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The local branch, the national bourgeoisie, is a broad social category which encompasses the entrepreneurial elite, company directors, high-ranking state officials and influential political and professional leaders. The new social inequalities produced by this class structure have become fully recognised by the same multinational agencies who have been the leaders of this model of globalisation, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In more recent comparisons between models and patterns of social inequality in Latin America and East Asia, Evans adds other factors which, in his opinion, may have contributed to the fact that the Asian model of development has produced relatively less inequality than the Brazilian one.
From amongst these, what counts in favour of the Asian model is the greater autonomy of the state, the efficiency of the state bureaucracy, agrarian reform and the existence of an initial period of protection in relation to the capitalism of the core countries According to the World Bank, the African continent is the only one in which, between and , there was a decrease in food production World Bank, The increase in inequalities has become so accelerated and so great that it is reasonable to see the last few decades as a revolt on the part of the elites against the redistribution of wealth, which thus ends the period of a qualified democratisation of wealth begun after the Second World War.
Inequalities such as these show how far we are from a truly global information society. The size of the user band in the whole of Latin America is almost the same as that which is available for the city of Seoul UNDP, 3. In the last thirty years, inequality in the distribution of revenue between countries has increased dramatically. The difference in revenue between the five richest and the five poorest was, in , 30 to 1, in , 60 to 1 and, in , 74 to 1.
The richest people in the world more than doubled their wealth between and The wealth of the three richest billionaires in the world exceeded the sum of the gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries in the world UNDP, The concentration of wealth produced by neo-liberal globalisation has reached scandalous proportions in the country which has led the implementation of the new economic model, the USA. According to the Bank, this concentration had no precedent in the history of the USA and no comparison with any other industrialized country Mander, In terms of social globalisation, the neo-liberal consensus is what growth and economic stability use as the basis for a reduction in salary costs, for which it is necessary to liberalise the labour market by reducing labour costs, outlawing the indexing of salaries to increases in productivity and adjustments in relation to the cost of living, and eliminating legislation on minimum wages.
The contraction of domestic purchasing power resulting from this policy should be resolved by searching out foreign markets. The economy is thus desocialised, the concept of the consumer replaces that of the citizen and the criteria for inclusion is no longer a right, but a condition of being solvent. The poor are the insolvent including those consumers who have overstepped their debt limits.
The measures adopted to fight poverty should preferably be compensatory measures to lessen, but not eliminate, exclusion, since it is an inevitable and therefore justifiable effect of development based on economic growth and global competition. This neo-liberal consensus amongst the core countries is also imposed on peripheral and semi-peripheral countries through control of the external debt, effected by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The new globalised poverty is not the result of any lack of human or material resources, but of unemployment, the destruction of subsistence economies and the reductions in salary costs on a worldwide scale.
Health is perhaps the area in which the inequities of the world are revealed most shockingly. According to the latest United Nations Human Development Report, in , million people had no access to drinking water and 2. The illnesses which affect the poor populations of the world most are malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea. For example, only 0. In spite of the shocking rise in inequality between poor and rich countries, only four of the latter fulfill their moral obligation to contribute 0.
Moreover, according to data from the OECD, this percentage dropped, between and , from 0. The most perverse factor in international aid programmes is that they mask other mechanisms for financial transfer, in which the flow is predominantly from the poorer to the richer countries. This is what happens, for example, with the external debt.
The total value of the external debt in Sub-Saharan African countries in millions of dollars rose between and from At the end of the XX century Africa was paying 1. The International Monetary Fund has basically functioned as an institution which guarantees that poor countries, many of which are becoming even poorer and falling further into debt, pay their debts to rich countries in the form of states, private banks, and multilateral agencies under terms interest rates, for example imposed by them. On the one hand, the hegemonic states, are, either themselves or through the international institutions they control, especially the multilateral financial institutions , constraining the political autonomy and effective sovereignty of the peripheral and semi-peripheral states with an unprecedented intensity, although the ability of the latter to resist and negotiate may vary immensely.
In the case of the European Union, these agreements have evolved through forms of joint or shared sovereignty. Last, but by no means least, the nation state seems to have lost its traditional centrality as the as the favoured unit for economic, social and political initiatives. Intensifying interactions across borders and transnational practices have eroded the ability of the nation state to guide or control the flow of people, goods, capital or ideas as it did in the past.
Far from being a new phenomenon, the impact of the international context on the regulation of the nation state is inherent in the modern interstate system and inscribed in the Treaty of Westphalia itself , which established it. Nor is the fact that the international context tends to exert a particularly strong influence over the legal regulation of the economy anything new, as can be witnessed in the various projects for the standardization and unification of economic law developed throughout the XX century by specialists in comparative law and implemented by international organisations and national governments.
