Global Alternatives 2024
Order From Chaos: Is It Possible to Overcome Global Disorder by 2040?

Will order emerge from the chaos of the modern world? Will this order be harmonious and equal? Or is this another utopia? All these questions undoubtedly concern humanity. The merit of the Valdai Club report’s young authors of is that they were not afraid to directly raise these questions, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

For the 2024 World Youth Festival in Sochi, a group of young experts under the auspices of the Valdai Discussion Club prepared a report titled “Charting the 2040: Younger Generation Insight on the World in the Making”. The report left a very favourable impression; it is thought-provoking and represents a very interesting model for the future development of the world. We have previously responded to the part of it dealing with the values of 2040 which the authors propose.

Now let’s turn to another story. Let us recall that one of the key elements of the report is that the 1945-2040 timeframe is split by the authors into four distinct eras in world politics, both past and future. The authors structure their analysis along two parameters: the role of the state in world politics and the degree of universalism in terms of ideology and values. As a result, four qualitatively different stages are obtained. According to the authors, during the first period, 1945-91, the state played a major role in in the system and the scope of ideology was universal: they characterise it as the “UN / Bipolar World and the Non-Aligned Movement.” The second stage, after the end of the Cold War, saw the erosion of the role of the state as an actor and, again, ideology playing a universal role; the authors call it “Global Empire”. The current stage in world politics has been characterised by an emphasis on ideological diversity and according to the authors, a continuing erosion of the role of the state as an actor; they define it as “Global Disorder”. Finally, the future stage of world politics according to this matrix is associated with ideological diversity and the active role of the state in the system and is defined by the authors as “Multipolarity”.

Valdai - New Generation: Seeing the Future Is Difficult, but Let Us Try
What will the world look like in 2040? What new values does the younger generation offer? What is technological progress – a danger or an opportunity? Will people become “hamsters” and “cockroaches” for artificial intelligence? This was discussed by the participants of the Valdai Club workshops, held as part of the first Youth Conference of the Club on March 3–4 at the site of the World Youth Festival.
Club events

Naturally, as with almost any model, here you can ask questions about why these two parameters were chosen and many others were left out of the study. As in any model, here you can see, if you wish, elements of simplification and clichés. However, that’s not what this is about. I think no one will deny that it is perhaps impossible to characterise the current period in world politics as anything other than global disorder. It is clear that everyone, due to political preferences, can have their own assessment of this and the current events, but a fact is a fact.

Perhaps one of the key questions here is how long this era of global disorder will last. This, as the chain of events of the last year has shown, is by no means reducible to a single conflict and can’t be determined by it alone. Thus, the self-sustaining nature of this disorder, even, if you like, a kind of “stability of disorder” can be quite long-lasting. If the first stage of the authors’ model lasted 45 years, and the second — more than 30, then what prevents the current, third stage from being just as tenacious? What are the chances that within a brief 16-year period, given the authors’ 2040 date for their forecast, something will fundamentally change? If so, what are the driving forces for this?

Thus, the authors in their report pose not just an abstract prediction, but a completely substantive question: what can we do to stop the disorder and transform it into a unified new global mosaic of multipolarity? We agree that finding an answer to this question is fundamentally important.

To a certain extent, the authors in their text, albeit not always directly, put forward arguments in favour of the future self-transformation of global disorder. First of all, they see this opportunity due to the intensification of global threats. They consider climate change to be the chief among these. Sooner or later, according to the authors, this threat will force geopolitical enemies to come to terms with each other and seek a common solution. In the authors’ terminology, this will lead to a new phase of universal solidarity.

There is no doubt that the climate problem is extremely important. Unfortunately, in 16 years it will most likely be felt much more acutely than today. But can this threat overcome geopolitical differences and unite current adversaries? At least for today, we have to give a negative answer. The modern climate agenda represents a whole set of contradictions between various groups of states. In addition to geopolitics, the fundamental difference in interests between oil-producing countries and consuming countries is beginning to play an increasingly serious role here (judging by the recent climate conference in Dubai). 

Mobilising Nationalism to Combat Climate Change
Anatol Lieven
Conventional thinking has it that nationalism is a great obstacle to action against human-generated climate change; and up to now this has indeed often been the case. In future, however, nationalism will often be and have to be a leading force, both in recognising the need to take action against climate change but in mobilising states and populations behind this action.

The difference in approaches between developed and developing countries is extremely acute and has not yet been satisfactorily resolved. The obligations of developed countries to financially compensate the developing world for participating in the green transformation have not been fulfilled and, frankly, are unlikely to be fulfilled in full. Characterisations of this problem as climate neo-colonialism are becoming increasingly common. Furthermore, the trend towards introducing carbon taxation is seen by many only as a purely protectionist step to safeguard their own markets and prevent goods from other regions of the world from competing. Can we expect all this to change in 16 years? Could there be a transformation of disorder into harmonious multipolarity? The report’s authors demonstrate optimism in this regard. We all want to hope for this, too.

By the way, the fact that an acute common threat could not unite the world and end geopolitical confrontation became crystal clear during the coronavirus pandemic. Over the short term, it was taken far more seriously than climate change. Fear and horror gripped almost all the inhabitants of the Earth, as perhaps never before. So what was the end result? There is still the same gap between rich and poor countries in access to medicine and vaccines. The same geopolitical competition now persists in the form of a “vaccine race” between the pharmaceutical poles of the world. At the same time, borders were closed when it came to keeping out the “wrong” vaccines. This is not to mention the “digital concentration camp”, which was very quickly introduced and strengthened during the pandemic. If the direct and immediate fear of death did not unite the nations, why would the climate issue bring it together?

In other sections of the report, the authors deviate from their forecast of the self-transformation of global disorder into harmonious multipolarity. For example, they talk about the need for a conscious and very difficult formation of fundamentally new values, without which overcoming disorder will be impossible. We specifically addressed values in the world of 2040 in the aforementioned text.

Forward to the Future: Between Fear and Hope
The Valdai Club youth conference on March 5 consisted of three thematic sessions and an open discussion. As during the closed-door workshops held on March 3–4, which you can read about here, the participants in the open session were guided by the image of the future presented in the new Valdai Club report “Charting the 2040: Younger Generation Insight on the World in the Making.”
Club events

Another important aspect of the report is that the authors emphasise the gradual maturation and crystallisation of what they call “techno-economic blocs” in the world. However, they can also be called regional associations or poles, to use the old terminology. But it’s not about the name. The key question here is the nature of the interaction between these techno-economic blocs. In various places in the report, the authors repeatedly speak in this regard about “multi-layered fragmentation”, the “fragmentation of the world system”, and “digital multipolarity”. All this is absolutely fair. But from this, in our subjective opinion, two opposite conclusions can be drawn. One is that the stability of global disorder will strengthen. The other, which the authors are inclined to believe, is that the rivalry between techno-economic blocs will sooner or later simply turn out to be unprofitable and therefore will give way to cooperation and, in the future, to a mosaic unity. That is, this is again a certain form of self-transformation. But here, however, questions cannot help but arise about the (self-)management mechanisms of this transformation. It is clear that no one can answer this today. It is always easier to plan for a hundred years ahead than for sixteen.

Will order emerge from the chaos of the modern world? Will this order be harmonious and equal? Or is this another utopia? All these questions undoubtedly concern humanity. The merit of the Valdai Club report’s young authors of is that they were not afraid to directly raise these questions.

The Return of Diplomacy?
Charting the 2040: Younger Generation Insight on the World in the Making
The multipolar landscape of 2040 will resemble a sandbox, offering people the state as just one among various available choices, albeit one that remains the most common.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.