Global Coloniality and the World Disorder. Revisiting Bandung, 1955

Remarks by Walter Mignolo, Director, Center for Global Studies and the Humanities, Duke University, prepared for the 13th Rhodes Forum

We have been invited to this panel and been provided with a description of the chaotic state of the world order, the deterioration of humanness and the rapid slide toward living in desperation. Living in plenitude and harmony is each day further away and it looks more and more as an un-attainable goal.  We have been invited also to address two interrelated questions:

-    What are the reasons or underlying causes of the prevailing chaos? What are the main contributing factors and who are the major social or political agents contributing to the disorder?

-    How can we overcome the present disorder? Are there alternatives to the present chaos? How can we find pathways pointing in the direction of a more just and sustainable world order?

These questions are crucial for the World Public Forum. The exploration of alternative global futures is the mains purposes of the discussions in Rhodes. The first question can and is being addressed from different ideological and disciplinary perspective. Explanations are easier to handle than solutions to problems.

I will start my reflections on these issues recalling the Bandung Conference of 1955 and speculate on two of its legacies: decolonization and dewesternization. Both trajectories have in common the need and desire of delinking from Western hegemony that at that time was divided between liberal capitalism and state communism. The cycle of decolonization ended towards the second half of the twentieth century, but coloniality continues to be well and alive. In the middle of it,  dewesternization was beginning its march, lead by Lee Kwan Yew and joined by Deng Xiaoping. The global order today turns around three axis or trajectories:

-    Dewesternization after the Cold War;
-    Decoloniality after decolonization;
-    Rewesternization after Westernization.

My presentation follows the order of the two questions. The first part addresses the main contributing factors and the reasons for/of the present chaos, disorder, desperation of the many and inquietude and worries of the few. The chaos and disorder touches us all in whatever social role we are, from presidents and first ministers, to kings and princes, to CEO and middle, lower and dispossessed classes. In the disorderly world no one can sleep well. At the moment of writing this proposal, Europe is facing the most dramatic moment in the confluence of African immigration and Middle East’s refugees. It is known, although not much debated, why this is happening. Furthermore, two monsters emerged from Western civilization - emphasis on wealth (capitalism) and authority (the State). These two monsters are the Drug Cartels and the Islamic State.

The World Public Forum has become for over a decade, a contributing institution to facilitate descriptions, explanations and understanding of the logic and emotions, diplomacy and passions that increase, rather than decrease, the world disorder. What contribution the World Public Forum could make to re-orient emotions and passions that can bring an-other logic and an-other diplomacy, an-other emotion and an-other passion, is hard to say without careful and collective thinking. The role of institutions in managing and controlling people is undeniable. The question is the philosophy, passions and emotions embodied in the actors who run institutions. The democratic proposal, supported by a referendum, submitted by the Greek government to the European Union is a recent example of passion, emotions and interest of the ruling institutions, to ignore the opinion of the people assuming that the institutions shall be saved (in this case the European Union and the euro currency). 

Institutional roads to democracy are being shattered. Western hegemony has been lost, but its dominance is still in place. The efforts of many non-Euro-US States (cfr. BRICS) to delink from Western dominance creates unavoidable conflicts. Loosing privileges is not easy. On the other hand, we are witnessing the emergence of a strong global political society - “the people” organizing themselves (decolonially) and creating institutions that re-orient passions and emotions promoting the conviviality over competition and the communal over the commons and the common good. It is difficult to imagine at this moment a drastic turning point without a drastic point in the passions and emotions that generates and enacts visions of harmonic communal order and the primacy, the absolute primacy, of life lived in plenitude as a global goal enacted locally.