As the names of the projects themselves indicate, international pressure has traditionally been felt in uniformity and standardisation, clearly illustrated by the pioneering projects of Ernest Rabel at the beginning of the 30s and by the establishment of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law UNIDROIT , which aimed to unify international contract law and led, for example, to a uniform law for the drawing up of international sales contracts ULFIS, and a Convention on the international sales of goods CISG, van der Velden, The tradition of globalisation is, for some, even longer.
Tilly, for example, distinguishes between four waves of globalisation in the previous millennium: in the 13th, 16th and 19th centuries and at the end of the 20th century Despite this historical tradition, the current impact of globalisation on state regulation seems to be a qualitatively new phenomenon for two main reasons. Firstly, it is a very broad and vast phenomenon which covers a very large area of state intervention requiring drastic changes to the model of intervention. For Tilly, what distinguishes the present wave of globalisation from the one which took place in the XIX century is the fact that the latter contributed towards strengthening of the powers of the central Western states, whilst current globalisation is weakening the powers of the state.
This central pressure operates and reinforces itself in conjunction with such phenomena and developments as the end of the Cold War, the dramatic new innovations in communications and information technology, the new flexible systems of production, the emergence of regional blocks, the proclamation of liberal democracy as a universal political regime, the global imposition of a standard legal model for the protection of intellectual property, etc.
When compared to previous processes of transnationalisation, the scope of these pressures becomes particularly evident, since they occur after decades of intense state regulation of the economy, in the core countries as well as in the peripheral and semi-peripheral countries. The creation of standard and institutionalised requirements for the operations of the neo-liberal model of development therefore involves such wholesale institutionalised and uniform destruction that it affects not only the role the state plays in the economy, but also the global legitimacy of the state to organize society.
The second new factor in present day political globalisation is that the asymmetrical balance of transnational power between the core and the periphery of the world system i. In fact, the sovereignty of the weakest states is now directly threatened, not so much by the most powerful states, as had been the case in the past, but, above all, by the international financial agencies and other private transnational actors, such as multinational companies. The pressure is thus supported by a relatively cohesive transnational coalition using powerful, worldwide resources.
Taking into account the situation in Europe and North America, Bob Jessop identifies three general trends in the transformation of state power. Firstly, the denationalisation of the state, a particular stripping down of national state apparatuses resulting from the fact that both the old and new capacities of the state are being reorganised, territorially as well as functionally, at both a sub-national and a supra-national level. Secondly, the denationalisation of political regimes , reflected in the transition from the concept of government to that of governance , or rather from a model of social and economic regulation based on the central role of the state, to one which is based on partnerships and other forms of association with governmental, para-governmental and non-governmental organisations, in which the state apparatus exercises only coordinating tasks as a.
Finally, a tendency towards the internationalisation of the national state , reflected in the rising strategic impact of the international context on state activities, which can involve expanding the field of action of the national state whenever internal circumstances need to be accommodated to extra-territorial or transnational demands Jessop, Although not entirely absorbed by it, it is in the field of economics that the transnationalisation of state regulation has acquired the greatest saliency.
Given that these changes take place at the end of a relatively lengthy period of state intervention in social and economic life notwithstanding considerable differences within the world system , the retraction of the state can only be achieved through strong state intervention. The state has to intervene in order to no longer intervene, or, in other words, it has to regulate its own deregulation. A deeper analysis of the dominant features of political globalisation — which are, in fact, the features of the dominant political globalisation — leads to the conclusion that three components of the Washington Consensus underlie it: the consensus of the weak state, the consensus of liberal democracy and the consensus of the supremacy of the law and the judicial system.
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The consensus of the weak state is, without doubt, the most central and there is ample proof of this in what has been previously written. It is based on the idea that the state is the opposite of civil society and potentially its enemy. The neo-liberal economy needs a strong civil society and it requires the state to be weak in order for it to exist.
The state inherently oppresses and limits civil society, and only by reducing its size is it possible to reduce its harmful effects and thus strengthen civil society. Hence the weak state tends also to be a minimal state. This idea was originally defended by liberal political theory, but was gradually abandoned once national capitalism, as a social and political relationship, demanded greater state intervention. Thus, the idea of the state as the opposite of civil society was replaced with the idea of the state as the mirror of civil society. From that point onwards, a strong state became a condition for a strong civil society.
The consensus of the weak state aims to reintroduce the original liberal idea. This repositioning has proved to be extremely complex and contradictory and, perhaps because of this, the consensus of the weak state is, of all the neo-liberal consensuses, the most fragile and the one most subject to correction. Therefore, as previously mentioned, deregulation implies intense state regulatory activity in order to end former state regulation and to create the standards and institutions which will preside over the new model of social regulation. Such activities can only be accomplished by an effective and relatively strong state.
