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After the 20th century: a world in transition

After the 20th century: a world in transition

By Eric Hobsbawm

According to Eric Hobsbawm, "neoliberal globalization" represents an economic, political and cultural change in the world in the 21st century. Analysis with the author's stamp that states that economic power will have an Asian orientation and the environmental crisis will not be close to being solved.


A very prominent scientist has expressed the opinion that the human race only has a fifty percent chance of surviving the 21st century. This is in a sense an extreme statement; but very few would disagree with the idea that our species and our globe now face unprecedented dangers for the present century, if only because of the extraordinary impact that human technology and economics have on the environment. This essay of mine is not concerned with such apocalyptic scenarios: I will assume that if humanity survived the 20th century, it will also do so in the 21st century.

The world of the early 21st century is characterized by three main events:

* The enormous forces that accelerate the speed of our production capacity and that, in doing so, change the face of the world. This is so and will continue.

* A globalization process accelerated by the revolution in transportation and communications indicates that: a) its major effects correspond directly or indirectly to economic globalization; although b) it occurs in all fields except those of political power and culture, insofar as they depend on language.

* The recent but rapid shift in the distribution of wealth, power, and culture, from an established pattern that lasted from 1750 to 1970 to one still indeterminate.

I

The increase in our capacity to produce - and to consume - hardly requires any verification. However, I wish to make three observations. The first concerns the exploitation of resources whose supply is naturally limited. This includes not only the fossil energy sources that industry has depended on since the 19th century - coal, oil, gas - but on the oldest founders of our civilization, namely: agriculture, fisheries and forests. These natural limitations are either absolute given the magnitude of the geological reserves and arable land, or relative when the demand exceeds the capacity of these resources for their own renewal, such as excessive fishing and forest exploitation. Near the end of the 20th century, the world had not yet approached the absolute limit of energy sources, nor a substantial increase in agricultural productivity and arable land, although the rate of incorporation of new lands slowed down during the second half of the century. century. Wheat, rice and corn yields per hectare more than doubled between 1960 and 1990. However, forests were seriously threatened. Small-scale deforestation has been a long-standing problem and has left a permanent mark in some regions, notably the Mediterranean. Overfishing began to reach a critical point in the North Atlantic around the last thirty years of the 20th century and spread to the entire globe due to the preference for some species. This, to some extent, has been offset by aquaculture, which currently produces about 36 percent of the fish and shellfish we consume - about half of the United States' fish imports. Although aquaculture is still in its infancy, the effort could end in the biggest innovation in food production since agriculture was invented. This vastness of food achieved, which allows feeding more than six billion people much better than the two billion at the beginning of the 20th century, was achieved through traditional methods, in addition to mechanical and chemical technologies; so there is no point in arguing that humanity cannot be fed without genetic manipulation.

The depletion of non-renewable or limited resources will certainly pose serious problems for the 21st century, particularly if the environmental crisis is not seriously addressed.

My second observation deals with the impact that the technological revolution has had on production and labor. In the second half of the twentieth century, for the first time in history production ceased to be labor intensive to become capital intensive and, progressively, information intensive. The consequences have been dramatic. Agriculture continues to be the main deponent of labor. In Japan the agricultural population fell from 52.4 percent after World War II to 5 percent today. The same in South Korea and Taiwan. Even in China the agricultural population has declined from 85 percent in 1950 to 50 percent today. There is no need to verify the bleeding of peasants in Latin America since 1960, as it is evident. To put it shortly, except for India and some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, there are no peasant countries left in the world. The dramatic decline in the rural population has been offset by high growth in urban areas which, in the developing world, have given rise to giant cities.

In the past, this pool of redundant and unskilled labor was absorbed by industry - in mining, construction, transportation, manufacturing, and so on. This situation still prevails in China, but in the rest of the world, including developing countries, the industry has been rapidly shedding its workforce. This decline in the industry is not only due to the transfer of production from high-cost regions to low-cost ones, but it also implies the substitution of technologies whose costs are declining by skilled labor whose costs are inelastic and increasing with economic development itself. Since 1980, the auto industry unions in the United States have lost half their members. Likewise, Brazil employed a third fewer workers even though it produced almost twice as many motor vehicles in 1995 as in 1980. The increase in the service sector together with economic growth do not offer a viable alternative to give way to the redundant workforce so much industrial as well as agricultural, generally with low education and little capacity for adaptation. However, so far, employment for women has been relatively beneficial, at least in developed countries.

