It is evident that globalization is a required topic of contemporary debate. Literature on the development of the supranational economy is now widespread, with definitions and conflicting interpretations that bring out diverging ideological and methodological approaches. This literature is divided mostly among those who insist that globalization reinforces and develops democracy and those who sustain that it restricts or inhibits it.
There are right wing and left wing optimists. Conservative defenders of capitalist democracy such as Francis Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man, 1992) sustain that the world hegemony of the United States represents the definitive victory of global democracy, bringing an “end of history.” Thomas Friedman (The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 2000) echoes this theory, also claiming that the globalization of capital in itself represents the globalization of democracy.
Nevertheless, there are also defenders of globalization that come from the progressive wing. David Held (Democracy and Global Order, 1996) and Ulrich Beck, (What is globalization?, 1998) provide a humanist vision and agree that globalization, crossed and organized by a transnational State with world government institutions, has the potential for extending human rights and facilitating a global civil society and a just and righteous world.
Skeptics or pessimists come from both fields of the worldwide ideological spectrum. Some conservative sectors regret the lack of control of the nation-state against the forces of the global market, adducing that it inexorably drives to anarchy and uncertainty (John Gray, False Dawn, 1998). Pat Buchanan, a well-known conservative commentator in the United States, insists that in his country, globalization has resulted in a mixture values that may lead to the decadence of national culture and institutions. This thesis is also adopted by Samuel Huntington, first in his popular book The Clash of Civilizations (1996) and, most recently, in his notorious essay Who are we? (2004). Here, he attacks multicultural claims and alerts of the dangers of hybridism that immigration, particularly from Mexico, poses for his country.
The non-conformist critique of globalization, on the other hand, comes from trade unions and the traditional left-wing. This group of skeptics, David Korten among them, (When Corporations Rule the World, 1996), sustains that only the nation-state can protect human and worker`s rights against the oppression of uncontrolled capitalism. They insist that democratic politics can only take place under the protection of a nation-state. Therefore, the transfer of sovereignty to the structures of a supranational, global order is detrimental for the development of democracy. Pierre Bourdieu, the late, well-known French sociologist, also outlines that the nation-state deserves to be seen as an effective counterbalance to the predatory effects of the globalized market. In order to avoid going back to nationalism, however, he proposes strengthening regional, supranational organizations that may assume the universalism of social functions adopted by the welfare states as solid historical achievements.
The most convincing critique has been articulated by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt in Empire. Their thesis suggests that the expansion of today`s global economy, when separated from the form of traditional imperialistic dominance, deserves the new name of “Empire”. This new “Empire” differs from modern-classic “imperialism” as it is not bound to any country, neither did it rise from conquest or other ways of hegemonic expansion. It rises from new form of sovereignty, made up national and supranational organism, structured under a new planetary logic. What is peculiar of this new globalized order is that the applicable regulation is developed outside the validation of national legislation, undermining, therefore, the traditional sovereignty of nation-state.
Nevertheless, Hardt and Negri do not focus the emergence of this global order as a concluded state of affairs, but rather from the perspective of the dynamics that produce it. In other words, it is a constituent dynamic process more than a finalized representation. The authors insist that the Nation-State is about to conclude its historical cycle, which is being displaced (denaturalized) by a non-territorial universal order that is unaware of physical frontiers and political confines. The system of world relationships that Hardt and Negri describe deserves the name of “Empire” because it imposes its control over all types of social organization, ordering human and hierarchical relationships by controlling all components of the world we inhabit.
One of the most original concepts developed by Hardt and Negri is that of multitude. More than a political-sociological category of the individual, they propose lines of critical perspective to separate the “multitude” from anachronistic terms such as peoples, mass, class, or proletariat. Multitude is not a new name for the nineteenth-century proletariat because it is not limited to the concept of social class. The multitude, Negri says, are “foot soldiers”, a multiplicity of singularities, already blended and immersed in the mix and hybridization of populations, able to analyze the world and organize “political actions based on what is common rather than on the hypostasis of the unit.” Since the multitude is nurtured, partly, by the weakening of the controls of the Nation-State, globalization has a positive aspect; meaning that the globalization of the world, although it contributes to poverty and exclusion (a negative operation), “also serves to remove and expose archaic powers and representation forms”.
Hardt and Negri propose, therefore, that the political challenge we face today is not so much to resist the supranational economic and cultural processes but to reorganize and redirect them towards other purposes. They insist that the multitude”s creative forces are able to identify the root of the continuous spread of poverty and exclusion due to globalization, and of erecting alternate political organizations that will subvert these hierarchical controls, inventing new forms of democratic initiatives.
Roberto Gándara Sánchez
Centro de Investigación y Política Pública
Author: Proyectos FPH
Published: September 27, 2010.
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