Please help us set our editorial agenda for the next 10 years – send us a postcard responding to the following commission:
“Imagine that it is the year 2050, and against the odds, open and pluralist forms of democracy prevail over vast swathes of the earth’s surface. What is the single most welcome shift, expected or unexpected but transformative, that made this happen in the intervening years? What did that change have to overcome? Talk about the world, or your own neighbourhood, or anything in between.”Send us just 250 words or less with a picture to illustrate it. Submit yours here.
The failure of market fundamentalism and the rapid rise of depression across the Western world spurred on advances and interest in happiness economics. The findings debunked the notion of a positive correlation between economic wealth and wellbeing. The public was ready to hear the message: Money doesn’t make us happy!
Support for egalitarian economic policy in the OECD countries swelled as an appeal to fairness became an argument from self-interest (everyone benefits from a more equal society; the Spirit Level became a pivotal text).
Political narratives feeding on competitiveness and jealousy were undermined as the ‘you don’t deserve that’ culture floundered. (Much easier to argue that an individual hasn’t ‘earned’ their wealth than it is to propose that they don’t deserve to be happy.)
All nations with high-income economies now determine their success through twin measures: GDP and happiness index.
The explosion of fresh, innovative thinking has been likened to the start of the Renaissance. Movements for democracy are gaining ground, fuelled by the energy of cross-class solidarity.
There are new dangers: We are seeing the mutation of the individualistic, zero-sum logic of capitalism to accommodate a world where happiness is the new commodity. Intrusive state policy has been enacted in an attempt to maximize wellbeing.
But there is optimism, too. While the political and ‘expert’ classes attempt to tell us why and how we can be happy, the ability of citizens to communicate and organize in the information age is making it difficult for them to re-assert their old control.
As new forms of happiness emerge every day, calls for open debate and democracy strengthen. We know that this new world will be swiftly co-opted unless we transfer power into the hands of the people.
In 2008 the world experienced one of its most important economic crises. A few years later the banking system completely collapsed and the markets imploded. For a short period of time it was chaos because the structure we had known for centuries had suddenly disappeared. But looking back, now, in 2050, I think it was the push humanity needed to rethink itself. This total collapse which occurred in 2020 and which everyone fiercely feared for years before it happened created the tabula rasa we needed. We – politicians and citizens of the world – were too scared to put a stop to a mechanism we thought was inescapable. Its self-destruction was a disaster which we turned into an opportunity.
Today the world still works globally but around a system of solidarity and mutual aid. Our values have changed and we have been able to build something new. Money is no more the almighty ruler of our conducts. Equality is. Thus everyone has access to the best education and to a good standard of living. People don’t live to survive anymore, they live to accomplish things. This is the beginning of an age when visions are enacted and when people work for the community.
Hello from 2050. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that OpenDemocracy still exists and has expanded into education, film and art. The bad news is that an advanced form of democracy does not exist. Corruption is now rampant in most countries and governments are ill-equipped to control disease outbreaks, terrorism and violence. In the 2030s, the oceans reclaimed about one tenth of land on earth, and over three thousand cities ceased to exist. Hundreds of millions of people were moved into newly built, crowded housing estates further inland. The "West" lost most of its wealth during this time and whatever was left is now being spent on building new cities, managing the mass movement of populations, and resource wars. The global economy has been in recession for 20 years. Many nations that existed in 2011 no longer live as one. The people who used to live in Chile, Guyana, Suriname, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Greece, the Maldives, Uruguay, Sierra Leone, Liberia and many other coastal nations are now living in other parts of the world as refugees. Most countries are run by political extremists or religious ideologists. The United Nations still exists and is working with a 4th set of development goals. They have all failed. But the human spirit has not died. Social movements have become a true organizing force in most societies. Music, film, books and art are keeping us alive. Happy birthday OpenDemocracy!
In 2011, many seemed to forget the events that had taken place over the previous 50 years. Those who were denounced as bloodthirsty dictators, oppressing their own people, were saluted as the great saviours of those very people they later targeted. The leaders of the ‘free’ world, authors promoting liberal democratic values, together with the so-called 'independent media' supported the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s rise to power and Saddam Hussein launching war against neighbouring Iran. In 2011, if one showed prudence in praising the arming of Libyan rebels, or recalled the training and arming of Islamist groups in Afghanistan to counter the Soviet threat, one would have been called a cynic. Yet, today, we see that democracy and equality were not achieved through mediatic revolutions in one year in the Middle East, but rather as a result of a long and painful process, as in all other major changes in history. Today, as we look back and evaluate the past 40 years, we see what we would have seen then: progress, but also the same mistakes eternally repeated.
It's 2050. It's pretty good here. Definitely better than where you are, from what I recall. People around the world have set aside all those outmoded tyrannies, and now things like dictatorships are incredibly rare. Not like your times, when they're ten-a-penny. These days nations seem to behave a bit more reasonably, since their old hostilities have given way to a more trusting atmosphere.
If I had to give a reason for this fraternity we've enjoyed for the last few years, I'd probably have to point to the Oil Crisis. The crisis being that there was none left. I remember how shocked everyone was! They'd been saying the oil would run out in 20 years since the '50s, so it was a bit like the boy who cried wolf.
Either way, the oil running out really made a mess of things for a few decades, but the worst of it's well behind us now. Like I said, the main thing about the Oil Crisis is that it brought the world together. It was such an all-encompassing disaster, and during those painful first few years nations reached out to support one another. Tyrannies, on the whole, couldn't sustain the pressure and collapsed. Popular democracy spread in their wake.
I recall that there was growing agitation for Democratic reform even before the crisis, but the turmoil of the following years was definitely the spur it needed to bring about such a rapid transformation. It wasn't a comfortable process, but you can't argue with the results.
It is the year 2050. To think that only 39 years ago the world was full of selfishness, consumerism, stereotypes, religious prejudice and violence, is hard to believe. But so it was, the human race reached a point of self-destruction that no one thought could be stopped. Everything that was created to help us humans was misused for self-destruction instead.
Everything changed thanks to the people who began to get tired of lies and corruption and decided to do something about it. It all began with peaceful protests. First, protests against corrupt governments, then protests demanding fundamental rights such as better and more accessible education for all. The protests always continued to be peaceful but began to be more active. People began to protest against big corporations by not using their products and using alternatives to them. New businesses began and were co-operatively administered, with shared ownership and shared profits. This kind of protest was a major blow against corporations.
People became so united that now there is a sense of understanding and community locally and globally. We are now truly ruling, the way a democracy should be. Developing countries understood that selling their natural resources wasn’t the answer to poverty. Instead policies of natural restoration were created, better education was implemented. Investing in the people was the answer to our crisis. With better education and everyone’s resolution of doing good no matter who, the world is what writers from the past would have called utopic.
It was hard at the beginning but now that the fruits of those decisions are flourishing the world is very different from what 39 years ago we thought it would be.
The years between 2015 and 2030 were catastrophic on a scale that made World War II look like a minor skirmish. Ecological disaster – including epidemics that spread because of global warming, resource wars, famine, desertification, and rising ethnic and international tension, which led to nuclear war – ultimately led to the death of much of the world’s human population (not to mention the plant and animal species that were wiped out). The global economy imploded and vast areas of the earth contaminated by radioactivity. By the year 2030 fewer than a billion human survivors were left, scattered over a poisoned and depleted earth, living at close to subsistence level.
Since then the situation has begun to improve. The only thing that has put humanity back on the path toward revival is the preservation of knowledge. Although the severity of the crisis was traumatic to an unprecedented degree, the lesson was learned: this disaster happened because human beings continued doing what they had always done, even when the dire consequences of carrying on business as usual, which had initially been virtually unimaginable, became everyday reality. Today, with a much smaller human population on the globe, forced to use renewable sources of energy, because there is no other kind available, we are trying to build a just and sustainable world society. We have seen where our folly led us. At last we are trying to live together with wisdom.
2018 has been very exciting - the United Nations and the International Peace-Keeping Force organised a Conference of All the Dictators in an un-nameable island destination, where each one explained why they were in power and what they gained from it. And they were not allowed to leave until they had returned all the money they had milked from overseas aid, disaster and famine relief funds, and their own business dealings, to the Global Great Upward Levelling Campaign. This followed the success of the international campaign that built on the decision of the major billionaires in the world donating a small but significant part of their wealth to The Initial Inequalities Repair Campaign, started in the US and soon spreading to ex-Russian countries, then to India and China. The combination of funds in these two campaigns now stands at $45 billion, to be administered by a small coalition of aid agencies and representatives of target communities.
