Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft
International Politics and Society 4/2003


About this edition

Francis Fukuyama’s controversial dictum that the end of history has arrived already looks a little outdated, after the first “post-historical” decade. True, the twin concept of democracy cum private market economy has won the more than hundred years’ battle for global dominance against its socialist adversary. But the victorious concept is meeting strong resistance in the shaping of the emerging global society. And this may well be the dominant theme in the new chapter of world history that has been opened after the defeat of bureaucratic socialism. The new adversary of the grand Western design for societal and global order are not the protagonists of an alternative order but the dynamics of “disorder” or, more precisely, of social regression.

This dynamics of regression was the central topic of the 2/2003 edition of International Politics and Society. And it is to be expected that it will remain a “master topic” for a long time to come: the struggle for global “civility” against the dynamics of regression. The terrorist threat, quickly declared the challenge of the 21st century after September 11, 2001, is one symptom of global “disorder” or destabilization. In his contribution to this edition, Michael Dauderstädt tries to get into focus the entire syndrome that threatens the “western islands of prosperity”, discussing also the policy options for dealing with the threat.

Thinking about societal regression and its destabilizing consequences soon leads to that crucial phenomenon to which a more optimistic world view once applied the notion of economic backwardness or underdevelopment. Where the accumulation – and permanent replacement – of productive capital is blocked, and where catching up with the western prosperity benchmark is foreclosed, rent-seeking and the struggle for economic survival will become the dominating factors to organize society. The contribution by Stephan Hensell shows – taking the case of Macedonia – how the violence-prone syndrome of the clientelistic rent economy interacts with identity politics. (On how the conflicts over distribution generated by stagnating rent economies acquire an ethnic dimension see also the various Africa articles in our 2/2003 edition.)

Global “civility”, or, in less value-charged terms, global stability in the interest of western security, faces a twin challenge: releasing the problem countries from the trap of their internal structures of stagnation and preventing more countries from getting caught up in it. A gigantic world-wide machinery of aid to developing countries has been occupied for decades with doing just this – by and large, with scant success. In his contribution, Klaus Eßer advocates radical consequences: restrict foreign aid to those countries where the societal preconditions for developing a modern competitive economy exist, and hope that the new “Southern” poles of growth eventually extend their own dynamic to their surrounding regions. Another condition for success, good governance, is also to be promoted primarily in those countries where the underlying socio-economic structure supports it, not where it is blatantly absent. If we relate it to the problem of global destabilization, Eßer’s reasoning implies that the world’s future crucially depends on what happens with those countries which have the potential to become new “tiger states” but which are also facing the specter of societal regression. South Africa, which ten years ago overcame its particular historical deadlock, is one of these countries – and its success or failure acts as a signal for all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Siegmar Schmidt’s account of what has happened in post-Apartheid South Africa confirms hopes as well as fears.

The challenges that result from societal regression in (large ?) parts of the world tend to assign second-line importance to the classical geopolitical focus of world politics. But they also fill it with new content. Not that the mutual distrust and the competition for scarce resources and opportunities among rival states, emphasized by the “realistic” school of international relations theory, are a thing of the past. The contributions by Uwe Krüger on the “poker game” over Caspian oil and by Kassian Stroh on the conflict over the water of the Nile deal with this dimension of international politics. However, the – functioning – states of the world have increasing reason to worry about the dangers that arise out of the dynamics of societal regression. And if there is no affordable way of eliminating these dynamics and achieving genuine stability (Dauderstädt points to the crucial aspect of costs) it is all the more important to control the consequences of instability. And it is important to find allies who take part in that controlling. This new imperative unites “powers” who are otherwise inclined to consider each other as rivals. As the contribution by Peter W. Schulze points out, Russia’s reappearance in the first league of world politics is to be understood within this context. That the common interest in stability does not keep the “powers” from purposefully destabilizing when that promises advantages vis-à-vis their geopolitical rivals becomes repeatedly obvious in Uwe Krüger’s contribution.

Of course, the Middle East conflict is among those at the top of the list when it comes to the issue of global stabilization. But it is first of all a conflict sui generis and an example of the fascinating “unassailable” logic of collective irrationality. Reiner Bernstein’s analysis of the latest attempt at promoting Middle East peace brings this once more to the fore.

With this editorial, the managing editor of INTERNATIONAL POLITICS AND SOCIETY says, after ten, not all that “post-historical”, years, good-bye to the readers. The journal will maintain its conceptual line, but will undoubtedly display a different “handwriting” in one or another respect.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | net edition malte.michel | 9/2003