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The end of the end of history
www.taipeitimes.com ^ | August 26th, 2002 | John Gray

Posted on 08/26/2002 1:32:55 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe

The disappearance of Marxism as a force in world politics has not been accompanied by an acceptance of a diversity of political systems.

Throughout modern times liberal states have always co-existed alongside many kinds of tyranny. Similarly, the modern world has always contained numerous economic systems -- many varieties of capitalism, planned and guided economies, and a host of hybrid economic systems not easily classified.

Diplomacy and international law developed to cope with the fact of diverse regimes. Yet throughout the 20th century global politics was shaped by the project of unifying the world within a single regime. Insofar as it remained committed to Marxist ideology, the long-term goal of the Soviet regime was world communism. The whole world was to be a single socialist economy, administered by forms of governance that were to be everywhere the same.

This Marxist project is now widely and rightly viewed as utopian. Even so, its disappearance as a force in world politics has not been accompanied by an acceptance of a diversity of political systems. With communism's fall we were, in Francis Fukuyama's famous phrase, at the "end of history," a time when western governments could dedicate themselves to unifying the international system into a single regime based on free markets and democratic government. But this project is as utopian as Marxism once was, and promises to be considerably more short-lived than the Soviet Union.

Many reasons exist for why the Soviet bloc collapsed, but -- contrary to conventional opinion -- economic inefficiencies were not central among them. The Soviet bloc disintegrated because it could not cope with nationalist dissent in Poland and the Baltic states and more generally because a single economic and political system could not meet the needs of vastly different societies and peoples.

Marxism is a version of economic determinism. It predicts that differences between societies and peoples narrow as they achieve similar levels of economic development. Nationalism and religion have no enduring political importance, Marxists believed. In the short run, they can be used to fuel anti-imperialist movements. Ultimately, they are obstacles to the construction of socialism. Guided by these beliefs, the Soviet state waged an incessant war on the national and religious traditions of the peoples they governed.

In practice, Soviet rulers were compelled to compromise in order to remain in power. Few could be described as wholehearted ideologues. Even so, the Soviet system's rigidity was largely the result of the fact that it was established on a false premise.

The basis of the Soviet system was the Marxian interpretation of history in which every society is destined to adopt the same economic system and the same form of government. The USSR fell apart because its monolithic institutions could not accommodate nations -- Czechs and Uzbeks, Hungarians and Siberians, Poles and Mongols -- whose histories, circumstances and aspirations were radically divergent.

Today, the global free market constructed in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse is also falling apart -- and for similar reasons. Like Marxists, neo-liberals are economic determinists. They believe that countries everywhere are destined to adopt the same economic system and therefore the same political institutions. Nothing can prevent the world from becoming one vast free market; but the inevitable process of convergence can be accelerated. Western governments and transnational institutions can act as midwives for the new world.

Implausible as it sounds, this ideology underlies institutions such as the IMF. Argentina and Indonesia have very different problems, but for the IMF the solution is the same: they must both become free-market economies. Russia at the time of communism's fall was a militarized rust-belt, but the IMF was convinced that it could be transformed into a western-style market economy. An idealized model of Anglo-Saxon capitalism was promoted everywhere.

Unsurprisingly, this highly ideological approach to economic policy has not succeeded. Indonesia is in ruins, while Argentina is rapidly ceasing to be a first-world country. Russia has put the neo-liberal period behind it and is now developing on a path better suited to its history and circumstances.

Countries that have best weathered the economic storms of the past few years are those -- like India, China and Japan -- which took the IMF model with a large grain of salt. To be sure, like the few remaining Marxists who defend central economic planning, the ideologues of the IMF claim that their policies did not fail; they were not fully implemented. But this response is disingenuous. In both cases, the policies were tried -- and failed at great human cost.

If the global free market is unraveling, it is not because of the human costs of its policies in countries such as Argentina, Indonesia and Russia. It is because it no longer suits the countries that most actively promote it. Under the pressure of a stock market downturn, the US is abandoning policies of global free trade in favor of more traditional policies of protectionism. This turn of events is not surprising. Throughout its history, the US has always tried to insulate its markets from foreign competition. So history has once more triumphed over ideology.

