Monday, September 15, 2014

"World Order" and its Discontents

I have only just begun to read "The New World Disorder," Michael Ignatieff's latest contribution to The New York Review; and already my head is swirling with thoughts about the topic. For some time I have been trying to figure out how to set down in writing an argument to the effect that the very concept of governance now seems to have failed. Now I figure I shall hold off on that until I read Ignatieff in his entirety. On the other hand there are a few points about that very concept of "order" that I feel I can get off my chest right now.

The most important seems to have originated with Henri Bergson (even if I first discovered it by way of Henry Miller). This has to do with the premise that the very concept of "disorder" simply indicates that mind has not yet come up with a way to impose order on the associated stimuli. For example, at the end of the First World War, both intellectuals and diplomats looked around the world and saw vast tracts of geography that seemed to be subjected to the disorder of tribal thinking that tended to be ill-defined and/or fluid. As a result the Western world, in its self-appointed superiority, went around drawing boundaries around regions whose inhabitants neither needed nor wanted them. In other words they saw order where "enlightened" intellectuals saw disorder. Should it surprise anyone that, eventually, those inhabitants would find ways to push back and reclaim the land as they had chosen to inhabit it, restoring the concept of a caliphate?

1 comment:

jones said...

There's a famous Proudhon quote, "Anarchy is order." The idea is that government (collective means or orderly decision-making) is a different concept than the state (monopoly on use of force as a legitimate means of coercion).

For a historical perspective, you might pick through George Orwell's essay, "Wells, Hitler and the World State." It's online here: