The New World Order According to Kotkin

The growing significance of global networks does not mean that the world is becoming uniform in every regard. In his article published in the October 2010 issue of Newsweek, Joel Kotkin describes a new world order that is based not on political borders, but instead on tribal ties, i.e. skin color, ethnicity and religious conviction.62 In this world order, tribal traits, shared history, race, ethnicity, religion and culture replace the borders defined by diplomacy as the organizing fundamentals of humanity. These ties are as old as history itself, and their impact has been reinforced by globalization. In this world order, borders remain malleable and change over time, and the author has identified 19 groups of countries, economic regions or cities that are bound not by their geographic proximity, but by their similar attributes (Figure 30).

Figure 30 Distribution of the 19 Regional Tribal Alliances

Source: Bryan Christie,



1. New Hansa
Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden
The descendants of the Hanseatic League of the early Middle Ages share Germanic cultural roots and specialize in the trade of high-value goods. They boast generous welfare systems, high savings rates, as well as impressive levels of employment, education, and technological innovation.

2. Border areas
Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, United Kingdom
These countries share the trait of seeking to find their place in the new tribal world. In the past, most of these countries were often under occupation; nowadays, they are fighting for their autonomy against competing zones of influence.

3. Olive Republics
Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain
With roots in Greek and Roman antiquity, these lands of olives and wine lag behind their northern counterparts, and almost all have huge government debt compared with the Hansa countries. They also have the lowest birthrates.

4. City-States
London, New York, Paris, Singapore
These cities are distinct from their environment based on their high degree of development, openness and international nature. They constitute major economic hubs within their respective regions.

5. North American Alliance
Canada, United States
These two countries are joined at the hip in terms of their economies, demographics, and culture. The region will remain the world’s leading economy thanks to its cities, high-tech industry, agricultural output and freshwater supplies.

6. Liberalistas
Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru
These countries are the democratic and market-based economies of Latin America, but nevertheless still suffer from low income and high poverty rates. They are trying to join the ranks of the fast-growing economies, but some of them, particularly Mexico, are strongly tied to the US economy. It is uncertain whether the weight of the state will increase in these countries, or the economies based on the free market will prevail.

7. Bolivarian Republics
Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela
Countries swinging back toward dictatorship and following the pattern of Peronism, with historical antipathy toward America and capitalism. They are characterized by high poverty rates. With their anti-American mindset, mineral wealth, and energy reserves, they are tempting targets for rising powers like China and Russia.

8. Stand-Alones
Brazil, France, India, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland
These countries have diverse and independent characteristics. Brazil has edged away from North America and is seeking to reinforce its relationship with China and Iran. France has uniquely tried to preserve its culture from Anglo-American influence. India’s hugely populous economy is growing continuously, albeit at a slower pace than China. Japan continues to remain a leading global economy. South Korea has become a true technological power over the past 40 years, but it must be careful to avoid being sucked into the engines of an expanding China. Switzerland enjoys prosperity thanks to its excellent business climate, ample water supplies and extensive international relationship network.

9. Russian Empire
Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine
Russia has enormous natural resources, considerable scientific-technological capacity, and a powerful military. It relies on the strong ties of the Russian Slavic identity when attempting to expand its influence within the region. It is a moderately developed country with an aging population.

10. The Wild East
Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan
This part of the world remains a center of contention between competing regions, including China, India, Turkey, Russia, and North America.

11. Iranistan
Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria
Iran could be a rising regional superpower based on its economic potential, but it is hindered by extremist ideology and a poorly managed economy. The region has become a net importer of consumer goods.

12. Greater Arabia
Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
This region’s oil resources make it a key economic and financial partner, with great internal differences in development. A powerful bond – religion and race – ties this community together but makes relations with the rest of the world problematic.

13. The New Ottomans
Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Although EU integration remains important for Turkey, its focus has shifted toward the Middle East and Central Asia, and trade with both Russia and China is also on the rise.

14. South African Empire
Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe
South Africa’s economy is the largest in Africa. Its good infrastructure, mineral resources, fertile land, strong industrial base and relative development have propelled it to becoming the region’s leading power.

15. Sub-Saharan Africa
Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania…
These former colonies are divided between Muslim and Christian, French and English speakers, and lack cultural cohesion. A combination of high poverty rates and natural resources will almost certainly turn them into targets for China, India, and North America.

16. Maghrebian Belt
Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia
This region is characterized by poverty and isolated nodes of development.

17. Middle Kingdom
China, Hong Kong, Taiwan
Han Chinese account for more than 90 percent of the population in the rapidly developing China marked by a sense of historical pride, and constitute the world’s single largest racial-cultural group. This national and cultural cohesion makes the Chinese market hard to penetrate. China’s growth coupled with its need for resources makes it an active player in Africa, the Bolivarian Republics, and the Wild East. Its problems, however, are legion: the centralization of power, growing inequality, environmental degradation and an aging population.

18. The Rubber Belt
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
These countries are rich in minerals, fresh water, rubber, and a variety of foodstuffs but suffer varying degrees of political instability. Apart from Malaysia, household incomes remain relatively low, but these countries could emerge as the next high-growth region.

19. Lucky Countries
Australia, New Zealand
Household incomes are similar to those in North America. Immigration and a common historical roots tie them culturally to North America and the United Kingdom. But due to their geographic location and production structure, China and India will become their dominant trading partners in the future.