Timothy Garton Ash: A New World Disorder

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Timothy Garton Ash, a contributing editor to Opinion, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor of European studies at Oxford University. He is the author, most recently, of "Facts Are Subversive."]

Three Davos summits on from the West's Great Crash, we begin to see where we are. This is not the total collapse of liberal democratic capitalism that some had feared at the dramatic World Economic Forum meeting here in early 2009, but nor is it the great reform of Western capitalism, then the devout hope of Davos.

Western capitalism survives, but limping, wounded and carrying a heavy load of debt, inequality, demography, neglected infrastructure, social discontent and unrealistic expectations.

Meanwhile, other variants of capitalism — Chinese, Indian, Russian, Brazilian — are surging ahead, exploiting the advantages of backwardness, and their economic dynamism is rapidly being translated into political power.

The result? Not a unipolar world, converging on a single model of liberal democratic capitalism, but a no-polar world, diverging toward many different national versions of often illiberal capitalism. Not a new world order but a new world disorder — fractured, overheated, pregnant with future conflicts....

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