With the Communist Party’s invitation to the Four Freedoms movement to form China’s next government and hold elections, the biggest democratic transformation in history is under way. The Communist Party is abdicating, just as its Polish counterpart did 61 years ago. That started a democratic landslide, though one that involved far fewer people than the current epochal event.
China’s path to democratization has been unique, though with parallels to previous events. Early this century China embarked on the development path that led much smaller societies such as (former South) Korea and Taiwan, first to wealth and then to democracy, with the people demanding that authoritarian leaders stop treating them like retarded children. The steady refinement of communications technology made an important contribution. Where once technological dinosaurs like Google and Cisco (remember them?) could enable a government to control what its people saw and heard, today’s technology allows every individual to connect directly to every other through the Orbital Web, 36,000 kilometers up, making censorship a thing of the past.
What doomed China’s Communist Party was China’s demographic transition. By 2035 it was clear that China’s meteoric economic growth was over, as the pension and health costs of an aging population ate up investment resources. As with Eastern Europe in the 1980s and Southern Europe in the 2020s, economic crisis fostered systemic political crisis. The Four Freedoms movement offers aging Chinese a significant, though reduced proportion of the national product in return for eliminating the hukou system and equalizing economic opportunity for those still able to work.
Indirectly, China’s democratization was promoted by reform in the United States and Northern Europe. Early this century the electorates of the traditional democracies embarked on policies of fiscal, social, and, perforce, foreign-policy retrenchment. They lost their dominant position in global affairs but were rewarded with decades of strong, long-term growth. They preserved the idea of democracy, governed by a prudent and conservative electorate, as a viable and attractive social model. Its influence on the Four Freedoms movement is clear.
After the “authoritarian scare” of the first part of this century the Chinese transition tips the global balance decisively in favor of liberty. But perhaps one should be careful about making sweeping predictions; people were making them in the 1990s too.
I wish my father was alive on this mid-Century New Year. Most of the predictions he used to make and get excited about in 2011, have come to be. He would rejoice to see the end of the American Century Empire, with a 'whimper' and not with a 'bang' – it was just as he had prayed for. He would have danced with us in 2025, when all special interest lobbies were banned.
This happened after the full disclosure of how the US had been bankrupted by the wars fought by it – for, and on behalf of, Israel, banned unanimously by young Senators & Congressmen elected without using 'funds' from lobbies. He would have looked around and seen a World without military alliances, military bases, IMF, WB, Hedge Funds, Vampire Multi-Nationals and Gargantuan banks and merciless Pharmaceutical Giants. He would have been the happiest man on Earth with today's United Palestine, United Indian Sub-Continent, United Arab Republics, United Korea, United Turkic Republics and United Europe living side by side in peace. He would have loved to ride solar battery-powered cars, trains and aeroplanes! He wouldn't have understood how to use all the gadgets we use today to learn, communicate and work but sure he would have learned fast and enjoyed them.
I wish he was here with us.
Salamat....Greetings from the free Palestine!
It is 2050 and I am sending this postcard from the Palestinian post office located near the Damascus Gate in the old city of Jerusalem. Finally the conflict and occupation reached an end and the people started to breathe freedom and enjoy living in peace. It is great to see the dove of peace all over the place after years of bloodshed and struggle against the occupation.
Eventually, the world understood that ethnic cleansing, colonization and occupation cannot be compatible with freedom, democracy and human dignity. Looking back to preceding decades, many challenges were overcome. The United Nations was restructured to become more effective and legitimate, the BRICs took the lead, no more veto in the Security Council, real democracy spread having been rooted in the new Arab World, international law was enforced, the gaps between the nations vanished and poverty became part of a history that can be only seen in the museums. Universal values such as freedom, justice and dignity transformed from rhetoric into action, and the Palestinians became more united than ever before.
These transformative shifts urged global citizens to become more united for peace and ruled out of order any fellow human being having to survive under occupation and live without freedom. A Tahrir Square was created in each country around the globe in front of the parliaments and hunger strikes and peaceful Intifadas took pace, all under one slogan ‘free Palestine...Al-Hurrya Li Filistin’. After a few months of this global citizen-centric movement which aimed to prioritize human dignity, Palestinians finally began to live in freedom and peace.
Thank goodness I live in 2050! The nonsense they used to believe about work … I couldn’t have borne it! Doing anything as long as you’re working, and buying anything as long as you’re buying! Making ‘providing work’ the excuse for every kind of development! Economies based on continual growth!
We’ve now divided the production of things from the maintenance of things, and all other kinds of work.
We sometimes complain about the stuff we have to do in production – hard work in large-scale farming and industry, in quarries and mines, sometimes for five or six years of our lives – but we can’t think of anything fairer or more logical. If we want things enough we produce them, sharing the work.
We’ve had to organise the basics of world production and distribution to survive - but we accept the limitations, the haphazard natural distribution of raw materials and energy sources. Luxuries are manufactured after needs are met, according, as always, to who buys them.
There are disagreements about need and want, the quality of what we make, and the marketing of new inventions. We make as much as we can ourselves in our localities. Globally, each country trades its excess and imports other peoples’ – its not an exact science, but fair enough.
Perfecting our democracies is freeing us from dictatorship in production as well as politics.
It all began to change when people got to the point where they’d try anything – and everything was tried. Most ideas were being tried out already, or had been on a small scale many years before … theories were abundant!
How did we make it to a better world? Three things happened: to state power, corporate power and human society. They came to a head in 2020 but had been building up over the decade after the great financial crash from 2008 to 2014, the long Egyptian revolution, the implosion of the Murdoch empire, and the last US troops fleeing Afghanistan. These events ended the ‘war on terror’ and ‘neo-liberalism’. Only scholars now recall these terms. The world’s 2020 revolution brought clarity to our democracy. What it began then took 25 years to complete.
The three were: 1) In 2018 after years of preparation an insider leaked all the files and codes on the “international deep state”. This was (and for you still is) the secret alliance of intelligence, police and security services who monitor and log citizens everywhere. It began with terrorist threats and was captured by its own logic into an unaccountable network of agencies linking Beijing and Washington. Exposed we broke the power of the deep state. 2) It existed in symbiosis with corporate power and after massive riots commercial confidentiality was abolished. All financial transactions are now published ending monopolies and ensuring markets serve humankind. 3) To achieve this double revolution we had to trust ourselves rather than political parties and leaders who are bought off by the deep state and corporate monopolies.
Networked politics created the peaceful, powerful self-organisation that ended fear, released potential and proved lasting. The Spanish were first, the Chinese were the biggest and Californians made it fun.
In 2011 a third of the world lived in relative luxury at the expense of the other two thirds who survived at various levels of subsistence and poverty. However, it soon became clear that it was ‘game-over’ for this luxuriating minority. Governments desperately tried to keep the wheels turning in the increasingly stressed globalised economy but to no avail. The ‘growth at any cost’ paradigm had run into the sand of resource depletion, runaway climate change and financial chaos. The idea of ‘recovery’ was soon replaced by the reality of crisis as Peak Oil steepened the slope of the down-curve beyond what financial pundits with their ‘monetary cycles’ had ever imagined possible. This trend was further exacerbated by climate change that, by 2020, was destabilizing global food production with increasing force.
The next twenty years were characterized, as we know only to well, by devastating resource wars, famines and mass migrations that completely redrew the world map, eradicating the post World War 2 patterns of power and influence. A semblance of stability was only restored when the by then defunct United Nations was reconstituted to oversee negotiations between the devastated nations of the former European Union, the fragmented remnants of the United States and the new power centres of the ex-Russian federation, South America, China and the Middle East.
From the chaos a new consensus began to emerge. Desperate politicians, weary of the old Right-Left binaries found the courage to embrace the radical solutions that had been pioneered by early C21st political movements, ceding centralized power to increasingly diverse localized communities and, of necessity, building a society based on citizenship and sustainable ways of life.
Once the Quebeckers finally declared their independence, it could not be long before the Maritime provinces, isolated from the rest of English-speaking Canada, sought accession to the United States. They were followed soon enough by the remainder. Conservatives in the Senate were opposed, knowing that the political balance would be shifted decisively against them. But it was hard to resist something that had been so clearly envisaged by the Founding Fathers. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the nine new states had been “preadmitted” all along since 1787.
