Author and renowned speaker Parag Khanna wrote a very thought provoking article in the Financial Times about a future world that will closely resemble the one in the Middle Ages, where there were many powerful and prominent nations. The new world will be similar, he says, but instead of countries, the centers of power will be big corporations, religious groups, global cities and powerful individuals. He also foresees countries often involved in internal strife being governed by a public-private system and companies playing greater role than governments in providing public welfare services.
From his blog:
Imagine a world with a strong China reshaping Asia; India confidently extending its reach from Africa to Indonesia; Islam spreading its influence; a Europe replete with crises of legitimacy; sovereign city-states holding wealth and driving innovation; and private mercenary armies, religious radicals and humanitarian bodies playing by their own rules as they compete for hearts, minds and wallets.
It sounds familiar today. But it was just as true slightly less than a millennium ago at the height of the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages was pre-Atlantic. Yet today we have the legacy superpower of the US, located in the new world. If the European Union today plays the part of the Holy Roman Empire, then the US is the new Byzantium, facing both east and west while in a state of relative decline. The Byzantines lasted for many centuries beyond their material capability, through shrewd diplomacy and deception rather than by force.