The New World Order
Kotkin, Joel, Newsweek
Byline: Joel Kotkin
Tribal ties--race, ethnicity, and religion--are becoming more important than borders.
For centuries we have used maps to delineate borders that have been defined by politics. But it may be time to chuck many of our notions about how humanity organizes itself. Across the world a resurgence of tribal ties is creating more complex global alliances. Where once diplomacy defined borders, now history, race, ethnicity, religion, and culture are dividing humanity into dynamic new groupings.
Broad concepts--green, socialist, or market-capitalist ideology--may animate cosmopolitan elites, but they generally do not motivate most people. Instead, the "tribe" is valued far more than any universal ideology. As the great Arab historian Ibn Khaldun observed: "Only Tribes held together by a group feeling can survive in a desert."
Although tribal connections are as old as history, political upheaval and globalization are magnifying their impact. The world's new contours began to emerge with the end of the Cold War. Maps designating separate blocs aligned to the United States or the Soviet Union were suddenly irrelevant. More recently, the notion of a united Third World has been supplanted by the rise of China and India. And newer concepts like the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are undermined by the fact that these countries have vastly different histories and cultures.
The borders of this new world will remain protean, subject to change over time. Some places do not fit easily into wide categories--take that peculiar place called France--so we've defined them as Stand-Alones. And there are the successors to the great city-states of the Renaissance--places like London and Singapore. What unites them all are ties defined by affinity, not geography.
1. New Hansa
Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden
In the 13th century, an alliance of Northern European towns called the Hanseatic League created what historian Fernand Braudel called a "common civilization created by trading." Today's expanded list of Hansa states share Germanic cultural roots, and they have found their niche by selling high-value goods to developed nations, as well as to burgeoning markets in Russia, China, and India. Widely admired for their generous welfare systems, most of these countries have liberalized their economies in recent years. They account for six of the top eight countries on the Legatum Prosperity Index and boast some of the world's highest savings rates (25 percent or more), as well as impressive levels of employment, education, and technological innovation.
2. The Border Areas
Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, U.K.
These countries are seeking to find their place in the new tribal world. Many of them, including Romania and Belgium, are a cultural mishmash. They can be volatile; Ireland has gone from being a "Celtic tiger" to a financial basket case. In the past, these states were often overrun by the armies of powerful neighbors; in the future, they may be fighting for their autonomy against competing zones of influence.
3. Olive Republics
Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain
With roots in Greek and Roman antiquity, these lands of olives and wine lag behind their Nordic counterparts in virtually every category: poverty rates are almost twice as high, labor participation is 10 to 20 percent lower. Almost all the Olive Republics--led by Greece, Spain, and Portugal--have huge government debt compared with most Hansa countries. They also have among the lowest birthrates: Italy is vying with Japan to be the country with the world's oldest population.
It's a center for finance and media, but London may be best understood as a world-class city in a second-rate country. …