« The neoliberal discourse and happy globalization », Alioune SALL *


*Executive Director of the African Futures Institute, Senegal

In GEOPOLITICAL PROSPECTS AND THE FUTURE OF NATIONS, Acting with Awareness – A book produced with the financial support of the HANNS-SEIDEL Foundation (Germany) /(You can download it by clicking on the link at the bottom of this article)

I am delighted to be here for three reasons:

  • Relevance/generosity of the theme: while humanity is struggling to emerge from prehistory because of selfish interests, the debates are placed under the sign of a very great generosity since what is sought here is neither more nor less than « the humanization of geopolitics » to quote our friend Prof. Ali Sedjari.
  • Quality of the pleiad of speakers. As Hegel said, speaking of Napoleon, « I saw the spirit on horseback », I saw here epistemic communities in full deployment
  • Elegance of the exchanges: whereas very often debates between intellectuals turn into a free-for-all, the images I would use, if I had to talk about the way the debates have been conducted so far, are those of the saraband, the symphony, the sharing, the Co-construction, the collective awareness, the discernment.
    These three features that chisel the face of this meeting have made it very pleasant for me.
    My paper was initially to be discussed in a session entitled « geopolitical prospective and the destiny of nations ». Now, by an operation of which I do not know all the ins and outs, this communication is presented in a session entitled « a world in action and a geopolitics of the unconscious ».

I could not fail to wonder about the relevance of my initial project. But, after listening to this morning’s speakers, I decided to restructure my initial paper, to align myself and talk about the unconscious.

So I restructured my presentation.
What I would like to do here is to present two discourses on globalization – the neo-liberal discourse and the Chinese counter-example – because when we talk about geopolitics and development, the term globalization is unavoidable. Decried by some, adored by others, the notion of globalization leaves no one indifferent. I would then like to question the meaning of these discourses for Africa and the impact of these discourses on the African space. I will conclude with a call for boldness.
Four questions:

But before that, I would like to say a few words about the unconscious, which has been discussed a lot this morning. Who are these unconscious? It is with this question that I would like to enter into the matter, but I will do it in « easy French ».
Who are the unconscious?
-Those who have no earthly conscience
-Those in whom « power has corrupted reason », as Kant would say
-Those in whom ambition has extinguished the spark, the light of the spirit
-those who pursue particular goods, implement strategies that lead to tragedies for all (Plato)
-Those who present these tragedies as a comedy when it is their comedies they call governance that lead to these tragedies.
From these few definitions gleaned during this morning’s interventions, it appears that the notion of the unconscious covers a wide range of actors whose absence here is remarkable as well as perhaps salutary. The absent ones are :
States: those of the Triad, to speak as Samir Amin, but also those of the so-called emerging periphery
-Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs): particularly the Bretton Woods institutions that initiated and spearheaded the Washington Consensus and, unfortunately, more and more UN agencies that disassociated themselves from it and advocated what was called the New York Consensus: particularly the UNDP and UNICEF, but also the ILO and IFAD.
In short, fundamentalists of globalization and jihadists of the liberal order.

What discourse on globalization?
Globalization occupies two discursive spaces:

The neoliberal discourse of happy globalization
In the neoliberal conception, globalization understood as the extension of the capitalist system to the scale of the planet represents a groundswell that acts positively on the planet and optimizes creative potential: « the worldwide distribution of products, the internationalization of communication systems and a certain convergence of lifestyles and consumption patterns nourish the feeling of belonging to the global village.

This is, of course, an idyllic conception of globalization. A conception that is all the more idyllic because this globalization would bring not only economic growth but also political liberalism in the form of a set of freedoms guaranteed by democratic systems; such a globalization would therefore necessarily be a happy one and, implicitly, would represent an ultimate, unsurpassable stage in human history.
In order to benefit from the advantages associated with this happy globalization, all that remains for developing or emerging countries to do is to follow the same trajectory as the countries of the North: to become more integrated into world trade, on the one hand, and, on the other, to strengthen liberal democracy, which, in this narrative, would be the ultimate goal of globalization as well as its privileged means of achievement. This somewhat teleological conception of globalization reached its peak in the Reagan-Thatcher era, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which saw the birth of the TINA syndrome and also of Fukuyama and his many epigones.
However, two recent historical movements seem to undermine this conception: the first is the rise of China, which proposes a deliberate articulation/insertion in the system of globalized exchanges but based on a political organization opposite to that of liberal democracy; the second is that of a spectacular increase in inequalities that nourishes a feeling of identity-based alienation at the heart of the resurgence of populist movements, including in the West. The moneyed castes on the one hand, and the needy on the other, as the song says. The ISF is sweetened but the number of homeless people is increasing.

I will come back to these disparities.

