Chaos and Governance
Posted by ndm lees
This is the inaugural post for my new blog, which I’ve set up as a replacement for my old Worlds Apart blogspot site that I discontinued a couple of years ago. The aim of this new blog is to offer some thoughts on the cascading series of crises which are ricocheting around the world. To this end, I plan to fire out some left-field analysis and half-cocked commentary on such areas as international relations, conflict, crisis, futurism, global social change, materialism, inequality, political thought and technology. In other words, the good stuff – the subjects that make people watch the news, read blogs and waste their time arguing on message-boards. As an intellectual magpie who has spent most of his adult life studying, I’m going to rummage around in the overfull attic of ideas I’ve acquired over the years in the hope of finding something shiny and useful once in a while. With such a collection of bric-a-brac at my disposal, hopefully I’ll be able to put the different pieces together in a way that will be interesting enough to someone or other.
The name of the blog, Chaos and Governance, is taken from the title of the superlative book by the late Giovanni Arrighi and his wife Beverly Silver. Arrighi was one of the most insightful historical sociologists writing about the contemporary global political economy. In the trio of works he produced before his death in 2009, he developed a compelling account of the relationship between mobile financial capital and war-making states as the fundamental driver of the evolution of the international system and world economy. In his final years, Arrighi suggested that financial over-expansion represent the Autumn of hegemonic orders, historically preceding their collapse. Silver herself has written and continues to write insightfully about the role of labour in global waves of protest and how such resistance has shaped the evolution of the global order.
Together, in Chaos and Governance, they seek to understand how hegemonic states representing the interests of certain socio-economic classes have attempted to bring order to a turbulent world. A central claim that their opus makes is that stability is in no way the norm, avoiding systemic chaos takes leadership on the part of dominant actors and efforts to mollify, co-opt, marginalise or sideline non-elite groups and social actors. What we have seen since the global financial crisis – the disastrous product of a series of what Peter Gowan called global gambles by elites in the advanced industrial world – is that this process of maintaining has come unstuck. The social contract which has operated in the industrialised North in the post-WW2 era looks to be in tatters. Without easy credit and financed-fuelled (illusory) growth, a crisis has opened up which political elites have still not woken up to. At the same time, a whole series of other changes are sweeping around the world, not least the rise and emergence of populous nations of the South – challenging the pre-eminence that Northern publics as well as elites have come to take for granted.
The question is, what happens now? It’s in nearly everyone’s interests that there is some form of order, but the nature of that order determines whose interests and whose values will predominate. This is the very stuff of politics, and it is precisely this question that the blog will attempt to make some intelligent contributions to answering.
Posted on November 8, 2011, in crisis, historical sociology, international relations, introductions, theorists and tagged crisis, global social change, historical sociology, introductions, theorists. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.