At the beginning there should be a thesis: In the coming years and decades the struggle for global power will become more intense and decisive. For this struggle, the word may no longer be appropriate today and yet it remains constantly appropriate, the West, and Europe in particular, is insufficiently prepared.
What is at stake, therefore, is not only the power, influence, market shares or prosperity of Western societies, but also their political systems, values, orders and, ultimately, the concept of freedom as we know it today.
But history has not yet been written and there is still, albeit little time, to counteract this development or at least to mitigate its consequences. For this, however, it is essential to know the central challenges of the coming years, to internalize them and to understand them for what they are: Coherent, interdependent developments that require a major solution and not isolated events that can be dealt with using outdated concepts of the past.
The greatest challenges can be summarized under the term change of times, which is understood as a period of time in which its individual elements dynamically influence each other in such a way that they can bring about a reorganisation of the previous (global) power relations. These elements can be identified as follows:
1.) The rise of new competitors on world markets
The shift in global economic power, which is usually always followed by a shift in political and military influence and prosperity, is already evident today.
Whether China can be identified at this point as a challenger or already a top dog is left to the reader's discretion. However, the "Made in China 2025" strategy is more long-term, more precisely until 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People's Republic, and the chance of achieving the goals, such as dominance in the 10 most important key industries, is by no means unrealistic.
Even if the West does not want to understand the nature of Chinese-style controlled capitalism, it has the potential to dominate its Western counterpart in the end. This should be considered especially by those who overemphasize the opportunities, but like to hide the risks and especially the consequences of a submissive attitude. At this point, short-term profit is often more important than a long-term balance.
Even the hope of a political crisis in the Middle Kingdom is an ultimately unfounded one, and Hong Kong, which is shaped by Europe, will never be a blueprint for the Chinese mentality, which ultimately has completely different roots than Western individualism. The Chinese interpretation of freedom and harmony, based on Confucianism, Taoism and enriched with legalism, Buddhism and Mohism, is fundamentally compatible with the, from the Western point of view, authoritarian political system, even in all its apparent contradictions.
The Western interpretation is therefore apparently not a universal one, but rather a specific one, which, despite all the vociferous assertions, need by no means assert itself globally, but could also fail completely. This realization may be bitter, but it must be named in all honesty. China is successful and this must be acknowledged. The very fact that the Middle Kingdom has succeeded in massively reducing poverty - for example, in 1981 88% of the Chinese were still considered extremely poor according to the usual indices, whereas today it is only about 1% - speaks for itself. No, the conditions for success are not universal. This may be hard to accept, but it is a reality that must be faced.
Alongside China, India also has the potential to become a world economic power and, under normal circumstances, will rise to become the third strongest economic power in the world, behind China and the USA. What this will mean for the country's political ambitions cannot yet be foreseen today.
In general, the future could become Asian. The West must wake up from its lethargy and realize that the end of history has not yet come, but that we are always at the beginning of it. The struggle for the future, and this sentence is not something apocalyptic but something to be interpreted rationally, is imminent and it will not only be one for influence, market shares and prosperity, but also one for lifestyles and freedom.
2.) The weakness of the western world
While the rise of the Asian states is unmistakable, at the same time the West is experiencing a quiet decline, which is not yet perceived as such. The fact that Europe is more affected by this than North America should be mentioned in passing.
Therefore, if we take a closer look at what is happening, the signs and indicators are unmistakable:
Not only has the competitiveness of the West suffered, more in some countries and less in others, but it is also possible to speak of technological backwardness, which often manifests itself in an outdated infrastructure. In the end, however, it is not only the influence or prosperity of a society that depends on this competitiveness, but also, in concrete terms, that of the individual.
Whether or not to listen to some evil voices that speak of a partly structural state of the West as in the former German Democratic Republic in 1985 should now be heard, is not to be discussed further at this point. However, a certain amount of congestion at almost all levels is hard to deny. Rotten, encrusted - not everywhere and yet too often. Comfortable runners are overtaken, at some point they are overtaken and at some point they lose the connection.
At the same time, the once stable societies are disintegrating and as a result, the political systems are also suffering serious damage. Although this disintegration of societies is a global phenomenon that can be observed in similar patterns in all countries, the West has so far failed to come up with relevant solutions to the progressive erosion of the realities of life. He often doesn't even understand them, and not infrequently obsolete 19th or 20th century patterns are used to explain the world in the 21st century. The nice thing about it is that in these old explanations the complicated modern age plays no role and can easily be faded out in favour of a limited illusory world in which one then devotes oneself to illusory problems.
But we are living in the 21st century and in this eroding of societies, no matter how much the round block is pressed into the square lock.
The rapid change of times has accelerated this disintegration and the once so clear, few realities of life are, driven by a stimulus society and behavioral capitalism, decaying further and further.
Also the human being is in parts not the same anymore as in the good old days. A new one has long since been created: The Homo stimulus, that stimulus person who is not only used to a highly frequented confrontation with fast stimuli, some of which penetrate deep into the innermost self, but who also actively demands and pushes them.
Will the milieus continue to disintegrate? Yes, they will, and yet there will not be total individualization, since individual realities of life will remain or form coalitions of interests with others through questions of distribution and identity. Sometimes passively enduring, sometimes actively demanding. With the will to design and without. Without these questions of identity and distribution a total individualization would be conceivable, but in this case it will be parallel developments: Individualization and milieu struggles side by side.
Welcome to the age of collective individualism - albeit an imperfect one.
This, however, will weaken the West even further, and there is a real danger that freedom and democracy will be lost in the end, unless an immediate rethink is undertaken and they cannot be regained because one has simply been left behind economically, technologically, politically and structurally.
