An Open Society is the Only Path to Development
Joschka Fischer is the foreign minister of Germany.
Globalization has had different results for different societies. For Europe,
the US or Japan the key issue of governance in the 21st century is how
to cope with the transfer of power away from the nation state as a result
of globalization. Indeed, the traditional role of the foreign minister
has been turned on its head. A foreign minister used to represent his
country to the world and other states; now the job is to explain the world
to his country. This is particularly true in Europe where we are in the
process of redefining sovereignty.
For much of Africa and South Asia, however, the key issue is not that
of a superseding order, but of the collapsing state. This has also been
true in the Balkans.
But there is one denominator of globalization that is true for all societies:
The dynamic element of economic life has shifted from a manufacturing
to a knowledge base. And a knowledge-based economy without an open society
is impossible. Innovation and creativity can only come from the free exchange
of information. Therefore, traditionally authoritarian societies like
China face an enormous challenge. How do you unleash the creativity of
people unless they are free citizens?
An open society means a culture of the rule of law, the division of powers
and some mechanism for the peaceful transfer of office. Without these
attributes, a country will not achieve the stability required for investment
and it won't be able to develop the human resources base to create wealth
in the new economy. Certainly, one of the key lessons of the Asian financial
crisis was that societies which are more opaque than open in their political
and financial structures will sooner or later run into trouble.
The basic message is clear: Development in the 21st century means to be
part of the knowledge-based society. Otherwise you are out. And to be
out means underdevelopment, instability and even civil war.
This is not some 21st century form of Western imperialism. These are facts
of life. Good governance and an open society are the only way forward.
MULTILATERAL STRUCTURES | Sovereignty has become old-fashioned
in the age of globalization. Cooperative, multilateral structures are
the new wave. Unilateralism of any kind is doomed to failure in this day
and age. Mankind is not organized unilaterally, but in many dimensions
with many different languages, climates, cultural traditions and ways
As mankind is organized in a pluralistic way, so too should be the globalized
The big problem in Asia today is that while there are many emerging economies,
there is also a lack of cooperative security and political structures
such as we have in Europe. This creates a very precarious situation.
For us in Europe, 19th-century nationalist thinking led to our 20th-century
disasters. So far, the American presence has played a critical role in
filling up the Asian vacuum. If America were to withdraw from that role,
an Asia that continues thinking in 19th-century terms in the 21st century
invites big problems.
Therefore, in Asia and elsewhere, UN regional organizations and cooperative
security structures are crucial to peace under globalization.
CONTAINING THE MEDIA | Another aspect of how governance will change
in the 21st century involves the state sharing power with non-governmental
organizations, civil society and the media. An open society thus also
implies a new form of division of power. Power, in a sense, is retransferred
back to society from the state.
Then there is the "soft power" of the media. The media's new
power, I believe, will lead to a split between reality and the perception
In addition, a very real danger for the future, and therefore a concern
for good governance, is the concentration of power in the media, especially
the vast global media companies.
The issue of the future, then, is not only the old one of government control
of media, but the media's control of reality. Rights from cultural autonomy
to freedom of information to free speech all need to be recalibrated according
to the powerful role of global media today. These, too, must be guaranteed
by privately owned media companies. Suppression of ideas and concepts
is just as real if it is done by a dominant media concern as by a government.
Being privately owned is in itself no longer a sufficient definition of
free media. We need new rules.
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