The Neo-Global World: Past Baggage, Present Challenges, Future Prospects

0:08 03.07.2024 • Dmitry Yevstafyev , Professor, Higher School of Economics, Professor, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN), Candidate of Science (Political Science)

THIS paper continues a series of articles on the neo-global world written by the author in recent years.1 It also examines problems stemming from attempts to simultaneously construct a new architecture of international relations and overcome the destabilizing legacy of the largely US-centric system of late globalization. The emerging multilevel dialectic in a number of regions, not always the most promising in terms of access to resources, forms “funnels of conflict” that lead to the destruction of the economic and sociopolitical systems previously formed there. The earlier proposed hypothesis about a “blank slate” in the space of international political and economic relations being necessary for the development of basic institutions and elements of the economic architecture of the new world is, unfortunately, confirmed.

We are currently witnessing the simultaneous emergence of several potential spatial “blank slates” where differences between the world’s key powers are being resolved by military force, which could result in chains of small regional conflicts turning into a systemic crisis of the global political and economic architecture. Power factors of varying degrees of intensity (from hybrid wars to direct military confrontation of the world’s largest states) will play a decisive role in the development and management of this crisis.

The need to resolve the crucial accumulated points of contention of the late-global world will be of paramount importance in the ongoing processes of not just transformations but global spatial transformations, as demonstrated by the political and military-political processes of 2020- 2022, which, for various reasons, including situational ones, have acquired an antagonistic nature in a number of cases.

The “Source Code” of the Neo-Global World: Faults in Late Globalization Capitalism

THE neo-global world is born not as a result of dialogue among the world’s largest states, which have concluded that global transformations through dialogue and interaction are inevitable, but as a product of fierce competition in the global space, including power competition.

Multipolarity was envisioned and understood by many major intellectuals of the late 20th and early 21st centuries as a system formed based on the realization of the impossibility of preserving unipolarity in politics and especially in economics, be it a US-centric or any other post-American unipolarity.

Multipolarity was an attempt to “engineer the future” on rationalistic, but primarily military-strategic and foreign policy foundations, taking into account the interests of at least the major global players institutionalized in the G20. Alas, this model was rejected by the US, which did not recognize or, rather, did not accept the impossibility of maintaining political dominance in the conditions of geoeconomic multipolarity. Washington was not ready to implement the concept of leadership due to growing domestic problems and the crisis of the social model,2 without which global leadership for the US would have been possible only in a political-virtual format. Although it should be noted that the Obama administration sought to restore the appeal of the US as a socioeconomic system. But despite all efforts, the US, as a global leader, approached the 2021-2023 systemic crisis of globalization as a geopolitically and geoeconomically insufficient system.

The foreign policy implementation of Washington’s “pseudoleadership” in the development of globalization depended on the preservation of the US-centric system of international institutions.

The neo-global world is born out of systemic contradictions created by the nature of postindustrial postmodernity – the basis of late globalization. Postindustrial postmodernity, as a system that claimed to be fully universal, became increasingly totalitarian as it took on more and more ideological and/or pseudo-ideological components (such as environmentally responsible consumption, for example), and by the early 2020s, this was already affecting the countries at the “core” of globalization.

We are now observing four vectors of the disintegration of the integrity of the globalization system, which define a certain “source code” of the neo-global world that in the strategic perspective will aim to restore the lost integrity:

Vector 1. The disappearance of “flagship” actors in world politics. This was in part the result of a deliberate policy of destroying nationstates and replacing them with sub- and supranational actors. But it should be acknowledged that the idea that the neo-global world (the world of multipolarity) would be a renaissance of nation-states acting within the framework of the so-called Westphalian sovereignty did not materialize. This idea has not yet been born out in practice. Rather, we are witnessing the formation of systems of spatially localized competition of qualitatively different “big systems” – from coalitions of states formed around the national-state technological-investment “core” (the collective West) to spatially limited corporatized systems built around economic tasks beyond national-state sovereignty. The Great Silk Road project was conceptually built according to this model. We have already seen attempts to construct spatially localized sub-state systems: the Islamic State terrorist organization (banned in Russia) and the Taliban (deemed extremist).

It is conceivable that in the future we will see new formats of this kind, allowing individual forces (“big systems,” including corporate structures) to become part of the geoeconomic and, given certain opportunities, the geopolitical “equation” in certain regions or even macro-regions. Different “big systems” operate according to different logics of behavior and development that form a variety of political operating models, including those pertaining toforeign policy. But this also means that in different regions, not just the set of actors but the dominant actor format can also be different.

