Seeing the systemic roots of this risk can help us avert catastrophe and build resilience
A senior European Commission economist has warned that a Third World War is an extremely “high probability” in coming years due to the disintegration of global capitalism.
In a working paper published last month, Professor Gerhard Hanappi argued that since the 2008 financial crash, the global economy has moved away from “integrated” capitalism into a “disintegrating” shift marked by the same sorts of trends which preceded previous world wars.
Professor Hanappi is Jean Monnet Chair for Political Economy of European Integration — an European Commission appointment — at the Institute for Mathematical Models in Economics at the Vienna University of Technology. He also sits on the management committee of the Systemic Risks expert group in the EU-funded European Cooperation in Science and Technology research network.
In his new paper, Hanappi concludes that global conditions bear unnerving parallels with trends before the outbreak of the first and second world wars.
Key red flags that the world is on a slippery slope to a global war, he finds, include:
- the inexorable growth of military spending;
- democracies transitioning into increasingly authoritarian police states;
- heightening geopolitical tensions between great powers;
- the resurgence of populism across the left and right;
- the breakdown and weakening of established global institutions that govern transnational capitalism;
- and the relentless widening of global inequalities.
These trends, some of which were visible before the previous world wars, are reappearing in new forms. Hanappi argues that the defining feature of the current period is a transition from an older form of “integrating capitalism” to a new form of “disintegrating capitalism”, whose features most clearly emerged after the 2008 financial crisis.
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