Guardian Reports: The end of the New World Order29/10/2013 18:11
The upheavals of the early 21st century have changed our world. Now, in the aftermath of failed wars and economic disasters, pressure for a social alternative can only grow
The first decade of the 21st century shook the international order, turning the received wisdom of the global elites on its head – and 2008 was its watershed. With the end of the cold war, the great political and economic questions had all been settled, we were told. Liberal democracy and free-market capitalism had triumphed. Socialism had been consigned to history. Political controversy would now be confined to culture wars and tax-and-spend trade-offs.
In 1990, George Bush Senior had inaugurated a New World Order, based on uncontested US military supremacy and western economic dominance. This was to be a unipolar world without rivals. Regional powers would bend the knee to the new worldwide imperium. History itself, it was said, had come to an end.
But between the attack on the Twin Towers and the fall of Lehman Brothers, that global order had crumbled. Two factors were crucial. By the end of a decade of continuous warfare, the US had succeeded in exposing the limits, rather than the extent, of its military power. And the neoliberal capitalist model that had reigned supreme for a generation had crashed.
It was the reaction of the US to 9/11 that broke the sense of invincibility of the world's first truly global empire. The Bush administration's wildly miscalculated response turned the atrocities in New York and Washington into the most successful terror attack in history.