This suggests an important feature of the neo-global world: Not just the possibility, but the inevitability of a relatively long-term coexistence of spaces (coalitions) built and managed based on fundamentally different political and geoeconomic architecture. This could also be manifested in poorly compatible legal regimes.

The post-World War II era of “institutional orderliness,” when the structure of statuses in the system of international relations was constantly being simplified, has come to an end. What is beginning is a period, perhaps historically short, of the complication and, in some respects, chaotization of the political architecture. We are already seeing the revival of a format of political and economic actors known as a “protectorate”: This term most fully describes the relationship not only between NATO and Ukraine, but also between the US and some of its allies. Political legalization of the term “dominion” as a new form of the organizational construct of Pax Americana is also quite possible.

Vector 2. The crisis of institutions of the global world. One reason for this crisis is the blatant abuse by the US of its dominance in global institutions, using them for manipulation and lobbying, as is the case with a number of UN specialized agencies. The institutional crisis has escalated into institutional degradation: the erosion and hollowing out of a significant share of international institutions. By 2023, most international organizations were in crisis or went into a simulation mode of operation, as happened with the World Trade Organization (WTO). These processes also affect some regional organizations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organization of American States (OAS). These negative processes have also impacted the development of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Significantly, there is no unity in approaches to the transformation of the existing institutional architecture of the world. China is seeking to preserve the existing institutionality in order to gain control over the most important global systems, including supra-spatial systems. But between 2019 and 2023, Beijing’s desire to get them under [its] control and the associated competition with the US led to an aggravation of negative processes.

A situation where a neo-global world would involve building most global institutions from scratch, alongside existing institutions, is becoming increasingly real – especially against the backdrop of the deliberate efforts of the collective West to nullify what has been left of international law, as manifested in the US’s manipulation of the International Criminal Court. Even now, BRICS is developing alongside the G20, where strategic differences are growing between different groups of participants.

This leads to the second fundamental contradiction of the neo-global world: Whether to improve the existing system of inter- and supranational institutions or to start creating something new that is more in line with the new geoeconomic realities.

Today, we are seeing the coexistence of these two trends: the G20 and BRICS; regional collective security organizations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which has for a long time been more than just a cross-border cooperation organization; and a weakening UN, whose Secretariat is becoming both an object and tool of manipulation by the US. But this cannot go on forever. Sooner or later there will be a rupture of the two institutional “worlds.” But how quickly this may happen and how competitive the two institutional worlds may become is still unclear and depends on many situational factors.

Vector 3. The crisis of the system of global geoeconomic interdependence and the emergence of uncertainty in global economic systems, which will prevent us from confidently predicting the consequences of certain political and economic actions. This vector is still in the initial phase of development, but already the system of foreign policy influence based on the principles of “soft power”4 has almost completely collapsed; this system performed, in fact, the most important function in terms of organizing the political and social space of globalization and happened to be subject to a systemic bilateral crisis: situational, associated with the pandemic effect, and strategic, resulting from the US’s attempts to maintain unlimited political and economic unipolarity.4 The system of global geoeconomic interdependence has now entered a state of dynamic uncertainty: It is impossible to say with certainty which technological interconnections and supply chains are still critical and which are not.

This makes it possible to formulate the third principal contradiction of the modern world, which is probably fundamental and underlies the increased use of political-power tools in foreign policy: There is a growing contradiction between the residual influence on some areas of international economic interaction of the former norms that ensured relative predictability in the behavior of actors and the growing ad hoc nature of the practical political behavior of most players on the world stage.

This creates an extremely unstable situation in important segments of the global economy (e.g., the food market or energy trade), because it violates the key economic premise of globalization even in its UScentric interpretation: the possibility of at least medium-term investment planning. Medium-term planning in both economics and politics is now a major challenge, as the specific combination of rationalist economic and irrationalist (political, military-power, sociocultural, and ideological) factors is becoming increasingly situational.

The streamlining of interstate processes, at least at the level of regions, will make it possible to move on to defining relatively stable mediumterm priorities of states. This would also mean their interaction within constructive scenarios even in a situation of acute confrontation with useof- force components. Such planning is still impossible. The dominance of radicalism in foreign policy behavior, especially in situations aggravated by historical (civilizational) factors, is inevitable.

