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Humanity’s main concerns today are not so much concrete evils as they are indeterminate threats. We are not worried by visible dangers, but by vague ones that could strike when they are least expected – and against which we are insufficiently protected.
There are, of course, specific, identifiable dangers, but what worries us most about terrorism, for example, is its unpredictable nature. What is most disturbing about the economy these days is its volatility – in other words, the inability of our institutions to protect us from the possibility of extreme financial uncertainty.
These conditions of overexposure are for the most part unprecedented, raising numerous questions for which we don’t yet have the right answers. What kind of protection would be appropriate in such a world?
Not surprisingly, a contagious globalization that increases vulnerability inevitably triggers preventive and defensive strategies that are not always proportionate or reasonable.
While the old power game sought the protection of one’s own interests with no concern for the interests of others, overexposure has brought about the reciprocity of risks, the development of cooperative methods, and the sharing of information and strategies. Truly effective global governance is the strategic horizon that humanity must pursue today with all its energy.
It sounds difficult to achieve, and so it will be. But it has nothing to do with pessimism. The challenge of governing global risks is nothing less than the challenge of preventing the “end of history” – not as the placid apotheosis of liberal democracy’s global victory, but as the worst collective failure we can imagine.