The coronavirus pandemic has shown that the twin processes of globalization and planned obsolescence are deficient and moribund. Globalization was predicated on a number of assumptions including the perpetuity of consumerism, and the withering away of national boundaries as transnational corporations so required.
What we see instead is not a globalization process, but instead a process of rising multipolarity and a rethinking of consumerism itself.
Normally a total market crash and unemployment crisis would usher in a period of militant labor activity, strikes, walk-outs and community-labor campaigns. We’ve seen some of this already. But the ‘medical state of emergency’ we are in, has effectively worked like a ‘lock-out’. The elites have effectively flipped-the-script. Instead of workers now demanding a restoration of wages, hours, and work-place rights, they are clamoring for any chance to work at all, under any conditions handed down. Elites can ‘afford’ to do this because they’ve been given trillions of dollars to do so. See how that works?
All our lives we’ve been misinformed over what a growing economy means, what it looks like, how we identify it. All our lives we’ve been lied to about what technical improvement literally means.
A growing economy in fact means that all goods and services become less expensive. That cuts against inflation. Rather all prices should be deflating – less money ought to buy the same (or the same money ought to buy more). Technical innovation means that goods should last longer, not be planned for obsolescence with shorter lifespans.
Unemployment is good if it parallels price deflation. If both reached a zero-point, the problems we believe we have would be solved.
In a revealing April 2nd article that featured on the BBC’s website, Will coronavirus reverse globalisation? it is proposed that the pandemic exposes the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of a global supply-chain and manufacturing system, and that this in combination with the over-arching US-China trade war would see a general tendency towards ‘re-shoring’ of activities. These are fair points.
But the article misses the point of the underlying problem facing economics in general: the declining rate of profit necessitated by automation, with the increasingly irrational policies, in all spheres, being pursued to salvage the ultimately unsalvageable.
The Karmic Wheel of Production-Consumption
The shut-downs – which seem unnecessary in the numerous widely esteemed experts in virology and epidemiology – appear to be aimed at stopping the production-consumption cycle. When we look at the wanton creation of new ‘money’, to bailout the banks, we are told that this will not cause inflation/debasement so long as the velocity of money is kept to a minimum. In other words – so long as there is not a chain reaction of transactions, and the money ‘stays still’ – this won’t cause inflation. It’s a specious claim, but one which justifies the quarantine/lock-down policy which today destroys thousands of small businesses every day. In the U.S. alone, unemployment claims will pass 30 million by mid April.
Likewise, this money appears real, it sits digitally as new liquidity on the computer screens of tran-Atlantic banks – but it cannot be spent, or it tanks the system with hyper-inflation. More to the point, the BBC piece erroneously continues to assume the necessity of the production-consumption cycle, spinning wheat into gold forever.
The elites were not wrong to shut-down the cycle per se. The problem is that they cannot offer the correct hardware in its place – for it puts an end to the very way that they make money. It is this, which in turn is a major source for the maintenance of their dopamine equilibrium and narcissist supply.
This is not an economic problem faced by ‘the 1%’ (the 0.03%) . It is an existential crisis facing the meaning of their lives, where satisfaction can only be found in ever greater levels of wealth and control, real or imagined – chasing that dragon, in search of that ever-elusive high.
So naturally, their solutions are population reduction and other such quasi-genocidal neo-Malthusian plans. Destruction of humanity – the number one productive-potential force – resets the hands of time, back to a period where profit levels were higher. The algorithmically favored coronavirus Instagram campaign of seeing city centers without people and declaring these ‘beautiful’ and ‘peaceful’ is an example of this misanthropic principle at play.
That the elites have chosen to shut-down the western economy is telling of an historic point we have reached. And while we are told that production and consumption will return somewhat ‘after quarantine’, we also hear from the newly-emerged unelected tsars – Bill Gates et al – that things will never return to normal.
What we need to end is the entire theory and practice of globalization itself, including UN Agenda 21 and the dangerous role of ‘book-talking’ philanthropists like Gates and his grossly unbalanced degree of power over policy formation in the Western sphere.
In place of waning globalization, we are seeing the reality of rising multipolarity and inter-nationalism. With this, the end of the production-consumption cycle, based upon off-shore production and international assembly, and at the root of it all: planned obsolescence towards long-term profitability.
The Problem of Globalization Theory
Without a doubt, globalization theory satisfied aspects of descriptive power. But as time marched forward, its predictive power weakened. Alternate theories began to emerge – chief among these, multipolarity theory.
The promotion of globalization theory also raises ethical problems. Like a criminologist ‘describing’ a crime-wave while being invested in new prison construction, globalization theory was as much theory as it was a policy forced upon the world by the same institutions behind its popularization in academia and in policy formation. Therefore we should not be surprised with the rise of solutions like those of Gates. These involve patentable ‘vaccines’ by for-profit firms at the expense of buttressing natural human immunities, or using drugs which other countries are using with effectiveness.
The truth? Globalization is really just a rebrand of the Washington Consensus – neo-liberal think-tanks and the presumed eternal dominance of institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which in turn are thinly disguised conglomerates of the largest trans-Atlantic banking institutions.
So while globalization was often given a humanist veneer that promised global development, modernization, the end of ‘nation-states’ which presumably are the source of war; in reality globalization was premised on continuing and increasing concentration of capital towards the 19th century zones – New York, London, Berlin, and Paris.
