Thursday, 26 March 2015

CULTURAL HEGEMONY AND SOCIAL CHANGE: 2015


Introduction: Cultural Hegemony in Marxian and anti-Marxian Thought

We live in the most difficult times since the Great Depression, despite the end of the recession that started in 2008 and ended in 2011 in the US, while it lingers in much of the world until 2015. Just as in the Great Depression when there was political polarization and weakening of bourgeois parliamentary democracy but no revolution except for rise of Fascist movements, similarly in the early 21st century there is no sign of social uprisings in the Western World undergoing a crisis in the political economy and bourgeois institutions. Why is it that the masses remain so incredibly docile, a segment gravitating to the extreme right as we see in France, Greece, Austria, and across much of Europe where the leftist parties have yielded to neo-liberalism while retaining the Socialist rhetoric?  

Another segment of the population going as far as street protests and then back home to their social media networks hoping others will join them or at least provide moral support for social justice.  By far, too people remain apathetic, beaten down by the institutional structure that shows signs of rising GDP but income redistribution from the workers and middle class to the top ten percent of the richest people. In  2015 America’s real estate market shows a rise 13 times higher than wages, forcing workers and the middle class either to go deep in debt or rent, in either case working to pay the bank. 

The euphoria about the BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is fizzling, with the exception of China that has much better prospects having consolidated its position in the international economy than on the rest that either depends on revenues from energy and minerals, or foreign capital that tends to shift with opportunities. Under IMF advice, all countries are trying to reduce public debt, a move that has sent many toward austerity measures that reduce consumption power for workers and the middle class and transfer capital to banks.

The miracles in most of the BRICS, especially in Brazil and Russia each with its unique set of political and economic problems, will have to wait much longer than enthusiastic analysts had been predicting in the last ten years. While GDP growth rates have been phenomenal even in these countries, the vast majority has not seen any of the benefits. Yet, people are not protesting, they are not as vociferous as one would expect about the fruits of capitalism filtering down to them, about democracy remaining a restricted luxury for the broader masses of the population because the privileged capitalist class protected by the political class refuse to fulfill the social contract as people understand it.  

If the political economy does not determine human behavior, is cultural hegemony responsible for shaping the human mind? In 'sociological Marxism', a theory that assumes society runs parallel to economy and state and rejects economic determinism, Marxian intellectual Antonio Gramsci, Karl Polanyi and others were among early 20th century thinkers who developed a theory of cultural domination. Arguing that ideological superstructures (institutions secular and religious, public and private) dominate to influence the human mind that they did not see as mechanistic, these thinkers placed the class structure in the context of cultural hegemony that is the product of bourgeois constructs rather than an inevitable or natural consequence as mainstream thinkers argue.

Another dimension to understanding cultural hegemony and the evolution of political systems is through the work of Barrington Moore's Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (1966). Moore examines how social structures under an agrarian and industrial political economy produces certain political outcomes in different parts of the world, focusing on the violence preceding the evolution of 'democratic' (bourgeois) institutions. A sociopolitical revolutionary break with the past comes only after there has been an economic transformation that alters social relations. Moore made famous the statement "no bourgeoisie, no democracy", which of course explains the 19th and 20th centuries, but it leaves questions about the decline of the bourgeoisie in the early 21st century and what that entails for democracy.

While Gramsci, Polanyi and Moore analyzed the dynamics of social class, political economy, social discontinuity, and the role of cultural hegemony from a rationalist or scientific perspective, Richard Rorty, an American philosopher who represented the new generation of right-wingers from the Reagan to the Bush presidencies returned to the assumptions of Thomas Hobbes and Edmund Burke regarding the irrationality of human nature and the conspiratorial nature of demagogue intellectuals preaching revolution in order to improve society and human beings; an otherwise unachievable goal. Besides perpetuating cultural hegemony instead of trying to understand it and suggesting ways for a more socially just society, such a philosophy is intended to reject a rationalist or scientific method of analyzing social class and political economy. The propagandist and populist nature of  Rorty's philosophy captured the imagination of other populist conservatives throughout the media and political world.

Conservatism, especially in its extreme and especially when it comes from what the mainstream baptizes respectable academic, sells and it sells big with a segment of the population that is suspicious of intellectuals, identifying as 'elitist' that have no connection to the 'common man'. Because conservatism, especially in its populist form, has been an integral part of cultural hegemony that resonates with a receptive audience already indoctrinated in the cultural mainstream. When someone like Rorty or populist talk-show personalities argue that the new Left intelligentsia has been obsessed with castigating the US for having an institution of slavery, a history of racism toward minorities, a militaristic policy that proved unpopular with the War in Vietnam, etc., a large segment with strong nationalist tendencies identifies with such rhetoric and becomes anti-revolutionary. This is the ultimate triumph of cultural hegemony when the masses at whose expense policies are implemented adopt an ideological position contrary to their own interests.

