— Book review — Our world through the prism of Parag Khanna’s Connectography


Gaijuan Rongmei
Connectography is compiled of world vast information, out of which this writing is merely a part of what I understand. Reading and studying Connectography by Parag Khanna has opened my eyes to a wider understanding of History, Politics, Geography, Economics and the essential need for connectivity—seeking not in terms of self-benefits and self-interests but of meeting other people’s needs, the duty of loving thy neighbour. Could not help but contrast this with the state of affairs in our beloved state of Manipur where we have held on to our divisions, creating bigger and bigger chasm that separate us further and further.

The world is increasingly becoming connected and borders are increasingly becoming irrelevant. Increasing connectivity seems to be moving the whole world towards a particular optimistic direction – towards a fairer and sustainable future – and it is not just fulfilling “the law of demand and supply”. The interconnected supply chains would facilitate a mutual trust and redistribute world economy resources among different countries that are trading with each other, which in turn lead connectivity towards a relationship building. Rebuilding what is broken collectively.

Parag Khanna envisions a world connected by seamless communication infrastructure, highways, railways, pipelines, internet cables, energy, among the world population and resources. When there is no geography that is not connected, he terms as “Connectography”.

Border war- infrastructure to connectivity
Geopolitics has for centuries been synonymous with the quest of territory, the domination of one’s neighbours and rivals. Today the principle could simply be called competitive connectivity where the most connected power wins. States must protect their borders, but what matters is which lines they control— trade routes and cross-border infrastructures. Infrastructure (highways, transportation, pipelines, bridges, railways, internet, and communication) is the medium through which global economy resources flow.
Khanna describes what the forces or the impact of connectivity could have through the supply chain or the demand and supply on the global relationship among the countries. The premise is that not only the forces of connectivity—transportation, energy, innovations, but also capital market, cultural integration, trade, and so forth—are reshaping the meaning of geography and the extent to which political geography based at the boundaries dictate our fate versus the connective forces that make connectivity more our destiny than the geography has been for now, or up until now. So we have reached the sort of tipping point where connectivity does, in fact, matter more than divisions. We have so much connectivity across political borders, and yet we have so few wars along those borders. So we no longer really fight over a border. Instead we are now fighting over connectivity.

Supply Chains world
According to Khanna, supply chain is the system of organisations, people, technology activities, information, and resources involved in moving products and services from producers to customers. There is one and only one law that has been with us since we were hunter-gatherers that outlasted all rival theories, transcended empires and nations, and serves as our best guide to the future: supply and demand. Supply and demand is more than a market principle for determining the price of goods. Supply and demand are dynamic forces in search of equilibrium in all aspect of life. As we approach universal infrastructure and connectivity, the supply of everything can meet demand for anything; anything or anyone can get nearly anywhere both physically and virtually. The physicist Michio Kaku believes that we are heading towards such “perfect capitalism”, another term for this scenario being “Supply Chain World”.

Supply chains are the complete ecosystem of producers, distributors, and vendors that transform raw materials (whether natural resources or ideas) into goods and services and deliver to people anywhere. We are witnessing the full consequences of Adam Smith’s free markets, David Ricardo’s comparative advantage, and Emile Durkheim’s division of labour—a world where capital, labour, and production shift to wherever is needed to efficiently connect supply and demand. If “the market” is the world’s most powerful force, supply chains bring markets to life.

If the world population has a common goal, it is the quest for modernization and connectivity- the later a principal path to the former. Connectivity is unquestionably a greater force than all the political ideologies in the world combined. Connectivity has become the foundation for global society. After all, individuals connect with the rest of the world not through politics but through markets and media. Supply chains and connectivity, not sovereignty and borders, are the organising principles of humanity in the 21st century.
A supply chain order is thus not a libertarian fantasy in which markets rule the world. Nor is it universal socialist paradise. It is an evolutionary reality that we should construct pragmatic strategies to harness connectivity rather than retreating into populist mythologies and antiquated vocabularies. Global connectedness is thus an opportunity to evolve both cartography and our morality. We should make the most of supply chains rather than just letting it embitter our relationships. A world re-mapped according to connections rate more than divisions holds the potential to advance a shift from “us-them” mentalities toward a broader human “we” identity. There is no good reason to turn back.

The touchstone of morality in a global society is leveraging connectedness for utilitarian ends: achieving the greater good for the greatest number of people. Applying John Rawls’s test of societal morality on a global scale, judging ourselves by how we treat those at the bottom and justifying inequality to the extent that it improves the lives of the poorest. There is still potential to turn what the economist Branko Milanovic calls “bad” inequality into “good” inequality, which motivates and enables efforts for achievement.
Globalization and connectivity has improved the quality of life for billions of people even if they have high inevitable inequality. Thanks to the discovery and technology, supply and demand, rather than cartels, set energy prices. In the long run, the competition over connectivity reduces our collective risk. When resources are widely distributed, governments are less likely to fear being cut off from access to precious raw materials, and thus to fight over them. There is no more need for resources wars.” There are other ways in which the quest for strategic connectivity enables our abundant global resources to establish new trade routes and transit ports.

The time has come for even bolder thinking about leverage near-total connectivity to advance large-scale human development. Infrastructures, markets, technologies, and supply chains are not only logistically uniting the world but also propelling us toward a more fair and sustainable future. But there is still a long way to go. Billions are still without roads and electricity; food is scare; money is a luxury. Bad infrastructure and bad institutions stand in the way of bridging supply and demand. It is a moral imperative to overcome them.

There is no higher morality than allowing people to move to wherever they need to, whether averting natural disasters, escape conflict, or search for work, and moving the world’s abundant resources of fresh water, food, and energy to the people who need them. National sovereignty and territory integrity are no longer sacrosanct principles; in fact, they can be highly immoral when populations are besiege in Sudan and Syria, when drought-stricken climate refugees are relocated to futile territories, or when migrant workers are trapped in political purgatories rather than empowered to contribute and earn. The shift from political to functional maps helps us overcome rigid moralities that deliver neither justice nor efficiency. It adopts a more utilitarian mentality by which governments don’t so much own the world as manage parts of it within a global network civilization.

We need a more borderless world because we can’t afford destructive territorial conflict, because correcting the mismatch of people and resources can unlock incredible human and economic potential, because, so few states provide sufficient welfare for their citizens, and because so many billions have yet to fully benefit from globalisation. Borders are not the antidote to risk and uncertainty; more connections are. But if we want to enjoy the benefits of a borderless world, we have to build it first. Our fate hangs in the balance.

Like the author Khanna, I envision and pray for a world where being connected would make our planet earth a better place to live in.

Source: The Sangai Express


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