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Alternative theories in globalization
Alternative theories in globalization
Anthony McGrew (2008) described globalization in terms of the massive advances in global communications, transport and informatics technologies over the past several decades, which have created worldwide interconnectedness causing transnational spread of ideas, cultures and information in an accelerating pace. The result is a world that became a single social space with global tendency evident in all sectors including economic, military, legal, ecological, cultural and social aspect
Wednesday, November 19,2008 13:58
by Ali Mansour, freedom-tale.blogspot.com

Anthony McGrew (2008) described globalization in terms of the massive advances in global communications, transport and informatics technologies over the past several decades, which have created worldwide interconnectedness causing transnational spread of ideas, cultures and information in an accelerating pace. The result is a world that became a single social space with global tendency evident in all sectors including economic, military, legal, ecological, cultural and social aspect.

James Rosenau (2004) contended that concept of “globalization” in the literature is elusive, with no widely accepted definition. He argued that globalization was used by different observers to describe different phenomena, with little overlap among the various usages, which he described as “”misleading”. Alternatively, Rosenau looked at globalization from a different perspective by describing globalization as the opposite of localization. He attempted to further explain globalization by drawing a comparison between the two, and by arguing that while localization is boundary-heightening, globalization on the other hand is boundary-broadening.

Rosenau added more depth to his understanding of globalization and focused on its political repercussions by noting how authoritarian regimes tend to favor localization and fragmentation over globalization because localization restricts the movement of people, goods, norms and practices and impose constraints on the exchange of new ideas, information and institutions which serve the undemocratic nature of their governing and ensure their clinging to power. However, Rosenau predicts these authoritarian governments will eventually fail and their policies are bound to be undermined with increasingly interdependent economies and communication technologies that are not easily monitored.

Rosenau in his understanding of globalization did not fail to recognize its perceived powerful and negative influence and the ability to undermine people’s culture, norms and way of life, which led many across the globe to consider the incursions of globalization a threat to their identity and cultural mores. However, Rosenau believed that there is no inherent contradiction between localizing and globalizing tendencies, and that both can coexist to a degree which will depend on ethnic and noneconomic factors actively contributing to localization. In other words, localization and globalization need not to be mutually exclusive. He believed it is possible to reconcile globalization and localization by accepting the boundary-broadening processes and make the best of them by integrating them into local customs and practices.

But what if the process of integration failed to reconcile both globalization and localization in a given culture or within a state? Rosenau shared Michael Zurn optimistic hypothesis of “uneven fragmegration” which allows for continuing pockets of antagonism between globalization and localizing tendencies hopping that eventually these pockets of fragmentations will be overcome by the opportunities and requirements of interdependence and will conform to globalization.

Rosenau argued that the failure of the states to solve “pressing problems” has led to a decline in their capabilities and a loss of legitimacy, which will undermine the people’s loyalty to their states in favor of multiple loyalties to national or transnational organizations that are able fulfill their needs.

Although Rosenau views on globalization seem to be in line with the liberal theories on cooperation by Keohane in 1984, and complex interdependence by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye in 1997, however, Rosenau focused on another dimension by addressing the dynamics between globalization and domestic culture and politics. Rosenau criticized the traditional theories on globalization for not offering alternative interpretations as to how the interaction of economic, political, and social dynamics will play out. Keohane and Nye (2004) explained that there are costs that comes with these interdependent relationship in globalized world, but similar to Rosenau they also argued that the benefits of this interdependence will exceed costs and each state is expected to analyze an interdependent relationship based on the potential benefits and the costs and joint gains or losses.

Neorealists like Kenneth Waltz (2004) definition of structure leaves aside questions about the cultural, economic, political, and military interactions of states.—requires ignoring how units relate with one another (how they interact) and concentrating on how they stand in relation to one another (how they are arranged or positioned).

Susan Strange in 1996 looked at another aspect of globalization, which is its relationship to state power. She argued that the state authority is retreating to the power of global economy—structural changes in world economy and society have eroded the quality of state authority, not its quantity, rendering it less influential. Strange added that the scope of states’ authority is not only limited to economy but extends to society where states are becoming unable to protect the interests of special social groups—landowners, pensioners or shareholders. Strange called her theory the “new realism”, which denied any basic distinction between domestic and international political economy, however, it remains by large open questions that require empirical research in political theorizing to substantiate it.

Contrary to liberal theories, Strange considers complex interdependence a way to conceal the reality of inequality of dependence between states and “the structural power” exercised by some states over other governments and over other societies. The same meaning was expressed by Morgenthau in 1948 when he considered the structure of international relations which assumes “sovereign equality” of all nations, is dominated by extreme inequality among nations and causing anarchy.

Moreover, Strange described international regimes as “instrument [by national governments] for the pursuit of national interest by other means” and realists’ perception obscured by extensive literature on international regimes. These views are similar to those echoed by neorealists like Kenneth Waltz (2004) who recognizes the importance of international organizations but argues that their performance is either influenced by the capabilities of the states, or they might become unable to act without the support of the states concerned with the matter at hand.

Strange cited as a paradox in the state-market balance of power “the growing intervention of state authority and of the agencies of the state in the daily lives of the citizens” in areas where “the market left to itself has never been able to provide”. However, similar to Rosenau (2004) she argued that even this role by the state is becoming “less respected and lacks its erstwhile legitimacy” and that many states are failing to fulfill these basic responsibilities.

Strange cited ten major powers where states once used to exercise their authority in areas of economic and territorial nationalism that now have declined or have been challenged by forces of global market economy. Strange argued that even states most fundamental responsibilities in taxation, building its domestic infrastructure, and providing social welfare have not been immune to changes imposed by global economy which set limits on the level of states contributions and regulations.

To conclude, I agree with Rosenau’s view that globalization and localization can accommodate each other. I believe international relations theories like realism and leftist views are not suitable to deal with a world where antagonism between globalization and the desire to maintain cultural norms, and local values is threatening world peace.

Prosperous countries like those in the Persian Gulf in addition to several other Asian countries were able to play a central role in global world economy while to large extent preserving their cultural identities and were able to integrate their norms and traditions into globalized world. With more cooperation and accommodation and “an appreciation of the reality that allows for multiple loyalties and memberships will likely widen the benefits of global economy”.

Although Susan Strange argued for the retreat of the state power in face of global world economy, however, in my opinion, there are two major challenges to Strange’s conclusions which are the current global economic meltdown and global terrorism. In order to meet challenges of global market economy, Western states have opted to limit their regulatory authorities over private enterprise, compared to their Asian counterparts. We now know that deregulations in the financial market have been one of major factors that contributed to the world’s biggest financial crisis since the great depression of 1930s. The United States now is moving towards more state interventions in the market economy, and the Democratic Party on the verge of assuming power is calling for regulations in the stock market.

Global terrorism since 1990s is representing a new type of threat within states territories which in turn reinforced the state’s responsibility for defending its citizens and the rise of nationalism and the rally around the state contradicting Strange’s assumption that there is a decline the perceived need for the state as an institution necessary to defend society against violence within or beyond its territory.


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