A Shattering Moment?

I’ve always admired John Gray (the political philosopher, not the relationship guru). If you want an example of a real maverick (as opposed to phony maverick John McCain), I suggest you look at the works of John Gray. His writings take to task people from all over the political and philosophical spectrum. He criticizes neoliberal capitalists and communists alike; taking to task both atheists and theists, neoconservative imperialists and revolutionary socialists. As far as I’m concerned anybody who manages to piss off that many different kinds of people must be doing something right:

Gray currently has a very interesting opinion piece in the Guardian about the Wall Street Meltdown. Although he taught at the London School of Economics, his perspective on the crash is more philosophical. Irregardless of what kind of bailout we adopt, Gray argues, this moment signifies “a shattering moment” in history, a moment that is equivalent to American Empire what the fall of the Berlin Wall was for the Soviet Empire. Here are some of his more interesting comments:

The era of American global leadership, reaching back to the Second World War, is over… The American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated.

In a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union, an entire model of government and the economy has collapsed.

There has been a good deal of talk in recent weeks about imminent economic armageddon. In fact, this is far from being the end of capitalism. The frantic scrambling that is going on in Washington marks the passing of only one type of capitalism – the peculiar and highly unstable variety that has existed in America over the last 20 years. This experiment in financial laissez-faire has imploded.While the impact of the collapse will be felt everywhere, the market economies that resisted American-style deregulation will best weather the storm.

Meltdowns on the scale we are seeing are not slow-motion events. They are swift and chaotic, with rapidly spreading side-effects. Consider Iraq. The success of the surge, which has been achieved by bribing the Sunnis, while acquiescing in ongoing ethnic cleansing, has produced a condition of relative peace in parts of the country. How long will this last, given that America’s current level of expenditure on the war can no longer be sustained?Ever since the end of the Cold War, successive American administrations have lectured other countries on the necessity of sound finance. Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina and several African states endured severe cuts in spending and deep recessions as the price of aid from the International Monetary Fund, which enforced the American orthodoxy. China in particular was hectored relentlessly on the weakness of its banking system. But China’s success has been based on its consistent contempt for Western advice and it is not Chinese banks that are currently going bust. How symbolic yesterday that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the US Treasury Secretary is on his knees.

Of course, only time will tell if Gray’s predictions are accurate, but generally speaking I do think he’s on to something. This market crash comes at a time when the global zeitgeist is moving away from American dominance, and when more Americans then ever are questioning the domination of our government and foreign policy by the military industrial complex. Criticism from both the inside and the outside is growing louder and louder, which means that the potential for a geopolitical shift is certainly present.

Part of the problem, I would suggest, is that the militant strategies of American Empire have actually undermined its stated goal of security and prosperity for America. Rather than clinging to the crumbling pieces of American hegemony, by adapting to this change of conditions we will come out stronger and more influential than under the current course of action. But that is certainly worth a post all to itself.


~ by Kimchi on October 2, 2008.

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