In 2025 two of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates and cyborg Warren Buffett, pronounced that Marx had been right all along about the general direction of capitalism. They pledged to put their fortunes at the disposal of any movement that promised to address the enlarged nation’s mounting economic and social problems through a generally socialist programme. In 2030 a “coalition of the people” captured both houses of Congress, the Presidency and enough states to permit a fundamental overhaul of the 250 year old constitution. The new settlement placed severe curbs on corporate and religious interference in politics and began to rein back on extremes of wealth and income through the tax system. Individual states began to pursue welfarist, even collectivist, social policies. But perhaps the coalition’s boldest and most far-reaching reform was the constitutional ban on paid-for advocacy, which finally put an end to that bane of the American way of life – the legal profession.
The end of neo-liberal capitalism has been the most critical development in the history of modern democracy. When the struggle began, during the last century, the odds against defeating an economic model so entrenched in Western thinking seemed formidable. The vulnerable middle classes as well as the vast armies of the poor seemed defenceless against the power of elites who controlled multinational capital and the governments that supported them. What swung the balance in favour of the people was the formation of supra-national political movements capable of acting simultaneously across borders in the same way as capital. As a result, governments, corporations, and agencies like the IMF, IADB and WTO came under pressure everywhere to place education, social welfare, and the environment at the heart of productive activity. Awareness of the potential to counteract the impersonal forces of market fundamentalism became a catalyst for a new democratic awakening in which people were able to exercise broad authority over their working lives and over economic policy.
The profile of commercial activity has necessarily also changed. Free trade treaties have been consigned to the rubbish dump of history as socially disruptive and undemocratic. Since firms depend on state-financed infrastructure, they are now treated as joint ventures with the people. Purely private enterprise, therefore, no longer exists. Companies pay tax both on profits and on their environmental footprint and disruption of human settlement. This has dramatically modified their willingness to invest in despoliation, and made it impossible for them to do so without local consent.
Its 2050. We’re in a better, safer place than we were. It’s happened because all the positive trends that had been consistently fostered became integrated into a popular, global, wholesome whole: - A new culture. For example, and most importantly, recruits to the armed forces started joining up to rescue and protect, to learn civilian trades, to see the world, to test their growth, mental and physical - none of them any longer needed to learn how to destroy for lack of a personal alternative - they refused to destroy unless they chose to do so. Their bosses began to talk more of ‘gaining hearts and minds’. Co-operation not colonization has now become the rule – in politics and businesses alike. Large pieces of armoury stand rusting to be shivered at.
The new culture became because people began to think and act for themselves, to question and challenge inexorably, and to take responsibility for what they did and what they didn’t do. And by now they count costs in the round - and this liberation costs.
Its purchased by trillions of face-to-face communities sprinkled liberally over the earth, each of two hundred or so house-holds, being places dedicated to perpetual experimentation, to listening and watching – to being the social nurseries of each new generation; to being so small and so local that they can each address all aspects of society – political, educational, medical, agricultural, industrial … and can each study every person’s role in due turn as producer, customer, citizen, carer… giver and taker … to being places in which everybody is enabled to join in and flourish; to being familiar, useful, supportive places, links between the household and the greater world outside.
39 years from now, the world experienced the change noone expected. Hundreds have given their lives to bring about the notion of open democracy that we now cherish. Tunisia brought the French Revolution to the Middle East not only to liberate and raise awareness for the Arabs and Muslims but also to challenge the democratic principles that prevailed in what was considered as the flourishing democracies of the West.
Today, we proudly accept diversity as the main tenet of our open democratic principles; we regretfully remember the islamophobic democracy of France, the racist democracy of US, the overrated democracy of UK and most importantly the assimilatory 'democratic principles' of the EU and USA's violent spread of democracy around the globe; we are reminded of the great debt we owe those that the world's democracies considered as backward, second-hand and rebel, those that changed the shameful use of a democratic mask to pursue undemocratic and colonizing aims. Those who brought back to the world's stage the truly democratic, open and pluralist, principles that once inspired humanity in France and that the USA proudly represented.
We stand today, in 2050, 39 years away from the most remarkable shift that modernity has experienced, praying that we won't repeat history and await yet another France or Tunisia to emerge in order to remind us that once open democracy is corrupted with nationalist, xenophobic and hateful aims, the world falls into the unsafe hands of those who are good at political manipulation...
The single most welcome transformation that, after many decades of dedicated hard work, means that open democracy prevails worldwide is the emancipation of women, who are finally able to fully enjoy their rights and fulfil their human potential. In 2050, women are equally valued members of societies and, as poverty is no longer feminised and women are fairly compensated for their work, our societies are both more prosperous and more stable.
Securing girls in the global south and worldwide full access to their right to education was perhaps the key victory, but the shifts in attitudes and wholesale reform of social and political structures was equally vital: rape is now fully recognised as violent crime for which perpetrators are punished, female agency is recognised, and the demise of exclusivist identities mean women’s bodies and lives are no longer the punching-bag of historical change. Increasingly meaningless borders don’t hinder the flow of resources and information, and women have full autonomy over their bodies, and are empowered to exercise their human rights. Homophobia, the virgin/whore dichotomy, social practices which marginalise humans on the basis of their sex, gender or sexual identity now seem universally absurd, and it’s no longer a novelty to see women in key positions of global political and cultural life. As women are now significantly more able to fulfil their full human potential, tackling the other enormous problems of our era – the climate change crisis, and massive global inequalities – has become significantly easier. In 2050, identifying or being identified as female no longer curtails your capability as a human being.
It’s 2050, and how the world has been transformed over the past 40 years or so! In so many ways, they have been 40 years in the desert for God’s people, which is how humanity is now generally known. First, there was the terrible conflagration in the Indian subcontinent, when Al-Qaeda-inspired Kashmiri separatists and sympathisers within the Pakistani military launched a nuclear attack on New Delhi and Mumbai, leading to the inevitable Indian retaliation against Islamabad. Now, those terrible days, which spread nuclear contamination across Asia and beyond, can be seen as the dying embers of a religious extremism that seems incomprehensible to us now.
But first, there was the devastating humanitarian and economic crisis resulting from the nuclear strikes to contend with, which took us to 2033: that momentous year that started with the killings on the Temple Mount, which then spread out across Israel like a terrible second Holocaust, but culminating in those heady days of autumn when the leaders of all the world’s faiths came to make their solemn act of repentance and vows of reconciliation. Who could have predicted the miraculous collapse of the walls of separation between the faiths, just like – in another sphere – the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dismantling of the Israeli Security Wall in 2031?
Now of course, we can see the providential path that led from those first visions in Bosnia back in 1981, just ten years before the war that set Christian against Christian, and Christian against Muslim. It has taken these terrible wars and atrocities, not to mention the disastrous effects of climate change, to teach us humans that the only way we can address the challenges we face is to work together in a spirit of open democracy, brotherhood and peace. And now we can look forward to the promised new era when humanity shall live as one body, united in faith and in shared enjoyment of the fruits of the earth.
Gradually citizens of many places on Earth became aware that an energy revolution was within reach. Energy needs could be satisfied by innovative technologies using abundant and infinite sources of fuel. Free energy allowed people to get rid of their energy ties. As a result even the poorest accessed a decent life. The political, social and economical organisation of the world at all levels changed drastically thanks to people's independence.
Hello from 2050. ‘The markets’ have not failed – but non-productive speculation has, and the perpetual-growth model of economics is long gone. Since 2025, tremendous amounts of public funding has subsidised ‘economically-inefficient’ programmes, whose efficiency has increased dramatically. High-speed rail lines now run between Dublin, Sapporo, Marrakesh, and Tehran.
Neither have ‘nations’ failed, but power monopolised in states is gone – nations are civic entities with highly-permeable boundaries, and ethno-fascism has no significant foothold anywhere in the world. Adjustment to GPS and the easy outmanoeuvring of tracking have made the surveillance state obsolete, and people look back with embarrassment at Maoist China, Juche-era North Korea, and the 1979-2027 era of the West Atlantic Confederation now known as ‘Soviet Britain’.
All drugs are legal, formally or de facto, leading to decreases in gangsterism, dependency, and profiteering. In the late 2030s the taboos on ‘cyborg’ technologies such as neural interfacing and memory add-ons were overcome. There are still loose nukes, but they are not an effective terrorist weapon. The demand of the global south for technological and political literacy has meant that world inequality is plummeting – but also that social class has re-emerged as an ongoing core critique, as questions of poverty are seen more holistically.
