I cannot help but see that a large part of this debate is a discussion about "the end of globalization BUT specifically from a Western perspective." Outside the core Western nations, there is little talk and no evidence of deglobalization. What the non-Western World is feeling is rather "reorientation" (pun intended). Perhaps what is happening as the global centre of economic gravity https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2012/06/28/the-worlds-shifting-centre-of-gravity

moves inexorably back to from whence it came, global trade routes are "reorienting" back to Asia (q.v. the patterns of the 16th Century) and the West is experiencing the withdrawal symptoms that come from being no longer being the centre of global trade patterns. BTW, a giveaway in this debate in the West is the liberal use of the pronoun "we". The "We" world is being supplanted by a world that embraces much more than just the West.

Expand full comment

A key aspect of the current situation is the U.S. stance that China poses a military threat significant enough for the U.S. to engage in economic warfare against China. That stance, if it continues unabated, is self-fulfilling. And indeed will be a prime if not primary contributor to a "polycrisis."

Expand full comment

Adam, I think general systems theory can provide more insight into what is happening. We have an increase in inter-dependecy (an outcome of globalization) without corresponding increase of global/shared awareness. As a result, all actions bring surprising or unexpected outcomes, often far away. Someone charges an iphone in Poland powered by coal, which drops a ton of rain on California via global warming. We just cant predict what is going to happen. Threshold of current understanding capacity has been exceeded. US military dealt with this phenomenon several times, as it breaks all existing conceptual models. And yet it is well known in General Systems 101.

Expand full comment

Finally a real conversation around what's happening! Thanks for weaving the threads together.

Expand full comment

We think the polycrisis is ultimately a matter of the energy, environmental and economic stupidity of advanced western nations.

And we say so. https://envmental.substack.com/p/the-2022-environmental-awards

Expand full comment

Excellent article. It’s interesting to look back on how we envisioned globalization in the 1980s compared to our present state of disenchantment. The economics of polycrisis seems to echo the patterns of recent wars: They aren’t won or lost. There’s profound trauma and destruction, but no sense of definitive outcome. No mountains or valleys, just “move along folks--nothing to see here.” It doesn’t have the feel or taste of the past. There’s something quite new and unquaint about this state.

Confusing. Yes.

We are trying to understand (or come to terms with) the driver that relates these seemingly unrelated crises.

Is ir really mere coincidence?

Just history being--you know--history.

Clearly, who knows?

Expand full comment

I found it instructive to return to Richard Sakwa's chapter "Order without hegemony" and related citations in his 2017 _Russia against the Rest: the Post-Cold War Crisis of World Order_. Sakwa notes Russia and China willing to support the "international order", but not a Western Liberal "world order". Specifically, Russia maintained interest in being a part of a "Greater West", but not being folded into the existing Western order.

Michael O'Hanlon offers another interesting re-read in his _Senkaku Paradox: Risking Great Power War over Small Stakes_ of 2019. Much of the book has been rendered comic by Russia's invasion of the Ukraine, but the thesis remains one of asserting the value of increased and enhanced economic warfare as an effective tactic short of the Third Offset.

So as noted by the OP, "polycrisis" might be from the US perspective, a desertion of the multilateral institutions of globalization like the UN and WTO, and the blowback from engagement in global economic warfare to maintain the Western Liberal order. Or as O'Hanlon states: "punishment... commensurate in scale with the magnitude of the initial aggression and have the potential to be intensified and broadened." Like trying to turn the global supply chain into Strategic Hamlets.

Expand full comment

Maybe "polycrisis" expresses what Marcel Gauchet means by "the end of finite history." Most of the actors in World War I and its aftermath worked with a vision of the End of History prospectively in mind. That is what has gone away.

It seems important to avoid the implication that, say, 1917 wasn't a polycrisis.

Expand full comment

I’m surprised that the UK Labour Party haven’t appropriated ‘polycrisis’ to describe the situation the UK finds itself in under the Conservatives. It certainly seems apt enough.

Expand full comment