By Michael Lind, Tablet
We are living in a material world, after all.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has made it clear that what Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s called “the cold peace” has given way to Cold War II. The first Cold War was a struggle not only of nations and alliances but also of systems—capitalism versus communism. The second Cold War is already a struggle among systems as well, pitting countries that focus on manufacturing (China) and resources (Russia) in the physical world against an alliance led by the United States, which for the last generation has sacrificed much of its own manufacturing and mining to specialize in global leadership in finance, services, and entertainment. To put it another way, the contest of models in Cold War II is not about ownership of the means of production; it is about material production versus immaterial service provision.
The other side in the new Cold War is very good at making things, mining minerals, and growing food. In contrast, the U.S. economy, although it still manufactures many products and is highly productive in energy and agriculture, rewards and celebrates those who make apps and loans—after a generation in which American business and financial elites made fortunes by offshoring industrial jobs and facilities to China and Taiwan.