Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The End of Periphery

I believe it was the prominent Academic, Emmanuel Wallerstein who coined the terms ‘core’ and ‘periphery’ to designate on the one hand Europe and the United States, and the rest of the world on the other. What we are seeing today is an end to that dichotomy.

The image that comes to mind is that of a sock that had been turned inside out, the better to slide over the foot. The part of the world that until now has been seen as ‘peripheral’ to the part that counts - the core - is increasingly becoming the part that counts, with the core becoming the ‘wrong side’ of the sock.

Just for starters we must consider the BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa: a quarter of the world’s land area, more than 40% of the world’s population, in 2010 these five countries accounted for 25% of its gross national income.

So much for hard economic statistics. Just as significant are the political ‘facts on the ground’. The Arab Spring has been dismissed as irrelevant because it did not magically transform autocracies into liberal democracies. But spring invariable leads to summer, and what we are witnessing is a ‘long, hot summer’ not of sixties Black America but of the 21s century’s honey-colored world, mainly Africa and the Middle East, to be sure, but also important parts of the Far East, the Sub-continent and Latin America. Scarcely any part of the planet is spared.

News misleadingly focuses on daily crises, obscuring the fact that a significant part of the world is in a permanent state of effervescence. Because religion has recently become a major factor in many conflicts, we assume players are pursuing conflicting goals. In reality even religious enemies reflect the eternal struggle between haves and have-nots, and virtually everywhere there is growing resistance to the life-styles and choices imposed by the world’s minority.

A core dwindling in power must recognize that reality and focus as never before on ‘the big picture’. Otherwise we will fail to manage our transition from major player to one among many team players of the international community.

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