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Tomorrow, Who Will Govern the World?

Commentary on Jacques Attali's Demain, qui gouvernera le monde? (Part #1)

Asystemic governance
Governance through frozen categories
Deconstructing "Tomorrow, Who Will Govern the World"
Governance through ignorance in a knowledge-based society
Failure of dialogue in governance
Beyond a "Concert of Democracies"?
Governance in discontinuity and chaos
Self-governance in the self-organizing world of tomorrow
Designing a sustaining image of governance for the future

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The author of Demain, qui gouvernera le monde? (2011), Jacques Attali, has every reason to be considered an authority on the subject of his new book. Aside from having held many positions in relation to national and international governance, as an academic he has been an extremely profile author on a wide range of relevant subjects, including A Brief History of the Future (2006), La crise, et après? (2008) and Survivre aux crises: 7 stratégies (2009). It may therefore be assumed that he knows full well whereof he writes. In relation to the book, Attali has been interviewed by Jean-Christophe Nothias (Tomorrow, Who Will Govern the World, The Global Journal, 3 May 2011).

The theme indicated by the title is clearly of wide concern, especially in the midst of a variety of crises which have demonstrated very clearly the relatively limited competence of governments and other institutions. However, from the perspective of this somewhat critical review, it is the title which is the most interesting feature of the book -- namely the questions it raises, and those it fails to address. Rather than a review in the conventional sense, the following therefore uses Attali's endeavour as a basis for "re-viewing" and reframing the question of the title and the issues it raises.

The paradigm within which the book appears to have been articulated is well-represented by the image on the cover of the French paperback edition. It is of a conventional symphony orchestra.  The following criticism is made from a perspective which contrasts that image with one of the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest. The two images were used in an earlier comment on the occasion of the 3rd Annual Conference organized by the Global Governance Group of the New School of Athens (NSOA): Theme: Making Global Governance Work: Lessons from the Past. Solutions for the Future (Athens, 2008).

Fig. 1: Contrasting caricatures of "harmonization" in governance?
Reproduced from Governing Civilization through Civilizing Governance: global challenge for a turbulent future (2008)
Fig. 1a: Top-down "static" vision?
"explicit imaginary"
Fig. 1b: Bottom-up "non-static" vision?
"implicit real"
Caricature of EU non-Constitutional Reform Treaty Eurovision Song Contest Winner
EU "non-Constitutional" Reform Treaty
(ratified under questionable conditions of "democratic deficit") suppressing reference to the EU anthem (Beethoven's Ode to Joy)
Eurovision Song Contest Winner (Athens, 2006)
Elected overwhelmingly through a record Europe-wide popular "democratic process" (Lordi's song Hard Rock Hallelujah)
If aesthetic harmony (notably musical lyrics) offers a way forward, possibilities might include:
A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic?
All Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony?

Briefly it might be said that a defect of Attali's approach (as explicitly symbolized by the cover image, similar to that on the left above) is that it necessarily takes little account of the mindset which might be more closely associated with the image on the right. The argument which follows here, as in the earlier comment relating to those images, does not especially favour the latter, rather it raises the question of how that worldview might be taken into account. The various riots of the "Arab Spring" (2011), together with those which have surprised England at the time of writing, suggest that a larger or more fundamental framework is required.

In arguing the point through a musical metaphor, there is an irony to the following criticism in that Attali himself in a previous study, to which he makes no reference, specifically indicated that cultures articulated their social organization through the musical structure favoured in the immediate past (Noise: the political economy of music, 1977). Thus he specifically relates the currently favoured pattern of organization to that of classical Western music. His current argument, with respect to "tomorrow", should then at least take account of the pattern of music currently favoured by the voters of the future -- as indicated to some extent by the second image.

The questionable relevance of Attali's symphonic understanding of governance merits reflection in the light of a bipartisan report by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (Princeton University), titled Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, US National Security in the 21st Century (2006), notably proposes a charter for the establishment of a "concert of democracies".

It is within this context that new understanding of how "who" is to be understood could prove to be vital to the sustainability of future governance.

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