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How Global Are We, Really?
Alex Steffen, 26 Apr 05

Anne Galloway shares this great quote:

The contemporary media may well provide us with a secondhand sense of the 'global familiar' and also with what we might describe as a set of 'secondhand emotions' about them. But we should still remember that, nonetheless, whatever range of imagery they may be familiar with, for most viewers, their 'horizons of action' – that sense of the scale on which they can act meaningfully in the world – are still very limited. Moreover, despite all the talk of 'postmodern nomadology', so is most people’s actual experience of geographical mobility. Thus, global cultural forms still have to be made sense of within the context of what, for many people, are still very local forms of life."

Which collides with another thought I've been having recently, which is that the two camps of globalization might be summed up as those who want the goods to flow freely but would like to restrict the flow of ideas, and those who want material flows to be more local, but the global cultural exchange to be more open. But ultimately, as with most things worth thinking about, trying to reduce globalization to any simple dichotomy is, I suspect a waste of time.

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For self-sufficiency, there's the old concept of subsidiarity - created I believe by the old Catholic Church. I think it means: "do what you can locally, and let others do the rest".

Bipolar thinking is often useful, as long as you don't believe it's reality.

So how do we turn these concepts into useful ideas?

Posted by: Lucas Gonzalez on 26 Apr 05

Although it may be limited, people are actually much more mobile than at previous periods in history. So there is some meat to the myth. Even the humble automobile provides an experience of mobility that surpasses the reality (the reality often being a long commute in heavy traffic; the myth seated in a long string of cultural artifacts like road movies, "On the Road," "The Motorcycle Diaries" etc.)

The "Reader on the Aesthetics of Mobility" (2003), though slanted to the architect/designer/cultural elite - who do tend to get around - gives some recent statistics; there really is more travel these days than there was in the past. Like the future, though, it's not that evenly distributed.

And at the same time, mobility can be physical, due to technologies of transport. It can be material, thanks to infrastructures of logistics. It can be psychic, as a result of the spread of telecommunications (think 'telepresence' in its various forms, from telephone to TV). And it is certainly informational (for lack of a better word) as well as corporate.

That doesn't help with any dichotomies, but I share your suspicions about the value of reductive thinking.

-- Hans

Posted by: hans samuelson on 26 Apr 05

I think we are talking here about 'sphere of attachment' to coin some psychobabble on the spot. The globe trotting consultant is certainly more mobile - but what does he or she really care about -- probably housing values and quality of schools where he or she hangs their hat. It's only a small percentage of people who go global and actually feel loyalty to the people and places they encounter-because they are not there for long. I make exceptions for people who are motivated by things other than straight up profit. And clearly this is strictly looking through the lense of an upper class American globetrotter.


Posted by: EAM on 26 Apr 05

One piece missing from your dichotomy, is that while trade, resources, goods and capital may be free, large amounts of people are not. I know free marketeers are of the mind that free trade will eventually set them free, but I myself am a little dubious about that... our consumerism seems to require large amounts of cheap labor that does not seem to exist so easily under mature democracies.

Posted by: adrian cotter on 26 Apr 05

Agree with you totally. We can not have selective globalization. I take the example of the pharmaceutical industry vis-a-vis globalization. If we believe in free flow of goods and ideas, we can not say that it is illegal to import prescription drugs from Canada, or for that matter, any other country. So all those who are working to keep the drug market from being global are only buying time because of political/financial power. Globalization will actually result in a global market for drugs.

Posted by: iProceed on 26 Apr 05

The two camps mentioned that pertain to how global are we, really?

1. Those who want goods to flow freely but would like to restrict the flow of ideas.

2. Those who want material flows to be more local, but the global cultural exchange to be more open.

These two camps don’t cover globalization.

To encapsulate globalization, I believe in Thomas Friedman’s theory (refer to that economic interdependence equals prosperity and peace. Ideas flow naturally out of this reliance.

Laurel Delaney

Posted by: Laurel Delaney on 5 May 05



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