Most of the redundant workforce is absorbed by the informal economy, which, according to estimates by the International Labor Organization (ILO), comprises 47 percent of non-agricultural employment in the Middle East and North Africa; 51 percent in Latin America; 71 percent in Asia and 72 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. The problem is very acute in the poorest countries and in those devastated by economic transition, such as the former USSR and the Balkans. While it has been argued in favor of the flexibility and effectiveness of the informal economy, especially in the Latin American case, the truth is that it is always considerably less significant in developed countries (around ten percent in the United States). By contrast, the contrast between rapid economic growth and the inability to generate enough jobs is particularly striking in India, whose growth is built on capital and information intensive but with 83 percent of the workforce in the informal sector. The Manmohan Singh government has found it necessary to guarantee a minimum of working days for the poorest rural population.

My third observation is obvious, and that is that the enormous increase in human capacity to produce depends largely on knowledge and information. That is, in a large number of highly educated people and not necessarily only in the professional field of research and development. Here, the accumulated wealth and intellectual capital of the era of Western industrialization continues to give northern countries enormous advantages over developing countries. Although the number of Asian Nobel Prize laureates in Science has been increasing since 1980, it is still small. Intellectual resources in the rest of the developing world continue to await better use. In addition, young researchers from the developing world can work in research centers in the North, thus reinforcing their dominance.

However, the 21st century is witnessing the rapid transfer of innovative activities, the basis of modern progress, previously monopolized by the North Atlantic regions. This is very recent. The first foreign laboratory for research and development was established in China in 1993 (by Motorola); But in just a few years, seven hundred transnational companies have done the same, mostly in South and East Asia, a region specializing in semiconductor design. And here, once again, regional disparities seem to increase, since progress also depends on governments being effective, having adequate infrastructure and, above all, an educated population above basic levels. There is no doubt that in countries like India and, to a lesser extent, Brazil, the low level of education of the majority of the population is an obstacle; however, this has been offset by the relative good use of the small number of the highly educated. Advances in this regard in the developing world still face a long way. The growth of some regions and the lag in others is very evident, as well as the increase in disparities. According to R&D magazine, on the list of the most attractive countries to invest in are - in that order - China, the United States, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and Russia. From Latin America, Brazil ranked 19th (below Austria), and Mexico ranked 23rd.

II

And I move to globalization, that is, world development as a single unit, whose transactions and communication are free from local and other obstacles.

This, in principle, is nothing new. Theorists like Wallerstein record a "World System" from the circumnavigation of the globe during the 16th century. Since then, several other important advances have been made, mainly in the economic and communications fields. I will leave the pre-1914 phase of the process out of the comparison. That economy never seriously addressed issues of production and distribution of material goods even though it did create a global free flow in financial transactions - albeit on a smaller scale than today. These were times of almost totally unrestricted labor migration by governments, and in this sense, a more advanced globalization than the present one. And while communications underwent beneficial and substantial changes in postal, telegraph systems, and international coordinating bodies in the mid-nineteenth century, the number of people involved in international transactions was small. In fact, the globalization of production has been possible thanks to the revolutionary advance in communications, which have virtually abolished the limitations in terms of place, distance and time, and the no less dramatic advance in the transportation of goods since the 1960s. –Air cargo and containers–, even though technological innovation was less than in human communications.

Here, three points are relevant.

The first is the peculiar nature of this process from the 1970s on, specifically the unprecedented triumph of a capitalism that rests on the free global mobility of all the factors of production and that of governments careful not to interfere with distribution. of the resources arranged by the market. This is not the only version of the concept of globalization. In the decades prior to 1914, their progress ran parallel to rivaling protectionist policies, moderate in most industrialized countries and extreme in the United States. During the golden decades after 1945, this import substitution practice paralleled the not-so-unsuccessful policies of the non-communist world. It is not clear that extreme neoliberal programs ensure maximum economic growth, assuming it is desirable. The fastest growth in per capita Gross Domestic Product observed in the “advanced capitalist world” did not occur in the “liberal order” from 1870 to 1913, nor in the “neoliberal order” from 1973 to 1998, but only in the “ Golden Years ”from 1950-1973. The economic growth of the early twenty-first century has relied primarily on a dynamism that Maddison calls "the fifteen resurgent Asian economies," whose growth has been astonishing. But it was not neoliberalism that presided over the extraordinary industrial revolution in South Korea, Taiwan, China, and even India in the early 1990s. Conversely, the situation of 168 economies, outside of these dynamos, showed a rapid deterioration in the last quarter of the 20th century and was a catastrophe for the former USSR, the Balkans and some African regions.

