Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thoughts on Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna

There's a new book I'm reading Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna. While I don't agree with many of the conclusions of the book, it is one of the most thought provoking works I've come across in a while.

Parag has a concept called "functional geography" where he states that world maps should be redrawn to represent the infrastructure that allow supply chains (and the default trade) to take place. Here's an example of his "functional" map of the US:

The basic concept is that the maps would make more sense if we represent the infrastructure that allows trade to be carried out instead of national or state boundaries. This is somewhat accurate, since some industries have regulations that change across state lines (not to mention taxes).

One of the arguments he proposes is the elimination of the nation states, which would allow the free flow of migration globally. This he argues is the best way to take advantage of supply and demand in terms of human resources. Therefore movements such as Brexit should be shunned.

His arguments reminded me to the mechanical views of society popular in the 19th and 20th century. While it's not necessarily social atomism it does does has a smell to it since he seems to reduce human societies to a level of economic outputs. Cogs in a wheel that can be transplanted from one geography to another interchangeably. An example explaining this idea further is the Pandoras Box series from the 90's:

While there are different variations of the philosophy, his views are utilitarian. What is useful must be good, therefore the concept of "functional geography" prevails over national sovereignty and regional cultures, which is standing in the way of mass migrations to the West or the exploration of  resourced in the third world by Western corporations.

What struck me as odd in the book is that he makes the argument for the mass immigration to the West as a competitive necessity against Asian countries such as China and India,  yet praises China as the leader of for functional geography through their infrastructure buildup. China isn't taking in massive amounts of immigration (hardly any) but this isn't addressed at all.

There is much evidence that the culture of a society will determine its success. Authors have credibly addressed the issues of culture in the past, while it's been on obsession of leaders such as Peter the Great of Russia and Mao Tse Tung in an attempt to drive their society to supremacy.

The topic of massive immigration as a means to enhance or destroy a society has been discussed in the past. Niccolo Machiavelli is famously known to his book The Prince, but in my opinion his masterpiece was Discourses of Levy. In the book he gives three examples on the effects of immigration in society. I'll create a very brief summery:

  1. The Greek city states such as Sparta declined due to low birth rates while at the same time refusing immigrants. A contemporary example of this would be the right wing parties in European nations. 
  2. The Republic of Venice was ruined due to immigration that didn't assimilate into the Venetian culture. He explains that immigrants created social bubbles and didn't assimilate or intermarried with the Venetians. These pockets of foreigners eventually grew in numbers, and thus power. They had no respect for the Venetian laws and customs, and the Venetians were abolished when these unassimilated immigrants grew in numbers. A contemporary example of this would be the left wings in both Europe and the US and their worship for multiculturalism as moral supremacy. 
  3. The Republic of Rome is the successful example provided. Rome would take in massive amounts of immigrants, but only after they've assured that the immigrants had been assimilated into Roman culture. They've in effect became "Romanized." The contemporary example for this would be the right wing in the USA. 
In my opinion the idea that culture has no impact on either a company or nation is absurd. The argument so far seems to be between Machiavellis first and second example, while discarding the necessity of the Roman way and its need to have immigrants assimilate. There have been books that have studied the impact of culture in smaller scales: 

Lets not forget that the Germans and English lived in mud houses before the Romans appeared. 

While Connectography is very thought provoking and rises some very good points on the need to map our infrastructure and supply chains, it fails to be a complete treaty on geopolitics by reducing the human into simply cogs in a machine and the true impact of massive immigration without assimilation would have on the first world. Again: China is supposedly the leader in "connectography," yet don't practice multiculturalism. 

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