Belaboring the negative institutional traits of society to radically change society is an anathema to Rorty and those promoting cultural hegemony, while true salvation is to be found in working within the system, accepting cultural hegemony that entails institutional conformity. Just like the early Cold War when there was systematic persecution of dissidents from Hollywood to academia and research laboratories, including that of Robert Oppenheimer (Manhattan Project), similarly in the early 21st century there is a major shift toward that political climate of quasi-police state, helped along by cultural hegemony.
It remains amazing to me that so few not only in the mainstream media but even in the broader web media have shown little interest in immigrant detention centers in Texas and Arizona, in the illegal detention center mostly for minorities held without due process in Chicago’s Homan Square whose torturers have links with Guantanamo detention center. The US Constitution flagrantly ignored, civil rights abused, as well as human rights, but there is very little one reads about all of this as though it does not exist. Is society so indoctrinated in the dominant culture that the mainstream media has taught it to selectively choose what constitutes news – anything related to crime, foreign enemies, especially “Islamic terrorists”, business, celebrities, and human interest stories – while everything else from the quasi-police state to rising gap between the very rich and the rest is irrelevant?   

Bourgeois Values and Indoctrination of the Masses

Does the dominant, or hegemonic social class and the political elites representing that class in pluralistic societies under the guise of 'democracy' have the ability to perpetuate the facade of 'democracy' behind which operates an economic dictatorship, an increasingly anti-labor and quasi-police  state whose role is to prevent social change? If so, why has the institutional structure from politicians to the media, from churches to schools been so successful convincing people this is “normal” and we must continue to call it “democracy”? As long as cultural hegemony is effective in shaping the concept of self (Louis Althusser) for the masses, and as long as the masses identify their interests with the dominant social and political class, the facade of democracy and bourgeois culture works to prevent social revolution, even reform that has the potential of leading toward greater social justice.

Cultural hegemony explains modern-day reluctance on the part of workers and the declining lower middle class to resist through revolutionary means. However, one must never underestimate the power of co-optation, considering that the institutional structure has the vast means at its disposal to co-opt everything from “rebel” music to rebel movements. Is it possible that a social revolution is not taking place in the Western World and especially across southern and much of eastern Europe where austerity is devastating the middle class and workers because people have accepted bourgeois values, ideology and institutions to which they see no alternative better than the existing one no matter how horrible it may be? It is also the case that the comprador bourgeoisie – the capitalists dependent on foreign capital and foreign businesses – have convinced a large segment of the population that there is no choice but to maintain the “dependency status quo”.
What are some of the values imbedded into the minds of the masses, including reformists and even leftists, at least those claiming the title?

1. Working within the parliamentary system to find solutions to societal problems, because working outside such a framework entails absence of legitimacy as bourgeois society defines it, and the risk of lapsing into chaos if revolution follows means personal and societal disaster.

2. Ardent belief in individualism as the norm and the categorical rejection of communitarian values as deviation from the norm. In practice, this means that if you are rich, it is owing to the merits of your character, not because you have found the key legally or illegally to engage in the process of capitalist appropriation. By contrast, if you are poor, it is your fault, not institutional, because you must lack some trait that prevents you from making it in the open society that offers institutional opportunities to all who become rich. Therefore, the institutional structure is 'objective' and thus blameless for the fate of the individual and the multitudes of poor.

3. If the economy is contracting, it is because you and those like you have been living too well in the past, while under-producing, so now you must pay - this is especially true if you are a public employee, generally assumed lazy and overpaid, if not corrupt assuming you have a position that lends itself to making money under the table. In short, upward social mobility experienced in the past must be moderated through the process of downward social mobility for society to find balance, so the workers and middle class must sacrifice for the whole of society, when in reality the sacrifices are intended to strengthen finance capital.

4. If the economy and the state fiscal structure is on the wrong course, it is your fault for immersing in consumerist greed, debt-spending, or not spending enough to stimulate the consumer-based economy, and not paying your fair share of taxes that accounts for your predicament and that of the rest of society. How do all of these contradictory things make sense is in itself fascinating and that people believe it even more so.

The answer rests  with cultural hegemony. Specifically, it has to do with massive advertising as well as the media whose role is to inculcate bourgeois values along with bourgeois guilt into people's heads. The rest of the institutions, from churches to schools, play a contributing role in the process of shaping the mind and identity, thus the entire society is bathing in the worldview of the bourgeois economic and political elites that transfer blame downward toward the masses, arguing that in an open society people have freely chosen their leaders and institutions, when in reality those have been superimposed.

5. When the economy is on the wrong tract, politicians are to blame and almost rarely business that the political class serves. For example, US public opinion poll conducted in 2011 found that 66% blame the lack of economic and job growth on 'bad policy’, while only 23% blame Wall Street, despite the well-publicized 'Occupy Wall Street' movement that eventually fizzled out as far as failing to take root at the grassroots and spread deeper into society to create the genesis of a popular movement. While there is a small segment that realizes the need for systemic change, grassroots organizing, solidarity with similar groups around the world, the majority either passively accepts or even trusts the corporate structure because they identify it with the 'national interest', while they mistrust politicians who in essence are the servants of the corporate structure. This process is also part of cultural hegemony.

