Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Runaway World - It Is Here

The following quote comes from Runaway World: How Globalization is Reshaping Our Lives. It was written in 1998, by British sociologist, Anthony Giddens.
41UAff5SOsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_What Globalisation is, and whether it is in any way new, are the focus of intense debate. I discuss this debate in Chapter I, since much else hangs upon it. Yet the facts of the matter are actually quite clear. Globalisation is restructuring the ways in which we live, and in a very profound manner. It is led from the west, bears the strong imprint of American political and economic power, and is highly uneven in its consequences. But globalisation is not just the dominance of the West over the rest; it affects the United States as it does other countries.
Globalisation also influences everyday life as much as it does events happening on a world scale. That is why this book includes an extended discussion of sexuality, marriage and the family. In most parts of the world, women are staking claim to greater autonomy than in the past and are entering the labour force in large numbers. Such aspects of globalisation are at least as important as those happening in the global-market place. They contribute to the stresses and strains affecting traditional ways of life and cultures in most regions of the world. The traditional family is under threat, is changing, and will change much further. Other traditions, such as those concerned with religion, are also experiencing major transformations. Fundamentalism originates from a world of crumbling traditions.
The battleground of the twenty-first century will pit fundamentalism against cosmopolitan tolerance. In a globalising world, where information and images are routinely transmitted across the globe, we are all regularly in contact with others who think differently, and live differently, from ourselves. Cosmopolitans welcome and embrace this cultural complexity. Fundamentalists find it disturbing and dangerous. Whether in the areas of religion, ethnic identity or nationalism, they rake refuge in a renewed and purified tradition – and, quite often, violence.
We can legitimately hope that a cosmopolitan outlook will win out. Tolerance of culture diversity and democracy are closely connected, and democracy is currently spreading world-wide. Globalisation lies behind the expansion of democracy. At the same time, paradoxically, it exposes the limits of democratic structures which are most familiar, namely the structures of parliamentary democracy. We need to further democratize existing institutions, and to do so in ways that respond to the demands of the global age. We shall never be able to become the master of our own history, but we can and must find ways of bringing our runaway world to heel. (3-5)
This short collection of essays has stuck with me ever since I first read it years ago. As I have reflected on the American political scene of the past two years, the insights of this book have become ever more prescient. I see the rise of Trump nationalism as a reactionary response to globalization. (This is not conservatism vs progressivism as we have recently understood them.) It is the death throes of the 20th Century world order. It may be short-lived. It may last a generation. But I suspect that it is ultimately doomed. Over the long-haul, globalization is an inescapable dynamic. However, that does not mean that great harm to human well-being and to the planet will not happen during these death throes.
Since at least the 18th Century, we have seen an unprecedented improvement in human well-being, accelerating through the 19th Century down to the present, spreading around the world. But we should not forget that this improvement was punctuated by a retreat from globalization, resulting in two destructive world wars bracketing a global depression. One hundred years from now, I suspect global human well-being will have made substantial strides over our present living standards. I think globalization is virtually inevitable because we have amassed enough information and experience to see that a globalized world, for all its present vagaries and challenges, is the path to mutual common good. What is much less clear is what happens in the short term. I suspect that this is the biggest turning point in world that most of us now living will ever experience. (from Michael Kruse)

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