1.) Dealing with technological progress
In many areas we are facing major technological breakthroughs that will play a major role in the struggle for world domination and destiny.
Those who master these technologies and can also successfully manifest them in products ultimately hold the key to economic, political and social power in their hands. Those who are decoupled from development, however, have to reckon with dwindling prosperity, economic problems, social tensions and increasing global influence. No, the end of the story has not yet been reached. One cannot repeat this sentence often enough and should do so as often as it has been invoked in recent decades.
It is part of the nature of technological development that, in addition to the great opportunities, it also involves risks. However, even the West's biggest competitor has to face these challenges, but China has already found its answers:
Massive investments in the most important key industries. Expansion of the infrastructure. Securing raw materials. A controlled capitalism, in which behavioral capitalism is subjected to the goals of the state. By controlling the stimuli that created the homo stimulus in the first place. The creation of a social credit system that is in line with the mentality of the population, mind you the Chinese, but not the Western.
The Land of the Middle has a plan and the competence to realize it. No, these solutions to the challenges of the age of collective individualism may not be compatible with our idea of democracy and freedom, and yet they are strategies that can work.
And so the West ends up facing a power that has already found answers, while in this country the questions are still being sought.
2.) The change in environmental conditions
The environment will remain an essential factor, as it has always been. With climate change, a central phenomenon of change has found its way into the public consciousness, and yet we must also talk about a coming struggle for raw materials for the products of new technologies. About new distribution struggles and exploitation. About the constantly current phenomena of environmental destruction and exploitation. About a growing world population, which will have more and more need for just about everything. About plastic waste. Species extinction. pollution, desertification, disposal or water shortage.
Or quite simply what will happen if the coming world powers China and India, with their almost 3 billion people, want to achieve a similar standard of living across the board as the West has today.
Even this field is therefore much larger and forbids focusing on a single topic, however important it may seem, because it must not blind to the connections.
We are in the midst of a change of times and this is defined by the dynamic interaction of several forces that have the potential to shift global power, influence and prosperity in the long term.
Fading out one or more of them would ultimately lead to weakening itself and thus also to failure in the subject area in which the priorities were set, no element should be left unnoticed.
3.) Lack of prospects for part of the world population
The majority of serious studies assume a massive growth of the world population. This will lead to further urbanization, a hitherto often unmentioned megatrend of the times, and in part to migration.
This can happen out of necessity. Because of climate change or even just, in search of a better life: It doesn't matter, because migration will become a topic of the century.
As societies disintegrate, even in developing countries, old ties are being eroded. At the same time, behavioral capitalism and the homo stimulus are not a Western phenomenon, but a global and, in profane terms, Internet perspective in a networked world. In the end, the target of migration movements will be less Asia and more Europe and the USA.
At the same time, however, we should not lose sight of the countries of origin, because their stability and the Western share in it is also crucial for the future, because if one model is not successful, they may turn to another.
All in all, it makes sense to understand the change of times as what it is: a bundling of dynamic forces that not only calls into question our current way of living, but can also change it in the long term. What was successful yesterday no longer needs to be so tomorrow. No matter how one might suggest it, the distribution of power, influence and wealth is not cemented, but is being questioned more than ever. The West is not a mildly smiling spectator, although this attitude still enjoys general popularity, but one of the players who is in danger of losing.
It would therefore be time to counteract this. However, not to secure their own supremacy. No, that would be far too little, but rather to use the change of times to create a new, better and fairer world full of freedom and prosperity for all people. What may sound like a utopia can become reality with the help of the model of alternative hegemony (AH model), because with this it would be possible to transform Western capitalism into a value market economy, in which values become the relevant factor of production for profit maximization, thus forming and spreading a shield for freedom, democracy, human rights, but also securing prosperity, technological leadership and economic prosperity in the long term.
This article by Andreas Herteux was originally written for the Erich von Werner Society, an independent think tank, and can be found both on the author's blog and in German and international media.
Erste Grundlagen des Verhaltenskapitalismus: Bestandsaufnahme einer neuen Spielart des Kapitalismus, von Andreas Herteux, erschienen im Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 978-3981900651, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3469587.
First Foundations of Behavioral Capitalism: A New Variety of Capitalism Gains Power and Influence, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 978-3981900675, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3469568
Premiers fondements du capitalisme comportemental: Un inventaire d'une nouvelle variété de capitalisme, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 9783981900682, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3517802
Le prime basi del capitalismo comportamentale: Inventario di una nuova varietà di capitalismo, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 9783948621025, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3517835
Primeiras Fundações do Capitalismo Comportamental: Um inventário de uma nova variedade de capitalismo, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 9783948621018, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3517837
Primeros fundamentos del capitalismo conductual - Un inventario de una nueva variedad de capitalismo," Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 9783948621001, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3517839
Первые основы поведенческого капитализма: Инвентаризация нового разнообразия капитализма", Andreas Herteux, 10.5281/zenodo.3517841
De eerste stichtingen van het gedragskapitalisme - Een inventaris van een nieuwe variëteit van het kapitalisme, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 978-3-948621-03-2, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3521230
Pierwsze fundamenty kapitalizmu behawioralnego - Inwentaryzacja nowej odmiany kapitalizmu, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN "978-3-948621-05-6 DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3521294
The Alternative Hegemony Model (AH Model): The "invisible hand" of nurture for the better, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 978-3-9819006-1-3, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.1894461
Das Alternative Hegemonie Modell (AH-Modell): Die unsichtbare Hand der Erziehung zum Guten, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 978-3-9819006-4-4, DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1894403