6. Cultural hegemony is triumphant because the irrational is triumphant in human nature. It is a myth, perhaps dating back to Lockean philosophy and its influence on Enlightenment thinkers that influenced 19th century socialists including Marx, that human beings are rational and act as such, implying that in cases of social revolution the motivation and intent of those following revolutionary leaders is rooted on idealism.

As much as I regard reprehensible the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes who opposed the English Civil War of the 1640s and the counter-revolutionary Edmund Burke who opposed the French Revolution, there is something to be said about their keen observations regarding human nature manifesting itself in revolutionary times. Is it not the case that the rupture in cultural hegemony took place during the course of the Enlightenment that challenged the status quo, thus providing a sense of legitimacy to the revolution? After Locke was the first philosopher to make a rational case for revolution and he was a major influence on the French in 1789. In short, cultural hegemony has limitations because it is always challenged, and when that challenge reaches a substantial number of people and the nature of the challenge converges with the realities in peoples' lives, a segment of them will challenge the status quo.

Cultural Hegemony Lessons for the 21st Century

Revolutionary action has always been confined to a small group that leads and organizes grassroots support for mass uprisings against incredible obstacles by the state and the entire institutional structure.
What motivates some to protest, others to adopt a more militant position, and the majority to do nothing except complain to their family and friends or write on social networks in the hope others are listening, a form of social psychotherapy? Has cultural hegemony suppressed any sense of idealism of aiming toward social justice because of the successful co-optation strategy that the mainstream institutions employ? After all, as Palmiro Togliatti (Italian Communist party general-secretary in the 1920s) insisted in his Lectures on Fascism, people must tend to their immediate needs of survival and set aside ideology. Is the majority of the population immersed in 'bourgeois pragmatism' - paying bills for now, taking care of family, satisfying immediate needs and trying to advance their careers in the age of careerism that cultural hegemony promotes? 
 
Is the majority so overwhelmingly dispirited because politicians promise “reform” to deliver a variation of the status quo and keep it as is? This is the case in the French election of Socialist President Francois Hollande who vowed to take on German monetarist policy that was hurting the middle class and workers, but instead moved as close to Merkel’s austerity and0 neoliberal agenda as his conservative predecessor. Even worse case was the election of Greek SYRIZA party chief Alexis Tsipras who dogmatically insisted on ending austerity, privatizations, layoffs of public workers, reinstituting the social safety net, higher wages, and above all establishing national sovereignty in a nation that is in essence a colony of northwest European and Chinese capital with US military bases. Scenarios of politicians blatantly lying to voters about change and change never materializing are universal. What is the beaten-down worker to do, especially when presumably leftist political parties fall in line with austerity and neoliberalism?

To return to the Togliatti theory, if people are facing a bleak future for themselves and their children unless they embrace the institutional structure, how can they possibly unhinge from cultural hegemony, which is all they hear and see in the media, and in any institutional or social setting? How can people break away from bourgeois values and practices when the pragmatic realities of daily life do not permit it? This sense of 'bourgeois pragmatism' is also an integral part of the brainwashing process, to be absolutely crude about it, given that indeed this is a result of multifarious forces from society and the result of long-term historical and traditional (religious and secular) influences.

This concept of bourgeois pragmatism that has its roots in the 19th century, made a return in the 1980s onwards with Richard Rorty among others who adamantly opposed social revolution, any more than they believed in redemption of human beings or their progress through revolution. Unlimited freedom and allowing people to muddle through their problems is what these advocates of 'bourgeois pragmatism' favored; in short, early 19th century-style social and economic conditions.

Arab Spring and Cultural Hegemony

If cultural hegemony works to prevent social change, how do we account for Arab Spring revolts, regardless of meddling by foreign elements interested in subverting them and seeking regime change and a new and deeper form of integration into Western capitalism? If by the word 'revolution' we mean systemic change, then Arab Spring revolts did not result in systemic change at all, and in fact only regime change took place. If by the word 'revolution' we imply grassroots, then Arab Spring revolts do not fall in this category, because there was heavy outside interference, especially in the cases of Libya and Syria, but all across North Africa. Where political and economic conditions are either the same or much worse than before Arab Spring.

It is true that political change has resulted, but it is not institutional change by any means where Arab Spring has taken root. Still, how do we explain that an otherwise 'traditional' religious society, somewhat influenced by modern secular culture and using high tech communications, manage to have a segment of its population mobilize for change, albeit limited to political regime and with external political, financial and military interference? Does Arab Spring prove that the cultural hegemony theory is wrong, or does it validate it, and what are the lessons for the rest of the world's grassroots movements?

Arab Spring was a revolt against secular, one-party state regimes that lacked legitimacy from the ruling population and represented a notion of sovereignty identified with the early Cold War instead of the 21st century. Muslims rebelled against such regimes to bring change that would reflect traditional values and practices through domestic and foreign policy that their governments did not represent. Cultural hegemony actually worked to promote Arab Spring, given that the rebels by far wanted a return to Muslim roots and social justice within Muslim institutions.

