Conflicts of notions of freedom, order, and security in a globalized world (Part Four)
By Mark Wegierski
This series is a 2014 iteration of the draft of a presentation read at the 2012 Telos in Europe L'Aquila Conference -- The West: Its Legacy and Future (L'Aquila, Italy), September 7-9, 2012.
It could be argued that one way for the current-day West to become more secure in the world would be an ever-accelerating process of cultural globalization. It is anticipated that non-Western societies will become increasingly like the West today. That is, they will increasingly exalt sexual and personal freedom. Their birthrates are likely to decline, they will become increasingly prosperous and consumerist, and North American and Western European pop-culture will become the global culture. However, a strong U.S. military will almost certainly have to be maintained for a considerable time, to deal with the possible final backlashes of traditional societies that are being assimilated to the global culture.
There is also the issue that some societies, for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, face such great obstacles today, that they might never be able to become prosperous and consumerist. Another truly serious question is whether the extension of the consumer society and consumer habits will not result in the destruction of the ecosphere. While on the one hand, population is expected to decline as a result of consumerism, the populations of Third World countries are already comparatively high, and the shift in consumption-styles from those typical of Third World countries, to those typical of richer Americans, will place an even greater stress on the environment.
The main alternative to the universal globalization model would probably be some kind of conservative restoration in the West (or significant parts thereof). In regard to security issues, this would allow the West to defend itself more vigorously, sometimes with rather punitive and draconian methods – but at the same time to disengage from many quote global democratizing projects. Such a restoration would also presumably curtail the global reach and lifestyle extremes of North American pop-culture.
It may appear ironic, but a more truly conservative America might well be a far less aggressively imperialist and war-making America. A more truly conservative America would also wish to curtail the global reach and lifestyle extremes of American pop-culture.
In such a scenario, most non-Western societies could probably better maintain their cultural distinctiveness, but the planet could possibly resemble a series of armed camps, as these civilizations would be likely to clash.
The renewed self-confidence, and willingness to exercise its power, including technological power, of the West, would presumably shield it from the dangers posed by rival power blocs.
However, conflict between the various camps need not take the form of full-blown quote hot wars. Indeed, among the capabilities afforded by technology today is that conflict need not take the shape of full-blown hot wars. There are the possibilities of trade blockades, cyberwar, and drone strikes.
While these neo-traditionalist Western societies would certainly claim to properly balance freedom, order, and security, they would doubtless be considered as highly repressive by left-wingers and libertarians. There would be far less freedom of sexual and personal lifestyles.
In Hegelian terms, the neo-traditionalist societies could see themselves as a proper synthesis of premodernity (the Affirmation) and modernity (the Negation) – that is, as the Negation of the Negation (i.e., the true Synthesis). The inability to significantly challenge and overcome current-day late modernity would be seen as resulting in the Negation extended to ever greater extremes – a short-circuiting of real human progress.
The so-called global-culture society, on the other hand, would probably be characterized by various combinations of extreme sexual lifestyle freedom, left-wing political-correctness, and capitalism. It is difficult to see if any one of those tendencies would ever gain a global ascendancy. This kind of society could be seen as an ever-shifting kaleidoscope, as various ad hoc accommodations and coalitions between these three main outlooks would occur.
As the global-culture society was getting underway, there would be a period of extreme danger with a possible final backlash from some traditional societies. Thereafter, the primary dangers to security in most of the global-culture society would likely be internal, such as those arising from violent crime and economic disturbances in a society with few stable anchors. Among the forms these economic disturbances could take would be: the overstretch of the welfare-state, which would in the end probably entail massive cuts to entitlements; declining living standards in advanced economies because of competition from the less-developed world; a presumably transitory period of extreme exploitation of cheap labor in the less-developed world; possible business malfeasances such as those seen in the recent financial crisis (where very risky mortgages were packaged as high-grade investments and passed onto financial institutions outside the U.S.); ever-increasing numbers of various fraudulent or semi-fraudulent money-making scams -- a society-wide collapse of trust; and the tendency of people to define their lives by their consumption habits, abandoning thrift, and falling into massive debts. A global-culture society would be extremely unsettled, hyper-modern, and in many ways vulgar and coarse. And, while organized warfare between countries might disappear, violence arising from organized crime, or between ethnic and cultural groups, or simply between individuals, might intensify.
The global-culture society -- which is far from being the utopia some might imagine it as – looks to be the more likely outcome, from the current vantage-point. According to its critics, that society might in the more distant future come to resemble the dystopian settings seen in such movies as Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (loosely based on Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) -- the "gritty" variant; or in Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World -- the more "antiseptic" variant.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.