The erosion of social cohesion

Image: Stela Grespan


It is the West that needs a “color” revolution; not the east

As the old joke goes, the centuries of capitalism are numbered. Everyone already knows that Marx's good millenarian predictions don't seem to have worked out very well: the new man didn't come, and we're still here, in a world divided between those who have and those who don't, to use the expression with which Hemingway entitled his most social novel [To Have and Have Not, 1937]. However, the contradictions of Western economics are indeed more burning than ever. See the recent Global Risk Report of the World Economic Forum in Davos. It is based on the opinions of more than 12.000 national leaders. Two years after the start of the pandemic, the medium-term risks most perceived by them for their societies are: “erosion of social cohesion”, “livelihood crisis” and “deterioration of mental health”.

Notably, “the erosion of social cohesion is one of the main near-term threats in 31 countries, including Argentina, France, Germany, Mexico and South Africa of the G20”. In the long term, the threat of “forced migration” lurks. A majority of respondents consider efforts to contain or regulate migration and refugee waves to be utterly inconsistent.

It could be argued that Davos is all about “rich men arriving in private planes to discuss climate change, sexism and inequality” and that “most of its predictions are useless”, as Simon Kuper wrote in the newspaper Financial Times. But the reality that our societies are crumbling before our eyes now seems hard to deny. On the other hand, the Davos paradox is whether the very elites that created these problems would be able – or even willing – to solve them.

The World Economic Forum report maintains that by 2030 51 million more people, compared to pre-pandemic levels, are expected to live in extreme poverty. "Income disparities, exacerbated by an uneven economic recovery, increase the risks of polarization and resentment within societies." In the United States, these divisions are taking on a unique and disruptive form. There, a recent poll revealed that “division in the country” is the main concern of voters: and they expect it to get worse in 2022. The attack on the Capitol, in January 2021, was a clear sign of the instability that polarization risks. policy can produce.

One might call this a crisis of democracy. The Western system, largely symbolic and confined to the theatrical moment of the ballot box, no longer seems capable of responding to popular fears. The impact of migration in Western countries is set to grow dramatically. The Davos gurus are not reassuring. In the years to follow, “a recovery on disparate fronts (bifurcated recovery) [richer richer and poor poorer] is likely to trigger an increase in economic migration. At the same time, the worsening climate breakdown coupled with increased political instability, as well as state fragility and civil strife, are likely to further increase the number of refugees.”

While in the West ordinary people received a boost from the vaccine against covid-19, the fortune of the super-rich was strengthened with the conditions created by the same virus. That is the conclusion of the recent Oxfam report Inequality kills: the unparalleled action needed to tackle unprecedented inequality in the wake of covid-19. “A new billionaire has emerged every 26 hours since the beginning of the pandemic” – says the document. “The ten richest men in the world have doubled their fortunes, while more than 160 million people have been thrust into poverty. Meanwhile, approximately 17 million people have died from Covid-19 – a scale of loss not seen since World War II. All these elements make up the same deeper malaise. It is inequality that is tearing our societies apart.”

Everywhere the same sad song. The perception of social decay is sometimes confronted with a subtle despair, sometimes with the same old song of the neoliberal chorus: “there is no alternative”. However, as Noam Chomsky said, in a 2021 interview in the magazine Jacobin, the corporate world is “running in fear”. “They are worried about what they call 'reputational risks,'” and that means “the peasants are coming in with their pitchforks”. The entire corporate world – from Davos to Business Round Table – is traversed by the debate on “how to” confess to the public that we have done the wrong things. We didn't pay enough attention to our stakeholders, workforce and community, and now we've realized our mistakes. Now we have to become what in the 1950s were called 'corporations with a soul', truly dedicated to the common good”.

Indeed, the corporate world appears to be in need of a massive new global public relations campaign. The Green Economy is ready to be just another example of the commodification of all aspects of life, and not the beginning of an era of more humane businesses. The great race towards the new electric automotive frontier is not intended to actually reduce global pollution, but only to open up a new market with many unresolved environmental issues. A ridiculous result of this neoliberal wave of “greenwashing” [greenwashing] are the European plans to allow gas and nuclear power to be labeled as “green” investments. One can see here, in action, the crisis of Western democracies: instead of facing the challenges, they change the meaning of words.

It is no surprise that the Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 faced a world “entangled in a vicious circle of mistrust, fueled by a growing distrust of the media and government. Through disinformation and divisiveness, these two institutions are fueling the cycle and exploiting it for commercial and political gain.”

The Edelman Barometer has been surveying the various nations of the world for years about trust in their governments, media, companies and NGOs. Today, he says that “anger is winning in the clicks”, and creating a “spiral of mistrust towards the government and the media”.

"The public has become widely aware that the media does not play fair." “We really are facing a collapse of trust in democracies,” said Richard Edelman Reuters, whose communication group published the survey with more than 36.000 respondents in 28 countries, between November 1st and 24th of last year. The biggest losers of confidence compared to the previous year were institutions in Germany, with a drop of 7 points, moving to 46th place on the list, Australia in 53rd (-6), Holland in 57th (-6), Korea South at 42nd (-5) and from the United States at 43rd (-5). Russia takes the laurels of the most skeptical nation. The fact that even countries not necessarily famous for their democracy, such as China, the United Arab Emirates and Thailand, are at the top of the trust index may indicate that their citizens do not quite share faith in the ideals of Western democracy.

The Davos report itself seems rightly to highlight that our world needs more than ever “global governance and more effective international risk mitigation”, not just for the threat of Covid, but also for dealing with the “geo-economic confrontation”. The numbers, unfortunately, are telling a different story.

The main characters of the global game are, above all, unprepared to deal with the contradictions of the world to come. Weak governments of divided European countries face geopolitical crises, such as the Ukrainian one, trapped by the old US imperial scheme, entirely contrary to their own national interests. It is the West that needs a “color” revolution; not the East.

* Claudio Gallo, journalist, is the culture editor of the newspaper The print (Turin).

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published on Strategic Culture Foundation.


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