Just as the state has to intervene in order to stop intervening, only a strong state can efficiently create its own weakness. This contradiction was responsible for the strategic failure of USAID and the World Bank in the political reform of the Russian state after the collapse of communism. The reforms were based on the almost total dismantling of the Soviet state in the expectation that a weak state would emerge out of the ruins and, consequently, a strong civil society. To the surprise of the originators, what actually emerged out of these reforms was a mafia-style government Hendley, Perhaps because of this, the consensus of the weak state was the one which first gave signs of weakness, as the World Bank report dedicated to the state clearly shows, in which the idea of state regulation is resurrected and the main emphasis is on effective state action World Bank, The consensus of liberal democracy aims to give a political shape to the weak state by once more resorting to liberal political theory which, particularly when it originated, had defended the necessary convergence of political liberty and economic liberty, free elections and free markets as two sides of the same coin: the common good achieved through the actions of utilitarian individuals involved in competitive exchanges with the minimum of state interference.
The global imposition of this hegemonic consensus has created many problems, not the least because it is a monolithic model applied to very distinct societies and circumstances. For this reason, the democratic model adopted as a political condition for international aid and finance tends to become converted into an abbreviated version, if not a caricature of liberal democracy. Clearly the irony of this list is that the real democracies of the hegemonic countries themselves are, if not caricatures, at the very least, abbreviated versions of this model of liberal democracy.
The consensus of the supremacy of the law and the judicial system is one of the essential components of the new political form of the state and it is also the one which best seeks to bind political globalisation to economic globalisation. The model of development guaranteed by the Washington Consensus demands a new legal framework suited to the liberalisation of markets, investments and the financial system.
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In a model based on privatisation, private initiative and market supremacy, the principles of order, reliability and trust cannot be commanded by the state. They can only come from the law and the judicial system, as a set of independent and universal systems which create standard expectations and resolve litigation through legal frameworks which are presumed to be understood by everyone.
The preeminence of individual ownership and of contacts further reinforces the supremacy of the law. In addition, the expansion of consumerism, which is the driving force behind economic globalisation, is not possible without the institutionalisation and popularisation of consumer credit and this is not possible without the creditable threat of sanctions for those who are unable to pay, which, in turn, is only made possible by the extent to which an effective judicial system operates. In terms of the Washington Consensus, the central responsibility of the state is to create a legal framework and effective conditions within which the legal and judicial institutions can function to make the routine flow of infinite interactions possible between citizens, economic agents and the state itself.
Another important theme in the analysis of the political dimensions of globalisation is the increasing role of supra-state forms of government, or, in other words, the international political agencies, the multilateral financial agencies, the supra-national political and economic blocs, the global think tanks, the different forms of global law ranging from the new to human rights.
Again, in this case, the phenomenon is not new, since the interstate system we have lived under since the 17th century has, particularly since the 19th century, promoted standard international consensuses which translate into international organisations. Then, as today, these organisations have functioned as the common property of the core countries. What is new is the extent and power of transnational institutionalisation over the last three decades. This is one of the senses in which the emergence of global governance Murphy, has come to be used.
The other sense, which is more prospective and utopian, relates to the enquiry into the transnational political institutions which will, in future, correspond to the economic and social globalisation currently in progress Falk, ; Chase-Dunn et al. Some authors have transposed the structural conflicts of the previous period onto the new arena of globalisation and imagine the political counterparts which this will bring into being. Whilst for some they have a secondary role, given that the capitalist world economy is more integrated into political and military power and market independence then into a normative and cultural consensus Chase-Dunn, 88 , for others, political power, cultural domination and institutionalized values and norms precede market dependence in the development of the world system and the stability of the interstate system Meyer, ; Bergesen, Although the question of the original matrix of globalisation is posed in relation to each of the dimensions of globalisation, it is in the domain of cultural globalisation that it is posed more acutely or more frequently.
The issue is to determine whether what is termed globalisation should not be more correctly termed Westernisation or Americanisation Ritzer, , since the values, cultural artifacts and universal symbols which are globalised are Western and, often, specifically North American, whether individualism, political democracy, economic rationality, utilitarianism, the supremacy of law, the cinema, advertising, television, the Internet etc.
In this context, the electronic media, especially television, have become one of the great issues of the debate. Although the importance of the globalisation of the media is emphasised by all, not everyone draws the same conclusions from this. Appadurai, for example, sees in this one of the two factors the other is mass migration responsible for the rupture with the period we have just left behind the world of modernisation and the period we are just entering the post-electronic world Appadurai, It is no longer confined to the romantic individual and the expressive space of art, myth and ritual but is part of the everyday life of ordinary citizens ibid.
This theme acts in conjunction with another equally central one within the context of cultural globalisation, that of determining to what point globalisation creates homogeneity. If, for some authors, the specific features of local and national cultures are at risk Ritzer, , for others globalisation produces homogeneity as much as it produces diversity Robertson and Khondker, Institutional similarity, particularly in economic and political domains, coexists with the affirmation of differences and particularities. For Friedman , cultural and ethnic fragmentation on the one hand and modernist homogeneity on the other, are not two opposing perspectives of what is taking place, but rather two trends which both constitute global reality Featherstone, In the same way, Appadurai emphasizes that the electronic media, far from being the opium of the people, are actively processed by individuals and by groups, and are fertile ground for exercises in resistance, selectivity and irony 7.
