The “we/they” division is global in scale and catastrophic in scope. It is already testing our civility, our security, our cultural identity, and our commitment to the ideals of democracy. But you already know that.
This is the latest in a growing list of books that seeks to understand why the we/they divide exists without, to its credit, falling into the trap of using the data to simply fan the fires of partisan division. Bremmer has a political agenda (we all do), and he’s no fan of Trump, the person. He does, however, go out of his way to note, “Donald Trump didn’t create us vs. them. Us vs. them created Donald Trump, and those who dismiss his supporters are damaging the United States.” Whether you agree with that or not, he is one of a handful of analysts willing to try and rise above the personal vilification that defines so much of our current political debate.
The author reviews the “we/they” division around the world and his analysis of current events in places like Nigeria and Venezuela is revealing and informative. I must admit, however, that for a time I found the analysis to be just a bit repetitive and a little superficial. There are lots of facts and figures but not a lot of insight into the why behind the what.
I do believe, however, that Bremmer essentially closes the “why” loop in the last section of the book when he takes up the obvious question of a way forward. In short he believes that we must do no less than redefine the social contract between the government and the governed.
And it is here that he once again opens his thinking in a way that few other authors have. All too often any discussion about the social contract devolves into a largely PC debate about freedom of the press, representative democracy, and the legal protection of marginalized people. We talk about authoritarianism and fascism, but what most citizens want, in the end, is a government that is fair, trustworthy, and competent, treats them with respect, and, most importantly, has their collective interests at heart.
And that, Bremmer points out, is a social contract we can find common ground on. We are never going to agree on every aspect of what a good government should or should not do. If we can agree on the framework of a social contract that acknowledges the inequities created by globalism, the challenges presented by the mass migration of people, the need for lifelong education in a technologically advancing world (without ignoring the continued importance of the traditional liberal arts), and the global desire for personal security, we can make a start.
My only disappointment with the book is that he doesn’t really take on the issue of the growing power of the corpocracy. No segment of society has benefited more from the asymmetry of globalism than the corporate and financial elite. Adjusting the social contract without, at the same time, revisiting the economic contract between workers, employers, and communities, will amount to nothing.
Bremmer does, however, introduce the universal wage, which is not a new idea and will ultimately have to precede any chance of addressing the we/they divide. Globalism and technology have essentially commercialized every aspect of what it means to live in the modern world. We have to take the mere fight for survival (and the security of health care) off the table if we are to have any hope of restoring economic progress and human dignity.
The author does provide several ideas for doing that although he stops short of a specific agenda and he is a little less optimistic than I’d prefer, perhaps naively, to be. “Things have to become much worse, particularly for the winners, before they can become better for everyone else. This is the ultimate failure of globalism.”
If, however, we can all approach the issues with the even-handedness and objectivity that Ian Bremmer does here, we can surely accelerate the process.
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; 1 edition (26 April 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0241317045
- ISBN-13: 978-0241317044
- Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.5 x 23.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 222 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)