One reason we fail to see progress on women's issues, democracy and human rights in the Middle East, as the West defines those concepts, is precisely because cultural hegemony, especially in the context of 'political Islam' operated all along behind Arab Spring. Political Islam, the mixing of religion and politics, has alienated a segment of the Middle East-North African population, but it remains the principal dynamic in Arab cultural hegemony.  At the same time, the police and military played their traditional role in making sure there was no structural change. Does the failure of Arab Spring signal failure of uprisings in the Western World, or was this a special case of traditional societies undergoing “social venting” with the considerable external influence subverting the grassroots movements interested in systemic change?

Conclusions


There are conservative analysts who assume that more than anything people crave safety and security. Cultural hegemony rests on the fears of the people who have been conditioned to accept the status quo and avert risk when it comes to securing a new social contract that would represent all people. Some advocates of democracy argue that actualizing their potential is just as important for human beings, but this entails having an institutional structure that permits and promotes those possibilities. I have argued in the past that uprisings are very possible in the 21st century, especially after the next inevitable deep recession, but systemic change is highly unlikely. 

Many factors have to converge for a revolution to take place and bring about structural changes. It is true that revolutions rarely take place amid economic contractions, although economic hard times eventually prepare the stage for uprisings that may fester in the minds of people for many years before they act. Moreover, it takes time for grassroots movements to form and consolidate, assuming they do not become co-opted. Modern technology has made it possible for cultural hegemony to be challenged, but it has its limitations. Real (objective) conditions (socioeconomic status and lack of prospects for a better future amid a miserable present) in peoples' lives must be such that they will free themselves of cultural hegemony's grip to embrace social change and then act upon it. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

THE NEW WORLD ORDER 25 Years Later: Success or Failure?




Introduction: Unilateral Militarism and Destabilization under the New World Order

In a joint session of Congress on 11 September 1990, President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the birth of the “New World Order”. This is a concept President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) had introduced in connection with his multilateral approach to foreign policy in the aftermath of the First World War as embodied in the Fourteen Points and the League of Nations covenant. Wilson’s multilateralism – as opposed to unilateralism embodied in the doctrine of isolationism pursued until his administration - was an admission that the US can only solve large balance of power issues in the world through a multilateral involvement because that would achieve the best results and benefit US interests.

US foreign policy assumptions imbedded in Bush’s view of the New World Order (NWO) were diametrically opposite to Wilsonian internationalism. Of course, the global power structure was very different in 1990 than in 1918. However, the tools of statecraft are the same and the multipolar balance of power comparable.  In outlining US post-Cold War goals and modalities, Bush made the following statement about how the New World Order (NWO) would usher in a new era of justice, freedom and democracy for the entire world. 

“A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a "world order" in which "the principles of justice and fair play ... protect the weak against the strong ..." A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfill the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations.”

If instead of making the sweeping messianic statements about the NWO, Bush had simply said that this means US-style capitalism under globalization and neoliberal policies will triumph across the entire world because there is no model of a political economy other than the one of US-style capitalism, then he would have told the absolute truth to the world.  However, he chose to make vacuous rhetorical statements that were intended solely for domestic mass consumption and to induce global mass conformity to globalization and neoliberal policies that he apparently equated with human rights, justice, freedom, etc.

One could argue that in the midst of euphoric celebrations over the crash of the Soviet bloc, the US political class along with the media, businesses, and even most academics who should have known better chose to make sweeping pronouncements about the teleological nature of the end of the Cold War, as though Jesus Christ had just returned to preside over humanity’s eternal salvation. The ultimate goal for making such grandiose statements was to project an image to the world that the US won the Cold War and remains the only military, economic, political and cultural superpower – hyperpuissance par excellence. At the same time, the goal was to convince the American people that such a grand victory also constitutes a victory for domestic institutions no matter the plight of the poor, the declining middle class in the Western World and deterioration of public education, and the growing gap between poor and rich on the planet.

Has there been greater “freedom and respect for human rights” in the US, or has democracy fallen victim to the US-led “war on terror”, which replaced the Cold War? What does the US Senate Intelligence report of 2015 tell us about US and human rights justified by the “culture of counterterrorism”? What is the record of the US with regard to “protecting the weak from the strong”?  And what about civil rights and glaring violations that have forced cities like Chicago to pay out millions to victims? 

Is the world safer now because of the end of the East-West confrontation, is it freer and more tolerant since 1990, as Bush promised that it would be when he delivered the NWO speech? Has capitalism delivered fair play and justice to the masses throughout the world, as Bush insisted would be the case? Has the political economy of the NWO protected the weak from the strong as he promised, or do we continue to have unemployed inner city black youth shot down by police, occupied Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli gunfire while the US remains deferential to Tel Aviv’s policies? Has militarism decreased in the last 25 years, have regional conflicts evaporated, have nuclear weapons been banned and the world is now safer than ever? On the contrary, we have seen a rise in world defense spending, many countries doubling their expenditures between 2000 and 2014.

US military solutions in foreign affairs go largely unchecked as do covert operations that are part of a destabilizing policy in a number of countries from the former Soviet republics (Ukraine) to Latin America (Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Argentina most notably), Syria to Pakistan.  The US has not renounced military solutions to political crises and in fact it has been creating new crises, directly and indirectly at times collaborating with what it labels “terrorists” in Libya and Syria to bring about regime change and then fighting against the same terrorists with whom it had collaborated.