Appadurai has come to stress the growing role of the imagination in a social life dominated by globalisation. It is through imagination that citizens are disciplined and controlled by states, markets and other dominant interests but it is also through imagination that citizens develop collective systems of dissidence and new representations of collective life What is not clear in these positions is the elucidation of the social power relations which preside over the production of both homogeneity and differentiation.
This elucidation is particularly useful for a critical analysis of the process of hybridisation or creolisation which result from the confrontation or cohabitation of homogenizing trends and particularizing trends Hall and McGrew, ; Appadurai, Another central theme in the discussion of the cultural dimensions of globalisation — also related to the previous debate — refers to the question of determining whether, in recent decades, a global culture has emerged Featherstone, ; Waters, It has been understood for a long time that since at least the 16th century a hegemonic ideology of European science, economics, politics and religion has produced, through cultural imperialism, some similarities between the different national cultures in the world system.
The question now is to know whether, in addition to this, certain cultural forms have emerged in recent decades which are transnational in origin or whose national origins are relatively unimportant in view of the fact that they circulate throughout the world more or less without roots in any national culture. These cultural forms are identified by Appadurai as mediascapes and ideoscapes , by Leslie Sklair as the consumerist culture-ideology and by Anthony Smith as a new cultural imperialism From another perspective, the theory of international regimes has begun to draw our attention towards the processes of forming consensuses on a world level and to the emergence of a normative global order Keohane and Nye, ; Keohane, ; Krasner, ; Haggard and Simmons, And, from yet another perspective, the theory of international structure accentuates the way in which Western culture has created social actors and significant cultures for the whole world Thomas et al.
The idea of a global culture is clearly one of the main projects of modernity. As Stephen Toulmin brilliantly demonstrates, this can be identified from Leibniz to Hegel and from the 17th century until our own. Sociological attention given to this idea in the last three decades has, nevertheless, had a specific empirical base. It is believed that the dramatic intensification of transfrontier flows of goods, capital, work, people, ideas and information has given rise to convergences, similarities and hybrids between the different national cultures, whether they are architectural styles, fashion, eating habits or cultural consumption.
Nevertheless most of the authors maintain that, although important, these processes are far from leading to a global culture. Culture is, by definition, a social process constructed on the intersection between the universal and the particular. Similarly, Appadurai states that the cultural is the arena of differences, contrasts and comparisons We may even state that that culture is, in its simplest definition, the struggle against uniformity. The powerful and involved processes of the diffusion and imposition of culture, imperialistically defined as universal, have been confronted throughout the world system by multiple and ingenious processes of cultural resistance, identification and indigenisation.
However, the topic of global culture does have the merit of showing that the political struggle surrounding cultural homogeneity and uniformity has transcended the territorial configuration in which it was located from the 19th century until very recently, that is, the nation state. In this respect, the nation states have traditionally played a very ambiguous role.
Whilst externally they have been the heralds of cultural diversity and the authenticity of national culture, internally they have promoted homogeneity and uniformity, crushing the rich variety of local cultures existing in within national territories through the power of politics, law, the education system or the media and, more often than not, through all of them together. This role has been carried out with very varied intensity and efficiency in the core, peripheral and semi-peripheral states, and may now be changing as part of the ongoing transformations to the regulatory capacities of nation states.
Under the conditions of the world capitalist economy and the modern inter-state system, there seems only to be space for partial global cultures. They are partial, whether in terms of the aspects of social life which they cover or in terms of the regions of the world they cover. Seen from outside Europe, particularly by regions and people intensively colonised by the Europeans, this family of cultures is the quintessential version of Western imperialism, in the name of which so much tradition and cultural identity has been destroyed.
Given the hierarchical nature of the world system, it becomes crucial to identify the groups, classes, interests and states which define partial cultures as global cultures, and which, in this way, control the agenda of political domination under the guise of cultural globalisation. If it is true that the intensification of cross-border contacts and interdependence has opened up new opportunities for the exercise of tolerance, ecumenism, solidarity and cosmopolitanism, it is no less true that, at the same time, new forms and manifestations of intolerance, chauvinism, racism and xenophobia and, in the last instance, imperialism have also arisen.
Culture in the age of globalisation
Partial global cultures can, in this way, have very different characters, scope and political profiles. In the current circumstances it is only possible to visualise pluralist or plural global cultures. Within the cultural domain, the neo-liberal consensus is very selective. Cultural phenomena are only of interest in so far as they transform themselves into merchandise which can then follow the trail of economic globalisation.
Thus the consensus relates, above all, to technical and legal support for the production and circulation of the products of the culture industries such as, for example, communications and information technology and the rights of intellectual property. References made in previous sections to the dominant facets of what is usually termed globalisation, in addition to omitting an underlying theory of globalisation, may well give the false impression that globalisation is a linear phenomenon, both monolithic and unequivocal.
