THE WORLD FINANCIAL CRISE
A HISTORICAL CHANCE FOR A NEW POLITICAL PROJECT
To paraphrase Marx, a ghost wanders through the world: the world crisis, with all its masks: economic, politic, social, moral. The meaning the mass media almost exclusively give it is that of an imminent cataclysm or disaster. In the old Chinese culture, the pletograph for crisis meant in the same time, both danger and chance.
What chance? The chance of a change. Whose change? Of the system. Of which system? Of a system that has been representing the chance of freedom of progress and prosperity during the last three hundred years – the American economic and political model. Why now? Because, if during the last decades were visible only the exterior negative effects made by the consumer society upon the natural and human environment, now we refer to the very heart of the system – the financial and banking one, that provides its resources to operate in the right manner.
At a first glance, the cause of the failure is the same one that has generated the end of all the empires in the history: the arrogance. The arrogance of the neo-capitalist financial and banking system proves to be as dangerous as it was the arrogance of the omnipotent and omnipresent state, arrogance which caused the fall of the communist system. Though, the recent crisis brings out an even more profound aspect: the break off between the present globalized political and economic system and the cultural model it consisted of in its early days.
The break off between the real economy and the speculative one, on one hand, and the one between the bureaucratized administration and the citizens, on the other hand, has affected an essential element both for the democracy as well as for the market economy: the citizen’s trust.
In order to regain it, just restarting the social dialogue is not enough. It is necessary to bring a new cultural model, as no new political project can be successful if it is not preceded by and founded on a cultural model, relying on moral values. They are the only ones able to join together the positive energies of the society.
The founding fathers of the American Revolution, when they have written the Independence Declaration, took into account not only the economical interests of the farmers and traders in a British colony, but also the fulfillment of some fundamental values of the human being, invaded by the absolutist empires that were governing the Europe and the world. The economic principles that represented the base of the industrial revolution –individual initiative and freedom, were the ways through which the invisible hand of the historical destiny gave humanity a new meaning.
The 21st century needs a new cultural model, able to face not only the economic and social shocks of the globalization, but also to create a hopeful vision within a future characterized by chaotic development and incertitude. It is now the time of a historical chance to put forward such a project.
It is the time to stress upon also on the differences between the two political projects that seemed similar for a long time: the political project of the United States of America and the one of the European Union. The American political project worked as a “melting pot”, where emigrants that had left their European absolutist empires have adopted only one language - English, one new religious doctrine - neo-Protestantism, one economic doctrine – the capitalist market economy and one political system - the representative democracy, all these reunited under the pride of a unique model available for the entire world – the American model.
Its force and the attraction generated towards the rest of world consisted even in this unity and solidarity. The political project of the European Union had been outlined as a new chance at the end of a great historical tragedy that bled the world: World War II. It has been developed after the fall of communism, at the end of another huge historical trauma: the Cold War, as a fortunate opportunity for the countries and people in Central and South Eastern Europe.
It was a new project. A project that began from the conflict generating diversity during the time of national states, not only that it accepted, but it also promoted the development of national, linguistic, religious and cultural identities. The success of any project is connected to the presence of its resources. Conceived as a unity in diversity, The European Union project was and is an expensive project. It could not have been achieved without the help of the United States.
This help has initially consisted of a substantial economic support through the Marshall Plan and through a military one, within the NATO. The enlargement of the European Union, which integrated within it the countries in the Central and South Eastern Europe, was also preceeded by the integration of these countries in the NATO. Thus, the United States took over the protection of the European states security, and also absolved the European states from paying huge expenses for arming. Another canal through which the United States supported the enlargement of the European Union was the International Monetary Fund.
The IMF not only that absolved the European Union from paying the very high costs of the economic consultancy for the post-communist transition, but also took over the resents that people felt for the social costs of the economic reforms. To the people in South Eastern Europe, these seemed as imposed by the IMF and not by the European Union. Nowadays, the European Union, despite its deficit of administrative bureaucracy, works as a harmonious body, where diversity looks like an advantage and not ballast.
From my experience as a geologist, I have learnt while researching big natural petrographic areas, that a system subjected to strong oriented pressures (stress) holds better if it is flexible than rigid. In the present crisis, such a harmonious system can be carried out through an extended partnership EU - USA. Europe can offer possibilities for transferring the pressures, like the case of the dollar-euro binomials, or the opportunities of alternative approaches during some global or regional political crises.
