Updated 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The internationalist-nationalist dichotomy

George Friedman from Geopolitical futures says the world is experiencing a shift from the old liberal conservative model to an internationalist-nationalist one. Today, the nationalist challenges have moved to the center of the political systems with big wins such as the Brexit and Trump’s election.

The post-World War II world was built on the assumptions of nationalism being the cause of the conflict and the economic crisis than preceded the war being rooted in the collapse of international trade due to protectionism. These assumptions framed both the post-war and the Cold War.

“World War II was seen as revealing the dangers of nationalism and the necessity of international cooperation. What emerged was an internationalist system that wanted to see increasing political, military and economic integration in the West. Internationalism became a moral imperative, not simply a national strategy,” reads Friedman’s article.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the internationalist assumptions seemed to be validated. From 1991 to 2008 the internationalist ideology became a global orthodoxy. With this an eroded distinction between left and right.

But in 2008 the underside of interdependence came. The financial crisis tore the world and showed the core weakness of the interdepended system.

“The highly integrated banking system, designed to facilitate the free flow of capital and therefore international efficiency, facilitated the free flow of a contagion. The system had lost its ability to protect against contagion. What had been the vehicle of the internationalist spring turned into a multinational disaster.”

Besides showing the system’s weakness the crisis generated a nationalist counter-response. It shifted thinking in terms of humanity as a whole to a focus on those whom they lived and the things people they loved.

This led the political divide to be internationalist and nationalist. Now “the debate is between those who regard what is now the old system of alliances, mutual responsibility, free trade and transcultural life as essential, and those who regard a globalist perspective as incapable of addressing the vast variability of nations, cultures and classes.”

But South America seems to be an outsider in this dichotomy. The internationalist-nationalist model is predicated on the European, North American and Russian experience as a reaction to WWII. But WWII had no major battles in the region and it didn’t fully experience the dangers of nationalism.

In economic terms, the region has not always benefited from economic integration. It was and still is viewed as a major source of natural resources. Since colonial times much of the trade consists in exporting raw materials to more industrialized countries and being the markets for future manufactured goods. This framework proved to be detrimental to the economic development of the region and was not in the region’s best interest.

With globalization the region began to rethink their strategies and created trade groups like Mercosur and the Pacific alliance. These, not only opened regional markets but also gave them the size and weight to future trade deals.

But “integration beyond the regional level and related to global affairs is not something that, on the whole, naturally happens in South America. The region’s perspective for viewing the rest of the world, in some ways, can be described as an outsider looking in.”

With the North finding itself in the first phase of the nationalist-internationalist battle, South America continues to use integration as a strategic political tool rather than a moral imperative. Nationalism exists but without the strong negative connotations that existed in Europe after WWII.

“This fundamentally different relationship between nationalism and integration in South America is the foundation for the region’s distinct response.”

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