Sunday, September 27, 2009

BBC NEWS | Business | The end of the Western economic era?

This time a year ago, the world was reeling from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the multi-billion dollar rescue of Merrill Lynch and insurance firm AIG.

But for Joern Schuetumpf, a German publisher, life was looking up.

Mr Schuetumpf, director of Karl-Dietz, was revelling in the increase in sales of one of his books which was now selling at seven times the usual rate.

That book was Marx's Das Kapital, the founding text of communism.

On television and radio outlets across the world, Marxists, socialists and anti-capitalist groups seized the moment in the post-Lehmans-world, to declare that the Western economic era was over.

Even before the crisis there were warnings. In March 2007, American writer and journalist Tom Wolfe said "we may be witnessing the end of capitalism as we know it".

Then in September last year, the British political philosopher John Gray said that "the era of American global leadership is over... in a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union, an entire model of government and the economy has collapsed".

'The great story of our time'

But now, a year after, as the polemical dust settles, do leading commentators believe that we are at the brink of a new financial world order?

According to Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and author of The Post American World, we are.

"This is the major power shift of the last few centuries," he says, speaking to the BBC World Service.

"For the first time in at least 300 years, you have non Western actors of a size and scale that will really be dominating the world."

Yet Mr Zakaria does not think the West will be obliterated by the new scenario.

"America will be the most powerful economy in the world for the foreseeable future and the West will still be important... but it will have to share that power with countries, cultures and civilisations it has traditionally dominated, colonised and looked down on, and that re-balancing of the world will be the great story of our time," he says.

BBC NEWS | Business | The end of the Western economic era?
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