Question: What might explain the following? Brexit. Trump. Sanders. Democracies in retreat. Thugs in presidential palaces. Globalization in question. Include climate change, and corruption in America that is worse than Brazil. Answer: Imbalance.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. and set off our relentless march to imbalance. That wall fell on us, thanks to our misunderstanding of what brought it down
It was claimed in 1898 that capitalism had triumphed. This was wrong. Balance had triumphed. While the communist states of Eastern Europe were severely out of balance, with so much power concentrated in their public sectors, the successful nations of the West better balanced power across their public, private, and plural (civil society) sectors.
But a failure to understand this has been throwing the world out of balance ever since, with power increasingly concentrated in the private sectors, in favor of the forces of economics and individualism. Since 1989, capitalism has indeed triumphed, globally and domestically.
Consider the following in light of this.
Brexit. Dissatisfaction with the European Union? Sure. Xenophobia? No doubt some of this. But beneath this lies the social imbalance. The prevailing paradigm, the American dream, has become a nightmare for too many people, in America and elsewhere. With nothing evident to take its place, frustrated people lash out where they can. In voting Brexit, many in Great Britain were expressing their anger at the powerful elites of the London financial establishment.
Trump and Sanders. Take your pick--rednecks or liberals, anger or angst? The disadvantaged? Sure. But beneath this lies the same social imbalance, here more significantly directed at the brazen power of Wall Street.
Democracies in retreat. Not long ago, democracies were in ascension, all over the world. No longer. Thanks again to the imbalance, they are in retreat, left and right, whether by elected thugs in presidential palaces (Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, among others) or through the bribing of elected politicians. In Brazil. that corruption is criminal, and is at last being prosecuted. In the United States, the corruption is legal, and so continues to fester.
Global Warming. Excess use of carbon energy? Sure. But behind this is the imbalance inherent in the domination of economic forces over social ones, manifested as an insistent drive for more and more instead of better and better. Our planet, and ourselves, are being consumed by consumption.
Rampant globalization and exaggerated individualism. These are two sides of the same coin. Instead of balancing collective, communal, and individual needs, we allow individual needs to dominate. And who are the prime beneficiaries of this? The wealthiest individuals, who tend to be the greediest--and the ones behind an economic globalization that overwhelms our political and social worlds. National sovereignties are being undermined by an unelected global autocracy. No wonder so many people vote Brexit, Trump, Sanders, Le Pen, et al.
Need I go on? Need we go on? There is another way. As I discuss in my book Rebalancing Society...radical renewal beyond left, right, and center, it's called balance, across the sectors: respected governments, responsible businesses, and robust communities. The Western democracies were closer to that in the post-war period, up to 1989. (Recall the welfare programs of the Johnson administration in the U.S., and the levels of taxation.) The world needs to restore its balance, to escape the oxymoronic "democratic capitalism" (notice which is the noun and which the adjective).
Once we understand what has been going on, we can appreciate that the conventional solutions will not work. The problem will not be fixed in or by the private sector. Capitalism certainly needs fixing, but true change will require a rebalancing across the sectors--public, plural, and private. Nor can we expect public sector governments to take the lead. Most have become too coopted by business interests domestically and overwhelmed by corporate forces globally.
This leaves the plural sector, comprising those associations that are neither private nor public, most of them community-based: our clubs and groups, NGOs, not-for profits, cooperatives, social initiatives and social movements. This sector is massive (there are more coop memberships in the United Sates than people), yet it has been lost in the great debates over public versus private, namely the linear politics of left versus right.
Please understand that the plural sector is not them. It is you and I, in our everyday lives. Some of us may work in the private sector and most of us may vote in the public sector but all of us live in the plural sector. (Think of how many community associations you have engaged with in the past week.) It is here, on the ground, that the restoration of balance will have to begin.