Disaster Chic: De-Globalization and the Middle Ages

Will countries react to the financial crisis with crippling "reverse globalization," throwing the entire world economy off balance? Or are we instead locked into globalization and headed for a new "Dark Age?"

marcello. black death. Florence. 1348
The Black Death in Florence (Marcello, 1348)

The Disastronauts have something new to dread with the global financial crisis, and it comes with mean sounding buzzwords like “De-Globalization.” And you thought “Protectionism” was austere. Zachary Shtogren at BigThink has this:

Like stateless castaways out of the sequel to Casablanca, foreign workers who were making hefty salaries in emerging markets are now waiting for the next outbound flight. Even the gilded class has been affected. Expat professionals in Dubai, hit with last-minute condo and car payments they can’t meet, are leaving the keys on the counter and their Mercedes in the airport parking lot. Over 3,000 vehicles sit collecting dust in the desert sun at the moment. A shocking $1 billion in capital fled emerging markets last week alone.

Ouch, sounds like everyone’s running home and slamming the door behind them. But Second World author Parag Khanna disagrees. Globalization isn’t going anywhere. He sees the 21st century as nothing if not a new Middle Ages, as he puts it, “an age of plagues and progress, commercial revolutions, expanding empires, crusades, city-states, merchants, and universities.” Doesn’t sound too much like Disaster Chic. In fact, it sort of sounds exciting, right? There’s more:

AIDS, malaria, SARS, and other maladies could become plagues like the 14th-century Black Death. What will be the impact of the coming migratory hordes, potentially unsettled by wars and environmental disasters? Who will be the next Mongols—small, concentrated hordes who violently establish their own version of peace, law, and order?

Yipes, there sure were a lot of “hordes” back then, but surely it won’t be a real “Dark Age.” We’ll be able to find solutions to these crises quickly, right? How long could it take?

Establishing a new system of global governance will take centuries, hence the uncertain leadership and complex landscape of the mid-21st century. The next Renaissance is still a long way off.

Maybe now would be a good time to invest in cryonics. We’ll wake you when Da Vinci gets here.


  1. You sound rather flippant regards the real problems that will unfold across the world with the third world as usual taking the worst of the pain. That old saying “When America gets a cold the rest of the world gets flu.” Of course this time round its the developed world that has Flu but the developing world may catch terminal pneumonia. Quote: On Sunday the World Bank predicted that the global economy will contract this year for the first time since World War II, a far grimmer assessment that it had previously offered. Its report highlighted the international nature of the economic crisis and warned that the recessions in developed nations was likely to play havoc with the economies of poorer and emerging countries, threatening political and social unrest. End of quote. Each report from the World Bank is a little more dire than the last, simple because even they have no idea where we are going.

  2. Some people want the winnings without taking the risk.

    You bet the future will be exciting! But this won’t be a mere roller coaster or a movie where the danger is fake. Welcome back to the real world!

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