Ancient and medieval mapmakers would better understand the world of 2100 than would the politicians of 2000. Nations as we know them have existed for only a few hundred years. But cities have been with us since the dawn of civilization. And while the future of the city is not Robert D. Kaplan, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of “The Coming Anarchy,” a forthcoming book.
While the future of the city is not in doubt, modern nations will probably continue to weaken in the 21st century. By 2100, the organizing principle of the world will be the City-state, along with the urban radials of prosperity that follow major trade routes.
Indeed, loyalty toward the polis will gradually overwhelm the traditional state patriotism of the 20th century. Empires will be agglomerations of urban areas. Cities and their hinterlands will make alliances and fight wars with and against each other – less over territory than over bandwidths in cyberspace and trade privileges. Power politics will prove eternal.
Neither states nor cities by themselves provide stability; elaborate institutions of finance and tax collection, manned by responsible officials, do that. In areas that already have such institutions (North America, Europe, China), the weakening or elimination of traditional nations will unleash further economic growth. By 2100, North America will be a loosely knit nation of competitive urban regions, a new version of the ancient Greek city-states,
In areas without strong institutions, like sub-Saharan Africa, the transition to city- states will cause instability and suffering in the first decades of the 21st century. Lebanon, Syria and Jordan will fade as the Arab world reverts to the Phoenician city-stats system, dominated by Greater Beirut, Greater Damascus and Greater Amman.
Cultures able to produce exportable goods and services will dominate those that can’t. Because Communism did more damage to Central Asia and the Caucasus than Islamic fundamentalism has done to Iran, Greater Persia, oriented around the City-states of Tehran, Tabriz and Mashad, may dominate the weaker Turkic societies that used to known as Azerbaijan & Turkmenistan. By 2100, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will have broken up into various Khanates.
Of course, this map is impressionistic. A more accurate map would be a hologram in constant motion, showing how power and sovereignity shift and overlap. It will include new cults and ideologies, as well a corporate empires, surveillance networks, and crime groups and the technologies they control.
Political systems in 2100 Will be elegantly varied, unconstrained by the sanctimony of the late 20th century, with Its simple call for “democracy.” The next century will be the age of high-tech feudalism.