This idea of globalisation, although false, is prevalent nowadays, and tends to be all the more so for the globalisation which flows from scientific discourse into political discourse and thence into everyday language. Apparently transparent and without complexity, the idea of globalisation masks more than it reveals of what is happening in the world. And what it masks or hides is, when viewed from a different perspective, so important that the transparency and simplicity of the idea of globalisation, far from being innocent, must be considered as an ideological and political device endowed with specific intentionalities.
Two of these intentionalities should be stressed. The first is what is known as the determinist fallacy. It consists of inculcating the idea that globalisation is a spontaneous, automatic, unavoidable and irreversible process which intensifies and advances according to an inner logic and dynamism strong enough to impose themselves on any external interferences. The most circumspect of academics, as well as the ambassadors of globalisation embrace this fallacy. From amongst the former, I would point out Manuel Castells, for whom globalisation is the unavoidable result of the revolution in information technology.
The fallacy consists in transforming the causes of globalisation into its effects. Globalisation results, in fact, from a set of political decisions which are identifiable in time and authorship. The Washington Consensus is a political decision of the core states, as are the decisions of the states which adopted it with a greater or lesser degree of autonomy and selectivity.
We cannot forget that, to a great extent, and above all on an economic and political level, hegemonic globalisation is a product of the decisions of national states. The deregulation of the economy, for example, has been an eminently political act. The proof of this lies in the diverse responses of the national states to the political pressures currently emerging out of the Washington Consensus.
Equally political in nature are the reflections on the new forms of state which are emerging as a result of globalisation, on the new political distribution of national, international and global practices, and on the new form of public policies relating to the rising complexity of social, environmental and redistribution issues. The second political intentionality of the non-political nature of globalisation is the fallacy of the disappearance of the South. The situation began to change in the sixties taking into account theories of dependency or dependent development and was radically transformed from the eighties onwards.
Today, whether on a financial level, or on the level of production or even of consumption, the world has become integrated into a global economy in which, faced with multiple interdependencies, it no longer makes sense to distinguish between North and South and, furthermore, between the core, periphery and semi-periphery of the world system.
The more triumphant the concept of globalisation is, the less visible the South, or the hierarchies of the world system, become. The idea is that globalisation has a uniform impact on all the regions of the world and on all sectors of activity and that its architects, the multinational companies, are infinitely innovative and have the ability to organise well enough to transform the new global economy into an unprecedented opportunity. Even the authors who recognise that globalisation is highly selective, produces imbalances and has a variable geometry, tend to think that it has destructured the hierarchies of the previous world economy.
According to him, the latest international division of labour has not occurred amongst countries but amongst economic agents and distinct positions in the global economy which compete globally, using the technological infrastructure of the information economy and the organizational structure of networks and flows In this sense it also no longer makes sense to distinguish between the core, periphery and semi-periphery in the world system. The new economy is a global economy, as distinct from the world economy. Whilst the latter is based on the accumulation of capital, obtained throughout the world, the global economy is able to function as a unit in real time and on a planetary scale Without wishing to diminish the importance of the transformations taking place, I do however think that Castells takes the image of globalisation as an all-powerful bulldozer, against which there can be no possible resistance, at least in economic terms, too far.
And equally, he takes the idea of the segmentation of the processes of inclusion-exclusion which are taking place too far. In the first place, it is Castells himself who recognises that the processes of exclusion can extend to an entire continent Africa and entirely dominate the processes of inclusion in a subcontinent Latin America Secondly, even admitting that the global economy no longer needs geo-political areas in which to reproduce itself, the truth is that the external debt continues to be accounted for in terms of individual countries and it is through this and through the financialisation of the economic system that the poor countries of the world have become transformed, from the eighties onwards, into net contributors to the wealth of the rich countries.
In third place, contrary to what may be understood from the framework drawn up by Castells, the convergence of countries in the global economy is as significant as their divergence and this is particularly obvious in the core countries Drache, Since salary and social security policies continue to be defined on a national level, liberalisation measures taken since the eighties have not significantly reduced the differences in labour costs in the different countries.
It is true that the liberalization of markets has destructured the processes of inclusion and exclusion in different countries and regions.
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However, the most important thing is to analyse the ratio between inclusion and exclusion in each country. It is this ratio which determines whether the country belongs to the North or the South and to the core, periphery or semi-periphery of the world system. The countries in which integration into the world economy is processed primarily as exclusion are the countries of the South and the periphery of the world system.
These transformations deserve detailed attention, but there can be no doubt that only the ideological swings which have occurred in the scientific community in the North as well as in the South can explain how the iniquities and imbalances in the world system, despite having increased, have lost their analytical centrality. Globalisation is seen from the point of view of the core countries, taking into account their experiences.
This is particularly the case of the authors who focus on economic globalisation. Both the determinist fallacy and the fallacy of the disappearance of the South have come to lose credibility as globalisation transforms itself into a social and political area of conflict. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that in recent years various discourses on globalisation have emerged. Robertson , for example, distinguishes between four main globalisation discourses. Regional discourse , such as, for example, the Asian discourse, the Western European discourse or the Latin American discourse have a civilisational tone, in which globalisation confronts regional particularities.