Vector 4. Ideologization of the economy amid the crisis of the globaluniversalist model of social development. This vector has been evolving over the past 15 years. Now it is superimposed on the crisis of the development model built around large metropolises integrated into the globalized segment of the world economy. This has created the effect of a combination of the socioeconomic crisis of the “metropolis” social environment and current trends of the ideologization of economic activity, which in the early 2020s reached a phase of transition from political and ideological regulation of investment activity (“responsible corporate citizenship,” etc.) to the introduction of socio-ideological restrictions in corporate and personal consumption.

However, this effect in itself did not cause any additional crisis points for the globalization system. It only gives the points of contradiction discussed above a political and ideological connotation, since one of the “architectural” features of late post-spatial globalization was its reliance on the system of “global cities.” In this case, the crisis phenomena began to occur within the structural “core” of globalization.

A long-term but not yet fully comprehended contradiction has emerged between the world of late globalization and late postindustrial postmodernity: The criterion of economic efficiency is being eroded and flushed out of investment activity, becoming merely one criterion along with the criteria of political and ideological (sociocultural) expediency.

Here we observe how a process that is sociopolitical in nature – the emergence of asymmetries in social development and patterns of social behavior, reinforced for different spaces by various ideological stimuli – destroys the most important economic foundation of globalization: the unity of the global investment space.

The Core of the Contradictory Nature of the Neo-Global World

THE vectors of the basic contradictions of capitalism of the late postindustrial postmodern period discussed above call into question the main advantage of globalization: the integrity and relative synergy of the development of the “world of globalization” as an integrated system within a single methodological field. Already in the period of late globalization, it was difficult to talk about full-fledged catch-up modernization as the basis for the synergy of global development. It was supported largely by the universalization of consumption, which created, at the individual level and at the level of “large groups,” a feeling, an appearance, if you will, of a holistic world.

Socioeconomic imbalances, which by the mid-2010s gradually turned into a sociopolitical problem,5 aggravated by a number of attendant global problems (e.g., loss of control over migration in countries of the “global North,” a food crisis in the “global South”), became globally significant development asymmetries that can no longer be considered merely a socioeconomic problem. It has also acquired a pronounced political character, as the situation in Europe shows.

Let us attempt to formulate the central contradiction of the current stage of the formation of the foundations of the neo-global world:

The main contradiction of the modern world, the world of the period of global transformations, arises between global politics, where old formats of interaction dominate, and the global economy, which is increasingly determined by a new logic and new mechanisms of intersystem interaction.

The development of this contradiction in conditions when politics seriously fails to adjust to the new economy may result in ad hoc foreign policy decision-making, the formation of temporary alliances to suit a specific local or regional task, and the absence of clearly defined norms of interstate behavior. “The world of rules” and “coalitions of the willing,” which are becoming the political and ideological bases for the behavior of the collective West, are the first and already very dangerous manifestations of this ad hoc approach to global issues.

The conditionally “external” framework of neo-globality, the emerging system of international relations, turns out to be less elastic than the operational formats of the world economy, including such deeply globalized elements as global finance and international trade. At the same time, the architecture of competing systems (national or coalition), including issues of ideology and fundamental values of state development, is beginning to play an increasingly important role in the system of international relations, including international economic relations. This inevitably determines the harsh nature of the points of contention between key actors of the neoglobal world and leads to the emergence of a multilayered contradiction of a deeper order:

The new economic geography (new geoeconomics) opposes, on the one hand, the post-spatial world on the basis of which the model of sociocultural development evolved, and on the other hand, the US-centric economic geography (in effect, the post-geography of the “flat world”)6 of late globalization – in fact, the foundation of the geoeconomic architecture of the world of unlimited globalization designed by various players, not only the US.

In other words, the current dialectic of the development of the system of international economic and political relations is formed not within the framework of the bipolarity of the US and the consolidated West against all others (in an antagonistic or competitive-symbiotic version of interaction), as previously thought, but according to a more complex and multilevel scenario. In this scenario, the most important determining factors are not only the relations between the “cores” of two conventional coalitions (the US and China, which is quite obvious at the current stage), but also economic, political, and sometimes historically rooted (Russia-Poland, India-Pakistan) conflicts of interests among the participants of such coalitions, which have predominantly regional or transregional interests.

The ability of regional powers (Poland, Turkey, Japan, Great Britain, and several others) to exert not just major but disproportionately significant influence on the policies of “metropolises” (to the extent that this term is applicable in principle to the neo-global world) is a challenge that has not yet been fully fathomed. The ability of “core countries” to form large coalitions of sovereign actors will determine the balance of power in key regions.

