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Reply #49: The Decline and Fall of Just About Everyone By Pepe Escobar [View All]

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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-06-11 08:57 AM
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49. The Decline and Fall of Just About Everyone By Pepe Escobar

September 26, 2011 "TomDispatch" -- More than 10 years ago, before 9/11, Goldman Sachs was predicting that the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) would make the world economys top ten -- but not until 2040. Skip a decade and the Chinese economy already has the number two spot all to itself, Brazil is number seven, India 10, and even Russia is creeping closer. In purchasing power parity, or PPP, things look even better. There, China is in second place, India is now fourth, Russia sixth, and Brazil seventh. No wonder Jim ONeill, who coined the neologism BRIC and is now chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, has been stressing that the world is no longer dependent on the leadership of the U.S. and Europe. After all, since 2007, Chinas economy has grown by 45%, the American economy by less than 1% -- figures startling enough to make anyone take back their predictions. American anxiety and puzzlement reached new heights when the latest International Monetary Fund projections indicated that, at least by certain measurements, the Chinese economy would overtake the U.S. by 2016. (Until recently, Goldman Sachs was pointing towards 2050 for that first-place exchange.)

Within the next 30 years, the top five will, according to Goldman Sachs, likely be China, the U.S., India, Brazil, and Mexico. Western Europe? Bye-bye!

Increasing numbers of experts agree that Asia is now leading the way for the world, even as it lays bare glaring gaps in the Wests narrative of civilization. Yet to talk about the decline of the West is a dangerous proposition. A key historical reference is Oswald Spenglers 1918 essay with that title. Spengler, a man of his times, thought that humanity functioned through unique cultural systems, and that Western ideas would not be pertinent for, or transferable to, other regions of the planet. (Tell that howler to the young Egyptians in Tahrir Square.) Spengler, of course, captured the Western-dominated zeitgeist of another century. He saw cultures as living and dying organisms, each with a unique soul. The East or Orient was magical, while the West was Faustian. A reactionary misanthrope, he was convinced that the West had already reached the supreme status available to a democratic civilization -- and so was destined to experience the decline of his title. If youre thinking that this sounds like an avant-la-lettre Huntingtonesque clash of civilizations, you can be excused, because thats exactly what it was. (Speaking of civilizational clashes, did anyone notice that maybe in a recent TIME cover story picking up on Spenglerian themes and headlined The Decline and Fall of Europe (and Maybe the West)? In our post-Spenglerian moment, the West is surely the United States, and how could that magazine get it so wrong? Maybe? After all, a Europe now in deep financial crisis will be in decline as long as it remains inextricably intertwined with and continues to defer to the West -- that is, Washington -- even as it witnesses the simultaneous economic ascent of whats sometimes derisively referred to as the South.)

Think of the present global capitalist moment not as a "clash," but a cash of civilizations.

If Washington is now stunned and operating on autopilot, thats in part because, historically speaking, its moment as the globes sole superpower or even hyperpower barely outlasted Andy Warhols notorious 15 minutes of fame -- from the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union to 9/11 and the Bush doctrine. The new American century was swiftly throttled in three hubris-filled stages: 9/11 (blowback); the invasion of Iraq (preemptive war); and the 2008 Wall Street meltdown (casino capitalism).


Its worth remembering that capitalism was civilized thanks to the unrelenting pressure of gritty working-class movements and the ever-present threat of strikes and even revolutions. The existence of the Soviet bloc, an alternate model of economic development (however warped), also helped. To counteract the USSR, Washingtons and Europes ruling groups had to buy the support of their masses in defending what no one blushed about calling the Western way of life. A complex social contract was forged, and it involved capital making concessions. No more. Not in Washington, thats obvious. And increasingly, not in Europe either. That system started breaking down as soon as -- talk about total ideological triumph! -- neoliberalism became the only show in town. There was a single superhighway from there and it swept the most fragile strands of the middle class directly into a new post-industrial proletariat, or simply into unemployable status. If neoliberalism is the victor for now, its because no realist, alternative developmental model exists, and yet what it has won is ever more in question. Meanwhile, except in the Middle East, progressives the world over are paralyzed, as if expecting the old order to dissolve by itself. Unfortunately, history teaches us that, at similar crossroads in the past, you are as likely to find the grapes of wrath, right-wing populist-style, as anything else -- or worse yet, outright fascism. The West against the rest is a simplistic formula that doesnt begin to describe such a world. Imagine instead, a planet in which the rest are trying to step beyond the West in a variety of ways, but also have absorbed that West in ways too deep to describe. Heres the irony, then: Yes, the West will decline, Washington included, and still it will leave itself behind everywhere...



Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and a regular. His latest book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). To listen to Timothy MacBains latest Tomcast audio interview in which Escobar reflects on the fate of the global economy click here, or download it to your iPod here. He may be reached at
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