Tuesday, June 22, 2004

OK, Niall Ferguson is becoming little more than a shrill buffoon by now. He's screaming in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, and here's all you need to read.
What if the world is heading for a period when there is no hegemon? What if, instead of a balance of power, there is an absence of power? Such a situation is not unknown in history. Though the chroniclers of the past have long been preoccupied with the achievements of great powers--whether civilizations, empires or nation states--they have not wholly overlooked eras when power has receded. Unfortunately, the world's experience with power vacuums is hardly encouraging. Anyone who dislikes U.S. hegemony should bear in mind that, instead of a multipolar world of competing great powers, a world with no hegemon at all may be the real alternative to it. This could turn out to mean a new Dark Age of waning empires and religious fanaticism; of endemic rapine in the world's no-go zones; of economic stagnation and a retreat by civilization into a few fortified enclaves.
Ferguson is looking to the 10th century as a model for the 21st, which only shows how profoundly stupid his arguments are getting. As an historian, one would think that Ferguson could recognize the existence of capitalism as a pretty stark difference between now and then giving shape to the global order beyond simple state military power, but then we'd be giving the wunderkind of NYU a little too much credit.

Ferguson has really shacked up with the neocons now that his rhetoric is little different from that of Robert Kaplan. Remember Kaplan's neo-Malthusian misanthropic diatribe "The Coming Anarchy"? Ferguson is more of the same except that the Brit favors Hobbes over the Reverend.

Well, to be fair, there is a real difference between the two in that Kaplan saw no room for human agency whereas Ferguson thinks the only important thing in the world is The Will (Mr. Ferguson, meet M. Sorel. Care for a Myth of the General Strike? Oh, you prefer a Myth of Empire instead? We'll order out. Garcon!)

If Ferguson could see difference and discontinuity as well as he sees similiarity and the eternal "lessons of history" the man might actually be worth reading.


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