The United States & the New Threshold of Power


Following the idea of Alberto Methol Ferre, we state that in order to understand the present and Project hypothesis on the future it is necessary to carry out a deep historic analysis:

A journey to the sources from which came the phenomenon that we see today, in order to come back to the present with a better baggage of explanatory hypothesis with which to leave once again inquire as to the future. (Methol Ferre and Metali, 2006: 12)

Present-past-present-future are, well, the “coordinates” of our method of analysis of international relations.

In previous chapters we have already made a trip to the past. We now propose to “inquire” as to the present and the future. Therefore, we will try to perform an objective analysis of some of the greater trends that can currently be seen in the world. We will try to identify –and present in the form of a hypothesis- some of the dangerous challenges but also the numerous opportunities that we are faced with in this century.

Upon shaping our hypothesis on the future stage and proposing political actions that allow the countries of the South American periphery to climb aboard the last train of history –meaning, getting onto the third wave of globalization in order to build an economy of high technology and will make it possible for them to not be left lagging behind the parade of the history of humanity, as were left the States that did not know to industrialize themselves during the 19th century-, we are aware that political facts, like all human facts, “exercise their freedom within a context given by real factors and ideals, according to the last configuration of resulting circumstances of chance”(Jaguaribe, 2001: 35). Paraphrasing Jose Ortega and Gasset, we believe that nations are nations and their circumstances. We also believe, as Hans Morgenthau held, that drawing out the course of the current of world power, foreseeing the changes in direction and speed, detecting –under the surface of the current relationships of power- the germinal developments of the future is always an ideal task that, when performed successfully, constitutes the supreme intellectual achievement of the analyst of international politics. As an ideal task, Morgenthau warns, it will never be perfect, precisely because nature and man are imperfect elements, unpredictable, factors that cannot be known with exactness and that make calculations of evaluation always be inexact (Morgenthau, 1986: 194).

As we have already stated, from the time of its full industrial achievement, the United States raised the threshold of power that other State members of the system needed to reach in order to keep their autonomic capacity, meaning, to not fall under American subordination.

The necessary consequence of the conversion of the United States into the first continental industrial State-nation was that it would only be possible for the other political units of the international system to keep their full autonomic capacity if they were able to become an industrial State-nation – of surface area and population similar to that of the United States -, meaning, continental surface areas.

With the First World War, the power of industrial State-nations –models of the 19th century-, Great Britain, France and Germany, it was left completely uncovered that they had been totally surpassed by the power of the gigantic American continental industrial State-nation and that the majority of Latin American State-nations were, in comparison to the American industrial mega-state, powerless micro-states condemned to be, in the near future, subordinated States, as the city-states of Geneva or Venice were in their time, when the Spanish and French State-nations irrupted into history.

Thinkers like Manuel Ugarte, Jose Vasconcelos, Rufino Blanco Fombona and Franciso Garcia Calderon warned at the time that only through industrialization and integration could the States of Latin America reach the new threshold of power.

From the end of the decade of 1950 on, thanks to the reaction unleashed by a new state impulse, the United States was able to start building a sector of high technology. Thus it began to raise, once again, the threshold of power that other political units of the system needed to reach to maintain their autonomic capacity.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to clarify that the overestimation of high technology as a factor of power could lead the United States to make the mistake of underestimating the importance of the industrial sector as a factor of power. If the importance of high technology is over-esteemed as a factor of power and the industrial apparatus is neglected, the pyramid of power is weakened. An economy based exclusively on high technology excludes an enormous labor mass that tends to, necessarily, become impoverished.

Economic ups and down and the numerous turbulences of international globalized markets could very well be affected by this factor. In effect, the misconception that it would be possible for a exclusively post-industrial State capable of putting aside its anterior dynamic factor –industry- is possibly the main factor of the famous weakening of the North American economy. The belief that by only producing technology and deriving growing sectors from the population in the area of services to transfer the industrial factor to other farther behind countries that went along slowly becoming providers of all types of manufactured goods, generated a notable weak labor and productive structure.

High technology, by definition, is exclusive of manpower, and what little it requires needs an extremely high level of training, very little feasible of being reached by a high number of inhabitants. Thus, the great labor masses begin to lose their jobs and go into service sectors –notable dependent on economic ups and downs, and as a result by lowering the quality of their employment and their capacity of consumption and repayment. An economy that does not generate genuine income in quantities big enough –as only industry and the gigantic internal market that the United States was able to create at that moment- ends up being incapable of sustaining a virtuous circle of growth.

Today the United States, thanks to the reaction set into motion by a new state impulse, it is becoming the first “post-industrial” State in history and, logically, it is once again raising the threshold of power that other political units of the international system need to reach in order to maintain their autonomic capacity but, at the same time, the overestimation of this factor could, paradoxically, dent American national power. The derivation of industry to third-party countries is making it so that the United States sees itself as submitted to very undesirable ups and downs in its economy, an economy that is more and more speculative and with lower quality of income that seems to only be able to maintain itself through a growing deficit.

Most definitely, if the United States does not reset its industrial sector then they will have removed, by a mistake in the perception of value of high technology, one of the fundamental floors in its pyramid of power.

In synthesis, Toffler’s interpretation could find itself overcome by the reality of the incapacity of the new factor to provide sufficient income and energies for the American economy. The bust in the first few years of the century and that of the sub-par mortgages in 2007-2008 might be showing signs of a lack of an industrial floor that would assure what is above it. Since today it is not possible to conceive an autonomous States without the determinant incidence of the managing of its own technology, it seems to be highly possible that neither would it be viable to dispense of the industrial structure thanks to which these new technologies were made possible.

The fundamental thesis would therefore be that the threshold of power is reached through the accumulation of factors and not through the replacement of some by others, as Toffler professes. For the building of national power, the building of high technology is a necessary condition but not enough.


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