The unprecedented and unpredicted changes in global, political, and economic arrangements have altered the realities of the present. After the crumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the unravelling of the Soviet empire, the Austrian management and business innovator, Peter Drucker, suggested that the world had changed and the new gestalt must be viewed as ‘configurations’ that embrace several aspects of our lives. A year later, American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama saw the collapse of the Cold War dualistic vision as the harbinger of the triumph of the Western model of liberal democracy, and declared
What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the cold war, or the passing of a particular period of the post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.
That unparalleled hubris now lies in ruin. The last decade has seen economic, political, and cultural power shift from the West to the East; and liberal democracy, given the recent events in the US, India, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere, appears to be in an intensive care unit. Indeed, the world has become more contradictory, complex, and chaotic; and we now face the new reality of postnormal times, where uncertainties in social, economic, cultural, and political life have become the new order of things. Worse, the new reality, for want of a better term, is not constant but ever changing, configuring and reconfiguring the world.
The postnormal reality that confronts us includes the climate emergency, the incorporation of different varieties of ignorance with knowledge production, the emergence of surveillance capitalism, the problems and challenges of digital economies, the social pathology of social media, the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the old issues of justice and equality. These are interconnected issues that urgently need a sense of complexity that is neither a flirtation with nostalgia nor romanticism. Complexity in our thinking and approach to problems and issues is something we desperately need to learn to comprehend because it is pre-eminently the condition in which we live. It is impossible for any of us to attain a sustainable lifestyle that embraces complexity without also embracing a plural vision of human futures. For this reason, there can be no end to history, but there must be a relearning of the history that has made the world today. This is why Muslim scholars from the Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun to the Algerian philosopher, Malik Bennabi have emphasised the cyclical nature of history.