This is a bit of Washington-speak I picked up from watching the news: It basically means that the American strategy for world dominion, shall we say world peace, have changed its focus to Asia. The Cold War is well and truly over, and despite its vast nuclear arsenal and apparent ambitions, Russia is no longer considered a threat. The American military personnel and arsenal would now shift to Asia, particularly East Asia, where the Chinese presents the biggest threat to the current world order, one of American hegemony. Or, at least that's the plan.
Indeed, despite the professed Asian pivot, very little has actually happened on the ground. The United States has started withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Europe, but they have mostly gone home. The American military may have the biggest budget in the world, but they may have been over-reaching, not in terms of technology or military prowess, but in terms of willingness to engage all over the world and to be able to generate the necessary on-ground support for such engagements from the local population. No empire in history has crumbled because they were weak, but always because they could not keep the internal and external support going for the engagements they must do all the time. Despite the impressive leaps of technology, there are reasons to believe the American power is waning.
The symptoms of this waning power are first and foremost to be seen in this ongoing recession. I am not talking about the follies of the banks, which is a subject by itself. But the unending recession also indicates a disillusionment with the twentieth century middle class dream, fuelled primarily by cheap credit, which meant millions of people all over the world signed up to an American view of the world. This obedience, only if to a dream, meant that people sold off a lifetime of labour in advance in pursuit of happiness as defined by the powers that be, which suited the expansion of American hegemony. The fact that such a system is unsustainable, as evidenced in the recession, starts a different discussion. This is why the global middle class, which is supposed to keep the consumer revolution going, is taking the streets all over Middle East. While the Arab Spring is being given a positive spin and co-opted into the march of freedom in Middle East story which has gone badly wrong, the disorders in Arab states is threatening the world order as American wished and maintained. The dissolution of regimes, even those as murderous as Qaddafi's and Assad's, denote the unleashing of the freedom genie which wouldn't just stop at undermining the authority of the local chieftains, but will challenge all the notions of authority constructed at this time.
At the other end of Asia, there is another set of forces at play. China isn't taking on America as it chooses to do so, but holding the American (and European) companies and banks at ransom. My view of Chinese power is that it has constructed itself as a true post-nationhood nation, and therefore, despite its internal frailties, should be treated with awe. There is no point comparing the Chinese and the American state: China may have less missiles and tanks and everything else compared to America, but American state is beholden to American corporate interests and Chinese state controls those corporate interests. It is a mistake to use American (or European) benchmarks to measure the Chinese power. We must remember, after all, it is the Chinese who have studied the mechanics of power for more than two millenniums. The Chinese strategist today will see this recession as the waning of power of the nation states, all nation states all over the world, and the power shifting to the Hedge fund managers, who can now dictate what happens in a country, who should pay what tax, and who should get what share of national wealth (as they are doing for Greece, Italy and a host of Southern European nations). The biggest fund of all at this time is the Chinese sovereign fund, and they can wipe out many national systems of government, including possible America's, by diverting their funds elsewhere. What looks like (and claimed to be) capitalism's triumph on China may exactly be the opposite.
The Asian pivot is, therefore, possibly meaningless as it indicates the assumptions of a world order that may no longer exist. Old habits die hard, as the European powers seem to be consider themselves above any system of law (as evident in Britain's threat to revoke the diplomatic status of the Ecuadorian embassy in Julian Assange case), and indeed, talk like the Asian Pivot soothes nerves across union meetings and tea parties across America: In reality, however, a bigger change, a pivot in the world order is currently under way, with decline of the institutions (of banks, of politicians, of press, of countries and sovereignty), fragmentation of authorities and of belief, coupled with the rise of alternative world views, free of influence of Western media and thinking: America (and its allies) may indeed have over-reached themselves by over-estimating not just what they can do militarily, but also the dictum "one can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but not all people all the time".
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.