World System Theory
We always wish to make revolutionary theory and development theory accessible to regular people otherwise we will fail, that is inherent. If you cannot make theory applicable to the securement or tangible, actionable gains in rights it is irrelevant. Thus before we can expand on the concept of Emancipatory Development, development in service of rights we should attempt to make understandable the lectures and work of Sociologist Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein, a historical social scientist and creator of the “World Systems Theory”. But first a little re-introduction of Plato, the Greek philosopher.
Allegory of the Cave
Perhaps you are familiar with the allegory of Plato’s cave where by humanity was enchained in darkness not even knowing the image of its’ own self, only a shadow and upon release was so horrified of the reality of their own reflection they preferred the mental and physical slavery of the cave to the emancipation of a brave new world.
We would go so far as to say that in our current reality our bondage is more like a mountain. One in which while perhaps you are fully aware of the security and riches present in other zones, districts or nations of the earth we are unable physically and mentally to advance to the comforts of the precipice heights bound not by chains, although such slaveries exist; more of us are bound by survival obligations to self and family that prevent mobility. And perhaps most striking about this social arrangement is that we spend most our existence fighting for survival and when capability allows; working long hours enriching others (Marx, 1887). We work ourselves to the bones to send up the mountain the riches of the earth, the wealth of nations such that faceless oligarchs and their progeny may have complete abundance.
Let us for analysis remove the national borders of the Peter’s world map the one where all elements are represented at their actual presumed size. Let us examine it inverted. Let us look at it East on top West, then South on top of North. Note the arbitrary placement of not only national borders but also spatial demarcations and hemispheric directions. As if the sun still was thought to revolve around the earth or that the earth was clearly flat. Let us again for analysis abolish those markings too.
Let us turn it from a two dimensional boundary marker into a three dimensional sphere, then pull up like a hand on a cloth the developed northern nations as if into a the shape of a mountain, a mountain where the OECD countries are the core on top and down the mountain are arrayed the middle income than low income town the bottom of this precipice.
Allegory of Mountain
We all live on this vast mountain and the along with the 7-8 billion other humans we share its heights, valleys and miserable war torn crevices with; we are bound to that mountain by a system which is orchestrated via competing rulers we call the Oligarchs (Winters, 2011). To maintain that system in its place requires a systematic dehumanization and segregation of all inhabitants such that we are all so disunited that convincing us to work our whole lives and pay for the right to die in varying degrees of seemingly enlightened serfdom, is a privilege.
As of now (though this number will grow as artificial nation states continue to implode) this mountain is divided into 206 countries (193 acknowledged by the United Nations as officially being sovereign states) and into 5 dependency relationship zones.
It is, because of the nature of sustained predation fostered in the world system since 1500 CE an inherently highly unstable environment, aggravated almost ceaselessly by warfare, deprivation, famine and poverty (Wallerstein, 2011). Following a series of World and Cold Wars from 1914-1989 the elite consensus shifted from ideological confrontation to shared illusion. The nature of the world system is referred to in political science as an “inverse consociationalist relationship” (Lustick, 1979); a political order where elites of every nation, with loyalty only to the ones in which their assets are deposited collude and complete via proxy from dominance of the Core; the legal, military and economic mobilization of state architecture to secure capital, and via hyper-influence and full enjoyment of the material world and use its inhabitants. The governance of the mountain which became so wildly unstable in the 20th century has taken form around the growing Multipolarity of the Globalized 21st century (Kupchan, 1998).
The basis of a Consociationalist framework is that the Oligarchs in each state, via social and business groups referred to as elite clusters and arch-oligarchs, hyper-enriched via wealth accumulation at the core have imposed a relationship upon us. Via a dual needed illusion they keeps us not only from dissolving our national dependencies; they divide us, co-opt us, and prevent a global uprising by disguising the nature of their access to capital. They lower our consciousness, they force half the species into existential deprivation, and they utilize their intelligence agencies their spies and informants to encourage destabilizing violence. They have done so not with mere words (Orwell, 1949). Even linguistically they deprive us of a discourse.