There is relative peace and stability in the world today, thanks to the people or global citizens as I must say. When the political establishments failed, when the bickering over environment change, nuclear deterrence, resource sharing became just too much - then the global citizens sprung into action. Why is that we were still referring to another human being as being from this nationality or that one? He/She was a fellow human being after all. He/She had an equal right over the natural resources as much as we had. The global citizens then helped the world in inculcating respect towards each others traditions, customs, beliefs and society. It was through harmonious understanding of each other's society that peace was accomplished. It was through cooperative understanding that wars were stopped. It was through mutual respect that agreements were arrived at and nature was saved.
It is 2050 and local communities all over the world are celebrating the calm and sense of reason brought about the achievement of popular population control. This is the first Festival of Paradise Regained, assuming, controversially, that once upon a time there was an ideal society. (In small communities maybe ... but no-one really complains about the title). It all began with anxiety about the imminent exhaustion of non-renewable resources and the threat of battles over them; countered by the growing mantra of Sustainability. The process of addressing these issues began with the vast majority of people at the 'grassroots', who sought advice from their trusted scientists and intellectuals who had managed to convince them through tireless debate - using enhanced communication - that there could be enough for everyone by sharing and exchanging - if optimum levels of population, however fluctuating - could be met in each geographical region. Science has produced the means of contraception, nature has ensured that every couple can have at least one child ... Rational Hope has sprung eternal and overcome the delicately personal aspect of the issue, which aspect also bestows personal power and control on each individual and couple to choose-and-do what they want to do. International conglomerates could no longer claim that their over-development met the legitimate needs of their customers and they have split into many small parts due to lack of custom.
In 2050, the World Social Forum entered its 10th anniversary since it became a globalised event, concurrently held every year in Beijing, Berlin, Johannesburg, New Dehli, New York and São Paulo. It was the year the number of participants broke the one million mark. Here participants enthusiastically debated about the creation of a more democratic, egalitarian and sustainable world system.
It is hard to pin down the exact beginning of this global movement. But the background is essentially this: over the past few decades, the world has become increasingly inegalitarian, both within and across countries, as the result of a blind faith in neo-liberalism; political systems are not really democratic; in democracies and autocracies alike, there exists a privileged class with seemingly unlimited greed at the expense of the rest.
A prolonged economic and ecological crisis three decades into the 21st century is all that is needed to ignite social movements which swiped across the globe. In 2034, the last World Economic Forum in Davos was held. The subsequent decade saw the downfall, one by one, of the old regimes. Replacing them were political parties with huge followings of grassroots, the have-nots, and young people holding the banner of ‘equality, dignity and morality’.
Conference participants are still grappled with the remnant challenges brought about by the vices of neo-liberal globalisation and capitalism. But we are beginning to see a move away from the polarising and inegalitarian nature of our obsolete system.
By 2050, and as a consequence of the deep and persistent world debt crisis, kleptocracies had to sell-out large parts of state-controlled sectors of the economy, losing their grip over resources and clientele. Dictatorships were swept away, and the world economy was rebuilt from the bottom-up through transnational systems of economic governance and the introduction of regional currencies. As the Chinese economic model suffers a major crisis, economic liberals and value conservatives in the Communist Party compete openly for power in general elections.
Overwhelming environmental catastrophes began with the Japanese tsunami of 2011, through the North Atlantic Conveyor slowdown, the weather chaos on the tornado and hurricane belts and the failure of equatorial crops: the subsequent flights from the equator, flooded plains and drowning cities brought the horrific slaughter of the global Water Wars. Humanity recoiled in 2035 from the bloody wreckage with an outbreak of cooperation, healing and rebuilding of civilisation on secularist and democratic lines.
It was a long and winding road that led us from the initial attempts at globalisation onto the realities in 2050. Globalisation had had its critics as a framework resulting in the reinforcing of inequalities … but then again, the big problem is that democracy is notoriously understood as the rule of the majority. And the majority of people were spoon fed the idea that inequalities act as the engine for aspiration and self-determination. Not much space in this postcard to flesh out how this reinforcement of inequalities started to be understood as a serious motor for greed. Greed, as the blind focus on increased revenue, has now turned the market outcomes one too many times into bubbles filled with empty air. The slavery to irrational markets has been blamed and shamed, from many rational, logical angles. Society starts to agree that the measurement of progress in terms other than public GDP and private profit should give way to more balanced, rounded alternatives. A new breeze of fresh hope can be sensed across the world …
The uprisings for political democracy in the Arab world, the aftershocks of the early-21st-century global financial crisis and the decline of the US as global hegemon in the 2010s led to widespread questioning of the concept of centralised power. The powerful institutions of state and corporation came under attack, alternative political and economic models flourished, and strong civil societies were formed or re-formed across wide parts of the globe. Co-operative, participatory norms replaced competition and exclusivity.
The refusniks, those who benefited most from centralised and largely unaccountable political and economic power, found a ready home in the People's Republic of China, an economic and military superpower. The predicted Chinese hegemony did not come about, however, as the Chinese model was of little appeal to a world moving towards pluralism, decentralisation and federalism.
Years of resentment towards high levels of economic inequality, stagnating standards of living and corrupt, remote governance made the failure of the Chinese system all-but inevitable; that it was replaced by a version of the new global model is a testament to the enduring appeal of economic and political empowerment and the success of people and planet-centred economics. The political and economic order of the last two hundred and fifty years is dead, and the world can now look to the challenges of the next fifty years confident that it has the ability, resources and willpower to meet them head-on.
No longer will war divide; democracy will unite!
I'm almost 90 years of age! But, my god, don't I look well!? The wonders of modern medicine! How marvellous there's no more heart disease, cancer, and HIV. And how beautiful, happy everyone is... If you'd have said this to someone living in Russia forty years ago — how Russians would be full of serenity and love — you'd have written them off as crazy. Looking forward to my next forty years!
I imagine that some amazing eruption of decency stopped the murderers in their tracks, convinced people of wildly different views that they ought to shut up for a moment and listen to The Other, overcame the narrowest of pinched minds, and in particular, convinced the comfortable (who are no more, though also no less, human than anyone else) that vast discrepancies in life-chances are unconscionable. I do not know how such an eruption might take place. There are so many counterforces, so many rewards for brutality and indifference, so many reasons to act reflexively, unthinkingly. But I would like to think that in 2050, people will remember the faces of women like this. She was arguing with a soldier in Tahrir Square, March 25, 2011. She was unafraid. She was in the spirit of openDemocracy.
In 2020, a leadership of the Chinese Communist Party was elected which owed little or nothing to the Maoist period, and had for many years seen it as a time of horror and repression. Like Mikhail Gorbachev in the late eighties, they grasped that the system they ran was dysfunctional: unlike Gorbachev, they had a strong economy and a growing and increasingly active middle class. Their decision to superintend a phased but determined shift to democratic elections unleashed many tensions: but they were able to contain these, and to see develop parties pledged to pluralism, peaceful competition and (once elected) responsible government. The success of the move removed the last great example of authoritarian rule, and put further and heavy pressure on the remaining autocracies - all of which, in the next three decades, moved towards greater democracy and began to vie with each other, and the longer established democratic states, in going beyond electoral democracy to deeper forms, with greater equality and greater openness at the heart of these projects.
p2p is short for peer-to-peer. In 2050, p2p technologies such as the internet and 3D-printing have enabled p2p social processes such as the Wikipedia model and open source collaboration to spread to the physical world. p2p networks connect people globally on a decentralized and ad-hoc basis. Individuals and local as well as global communities are empowered to do more for and by themselves without relying on industrial supply-chains and hierarchical structures. With this factual empowerment via global collaboration a surge in democratization all over the world was only the next logical step. About p2p.
A shift from 'political essentialism' to 'cultural essentialism' has been the most transformative factor in creating plural democracies. Rather than solely seeking major political changes, societies reformed their rituals, beliefs and behaviors to include dynamic characteristics of pluralist democratic societies. Therefore, tolerance, equity and active contribution have become common values to replace bigotry, apartheid and apathy; leading to sustainable political changes. Yet, there will always be threats to open and plural democracies. It shall be the responsibility of all citizens to use collective wisdom, dialogue and cooperation to protect the status quo. In this path, openDemocracy as an insightful and transparent forum will continue to have an indispensible role by providing constructive and creative analysis for all citizens.
"A war starts between Israel and her Arab neighbours. After initial gains by the Israeli army, the odds turn when Turkey and Iran declare war on Israel. China and other world powers impose a ceasefire. After a few months a comprehensive peace treaty is signed and three years later the last Israeli soldier is withdrawn from occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories. A viable Palestinian state is born, together with a Middle East Economic Community. At long last there is a genuine opportunity for sustainable peace and development to flourish in the region, extending from Istanbul to Cairo, Tel Aviv and Ramallah, and from Amman and Beirut to Damascus, Baghdad and Teheran."
