Had a coat of fine leather and snakeskin boots
But that coat always had a thread hangin’ loose
Well I pulled it one night and to my surprise
It led me right past your house and on over the rise’
‘Lucky Town’- Bruce Springsteen
The World’s Political And Economic Order Is Stronger Than It Looks
8:39PM GMT 30 Dec 2015
In the last days of 2014 I identified 2015 as the first Year Of Culture. I described the rise of the cultural constituency – a new kind of sub national grouping transforming the nature of politics internationally and domestically.
The dramatic rise of SYRIZA in Greece, PODEMOS in Spain, Trump in America, and even the division of Scotland and England between SNP and the Conservative party proved my observation to be accurate. No one else came close to predicting the rapid and transformative rise of the cultural constituency .
My analysis comes from the perspective that fundamental and far-reaching change is taking place. This affects not only the way that politics and economics is practised but the core ideological principles that underpin these disciplines in the ‘western’ world.
Economics as we have understood it has fallen apart – there is no longer an economic rationale -a unifiying ideology that underpins the debate between opposing factions. Instead, it has been substituted for by a cocktail of emotion and morality that is the precursor to fully fledged sub-national identities.
Until the end of the Cold War questions of group identity and conflict appeared to be successfully subsumed within the modern nation state. It was argued by our liberal elite that this process of sublimation to liberal democracy would continue throughout the world. Loyalty based on district or ethnicity or religion would gradually wither away and be replaced by loyalty based on ‘class’ and comparative economic advantage economic rationale.
This transformation was the essence of progress and modernity and was supposed to be unstoppable. But by now it is now becoming increasingly obvious that not only has the global process of liberal expansion stalled, it is now being reversed– even within the core nations of Western Europe where it began 450 years ago.
The bigger picture has been revealed over the past year. If 2015 was the first Year of Culture then 2016 is the first year of The Great Unravelling.
In a recent piece in the Telegraph, ‘The World’s Political And Economic Order Is Stronger Than It Looks’ Ambrose Evans Pritchard (AEP) compares the world as it is now and as it was in two other periods of great upheaval; the interwar decades between 1918 and ‘39 and the time of The Thirty Years War that divided Europe into Protestant and Catholic states.
In AEP’s brief description what is immediately striking is the central significance of Germanic thought in these crises; its liberal wing personified by Erasmus and Stefan Schweig, its prescriptive wing by Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler.
It is also striking to note that despite recognising the centrality of German politics and culture in the rise of Protestantism and the World Wars, AEP somehow fails to recognise the possibility that German culture and politics is again at the centre of a global crisis we now find ourselves in.
Indeed, it is not even clear that AEP is sure that there IS a specific crisis.
‘Readers have scolded me gently for too much optimism over the past year, wondering why I refuse to see that the world economy is in dire trouble and that the international order is coming apart at the seams’.
His central prognosis is that things could be a lot worse; is this justified optimism or blindness?
AEP is unable to see both the ‘Germaness’ or the danger in the present crisis because contemporary events frame the end of Empire, something which is likely to be beyond the ability of the adherents of that empire to discuss rationally.
Protestantism and the Enlightenment were markers for the beginning of the age of the modern Germanic nation state which displaces ethnic and cultural regional identity. Luther and Protestantism represent the birth and growing pains of an Empire Of Thought co-existing with the physical Germanic empire. The split between Protestant and Catholic thought in Germany was characterised by German philosophy as the failure of Catholic thought.
The World wars that began almost exactly three hundred years after the Thirty Years War represented another intellectual milestone -an irretrievable split between Continental German and Anglo Saxon thought. This split centered on the failure of the liberal continental German tradition of Goethe and Schiller (and even Marx) to resist the rise of barbarism. This was in turn characterised by Saxons as the failure of continental German thought.
There is a pattern here: The prevalent form of thought is said to have failed as a competing form of thought emerges, then there is an unraveling that spirals into conflict.
The Technical Basis For Civilisation
A global unified Germanic philosophy emerged from Protestantism, based on the idea that there was a technical basis for ‘civilisation’ that dominated more or less the entire world:
‘Zweig’s description of Europe in the years leading up to 1914 is intoxicating. Everything seemed to be getting better: wealth was spreading, people were healthier, women were breaking free’….He could travel anywhere without a passport, received with open arms in Paris, Milan or Stockholm by a fraternity of writers and artists. It was a cheerful, peaceful world that seemed almost untainted by tribal animosities’ (!-AP)..
It was believed that the more technologically advanced a society was, the more civilized it was. The more civilised it was, the more morally developed it was. The impulse and capability leading someone to develop a combustion engine is the same impulse leading someone to create a sewer system, universal education etc. It is a process of improving the lot of mankind through individual effort.
Ironically perhaps, this argument reaches its apotheosis in Karl Marx (a Protestant family converted from Judaism, missing out Catholicism on the way!), who claimed that a physically materially advanced society is better in every way than a non developed society more intelligent and more moral. Crudely put, it is further along the road to ‘inevitable’ revolution and socialism.
But the fetishisation of technological development ended in Auschwitz and Hiroshima, after which it was undeniable that technology was also an enabler for what can only be called bestiality. WWII showed the world that you could be a savage with a V2 rocket and a computer just as easily as you could be a savage with a hatchet and a headress. The chimera of technology and civilisation was dead.
After the worldwide discrediting of German philosophy a section of the elite sought to preserve what they could of German intellectual heritage and corresponding cultural and political power. Welfare and Multiculturalism are what they took from the burning ruins of Germanic philosophy. These were the post WWII liberals that created the Germanic welfare societies and the European Union.