Some aspects of this neoliberal globalization have direct relevance on the general world situation at the beginning of this XXI century. First, the increase in economic and social inequality both between countries and within them is evident. This inequality could eventually decrease, as the more dynamic Asian economies could catch up with the old developed capitalist countries; But in the case of India and China, with their billions of inhabitants, it makes the gap so great and that the pace at which they could reach the same GDP per capita of the United States is as slow as a snail. What's more, the rapid growth of the gap between rich and poor countries reduces the practical significance of these advances. It would be inappropriate to use Russia's 52 billionaires as a comparative index of the standard of living in that country. These represent yet another consequence of neoliberal globalization, the novelty of which is that small groups of the global rich are so wealthy that their resources could be as large as the national income of countries such as Slovakia, Slovenia, Kenya or, in the case of the very rich, on the order of the GDP of Nigeria, Ukraine and Vietnam. This type of growth has generated in India a Western-type middle-class market of tens - some claim hundreds - of millions; It is only necessary to underline that, by 2005, in this country 43 percent of the population lived on less than a dollar a day. Strong and growing inequalities in wealth, power, and opportunities for a better life are not the recipe for political stability.


The second characteristic of globalization, supported by the socially blind policies of the International Monetary Fund, has been the sharp growth in economic instability and economic fluctuations. The old industrial countries have been comparatively sheltered from cyclical slumps, except for sharp short-term turns in the stock market; however, the impact has been dramatic in large parts of the world and, notably, in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the former Soviet Union. We only have to remember the crises of the early 1980s in Brazil and, at the end of the 1990s, those of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea and, without forgetting, that of Argentina in the early 2000s. that followed these crises in various countries. Volatile economies are not a recipe for political stability.

The third characteristic of neoliberal globalization is that, by substituting a set of national economies for a global economy, the ability of governments to influence economic activities in their territory is severely reduced and their collection capacity is damaged. This situation became more acute when everyone accepted the logic of neoliberalism. Since the end of the centrally planned economies, all countries, including the largest, are to a greater or lesser degree at the mercy of the "market." This does not imply that they have lost any specific weight in the economy. All central and local governments, by the nature of their activities, are the main employers of the workforce. What's more, they have thus retained their greatest historical value: the monopoly of law and political power. And this means that they no longer function as economic actors in world theater, not even as playwrights but as set designers. Well, today's actors, the large transnational corporations, find themselves in the need to go to them because they are also the owners of the national theaters that they require for their operations. Neoliberal globalization has seriously weakened nation states as the drivers of power and makers of policy.

Politically, the most serious aspect of this weakening is that it deprives governments, especially those of the developed economies of the North and the West, of their ambitious and generous social security plans, the same ones that since the time of Bismarck had been recognized by the rulers as the best tool for social and political stability, that is, the welfare state. Instead, the fundamentalist global market offers a project of prosperity for everyone - or almost everyone - through the benefits of endless economic growth. Even in countries like the United Kingdom where the neoliberal program has provided people with genuine and well-distributed wealth, citizens' demands for more jobs, guarantees for their basic income, social security, health and pensions have not diminished. Only the ability or willingness of governments to provide the above has made it possible to fulfill these ambitions.

This brings me to the second and broadest of the proposals on globalization, which is that this, to a greater or lesser degree, is universal but falls short of a much larger human problem: politics. Historically, there have been and are economic mechanisms in the world, but none aimed at creating a world government. The United Nations and other agencies prevail by the convenience and permission that the countries themselves grant them. Nation states are the only authorities in the world and over the world to exercise the power of law and the monopoly of violence. In fact, in the course of the 20th century the era of old and new empires came to an end and, during the Cold War, the borders of nation states were stabilized, reversing the old trend towards the concentration of political power due to the imperial expansion and by the rise of enlarged nation states. By implication, this was anti-globalizing. Today, there are four times as many technically sovereign nations as there were a hundred years ago. Of course, in a certain sense this multiplication of nation states has favored economic globalization as many of the small and dwarf political units are totally dependent on the global economy because they possess indispensable resources - oil, tourist destinations, base territories for tax evasion, transnational companies. . Thus, some countries have benefited disproportionately from globalization. Of the fifteen nation states with the highest GDP per capita in 2004, twelve have a population ranging from one hundred thousand to ten million inhabitants. Most without significant power or weight. However, even small states and those ethnic groups aspiring to form their own are rocks that break the waves of globalization. There have been occasional attempts to counteract the political fragmentation of the world, mainly through regional free trade areas such as Mercosur, but only the European Union has managed to go beyond the purely economic, but still without clear signs of progress. towards a federation, not even confederate states, as was in the minds of its founders. The EU therefore remains an unrepeatable fact and a product of the Second World War and the Cold War.