The NWO simply means that the US is much freer than it had ever been to destabilize countries in order to integrate them militarily, politically and economically. The NWO has created a more unstable world, largely because the US and its NATO partners do not have a serious military rival to challenge their direct or covert interventions intended to deny the right to self determination in countries targeted for regime change. Violating national sovereignty in any form from political and military to economic is a form of aggressive intervention to impose hegemony.

The NWO is indeed a form of Pax Americana (US economic, political, and military hegemony) revived to reflect the absence of a military superpower rival that can effectively challenge the US role in the world.  Naturally, Pax Americana as it existed in 1950 is not possible today because the global power shift is moving increasingly toward Asia. In an acknowledgment of the twilight of Pax Americana, Henry Kissinger recently argued that the US needs to collaborate with China to “lead the world” (manage world affairs) together, another interpretation of the NWO to account for China’s power. Even this Metternichian early 19th century concept of world affairs management under a new type of NWO implies the violation of national sovereignty of the weak by the strong, an imperialist concept that Kissinger has always embraced and modeled after Austrian foreign minister Klemens Wenzel von Metternich whose goal was to preserve the European balance of power and status quo in the post-Napoleonic era. 

1.      Distrust of Government under the New World Order
One can easily understand the skepticism not only of the rest of the world about the US-centered NWO concept, but also of Americans, especially young people as we have seen in social networks.  According to various public opinion polls in the US and other countries, there is a segment of the public that believes the US and Israel were either behind the attacks on 9/11, or at the very least their intelligence services knew of the attacks ahead of time. I think conspiracy theories are ridiculous unless incontrovertible facts support such theories. 

That a percentage of people accept conspiracy theories indicates as much of the irrational prevailing as a deep mistrust of public officials and the media. That people in Indonesia and Pakistan believe in conspiracy involving US role in 9/11 is somewhat understandable. That even a small segment of the American people shares the same view as Muslims is indicative of the profound skepticism that exists about the US government’s credibility. The level of skepticism seems to rise as time passes and it is correlated with age, as young people tend to disbelieve the US government.

We live in an age of public skepticism about the social contract’s inability to fulfill its obligations to citizens partly because the government violates the Constitution with regard to privacy (in 1928 the Court reviewed convictions obtained on the basis of evidence gained through taps on telephone wires in violation of state law. On a five–to– four vote, the Court held that wiretapping was not within the confines of the Fourth Amendment.) violations through illegal surveillance. If this is as a true in the US as mistrust is in Putin’s oligarchic-controlled Russia, people have lost confidence not just in public institutions but also private that influence public policy on behalf of the socioeconomic elites and at the expense of the middle class and workers. The erosion if not loss of public confidence in institutions is a very serious because it leads people to accept conspiracy theories, no matter how absurd.

Yielding to conspiracy theories is indicative that people feel helpless, especially to a conspiracy theory regarding the NWO that really appeals to people’s sense of utter dependence on forces overwhelmingly outside their control and far beyond their level of comprehension. Clearly, right-wing populists are exploiting such conspiracy theories and this is one reason that the French neo-Fascist party (Front National) of Marine Le Pen is actually on its way to become the dominant one in the country or at least number two. Similarly, there are right-wing ultra-nationalist, racist and xenophobic political parties or movements within political parties across the entire world, including the US Tea Party as an integral part of the GOP with deep links to the religious right that believes the NWO is a conspiracy by “unpatriotic” sinister forces.

NWO critics also include centrists and leftists that see the hegemonic power of a few hundred businesses and a few hundred super rich controlling most of the world’s wealth and influencing policies in every domain from foreign affairs where regional conflicts arise to minimum wage and social security benefits. NWO as a force of capitalism very different from the Jeffersonian model clearly signals to centrists and leftists that democracy is either in decline or failing altogether by giving way to an oligarchic system of rule. The inexorable link between increased global integration and inequality is something that many people attribute to the NWO, just as others insist that the erosion of democracy is the result of supra-national power corporations enjoy under the NWO.

Transformation policy originated during WWII when Breton Woods set the current global mechanisms to loosely manage the world economy with the goal on integrating it under the patron-client economic-political-military model. The NWO is a continuation of transformation policy and clearly the triumph of US-based capitalism against Soviet-based Communism. The old world order was the Cold War bipolar global power structure that had the world divided between East and West as manifested not only in the ideological struggle, but the nuclear arms race, the race for strategic minerals, energy and markets, the race for everything from winning the race to the moon to winning the race for influence in the world. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bipolar world gave way to the unipolar where the US dominates militarily and politically, but must share with other Great Powers the management of the world economy.

The fundamental structure of the capitalist world economy in the early 21st century is not very different than it was in the early 20th century when the Great Powers were competing for markets throughout the world to strengthen their national economies and benefit their national capitalist class and for military advantages.  The downfall of the USSR and the Chinese government decision to modernize the country under the capitalist system and through close global integration convinced many that indeed there is something new in the world order, when in fact the only “new” elements was geographic integration into the economic system of countries previously participating at a minimal level and under their own national policies not international rules of trade, investment, production, consumption and labor policies.

