The Global Crisis of Legitimacy

The main thrust of John Robb’s thesis in Brave New War – and the focus of much of his writing at Global Guerrillas – was the globalization of terrorism and the proliferation of tactics and “best practices” across borders. The same applies to nonstate movements writ large, as Branko Milanovic writes:

Revolutions of 2019, I think, presage a new breed of globalist revolutions. They are not part of the same and easily recognizable ideological pattern. They respond to local causes, but have a global element in the ability of communicate with each other (Catalan protesters imitated blockade of public infrastructure started by the Hong Kong protesters). Perhaps more importantly, they encourage each other: if Chileans are able to stand up, why not Colombians? If there is a single ideological glue to them, it is, I think, desire to have one’s voice heard. At the time of tectonic political shifts where politicians and old ideologies have lost much of their credibility, a thing which has not lost its credibility is the desire and the right to be heard and counted.

The present global crisis is one of legitimacy, of the right to be heard and to participate in the mechanisms of governance. Much of that can be attributed to political elites, and by extension capital, wanting to surrender none of their advantages, no matter the consequences. Watching from abroad at demonstrations around the world, united not in common cause so much as a common grievance, the question remains when the fires might spread here. The United States is suffering from no less a democratic deficit than many other nations but has yet to see similar outbreaks of political protest on such a scale.

I do wonder if the lack of ideological coherence across these movements will prove counterproductive or indeed, even further contribute to the sense of a worldwide crackup. The ability to adopt effective tactics without requiring adherence to a particular cause might well make some of the smaller separatist movements and other localist phenomena more viable, enabling even minor movements to achieve some measure of success (even if just recognition). But in any event, it’s clear that across the globe, governments must pay more heed to the governed, lest the widening gyre open into an abyss.

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