So what does it mean to say that the German elite wanted to save global Germanic philosophy? They wanted to save it from being lost within the world. The C20th saw German philosophy transformed in a few decades from a global transformative force to one in danger of being completely despised and ignored. Post war Germanic politics, both ‘left’ and ‘right’, is the process of rehabilitating German philosophy and society in the eyes of the world
This collapse of German philosophy was exactly the inevitable consequence of a fratricidal inter-Germanic war. After all, how can German philosophy claim to be the all inclusive end point of human civilisation when both types of Germans are trying to destroy each other?
‘even during the slaughter of the First World War, Europe still had a moral conscience. All sides still bridled at any accusation that they were violating humanitarian principles.
…Two decades later, even that had disappeared. Zweig lived to see his country amputated, cut off from its economic lifelines, and reduced to a half-starved rump.’.
German philosophy is at its root a philosophy of total world domination – its proponents on ‘left’ and ‘right’ only differ in that they advocate the use of force or industry or intellect to achieve this end.
From its inception German philosophy understood itself to be the future the product of progress and development. All nations HAVE to become nation state democracies because this is the consequence of ‘inevitable’ development- It claims that everybody in the world ‘yearns’ to be ‘free’ etc. German philosophy is based on Universalism therefore it has to be all subsuming. It cannot be just one of many philosophies. In a grand irony, the philosophy of competition cannot ever accept the validity of any competition with itself!
This is the kernel inside the United States of Everywhere: ‘Do you accept the pre-eminence of German philosophy?’ Seen through a contemporary prism this question presents as: Does the developing world rise because it has adopted Germanic liberal capitalist thought or because it has resisted it?
This question was certainly open in the initial period of globalisation when it seemed that the ‘West’ was instigating a free and comprehensive exchange of ideas and material with the rest of the world.
However, since the debacle of the ongoing Mid Eurasian wars and the chaos they have brought, it is becoming increasingly harder to deny that it is only through resistance to Germanic thought that progress is achieved or even basic human civilisation maintained. Developing nations are increasingly forced to turn their back to the ‘West’ in order to survive.
Even Saudi Arabia-a direct creation of Anglo Saxon foreign policy now finds itself driven into conflict with the nation that sponsors it as a consequence of the chaos that is engulfing the entire Middle East.
This brings us to what really appears to be bothering AEP. What he describes as the “managed “rise of China as competitor to the USA. AEP chooses to see this as a matter of political and economic transition rather than a cultural one.
..The fateful rupture between the US and China that many feared has not in fact happened. Washington has so far managed the rise of a rival superpower more or less benignly.
China has just been admitted into the governing elite of the Bretton Woods financial system with the backing of the US Treasury. …Barack Obama and Xi Jinping steered through a sweeping climate change accord in Paris, the template for a new G2 condominium.
In case this all seems a little implausible:
‘This is not to deny that the Pacific Rim remains the world’s most dangerous fault-line. The South China Sea is on a hair trigger. The US Navy faces the unenviable task of defending the global commons of open shipping lanes without crossing an invisible strategic line.
But not to worry:
.. the Chinese hubris that seemed so alarming four years ago has faded with the dawning realisation that they are not magicians after all – and America is not in decline after all’
What an image- the USA as defender of a ‘global commons!’ At this point I can’t help wondering if AEP is entirely serious about all this. Still…
Underneath the rhetoric, AEP implies that China is so thoroughly westernised that there would be no significant difference in the way global politics and economics operates were China to become the single most powerful economic and political power in the globe.
In contrast, I would argue that what we have already seen of China’s limited rise to power is undermining not only the economic ideology of capitalism, but even more importantly, the cultural identity that underpins it.
The German nations of NW Europe have sought ‘moral’ leadership through their loudly proclaimed willingness to accept middle eastern refugees. However, it has become increasingly apparent that no group of nations, no matter how willing they are to adopt multiculturalism, are able to physically cope with the effects of millions of foreigners who are motivated by and adapted to, what is fundamentally an alien understanding of life, culture and morality.
But this is not simply about Islam. A Eurasian Identity is rapidly challenging and threatening to overwhelm European identity as we have understood it for the past 400 years. The fall of Europe and the rise of Eurasia are increasingly obviously coterminous- graphically illustrated by the wave of mass immigration that has transformed the political and cultural landscape of western Europe in the past year.
The stark choice is that you can have a modern open welfare system of the type that has characterised post-World War II Germanic societies, or you can have mass immigration but you cannot have both.
So this is where the nations of western Europe find themselves. They can continue to adhere to post WWII principles in the form of welfarism or they can continue to adhere to post WWII principles in the form of mass immigration but they cannot do both.
The similarity between this period of crisis and the preceding crises becomes clear. In the time of Erasmus and Luther, German societies could no longer reconcile their fundamental beliefs with those of the Catholic church. The Holy Roman Empire was split and the German empire was born.
At the beginning of the C20th the global Germanic empire could no longer reconcile its internal differences and split. The Anglo Saxon empire separated and the Germans tried to create the European Union as a response.
And now at the beginning of the C21st the German nations are beginning to split within themselves because of the tension between multiculturalism and welfarism. And this is the Great Unraveling because once these nation states go, German philosophy goes finally and completely with them.
I pointed this out in a piece I wrote about Anders Brevik and the mass killing of Norwegian Social Democrats a couple of years ago. I argued then that the killing was the symptom of precisely this impending collision between the two remaining strands of postwar thought; Multiculturalism and Welfare. Since that time this contradiction has only become sharper.
in writing about Vector History I have observed that the intellectual framework behind welfarism is a feudal/integrating one whereas that behind mass immigration is a capitalistic/disintegrating one. Inevitably, these two impulses will come into conflict. Both are German ideas but only one can survive.