Future World Order- A global legitimacy crisis- A critical review
By Stephan Raab
Currently, history seems to be in crisis, with nobody being able to really predict where globalization is heading. In “Future World Order”, the author Dr. Maha Hosain Aziz takes the word “crisis” literally, giving a critical view about a global world and its prospects for a global order.
A world in crisis
“Today, we are all in the same boat with similar threats to our stability. This is what I term global legitimacy crisis, that impacts our geopolitics, politics, economics and society” the author says, to conclude her research (Aziz 2019:19). Looking back, the last decade was a decade shaped by the crisis. Might this be the financial crisis in 2009, the migration crisis in 2015, Brexit in 2016, Covid-19 in 2020, or the still unresolved climate crisis. Many global challenges are shaping global debates. But who will be responsible for setting the global agenda?
Dr. Maha Hosain Aziz is an author who can be considered a global citizen. Having grown up in the Middle East, lived in South-East Asia, and studied in Europe and the US, her academic focus lies on global risk analysis and prediction. During her research, she noticed that independent of political, economic or social makeup, the same threats seem to surface in every country on the globe (Aziz 2019:24), leading to what she defines as a “global legitimacy crisis”(Aziz 2019:19). Put in other words, facing various trends, the existing status quo is queried more and more.
Democracy or dictatorship that's not the question anymore
Already in 2017, the author of this book raised a controversial question: “Democracy or Dictatorship, Does It Even Matter Anymore?” Often argued is that people living in democracies are living happier and more free lives. However, according to her observation, it doesn´t matter anymore in which kind of system citizens are living. Citizens are more unhappy with their government as new technology allows them to be more critical in reviewing the promises made and performance delivered by the governments on how to solve various dimensions of crises.
The Covid-19 lockdown has especially revealed the reasons for the argument brought forward by Aziz. Digitisation has empowered citizens with new tools for expressing their opinion, yet, at the same time putting current ways of economy into question. Referring to the so called “Third Wave of Industrialisation”, a new kind of social contract will be needed. Simultaneously, new actors, foremost in Asia, but also Africa are on the rise, willing to shape the future global order. “Future World Order” argues that this has a special impact on four dimensions: geopolitics, economy, society and eventually politics, unleashing “a “global legitimacy crisis”.
The global dimensions of a crisis
On a global level, nobody can say for sure what the future world order will look like. Some are arguing it will be Asian, or maybe African, with those regions providing the biggest workforce for the future. Others are arguing there will be a Gzero World, with no country willing to take charge. Independent of electoral outcomes in the USA, probably the next phase of globalisation won´t be unipolar and US-led anymore, where countries have to fit this global framework. Whatever the future world order will look like, Aziz argues, there will be a post-hegemonic world order, where no country or group alone has the capability and the legitimacy to set a global agenda (Aziz 2019:43).
On an economic basis, technology will be a decisive source of power. Referring to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin once argued, that whoever leads in Artificial Intelligence will rule the world. The technological change will be so fast that about 80% of jobs performed in 2030 do not exist right now. Many are fearing a loss of jobs and mass unemployment due to automatization.
Nationalist or Globalist- A question of identity
Changing patterns of digital globalisation have provoked a “global identity crisis”. Nowadays, the term “Splinternet” is about to replace the Internet. Various actors such as China or Russia are trying to shape the cyberspace, creating their own version of the Internet. For instance, topics available to be researched freely in the West are highly restricted in China. Facing this competition of values makes it hard to define what should be the leading values for the future to be pursued.
This is even worsened by social media. Previously, the revolution of the Internet was celebrated as a democratic turn, while now social media is used as spreader of xenophobia and nationalism. Once, citizens´ movement were critical against globalization, now governments start to follow a rather nationalistic path, trying to “protect” and shun their economies and societies from the global world (Aziz 2019: 106). Society seems to be split between nationalists and globalists. Therefore, Aziz proposes, when digitisation has provoked such a crisis about our global identity, digital means might also be used as a tool to “crowdsource” a global identity, starting a debate about what might be the global values, that will determine the globe (Aziz 2019: 116).
Political Crisis: A new social contract:
“Any legitimate government today, in the democratic or non-democratic context, needs to account for more informed, activist, tech-savvy citizenry” (Aziz 2019:70). Citizens today are empowered by information technology, and all around the globe started to question the status quo (Aziz 2019:20). The consequence is a “decline of State Society Relations, in which increasing numbers of citizens no longer believe in their leaders, governments, political systems or certain ways- and they are speaking out in violent and non-violent ways” (Aziz 2019:61). Legitimacy of a governance in democratic or non-democratic systems derives from the performance of governance and coping with the challenges described in the sections before. Taking this into mind, Aziz argues, tech-sayv citizens require a new kind of social contract, based on three criteria.
First, expectations of citizens have to expressed towards the government, supported by technology. Second, tech-empowered citizens want more dialogue, where digitisation might be a channel of communication. Third, citizens want to have more input on policy, and getting their proposals heard (Aziz 2019: 71:78). All this requires a new kind of policymaking, where she argues “We need our political leader to inform us of this threat and explain how they will help us during this transition period” (Aziz 2019:95).
A critical review
The conclusion of an argumentation based on crisis might sound bleak, yet this book takes crisis in its literal sense. Crisis, derived from the old Greek roots, stands for assessment and reflection. Put that way, Aziz has a achieved a comprehensive introduction into current thoughts, critical thinkers, ideas, and trends shaping our future. Obviously, “Future World Order” raises more questions than it answers. Readers hoping for a definite prediction of the next future world order might be disappointed. Anyone curious to delve deeper will find food for thought here.
Crisis, according to Dr. Maha Hosain Aziz, can be understood as invitation to think about the future. Translated into the words of the author “global legitimacy crisis” can be summarized by following: “Think big, think small - either way, please just think.” (Aziz 2019:139).
 Aziz; Maha Hosain (2019): Future World Order- A global legitimacy crisis cured by tech? Amazon KDP.
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