They have turned plantations into nations. Resistance into accusations of terrorism. They made democracy into noise. They have made greed into virtue. They have turned your servitude into work. They have turned rights into phrases, freedom into slavery. They have turned colonialism into something called “sustainable development.”
The Development Enterprise as we understand it began after the Second World War with the 1948 implementation of the Marshal Plan. The intention of this far-reaching US aid investment was to keep war-ravaged Western Europe from being absorbed into the Soviet sphere. Development subsequently evolved into an international architecture. Its newly stated intention within the Cold War context was to modernize and industrialize former colonial nations. Packages of civilian and military aid were coupled with technical assistance. Non-governmental organizations proliferated generally around poverty alleviation and cause specific programs. The United Nations ratified a wide range of human rights instruments as rapidly escalating armed conflicts accelerated in almost every nation in the developing world. By 2014, there have been 15 confirmed acts of Genocide by International Law since 1945, 37 if you include democide (Rummel, 1998). Environmental degradation has resulted in expanding disastrous climate change (Biermann, 2010).
It is expected that the cost of water will soon overtake the price of oil after peak oil in 2020 (Deffeyes, 2006). If usage and climate change continues unabated 1.8 billion people will be living with severe water scarcity by 2025 and 2/3 of the species will be subjected to water stress (Brown, 2009).
There are over three billion human beings living under $3.00 a day that are worth as much in assets as the top 85 richest people on earth (Oxfam, 2014). It is believed that over 29.8 million people still live in chattel slavery (Global Slavery Index, 2013). While the United Nations made goals to “eradicate global extreme poverty’, ‘doubling human access to clean water’ and ‘halting new infection with HIV-AIDS’ divested of all the many political, economic and religious superstructures the results of the development enterprise are highly underwhelming.
There can be no clear measure of data being generated in a variety of highly non-transparent countries. At the 2013 Interaction Forum, the broadest confederation of American development NGOs and Humanitarian actors, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres admitted, “We are not entirely prepared”. More conflicts, deeply entrenched poverty, coupled with the targeting of aid workers will occur alongside decreases in funds and the impacts of global climate change. Yet, across the development enterprise, almost all of the academia and technocracy agree that the very worst of human civilization is behind us. There is still massive disagreement regarding the hierarchy of needs for those 5 billion human souls that live on less than USD 10 a day; 3 billion of which live on less than USD 2.50 a day; and 1.2 billion on less than USD 1.25 (World Bank 2014). The question remains one of participation and empowerment. Will listening to the voices of the poor will be a meaningless slogan or a set of specific instructions to those invested in equality?
Amyarta Sen believes that development is a means to achieve freedom and freedom is achieved by enabling human capability. Jeffrey Sachs believes poverty can be eliminated through coordinated action of a “Big Push” Global Marshall Plan. William Easterly and Paul Collier advocate basis of the Monterrey Consensus of 2002 forgoing aid in favor of improving trade. A regular buzzword in the enterprise is ‘capacity building’, but this is often limited to technocracy and management training going directly to widely corrupted governments. Throughout the development and humanitarian sectors coordination is irregular, local participation is dictated top down, and dependency is fostered (Escobar, 1995).
We must often remind ourselves about whose reality we are living in here at the top of the mountain, at the Global Core; here in the relative privilege and security of the so called North; the Developed World spanning North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand in short the winners and losers of the World Wars excluding Russia. We must remember that the number one killer of citizens in the United States of America is heart disease from over consumption, poor nutrition choices and general gluttony (American Heart Association, 2014). While the leading killer of those 3.5 million living below $3 USD a day is multidimensional poverty, preventable disease and exposure to disastrous climate change.
The Westphalian State System was implemented to break humanity into more manageable units for economic exploitation. All 206 recognized states are pure inventions that have little historical basis, ethnic or religious homogeneity. They were established not to preserve an imagined order but to quantify human and resource capital.