Within the same region, there may be different sub-discourses. Yet, as Robertson remarks, the anti-globalisation of the French can easily be converted into a French globalisation project. The disciplinary discourse relates to the way in which globalisation is seen by the different social sciences. The most salient feature of this discourse is the emphasis given to economic globalisation. Ideological discourse can intersect with either of these and relates to a political evaluation of the processes of globalisation. The anti-globalisation discourse opposes pro-globalisation discourse and within both it is possible to distinguish left and right wing positions.
Finally there is feminist discourse which, having started off as an anti-globalisation discourse — favouring the local and attributing male concerns to the global — is nowadays also a discourse of globalisation and is distinguished by the emphasis it places on the community aspects of globalisation.
The plurality of discourses on globalisation show that it is imperative to produce a critical theoretical reflection on globalisation and to do so in such a way as to capture the complexity of the phenomena it involves and the disparate interests it confronts. The theoretical proposal which I present here arises from three apparent contradictions which, in my understanding, confer on the historical period in which we are living its specifically transitional nature. The first contradiction is between globalisation and localisation. The present time reveals itself to us as dominated by a dialectic, at the heart of which the processes of globalisation occur parallel to the processes of localisation.
In fact, as interdependence and global interactions intensify, social relations in general seem to be increasingly more dispossessed, opening up the way towards new rights of choice , which cross borders that until recently were policed by tradition, nationalism, language or ideology and frequently by a combination of all these factors.
Yet, on the other hand, in apparent contradiction to this trend, new regional, national and local identities are emerging, constructed around the new preeminence of the rights to roots. Such local factors, though they refer to real or imaginary territories as much as to ways of life and social relationships, are based on face-to-face relationships, on closeness and on interaction. Territorial localisms are, for example, those favoured by people who, after centuries of genocide and cultural oppression, have finally reclaimed the right to self-determination within their ancestral territories, with some measure of success.
Translocalised localisms, in turn, are promoted by translocalised social groups, such as the Arab immigrants in Paris or London, the Turkish immigrants in Germany or the Latin American immigrants in the USA. For these groups territory is the idea of territory, as a way of life, in terms of closeness, immediacy, belonging, sharing and reciprocity.
Moreover, this repossession, which usually occurs on an inter-state level, can also occur on a supra-state level. The second contradiction is between the nation state and the transnational non-state. The preceding analysis on the different dimensions of the dominant globalisation showed that one of the most controversial points in debates on globalisation is the question of the role of the state in the era of globalisation.
If, for some, the state is obsolete and on its way to extinction or, at the least, very much weakened in its capacity to organise and regulate social life, for others the state continues to be the central political entity, not only because the erosion of sovereignty is very selective but, more importantly, because the institutionalisation of globalisation itself — from the multilateral financial agencies to the deregulation of the economy — is created by the national states. Each of these positions captures part of the ongoing process. None of them, however, does justice to the transformations as a whole because these are, in fact, contradictory and include processes of state affirmation — to the extent to which it may be stated that states have never been so important as they are today — as well as processes of privatization, in which highly important interactions, networks and transnational flows take place without any significant interference from the state, in contrast with what had happened in the previous era.
The third contradiction, which is of a political and ideological nature, exists between those who see in globalisation the finally indisputable and unconquerable energy of capitalism and those who see in it an new opportunity to broaden the scale and the nature of transnational solidarity and anti-capitalist struggle. The former position is, moreover, defended as much by those who lead globalisation and benefit from it as by those for whom globalisation is the most recent and most virulent form of external aggression against their way of life and well-being.
These three contradictions crystallise the most important vectors of the process of globalisation now taking place. In the light of them, it is easy to see that disjunctions, parallel occurrences and confrontations are so significant that what we term globalisation is, in fact, a set of different processes of globalisation and, in the last instance, of different and sometimes contradictory globalisations.
What we habitually call globalisation is, in fact, different sets of social relationships, and different sets of social relationships give rise to different phenomena of globalisation. In these terms there is not, strictly speaking, one sole entity called globalisation, instead there are globalisations; to be precise, this term should only ever be used in the plural.
Any wider concept should be process-based and not substantive. In addition, although they are sets of social relationships, globalisations involve conflicts and, therefore, winners and losers. Frequently, discourse on globalisation is the history of the winners, recounted by themselves.
In fact, the victory is apparently so absolute that the defeated vanish totally from the scene. It is therefore wrong to think that the newer and more intense forms of transnational interactions produced by the processes of globalisation have eliminated the hierarchies of the world system. Doubtless they have transformed them profoundly, but this does not mean that they have eliminated them. On the contrary, empirical evidence suggests the opposite, pointing to an intensification of hierarchies and inequalities. The contradictions and disjunctions identified above suggest that we are in a transitional period, in terms of the three main dimensions: transitional in terms of the hierarchies and inequalities in the world system, transitional in terms of institutional form and complementarity amongst institutions; transitional in terms of the scale and configuration of social and political conflicts.
