Climate discourse at the UN is empty because the UN is an empty institution – Slog

Of from north to north-west, Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest work. Youtube

There is no need to call a detective with “daring insight” for this case. This corpse has been cold for a long time, and the cause of its death is not a mystery. We can easily see what happened here. The demise of the UN began with the decline of the nation that structured the institution to promote that nation’s form of capitalism in a postcolonial world, and also to challenge its main state rival, the USSR. Case closed.


But if you need to better understand the connection between the UN as an institution and post-war American hegemony, just read the very readable book, The long twentieth century, by Giovanni Arrighi, an Italian economist and historian whose life ended in 2008.

He writes:

After the Second World War, all people, whether “Western” or “non-Western”, were recognized with the right to self-determination, that is to say to constitute themselves as a national community and, once thus constituted, to be accepted as a full member of the interstate system. In this regard, global “decolonization” and the formation of the United Nations, whose General Assembly united all nations on an equal footing, have been the most important correlates of American hegemony.

This New York-based institution for good reason idealized the American world market order. It wasn’t going to be like the “old gang”, the British gang, which was fiercely colonial. In this new American system, the self-determination of nations was apparently granted. The first, second and third world ideally had “an equal footing” in the United Nations. There was even a rotating seat on the Security Council for poor countries. What more could you want?

But two developments have led to the loss of importance of the United Nations. One, of course, was the collapse of the USSR in the late 1980s, and the other was the arrival of the fourth “accumulation phase” in a historic movement that began in the 17th century with Dutch capitalism.

A quick note: Arrighi’s starting point for capitalism is, in essence, 15th-century Genoa. For Ellen Meiksins Wood, another gifted historical theorist, it is the UK of the 18th century. For me, these are the United Provinces of the 17th century. And the reason for this lies in a key aspect of capitalism that first expressed itself here in the Lowlands: the mass production of luxury goods. (My position on this issue owes a great debt to another theorist of capitalism and its history, Noam Yuran.)

The USSR is no more. State socialism is dead. Russia is no longer a superpower. As for China, its form of capitalism has replaced in influence the American version, which entered its twilight when Ronald Reagan entered the White House and Wall Street became the world’s financial center. (As French historian Fernand Braudel once pointed out, the rise and dominance of finance in any global movement of value extraction marks the beginning of its departure from the main stage of capital accumulation.) And we can expect China, as the United States did in the 20th century, to develop new tools to control its own form of economic hegemony, which incidentally officially began in 2008. .

In short, it’s China that matters when it comes to the future relationship between capitalism and carbon. Not the United States, not the UN, an institution that, unlike the IMF and the World Bank, America has failed to reuse for its post-Bretton Woods / New Deal decline. All of this means that the speeches made by world leaders at the UN have little or no value. It is an empty institution as long as it stays in New York and is tied to dying post-war goals.

And this is how the man who directs the sequence of 19th century capitalism heard:

And the man who leads the 20th century streak:

And the one who leads his twenty-first century streak:


About Norma Wade

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