I don’t think you can neatly do this. It has lots of impacts on traditional power-bases, both negative and positive, and it also creates new types of power (see Giddens, p. 13). It has had a particularly interesting impact on media and mediated cultures (Giddens 14-15). But it doesn’t develop across the board, as Castells stresses. It does seem to work in favour of multinationals, although the grass roots is fighting back (Giddens p 16). As more cross-border relationships are developed, the nation-state seems to lose out (Giddens p 18). Giddens concludes:
We are the first generation to live in this society, whose contours we can as yet only dimly see. It is shaking up our existing ways of life, no matter where we happen to be. This is not—at least at the moment—a global order driven by collective human will. Instead, it is emerging in an anarchic, haphazard, fashion, carried along by a mixture of influences. (Giddens, p 19)
Globalization and identity
A traditionalist about community would say that identity derives from local community. Does it always? Consider this example from art historian Hubert Burda. In the 15th century the emerging middle class used the portrait as a means of public exposure. Burda explores the symbolic richness of Portrait of the merchant Georg Gisze by Hans Holbein, 1532:
Gisze became, as a result of this portrait, a Mercator doctus, a merchant on the cutting-edge of society at that time. He was born in Danzig, but wanted to be presented as a successful merchant on the London trading exchange in order to convey a certain image of himself to the inner circle of merchants in the City. The contracts and many other objects surrounding the merchant are meant, above all, to mark him out as an extremely credible person in money matters and a good connoisseur of world markets. This was of great importance during the period of rule of Henry VIII, since it was at this time that the first wave of globalisation was taking place.
Gisze seems to have created his identity in dialogue with proto-globalization, which he then projected onto his local community.
Globalization and community
A traditional analysis might assume that globalization is entirely negative in terms of its impact on community. However here is an example in which global communications networks help local communities. As we all know, freedom of speech in China is quite limited. However, a ‘deterritorialised Chinese subjectivity” exists outside the Chinese state; therefore Internet-based Chinese oppositional movements can operate avoiding Chinese government censorship. The “online Chinese cultural sphere” (Yang 2003, page 470) draws its audience from cultural China which includes Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, other diasporas and also commentators / academics. They may have very diverse interests, but their main mode of communication is Chinese.
Chinese people are bolder and more opinionated on bulletin boards. They have found ways to avoid the censorship filters (Yang 2003, page 478). The BBS were characterized by
- group ethos (Yang 2003, page 478)
- high level of discussion (Yang 2003, page 479)
- unifying themes (Yang 2003, page 479)
- sense of community (Yang 2003, page 480)
- issue of freedom of speech is prominent (Yang 2003, page 481)
So, asks Yang, what are the public functions of these networked associations?
- public expression
- civic association – eg NGO activity (Yang 2003, page 483); quick mobilisation around an issue (Yang 2003, page 484)
- popular protest – specific protests successfully carried out (Yang 2003, page 481) eg 1998 anti ethnic violence in Indonesia. As a result, the Huaren website was established.
These spaces are globally accessible and participate in global flows of information (Yang 2003, page 484). Thus, Yang concludes, the Web can restore the critical functions of the public sphere (Yang 2003, page 485).
Definition of glocal/glocalization from Mooney and Evans, p 117-8 (my bold):
This term has a range of meanings, all of which revolve around the apparent paradox of the relation between global markets and processes, and local needs and nodes. As a contraction of “global” and “local,” the “glocal” refers to the increasing entanglement of these two spheres. On one level glocal can be used to designate the manner in which global products adapt or tailor themselves for local markets and sensitivities. It can also describe global or potentially global services that operate at a local level, for instant international websites that coordinate meetings (for instance dating) at a local level, and thus provide a “glocal” service. Attempts to integrate the decision-making procedures of global governance and the particularities of individual territories are also described in terms of “glocalization.” Other examples of glocal processes could include the resurgence of the range of ethnic and religious identities in direct response to the process of gloablization. These identities, which have their origin in a locality and history, are often shared by diasporas linked by telecommunications.
The glocal then, would seem another instance of the way in which globalization seems to involve an interplay between micro (individual, localities) and the macro (global forces and players) that often bypasses the mesa (states and other forms of collective representation).
One criticism of Globalism
There are many criticisms, and I’m just going to mention one—crudely, that globalisation destroys culture. In airports, culture is often reduced to global brands and tourist posters for local specialties. If it is culture at all, it is culture filtered by big business. Most of it is bland, internationalised, safe, clean and the province of the wealthy. Giddens, while not of the ‘extreme left wing skeptical school’ (a paraphrase of his own characterisation), agrees that globalization does threaten local cultural diversity.
Frederic Jameson argues that the rhetoric of globalization promoting recognition and respect for cultural difference might be undermined by globlization’s economic aspect, in which multinationals tend to dominate and a bland consumer culture emerges (p57), what may result is ‘…the worldwide Americanization or standardization of culture, the destruction of local differences, the massification of all the peoples on the planet’ (p57). Free market apologists insist that this won’t happen, instead globalization will result in the
…richness and excitement of the new free market all over the world: the increase in sheer productivity that open markets will lead to, the transcendental satisfaction that human beings have finally begun to grasp exchange, the market, and capitalism as their most fundamental human possibilities and the surest sources of freedom. (Jameson, p 58)
This argument rages in free trade agreement debates, such as the one entered into between Australia and USA a few years ago. There may be negative impacts of free trade, but you can’t stop the flow of digital information, in my opinion there’s quite a bit of ‘dead horse flogging’ surrounding it.
Conclusion: Globalisation and community
globalisation is another way in which we are forced to redefine our idea of community. No longer propped up by geography, or even the nationstate, global ‘communities’ seem bound by looser ties, and may even be very transient. However, as the documentary How Kevin Bacon cured cancer will show, the phenomenon is significant, and for those of us living in Castell’s networked society, clearly of value.
Bauman, Z Liquid Modernity
Delanty, (2003) Community
Giddens, A (2003). Chapter 1: ‘Globalisation’. In Runaway world. New York: Routledge, 6-19
Yang, Guobin (2003). “The internet and the rise of a transnational Chinese cultural sphere”. Media, Culture & Society, vol 25, page 469-490.
Giddens, A (1991) Modernity and self-identity: self and society in the late modern age. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Mooney, A and Evans B (Eds.) (2007) Globalization: the key concepts. London: Routledge.
Jameson, F (1998). ‘Notes of globalization as a philosophical issue’, In pp54-77. Jameson, F and Miyoshi, M (Eds.) The cultures of globalization, Durham: Duke University Press.
Burda, Hubert (2006) How people see themselves http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/burda06/burda06_index.html
How Kevin Bacon cured cancer (2008) (available in the Carlton library Av 303.4834 b128)
Lefebvre, Henri (2007) The production of space. (Trans. D. Nicholson-Smith). London: Blackwell.