Introduction to the Seminar: The Relationship between Globalization and Cultural Identity in the early 21st Century
Reference Dialogue: Globalization, identity, diversity
Introduction to the Seminar: The Relationship between Globalization and Cultural Identity in the early 21st Century. Manuel Castells
The seminar introduces a phenomenon as important in our world as the contradictory relationship between globalization and identity, a phenomenon which is, furthermore, loaded with political ideology, such that it is essential to understand it in all of its magnitude. The main idea is to analyze the relationship between globalization and identity as well as the relationship between such identity, understood as a cultural practice that cannot be analyzed without considering the world of communication and diversity. Therefore, the problem being considered is the multidimensional transformation of our 21st century society, marked by an increasing globalization and the affirmation of singular identities that are in constant tension, in a context where existing political forms are in crisis and in the process of restructuring new projects that are striving to configure a new society. In sum, these basic issues comprise the relationship between globalization and culture as influenced by political and social action as well as by the government.
Globalization, which is not the same as internationalization, must therefore be defined. The term refers to the characteristics of a system with the capacity—in its structuring activities, that is, institutional, organizational and technological—to function as a unit in real time on a planetary level, and which includes and excludes that which has no value in global networks. It is reversible but not necessarily sustainable on the social, cultural or environmental levels, and it is multidimensional, that is, it includes that which is global and that which is local, as well as that which is cultural, social and economic. It must be kept in mind that only a small part of this activity is globalized, but this small part is what conditions, determines and dominates the rest of the planet. In figures: 85-90% of the employment in the world is globalized and only 220 million people work in multinational organizations.
The construction of identities is fundamental to the dynamic of societies, and in this regard, the idea of cultural uniformization through globalization has become totally obsolete. Cultural identity is the process by which social actors build their own meaning according to cultural attributes, and at present, the strongest collective identities being built are ethnic, religious and gender-related. The strength of these identities invalidates both the theory of uniformization of identities through globalization and the idea of the desacralization of societies. Manuel Castells has devised a typology of these identities as collective projects, according to which there are identities of legitimization, introduced by institutions in order to extend their domination over social actors, and identities of resistance, generated by actors under conditions of domination which are constituted for cultural survival, to withstand social, religious, territorial and linguistic domination. The latter is an affirmation of the system of domination, that is, it exists to the degree to which it withstands. Finally, the other typology is that of project identities, constituted when social actors build a new identity often based on identities of resistance but transcending them. All identities can lead to fundamentalisms, which in fact, is what has happened with all religions that hold that there is no salvation without their true God. In any case, identity is not the same as fundamentalism, which is the exclusion of alternative identities as communicable and acceptable sources of meaning. The dynamics of these identities lies between fundamentalism and diversity, understood as the affirmation of one’s own identity, which includes the awareness of protocol identities. Along with these strong collective identities, there are also individual identities founded on a personal project or elective principle, and these are particularly important in societies in which communal identities are not developed, an example being what Manuel Castells calls family identity or collective or family individualism. In any case, globalized society does not eliminate singularities.
The hypothesis on which this is based is as follows: The development of identities is a consequence of globalization and the crisis of institutions and the traditional forms of the Nation-State, including civil society, which we should refer to simply as society, as it is an intrinsic part of the State, as Gramsci remarked. (Is the remainder of society therefore uncivil?) The fact is that people feel bereft of a collective sense of identity.
The four crises of national government institutions in a global context are, first of all, a crisis of efficiency, that is, how to manage economic policies in a context of globalization of markets, as the control process is infinitely more complicated; secondly, a crisis of the legitimacy of political democracy based on the representativeness of the Nation-State, as people’s problems depend on a wider sphere and there is no global government as an institutional measure, though there is a project for one. The third crisis is one of identity, the fruit of the increasing dissociation between local identities and the representatives of the Nation-State; and the last one is a crisis of equity, in which inequalities are growing in a context where it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the Welfare State with a liberalized market. Therefore, the Nation-State must be transformed; there should be a global government based on a network of States that can respond to some of the problems arising from globalization but that does not generate a democratic deficit producing slogans such as “No to globalization without representation” as occurred in Seattle.
In conclusion, globalization without social control is politically unsustainable and in addition, erodes democracy, creating the need for a debate that can contribute to analyzing the situation.
