giving rise to a new global division of labour. While the developed western industrial countries in general continued to maintain their technological superiority and concentrate more on technology- intensive production and financial services much of the labour-intensive industrial production became increasingly concentrated in countries like China, Indonesia, Brazil and India. On the other hand, the new world order became more segmented and the diverse regions of the world have become only loosely integrated into it with no clear socio-political model to provide an overarching normative framework that is widely accepted as just and inclusive.

"The developed, western countries, of both liberal and social democratic varieties, for some years after the Second World War, appeared to provide a socio-political framework for the rest of the world to emulate"



Human civilizations have come and gone. But, much of their basic material, cultural, social and political contours remain ingrained in the minds of historically conscious people even after centuries since the collapse or disintegration of such civilizations.   In other words, the collapse of civilisations has not led to the disappearance of the divergent world views that they gave rise to. The written and oral traditions have passed on to later generations the basic ideas and values associated with them. The expansion of the Western industrial civilization across the world through colonialism and international trade resulted in the geographical spread of ideas, values and practices associated with it but their impact on non-Western societies and cultures has been uneven, not only due to resistance at the periphery but also because of the highly unequal development that Western colonialism and subsequent capitalist expansion resulted in.

The emergent global environment has been highly conducive for the co-existence of antithetical world views and value systems side by side in different parts of the world. When successive younger generations are socialised in societies and cultures that reflect divergent even contradictory world views and values, it is not difficult to imagine why they cannot think of a shared future because they tend to share very little in common. This is what we find today, not just in highly culturally divided plural societies but in the world at large where population mobility and hyper communication facilitated by internet, telecommunication and satellite TV have brought people with almost irreconcilable world views face to face. Such encounters have often heightened their intolerance, anger and hatred towards each other. Some of them are attracted to violent political movements that strive to achieve their objectives at any cost. Such political movements are by no means mass movements but forcefully drive home their messages, often resorting to brutal means. They may have their own justification for such behaviour but it is clear that they reject western liberalism and associated politics. Recent global history is replete with many such examples, from different parts of the world, though the Islamic militancy of its diverse forms is no doubt the most notable in the world today.

Even a casual look at diverse forms of political militancy across the world reveals a basic  truth. They have all been preceded by moderate forms of nationalism seeking justice and political reforms. The mobility of mainstream politics to accommodate them due to whatever circumstances, has often created conditions that are conducive for the rise of violent, often inhuman forms of resistance. One of the reasons for the failure to accommodate has been the inherently contradictory nature of ideas and values enumerating from diverse human cultures.

For instance, a culture that valorizes inequality cannot be easily reconciled with one that valorizes equality. Similarly, a socio-cultural system that promotes a distinctive world view cannot be easily reconciled with one that is very different.

"When such contradictory forms of social organisation and world views exist within almost exclusive territories under regimes that are independent of each other, the need for accommodation and compromise may not arise"


 When such contradictory forms of social organisation and world views exist within almost exclusive territories under regimes that are independent of each other, the need for accommodation and compromise may not arise. However, with increasing global encounters through trade, business, migration, development cooperation and media, diverse societies and cultures have inter-penetrated, often threatening to undermine their respective moral and normative foundations. Such culture conflicts have come to the surface in such areas as gender relations, religious practice, human rights and political organisation. There have emerged deep divisions, both within and across countries around these issues.

The conflicts based on these divisions not only continue to disintegrate societies but also prevent the emergence of an overarching moral and ethical basis for a sustainable and peaceful global order. In the face of growing instability and uncertainty, more and more people are on the move, across countries and continents, looking for a place to settle down and lead a stable and peaceful life at least with a few people around them to provide a sense of collative life. But this is not going to solve the fundamental problem of co-existence of human societies in an increasingly inter-connected world. So, the need of the hour is a new global compact aimed at finding common ground transcending the seemingly irreconcilable world views that drive human groups and countries into internecine warfare.
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  • Jeya Murugan Monday, 01 September 2014 10:23 AM

    Very informative to know more on 21 st Century 's dynamics .. Thanks.


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