Therefore, our indictment is not around a policy, a procedure or a political or economic methodology. We are leveling our counter attack, we are bolstering our defenses against an entire World System. A system which sense conceived has divided us into categorizations and work exploitation units called nations; disposed of abundance through the perpetual act of war and in the name of humanitarian imperative and now development practice fostered our dependency to a hand full of Oligarchic elite clusters that control the shifting Core. It is can no longer be said that what is happening is a phenomena. Poverty is genocide. Our duty and your duty to strike now against the profiteering and atrocity so integral to the World System’s economic order is based on needs, rights and ethics. On the basis of needs, the modern Oligarchic Collective is killing our human species in raw numbers before un-encountered except during the Mongol Expansion, Middle Ages, Spanish Conquest of Latin America, Epoch of Slavery and Colonialism or the grisly World Wars and Cold Wars. It is vital to remember that we do not even have any consistent system of historical record keeping available until 1848 (Foucault). That is to say most of history has been constructed for your pedagogic consumption. To enable you to believe that the world in which you live and your nature itself is fundamentally imperfect, yet improving, most likely after you die. An important paradigm set, because you must arrive at level of conscious thinking or should we say frequency adjustment to process this incendiary macro briefing; here are three important starting points to realign yourself into the reality of your species. When and if you believe these things then resistance is fertile.
The Dual Illusion
The belief that we are progressing and advancing as a human civilization is a highly cultivated lie, an intellectual illusion; a highly cultivated enforced paradigm. Your consent in your governance, your indifference to affairs of those in other nations, your belief in the development enterprise, your willingness to pay your taxes and acquiesce to your government’s’ policies at home and abroad are based on a ‘manufactured consent’ built on two very specific fundamental untruths.
- The Illusion of Development; the World System is not actually improving under stewardship of capitalist economists, neoliberal trade policies and expanding globalization. Wealth is being highly concentrated into the hands of untouchable, nearly omnipotent oligarchies in every state and this extreme mounting inequality is not only highly unstable, but the rational economic outcome of capital accumulation in the 21st century.
- The Illusion of Coexistence; war is not actually decreasing and poverty is not actually diminishing, it is simply being counted as different things and manipulated statistically to manufacture the illusion of stability, progress and control. Reduction of instances of developed nation warfare masks the proliferation of developing nation state collapse and non-state actor conflicts.
On the basis of rights a non-enforceable legal code and subsequent series of treaty instruments were signed repeatedly in New York at the United Nations by all state parties. Human Rights are however trampled on in practice by government conduct in 206 states. On the basis of ethics, divorced from a personal or legal responsibility, divorced from the existential nature of the dialectic phase; all people have a duty to act.
Regardless of what fostered disunity they cultivated amongst our ancestors; all humans are intrinsically bound to a mountain. That mountain is divided loosely in 206 plantations called countries; shifting along the mountain slope tectonically from the peak called the Core (Netherlands, England, and USA) since 1500; down that steep slope the core contenders (China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa); followed by the semi-peripheral dependents (Israel, Argentina, Colombia, South Korea, Taiwan) and the semi-peripheral outliers (Ethiopia, Vietnam, Iran & Cuba); below them the periphery in their full dependency (Egypt, Angola, Nigeria, Thailand Bangladesh); and at the bottom of this mountain we perceive as a planetary globe; the 59 failing states (Sub-Saharan Africa & Former Soviet Central Asia); and the failed states (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Haiti and Somalia) and worst the atrocities spreading now into 35 national zones at the base of this wretched mountain; the killing fields (Sudan & South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria). Welcome to the ethical dilemma of what will you do, how far will you go and how much will you risk in a full blown Global State of Emergency.
The answer is that most people are so caught up in survival obligations and their divisive false consciousness that until the manufactured consent of the nation state is shattered they are mentally still enslaved (Freire, 1970).<