If the world’s surface is also a measure of the world’s peoples, then the People’s Republic of China is the most significant “vast swathe” to have achieved democracy by 2050. How did this come about? In the dark years of 2008 to 2012, when progress towards openness and pluralism in China seemed to have stalled, it seemed highly unlikely. But the economic crisis, the resource crunch, food price inflation and the bursting of the real estate bubble that had underpinned much of the Chinese economy created an opening for progressive voices in the Party to argue for a Hungarian style transition. It was a high risk venture: they were opposed by an extremely powerful security sector and by die hard elements of the Party. They were supported, however, by an enthusiastic people who recognized that increasing repression was a sign of weakness at the top, not strength. The Party split that followed allowed the successor parties peacefully to compete in the elections of 2015 and the adoption of a new, federal constitution.
"Prof. Faber has asked Martijn Dekker and myself, his two phd students, to participate in a little brainstorm for Open Democracy's 10th anniversary. As a consequence, we now have not one, but 4 different messages, that might or might not be entirely compatible. But we are very generous and like oD a lot, so you are free to pick one or use all, as you wish.
Good luck and happy birthday,
Gijsbert van Iterson Scholten. PhD candidate VU University / IKV Chair on Citizens' involvement in war situations"
1. The road to democracy often leads through war, even though democratic countries are supposedly more peaceful than non-democratic ones. There is an old saying: "If you want peace, prepare for war". This saying is still relevant. But the problem is that war has changed a lot. Not only concerning its location but also in its characteristics. In the 20th century we were too late to prepare ourselves against world wars and the dramatic results are now part of our history books, in particular European history. The world wars were interstate wars. In the 21st century those wars will be exceptions, while civil wars will replace them in several parts of our common world, with a main focus on Africa. Let's learn from our past and prepare for the wars of the 21th century, and in return live in peace.
2. The West has stopped trying to democratize the world while at the same time securing our own short term interests; we have become content with what we have and accepted that we cannot remake the whole world to fit our purpose. We have accepted that terrorism is part of the risks of a globalized world, just like airplane crashes and infectious diseases and that the best way to fight it is to truly listen to the demands of people in less fortunate parts of the world and help them on their own terms.
3.The Arab Spring triggered an awareness that the people do have power and that even the most brutal dictators cannot ignore the demands of their own people. While at first the international community tried desparately to cling to old strategies and priorities, the fall of both Iran and Saudi Arabia forced it to accept the new world order. Bolstered by the images of success in this most authoritarian region of the world, the peoples of Africa and Asia took to the streets as well. Wise leaders, starting with the Chinese president Hu Jintao, read the signs of the times and implemented democratic reforms. Although these started out as temporary windowdressing, over time they acquired substance and could no longer be reversed, especially not because of the encouraging stand the international community took, giving authoritarian leaders no external enemies or other excuses to reinstate a state of emergency.
4. The change that has to be overcome to reach a world where open and pluralist forms of democracy prevail, is a universal and shared awareness that there are many things that do not have to be overcome at all; every human being is unique and has different habits, views and outlooks, and every human being should be respected as such. As long as it does not develop into lack of interest or radical invididualism, tolerance is the key.
Every year, over the past 15 years, new major product vendors have made significant commitments to sourcing – and selling – retail products that embody stringent ethical qualities, such as greater fairness in pricing to the original producers of ingredients for this Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (a Unilever company). Ben & Jerry’s committed in 2010 to use only Fair Trade certified ingredients (anything that is FT certifiable) in all flavors of its ice cream in all markets worldwide.*
This is just one example of the rapidly growing signs of commitment by global corporations to yield to civil society pressure to undertake major improvements in their social and environmental accountability, adopting standards assured by credible third-party independent verification of compliance.
By 2050 the world will encounter that this private governance of corporate behavior, driven by competitive markets, will force even the largest (and most monopolistic!) global firms to yield to civil society pressure, decreasing environmental damage, improving human rights practices, and reducing poverty worldwide.
*The label is the US label for the global Fairtrade movement. The story can be found at:
We achieved a more democratic world free of nuclear weapons
A comprehensive treaty to abolish nuclear weapons in 2020 was the driver for a deep transformation in international affairs, opening up opportunities for broadening civil society participation in sustainable security, democracy and human rights worldwide. By 2010, people had begun to grasp the relationship between nuclear possession, proliferation and heavily militarised, secretive states, recognising the security threats not only from China, Russia, Pakistan and North Korea - the 'usual suspects' - but also India, Israel, Britain, France and the United States, major arms producers and sellers with dysfunctional democracies. South Asia's hairsbreadth avoidance of nuclear war in 2013 - the 21st century's 'Cuban Missile Crisis' - shocked a new generation into recognising the need to eliminate nuclear weapons.
The leaders of change were global civil society and progressive non-nuclear governments, who challenged the voodoo dependencies of nuclear deterrence doctrines and mounted global campaigns to delegitimise and abolish nuclear weapons. Britain's decision to renounce Trident in 2014 helped launch negotiations. Criminalising the use of these inhumane weapons of terror started a multilateral process that created the space to develop alternative human and environmental security, reshaping international relations and priorities. This in turn fostered much more open democracies.
Love from Jonathan Chadwick
"The world is actually headed away from the prospect of genuine democracy. But if openDemocracy's 2050 vision is realized in Africa, it will be because its long-oppressed people were finally able to overthrow dictators and power-hungry leaders who dominate the continent. Reformers became strong enough to build genuine, people-based democracies and strong economies that fulfill their people's aspirations, and thereby could resist powerful international forces to whom too many leaders now pander."
Despair over the global crisis of democracy was rejected by those who entered adulthood in the second decade of the 21st century. Perceiving the need for a change in the operating system of democracy young people in nations across the world worked in different fields to foster a cultural shift not merely a regime change. Striving for moral renewal and restoration of community structures – based on equity and dignity for all – these energies acted as a counter to two domineering forces of the previous century – the pervasive State and all-powerful Capital. The most profound changes were wrought by those who did not set out to solve problems. Instead they did what it takes to build and nurture a civilization based on respect for all life forms.
As in the whole world, democracy has emerged victorious in Russia.
In the late 2010s the insane austerity measures imposed on millions of people around the world finally exhausted citizens’ patience. Unexpectedly, a new culture of popular resistance emerged, inspired by what Noam Chomsky had once called an 'instinct for freedom'. People began to sense the outlines of truly democratic forms of self-rule which would allow them to work under conditions of their own choosing in voluntary association with others. These creative urges formed the basis of the new society. People still argue about social alternatives, but now in a highly intelligent way.
One quarter of a century earlier than openDemocracy, on 12 May 1976, the Moscow Helsinki Group was born. It emerged from a dissident idea which reasoned that citizen groups can and should observe governments’ compliance with international human rights agreements. It was a movement that transformed the world and our understanding of politics. If there is one thing we have learnt from this history, it is that the single most powerful way to progress is greater intellectual freedom and open exchange of ideas and information. openDemocracy will play a central role in delivering that, right up to 2050.
'The year 2050 saw diversity, freedom, pluralism and open societies grow because in 2011, from Tunisia and Egypt, to Libya and India, ordinary citizens discovered their power to act, their "shakti". Earth Democracy started to flourish because across the world , people rediscovered their Earth citizenship and recognised they are part of one Earth Family'
Looking back from 2050, it seems strange to think that personal change and politics were once seen as separate worlds. Who knows exactly when the tipping point occurred, but around 2025, and spurred on by spiraling inequalities, rising corporate influence, civil society action and the imperatives of climate change, large numbers of people began to place solidarity at the heart of their decision-making instead of competition, and to see democracy as a way to use and share power in liberating ways. One hundred years after the birth of the Civil Rights movement in the USA, Martin Luther King’s “beloved community” finally started to shape itself in deep democracy’s embrace.
“As I sit to write this postcard for the 10th anniversary of openDemocracy, Jews round the world prepare for the Seder, the Jewish Passover ceremony and celebration. The Seder is a remarkable event in its radical postmodern nature: it stretches from the most abstract to the most concrete, from the celebration of the liberation of both group and individual, to the minute specification of menus and modes of preparation of the various foods of the feast, and a feast it is. At the center of the Seder is a text that is being read, in fact, re-read, always already: The Hagadah. And the Hagadah is a fantastic collection of fragments from diverse sources and different epochs: prayers, poems, stories, philosophical aphorisms originating in older and newer times. In the Seder, the Hagadah is both read and discussed, pondered upon, elaborated in a manner that aspires for novelty and renewal.