With America's loss of interest the chief prop of neo-liberal policies has been pulled away. Mainstream politicians may still nod reverently when the global free market is invoked, but in practice the world is reverting to an older and more durable model. It is being tacitly accepted that in future, as in the past, the world will contain a variety of economic systems and regimes. The global free market is about to join communism in history's museum of discarded utopias.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: communism; corporatism; freetrade; globalism; globalization; imf; interdependence; marxism; nationalism; protectionism; socialism; utopianism

1 posted on 08/26/2002 1:32:56 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
psst...marxism/communism/socialism marches on, attempting to grab control of
production using environmentalist arguments.
2 posted on 08/26/2002 1:40:48 PM PDT by crypt2k
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To: crypt2k
and trying to fill a spritual vacume with gaia worship or external locus of control religions like islam
3 posted on 08/26/2002 1:45:18 PM PDT by joesnuffy
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To: crypt2k
psst...marxism/communism/socialism marches on, attempting to grab control of production using environmentalist arguments.

In this article, Dr. Gray is talking about the failure of the Soviet project, which involved a model of centralized state planning. It is this model which is discredited. You may call the environmentalists and others socialists, but their methods are different; they are working within the liberal democratic system, and their remedies will be liberal democratic remedies, not Soviet remedies. I.e., expect lots of feel good indoctrination and government regulation working within a free market, not centralized state control of everything. This kind of activist "marxist" policy does not conflict with neo-liberal economics as long as it operates within the liberal democratic system. Western marxism so operates; Communist or Soviet marxism did not.

4 posted on 08/26/2002 1:55:30 PM PDT by Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
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To: Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
,,, valid points you're making here. I'm seeing this where I am, in New Zealand. Centre-left Party with a majority in Parliament but they've largely retained the free market framework established in the mid 1980s which presently sees us ranked as the third most deregulated economy in the world. They'll have to retain it to pay for the state of the art welfare system they wish to see balancing any gains we may make in economic growth.
5 posted on 08/26/2002 2:06:44 PM PDT by shaggy eel
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To: madfly
ping
6 posted on 08/26/2002 2:20:35 PM PDT by shaggy eel
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The Soviet bloc disintegrated because it could not cope with nationalist dissent in Poland and the Baltic states and more generally because a single economic and political system could not meet the needs of vastly different societies and peoples.

Darn, America was stupid. Over 100,000 dead, and trillions of dollars spent fighting something which just like, you know, sorta like collapsed all by itself due to internal contradictions and stuff.

7 posted on 08/26/2002 2:24:30 PM PDT by LarryLied
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To: Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
The system you are describing is not new. It was pioneered by Benito Mussolini.
8 posted on 08/26/2002 2:36:05 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
bttt
9 posted on 08/26/2002 3:23:35 PM PDT by madfly
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To: LarryLied
Darn, America was stupid. Over 100,000 dead, and trillions of dollars spent fighting something which just like, you know, sorta like collapsed all by itself due to internal contradictions and stuff.

But when? 100 years from now after they had conquered all of Europe and the Third World?
I'm sure that the Communists, once they took over most of the world, would just let the US alone. NOT.

Now I understand you positiions. You are a foreign policy appeaser who hates anyone who reminds you that there are real fights.

10 posted on 08/26/2002 4:34:11 PM PDT by rmlew
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To: rmlew
Detecting sarcasm is not your strong point, is it?
11 posted on 08/26/2002 4:49:10 PM PDT by LarryLied
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To: LarryLied
Sarcasm is hard to detect in plaintext. Tone doesn't exist here. Please use emoticons.
12 posted on 08/26/2002 5:35:31 PM PDT by rmlew
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The context of this piece should be understood clearly. The communist chinese are running a massive and growing trade surplus with the US: in part because of their low wages but also because they do a good job of putting non tarrif barriers in front of US and most foreign companies. They game the system very well indeed.

They have contributed nothing to make the system work. They have only worked to exploit it. If the system fails they want the onus squarly put on the US. The writer is pure puke.
13 posted on 08/27/2002 5:09:43 AM PDT by ckilmer
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The context of this piece should be understood clearly. The communist chinese are running a massive and growing trade surplus with the US: in part because of their low wages but also because they do a good job of putting non tarrif barriers in front of US and most foreign companies. They game the system very well indeed.

They have contributed nothing to make the system work. They have only worked to exploit it. If the system fails they want the onus squarly put on the US. The writer is pure puke.
14 posted on 08/27/2002 5:16:22 AM PDT by ckilmer
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To: Tailgunner Joe; lavaroise; JanL; Orion78; bat-boy; EditorTFP
When did Marxism disappear? Not only are there significant pockets throughout the West, in addition, a number of East Bloc nations now look back fondly upon their past states of existance. Not to mention the fact that some Marxist nations never "collapsed" (assuming you even buy the 1989 - 1991 "events" in E. Europe / Central Asia at face value...) at all and are still tyrannical Marxist states.

