Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Final Solution: Paradigm Shifting

The July/August issue of Foreign Affairs asks “Which World Are We Living In?” The editor of the issue, Gideon Rose, prefaces it by citing a lovely quote from Bismarck to the effect that “the statesman’s task was to hear God’s footsteps marching through history and try to catch his coattails as he went past.” What follows is a paradigm party with hats and balloons supplied by Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific RevolutionsAmy Chua argues that “Humans, like other primates are tribal animals.” Stephen Kotkin points out that, “Every hegemon thinks it’s the last.” And Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry argue that the “a decent world order will be liberal” despite the fact that “illiberalism, autocracy, nationalism, protectionism, spheres of influence, territorial influence—have reasserted themselves.” You might look at these three modalities like the gears on an old-fashioned manual shift car, with tribalism representing a downshift back to #1, realism and realpolitik #2 and liberal or globalism #3. Primitive tribalism, the starting point seems to be holding sway in the current Trumpocracy. It’s hard to say if the administration has evolved to the kind of self-reflexive consciousness that would make it aware of #2 or its own tendency to implode. Remember the l000 years of Rome? What about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, “the entropy of any isolated system increases.” The US was cruising comfortably in third gear under Obama, but so much water has gone under the bridge that it seems unlikely that the country will ever get up to speed and finally make it to that fourth gear of geopolitical satori.

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