This two-level contradiction shapes the inevitability of a systemic crisis of globalization, when not only its attributes (supra-spatial systems and social universalism), but also its economic basis will undergo systemic transformation.

The new dialectic implies not just a redistribution of influence away from supra-spatial systems in favor of spatial (spatially rooted) ones, but also a fundamental change of spatiality compared to the one we have known in the last 40 years and consider natural or, rather, familiar.

This two-layered and, in the future, multi-layered nature of global contradictions will contribute to the fact that essentially non-antagonistic differences, forming complex systems, may combine, accumulate, and transform into antagonistic differences and cause the collapse of the overall architecture of the global system as such. This would have consequences reaching beyond one region or even two neighboring ones (transregional crisis). This is precisely how the processes of the accumulation of nonantagonistic differences in post-Soviet Eurasia and their transformation into antagonistic ones developed, which, due to the peculiarities of space and external forces involved in the conflict, affected practically the entire world. Following the same scenario, the basis for a large antagonistic conflict in the Middle East, in the “crescent” zone from Kabul and Dushanbe to Karachi, is being formed before our eyes.

But this dual dialectic of building a neo-global world inevitably creates “demand” for spaces where new geoeconomic systems could be created from scratch, without wasting resources on adapting sociopolitical systems to new conditions. This in effect brings us back to the concept of the “clash of civilizations,”7 but in a situation of the destruction of the former conventional boundaries of civilizations, new geoeconomics, the emergence of “enclaves” of civilizations within other civilizations, and other features of late globalization.

But in any case, we are talking about the emergence, for one reason or another, of “gray zones” at the junction of macro-regions/geoeconomic “civilizations” operating within the framework of culturally and historically (sometimes religiously) conditioned economic models, and the subsequent development of such gray zones by a dominant military force capable of ensuring the protection of this space.

And at the level of practical policy, this creates such opposition to attempts to form new geopolitical and geoeconomic spaces that even from historical and civilizational viewpoints it is obvious that they look more natural. As a result, the construction of new geoeconomic systems without the use of force, relying solely on building a renewed system of connections of economic and technological interdependence, seems unlikely.

In Lieu of a Conclusion: Three Sources of the New World Order

LET us suppose that the neo-global world will be not only and not so much a prototype of a new world order as a certain situational (due to the lack of universal global regulatory norms) format for resolving conflicts that accumulated in late globalization while maintaining a certain political operational framework for the major players in order to limit possible chaotization. But not for the B-list players, as demonstrated by the processes of 2019-2023, when such actors in the system of international relations (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia) were the main drivers of regionalization of the world economy and politics, while the major powers (China and the US, as well as the EU) tried to hinder geoeconomic and geopolitical regionalization.

At present, the situation is in a state of unstable equilibrium largely determined by the position of two states, Russia and India, based on the impossibility of preserving the previous configuration – the architecture of the system of international relations that is unlikely to continue to exist under conditions of even reduced US-centricity (if only due to the degradation of the US as the “core” of the system), but seeking to make the transformations political, not forcible.

The condition for choosing a given option of political transformation will be a change in the geoeconomic architecture of the world.

Thus, we will formulate three foundations of the neo-global world on which it can take shape as a geopolitical and, most importantly, geoeconomic system, at least for the “transformation period,” that would truly streamline global processes, leading to the emergence of a renewed “world order” with more stable norms of economic and political behavior:

First. Political acceptance and institutionalization of hybridity as a “built-in” property of the space of world politics and economics.8 The world is entering an era of the inseparability of key areas of activity of humans, states, and human communities in any format. This is especially evident on the external contour; although, in the era of late globalization, this concept has lost its distinctiveness, especially in foreign economic interaction. It is necessary to recognize the impossibility of further development based on the sectoral segmentation of problems, natural for late globalization, which gave rise to the dominance of the “project approach” even in public administration.

The political and, to some extent, political-philosophical need for a new strategic integrativeness also forms the main challenge to current operational activities: restoring integrity to the management of development processes. And the segmentation of politics, characteristic of postindustrial postmodernity, must be initially overcome at the national level. Integrity in public administration is currently one of the most serious challenges to all countries, including Russia. It is the integrity and comprehensiveness of the public administration system that now determines the ability for sovereign development within the framework of nationally oriented development criteria.