Theme 1. Globalization: A Multidimensional Process.
Globalization: An Empirical Assessment and an Analytical Interpretation. David Held
Globalization runs the risk of becoming a cliché; behind the term are different positions with regard to globalization: the hyper-globalization position, which considers that the processes of change lead to a situation where the State cannot assume them; the skeptics, who emphasize the lack of precedents of this phenomenon and the fact that the European Union does nothing more than promote States; and finally, the transformers, who indicate that globalization did not cause changes in the expected manner. In view of this phenomenon, are we facing massive social change? Globalization, a process or series of processes that include transformations in spatial organizations, generating fluxes of interaction, activity and power, cannot only be measured, but has developed in parallel to the expansion of activities, the intensification of processes (the growing magnitude of economic, migrational, etc. fluxes), and has been accelerating, increasing the velocity of the process. Therefore, although there was globalization to a certain degree in the past, its impact and the impact of interconnection on a world-wide level has expanded, intensified and accelerated.
This has caused at least four transformations. One is related to migrations, which were always present, but which are now no longer regional, but massively global. Insofar as culture and institutions, the intensity and speed of means of communication have grown, such that today, nearly instantaneous communication is now possible and companies increasingly distribute new forms of cultural exchange, facilitating all sorts of cultural imperialism—it is precisely the differences that globalization makes more acute that we should emphasize. Thirdly, new forms of political borders are emerging, political communities are developing and multi-stratified governments are arising, such that there is a change in market governance characterized by de-territorialization of politics and the emergence of new forms of law (growth of international organizations) and new structures of power. The political agenda is becoming more and more complex, for instance with regard to the environment, ecological issues have become globalized due to the transfer of degradation from one country to another. And finally, the global economy, which is not as integrated as national economies, although there are very solid networks among the continents and international commerce has grown spectacularly among major multinationals. Current globalization is increasingly global and market-governed thanks to neoliberal ideology. Financial changes since 1979, with more volume in securities and currencies, have led to a separation of the real economy and financial markets, which are more mobile and liquid. Furthermore, the main actors are major multinationals, which represent over 70% of world trade and integrate into increasingly global systems within the different regional economies, over which they have great power. This leads to a new division of labor and restructuring among and within countries, some of which adapt better than others, generating new winner/loser models.
In sum, even though globalization is not new, current globalization models mark a new stage in which there is a greater confluence among territories, with accelerated change, slow patterns of regionalization and speed of institutionalization. This more extensive and intense globalization reconfigures States, and the common good depends on coordinated multi-responses. In this regard, the new American unilateralism cannot provide lasting solutions to current problems such as security, because universal problems cannot be resolved through unilateral decisions nor through preventive measures because the structures of power have changed.
Financial Globalization: Myth and Reality. Emilio Ontiveros
Globalization is synonymous with increasing integration and the concept of interdependence. The three pillars of the processes of economic globalization are the intensification of trading in goods, the movement of people, that is, migrations, and capital movement, which is the most important on a quantitative level. This movement of capital mobilizes savings surpluses in two categories: direct investment in shares, portfolios or bonds; and financial transactions, which now triplicate real transactions. This already occurred during the last third of the 19th century, in the earliest stage of globalization, but what is important or relevant is that these financial flows transfer property internationally through processes of privatization and business strategies that use the world as a context. The alliance of information technology with financial innovation has made this process possible. This entire process has to do with interdependence within the financial sector, which has not only been growing but will continue to do so, and this leads us to the increasing power of institutional investors. The latter based itself on a context or markets that were efficient, but which were not necessarily so in reality, since financial assets could be increased without savings of one’s own, such that the context has changed, there being countries that have used more goods than others, investing them in development, and in addition, we are faced with a much more vulnerable world, in which there have been more frequent financial crises than ever and more diverse in type, and above all, there were crises of solvency in 1994, 1995 and 1997, the latter rocking the very US financial system. The center of operations is in developing countries, and countries such as Turkey, Russia, Argentina, and to a lesser degree, Brazil are left behind. The facility of contagion has been their centrality.