The turn of events in the Middle East from over a century of gradually increasing violence and brutality to an unbelievable example of Ta’ayush- living together in Arabic- has been achieved due to the return of Jews worldwide to the values of the Hagadah, the embracing of the whole range of human emotions and experiences around the motif of liberation, together with a return to cultural Judaism. This one change in the pursuit of Judaism has transformed it from a nationalistic power, ready to sacrifice those on its way to imperial glamor, an outpost of the West in its strife for supremacy, into an inspiring movement for turning Israel-Palestine into the most remarkable experiment in multi-ethnic revival”.
When I passed my 100th birthday last year, I thought back to those terrible days when millions of people were afraid to speak their minds, and oppressive paranoid governments gripped and strangled whole societies, whole nations, telling people that any criticism of them would bring down the whole structure, create anarchy. How did it change? People all over the world lost their fear. They began to believe in themselves. That Tunisian fruit and veg seller, Mohammed Bouazizi, was one of the first. After that all over the world people realised that life without freedom was no life at all. And when the most powerful country on the planet finally accepted democracy after 70 years of communist rule, dictatorship finally died.
Dear friends at openDemocracy,
I send all best and congratulatory birthday wishes to you as openDemocracy enters its 50th year. Who could have expected so long ago that the gap between economic development and political progress would have narrowed so dramatically? We despaired, seeing increased repression go hand-in-hand with extraordinary economic growth, especially as an example-to-follow in China. But when all those carefully wrought plans blew up in the face of demands for an open society and justice, we entered our recent decades of careening along a very bumpy road, approaching truly open democracies. Let’s not despair again, despite a resurgence of inward-looking policies. The beginning of overall demographic contraction and the difficulties posed by so many ageing populations are being addressed as we now have new technological and medical breakthroughs, such as in unfettered inter-personal communication, unlimited energy, and regeneration techniques. All your friends are very proud of how openDemocracy has led our continuing dialogue – keep it up at least to the next millennium!
“In 2012, due to a massive public awareness campaign, the global public became aware that it was not only necessary, but possible, to evolve individual and collective consciousness, as Einstein had insisted would be necessary for survival. As a result, decisions affecting the planet began to be made from a new, long-term perspective that for the first time took as its premise a holistic, collective, interdependent view of the earth and its inhabitants.”
The first half of the twenty-first century was marked by two major trends in international relations: first, a shift towards ‘globalism’ as a result of shared problems (e.g. environmental degradation), shared risks (e.g. nuclear proliferation), and shared domains of activity (e.g. the market); and second, a shift to ‘decentred’ authority as power diffused around the world both geographically and institutionally. The resulting synthesis, ‘decentred globalism’, made international affairs much messier, but also more pluralistic, more democratic and, in policy terms, more humble. The post-Western world proved to be one in which heterogeneity and hybridity flourished.
The transformational change I believe to be essential is to recognise the end of the private car. In 1903 the poet John Davidson saw the rise of individual powered transport as a break with the essentially collective - though not compulsive - spirit of the 19th century and the railway, in a remarkably perceptive poem called 'The Testament of Sir Simon Simplex concerning automobilism'. In this he set out the 'two legs good, four wheels better' philosophy which governed the twentieth century. Among its enthusiasts were of course Henry Ford and his admirer Adolf Hitler, who saw mobility per se as an absorbing alternative to thought. With one car per four people in the 1920s the USA led the way into hyperindividualised mania. Despite the fact that only 15% of world population owned 85% of the world's cars - a proportion which remained constant because of population growth - there was no increase in human knowledge or efficiency (Anthony Trollope's 'railway compartment as mobile office') given the need to power and steer the car. This lay behind the accelerating decline of the USA after the 1980s, its urban identity and the physique problems of its people. The issue was solved by the impact of Peak Oil after 2010, with a rapid rise of oil to $300 a barrel, making a 'car-friendly society' impossible and imposing a rational transport/life balance.
Or so we must hope.
To save the euro and prevent the disintegration of the European Union, by 2013 European leaders have established a fiscal mechanism (European level taxes, borrowing and spending) which then pushes them to democratise Europe and hold elections for a President of both the Council and Commission. The new (woman) president acquires human security capabilities that have transformed the ability of the UN to stop wars and protect civilians so as to create space for democratic politics..
Bringing the political economy back into the city
It’s 2030. Governments are poor and in hock to big banks. The urban poor and the impoverished urban middle classes in rich countries have had to scramble to survive . Bit by bit they have inserted a self-made urban political economy into the larger national/global economy of their countries. It is partial, but it works. Since it deals with the basics and with what people on their own can actually do, across the world these urban political economies are quite similar. They all have such basics as urban farming and small credit-unions. Skill-exchanges, rather than stock-exchanges, and repairing rather than replacing with new products, are also basic features. When feasible, furniture and other essentials are fabricated or grown in the city and its region–no more unnecessary shipping that benefitted mostly the intermediaries and their lawyers and financiers. The rest of goods come through fair-trade networks, another self-made political economy connecting production sites with neighborhoods and cities. They also have had to take over some basic public services, such as garbage collection/recycling and develop home-based healthcare in the neighborhoods – they had to do something since local governments are so poor that they have had to cut all except advanced hospital care.
People rotate just about everything—including daily cooking – at whatever level works – a cluster of homes, the block, the neighborhood. People need each other to make it all viable. Artists and musicians are everywhere -- part of the urban fabric and a bridge to the finer experiences in life. Trust, reliability, exchange and collectivity are the key. Nobody is rich, and we are still highly imperfect beings, but it all works…. Actually....we don’t need to wait until our governments are even poorer and more in-hock to the big banks! We could start building these urban political economies now!
The decades up to 2050 witnessed intensified struggles over Food-Oil-Climate-Identity (FOCI). As these issues became more vexed, they were impacted by recurring natural disasters and a technological coding of the earth and humanity, with corresponding changes in subjectivity and consciousness of space and self. As a result, states explored radical options that finally enabled a free movement of people across the globe. This transformative shift changed the nature of society and politics in a much more democratic direction.
By 2050, as predicted by Karl Marx, the global ubiquity of political democracy and civil rights will have created the preconditions for victory in the next great struggle of humanity: the emancipation of labour from the tyranny of capital.
In 2050, the world has been at peace in most areas of historic and ongoing conflict for about 30 years. In 2015 all the most powerful nations of the world decided to reduce their exposure to increasing numbers of costly retirees by making military service compulsory but only for those between the ages of 60 and 65. Medical technology had already made agile longevity a fact of life and battle field exposure was expected to reduce the increasing aged population of men and women. However, older people did not want to fight and so for the most part war in the world ended.
In 2050, stigmatized differences (race, gender, religion, local or national origin), especially biological and historical, are no longer a meaningful justification for war, assault, imprisonment, inequality, privilege, authority, value. Following massive geopolitical, national and local economic, political and social meltdowns leaving people as devastated as by any natural disasters, as a result ‘human fellowship’ is a shared worldview.
Leaders emerged out of creative and effective constituency groups with a shared message of why and how to renew and secure the bases of common humanity, and interpersonal/intersocial wellbeing. Local wealth and assets developed anywhere in the world are recognized as the result of joint application of multi-dimensional human effort and well stewarded natural resources.
With no-one to blame, blame grew rusty and the rickety record of high and low level intergroup conflict over resources gave way. Decade by decade, new perspective and infrastructure was developed–each step forward strengthened by the step already taken toward an ethical and collaborative platform for democratic global politics.
It was, of course, the Right to Life Tax, proposed by Brazil, India, China, Russia and South Africa in 2020 and passed by the UN in 2025. Committing 2% of the world's annual corporate tax revenue to households earning less that $2 a day, the Tax gave nearly half of the world's population the means to exert democracy.
The idea first caught on in Somalia. Before that the international community still showed only a modest interest in seriously investing in diplomacy and mediation. Mogadishu Parliamentarians drew their inspiration from federal legislation in the US that had been on the books since the late twentieth century. The idea was simple - before escalating a dispute first refer it to mediation. It had long ago become common practice in domestic divorce law where it is now mostly those cases that involve violence that ultimately go to court. Somalia had a lot to teach the world about how to wage war - now they were teaching the world a lesson in how to wage peace.