And abounding: nation states are political places and politics has considerable international force at a time when all countries, democratic or not, and even theocracies, have to take into account the feelings of their citizens. That has been a sufficient force to put a brake on neoliberal globalization. The ideal of a global free market society assumes the unrestricted distribution of resources and results based on market criteria. For political reasons, governments cannot run the risk of leaving the distribution of the national product to the market. Another, globalization requires only one language - a globalized version of English but, as recent history in Europe and South Asia shows, countries pay the price if they fail to take into account the languages ​​within their territories. A neoliberal world requires moving freely in the transaction of all the factors of production. Only there is no free international movement of labor, despite the fact that there is a huge gap between the wage levels of poor and rich countries; millions of poor people in the world want to migrate to developed economies. And why is there no immigration freedom? Because there is no government in developed economies that dares to ignore the massive resistance of its citizens to unrestricted immigration, both economically and culturally. I do not defend this situation, I only point out its enormous strength.

Politics, through state action, thus provides the necessary counterweight to economic globalization. However, today we hardly find governments that reject the disadvantages of globalization or that could suspend it in their territories, if they wanted. Clearly not all countries are the same. Certainly, the proliferation of small and virtually weak countries gives great global prominence and weight to a handful of countries or strong unions that dominate the world today: China and India, the United States, the European Union, Russia, Japan and Brazil. who have about half the world's population and almost three-quarters of GDP. Economic globalization operates through transnational corporations without military or political power, but operating within a framework determined by their own countries of origin, their policies, alliances and rivalries.

However, progress and the will to globalization will continue even if - which is not impossible - the pace to achieve free world trade slows down in the coming decades. This brings me to my third proposition: the creation of a world economy as a single and total interconnected and unhindered unit is still in its infancy. Thus, if we take export goods as if they were the GDP of the 56 economically significant countries in the world, it reached its first peak around 1913 with about nine percent of joint GDP, but between this year and 1990, only there was a growth of 13.5 percent; It wasn't even doubled. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has established an index of globalization. In this index, the ten most economically globalized countries in the world only include one advanced economy, that of the United Kingdom (as number 10). Of the most developed economies, France ranks 16th; the United States in 39 a little ahead of Germany and Norway; Japan is ranked 67; Turkey ranks 52; China at 55; Brazil, 60; Russia, 76th, and India ranked 105th. The ranking in social globalization is more evenly distributed among Western economies. With the exception of most of Latin America, social globalization (if you prefer cultural) reflects a greater advance than economic.

This indicates that the world continues to be open to the shocks and stresses of globalization. Consider that, while the past thirty years have brought us the largest mass migrations, only 3 percent of the world's population lives outside their country of origin. How far will the still modest advances of globalization take us? Judge it yourselves.

III

If we are to judge changes in wealth, power, and culture in global equilibrium, we must, therefore, define what is meant by world equilibrium, or rather, by imbalance - as the planet prevailed in the period from 1750 to 1970. With a single exception - population - there was a great predominance of the North Atlantic region, initially confined to the most important parts of Europe but which in the course of the 20th century leaned towards the former colonizations of European emigrants to North America , specifically the United States. Europe and the regions colonized by European emigrants were never more than a minority of the global population, say twenty percent in 1750, and perhaps thirty or 35 percent by 1913. Since then, it has fallen to about fifteen percent. hundred.

In any other sense, the dominance of the North Atlantic was absolute. Whatever the circumstances, the world economy was transformed thanks to Western technologies and the capitalist system. But here a distinction must be made between the original European dominance and the more recent North American phase. In the 19th century the global dynamics came from European capitalism as the United States was largely an independent economy: until the 20th century its impact on Latin America, for example, was less compared to that of Great Britain. The territories of the world were occupied and divided between the western European powers of the North Atlantic and the Russian Empire. In military terms, the situation was not completely unbalanced, but no power that did not have Western technical and organizational resources could have faced another that did. As regards the intellectual field, except the religious one, the ideas that changed politics and culture in the world came from Europe. Modernization meant Westernization. Science and technology, although international, originated in Europe and its subsidiaries and were virtually monopolized by the countries of the region. Also for what he did to literature, printed communication, books and newspapers.

