Phil Mirzoev's blog

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Is nationalism really worth anything real?

What is the nature of nationalism? What's objective and what is subjective part of it?
Very deep, old, and so far under-resolved question continuing to occupy the minds of intellectuals and scientific world. There is a heck of a lot of books and theories made on this theme.

In my humble opinion, It's a sort of religion, psychological phenomenon, the end result of which is a mass identity replacement. Many people do have a 'damaged identity' and the morbid anxieties related thereto. But when those people unify themselves under the flag of some similarities (even if those similarities are completely ephemeral) they feel some kind of relief of the pain, created by the identity vacuum. It like a club of people who were born on Monday and who pride themselves on this fact, ascribing to Monday some 'special' even mystical (religious) qualities.
The anger and potential war (in broad sense: war of words, war of trade, military war in extreme cases) with those belonging to 'other world' is one more way to vent the identity deficit anxiety. As with all self-fulfilling forecasts, the state of war with 'bad others' allegedly threatening their special national belonging, is, in the eyes of nationalists, one more evidence that they are really 'special and different', and, hence, do have a fairly firm identity. All of this doesn't mean, that the degree and activity of nationalism cannot be controlled or 'activated'. There are more and less acute forms, and even 'sleeping nationalism'
Historically, nationalism began really strong and really felt only from the end of 18th - beginning of 19th century. Then the Governments got the real power over their nation-states and learned how to exploit and even create this identity-crisis. Nationalism became a weapon of mass destruction, a perfect masterpiece of demagogy - super-duper socio-psychological medication, allowing Governments to hold power and to gain those ends, which before they could have gained only with the help of the direct force against their own peoples.
So nationalism in the shape we know it now was to a large degree an invention, a lever developed, improved and 'polished' by the political power after the nation states were created and the means of controlled mass communication and broadcasting were developed. So now we more often than not deal with an artificially induced 'boosted' nationalism (in overdrive mode), 'genetically modified nationalism'.
But the fundamental causes of it lie in the identity crisis and the venting of the relevant anxieties and psychological pain.
Do I believe in the reality of such a notion as a cultural nations? Emphatically NOW - in my judgment not only is it a myth but also a very dangerous one. I don't believe in nationality of culture or in 'national cultures', but, on balance, I do belief in cultured nations! Political nations which are for some or other reasons are less or more culturally advanced and capable of further progress - reasons having nothing at all to do with nationality as such. I also believe in cultural barriers the true causes of which having nothing to do with nationality too, as well as in the universal possibility of overcoming those barriers and making initially immiscible and critically antagonistic cultures compatible and able to be parts of one common and larger culture (diverse but not self-contradictory in itself, with a common universal ethical and aesthetic foundation)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spike in oil price will batter China much more than Western economies

The latest revolutionary events in the Middle East in general and in Libya in particular have already lead to a sharp rise in oil price, raising the bar above the key level of $100 per bbl just in a matter of days. But many analysts are now warning about a further increase which could bring the whole situation to a third oil shock in the event things take a turn for the worse. Some of experts are already anticipating a new astronomical target of $220 per bbl.
In my judgment even so sharp a spike in oil prices in the near future would hit China and some other industrializing economies by far the worst. Of course, $220 per bbl would be no birthday gift for Western developed economies, but it would be an 'apocalypse now' either - nothing even mildly comparable with the oil crisis 1973.
Pundits in their gloomy forecasts are pointing to 1) extra inflationary pressure associated with the corresponding oil price jump and 2) the fragile post crises period of recovery in the West which still continues down a bumpy road, slowly and painfully making its way through a jobless phase. They are also pointing out the fact that Western governments up to now have spent all their special stimulus packages, so there is little one can do in terms of extra emergency measures.
But, I don't think it's all doom and gloom. In the US inflation is still very low due to still low demand - structurally low demand. While a sharp increase in oil prices will draw discontent of the American consumer and rise the costs of the American producer and trader, the overall consumer price hike will be much less than many would expect. The problems of Western economies are structural in character including the tenacious joblessness and sluggish demand. On the other hand productivity continues to rise despite already very high oil prices and rather sharp dynamics of their growth in the recent past in the recent past. Oil does seem to take a very small part of the added value created in the wealthy economies of the West now.
On the other hand every cloud has a silver lining: in case of a major oil price spike, the positive processes of transition to a greener, less oil-dependent economy due to investment in new technology in the West will gain extra momentum and urgency. The world is close to the energy revolution as it is, and any lack of urgency and political will here is going to be eliminated by another oil crisis. Additional redistribution of cash flow into the alternative energy sources industry would come in handy indeed in case of oil crisis.