The Chinese counter-example
China has become the workshop of the world and is now the second economic power in the world. Its rise is quite simply breathtaking and it owes much to globalization, which in this case has consisted of a controlled insertion into the world economy. But if the Chinese model is, like that of a number of other Asian countries (Japan, South Korea), rich in lessons, its interest is twofold. First, it has enabled China to make a meteoric rise to the rank of second world economic power, which in itself is a remarkable achievement that leaves many formerly and newly industrialized countries astonished.
Secondly, it is interesting to note that this rise was achieved on the basis of a discourse and practices that are far removed from the current doxa in the economic and socio-political fields.
In economic terms, the Chinese model is based on massive state intervention in economic affairs, not so much as a regulator as a full-fledged economic actor. it is a model in which the state’s promotion of an environment conducive to « free and fair » competition is marginal to the colossal efforts it makes to promote economic competitiveness.
It is a model in which the state’s promotion of an environment conducive to « free and fair » competition is marginal compared to the colossal efforts it makes to promote competitiveness on the international scene, including through activities that blithely go beyond the framework of business ethics. Thus, the stated objective today is to move from textiles to automobiles, from low-cost to high value-added, as evidenced by the proclaimed ambition to make the country a leader in the frantic race to artificial intelligence. It is also about raising the economic status of its population: in this respect, China’s greatest achievement is undoubtedly to have lifted half a million people out of poverty since the 1980s, with the poverty rate falling from 88% in 1981 to 6.5% in 2012.

The increase in the average standard of living also seems to be coming from below; indeed, we observe a phenomenon well known to economists, according to which income inequalities increase during phases of significant economic growth, but decrease as initially rural populations gain access to more remunerative jobs: inequalities in Chinese incomes have thus tended to decrease since 2009 (this is not the case for wealth, on the other hand – but this is a global trend, as Piketty has demonstrated).
In terms of political and social organization, the Chinese model is the opposite of liberal democracies. Thus China practices a deliberate articulation/insertion into the system of globalized exchanges, but based on a political organization that is the opposite of that of liberal democracy. The teleological aspect of the Reagan-Thatcherian discourse does not disappear completely. If the people are represented by a single party, as was the case in communist countries, it is clear that modern China, while not denying its membership in this political category, embodies it in a particularly creative way.
Two features common to both models

An ideologization of the factual; an essentialization of historical traits.
China, it is said, draws on a cultural fund that goes back much further than the Maoist cultural revolution, since it is its Confucian heritage that China today claims quite willingly. In a similar vein, the international influence to which China aspires today is part of a contemporary adaptation of the concepts of Tianxia and Tianming (respectively, « all things under heaven » and « heaven’s mandate »), which are central to the country’s conception of international relations, and which aim to place greater emphasis on « relational » as opposed to « rule-based » regulation of international relations.
According to this view, the world needs more consensus to develop international relations into true global governance. While strict rules are useful, the emphasis is on the possibility of more flexible relations. This new Chinese approach to international relations ignores the fact that strict rules can be used by smaller states to protect them from the actions of others.
This new Chinese approach to international relations ignores the fact that strict rules can be used by smaller states to protect them from the arbitrary actions of some, while governance by relationship privileges the strong. But China is unashamed to acknowledge this fact. No one could be more explicit in this regard than Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who in 2010 said that « China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.

However, if China can be considered a model in its spectacular economic trajectory, both in terms of the magnitude of its growth and its reasonably inclusive character, as well as its deep cultural roots, it would be naïve to consider the love affair it has with African countries as free of any counterpart. The concept of Tianxia certainly designates a world community whose members would maintain constructive and peaceful relations, but this community must be constituted around those who have Tianming, the mandate of heaven, which from a pragmatic point of view, is simply the expression of an ascendancy in relations, establishing a de facto hierarchy that must be recognized and accepted.

Denial of reality
Globalization will undoubtedly have benefited many economically, but it will also have led to the economic and social downgrading of a fringe of the middle classes with limited levels of higher education, as well as of lower social categories. This, coupled with strict budgetary austerity policies that are gradually eroding public services, is unfortunately making
This, coupled with strict budgetary austerity policies that are gradually eroding public services, makes people unfortunately very receptive to nationalist and populist discourses of the right and the extreme right, which combine the subordination of economic sovereignty to supranational institutions whose democratic representation is deficient (EU, WTO, UN, etc. ….), immigration from the South and the Middle East
as a security risk, an economic burden or a cultural invasion, the casualization of work and the nostalgia for a certain idea of the civilizational predominance of the Western powers in world affairs, which is eroded a little more with each presumptuous statement, or even distrust of the West, by Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping or Narendra Modi: the result is a withdrawal of identity nourished in reaction to a feeling of alienation from globalization.
If this « globalization, which is ultimately unfortunate for many » induces in the European and American political fields growing polarizations that favor the development of extremism, is it not legitimate for the developing world to question the model that, in its current form – capitalist, individualistic, unequal – is alienating, conflict-ridden, and violent?
Insofar as any idea of a teleological trajectory becomes specious, whether by its ineluctable character or by that of its destination, which experience reveals to be undesirable in many respects, is it possible to think of more endogenous development trajectories, whose articulation to a globalized capitalism would naturally emanate from its own cultural data?
What space is there for Africa in these contrasting globalizations? Africa must take up a double challenge: it must know how to decipher the present and think the unthought.
Reading the present in the context of « chiaroscuro » that Gramsci evoked to characterize our era is not easy.

