Liquid globalization and inter-civilizational Dialogue

Liquid globalization and inter-civilizational Dialogue

The Western world is not only in relative decline, but also faces the inevitable ‘rise of the rest’ (Zakaria), as well as an increasing level of instability and unruliness in many parts of the world. Although there has already been a lot of research in post-colonial studies and intercultural communication, the binary code between the imaginary West and the multiplicity of non-Western approaches was yet to be resolved. Given the relative decline of the West, the dissolution of identities throughout the world, and the rise of the newly industrialized nations, there is an imminent urgency to address and overcome this binary code because it is not only situated in discourses but also manifested itself in all our living environment and within ourselves.

This approach is based on the assumption that the West, as well as the non-Western world, have their shares of dark sides in history. When it comes to the Western world, we cannot deny brutal colonialism, the religious wars, the two world wars, Auschwitz, and the sheer luck of averted atomic world war, which would have destroyed all living being. On the other side, there is often an unbearable degree of intra-societal violence in the Non-Western World. – peoples in a lot of countries face a living hell. For them, hell is not an afterlife. They experience it already in their own life.

As we are all living on one planet featuring more connectivity, we become more and more aware that there cannot be any more islands of prosperity, peace and well-being within a sea of violence, hatred, extreme poverty, and the dissolution of the fabric of societies. In some parts of the world, they experience something very close to the Hobbesian war of all against all, or Carl Schmitt’s never-ending civil wars between communities.

In order to cope with these developments, a dialogue about the civilization foundations of our world society is needed. I explicitly use the concept of civilization in the footsteps of Karl Jaspers, Shmuel Eisenstadt and Peter J. Katzenstein, because civilizations are much more inclusive than religions. This is particularly clear with civilizations that descended from religions. In my view, the contrast is based on that of the Western billiard game model versus the model of concentric circles. Of course, we can easily differentiate these models. For example, when the balls in the billiard game attract each other, we are in the theoretical domain of idealism and cooperation; if they push off each other we are in the realm of competition, conflict and war. And, of course, if the balls cooperate, we are in the realm of all kinds of institutionalism. But the main concept in this model is the importance of rule and methods. The model of concentric circles on the other side can be distinguished by the relation of centre, semi-centre, semi-periphery and periphery (by slight modification of proximity and distance to the centre). In case that we have a transfer of goods, people, ideas, raw materials from the periphery to the centre we label this imperialism, the other way round, from the centre to the periphery I’m tempted to judge this as a form of civilization.

Traditional forms of societies can be explained by overlapping circles of politics, societal relations, economy, economy and the environment:

In such a traditional society there is a great correspondence and overlapping of the different spheres – identity is based on an ostensible core and seems to be related to culturally determined values that were handed over from generation to generation.

A “modern” society (first modernity, Ulrich Beck) to the contrary can be characterized by the assumption that the different circles are much lesser overlapping, they are forming different spheres which have their laws and logics – we may label this a kind of functional differentiation (Niklas Luhmann) and it could either be characterized by the interaction and different functions of the organs of a body or the Olympic Rings.

The spheres in which these rings are overlapping are the institutions in modern societies like the state, the political system, law and the judicial system, the church as an institution, labour unions and civil society.

In liquid globalization and as a result of military interventions, civil wars, these rings of political, social, economic, and cultural and security spheres are separated from one another and could no longer be held together by a core identity.

Within this model, there is a sphere that remains blank and could be characterized as a kind of emptiness. In such an understanding the social fabric is increasingly dissolved and especially the young generation is set free from all social norms. This concept is able to overcome the binary alternative which characterizes the discussion about the causes of terrorism, whether these actions are either related to an aggressive ideology or the social disintegration in societies and failed states, as in the ring of fire around Europe, mainly in the Arab-Islamic states, but also in Africa as a whole. It also explains why identity and recognition count so much in a lot of conflicts throughout the world.

Based on this concept it becomes obvious that this emptiness can be filled with different content, for example with radical ideologies, private enrichments, drug, weapons and human trafficking, but also with the recourse to ethnic and even tribal identities, masculinity and patriarchy and finally violence itself which gives the excluded, superfluous (population growth) and uprooted young generation in these countries and regions the feeling not to be absolute powerless but all-powerful.

The rise of the others in a globalized world is inevitable (Zakaria) – our task is to develop forms of recognition that centre on the civilizational foundations of Islam, Buddhism/Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity and Hinduism and African kinds of solidarity.

The alternative to such a violent filling of the emptiness caused by liquid globalization is the mutual recognition of the civilizations of the earth. The rise of the others in a globalized world is inevitable (Zakaria) – our task is to develop forms of recognition that centre on the civilizational foundations of Islam, Buddhism/Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity and Hinduism and African kinds of solidarity. Only by recognizing their civilizational achievements, the uprooted, excluded and superfluous people of the world, which are the vast majority of mankind, can build an identity by their own in fluid globalization.

Assuming that we all are already living in such spheres which are not overlapping, producing a kind of emptiness, the two different solutions might be to solve this problem by constructing a core as identity, which leads to thinking in categories of we against the rest of the far-right, whereas a different attempt would be to develop a discourse in which identity is constructed as a kind of floating (Clausewitz) and progressing (Hegel) balance or harmony (Confucius), understood as unity with difference and difference with unity.

Andreas Herberg-Rothe

Dr Andreas Herberg-Rothe is an internationally recognized Clausewitz scholar, working as a senior lecturer at the faculty of social and cultural studies at the University of Applied Sciences, Fulda. He is teaching and doing research in the field of ‘Violence and Peace in World Society.’

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