Parliament passed a law that before any decision is taken to use or support the use of force (by the government or any of its member organisations), there is a constitutional requirement that nonviolent alternatives must be explored and exhausted. The guardians of these standards were women, men and youth who formed part of an elected National Peace Council. Within a decade, similar laws were adopted across Africa and Asia and comparable bodies were created. By 2040, the African Union was the first multilateral body to adopt its own legislation. Within five years the European Union followed suit. What started as national efforts to promote alternatives to violence, resulted in local, national and international institutions being created or strengthened in the area of mediation and dialogue. Today we see the full spectrum of what was called 'soft-power' and is now known as 'Peace Diplomacy' - properly resourced and working effectively.
We managed to put the fossil fuel business out of business - and with it went the logic of centralized control, replaced by a world where power came locally, and everything else (from local food to local democracy) followed more or less naturally...
In 2050 the justice gap—the divide between national sovereignty and international responsibility, between the political and the judicial—is being mastered and closed.
Carla Del Ponte’s fight against impunity between 1999 and 2007 contributed to the setting of new standards that were adopted and enhanced by the international community.
Criminal violence significantly reduced and, above all, the victims of massive crimes and genocide saw justice done. The willpower to break the circle of impunity is strongly anchored and makes the world in 2050 different, better, than it was before.
‘Surprisingly to many, the new humanism began with commonsensical ecological measures. In the early years of the 21st century, we were increasingly aware that we were running out of space. The global middle class began to think of waste as resources gone astray, gradually learning to see ourselves, and humanity, in ecological terms. We were complementary, not competitors; different, but equal. Based on ecological models, the new pluralism was flexible and sustainable, spreading like wildfire across the world when its potential was understood.’
By 2050, a global system that guarantees the equitable distribution of resources - of water, of land, of energy, and of food. But first, all risk-aversion schemes that underpin our fears and spin off so many absurdities have been binned. No more military, no more securities markets, or insurance plans meant to keep us safe and in constant fear. With the removal of corporate and state centric interests – genuine democracy could finally have the space to prevail.
Once privatization had transformed enough public spaces into parts of the capitalist economy, the inherently political nature of the economic became more visible. A major ideological contradiction of capitalism emerged.
First, the weak signs included the alterglobalization protest movements, the vague corporate social responsibility talk, the fact that Amnesty International decided to enter economic and social rights. These were expressions of the gradual erosion of the economic neutrality doctrine of capitalism, even if at first without that much apparent impact on struggles over hegemony.
The transformations of the 2030s and 2040s did not take place because the capitalists finally decided that they needed to start a process of democratization. It was rather the fact that when they first accepted to talk about things like corporate responsibility at the very beginning of the century, they almost without noticing took a step away from their traditional comfort zone of economic neutrality. Once the democratization movements learned to take advantage of this, the legitimacy of maintaining antidemocratic decision-making mechanisms in the economic institutions nose-dived. An intense period of civil disobedience, electoral victories, riots, neighborhood study circles and mutual learning between movements on global democratization strategies followed. More should follow.
Love & peace,
Capitalism as an economic system of production, as well as an ideology that produced social norms and shaped behaviours, was declared bankrupt ten years ago. Only parts of China remain capitalist today. Between 2030 and 2040, all civil societies carried out peaceful revolutions against the old regime. Karl Marx had long ago predicted that the collapse of capitalism was inevitable because it had within itself the flaws that would destroy itself. He was right although his prophecy took more time to materialise that he initially reckoned. At stake was the reclaiming of citizens’ democracy – only formal and flawed under capitalist regimes – and the defence of life on earth imperilled by the relentless aggressions against humankind, living species and the environment. The large majority of countries which have opted out of their capitalist chains, have rapidly established egalitarian and safe societies. International relations have largely become peaceful: there are no more imperialist wars and, therefore, terrorist attacks against the ‘West’ have ceased altogether.
More importantly, the egalitarian ethos of the new post-capitalist societies has put an end to the millenarian male domination over our societies. All workers now receive an income according to their actual merit and work. Consequently, traditionally male dominated activities (politics, business) are now largely being managed by more dynamic and more competent female workers. New strictly enforced laws about pay equality in the workplace have seen a growing number of men adopt a more relaxed attitude to work. For the first time in modern history, there are more stay at home fathers than mothers.
The change, when it came, was small enough, modifying Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to add to the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to unencumbered access to an unfiltered Internet on which the principles of net neutrality are protected by law.
The floodgates opened then, because open networks sustain and support open societies, and the free exchange of bits can underpin many other forms of freedom.
In the first decade of the 21st century there were fears that the post-1989 surge of democratisation had ended and could go into reverse. Now, in 2050, forms of open society and democracy hold sway across most of the Earth. Looking back, it is clear that global communications and the rise of the Internet and mobile telephony have played a big part in this change - as expected by many forecasters in 2010. But the transformation that relaunched the globalisation of democracy was completely unexpected: the democratic cultural revolution in China. By 2020 China had surpassed the USA in economic weight, and this fateful moment was accompanied with other forces for change in the new superpower: the explosive growth of the middle classes ; the adoption of English as the second language, aiding Chinese projection of soft power and also opening up society still more to external influence; the impossibility of clamping down on the Internet and mobile communications; the rising demand for sustainable environmental policies and better quality of life; the outrage at corruption. All these forces generated demand for a more open society and democratisation. Finally, there was the rise of the younger factions in the ruling Party who argued for a 'total surpassing' of the USA (increasingly mired in violent culture wars and economic failure) - including outdoing the USA as the torchbearer for democracy. The Second Cultural Revolution (2025-2035) was peaceful - a Chinese 'glasnost' based on the security of being the global economic superpower - and transformative. Cooperation with and emulation of China - including its new democracy - were seen as the keys to success by developing nations worldwide. The transformation is being hailed by some Chinese intellectuals, echoing Fukuyama in 1990, as the 'end of history' ...
In 2050 network logic, what so many bestsellers advocate nowadays - will be fully fledged - and that is going to change, well, everything.
It may seem like a pompous statement - but those of us who are old enough to remember the world 39 years ago can testify that, indeed, everything was different then. As the network effect with digital technology began to turn over unprecedented competencies to citizens, instead of mass communication, the average Jane and Joe could select their own media consumption, their personal interaction and most of the knowledge they obtain. That changed how business and politics was done. In later decades new and innovative forms of civic engagement became be the rule, not the exception— not because the noble notions of the Enlightenment required that it was so, but simply because politics was pushed in that direction. By liberating the potential for mass creativity we may be able to cope with the tremendous challenges of the second part of our century. This might be essential because some of the challenges are springing from the very same disembeddednes and de-authorization process which are an integral part of the operation of the digital networks.
And then they began to speak with tongues. And the multitude came together, and were confounded, because every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying how is it that we hear every man in our own tongue?
Technologically engendered instant translation will transform conversation, and hence our understanding of one another. A chip in the ear, and we will comprehend on the cheap, reducing transaction costs to collective decision making… a road map for open democracy within and between societies.
And what will have been overcome? Babel? Perhaps even human nature itself?
In 2050, whilst the world continues to grapple with real challenges, it does so within real and representative democracies.
Demands for democracy which began on the streets of the Arab region in 2011, with women standing side-by-side men, were seized as a moment of transformation, and through domestic and international activism women's rights to equal representation were secured. The catalytic events spread throughout the region, building the momentum for gradual shifts elsewhere - and with these changes, a simultaneous shattering of attitudes and political obstacles that had prevented women from fully and meaningfully participating in public life. Today, it is inconceivable that there was ever a time when the decisions of states and the international community—which impact us all -- were ever made by only one part of humanity.
When copyright law was harmonised with patent law, the world economy benefitted from the boost provided by the reduced price of knowledge: the C21st’s taxes on knowledge fell. Led by the UK Government abolishing Crown Copyright, which protected works for 125 years, the period in which copyright owners could extract protect works dropped to 20 years from 70 or 50 years, depending on the kind of copyright protected work, after the death of the author. Making knowledge more accessible reduced the education costs and the cost of the know-how required for best practice in industrial and agricultural production and thus stimulated intellectual property production as authors produced more and piracy incentives fell. The late C20th’s vertiginous fall in the price of communicating, made possible by fibre-optic cables, digitalisation and more efficient and cost effective electronic storage and processing, started to be matched by sharply falling prices of information in the C21st and its opening up of the world’s underused stores of intellectual property. As people across the world knew more, they worked better, fought less and communicated more: vicious circles turned virtuous.
