Globalization Power and Survival

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Social Thought & Commentary: Globalization, Power and Survival: An Anthropological Perspective Author(s): Marc Abls Source: Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 3 (Summer, 2006), pp. 483-508 Published by: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research Stable URL: . Accessed: 21/08/2011 13:35Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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SOCIAL THOUGHT COMMENTARY &Power and Survival: Globalization, an Perspective AnthropologicalMarc Abeles icole desHautes Etudes Sciences en Paris Sociales,

to emphasizing We areitaccustomedglobalizationthe economicaspectsof globalization and is true that to froma corresponds a displacement on primarily industry-based economyto one whereworking conceptsplaysa roleand wheretradegrowthis tied in withfinancial and major deregulation the newapproaches impliesin termsof the circulation capital.Itis posthis of sible,though,thatwe havegiveninsufficient weightto the factthatglobalization is firstand foremost cultural a phenomenon. Weshould not see the violenceof globalization purelyand simplyas a of The process domination-like some newformof colonialism. powerof its all the greater the fact that it consistsof a profound for impactis changein our awareness time and space."Globalization a conceptrefersbothto of as the compression the worldand the intensification our consciousness of of of the worldas a whole" For this (Robertson 1992:8). Westerners, notionof a selfcontained worldexpresses itselfin a strong It feelingof insecurity. only needs a sectorof the economy, example, showsignsof weakness, the posfor to for of relocations emerge.Inthe confrontations to betweenstaffand bosssibility es that havealwayspunctuated economiclife,the outcomeusedto be thatof a solutionthat took into accountlocalsocialand economicconditions. Now,483

Power An Globalization, andSurvival: Anthropological Perspective

that relocation we "think globally"-meaning appearsfromthe outsetto be In alternative. the face of this prospect, workers caughtin a are a pertinent will or verysimpledilemma:eitherthey acceptthe "sacrifices" the company whatweakenspeothis recurrent blackmail, quitesimplydisappear. Beyond "nearness" other lands-which are of ple is the sense of the extraordinary in or is whetherit be a country Eastern easilyidentifiable, Europe Asia.There a sense of temporal"nearness" in that in a few weeksor even daysone too, on can createa similarcompany the otherside of the world. In practice,the compression time and space can be perceivedas a of becauseit accentuates pressure the invisiblehandof the of threat,not only the omnipotent market as system,butalso inasmuch it makespossiblea vioof lent intrusion alterityinto our world.Thiswas the case on September 11, the was of 2001,whena placethat represented quintessence the market bruradical We how tallyattacked a groupthat incarnated by exteriority. realized easy it wasfor peoplewe tendedto thinkof as beingon the othersideof the into worldto reachthe heartof the systembyturningpeacefultechnologies fatalweapons. of Theawareness globalization, is therefore, morethanjustthe appercepif tion of an evercloserinterdependence economies.Itis equally, notmore, of countries a simple,disa matter the citizensof the developed of internalizing that "elsefroma threatening turbingreality: theywill neveragainbe "safe" and todayable to organizeitselfin a hithertoconsidered where," marginal manner and burst in. The whole "modernity" most "modern" position, difference was based on the idea of there being an irreducible though, betweenall that represents civilization fits into the schemeof progress and and these Otherswho, while being part of humanity,were nonetheless of doomedto the inertia beingswithouthistory. are partof the sameplanWe our destiniesappearto us to be increasingly intertwined. Theretoo, the et, evaluationcan be interpreted the optimistically: fact that the compressing breaks down certainbarriers effect of globalization betweensocieties,overand of turnsprejudices obligesus to mixis causefor rejoicing. concepts The and have the cross-fertilization hybridization been invoked describe possito and so bilityfinallyat handof a meetingbetweencultures longseparated so Theoppositeof this ecumenical vision isolatedby prevailing long ideologies. is an interpretation highlights virulence the tensionsgenerated that the of byanother huge present-day reality: that the other side of world unity is that resourcesand riches have to be shared.