‘Internationalism’ was once rooted in the existence of nations which in turn are only possible with the existence of culture and peoples, but was hi-jacked by the trans-Atlanticist project. Before long, the new-left ‘internationalists’ became champions of the very same process of imperialism that their forbearers had vehemently opposed. Call it ‘globalization’ and show how it’s destroying ‘toxic nationalism’ and creating ‘microfinance solutions for women and girls’ – trot out Malala – and it was bought; hook, line and sinker.
This was not the new era of ‘globalization’, but rather the usual suspects going back to the 19th century; a ‘feel-good’ rebranding of the very same 19th century imperialism as described in J.A Hobson’s seminal work from 1902, Imperialism. Its touted ‘inevitability’ rested not on the impossibility of alternate models, but on the authority that flows forth from gunboat diplomacy. But sea power has given way to land power.
In many ways it aligned with the era of de-colonialization and post-colonialism. New nations could wave their own flags and make their own laws, so long as the traditionally imperialist western banking institutions controlled the money supply.
But what is emerging is not Washington Consensus ‘globalization’, but a multipolar model based in civilizational sovereignty and difference, building products to last – for their usefulness and not their repeatable retail potential. This cuts against the claims that global homogenization in all spheres (moral, cultural, economic, political, etc.) was inevitable, as a consequence of mercantile specialization.
Therefore, inter-nationalism hyphenated as such, reminds us that nations – civilizations, sovereignty, and their differences – make us stronger as a human species. Like against viruses, some have stronger natural immunity than others. If people were identical, one virus could wipe-out all of humanity.
Likewise, an overly-integrated global economy leads to global melt-down and depression when one node collapses. Rather than independent pillars that could aid each other, the interdependence is its greatest weakness.
Multipolarity is Reality
This new reality – multipolarity – involves processes which aspects of globalization theory also suggest and predict for, so there are some honest reasons why experts could misdiagnose multipolarity as globalization. Overlooked was that the concentration of capital nodes in various and globally diverse regions by continent, were not exclusively trans-Atlantic regions as in the standard globalization model of Alpha ++ or Alpha+ cities. This capital concentration along continental lines was occurring alongside regional economic development and rising living standards which tended to promote the efficiency of local transportation as opposed to ocean-travel in the production process. As regional nodes by continent had increasingly diversified their own domestic production, a general tendency for transportation costs to increase as individual per capita usage increased, worked against the viability of an over-reliance on global transit lines.
But among many problems in globalization theory was that the US would always be the primary consumer of the world’s goods, and with it, the trans-Atlantic financial sector. It was also contingent on the idea that mercantilist conceptions of specialization (by nation or by region) would always trump autarkic models and ISI (income substitution industrialization). Again, if middle-class consumer bases are rising in all the world’s inhabited continents as multipolarity explains and predicts, then a global production regimen rationalized towards a trans-Atlantic consumer base as globalization theory predicts isn’t quite as apt.
Because the present system is premised on a production-consumption and financial model, the solutions to crises are presented as population reduction and what even appears, at least in the case of Europe, as population replacement. As cliché as this may seem, this also appeared to be the policy of the Third Reich when capitalism faced its last major crises culminating in WWII.
Breaking the Wheel
The shutdown reveals the karmic wheel of production-consumption is in truth already broken. We have already passed the zenith point of what the old paradigm had to offer, and it has long since entered into a period of decay, economic and moral destruction.
Like the Christ who brings forth a new covenant or the Buddha who emerges to break the wheel of karma, the new world to be built on the ruins of modernity is a world that liberates the productive forces, realizing their full potential, and with it the liberation of man from the machine of the production-consumption cycle.
Planned obsolescence and consumerism (marketing) are the twin evils that have worked towards the simultaneous time-wasting enslavement of ‘living to work’, and have built globalization based on global assembly and global mono-culture.
What is important for people and their quality of life is the time to live life, not be stuck in the grind. We hear politicians and economists talking about ‘everyone having a job’, as if what people want is to be away from their families, friends, passions, or hobbies. What’s more – people cannot invent, innovate, or address the greater questions of life and death – if their nose is to the grindstone.
Now that we are living under an overt system of control, a ‘medical state of emergency’ with a frozen economy, we can see that another world is possible. The truth is that most things which are produced are intentionally made to break at a specific time, so that a re-purchase is predictable and profits are guaranteed. This compels global supply chains and justifies artificially induced crashes aimed at upward redistribution and mass expropriations.
Instead of allowing Bill Gates to tour the world to tout a police-state cum population reduction scheme right after a global virus pandemic struck, one which many believe he owns the patent for, we can instead address the issues of multipolarity, civilizational sovereignty, and ending planned obsolescence and the global supply chain, as well as the off-shoring it necessitates – which the BBC rightly notes, is in question anyhow.
Joaquin Flores was educated in the field of IR and IPE at California State University Los Angeles; previously served as a business agent and organizer for the SEIU labor union; has published internationally on subjects of geopolitics, war, and diplomacy. He serves as the director of the Belgrade-based Center for Syncretic Studies, and is Chief Editor at Fort Russ News.
Originally published in Strategic Culture online journal. The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.