With the exception of the Soviet Bloc and China disengaging from the capitalist world economy, the tools of statecraft and capitalist system remained the same throughout the Cold War when the US created a global economic, political, and military network to strengthen and manage the Western bloc. The creation of the IMF, World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the International Labor Organization, NATO, SEATO, and OAS were all part of a US-centered network to sustain the global system and ultimately bring down not just the rival Communist regimes around the world, but the non-aligned especially in Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Indonesia under Sukarno, Burma under Thankin Nu, Yugoslavia under Josip Tito, Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah, and India under Nehru. In other words, any country not well integrated into the US-based capitalist world order was targeted for regime change.   The non-aligned experiment was an affirmation of national sovereignty that was diametrically opposed to the integration model based on a patron-client model.

Besides the consolidation of the neoliberal model under globalization intended to preserve the geographic and socioeconomic inequality on a world scale, and besides the militarist component of the NWO as a core tool of statecraft, we have seen the culture of fear rise sharply around the world, especially in the US that has institutionalized the “war on terror” as permanent machinery at home and abroad.  If Bush had explained to the world in 1990 that the culture of fear would actually rise much higher than it ever was during the Cold when there was a nuclear war threat, how many people would have welcomed it as blindly as they did? The culture of fear by itself may sound innocuous enough but it is a method of sociopolitical conformity from which the public cannot escape because the mass media constantly hammers on it. Moreover, the culture of fear under the NWO has contributed to the deterioration of democracy as government has relied more on police and military often in flagrant violation of the constitution.

2) Obstacles to the New World Order: Terrorism and Russia or Pax Americana?
One could argue that the NWO does not work because Islamic terrorists, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and above all Putin’s Russia just will not allow for a peaceful world where Pax Americana may finally prevail with its patron-client integration model. After all, the US did not invite Islamic terrorism, it did not invite rogue states like North Korea to constantly agitate, and it did not invite Putin to become a hardened nationalist interested in reviving some of Russia’s lost glory from the Czarist era. How can the US by itself do anything about the NWO when there are states and rebel-terrorist movements that will not permit for the implementation of this new order?

It is true that we do have countries around the world trying to affirm their own policies unilaterally or through regional cooperation rather than conforming to a single world system like the NWO as the US conceives of it. We also have militant movements among the most prominent al-Qaeda and more recently ISIS challenging the status quo and regional balance of power. The question is not the existence of such militant movements and states affirming national policies running counter to the NWO, but how the US and its allies react to them in order to resolve conflict through political means or exacerbate the situation by seeking military solutions in order to preserve the declining Pax Americana.

One irony in the process of Pax Americana’s decline is that for decades it preserved itself by diminishing the national political, economic and military sovereignty of other countries over which it exerted inordinate influence. Yet, the American middle class and workers are now paying a heavy for the privilege of creating and maintaining its global role under the NWO. One of the reactions for the globalization process under US hegemony is nationalist reaction from other countries. Not just Russia, Venezuela, and Iran, but most countries resent having their national sovereignty compromised, unless their comprador political and economic elites are better off under the NWO. The perception that the US is using the cover of the NWO to remain the world’s hegemonic power and to weaken the political, economic and military sovereignty of other nations is much more evident in countries I mentioned above than in England, for example.

While the US sees rogue nationalist states and Islamic militants as obstacles to the NOW, many around the world see the NWO as a thin veil of Pax Americana and imperialist aggression invading their homeland if not with troops then through trade and investment that undermine national enterprises and weaken national capital in favor of international interests, through cultural imperialism that permeates everything from cinema, TV and music to shoe styles and way of a hedonistic lifestyle. How can the meaning of the NWO be the same to a New York banker as to a devout Muslim in rural Pakistan that sees the US as an invader in every sense from military to commercial?

3) A big percentage of people hold the N.W.O view as factual. Why are people absorbed by this idea? 
To the degree that people realize there is absolutely nothing they can do about the political economy, foreign and defense policy operating under the NWO, they become resigned to the idea. People feel just as powerless about reforming or abolishing the IMF that imposes austerity on debtor nations, the WTO that regulates trade in favor of the large companies and powerful nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Paris Club (international consortium of creditor countries making large scale loans to governments), OPEC, etc.

People recognize that their own lives, those of their families and loved ones depend on conformity to the status quo. This is why politicians, journalists, consultants, academics, and especially business people will sing the praises of whatever government declares official policy, including the NWO. Besides, to actively and publicly oppose it in the age of counterterrorism means that the dissident is taking a big risk of labeled unpatriotic. The vast majority of the people, including journalists, politicians, businesspeople, and academics simply repeat the official line on the NOW. People rarely bother researching and analyzing this complex topic for themselves. However, even if they did, what benefit would they have criticizing it, any more than if they criticized any official policy? Besides fear and self interest, there is no alternative but to openly embrace the NWO that is synonymous with globalization and neoliberal policies business and government support. Although there are those who embrace NWO for ideological reasons, opportunism rather than ideology rules the day when it comes to the interests of individuals and organizations. Globalization is evident in what people wear, what they drive, mechanical devices they use on a daily basis, and the modern means of communication. In short, globalization is an integral part of culture and this means that the NWO is more real culturally than it is politically.

