World No Longer Listens to the Deaf Prophets of the West
by Mark Mazower – April 13, 2015
The Financial Times
As Europe struggles to hold itself together and its nationalist parties preach the virtues of the old nation-state, we find ourselves back in a place that can look eerily familiar. Once again we inhabit a world of great powers jostling for influence. Russia, with its incursions into Ukraine, is once again an aspirational counterweight; and China’s rise has thrown the power balance in Asia into confusion. Meanwhile the likely re-emergence of Iran, following the agreement between Tehran and world powers of a nuclear accord, and the slow ebbing of American power are reshaping the Middle East.
So is this a story, as the doomsters would have it, of western decline? Certainly, it is the ending of that long era in which the US and the Europe between them could assume they ran the world. But rather than indicating decline, this shifting configuration of forces may provide some much-needed intellectual reinvigoration, an end perhaps not only to centuries of the west’s global dominance but perhaps too to the mental laziness that accompanied it.
When the west emerged triumphant at the end of the cold war, many saw the defeat of communism as a vindication of its ideas. They believed history had demonstrated the superiority of democracy and the market over one-party rule and the planned economy. They viewed the US as the guardian of these values and encouraged international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to promote them globally in the form of the Washington consensus.
In fact what the Washington consensus, as it came to be known, really did was to replace one view of the relationship between markets and democracy with another. What it destroyed was that older idea, forged out of depression and war, that markets were valuable but needed to be held in check in order to allow governments the capacity to do the things at home that would nourish democratic institutions.
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