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Why The End Of Western Hegemony Is Not (Necessarily) The End Of The West

The West is losing influence on many fronts, embodied in the rise of the BRICS alliance as a kind of "counter-G7." But Western leaders will need to decide if they want to be part of this change, or its victim.

Why The End Of Western Hegemony Is Not (Necessarily) The End Of The West

BRICS leaders with new members and delegates during the closing of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg.

Pierre Haski

PARIS — It's a concept that comes up ever more regularly: the "de-Westernization of the world," a loss of influence that manifests in economic, geopolitical, and of course, demographic terms.

It arose again during last week's summit of the BRICS nations, this club of emerging countries that has now decided to expand from five to 11 members. Their main unifying characteristic is simply being non-Western, a negative definition that provides a common ground for countries as diverse as China, Saudi Arabia and Argentina.

This perspective could also be applied to the crisis in Niger and the removal of France from a part of its former empire, a resurgence of post-colonial issues leading to geopolitical shifts.

Yet we must be cautious not to jump to hasty conclusions. At first glance, de-Westernization is undeniable: the expanded BRICS represent 46% of the global population and over one-third of the global GDP. The Western G7 accounts for barely 10% of the population and 30% of the world GDP.

Numbers, however, rarely tell the whole story.

Assumption of division

Drawing a conclusion is difficult, primarily because the countries united within the BRICS, or even the entirety of the "global South" – as the established term goes – do not constitute a coherent bloc.

Within BRICS, China and Russia are pushing to turn the club into a "counter-G7," with a pronounced anti-Western ideological dimension. Others, like India or African nations, primarily see it as an instrument for South-South cooperation. They share the desire to escape from a world shaped and led by the West, particularly by the "dollar deity," but they fear being enrolled in a bloc dominated by Chinese ambitions; they don't want the looming Cold War to gain momentum.

Thus there is more than a single nuance between these two "stances," and Western countries would do well to notice this before an assumption of division between "the West and the rest of the world" takes hold.

Reorganising the world?

The first response is to listen to the legitimate demands for equality from those countries in the Global South. In June, during the Summit on New Global Financing Pact in Paris, Kenyan President William Ruto, who is anything but an adversary of the West, had a strong exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron.

"There is a problem with your project," he told Macron. "You want to reform international institutions so that they continue to give us orders. We want institutions where we'll be at the decision-making table." These words articulate the current state of affairs.

This is an longstanding demand for equality, but one that has taken a more political, confrontational turn, especially in light of the Russian war in Ukraine and the refusal of some Southern countries to engage. Russia and China are riding this sense of injustice aimed at the West.

The reorganization of the world will happen, with the West if they accept it — or against them. From this standpoint, what is at play, within the BRICS or elsewhere, is more the end of Western hegemony than any kind of "de-Westernization" that is far from inevitable.

— Pierre Haski

In other news ...


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Sixty years after Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, German daily Frankfurter Rundschau’s front page laments King’s “Unfulfilled Dream,” in a country where Black people continue to be victims of racism. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which King gave his famous speech, was “one of the highlights of the American civil rights movement,” the German paper writes, describing the echo King’s message found among German readers, while deploring that his vision “never became reality.”

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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