Second. Competition of development models as a latent driver of change. Here we come to the need to comprehend the principles of postcapitalism as a model of organization of the foreign, domestic, and global-economic space, which implies, on the one hand, the priority of the socioeconomic over the purely economic, and, on the other hand, the prevalence of medium-term goal-setting over short-term. We observe a direct rejection of many concepts of late globalization, but not the ideas of networkization and corporatization of the world.

The neo-global world will be able to become a real basis for the system of international relations, replacing the architecture of late globalization, only under the condition of the creation of fundamentally new mechanisms of internal, reasonably sovereign economic development that will finally nullify the system of US-centric financial capitalism that is hindering the full development of many countries. The issue of postcapitalism reflects the problem of the transition from the actualization of sovereignty on the external contour to the search for and institutionalization in political and political-legal norms of a new model of economic development that is natural for a particular country based on the priority of sociality rather than formal development indicators characteristic of US-centric financial capitalism.

Russia is currently facing a crucial problem of searching for new criteria of economic development that are to be determined not by formal macroeconomic indicators, but by the criteria of increasing synergy, maintaining a regional balance of socioeconomic development, as well as strengthening social cohesion. Also, in the future, the factor of the similarity of post-capitalism models as a “friend-foe” indicator in relations between different states and the relations of states to other, nonstate “big systems” will be important.

Third. Structural reorganization of the space of the world economy. The process of rebuilding the geoeconomic semi-periphery will become most important for shaping a sustainable architecture of the neo-global world. The concept of a geoeconomic triad of the core/metropolis of globalization, the industrial-resource semi-periphery, and the resource periphery (periphery of the first technological conversion), which functioned at the initial, “nascent” stage of globalization, not only ensured its structural stability but also became a source of “catch-up social modernization.”

Dominance in the development of the semi-periphery gave the West additional resources to defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War. But the parasitic nature of US-centric financial capitalism has led to a crisis of development of the industrial-resource semi-periphery and then to its erosion. The formation of the world of macro-regions stimulates the recovery of the semi-periphery as an aggregation of points of sustainable economic development.

When we talk about a new rise of Africa, the reformatting of Southeast Asia, we are certainly talking about the revival of the industrial periphery. But the implementation of this trend implies a significant increase in the number of the “world’s factories,” which will have an effect that is still far from understood.

Late globalization has led to the concentration of production in a relatively small number of industrial centers (China, India, and Indonesia; to a lesser extent Brazil, whose crisis as an industrial power in the 2000s and 2010s can be attributed to the erosion of the semi-periphery; and South Korea as an industrial-technological center that balances Japan and China).

The emergence of new industrial centers in their vicinity, within the same macro-region, even within the areas of the second and third technological conversions (Egypt, Iran, Vietnam, Malaysia), means these giants will be deprived not only of their relatively stable market position, but also of the possibility of charging the consumer extra. The restoration of the industrial-resource semi-periphery may also stimulate the political ambitions of a number of states, and this will have security implications.



1 Yevstafyev D.G., Ilnitsky A.M. “Global Crisis as a Trigger of Geoeconomic Transformations: Challenges for Russia,” International Affairs, Vol. 66, No. 1 (2020), pp. 18‑30; Yevstafyev D.G., Ilnitsky A.M. “Five Hypotheses About the Future World,” International Affairs, Vol. 66, No. 5 (2020), pp. 28‑38; Yevstafyev D.G. “A New World Order: Current Geoeconomic Realities and the Need for a ‘Blank Slate,’ ” International Affairs, Vol. 68, No. 3 (2020), pp. 26‑39.

2 Brzezinski Z. Vybor: Globalnoye gospodstvo ili globalnoye liderstvo. Translated from English. Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2004, 288 pp.

3 Nye J.S. Soft Power. The Means to Success in World Politics. New York: Public Affairs, 2004, 191 pp.

4 Haass R. “Present at the Destruction. Trump’s Final Act Has Accelerated the Onset of a Post-American World,” Foreign Affairs, January 11, 2021, articles/united-states/2021-01-11/present-destruction

5 Stiglitz J. Tsena neravenstva. Chem rassloeniye obshchestva grozit nashemu miru. Translated from English. Moscow: EKSMO, 2015, 512 pp.

6 Friedman T. The World is Flat. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giraux, 2005, 488 pp.

7 Huntington S. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York, Simon & Shuster, 1996, 367 pp.

8 Yevstafyev D.G. “Globalnye geoekonomicheskiye transformatsii i Yevraziya: riski i zadachi dlya Rossii,” Kazansky ekonomichesky vestnik, No. 2 (52) (2021), pp. 33-44.


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