Rethinking World Order – Part III

by daryl.copeland on May 10, 2009

Why think about world order?

Because diplomats, like everyone with a practical or intellectual interest in international political economy,  need an analytical tool suitable for understanding the big picture.  Today, the  marketplace for world order models is littered with paradigms and prototypes.  Some aren’t labelled as such. Many have next to no predictive or explanatory capacity. Most take inadequate account of global issues.

That’s a problem.

To recap…

Bipolarity is history.

The unipolar moment of US hegemony has passed, flaming out in a spectacularly violent starburst of shock and awe.

Multipolarity doesn’t readily fit the circumstances inherent in the globalization age – the power of nations is no longer easily compared.

Heteropolarity, a term first applied to international relations by Brown University scholar James Der Derian in 2004,  might be more apt, but it its analytical power is somewhat limited by its association with polarity per se, and as such it can  take us only us so far conceptually.

The notion of worlds – First (advanced, capitalist); Second (defunct, communist) Third (less developed); and perhaps even Fourth (least developed) – comes closer to getting at what we see today. But this model, too, fails to take account of the emergence of worlds within worlds at all levels. It is too state-centric, too territorial, and it does not adequately reflect the dynamic flux which is globalization.

Though now almost forgotten, and to some extent discredited, in my view it was the dependency theorists, whose influence peaked in the 1970’s, that contributed the elements of an analysis which comes  closest to capturing the underlying patterns of development and underdevelopment. Readers may find it worthwhile, even revealing, to return to the work of Raul Prebish, Samir Amin, Andre Gunder Frank, Osvaldo Sunkel , Fernando Cardoso, Theotonio Dos Santos, Paul Baran, and others, with a view to comparing the applicability their diagnoses and prescriptions against current conditions in the world political economy.

To be sure, some of their prescriptions – self-sufficiency, or import substituting industrialization, for instance – did not stick. Yet there are many points of continuing relevance and insight – the critique of free market economics, the focus on transnationalized elites, the perils of reliance upon commodity exports and the associated difficulties with terms of trade, the idea of the poverty trap.

None, however, is more appropriate to the early 21st century than the notion of core-periphery relations at many levels between and within states, regions and social groups.

I have tried to draw on some of this prescient thinking in the construction of the arguments adduced in support of the ACTE world order model set out summarily in Part II above. I have also tried to abstract various insights offered by the dependency school in setting out the defining elements of both guerrilla diplomacy and the guerrilla diplomat, and will elaborate these at greater length in future.

Unlike traditional diplomacy, and even more so than public diplomacy, guerrilla diplomacy, and indeed guerrilla diplomats, are designed to perform effectively within and across the full spectrum of conditions encapsulated within the ACTE world order model.   Part of that alternative predisposition is borne of a very different understanding of two key terms, development and security. So, too, with the diagnosis of globalization’s  darker  side, underdevelopment and insecurity.

In the era of globalization, these two concepts are fused. Security is no longer the exclusive preserve of departments of defence, or a function of arms and  force.  Development has implications which extend well beyond the machinations of aid agencies, or notions of modernization and growth. To a great extent, development has become the new security, and guerrilla diplomacy, both as diplomatic method and as an alternative approach to understanding international relations, proceeds from that conviction.

Globalization. Security. Development.  These sprawling topics are the touchstones of our times.

A closer examination of each is coming up next.

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