In terms of economic power, globalization reinforced the original situation of the industrialized North and its capitalist development, which also multiplied the distance between the wealth per capita of these countries with that of the rest of the world, giving its inhabitants a high standard of living. , social security and, in general, better life chances. In terms of what might be called "intellectual capital," the monopoly on science and technology remained, although the center of gravity for these fields shifted from Europe to the United States after the end of World War II. In the field of ideas and until the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the ideologies of European / North American origin born of the American, French and Russian Revolutions as well as those of the independent national states and even those of fascism, were almost universal ideas and inspired both to the governments themselves and to those who wanted to depose them.

This was the situation that began to change rapidly towards the end of the 20th century, unevenly affecting different parts of the world. The important regions in the world of the 21st century are today very different in their demographic structures. In 2006 it was estimated that, in countries with huge populations, children under the age of fifteen made up between thirty and fifty percent of the population. To be more precise, there are currently four youth regions: Latin America and the Caribbean, north of the Southern Cone; Sub-Saharan Africa; the important Muslim region of the Middle East and North Africa; and South and Southeast Asia. It is necessary to distinguish clearly between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. I leave out the archipelagos of the Pacific for not being of great quantitative importance. Three developed or rapidly developing regions represent the world's aging population. Europe in the broadest sense, including Russia and the other former communist countries (not the Muslims of Central Asia) and North America and Australasia, all of these are regions originally colonized or populated by white Europeans. There are, of course, significant differences between North America, the European Union, the countries that made up the USSR, and Eastern Europe and Far East Asia: China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. Para efectos de este trabajo, no me interesa ahora discutir los problemas globales de la transición demográfica que, esperamos, logre estabilizarse en una población mundial de más de seis mil millones.

Es evidente que la humanidad del siglo XXI contendrá una proporción mucho menor de blancos europeos o sus descendientes, una menor proporción de asiáticos del este y una mucho más alta proporción de latinoamericanos, de subsaharianos de África, de musulmanes mediorientales y asiáticos del sur y sureste. Esto tiene una relevancia inmediata sobre la distribución de la pobreza en el globo, que claramente se concentra en las regiones de rápido crecimiento demográfico, a excepción del sureste asiático, donde el desarrollo económico ha reducido la expansión poblacional; y desde luego también, los antiguos países soviéticos. De otra parte, mientras no existan implicaciones inmediatas en la distribución de la riqueza y el poder económico, esto es irrelevante. Así, de las unidades políticas más importantes y que son centros de poder económico, sólo dos –India y Brasil– están presentes en las regiones de crecimiento demográfico; cuatro, los Estados Unidos, la Unión Europea, Rusia y China están en los regiones de estancamiento o disminución poblacional. El África subsahariana, el Medio Oriente musulmán y el sureste asiático están fuera de consideración.

La globalización y el desarrollo económico han afectado a los países de manera asimétrica. De hecho, hoy tenemos un “mundo en desarrollo” dividido en tres partes: los países de desarrollo rápido; los países cuya función principal es la de abastecer materias primas y combustibles fósiles y los países con poco interés en la economía globalizada. En el presente, el este asiático es el más exitoso ejemplo de los primeros, los de rápido desarrollo; los países del antiguo bloque soviético y la mayoría de los musulmanes de Medio Oriente pertenecen a la segunda categoría y la mayoría de los subsaharianos de África, a la tercera.

El cambio más importante que se da a partir de 1970 es la transferencia del centro de gravedad de la economía mundial, de Norteamérica y la Unión Europea hacia el Oriente extendiéndose por el sur y sureste asiáticos. A menudo se olvida que el ascenso hacia la prominencia global de la economía japonesa también ocurrió a finales del siglo XX, así pues, al término de 1968 la producción industrial de Japón alcanzaba no más de cuatro por ciento de la mundial total, por debajo de la del Reino Unido. Desde luego, es verdad que el equilibrio del poder mundial de los negocios continúa, en gran medida, en manos de los viejos países industriales. Sin embargo, la tendencia es clara por el destacado y sorprendente papel de los asiáticos.

