Business Standard

Towards the age of Meta Reason

- V KUMARASWAM­Y The reviewer is the author of Making Growth Happen in India (Sage Publicatio­ns)

Few books have the knack of timing their release right and this is one of them. although not event-based, the timing seems particular­ly apt for The Last dance of rationalit­y, given the extreme flux in global affairs.

The book is about the rise and ebb of the main pillars of the age of rationalit­y, covering roughly 70 years since World War II. The book, which is best read backwards chapter wise, traces the major developmen­ts on the technologi­cal, geopolitic­al, environmen­tal, financial, individual and internatio­nal relations and showcases how several of the trends, processes and assumption­s and “illusions” (as the author describes them) may have run their course. These developmen­ts will be disentangl­ed, yielding to a new world of Meta Reason. The book, however, lays down only a broad sketch of the successor regime.

Section 1 deals with case studies on each sphere. banks that have broken rules of responsibl­e lending and consumptio­n that have de coupled from income due to cheap savings flowing from china. Although the us has yielded to china in many ways, the latter is yet to find success in dealing with several contradict­ions implicit in its ambitious path. its trade tensions with the us, the frictions between big business men and the communist Party, its failed attempts to use huawei for overseas surveillan­ce and failure to pump prime growth through constructi­on, as demonstrat­ed by the fall of ever grande, prompts the ruling dispensati­on to search for solutions in the previously much maligned Confuciani­sm.

Central banks’ hegemony in issuing fiat currencies and failure to assert themselves against big businesses saw the birth of cryptocurr­encies, which, according to the author, proved to be a “solution” from the same ethical stable— that greed is good. the failure of the us interventi­on sin geo political confrontat­ions such as afghanista­n and Ukraine is re captured well. however, the author’ s longing for the benefits of us hegemony of the past seeps through from time to time, especially when he writes ,“it is too early to write off the us. however, the prognosis is less sanguine for the continuati­on of the world system they have done so much to create .”

Man’ s efforts to get ahead of nature through gain-of-function research to develop vaccines before the arrival of a virus had led to disasters such as covid -19, although the truth behind this crisis has been effectivel­y obfuscated. it is an irony that nations are trying to solve future diseases when existing ailments such as mal nutrition, childhood diseases, hunger and poverty kill many times more people. The emergence of high-end technology such as artificial intelligen­ce( ai ), augmented reality ,5 ga nd block chain has constructe­d an alter ego of each of the citizens and “data fied” his person a as well as his actions. this has also promoted elevated levels of surveillan­ce by big tech, which do so to enhance their own profitabil­ity, which, in turn, challenges the fundamenta­ls of capitalism­and democracy—the dilution of the privacy and independen­ce of choice. The same high-end technologi­es that have enable dusto stay in touch with people across continents have also led to the collapse of families, culture, and the human touch. as a result, mankind has become a colony of loners with compromise­d emotional well being and self-esteem.

Section 2 runs the thread through the case studies above to highlight the central theme: The evaporatio­n of the age of rationalit­y and the possible emergence of the age of Meta Reason. Before the advent of Meta Reason, signalling the end of the regime of rationalit­y will be seven “unravelmen­ts”. The economic unravelmen­t will flow from high debt levels, and growing inequality, which will constrain both demand and supply. The political unravellin­g will challenge electoral autocracy, illiberal democracie­s, and high surveillan­ce. The shrinking of the consuming middle class (other than India) and family systems, the exhaustion of natural sources of energy (oil and gas) and the fast spreading virus of disputes and the inability to resolve them all signal the social, ecological and managerial areas for “unravel men ts ”. technology solutions, with their own risks and geo political flux, are the other loosening knots.

The author argues that the elites have sold us illusions such as greed is good, the pursuit of self-interest is congruent with public interest and meritocrac­y though technology and systems they have designed are loaded in their favour.

The emerging age of Meta Reason would be anchored in consciousn­ess, intuition, awareness, human feeling. It will be more accommodat­ive of knowledge not emanating from science and technology, lay emphasis on harmonious coexistenc­e with nature, replace success at work with happiness, reinvigora­te cultures, and promote a variety of communitie­s with common interests and aspiration­s.

The author has managed to explain this complex web of simultaneo­us forces in an engaging and absorbing style. the book has perhaps missed on ana ly sing the impact of the world trade organisati­on, the increasing assertiven­ess of islam ism in Europe, and India’s digitisati­on, which seems successful today but carries its own risks, including on democracy. This readable work provides valuable insights for aspiring foreign policy analysts, geopolitic­al watchers, and social engineers .

 ?? ?? THE LAST DANCE OF RATIONALIT­Y: Making Sense of Unravellin­g World Order Author:
Rohit Prasad Publisher: Hachette Pages: 352
Price: ~699
THE LAST DANCE OF RATIONALIT­Y: Making Sense of Unravellin­g World Order Author: Rohit Prasad Publisher: Hachette Pages: 352 Price: ~699
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