Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will not cause deglobalization; it is a symptom of deglobalization.
— Peter Zeihan
Since we started RIR, Rullman and I have been trying to suss out the shape of the end of civilization as we know it. We’ve noted before that the “end of civilization” is not necessarily — or even likely — a “shit hits the fan” scenario. Sorry, no Zombie Apocalypse. What we’re in the midst of now is the breakdown of the post-World WarII order and the coalescing of new “norms.” This will be unsettling, and — as always — there will be winners and losers. There may be considerable disorder, especially if resource crises around food, water and energy become acute.
We find ourselves at the tail end of a globalized world order. To visualize where we stand temporally, in relation to the vast course of human history, I have pulled this graphic from my upcoming book, The End of the World is Just the Beginning. Since the implementation of the Bretton Woods system post-World War II, countries have generally been capable of developing trade relationships the world over with security guaranteed by the US military. Over the past several years we have seen an acceleration of this system’s dissolution; supply shortages, inflation, and geopolitical instability do not bode well for the prosperity of a globalized economic system.
The era to come—the post-globalization era—will not be implemented by decree. Rather it will be a gradual transition, a transition we are currently undertaking. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will not cause deglobalization; it is a symptom of deglobalization. The path we are on is clear: globalized trade will be replaced with a handful of regional trade systems centered around a dominant power—the US, France, Japan, etc. Do not expect to wake up one day to the news that the world has deglobalized but recognize the events that push us closer to the inevitable.
Another inevitability that I foresee is a continued erosion of the social and cultural fabric that binds the United States together. We’re not going to break apart in a geographical rupture like that of the 1860s. So what does an ongoing, low-grade cultural and social civil war look like five, 10, 20 years from now?
It’s important that we understand what’s coming, so we can properly prepare ourselves and our families for it. But that’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. A Zombie Apocalypse would be a lot more straightforward than dealing with the disintegration of old norms and the uncertain future that portends. I have a lot more questions than answers right now, but some paths are worth pursuing regardless of the exact shape of the future they lead into:
• Reduce consumption. If the era of cheap, easy, just-on-time delivery is ending, maybe that’s an opportunity to renegotiate our relationship with our stuff.
• Get off the screen. Doomscrolling is too easy these days, and it’s toxic. Gather intel, but don’t live in it.
• Relationships — in real space — matter. Focus there.
• Song & Story endure.