In fact, financial markets are nothing more than databases, and if they became democratized to a greater or lesser extent, we would all benefit. Countries with intermediate exchange regimes are excessively vulnerable. By the same token, an inability to anticipate crises and the fact that we have not learned from them would lead us to consider the need to create a “fire” observatory, that is, a mechanism for the prevention and management of crises.
Hence, the non-global nature of financial globalization demonstrates that the problem is not that capital moves from poor countries to rich ones, but that capital should be taken charge of rather than invested, without obligating nor pressuring, but certainly converting the exchange regimes in governable, as demonstrated by the first processes of monetary integration in the European Union. Poverty must be fought against for economic globalization to be more efficient.
Economic Globalization and Sustainable Development. Laurence Tubiana.
Tubiana pointed out the parallels between economic globalization and sustainable development that have given rise to a new paradigm of economic growth. In fact, sustainable development is a product of globalization, arising when the political and social non-sustainability of unlimited globalization became evident, as well as the failures of markets—on both the local and global levels—to absorb environmental costs, the climate and health (transgenics) costs, and risks such as the climate change and technological risk. Global problems call for global action, with new global actors such as scientific communities, NGOs, etc., with a new vision of the political system in which it is no longer the government that defends the general interests of its citizens, but many actors that intervene to decide what is in the best general interests. Global government requires a great degree of coordination, the redefinition of international institutions, still associated with the notion of the Nation-State, which is based on efficiency, legitimacy and equity. In reality, though, there is no regulatory framework for governing globalization without governments. There are two viewpoints or perspectives in this respect. The reformists hold that, since there is no government, it is the global actors who must be responsible for sustainable development through a sort of contract that is not based on a system of force and power. According to them, this means promoting a social contract in a global manner, such that it integrates social aspects and environmental norms into the economic sphere. This is a utopian vision in which companies, NGOs and the other actors each have their own references, which makes the definition of norms difficult, with the consequent danger of a self-reference that loses sight of the context and the existence of the other actors. The other position is that of the radicals, who reject globalization in principle, as well as the sustainable development supporting it. These two perspectives—that of the reformists and the radicals—compete in the search for a new cosmopolitan moral code.
The point is that sustainable development must be understood as a new international moral code with global justice, the distribution of responsibilities and the collective definition of the preferences of the different global actors.
Globalization requires sustainable development if we want to prevent the acceleration of climate risks and the aggravation of social security issues. This will undoubtedly call for consensus between institutions and global actors.
QUESTION. Geoffrey Cowan. What effects will the massive immigration that Europe is experiencing today have over the next few decades?
ANSWER. David Held. A program liberalizing migration is less and less accepted, but at the same time, these European countries’ economies depend on such immigration. Globalization generates cross-border movement but simultaneously increases conservativeness, so the issue will be controversial. Europe is adopting a fortress policy restrictive of immigration, but on the long term, it will have to find some sort of system to facilitate immigration, which not only generates capital for developed economies, but also promotes development in general.
A. Manuel Castells. Either we have children or we have immigrants.
A. Laurence Tubiana. The bureaucratic elites are trying to calculate how many immigrants are needed to pay future pensions, but this depends on the revision of labor laws and calls for knowledge of the type of agreement that can be reached between labor unions, the government and the industrial sector, and how to manage immigration within this framework. Salaried employees are afraid of the low social protection that the current Welfare State can provide them and are struggling for their rights, rejecting immigration; but this situation will have to change.
Q. Manuel Castells was against the distinction between a virtual economy and a real one: What do you mean when you make this distinction? You refer to financial crisis as being produced by financial speculation more than by financial globalization. Define this speculation and what role it is playing in the current crisis.
A. Emilio Ontiveros. The real economy refers to the production of goods and services, whereby the economic sphere is distinct from the financial one, which is the same as the GNP. Financial circulation must be equal to the value of the goods and services produced in an economy, yet it is much higher than the actual value of these goods and services, whether they be material or immaterial. Furthermore, with regard to financial crises and speculative operations, financial markets are information markets and obviously, when this information is asymmetric or incomplete, this is when we speak of crisis. Speculation means playing at exploitation using these informational asymmetries. The fact is that it is not a sin in the financial world, but is even “a way of lubricating the financial market’s mechanisms.” Today there are many more opportunities for speculation within everyone’s reach. Thus, speculation has to do with generating crisis, and one example is the threat in the autumn of 1996 in the USA when an investment fund had invested in some Russian bonds that offered high remuneration. The problem was that in August of 1998, Russia could not pay them and the fund was about to crash, which it didn’t because of the intervention of the government, which by exception obligated the rest of the banking community to come to the rescue of the investment fund.