Such structures would solve the problem for a short term, but, on the long run they will not prove efficient if Europe and America do not find the intellectual resources to make a new cultural model for the world to come. Making up the strategies starting from the present policies, and further on, the vision of the future, based on these long term strategies, no matter how sustainable they were, means nothing but moving along towards the future with the back side. On the contrary, if we start from an inspired vision upon the future to the present, we can advance with our front part to the future, noticing in the same time both the obstacles and the dangers.
The present financial crisis distracts our attention from an obvious fact. We pass from a one-pole world that replaced, by the end of the Cold War, the bi-poled world of the East-West opposition, to a multi-poled world. This multi-poled world opens several ways that may seem attractive to the underdeveloped countries, with totalitarian regimes. No model can any more pretend to be a unique solution. As a European intellectual, I am far from thinking that the European Union would be such a unique model, but I can only consider it as a source of inspiration. A critical examination of the European project is all the time necessary.
For instance, we proudly talk about a common European identity, based on shared values. Which are these values defining the European identity? How could be trespassed – without forgetting them – the specific characteristics and even the national limits, on the way towards a common identity?
The answer to these questions is right inside the European projects, but also in the European anxieties. If we will continue to shape projects without taking into account the inevitable anxieties involved by a political structure of half a billion inhabitants, then we have few chances left to develop a strong and democratic Europe. That is why I believe that the long way towards a European solidarity should start within every nation, local community or even family. Here where we can often notice a lot of the typical contradictions to the North and South or East and West world discrepancies. But this could also be the place where we can find the identity binder of a common ethos. Thus we can better understand the world we live in.
The accelerated development of the technology – economy relationship has shaken the end of the 20th century, announced two kicks: globalization and knowledge explosion. They have both brutally amplified the incertitude. The accommodation crises are not new in the evolution of the human society, it is just that nowadays they carry on faster and involve wider spaces.
The fast change is a general process that increases the incertitude of a person, all around the world village. In my opinion, politics, as it is conceived and put into practice today, is not prepared yet to manage the huge defiances we face in the new century and millennium.
The science, as an outpost of knowledge, faced last century similar challenges; it was a real revolution in mathematics and physics when we passed from the classical geometry to the Non-Euclidean geometry and from the Newtonian mechanics to the quantum one. Science has all time been going on changing its logics and language.
The crisis of the scientific language was overpassed through the semantic theory of information. The fuzzy set theory created the so-called fuzzy logics, starting the study of the incomplete information systems, and with the help of stochastic models may be analyzed real processes, whose evolution takes place according to the random rules.
The applications extended to biology (population dynamics), in economy (exchange rates), in pedagogy (the learning processes). The chaos theory allows us to analyze the unstable behavior of the non-linear dynamic systems, where a minor disturbance of the initial conditions could lead to completely different trajectories. The science has thus proved that incertitude could be described, represented and understood.
Politics, overpassing the populist drift that deteriorates and exhausts the resources of long term projects should assume the incertitude of the future and face it with a senior political project. It is not about moving politics on a hazardous territory, but seeing the freedom of people as the society core element. The essential difference between the political systems starts from the way they manage the incertitude. Do they assume the incertitude, trying to find solution through dialogue? Or they try to eliminate the incertitude through the dictate of ideologies, religions or money?
Managing the incertitude could happen only in an open society. Facing big steaks can let out a behavior replying the reality challenges with the respect of the principles. When we can not act motivated by the certitude of success, we can act with the consciousness of duty.
General Marshall, the founder of the economic recovery program for Western Europe, said by the end of World War II that maybe the Greek philosophers might have better solutions than the contemporary experts. At my turn, I consider that the Weltanschauung expression, through which the German philosophers understood that every age has its own way to see and understand the world is valid today, too, especially if we see it as a Gestalt der Weltanschauung, where the hole is more than the sum of the parts that compose it. This concept fits best to what politics should be in the knowledge society and in the globalised world of the future: a complex vision upon future, based on a new dialogue about human values.
The present world crisis brutally imposes us to choose between to have or to be. It is necessary to create a new arbitration between power and knowledge that would reshape a background where every individual can not only be, but also become.