Qué tan lejos llegarán los cambios en el equilibrio del poder económico no está claro todavía. Norteamérica y la Unión Europea, los más importantes contribuyentes al PIB mundial, perderán terreno –Estados Unidos tal vez más que la UE. Por su parte, los países del Mar de China avanzarán, pero todavía les falta mucho. A la India, todavía no se le puede juzgar, pero hay que considerarla como claro y futuro jugador importante. A América Latina, con su cercanía al ocho por ciento del PIB mundial, no se le ven trazas de algo importante; los resultados de décadas pasadas han sido más bien decepcionantes y sus prospecciones dependerán del progreso que obtengan los países del Mercosur y México mientras no sean absorbidos aún más por la economía estadounidense. El mundo musulmán del Oriente Medio, con todo y los ingresos por el petróleo y gas, contribuye poco a los cambios y –a excepción de Turquía e Irán– sus prospecciones dependen mucho de la venta de energéticos. Por su parte, los sucesores de los países comunistas, que ahora contribuyen con alrededor del cinco por ciento del PIB posiblemente mejoren algo sus resultados cuando se recuperen de los infaustos sucesos de los noventa. Además de las materias primas y el petróleo, el poder económico de la Rusia desindustrializada tiene hoy un poco más en don- de apoyarse que en los tiempos de la era soviética con todo y la poderosa industria de armamentos y la gente con elevada educación. Por otro lado, a la cada día más empobrecida África subsahariana se le ven escasas esperanzas de poder lograr desempeñar un mejor papel.

De todas las regiones, sólo una, América del Norte, se encuentra bajo el predominio de una sola economía nacional: los Estados Unidos. Cuando las reliquias de la Guerra Fría incluyendo a Rusia asumieron que el camino se despejaba, el futuro lógico lo encontraron en combinarse con Europa. En el este y sudeste asiáticos, China puede aspirar a la hegemonía económica que por breve tiempo disfrutó Japón, pero Japón permanecerá como un jugador principal, sin tampoco olvidarnos de la India. Este nuevo y dinámico centro global, por consiguiente, será el campo en la interacción de estos tres gigantes. Ni la región musulmana del Medio Oriente, ni África, potencialmente poseen fuerza hegemónica en los campos económico y político; pero en América del Sur el solo tamaño y potencial de la economía brasileña le asigna a ésta un papel central, todavía más si la economía mexicana se permite seguir atada al sistema de los Estados Unidos.

Esto no significa que estas economías hegemónicas nacionales o regionales estén en conflicto con la ya en buena parte interdependiente economía global, que les otorga a todos beneficios reales o potenciales. Y sí significa que la globalización no puede –como el neoliberalismo lo supone– ser como el fluir suave de un líquido. Existen tres agregados principales, políticos y sociales, en el líquido. Primero, el siglo XXI tiene poco que ofrecer al rico mundo del norte, excepto la erosión, tal vez la pérdida, de su vieja hegemonía que fue también la base de su poder y del extraordinariamente elevado estándar de vida en su gente. Inevitablemente este mundo del norte se resistirá a los cambios, aunque sólo los Estados Unidos –con sus aspiraciones de supremacía de mano fuerte– pueden verse tentados a complementar su resistencia con medios militares. Segundo, la ausencia de autoridades globales efectivas y de un sistema de poder internacional, han creado una situación de gran inestabilidad política y social, turbulencias y gobiernos impotentes en muchas partes del mundo, efectos que durarán todavía algún tiempo. Tercero, las tensiones y desigualdades originadas por una globalización incontrolada, están generando una significativa resistencia popular que limita el campo de acción de los gobiernos neoliberales y de regímenes democráticos. Desde luego, se generarán movimientos de disidencia y rebelión populares.

Nos encontramos en el presente ante una fase de transición, de una economía mundial dominada por el Norte a una de nuevo esquema, probablemente de orientación asiática. Hasta que estas nuevas pautas queden establecidas, es probable que pasemos por algunas décadas de violencia, turbulencias económicas, sociales y políticas, como ha ocurrido en el pasado en similares periodos de transición. No es imposible que esto nos lleve a guerras entre países, sin embargo serán menos probables que en el siglo pasado. Quizá podamos esperar una relativa estabilidad global en algunas décadas, como las posteriores a 1945. Ciertamente la humanidad no se acercará a la solución de la crisis medioambiental del mundo, crisis que la propia actividad humana continuará fortaleciendo. ¿Cuál es la participación de Latinoamérica en esta prospección global? Ésta es una cuestión que ustedes como expertos pueden encarar mucho mejor que yo, que no lo soy.

Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm (nacido el 9 de Junio de 1917 en Alejandría, Egipto) es un historiador marxista británico de talla internacional. Articulo publicado en LetrasLibres – julio 2008


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