By global political economy we mean (in brief) the workings of the engrained global economic system within the availed political space of the interstate structure. To be sure, this political space is not distributed arbitrarily or equitably. As a result, humans find themselves in a world of unremitting fluidity while nations are continuously redone due to the incessant interplay of these two important social phenomenon-politics & economics! The immediate post WWII political economy was clearly demarcated between the West, (ideological West) led by the USA and the East (ditto) with the USSR at the helm. By and large, the remaining ones were put in a category of the NAM (the Non-aligned Movement.) Initially this camp included, almost without exception, all the flag independent African states of the time. Because of the cold war of the bipolar world, the countries belonging to NAM (third world) were allowed some space to maneuver their national development agendas, in favor of their populations. Also in the political West for example, Japan was allowed to literally reorganize global industries (manufacturing) in its favor. (See Macdonald’s article next column.) Soon Taiwan and South Korea followed suit.
Destroyed Europe also came into its own economic and political being. At about the same time though, the socialist camp split. China decided to stick to Maoism while the USSR adhered to its Stalinist ways, further alienating aspiring socialists of the second and the third world (Eastern Europe and the Non aligned countries.) Some of the NAM members with clear foresight capitalized on the political economy of the bipolar world and made serious inroads (India, Brazil, etc) in the inherently lopsided system. On the other hand Africa, (for the most part) wasted this window of opportunity because of, amongst other things, bad governance. Consequently we now face formidable disruptive centrifugal forces (based on identity politics), which are threatening to play out their full potential by unwinding the status quo, mostly in favor of empire. Overall though, the immediate post WWII era was probably the golden age of the prevailing world system. Thereafter things started to change! In 1978 the Chinese Communists decided to shift gear in favor of market oriented economic system, without abandoning socialist political governance, which dictated state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, finance, etc. The rest is history! In 1982, the ‘third world debt’ exploded and derailed (for decades) the development trajectories of the NAM countries. In 1985 the Japanese accepted what is now called the ‘Plaza Accord’ (revaluation of the Yen) under pressure from the US and Europe. What followed was continuous price deflation and economic stagnation that immersed the Japanese state into a morass of un-payable debt. The once promising European Union never managed to consolidate necessary political arrangements to launch the continental initiative into a full-fledged union. Because of this political shortfall, Europe today is neither here nor there and its peoples are going through a wrenching economic and social readjustment that might easily frustrate their dream of the United States of Europe. Sovietism, (USSR’s style of socialism) in the words of one scribe, ended up being ‘Burkina Faso with nuclear capabilities.’ As we said earlier, Africa had probably lost the opportunity to pull itself out of the quagmire it finds itself in. In fact, what obtains in Africa today, (thanks to our incompetent/corrupt elites) is an ideology of dependence that has softly prepared us for further subjugation and outright colonization. Pathetic! We can characterize the current global political economy as a space of contention between the declining West and ascending East (geographic) along with other participating countries from South America/Asia. Rhetoric aside, there isn’t much evidence to indicate Africa can pull through the thick and thin of it all, particularly given empire’s systemic plan for the continent (AFRICOM, etc.)! As a result of the West’s decline, its leadership (not only political) has become increasingly belligerent, with a view to directly coerce and embezzle/exploit resource rich nations, wherever they are and whatever the pretext (WMD, Regime change, etc.) In the very womb of Empire itself, political governance morphed into pure plutocracy while economic activities became decidedly rent seeking. In short, the much-taunted ‘End of History’ narrative was cut short (neo-liberalism)! Enter global mass uprisings, increasingly armed with analytical capacity and reflection! Currently the beast (human mass) in ‘developed’ countries is up in arms against its elites (the 1%) that are/were instrumental in bringing the demise of the welfare states of the West. See Brown’s article on page 51. The system has become so degenerate, its institutions have literally lost the simple ability to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong. So far for example, no bankster has been indicted/convicted for having a major hand in running the global economy to the ground. On the other hand emerging critical voices are muzzled or even severely and systematically punished, for exposing the truth, (Assange, Manning, etc.) See Jonsdottir’s article on page 50. Dissent, which has been the main stay of constructive political engagement in the West, is now officially and openly criminalized. So what promises to be the political economy of the future? We don’t know for sure, but it certainly won’t be shaped by countries that uphold plutocracy and rent seeking (domestically/internationally) as their highest calling! As the old lady put it:”When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you…you may know that your society is doomed.” – Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged. Good Day!