Politik und Gesellschaft Online
International Politics and Society 1/1999

"You have the poor with you always." For many centuries, it would never have occurred to anyone to seriously question what was basically the statement of a self-evident truth by Jesus of Nazareth. Prosperity for all as a political programme encompassing the whole world - notwithstanding early socialist dreams - is a child born of the unprecedented period of prosperity in the western industrial countries following World War II. 19th century enthusiasm about progress had given way to a more sceptical world view, but the idea that millennia-old everyday evils like hunger, illiteracy or epidemic disease could finally and definitively be eradicated throughout the world did move from the sphere of futuristic visions into political programmes. Since then, we have had to learn that "globalizing" Western material civilisation is not as easy a task as the optimists of the 1960s and 1970s had expected. But resignation on the development-aid front was countered by a growing fear that what we had achieved at home would be under threat if we failed to globalise our progress. Indeed, what at first sight may appear to be a rather comfortable fatalism ("We have poor countries with us always") is becoming less and less acceptable. Today, we are seeking new structures of "feasible" progress, ways to overcome the blockades of the real world with its states, social structures and cultures. Dirk Messner, head of the Duisburg Institute of Development and Peace, presents the basic features of such a structure which takes account of the globalisation of the problems.

The following articles illustrate the virtually endless obstacles blocking the road to a prosperous world. There is hardly anywhere in the world where economic development does not encounter massive difficulties, where strategies do not prove inadequate, where the realities to be changed do not prove rather obstinate. Jena-based economist Klaus Müller discusses eastern Europe´s transition from the planned to the market economy, a processs that involved a traumatic decline in prosperity. He shows that societal organisation of economic activity is an all-embracing task which simply cannot be coped with by transformation strategies based solely on economic categories. Dietmar Dirmoser's article on Cuba looks at a country which, in contrast, wants virtually nothing to do with transformation, and whose economy is also running aground. Robert Kappel, professor of economics at Leipzig University, paints a grim picture of Africa's economic prospects: the classic under-development trap. But even key witnesses for the defence of development policy optimism, most of the so-called eastern Asian "tiger" countries, are falling by the wayside. As Hanns W. Maull, political scientist of Trier University, argues, the East Asian crisis has exposed the weaknesses not only of the international financial system (cf. Claus Köhler in our 2/1998 issue), but also of the previously so successful East Asian "development state". What model does that leave us?

Overshadowed by other global developments, a ghost of the dark days of the Cold War has re-emerged in southern Asia, an area at the margin of global political attention: the danger of the first nuclear war in human history. The article by Heinrich Kreft, a member of the planning staff of the German foreign ministry, shows clearly just how real this threat is, given the lack of collective security structures. Regarding nuclear rearmament in southern Asia, cf. Also the contributions by C. Raja Mohan and Stansfield Turner in our last issue.

The editors are painfully aware of the fact that INTERNATIONAL POLITICS AND SOCIETY has so far failed to focus properly on the environment question. With the current issue, however, we aim to mark a transition to a more environmentally-conscious future. In our "debate", Edda Müller from the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, and Joachim Grawe, a leading representative of the German electricity industry, rehearse the arguments for and against one of the key policies designed to make economic activity more environmentally friendly.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition bb&ola | Februar 1999