A couple of Globalization books

24 Oct
I picked up a pile of other books more or less on globalization while I was hunting for those I distributed to the class on Tuesday. I want to spend a bit of time on two of them because they seem useful to focus what we might do next. They are:
Globalization and the challenges of a new century : a reader
edited by Patrick O'Meara, Howard D. Mehlinger, and Matthew Krain ; Roxana Ma Newman, managing editor
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c2000
D860 .G654 2000

The age of transition : trajectory of the world-system 1945-2025
coordinated by Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein
London ; Atlantic Highlands, N.J. : Zed Books ; Leichhardt, NSW, Australia : Pluto Press, 1996
HC59 .H634 1996

The general problem is clear enough to us:
Phenomena that once affected a particular country or region now have broader implications, and, of necessity, must include a larger set of nations or actors. What were previously considered discrete problems can now no longer be understood in isolation. Additionally, there is now great overlap between the local and the global. What happens in one particular sphere inevitably spills over into another.
(O'Meara et al. 2000:xiii)
Wallerstein might say that 'isolation' has been the exception for most of the last 500 years (and characteristic of the far periphery of the world-system), but it does seem that everything is more intertwined and interdependent, and that we are in a position to know more about the connections, because of remarkable changes in information systems. The 'liberal' hope is that we might use that information to manage more sensibly (rationally? responsibly?) and more humanely; the cynic would probably warn that political and economic elites will use that information in their interests...

The years around the turn of the millennium spawned an industry in "what next?" writing, and O'Meara et al. 2000 begins with 3 short pieces that offer very different (but very widely read, and generally frightening) scenarios, worth looking at in the light of recent events:

Samuel P. Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations?" (Foreign Affairs 1993) suggests that the sources of conflict will be cultural: "the clash of civilizations will dominate global politics" (3), and he suggests that Islamic civilization is a likely source. "The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future".

Benjamin Barber's "Jihad vs. McWorld" (Atlantic Monthly 1992) predicts a struggle between 'retribalization', "a Jihad in the name of a hundred narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of interdependence" (23), and on the other side "the onrush of economic and ecological forces that demand integration and uniformity and that mesmerize the world..." (23)

Robert D. Kaplan's "The Coming Anarchy" (Atlantic Monthly 1994) describes a horrifying social disintegration of West Africa: "demographic, environmental, and societal stress, in which criminal anarchy emerges as the real 'strategic' danger. Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations..." (36) Is this African contemporary reality the future for the rest of the world? See an excerpt

Another essay in the book (Michael T. Klare's "Redefining Security: the new global schisms" [Current History 1996]) notes that
Many of the most severe and persistent threats to global peace and stability are arising not from conflicts between major political entities but from increased discord within states, societies, and civilizations along ethnic, racial, religious, linguistic, caste, or class lines. ...emergence of new or deepened fissures across international society, producing multiple outbreaks of intergroup hostility and violence. These cleavages cannot be plotted on a normal map, but can be correlated with other forms of data: economic performance, class stratification, population growth, ethnic and religious composition, environmental deterioration, and so on. (133).
Wallerstein, whom we've already met as a grand-scale thinker, has a chapter on "The Global Possibilities, 1990-2025" in which he says
Formally, there are only two real possibilities. One is that the world-system will continue to function more or less in the ways that it has been functioning for five centuries now... as a capitalist world economy, with to be sure the constant necessary adjustments to the machinery of the system... the Kondratieff cycle would turn upwards again... it would remain a capitalist world-economy, based on an axial division of labor, unequal exchange, and an interstate system.

The second possibility is that those new phenomena which began to be noticeable in the 1970s [oil $s, regional conflict, militarization, others...]... [will] prove sufficiently important and massive that it becomes no longer reasonable to expect that the system will continue more or less in the same manner, with merely some adjustments. In this case, we would rather expect the burgeoning of a systemic crisis or bifurcation, which would manifest itself as a period of systemic chaos, the outcome of which would be uncertain. (226)

Wallerstein identifies "six vectors", "complexes of processes that provide the continually evolving structured frameworks within which social action occurs" (2):
  1. the interstate system
  2. the structure of world production
  3. the structure of the world labor force
  4. the patterns of world human welfare
  5. the social cohesion of the states
  6. the structures of knowledge
What can be said about the state of these as it appears in 2001? Here's a partial answer, ripe for editorial reconstruction and augmentation:
  1. the interstate system combines the "Liberal International Economic Order" with its quasi-governmental organizations (World Bank, IMF, UN) with a jigsaw puzzle of territorial entities and alliances
  2. profitability is generally declining in world production, and peripheral areas are increasingly seen as 'unsafe' for investment; many states are in 'fiscal crisis'; and capital moves from 'productive' to 'financial' spheres
  3. deruralization and migration are tidal waves in most views of world labor --as are strengthening international migration controls
  4. there is a general reduction in public services and support ('entitlements') in the human welfare sector
  5. Balkanization/Lebanonization seems to be pronounced in many states, and 'national identity' is fracturing
  6. science may be the savior ("the modern world-system has been built on the faith in science --science as unlimited technical advance, and hence as the foundation of the world production system; science as progress... science as rationality... making possible collective improvement" [238]), but science has its challengers, notably in "fundamentalist/integrist/neo-traditionalist religious movements" (223)
Another trenchant passage:
The great stabilizer of the system, which made possible the social cohesion of the states, as been the underlying optimism of the long term. It is no longer there. It is not that long-term pessimism has replaced it, but rather acute uncertainty and lingering fear. Fear is not new, but it has been fear of certain people or groups or institutions; such fear could be countered by struggle to overcome them. The fear that now pervades is much less tangible; it is the fear that the situation is crumbling, and that nothing is being done or can be done to stop the crumbing. This kind of fear leads to much more erratic behavior, much more uncontrollable behavior. (236)
And one more:
...one final problem, which affects simultaneously the stability of the interstate system, the profitability of world production, and the social cohesion of the states... ecology, or the health of our ecosystem. Ecology has long been a local concern; but it is only recently that it has become a global concern. The reason is very clear: the steady expansion of both world production and world population has begun to use up remaining margins of waste within the world ecosystem... [he proceeds] to outline the dilemmas involved in responding to the problem. There are two collective tasks involved: repair to damage already done; [and] minimizing further damage. Each is costly, but the mode of payment is different. Essentially, repair to damage already done is a task that can only be undertaken in a significant way by governments, and financing the work requires taxation. Minimizing future damage can most effectively be done by forcing enterprises to internalize the costs... One solution that will appeal to many in the North is to export the costs to the South, by exporting waste and by exporting industries that do not wish to internalize the costs of waste management... (237, 238)