On the other hand China have already started testing long term sustainability of its industrialization model. Before the Middle East events inflation in China had already reached rather dangerous levels and continue to rise. The part of oil and other raw materials expenses in the creation of the Chinese GDP is already huge and the pain threshold is not so very far. I am sure, that the biggest danger that potential 'oil shock' presents to China, whose export dependent, heavily subsidized and energy extremely ineffective economy would be dealt a hefty blow and lose much of its competitiveness. Consumer demand in China also depends incomparably more on the price oil and other raw materials than that of Western economies.
For China an oil shock would be a real test and a real shock. How China will be able to handle it remains to be seen.
And last but not least, quite contrary to what many sages like to foretell, I am sure, that an economic crisis in China would do much more good than harm for the global economy in general and for the Western economies in particular in that it would make the long awaited and much talked-about 'rebalancing' of trade, monetary and investment unbalances, much closer and realer. Contrary to what is thought by many experts I am sure, that at this point quasi-market China does more damage than good to the developed economies and to the whole global economy in general, in effect parasitically "stealing" from other really market economies growth (including her closest neighbors).
Having said that, I still think that the current jump in oil price is more a reflection of speculators' grip on commodities market and their wish to bull and capitalize on the moment, than of real fundamental problems of an inadequate supply.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The West should have reacted much earlier and stronger to Lybia events

The Western community MUST do more, not just express their 'concern' or 'amaze', or to say, like Obama did, how 'indecent' it is to kill civil population on mass (such a naughty boy this Cadafi). Freeze freeze freeze any assets of the regime bloody kleptocrats and at least in the strongest terms possible give give and give moral promises all the democratic forces who at the expense of their lives now try to dethrone the bloody usurpers. They must be sure that the West will help them at least after the overturn of the regime in terms of establishing new and fundamentally better relationship. Moral support from the outside world is now the most important thing, because it gives an additional amount of confidence to the liberators. The West at the first signs of violence should have taken the hardest position possible and express its attitude and support for democratic forces in Libya ( well as in other Middle East countries for that matter) in the strongest terms possible, and it's shame that Obama pronounced any words only a weak after the start of the events.
All in all the West in general and the US in particular have demonstrated rather lukewarm support and taken a unacceptably soft and formal position. Nothing surprising, however, if one remembers that the US to the this day for the sake of Israel and themselves have not only tolerated but actually supported a whole bunch of dictators in the Middle East - the way things continued to stand even when any objective necessity for such support expired. As ever the West put its political interests and dubious friendship far above the much touted fundamental values of democracy - so much so that it actually put a break on the natural democratization processes in the Middle East (e.d. there are reasonable grounds to suspect that democracy in the Middle East would have advanced much further up to date but for the actual policy of the US in this region). One more landmark in the continued process of ideological discrediting of the West in the recent history. One more piece of evidence for developing countries to suspect that in reality democracies are not interested in promoting democracy in the rest of the world at all... Is it not time for the Western Powers at last to learn their lessons?! Hey, there's no Cold War any more and it's all long over with all the excuses belonging to it. The systematic continuous loss of principles and credibility of the West (in exchange of oil or gas or benefits of trade and corporate business) has already did a hardly estimable damage to the democratic countries.