By James Monroe
On Wednesday 15th March, the Henry Jackson Society were delighted to welcome Professor Ken Booth to talk about the Great Reckoning in World Politics. Professor Booth opened by stating that in the years to come, global politics will inevitably encounter further turbulence. World leaders and their followers are currently facing profound choices about the future direction of humanity. Booth noted that the 1945 atomic bombs started the question of what the world ultimately would become.
Booth then outlined the key issues facing the world today. He argued that ideas considered to be answers to the big questions – such as the nation state – were now being challenged. The natural world on which we all depend is in serious trouble, whilst the increase in militarisation and nuclear armaments further threatens the safeguarding of the international order. He listed the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the chaos in the Middle East, the massive population movement (244 million migrants in 2015 alone), failed states that now act as breeding grounds for terrorism and the 30 million people in Africa at imminent risk of famine as just a few examples of the massive issues the modern world now faces. Professor Booth further stated that the outcome to these issues may mark a possible turning point in humanity’s history.
Professor Booth then moved on to talk about the double-edged sword that globalisation entails. He noted that globalisation had led to uneven impacts in daily life, between classes, the educated and uneducated and men and women. He explained that an increasingly unenlightened leadership, and indeed followership, showed no signs of a willingness to tackle the issues created by globalisation head on. Furthermore, Booth argued that the anxiety, fear and anger now pervasive throughout the world has primed our times for fascism. Citing the ascendancy of Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Donald Trump’s election to the White House, Booth argued that ‘Brexitism’ and ‘Trumpism’ had drawn in nationalists and given momentum to a new international right-wing order.
Professor Booth further argued that world leaders and their followers are now complacent about world peace and too easily assume that peace is secure. Citing J.G. Ballard, Booth warned that human beings are at times not governed by reason and when things unravel they can unravel very quickly. He stated that there are too many among our political elites whose clocks are slow in reaction to our times; moderate nationalists who are not so divorced from extreme nationalists as they claim, ‘lazy liberals’ cut off from reality and ‘comfortable conservatives’ whose political visions remain too narrow-minded in the face of current global developments.
In place of this complacent thinking, Booth suggested two main strategies. Firstly, he argued that we should reject most of the ideas and institutions that made the modern world – the patriarchy, racism and some forms of capitalism. Secondly, he proposed that any rational strategy must be a global one. We must adapt to population increases, mitigate climate risks, secure food and water sources as a priority and adjust humanely to the problems of living in a 24/7 global planet.
Key to this must be a British strategy to oversee the implementation of law, human rights and non-violent change. Both politicians and their followers need to raise their sights and respond to the pressing issues that the modern world now faces. Professor Booth concluded by noting that globalisation is evidently here to stay and that we must ensure that it transitions into a ‘people’s globalisation’ – one in which Britain remains open for hospitality and implements rational compassion in response to the problems we all must collectively face. Booth warned that things will probably get worse before they get better but there is a basis on which progress can be made.