This article was first published in The Present Age magazine Nov. 2018 Vol.4 No.8
This month we commemorate the Armistice of 11 November 1918 and the end of the First World War, although fighting of various kinds went on in numerous countries for the next few years, and although the 1914-1918 conflict would soon be seen by more far-sighted observers as the ‘first round’ of a conflict that would sooner or later begin again. Anthroposophers are familiar with Rudolf Steiner’s statements about nationalism1 being a major contributing factor to what was then called the “Great War” and which he usually referred to, more appropriately, as “the catastrophe”.
Repeatedly over the last seven years or so, since about 2011, one has read or seen in the media, both mainstream and alternative, talk of the struggle between “globalism” and “nationalism”. The former is usually seen in two ways: firstly, socio-economic and geopolitical dimensions are emphasised, such as the establishment by the Anglo-American victors of the Second World War of what is commonly called in the mainstream media “the international rules-based order” of liberal democracy and capitalist economy, by which is usually meant the institutions established since the end of that war (GATT, UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, NATO, EU et al.) and codes of conduct determined by those institutions. These institutions are often claimed by their supporters to have brought peace, prosperity and stability to the world over the last 70s years – though many in developing countries and in parts of Europe would certainly dispute that. Secondly, “globalism” is sometimes seen in terms of the technological developments that have occurred over this same period and especially since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s: the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web, and the economic consequences of these technological developments across the world. Of course, it is not the case that the global economy only emerged after 1945 or even 1991. Rudolf Steiner was not the only one who was pointing out a hundred years ago that a global economy had already been in existence for decades, and arguably, one could claim that the first signs of the global economy really began to develop in the 16th and 17th centuries with the new awareness of the world as a globe and as Europeans advanced their trade and colonisation projects around the world,