[Book in Greek] The End of the Great Deviation: From Ukraine and the pandemic to the shaping of the new global order | Dimitris V. Peponis

Author: Dimitris V. Peponis

Edited by Sotiris Mitralexis & Stefanos Reppas

published in Greek in TOPOS Books’ mέta series

What kind of world will we live in? What era is dawning before us?

We are living through the sunset of a world order and the dawn of a new macro-historical cycle.

Taking the war in Ukraine and the crisis of the pandemic as its starting point, the book outlines the shaping of a new global order and discusses the completion of three different and partly overlapping historical cycles: the post-Cold War order (1991-), the post-war world (1945-) and a great era of human history (19th century-), the ‘Age of the Great Deviation’. By the middle of the 21st century, and with 2037 as a landmark year, the three historical cycles that have defined the metamorphoses of order during the last two centuries will have been completed: the Great Deviation will expire.

From history to political geography, from the completion of the American hegemonic period to the return of Asia, from technology to demography, and from modernity to postsecularism, this book attempts a long-range dissection of developments, with the aim of providing a tool for understanding the world-historical changes taking place on the cusp of the end of an era and the beginning of a new macro-historical cycle.

A tool for understanding our world; a dangerous book | Introduction by Sotiris Mitralexis

This book by Dimitris V. Peponis outlines ‘the end of the great deviation’ and ‘the shaping of the new global order’; it begins apropos of ‘the Ukraine war and the pandemic crisis’, but the end thatit describes and analyses is not quite that recent in nature – since the foundational coordinates of the era that emerges after this end and its succeeding state are not dictated by the usual, ‘journalistic’ rules of current affairs. Essentially, the book deals with the closure, completion and eclipse of three distinct yet partly overlapping historical cycles:

  • a cycle of about thirty years (~1991–2023): the end of the post-Cold War (and US-centric) order;
  • a cycle of about eighty years (~1945–2020s): the end of the post-war (and West-centric, or more correctly North-centric) world;
  • and a cycle of about two hundred years, two centuries (early 19th century–mid-21st century): the completion of a wider era, Eurocentric at first and West-centric afterwards, characterised by Anglo-Saxon primacy: the end of the Age of the Great Deviation, as it is characteristically referred to in the book.

Although the title of the book predisposes its readers for a study in international politics with elements of history or, as we have learned to call it, ‘international relations’, we are used to referring in such terms to discourses and analyses of a more topical nature[1] or, if you like, of a journalistic nature – even if they seem quite scholarly in nature. What we have here is a project claiming a more comprehensive, a deeper tracing of the coordinates of the world in which we live and, by implication, of the world that is gradually yet quite discernibly emerging: it is a ‘broader’ tool for understanding our world.

Before addressing theUkraine war, the book gives from its opening pages a preview of the ‘bigger picture’, a brief outline of the elements and, as we said, the coordinates ofan emerging world. It proceeds to study a precondition forunderstanding the nature and stakes of what apparently began in 2022 on the European continent with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, that is to say, a reflection on the world wars that preceded it in the 20th century: the Great War (WWI) and its sequel (WWII), the distortions in their historiography, their vital fronts and their unresolved nature. Subsequently, the book studies the causes and stakes of the Ukraine war and continues with the dissection of the central issues of the wider field, which largely transcends the territory of Ukraine per se: issues of political geography, the nature of war, peace and deterrence, the position and state of the European Union, strategic dilemmas, ‘West’ and ‘East’, ‘North’ and ‘South’, the uses of historiography, future possibilities. The first part of the book deals with these and is followed, in the second part, by a more comprehensive exploration of the conclusion of the period of American hegemony in world affairs. The third part returns to elements and patterns of the previous ones, yet from a different perspective – illuminating, among other things, elements of political geography, demographics, ideologies, and macrostructures beyond the news cycle. The book concludes with a selective reading of the developments during the COVID-19 pandemic and especially during the lockdowns and the use of technology in that context as a further indication of the beginning of a new historical cycle, concomitant to the previous readings from a different perspective and starting point. In a way, the book as a whole is an expanded version of the note with which it closes: a chronology that a scholar and researcher of our times might write from a possible and distant future.

Instead of ‘choosing sides’ in all kinds of dichotomies and dilemmas of our time, the book presupposes the demonstration of the false nature ofthese dichotomies and dilemmas: ‘West and East’ or ‘the West and the Rest’, ‘liberals versus illiberals’, ‘democracies versus autocracies’, ‘progress’ versus ‘conservatism’, ‘future’ versus ‘past’, at least in the way we have come to understand them in the context of certain historiographical schematisations. It undermines the very backbone of the dichotomies with which we have learned, or been taught, to structure our thinking, leading us to conclusions in our absence, as if by an autopilot. Since, as we say at mέta, the old tools are broken; the old rules simply do not apply anymore. In this respect, this is a dangerous book.

This book is published on the initiative of mέta, the Athens-based Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation. Dimitris V. Peponis has been collaborating with the mέta’s research sector since 2021, and the main fruit of this collaboration is the present book, co-edited by yours truly and Stefanos Reppas –whom I’d like to emphatically thank from these pages. Already from its title, mέta, the Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation signals the objective of engaging with an era measured in centuries (the two plus centuries of capitalism, in this case) and with that which succeeds it, yet is still pending; by referring to postcapitalism, i.e. to what comes after capitalism, mέta joins a discussion on a period that rather escapes the limits, scope and horizon of daily discourses on the political, as far as its scope is concerned. In particular, the introductory text of mέta’s research sector states that

‘It has been noted that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, invoking the need for serious reflection on the end of the existing order and a transition to a postcapitalist way of life. Yet the future of the world economy is but one of the aspects of postcapitalism. After all, capitalism itself might be prima facie an economic system, but it has evolved into a comprehensive political, cultural, anthropological and international order. Postcapitalism, however it might evolve, is not merely the modification of an economic system; it will prove to be a new political, cultural, anthropological, civilisational paradigm —  a new era indeed. A dystopian one, a utopian one, or anything in between. And the turbulences of the gradual transition are to be witnessed by all. The oligarchic decline of liberal democracy engenders countless variations of authoritarian tendencies; the supply chain of tributes for the global minotaur are increasingly interrupted; novel desiderata for emancipation are articulated; the chasms between megacities and provinces nurture silent, cold civil wars; the emergence of a non-Anglophone, non-Atlantic, non-liberal, non-bipartisan state as the planet’s largest economy is just around the corner, overturning a two-centuries-old order; the changes in global demography and geopolitics are vertiginous; climate change is threatening our very existence. Transformations of gigantic proportions radically reshape the world before our very eyes.’

The analyses, concepts and frameworks of the present work by Dimitris V. Peponis do not necessarily follow the specific iteration ofthe broader view referred to in the above rather indicative diagnosis, they chart their own path, focusing primarily on the causes and conditions of the colossal changes in international politics and beyond; however, it will probably become obvious to the reader that the present work is an essential, arguably irreplaceable, precondition for any analysis claiming a range such as the one above. In this context, the editors express our certainty that the reader holds in their hands a truly valuable book: a tool for understanding our world which, if anything, has been missing from the public sphere and debate – and whose crucial nature will unfold and reveal itself in time, beyond the spinning magic mirrors of current affairs.

Sotiris Mitralexis

PhD in Political Science and International Relations

mέta’s research director

[1] A potentially useful note: although this book is not about monitoring current events but about the bigger picture, it is worth clarifying that it was completed at the end of November 2022, i.e. that it takes into account the events that took place up to that time.