The Fluid Society

Review by Herman Wijffels on “The Digital Challenge for Europe”

With the book “The Digital Challenge for Europe”, Peter Hagedoorn makes an important contribution to the discussion on digitalization, the need for global connectivity and new forms of governance.
There is no doubt that the world is at an important stage in its evolutionary development. Major problems such as climate change and the threat of overpopulation cannot be solved at the level of the nation-state. A global awareness is beginning to develop that the great questions of our time require a common approach and thus a new model of governance. Today’s problems do not respect national borders.

This also applies to problems related to the smart and dominant behaviour of big tech, such as user privacy and tax evasion. Given the social disruption that can result from the activities of big tech and cybercrime, a concerted effort is needed to develop tools that can contribute to solutions. It is international Internet systems that help make a pandemic, such as COVID-19, more manageable, but it is also clear that support for action in this context is ultimately brought about at the level of the nation-state.

The nation-states provide the democratic basis for decision-making also for measures that must be taken at a global level to make the world governable. An important link in this is the European Union, a concept that expands the organizing capacity of the nation-state to the higher European level and from there to the global level. Ultimately our efforts should be aimed at the global level.

Although this book pays a lot of attention to the negative effects that are the result of digitalization, a picture also emerges of a world in which, thanks to digitalization, inequality of opportunity is reduced. A world in which the emphasis on material things decreases because needs can also be satisfied in the virtual world of the Internet and where people are increasingly aware that we are connected.
Education will become more widely accessible and every world citizen will be able to imagine the ways in which he can get a better grip on his own living situation. For those who take the opportunity to acquire the right knowledge, there are career opportunities all over the world without the need to change their place of residence, a development that contributes to a solution for the migration problems.

This book rightly points out that when nation-states dare to look beyond their borders and dare to cooperate, the current problems become manageable and a better new world unfolds. This book is highly recommended for anyone who wants to delve into the questions of the future digitalizing world.

Note: Herman Wijffels concluded his colourful career as Professor of Sustainability and Social Change. Before that, he held influential positions. Among other things, he was Chairman of the Executive Board of Rabobank Nederland, Chairman of the Social and Economic Council and Director of the World Bank.

Bilthoven, March 2021, Herman Wijffels