4) Religion and the New World Order: What is the role of religion and have religious cults infiltrated the government to achieve such goal?
Considering the bickering between the main religions of the world and the fact that different religions support different regimes, the idea that “religions have infiltrated governments” to create one world religion that reflects the NWO is rather absurd but popular with a segment of the population. Along the lines of NWO conspiracy promoters, Henry Makow, The Cruel Hoax: Feminism and the New World Order states that:   

“Rockefeller and Rothschild created feminism to poison male-female relations (divide and conquer.) Their twin objectives are depopulation and totalitarian world government. Why? These bankers create money out of nothing and think they are God. "Cruel Hoax" shows the connection between feminism, Communism and 9-11. It examines male-female relations and shows how we can take back our heterosexuality.” This sort of right wing madness and populist propaganda actually has a wider audience than one might imagine. When we set aside the absurdities of this author, we must really wonder why the appeal to so many people, why are people so willing to accept on face value such blatant conspiracy theories.  

The mystique of the NWO makes people with proclivities toward religion/spiritualism arrive at various conclusions, depending also on their secular ideological predisposition. For example, there are those who believe that all large mainstream religions are behind the NOW in order to create one world religion just as they wish to create a single world government and single world currency. As paranoid as it may sound, it may not be so illogical given that the large mainstream religions support the political economy. Despite their rhetorical claims about the poor, mainstream religions help to maintain the status quo by keeping people in conformity rather than rebelling to improve society.

The only improvement on which religions focus is the spiritual dimension and the other world, rather than social justice down here on earth where it matters. Throughout history religion has played a catalytic role in unifying people of the same faith but divide them between different faiths.  Moreover, religion has been a cause and justification for wars throughout history as well as exploitation that includes such institutions as slavery. Because institutionalized religions are invariably on the side of the political and socioeconomic elites, their “unifying” element only helps the elites to impose conformity on the masses, and it is no different with the NWO, regardless of what fanatic and opportunistic religious elements claim on this score. 

It is true that the current Pope Francis is a great deal more progressive than any Pope in recent history. He is critical of the rich-poor gap in the world, critical of capitalism as the panacea, and far more interested in inter-faith cooperation than any recent pontiff.  Pope Francis has reached out to everyone and really tried to project a new image of a more humble leader closer to the masses than to the elites with which the Vatican has historically identified. His message is directed toward the clergy of other faiths as well as religious followers so that they put aside their differences and find common ground for coexistence instead of perpetuating divisions and hatred. However, there is absolutely nothing the Vatican can do about the NWO, about ending hostilities between religious fanatics on all sides and certainly the Pope will not be able to provide a political solution for conflicts when that is the role of governments.

There are those who believe that there is a connection between Satanic cults and religious cults linked to the NWO, as though the NWO were some corporation, government agency, international bank like the World Bank, etc. The NWO is a vague concept no different than the concept of American Exceptionalism, US neo-isolationism or the Puritan Work Ethic. While it is possible for groups or people to infiltrate the State Department, the IMF, Microsoft Corp. etc, is possible that a religious cult could possibly infiltrate “American Exceptionalism” or any of the concepts I mentioned above? It is very unfortunate that so many people yield to irrationality and conspiracy theories that honestly stretch credulity to the utmost limits. It is one thing to analyze the NWO as detrimental to the American conservative tradition of isolationism and another thing to blame religious cults and Satanic groups of controlling and manipulating “IT”.

5) Single World Currency Theory: What would it take for a one world currency to happen and what are the advantages and disadvantages in how a world currency would affect our planet? 
The issue of the single world currency theory raises questions about who enjoys monetary policy control, which by extension means control if not inordinate influence over fiscal policy, trade policy, labor policy, etc. over all nations using the currency. We have seen a mini-model of a bloc currency with the euro and how Germany as the hegemonic economic power uses the currency to determine what policies each of the members will pursue that ultimately strengthen finance capitalism strongest in Germany. The revitalization of capitalism and PR proclamations about the “end of history” as though the world underwent social discontinuity and the Second Coming of capitalism was upon us seemed to be very hollow as contemporary history has indeed proved in the last 25 years.

Capitalism sinks into crisis mode when it contracts cyclically (every fifteen to twenty years or so), dragging down with it democracy and political institutions, that even apologists of the political economy acknowledge as major media outlets indicate with their headlines. While the NWO public relations drums are a bit softer in recent years owing to the end of the recession that started in 2008, conspiracy theory advocates are gaining ground because a handful of people own half of the world’s wealth. Although the NWO concept tends to alienate if not polarize people, this does not mean that the neoliberal school of thought is not alive and well within the circles of finance and corporate capitalism, IMF, World Bank, central banks, and of course governments.  In other words, globalization is alive and well despite cyclical contractions of the economy.