Beyond these flaws, the article does make a number of excellent points. After reading "The Nexus and the Olive Tree" I was left with the impression that the world described by Friedman and Fukuyama was suprisingly similar to the "converged" state of existance that was much feared by the John Birch Society et al during the early 1960s.

Part of the antidote for the Fukuyamaian rehash of self destructive British naivete 1919 - 1939

15 posted on 08/27/2002 8:02:54 AM PDT by GOP_1900AD
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Many reasons exist for why the Soviet bloc collapsed, but -- contrary to conventional opinion -- economic inefficiencies were not central among them. The Soviet bloc disintegrated because it could not cope with nationalist dissent in Poland and the Baltic states and more generally because a single economic and political system could not meet the needs of vastly different societies and peoples.

The writer is an idiot, I quit reading after this.

16 posted on 08/27/2002 8:05:26 AM PDT by tet68
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To: shaggy eel
A Friedmanian wet dream.... on line stock markets, social safety nets and ecotourism. In other words, nauseating 3rd Way incrementalism...Gramsci would be proud!
17 posted on 08/27/2002 8:05:48 AM PDT by GOP_1900AD
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To: rmlew
Most have a very poor education regarding all of the mistakes that the appeasing nihilists who ran the UK 1919 - 1939 made. We ("we" meaning the Western, mainstream, Fukuyamaian, liberal, corporatists) now repeat them.
18 posted on 08/27/2002 8:10:00 AM PDT by GOP_1900AD
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To: rmlew
Sarcasm is hard to detect in plaintext.

I don't think so. It does require paying attention to the habits of the poster.

19 posted on 08/27/2002 8:25:27 AM PDT by js1138
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To: belmont_mark
"When did Marxism disappear? "

Spot on! All one has to do is listen the the Hilda beast to know Marxism is alive and lurking waiting for just the right person to implement it.

20 posted on 08/27/2002 9:00:03 AM PDT by Wurlitzer
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To: belmont_mark
You beat me to it. Marxism is far from dead. I would submit that it's healthier than ever thanks to Gramsci. I would never have known about Gramsci if it was not for Free Republic. It's amazing how easy things are to figure out once your eyes have been opened. They are defeating us from within like cancer. The powers that are behind the democrats are Communists, pure and simple. While I highly doubt that the typical blue collar union worker who votes the democrat party line is a communist (actually those guys on the assembly line would probably enjoy going commie hunting at lunch) and the ones with their hands out are too stupid to know a communist from a fascist, the fact remains that the communists are 10-20 years max from taking us down. Class warfare, property seizure, confiscatory tax rates, erosion of our constitutional rights, unchecked immigration, etc... are destroying us. All the smart bombs, missile defense systems, carriers, etc... in the world won't help if someone like Clinton (w\out a Republican house) is in charge.

Even as we speak the Chinese, who already have the Panama Canal (thanks to their lackeys Clinton and Carter)are about to go full force into Venezuela and then Brazil. How long until Argentina falls? Chile will then be isolated and this time there may not be a Pinochet to rise up and throw them out. Within 5-10 years South America will go down. Central America is already halfway there. Who'll be left? The Europeans. I doubt it. Their best and brightest were killed before they had a chance to raise a family, the effects of which we are starting to see now. They can't even throw the Muslims out (not that we're doing any better). Paranoid? Maybe. Maybe not.

I try and remain optimistic. The success of conservatism on talk radio,the internet, and book sales seems to have negated the media's influence. And we all how patriotism came to life last September. While we learned lessons from 9-11 so did the Gramscians. It just confirmed that their philosophy of patiently taking us down inch by inch rather than doing something dramatic to wake us all up.

21 posted on 08/27/2002 9:34:36 AM PDT by MattinNJ
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To: belmont_mark
Marxism is still the choice ideology of replacement against freedom and capitalism. What are the biggest parties in vogue? Hardly big business, save maybe once every 4 or 8 years in the US.
22 posted on 08/27/2002 11:23:35 AM PDT by lavaroise
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To: belmont_mark
A Friedmanian wet dream.... on line stock markets, social safety nets and ecotourism. In other words, nauseating 3rd Way incrementalism...Gramsci would be proud!

,,, forgot to mention, direct taxation here is bracketed and runs as high as 39%. After that, there's GST (like State tax but at 12,5%) on virtually everything. Needless to say, at 100% you're a slave. They're bragging about a $NZ2,5b fiscal surplus but not saying too much about healthcare and education falling in around our ears, while the talent and money paying for the welfare system export themselves out of here.

23 posted on 08/27/2002 1:33:56 PM PDT by shaggy eel
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