A. John Clark. Globalization is highly controversial because asymmetries have a great deal of say. If globalization is based on opportunity, why is there so much rejection? It could be seen as a conspiracy or a project as Manuel Castells sees it, but I don’t believe this project is so thought out or natural. The opportunities provided by globalization are very different for each market, and how each of these markets fares will depend on the degree of control that the different actors have in these markets. I do not necessarily see a conspiracy. It is not that we do not want globalization, but that it should be fairer, which would involve its improved management. There are new alternatives for civil society, and between governments and civil society that offer great perspectives.
A. Josep Fontana intervened against the allusion in various speeches to the decadence and crisis of the Nation-State, which, on the contrary, has actually increased in importance, only its function having changed: We forget that the State is the only entity with the capacity to enforce certain rules on its territory. For instance, the takeover by the USA of the Iraqi State apparatus, which it has not been able to manage. This demonstrates that the State has not become destabilized, but is rather very important in controlling globalization. This affects its representativeness; we must realize the extremely important role of the Nation-State in providing responses to globalization.
A. Nezar Al Sayyad. The absence of issues such as colonialism and imperialism in the debate and presentations is surprising. Also, how can you speak of migrations as a phenomenon of the past 100 or 150 years? These migrations, just like globalization, are by no means a new phenomenon. Two questions for David Held: Explain the globalization of communication and culture. The other question is for Laurence Tubiana: Who are the clients and agents of this sustainable development? Will the paradox between the two be resolved by globalization or intensified by it?
A. David Held. No-one said that the Nation-State is empty of contents, only that the State is not a guarantor of wellbeing. In Europe, there have been two major cataclysms, and since 1995, there have been changes in constitutional law in order to redefine sovereignty; but we cannot think of States simply as guarantors of wellbeing. Political and economic power is currently much more extensive and complex, and although we speak of a US empire, this concept is not very useful, because we are dealing with a superpower that is falling apart, and the US is realizing this. We are in a period of post-imperialism.
A. Laurence Tubiana. Two comments on the Nation-State. First of all, it will not disappear, but only change its role, whereby norms will be redistributed among the public and private sectors, but it will not disappear. In the second place, norms change and the very concept has to be reviewed, which is determined by the elites, who are also changing. The recognition of these elites comes from international recognition and not exactly for those whom globalization is managed.
A. Ingrid Volkmer. She was irritated by the fact that globalization is used in such a variety of manners, and that instead of speaking of internationalization, we refer to globalization (alluding to Manuel Castells), because we must distinguish between them. Thus, what is the difference and what repercussions does it have on the Nation-State? Also discussed were megatrends, in the paradigm presented by Manuel Castells, but hybrid identities were not mentioned with regard to globalization, nor were the remittances that create economic niches.
A. Bruce Lawrence. Manuel Castells stated that fundamentalism can be applied to religion, but he does not agree. It is a crash between fundamentalisms, that of Islamic fundamentalism and capitalist fundamentalism, and therefore between religion and laicism. He likes globalization, but it should be ascertained who consumes fundamentalisms, for which we should look back at California to find that it was precisely there that religious fundamentalism was born. It began as religion but became many contradictory things. We should mention Lebanon and speak of what Amin Maalouf discusses in his book, “On Identity,” that is, about violence for the sake of identity and the need to belong to a group. Globalization always leads to the issue of identities generating violence. We should discuss where we’re coming from and what public we are addressing when we speak of globalization.
The relationship between globalization and culture as influenced by political and social action.
Debate is necessary on the new configuration of a Global State arising as a consequence of globalization and the disappearance of Nation-States.
Two regarding the strength of the Nation-State: on the one hand, Manuel Castells, who asserts that the Nation-States are fading through globalization; and on the other hand, Josep Fontana, who believes the Nation-States are being reinforced, precisely due to globalization.
Globalization with social control on both the global and local levels is necessary. Otherwise, without this social control, it is politically unsustainable and in addition, erodes democracy.