arcVision 20 – Stars and Stripes


Will there ever be a world in stars and stripes again? The forthcoming US presidential elections and the world’s expectations vis-à-vis a deciding event for the future stability of the international geopolitical system.


 The Future of the Stars

The West in crisis. The end of the “stars and stripes” world. Unipolarism versus multipolarism or apolarism? What can we expect in the next decades?
The twentieth century had been defined as the “American century”: if World War II had on the one hand signaled the crisis of the European nation states and their international and colonial supremacy, on the other hand it allowed a new bipolar structure to emerge, dominated by the opposed superpowers, the USA and the USSR. For more than forty years, the world hung in a balance between two different economic, political and social models. Then the Berlin Wall came down and, in 1991, the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, dismembering the Soviet empire and preparing the advent of a new unipolar order led by the United States and their cultural and economic supremacy.

However, we have for some years been witnessing a progressive slowdown in the American economy and the rapid rise of new political subjects and new emerging economies that are ready to upset the old world balances. The gap between the USA and the other world powers is narrowing all the time, while there is increasing support for a new future multipolar structure which would redistribute economic, political and cultural power among a few global players: USA, EU, Japan, Russia, India and China.
Against the backdrop of the US presidential elections and while we are in the process of assessing the results of the Bush administration, the experts are divided into “declinists”, who are convinced that the USA is in inescapable decline and forecast a multipolar system, and “exceptionalists”, supporters of the “exceptional” and indefinitely lasting superiority of the Western cultural model and, therefore, of a “stars and stripes” world for some time to come. The weakness of the dollar and its status as the primary world reserve currency, the uneasy financial markets and high oil prices are only some aspects of a structural crisis that is not just economic, but also social and political, and which could push the United States toward isolationist tendencies.

The failure of the Geneva WTO negotiations, with the stand-off between the USA and India-China, is an obvious sign on the one hand of an ever greater awareness by the two Asian giants of their new role, not just merely “emerging” but actual protagonists of the international scene, and on the other hand of a neo-protectionist return.
The Doha Round, launched in 2001 in the aftermath of September 11 to support the globalized economy as an antidote to terrorism and to disseminate wealth among poorer countries, seems to have reached its final stop. The United States and Europe have lost their negotiating power, but China/India does not yet have the necessary political dimension, whether domestically or internationally, to redesign the global geopolitical structure. One can no longer talk of actual power centers identified with nation states; power is decentralized and dispersed in the hands of transnational players arising from globalization: organisms for economic control, whether international (World Bank, IMF, WTO …) or regional (European Union, Arab League …), non-governmental organizations, lobbies and corporations, multinational opinion movers and media in the global network blender. Have we arrived at an interregnum, or dispersed multipolarism, or dangerous apolarism?
The old and new stars of world governance are the subjects of the reflections of some of the most authoritative experts of international politics and economics in this issue of arcVision: the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, Charles Wyplosz, Professor at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, the Director of the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) Daniel Gros, Paolo Guerrieri, Professor at La Sapienza University in Rome and Moisés Naím, Director of Foreign Policy magazine, who shared with us their views and insights.

The Projects section has been reserved for the archistars, the real stars of the “architecture show” of the third millennium. More often exposed to criticism as a result of the excessive attention they seem to pay to communication strategies and the dissemination of their image, media architects are simply children of the modern image culture. Where, however, image should be interpreted in its widest meaning of ideas and thought, making them the protagonists of an architecture that is not and can no longer be just the art of building, but the art of knowledge, a vector of values and suggestions.

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