With the striking entry into our vocabulary of the notions of movement, uncertainty, chaotic order, disruption, complexity, and disruption, it is often difficult to distinguish between what is simple linguistic creativity and what is the expression of a conceptual disorder that is a counterpart to the « jumble of self » that Ghaleb Bencheikh recommended reading. It is thus necessary to know
to proceed with method, and very often to do it at the price of an « intellectual dissidence » that it is necessary to set up in right. As a futurist, reading the present means understanding the factors of change, the actors behind these factors, the strategies and games of these actors as well as the uncertainties linked to them. Such an exercise would go far beyond the limits of this article. We will therefore limit ourselves here to briefly indicating some of the major trends that characterize our world, as well as the seeds of change that are emerging.
as well as the seeds of change that can be read in them.

Among these major trends, two seem to me to be major and important to understand: – the persistence of borders – what I have called elsewhere the mists of Westphalia – which founded the couple State-War; borders that globalization should, logically, have made disappear if the dominant discourse on the free circulation of capital, goods, and services were a reality; – the understanding of geopolitics as a rivalry between sovereign territories and recognized as such.
As for the seeds of change, the most striking is undoubtedly the concept of citizenship. If the nation has a bad press in Europe today, but also in Africa, because it is seen as a source of conflict or as an alibi to hide the increasingly gaping fractures in African societies, the notion of citizenship is, on the contrary, experiencing a new youth. It is multidimensional like identity, from which it can no longer be dissociated, and finds its legitimacy not only in the past -the heritage- but also in the future-the project underpinned by a common will to go together to conquer a desired future. If this germ of change develops and consolidates, it is a safe bet that the persistence of Westphalian ideology, presented as a strong trend, will be altered.
Acting with awareness, a new Bandoeng

  • As was the case at the Bandung Conference held in 1955, it is now a question of Africa adopting a critical stance in relation to the major global hegemonic poles, whether they be the countries of the Triad (Europe, United States, Japan) or China and/or other emerging countries. As for the historical context in which the Bandung Conference was held, it is a question of adopting a pragmatic positioning and capitalizing on this hegemonic competition to
    to make the most of the relationship with the great powers, established or emerging, and to do so, as far as possible, at the lowest cost.

-According to the same pragmatic logic, it is urgent to recognize that if they are alone, and deprived of any supranational community of interest, African countries are condemned in the more or less long term to be subservient to the interests of the giants of this world. From this point of view, the ambitions expressed by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, in terms of real pooling of resources to meet common challenges, are more than legitimate, even if they remain far too timid.
It is also urgent for African governments to establish or re-establish real democratic legitimacy in the eyes of the populations they are supposed to represent. In this respect, holding elections is not enough, as demonstrated by the de facto democratic deficit faced by Western countries in the context of unbridled liberal globalization, where voter turnout is increasingly low because for a certain disillusioned electorate, elections ultimately change nothing. When abstention does not prevail, the extremist vote prevails, as the voter believes that change, whatever it may be, is preferable to the status quo.
The trade-off between different development trajectories will be all the easier for public decision-makers if they know how to listen to the people. There is no shortage of common challenges, and if in the economic sphere the choice is made to place cooperation in this field within the minimal framework of regulating the activities of competing companies, security and environmental issues, to name but two, cannot stop at borders. The challenges can only be met if proactive policies are implemented with a view to making the establishment of multilateral relations between Africans not just a phase in the construction of Africa but a transversal dimension of its existence in this world. Perhaps it is therefore time to revive the pan-African ideal that asserts a basic cultural kinship between the peoples of the continent, expressed at least in common historical trajectories, in the modalities of the relationship with the other and family structures, in a relational ethic that some might consider as the foundation of a realized African unity.

Far from any idea of identity-based withdrawal, it seems important to question the potential of the idea of a cultural affirmation of peoples that would not only impregnate the modalities of national articulation to globalized capitalism, but also a multilateral strategic repositioning based on a community of challenges that the South must face with regard to old and new hegemonic impulses. In short, to question the relevance of a new Bandung.

To conclude…
A call for audacity. To think the unthought; to act in conscience. On reflection, these two attitudes have been presented in all revolutions, whether they be political, cultural, economic or technological.
But a revolution requires audacity. This audacity was evoked by Danton during the French Revolution, but also by Emmanuel Kant, as Dominique Martin opportunely reminded us. I would therefore say that the future of a happy globalization or of a humanized, appeased geopolitics, far from the current Hobbesian logic, is within reach, provided that we dare to think, that we dare to speak and to create a desire for the future, that we dare to act.
I want to believe that tomorrow, when speaking of our present meeting, future historians will write, paraphrasing one of the founders of the situationist movement: « there were a few who were in love with the pleasure of loving their continent unreservedly, of enjoying it without hindrance, and who wished to offer their love the sumptuous bed of a revolution. » …. Marrakech will enter history if we leave with the desire to play a greater role in the revolution that our humanity is so full of, even if we are not always aware of it.

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