or Twenty so yearsago,we wantedto do awaywithall formof segregation. We can all recallthe greatcommemoration 1989 and the multicultural of Thiswas the greatreconciliation-the Goude. paradeorganized Jean-Paul by It was underthe aegis of the Whites, course.TheOtherwas of meltingpot. present,butwe hadthe upperhandand hadsummonedhimto helpus hold ourown history to the mirror this commemoration. all knewthatas of We up soonas the celebrations wereovereveryonewouldgo backto his place,with us in the centerand them on the periphery, to according an orderwhich,at the time, seemed inviolable. that period,an open worldmeantthat disAt tancewas not aboutto disappear. Even the thosewho criticized new incarnationsof colonialism westerndomination and betweencenplacedopposition ter and periphery the heartof their ideas and spoke of conditions a at for betterfuture. What nowseems problematic the wideranging is impactof this model,for at leasttwo reasons. firstconcerns pressure The and the exertedby poverty Onone hand,we'reno longerdealingwitha "Third World" alterity. grouppassively sufferingthe consequencesof the capitalistdynamic,but with an diverse into countries increasingly groupof societies,including entering world economic and theirshareof market. secThe competition voraciously claiming ond reason the weakening the center/periphery for of relates the to paradigm It displacement goingon withthese categories. is cleartodaythatthe periphhas becomean integralpartof the center.Thestruggles illegalimmiof ery are is grants eloquentproofof this:exclusion at the heartof oursocieties. Inthiscontext, cansee the mainproblem societieshaveto confront we our moreclearly. theirfuture, the Although manyquestionsmayariseconcerning that hasto be addressed seemsto me to be the political quesquestion today tion. Whatis at issueis "acting Arendt to together," use a termfromHannah and of whichactingtogethercan appropri(1958), instituting meansthrough ately reflectsociety'sdemands.Whatexpressioncan citizens'questionings Whatdoes governing find,and in whatframework? mean, in this contextof globalcompression? forwhom,and how?And,lastbutnot least,is there Why, a placetodayfor politics? we look backat the previous If period,we can see that it was dominatedby the social question.The seriousness the social of the politicaldimenended up by first considerably question strengthening and its fieldof intervention-traditionalsion'simpact broadening legitimately limited to the domain of the police, diplomacy and defense-and secondly by shaping the demand for politics in our societies. Andyet what do we see, when the end of the 20th century is simultaneously markedby the collapse of 485

An Power Survival: Anthropological and Globalization, Perspective

the of communism, financialization the economyand its worldwide deregulation?The parameters globaltrade are progressively of comingto dictate theirlaw,andthe stateappearsincreasingly eclipsedin termsof determining The factorsoverwhichit no longerhasany realleverage. political dimension seems helpless,lackingany abilityto forecast.It is as thoughits rolewere to as the disillusionreduced thatof accompanying, faras is possible, general at mentandto absorbing, leastverbally, joltsof the globaleconomy. the Inthese conditions, is not surprising belief in the impactof politics it that has givenwayto skepticism. is all the morethe case becauseeveryone This sensesthatthe changesin the globaleconomy not suchas willstrengthen are the nation-state a role form,whichhad,in the lastcentury, structuring as far as politics concerned. declinein the state'ssovereignty the econThe over was to of to omy is related the capacity worldbusiness operate,to a greatextent, withinthe framework market-governed that partially of escapes regulation state influence.Consequently, no governments longercontrolmarkets-in economic fact,eventhe oppositeis happening policies (Strange 1996).Indeed, situation that is hardto depend,in largepart,on an economicand financial evolutionis leadingto a controlat nationallevel. In addition,post-bipolar At destruction the sacredaurasurrounding of sovereignties. the sametime, the risingpowerof "global of transnational cities"-those metropolises capitalismthat"concentrate disproportionate of corporate a share powerandare one of the keysitesforitsovervalorization," which"also a but concentrate disshareof the disadvantaged areone of the keysitesfortheir and proportionate of devalorization" of to (Sassen 1998)-also contributes a limiting the impact traditional state systems.Not only weakenedby the triumphof the market is of state sovereignty also challenged the forming largegroupeconomy, by of entireregions the globe:the European Union,MERCOSUR ings inte