The theory under construction must therefore take the plurality and contradictions in the processes of globalisation into account instead of trying to subsume them into reductionist abstractions. The theory which I am about to put forward is based on the concept of a world system in transition.
It is in transition because it contains within itself the old world system, undergoing a process of profound transformation, and a set of emerging realities which may or may not lead to a new world system, or to another new entity, systematic or not. It is a question of circumstances which, when captured synchronically, reveal a complete openness to possible alternative developments.
Such openness is symptomatic of a great instability which configures a bifurcation, in the Prigoginian sense. It is a situation of great instability and volatile compromises, in which small alterations can bring about huge transformations. It is therefore a situation characterised by turbulence and by the explosion of scales. The world system in transition is formed from three sets of collective practices: the set of interstate practices, the set of global capitalist practices and the set of transnational social and cultural practices. The interstate practices correspond to the role of the states in the modern world system as protagonists of the international division of labour, at the heart of which is established the hierarchy of the core, periphery and semi-periphery.
The global capitalist practices are the practices of the economic agents whose spatial-temporal unit for real or potential action is the planet itself. The transnational social and cultural practices are the cross-border flows of people and cultures, and of information and communication. Each of these sets of practices is made up of: a group of institutions which ensure its reproduction, their compatibility and the stability of the inequalities which they produce; a form of power which supplies the logic of the interactions and legitimises the inequalities and the hierarchies; a form of law which supplies the language of intra-institutional and inter-institutional relations and the criteria for distinguishing between permitted and prohibited practices; a structural conflict which condenses the root tensions and contradictions of the practices in question; and criteria of hierarchy which define the way in which inequalities of power and the conflicts which they translate into are crystallized.
Finally, although all the practices of the world system in transition are involved in all the modes of production of globalisation , they are not all involved in all of them with the same intensity. Figure no 1 illustrates the internal composition of each of the components of the different sets of practices.
I will only comment on those which require an explanation. Prior to this, however, it is necessary to identify what distinguishes the world system in transition WSIT from the modern world system MWS. In the first place, whilst the MWS is based on two pillars, the world economy and the interstate system, the WSIT is based on three pillars, none of which have the consistency of a system. It is more a question of sets of practices whose internal coherence is intrinsically problematic. The greatest complexity and also incoherence of the world system in transition lies in the fact that in it the processes of globalisation extend far beyond states and the economy, and involve social and cultural practices, which in the MWS are confined only to states and national societies or their sub-units.
Moreover, many of the new transnational cultural practices are originally transnational or, in other words, constitute themselves free of reference to any concrete nation or state or, when they do have recourse to them, do so only to acquire raw material or local infrastructures for the production of transnationality.
In addition, whilst in the MWS the two pillars have clear and distinct outlines, in the WSIT there is a constant and intense interpenetration between the different sets of practices, to such an extent that there are grey areas or hybrids amongst them, in which the sets assume a particularly composite character. For example, the World Trade Organisation is a hybrid institution made up of interstate practices and global capitalist practices, in the same way that flows of migration are a hybrid institution in which, to varying extents according to different situations, the three sets of practices are present.
Thirdly, even though many of the core institutions of the MWS remain in the WSIT, they nowadays carry out different functions, without their centrality necessarily being affected. Thus the state, which in the MWS ensured the integration of the national economy, society and culture, nowadays actively contributes towards the disintegration of the economy, society and culture on a national level in the name of their integration within the global economy, society and culture. The processes of globalisation result from the interactions between the three sets of practices.
The tensions and contradictions inside each of the sets and in the relationships between them arise from forms of power and inequalities in the distribution of power. The form of power is the unequal exchange in all cases, but it assumes specific forms in each of the sets which are derived from the resources, the artifacts and the imaginary which are the object of this unequal exchange.
The depth and intensity of interstate, global and transnational interactions means that forms of power are exercised as unequal exchanges.
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Since it is a matter of exchanges and inequalities may, to a certain extent, be hidden or manipulated, the registering of interactions in the WSIT often and credibly assumes a register, the horizontal register through central ideas such as interdependence, complementarity, coordination, cooperation, networking, etc. In the face of this, conflicts tend to be experienced as diffuse, and it is sometimes difficult to define what or whom is in conflict.
Even so, it is possible in each set of practices to identify a structural conflict, or, in other words, a conflict which organises struggles around the resources which are the objects of unequal exchange. In the case of interstate practices, the conflict is engaged around relative positions in the hierarchy of the world system, since it is this which dictates the type of exchanges and levels of inequality. Struggles for promotion or against relegation and movements within the hierarchy of the world system which these translate into are long-term processes which at each given moment can be crystallized into levels of autonomy and dependence.