The mass paranoia about the NWO is a manifestation of the culture of fear on the part of many people that their destiny is in the hands of the very powerful who have no qualms sacrificing society to retain their own privileges. Social transformation during the NWO era has resulted in a wide gap between rich and poor, a weaker middle class and working class, a weak social fabric and a political system that is behaving more like a police state than a democracy. How is this best for society in economic, social or political terms, although it is indeed great for the socioeconomic elites enjoying the second Gilded Age in America (first Gilded Age from late 1870s to late 1880s led to the age of Progressivism.)

The idea that the world economy as currently constituted can somehow find salvation through some technical monetary fix like a single reserve currency, as neo-isolationist Americans fear, is absurd because it makes absolutely no difference to global trade. If we take the EU monetary union as a model for world monetary union, then what we can expect is that a single power or two or three at most would ultimately enjoy hegemony over monetary policy. This means that the powers exercising monetary policy would do so to make sure that trade and investment advantages accrue to their corporations and their national economies at the expense of the rest. Just as Germany currently imposes monetary hegemony and by extension fiscal, trade and investment hegemony on the rest of the EU, a single world currency model would entail a similar scenario. In such a world, would China determine monetary policy, would the US and its allies, would the BRICS come together to forge an alliance? Kissinger would like to see US-China cooperation. Why is that a better scenario than US-EU-Japan one that exists now, why would not China team up with a group of countries it chooses to advance its own interests, which or many not include the US? 

It is implausible and indeed a very highly unlikely scenario the world will ever see single reserve currency when we have a number of regional ones now that do the job. Exchange rate costs add to productivity costs, but that is minimal and hardly the technical panacea for structural problems of the capitalist world economy that is rooted in geographic and socioeconomic inequality. The NWO has actually exacerbated this condition, if we consider that world trade has risen sharply along with world GDP in the last three decades, yet, the rich-poor gap remains very wide, capital massively concentrated and downward social mobility in the Western World continues. A single reserve currency will not raise global GDP and it would not alter such structural conditions in the system but it will result in even greater profits for export-import business of products and services.
  
CONCLUSIONS
The global power of power rooted in the East-West confrontation from Truman to Reagan entailed that Moscow and Washington were managing global affairs to a large degree with China and its allies trying to be a counterweight between the two superpowers. Washington and Moscow enjoyed playing such roles in a divided world, where regional conflicts such as Vietnam dragged in the superpowers.  The NWO ended the management of world affairs between Moscow and Washington, bringing into the foreground the G-7 and China as the world’s inevitable economic superpower with the US retaining the status of the sole military superpower.

The NWO had different nuances to different US administrations. For Bush it was a clear political victory and entailed the triumph of what the French called hyperpuissance - the complete world hegemony in every domain from military to cultural. For Clinton, NWO translated into a new version of the old “Dollar Diplomacy” in so far as the US tried to secure as market share in the former Soviet republics and Asia. For George W. Bush it meant the revival of the US as the world’s policeman and seeking military solutions to political crises as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Obama borrowed from previous presidents, literally trying a balancing mix between maintaining the strength of the military industrial complex and Clinton’s Dollar Diplomacy.   

History will judge if in the first 25 years of the NOW nations and people have enjoyed greater peace and prosperity than in the 45 years before 1990 during the Soviet-American confrontation epoch. History has shown already that under the NWO there is greater wealth concentration and less income distribution among social classes in comparison to the Cold War. Contrary to euphoric claims, especially during the 1990s, that globalization can lead to democracy on a world scale, social justice, and improve welfare for the world’s masses, the tragic reality is that global poverty along with Third World debt have been rising along with political instability. Globalization has only intensified the North-South conflict; income inequality has increased not just in the non-Western World, but within the G-7 richest countries. The result of the NWO, which is just a variation of the capitalist integration model after the fall of Communist regimes, has been socioeconomic and political polarization. Communism ended with the assumption on the part of most that entails capitalism “won” when in reality all signs point to a long decline from which there is no return. Exactly what was the victory and where are its fruits, especially in light of the renewed US-Russia confrontation over Ukraine, NATO expansion when the very existence of NATO cannot be justified by the NWO, energy policy, among other issues?

As far as the rest of the world, how has the NWO helped to promote greater national self determination when the US and its European, Japanese and Australian partners collaborate to deny national sovereignty because the ultimate goal is integration under globalization. Clearly, China has benefited enormously as a result on new market share on a world scale. Because China is the world’s new economic superpower with a bright future, the new global balance of power looks very different today than it did when Bush made his lofty speech in 1990. China benefited enormously by the persistence of high US defense spending and military adventures that siphon off wealth from the civilian economy and sink the public sector deeper in debt.

“The Peace Dividend” was just a temporary break in massive defense spending, and it did not take long to the US to create new fronts for conflict and resort to more defense spending that resulted in neither peace not any dividends for the American taxpayer. While it was the US that celebrated the end of Communism and the triumph of “End of History”, it is in fact China reaping the benefits of the NWO while the US is suffering from multiple problems, ranging from the massive public debt and chronic balance of payments deficits, to rising socioeconomic inequality to loss of faith in the institutions by an increasingly larger segment of the public. For symbolic purposes, for keeping the morale of the American people high, for purposes of distraction from economic and social issues that concern the workers and middle class, the NWO serves its purpose as much as it does to maintain high levels of defense.