What you are asking from me is even more difficult than predicting the past, a past which is ever rewritten by politicians and “thinkers” in search of self vindication.
The shift I would imagine – and hope for – in 2050 would be that social
rules would become more equitable within nations AND among them in a world subjected to ever growing income and social inequalities between the haves, have less (i.e. the middle classes) and the have nots. The lessening of social inequalities and of the arrogance of those who want more and more at the cost of giving less and less IS the prerequisite to long term peace among nations and to stability – not to talk about happiness – within our own societies. And a crucial condition to the long term success of globalisation as a way towards fulfilling hopes of peoples and nations and not the greed of a few.
It is 2050, OpenDemocracy’s 49th Birthday. Over half of the world’s leading Decision-makers are now women, many of them with backgrounds in human rights advocacy, environmental sciences and peace-building. As historians tell it, the big shift to pluralist democracy came about once the International Community recognised that men on their own are no good at achieving peace after deadly conflicts. Throughout the last years of the 20th Century into the first decade of this century most wars broke out again within 10 years. The big shift came in 2020 with an international agreement that henceforth no international treaty or peace agreement was valid unless at least half the mediators, negotiators and signatories were women, and no election results for presidents, prime ministers or parliaments would be recognised unless at least 50% of candidates were women. This led to many imaginative forms of inclusiveness for other groups and to root-and-branch new ways of doing things. Women insisted peace-building should no longer be left to power-group elites but through meaningful participation at village and community level upwards. There have been border skirmishes but no major deadly conflict in the past decade.
Once all countries followed Norway’s lead that women must be at least 40% of all Boards, economic and financial policies shifted too. Under the press of feminist economics, women-led business corporations have become more human-friendly. Empowerment of women also resulted in the much-needed drop in numbers in the world population with their slogan – ‘every baby a wanted baby’. Following the rash of early 21st Century ‘Face-book’ revolutions, old- fashioned male-led hierarchical international organisations such as the EU, UN, World Bank etc. became obsolete, replaced by new channels and social communities for international interaction and communication. A big block to overcome were intolerant attitudes and the fanaticism of a generation of young men who grew up in the early part of the 21st Century indoctrinated by religious leaders – the use of physical and psychological intimidation was hard to combat. This changed once women in large numbers became leaders of the world’s religions and once religions were excluded from political power (Pope Joan has decided to live in a modest cottage in Tuscany where she manages an organic farm part-time).
Our biggest obstacle was the Left. In its efforts to defend and at most reclaim some of the welfare state’s vanishing benefits, the Left had come to represent the most conservative and, quite literally, reactionary force in modern politics. Unable to imagine a future that was not theological and indeed monotheistic in its linear and redemptive utopianism, the Left’s dead hand had to be lifted before new forms of political thought and action could emerge. But this only happened by accident.
When as a result of the continuing financial crisis, the BRICS countries decided to cut their losses and switch from the US dollar to the Euro as a reserve currency, the immediate consequence was to wrest economic power from the grip of nation states. This made for a geopolitical realignment, where Europe’s newly buoyant currency translated not into the EU’s political dominance, but rather its greater dependence on Asian markets and industry.
Betrayed by Europe’s abandonment of the dollar, and faced with the refusal of Asia and Africa to underwrite her debts, the United States lost economic dominance. This meant that it suddenly became possible to think about human inter-connectedness by way of a more egalitarian politics. Did this mark the victory of capitalism? If so it was a victory for Leninism as well, since what then commenced was the withering away of the state. New kinds of struggles and new forms of political consciousness could now emerge.
Today, democracy prevails all over the Middle East: people freely elect their leaders, a vibrant civil society is active in all aspects of life, intellectuals and artists have enshrined rights to free expression, trade unions actively participate in collective bargaining, the media are free and independent, women can wear whatever they choose, and full and equal citizenship is bestowed on women and ethnic and religious minorities. Massive oil and gas revenues provide for free education, public health and social services. The MENAU (Middle East North African Union), which includes Israel and the Palestinian state, takes full advantage of economic integration and the free movement of labour and capital. Museums display relics and garments of religious fundamentalisms, along with Slabs from the Israeli wall.
It is unimaginable that only forty years ago, dictators of all kinds roamed the region, foreign powers were engaged in multiple wars, and Islamic fundamentalists imposed their obscurantist views. Israel was ruled by a coalition of hawks and fundamentalists, and Palestinians were engulfed in internal strife, corruption and religious fanaticism.
A series of events changed that situation. The American superpower, along its neo-liberal ideology, weakened. Iranians toppled the Islamist regime. In Arab countries secularism flourished and Islamism, along with authoritarian rules backed by western powers rapidly waned. Palestinians and Israelis signed a peace deal and created two states within the 1967 borders.
Nearly 40 years ago, in 2011, it would have been (political) science fiction to imagine any of this happening.
In 2011 a wave of democratic uprisings swept across the Arab world. Overcoming authoritarianism in one of the regions in which it had been most deeply entrenched, sparked a broader trend of political change in the world. Against all odds, the mobilization, with the aid of new technologies, of a largely unorganized civil society, in the past suppressed by authoritarianism made this possible. Yet in order to overcome the resilience of authoritarianism, another change was necessary: the desecuritization of Western foreign policies and a genuine Western commitment to democratic change. Much like in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East too, the US and EU began seeing a congruence between their strategic interests and normative rhetoric and thus developed well-thought out policies to spur (or at least not hinder) a democratic transformation of the region.
Suddenly we realized that cooperation rather than competition was a more effective strategy to survive and thrive in a world where our life-supporting ecosystems had fuzzy but ultimately non-negotiable limits. In challenges like climate change those limits were looming large into view. That meant we needed ways to govern that were inclusive and good at resolving conflicting needs and freedoms. Pluralist forms of democracy, which still didn’t avoid the need for hard choices, were simply better than anything else.
In 2050 democracy blossomed all around the world partly because, some years back, bankers in the west and elsewhere were stopped from accepting deposits from dodgy rulers. It was a big sacrifice by the banks and they resisted it fiercely, especially in Switzerland. After all these deposits made up a large chunk of bank balance sheets. Tyrants and dictators are driven by many things; power, of course and sex but amassing an ill-gotten fortune was a regular feature.
The 2010s turned out to be the transforming decade, and it was an unexpected combination of prophetic thinking and world events, which finally made things happen. By 2015 the impact of climate change, another financial crunch and the repeated failure of military control all made it obvious that we had to find a better way – truly sustainable and emancipating. That we did so was at least partly down to all those prophets “suggesting the possible”. I wasn’t sure until the early 2020s that it would really happen, but then I never expected to live to 107!
In 2050, Europe has overcome the birth pains of multiculturalism and is accepting its diversity as a welcome given, rather than an imposed ideal or a frightening future. Open debate is finally embraced, and opponents are seen neither as criminals nor as enemies. Nothing is sacred, all is questioned, and former taboos like Islam or the royal family are discussed freely by both politicians and comedians.
2050 – World Peace. It was the economy, stupid! On 9 September 2011 the world banking system collapsed for good soon after Portugal, Italy and Spain requested a bank bailout. The fall of the Asian Tigers followed when the Western market suddenly vanished. Civil unrest, chaos and a decade of war ended only when the stock of military weapons ran out; production had ceased, and there was no longer money to make out of war. Money meant nothing anyway but killing your enemy meant you had to get close to him; violence had a human face again. That’s when people started to come together. Because the Internet had miraculously survived we reconnected and started rebuilding human-size communities with a sense of belonging. All voices were heard. That’s when we shared the world rather than exploit it. It took 30 years, but we are now at peace. One human being, one voice, one vote.
The world in 2050 is made up of democratic states only. By 2011, more than 110 UN member states had some form of elected government and the trend would continue. In 2050, China and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Libya all have democratic governance.
We haven’t been eating as well, or as easily, here in New Orleans neighborhoods since Katrina – we still have to drive 30-45 minutes each way to get rudimentary food, as the markets have not returned, still mired in insurance litigation.
Here’s hoping this postcard finds you well. It has been 30 years since the abolition of the passport and various visa requirements and things are looking up, contrary to the dire warnings of doomsayers who said this would lead to untold chaos. The notion of open borders, a truly democratic global citizenship, and the free movement of people and ideas have become the norm. The world has become truly, in a manner of speaking, a pluralist village square. Even the nationalists who opposed the idea of a world without borders have abandoned arms and joined the contest of ideas. The battle is by no means over. Some continue to hold onto the dated idea of the nation-state and the passport. We must remain forever vigilant.