A World Without Meaning: The Crisis of Meaning in International Politics
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In this provocative and incisive book, Zaki Laidi argues that as our world becomes ever larger, our ability to find meaning in it diminishes. With the end of communism came the end of the intimate alliance between power and ideology. No power in our globalised world can any longer claim to provide meaning. In despair we look back to old models (religious traditions, nationalism, ethnicity) to give us a sense of identity. But in a globalised world in a permanent state of flux, just how effective are these old certainties?
also, for an evaluation of the UN’s future, G.Evans, NOTES 175 27 28 29 30 31 32 Cooperating for Peace: The Global Agenda for the 1990s and Beyond (Sydney: Allen & Unwin 1994); and B. Urquhart, ‘Who can police the world?’, New York Review of Books, 12 May 1994, pp. 29–33. S.Islam and M.Mandelbaum, Making Markets. Economic Transformation in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet States (New York: Council on Foreign Relations 1993). Financial Times, 27 May 1993. J.Gray, Post-Communist Societies
everywhere in order to give meaning to their ambitions, whether sane or mad. However, if we consider the former Soviet Empire, only Georgia, Armenia and the three Baltic states can be categorized as nations in the proper sense of the term. The Ukraine is only partially a nation, while Byelorussia, Kazakhstan and the Islamic republics come close to ‘national fictions’. For these nations, it is easy to see that their strategy is not so much to stamp out the ‘return to nationalism’ but to give
a twenty-four-hour basis without resorting to night shifts: all it needs is for the production data to be transferred electronically to a country in another time zone.3 The most fundamental consequence of this development for meaning is that it makes the relation between globalization and universality increasingly antagonistic, without at the same time creating a new identity of conflict that is stable and all-encompassing. The feeling of belonging to a common world does not bring with it the
vi Introduction: the divorce of meaning and power 1 1 The meaning of the Cold War 13 2 The fall of the Wall: the end of the Enlightenment 25 3 Out of step with time 37 4 Universalism runs out of steam 44 5 Europe and the crisis of meaning 58 6 The loss of the link between nations 74 7 Global social links (1): conflicts without identity 84 8 Global social links (2): actors without a project 91 9 Can Japan provide meaning? 106 10 The regionalization of meaning 117
1625: ‘The lack of money is serious, but maintaining our reputation is more serious still.’5 140 AMERICA AS A ‘SOCIAL POWER’ At this juncture came the end of the Cold War. In an initial stage, it seemed be the crowning glory of the victory of the West over communism and, moreover, of the ideological triumph of the United States and the liberalism it incarnated. Suddenly the theme of decline lost its intensity, even its relevance. How could one talk of the American decline when almost everyone