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New Left Review 50, March-April 2008


Kees van der Pijl on Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World. Traditions of pragmatic flexibility as explanation for the ascendancy of the Anglosphere—and basis for a coming realignment of US foreign policy?

KEES VAN DER PIJL

ATLANTIC IDEOLOGIES

The spirit of Clinton’s globalization offensive of the 1990s, as of the wave of deregulation and privatization on which it was premised, was famously captured by Francis Fukuyama’s ‘end of History’ thesis. In his vision, the world had reached a point where no credible alternative to the combined operation of liberal democracy and capitalist economy could any longer arise. By implication, any resistance to the pre-eminence of the West in the geopolitical arena lacked historical legitimacy from the start; just as people across the globe would do better to forget about social change. Hence globalization could entail humanitarian intervention without a un mandate, a global mission for nato, and fresh steps to replace social security with ‘workfare’. Under Clinton’s successor, Washington sang from a different hymn sheet: Samuel Huntington’s ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis claimed that geopolitical cleavages far deeper than those of the Cold War were being exposed beneath the rubble of the Soviet collapse. If the West were to retain its global preponderance, it would have to negotiate tectonic shifts drawing on millennia-old ethical and religious sources, and more particularly, meet a ‘Confucian–Islamic’ challenge.

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