On the level of global capitalist practices, the struggle lies between the global capitalist class and the other classes defined on a national level, whether they are the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie or the working class. Obviously the levels of inequality of exchange and the mechanisms which produce them are different, according to the classes which are in confrontation, but in all cases there is a struggle for the appropriation or valuation of commercial resources, whether these are labour or knowledge, information or raw materials, credit or technology. What remains of the national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie is, in this transitional phase, a cushion which softens and a smokescreen which hides the increasingly stark and crude contradiction between global capital and labour transformed into a global resource.
In the domain of transnational social and cultural practices, unequal exchanges relate to non-commercial resources whose transnationality is based on local differences, such as ethnicity, identity, cultures, traditions, a sense of belonging, the imaginary, rituals and written or oral literature. There are countless social groups involved in these unequal exchanges and their struggles are engaged around recognition of the non-mercantile appropriation or valuation of these resources, or rather, around equality in difference and difference in equality.
One of the major issues, in this regard, will be that of religious identity. This will become the major challenge in relations between the Western and Muslim world, and the answer to this question may ultimately decide about social and political stability not only in the greater Middle East, but also in the Euro-Mediterranean region. What are the implications of culture for peaceful co-existence among states, and what are the risks of political instrumentalization of culture in the global concert of powers? As we have explained above, culture — more specifically, cultural identity — is a dialectical phenomenon.
Culture is constantly being shaped and reshaped by interaction with other cultures — and in the era of globalization considerably more so. World order is the status of relations between states, peoples and cultures or civilizations, in the most universal sense at a given moment in history. In our era of globalization, it has become an ever more complex system of interaction and rules.
Ideally, it will result in a balance of power , but often in history, as in the present transitory phase, it has been characterized by its absence. It is exactly in the latter case — namely in the absence of a balance of power — that the role and position of culture in the global interplay of forces is most fragile and delicate , but at the same time also must crucial, indeed indispensable — as is now the case — for the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar order.
Whatever the answers to the questions about the structural relationship, or interdependence, between culture and power and its implications for the international system may be, the dialectics of cultural identity will always make itself felt in some shape or form. Especially under conditions of unequal power relations and social injustice, whether perceived or real, a forceful assertion of a cultural paradigm, its propagation as universal standard, may provoke an attitude of resistance and lead to new self-awareness of those who are expected to adapt to a dominant culture.
In recent decades, around the turn of the century, the dynamics of cultural identity has been particularly felt in relations between the Muslim and Western or, more generally, secular world, albeit in a different kind — one that now appears to shake the very foundations of world order and challenge the underlying paradigm of peaceful co-existence. The emergence of Islamic revival movements — whether Sunni- or Shia-inspired — has marked a process of ever-increasing cultural alienation, often fuelled by conflicts of interests and geopolitical aspirations.
One of the most consequential events, in that regard, was the Islamic revolution in Iran in Though dismissed by most pundits outside of the country, a broad popular movement eventually prevailed against an Emperor who considered himself invulnerable — as ally of some of the most powerful countries of the time — and who had arrogantly lectured leaders in Europe about political stability and good statesmanship.
Whichever its organizational form or actual status may be in terms of governance and territorial control, this new movement understands itself as the very antithesis to Western secular civilization. It derives its strength not only from the alienation of Sunnis in Iraq and Syria since the events of and respectively , and the centuries-old Sunni-Shia rift, but from a deep sense of cultural humiliation that accumulated over decades of colonial tutelage and foreign, essentially Western, supremacy in the region — in fact since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.
This is a lesson that should be heeded by those global actors that have embarked on a strategy of exporting their culture in the name of universal values. As Amy Chua has brilliantly shown, even the most powerful actors in history, the global empires, were not immune from the dynamics of cultural identity.
Only those that were prepared to include into their realm the cultures and religions on the territory they ruled, to accept and integrate distinct identities instead of trying to exclude and eventually eradicate them, were able to preserve their rule and guarantee a stable order over a longer period of time, often over centuries. A just and stable world order will require mutual respect among cultures and civilizations — and even more so in our era of global interconnectivity. Culture must not be made an instrument of world order, or a tool to enforce obedience from the less powerful.
No one can arrest history and impose his paradigm upon the rest of the world until the end of times. A stable world order requires a balance of power in a multidimensional sense including politics, economy and culture. In the 21 st century, and under the conditions of globalization, this is expected to be a multipolar one, based on a system of rules agreed upon among sovereign nations.
This is exactly the dilemma the world is faced with when cultural paradigms exclude each other in the name of universality. Negation of this truth may lead to a state of global disorder — with no end in sight. You may also like: Scientific approaches in the age of anthropological crisis Constructing identity in the context of globalisation and the erosion of traditional norms Cultural exchange for dialogue and peace Cultural identity as a factor in global disorder: The need for education.
Studies in International Relations, Vol. Vienna: International Progress Organization, , pp. Husserliana, Vol. Dordrecht: Kluwer, Nye, Jr. New York: Public Affairs, Collected Papers Edited by David Armstrong.