Before European Hegemony

The appearance of conflict between the two levels of the human psyche – namely, the ego and the id – is then superseded by the reality of reconciliation and the alignment of interests between these two levels, even though the initial aim of the ego was to thwart the efforts of the libido which emanates from the id towards achieving the ultimate libidinal aim of union. As Freud argued, it appears as though “the ego, by sublimating some of the libido for itself and its purposes, assists the id in its work of mastering the tensions.” 

And like the life of the human psyche, economic, political, and social life is also under the sway of “three great polarities” and arguably, the life of one is a metaphor or symbol for the life of the other and vice versa. As the late American sociologist Janet Abu Lughod argued, the Eurocentric “world system” as we know it was actually preceded by a world system which long existed before the 500-year historical epoch of European hegemony. As Abu Lughod argued, what is narrowly buoying the ‘Eurocentric’ essence of the current world system at the moment is American military hegemony. Hence, it was military might and technology which fostered the Eurocentric essence of the current world system, and it is military might and technology which is sustaining the Eurocentric essence to a certain extent. But the one-sided military hegemony and technological asymmetry is now being rapidly offset by cultural and technological diffusion as well as an emerging equilibrium on the economic and military fronts between East and West. 

Hence, there is a real possibility of a manifestation sometime during our lifetimes of a world system based on cultural and economic diffusion, exchange, and equilibrium between what was once three major polarities in the world system which preexisted European hegemony and in turn, the validation of Abu Lughod’s world system theory. And as the late Immanuel Wallerstein argued: 

“Since the existing system can no longer function adequately within its defined parameters, making a choice about the way out, about the future system (or systems) which are to be constructed, is inevitable. But which choice the participants collectively will make is inherently unpredictable. The process of bifurcating is chaotic, which means that every small action during this period is likely to have significant consequences.”

Wallerstein added:

“We observe that under these conditions, the system tends to oscillate wildly. But eventually it leans in one direction. It normally takes quite some time before the definitive choice is made. We can call this a period of transition, one whose outcome is quite uncertain. At some point, however, there is a clear outcome and then we find ourselves ensconced in a different historical system.” 

Moreover, what already exists within a world system that is defined and shaped by an “American imperium” to borrow from Peter Katzenstein is a world system that is embedded with regions and a set of major polarities with emerging “core states,” despite the individuality and sovereignty of states. “International Governmental Organizations” (IGOs) such as the “United Nations” (UN) and the “League of Nations” which came before it were once seen as the anchor for a global order that is organized by individual and sovereign states. But polarity and regionalism go farther than IGOs in explaining the basic and fundamental nature of global order and global organization. As Katzenstein argued:

“There exists no general threat to the state system as the basic organizing principle of international politics. Everywhere, states retain at least minimal sovereignty. Yet, internationalization and globalization are embedding states and other actors everywhere in regions and are having a profound impact on the agenda of world politics.”

Katzenstein added:

“This is one step in the direction that Hedley Bull speculatively called the ‘neo-Medievalism’ of contemporary international politics: a move, more or less halting in different regional settings, toward multiple, nested centers of collective authority and identity. American power and purpose interact with global and international processes to create that world of regions.”

Hence, the paradox is that while the international system is evolving and going forward, it is also devolving and going backward at the same time. And while conflict and social strife results from such changes, evolutions, and transitions in global order, conflict and social strife is also paradoxical, in the sense that conflict and social strife is inherently a messaging system which conveys messages and signals between various individuals and various groups regarding the dynamics and state of the conflict, which in turn aids and facilitates the ultimate resolution of the conflict, oddly enough. Perhaps the immediate or short-term concern or priority for the American state in this emerging “world of regions” and major polarities is to resurrect and preserve itself before it hashes out, shapes, and then entrenches its role as a benign, engaged, and highly relevant actor in this emerging system down the road and over the course of time.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s