By Patrycja Koszykowska
Patrycja Koszykowska’s in-depth study of the causes and consequences of populism in relation to globalization was written for Political Science 2001: The United States in an Age of Globalization. This paper negotiates multiple sources and employs clear topic sentences to forward a cogent and well-organized analysis.
I. The Proposition of the Paper
The 21st century phenomenon of globalization created an interdependent global economy, co-designed an international web of politics and intergovernmental institutions, and invented new cultural instruments and modes of social engagement. Yet, does globalization motivate and inspire separated and oftentimes destabilized populations to engage in a global culture or does it mobilize such actors to lash out and isolate? This question is made more urgent by the election of President Donald Trump and the strengthened position of authoritarian-populist movements.
Two leading perspectives on globalization shape the dialogue today. The first, emphasized by anti-globalists and nationalists, advocates that globalization—as a westernizing force—threatens the world’s national cultures. The alternative outlook, promoted by liberal globalizers, highlights the fluid nature of cultural identity and views globalization as a liberating force of resistance from citizens’ sense of belonging imposed by their national governments. Aligning with the latter outlook, this paper argues that an early form of global culture engineered by the force of globalization already exists, yet it is ideologically fragmented into two subgroups: the cosmopolitan influencers and the non-cosmopolitan influenced. This proliferating cultural cleavage, along with a wide array of case-by-case factors, empowers the mass mobilization of nationalist-populism, which poses a threat of extremism to the foundations of global and national cultures.
II. The Fragmented Global Culture and its Externality
Anthony D. Smith, a historical sociologist focused on theories of nationalism and the author of the essay “Towards a Global Culture,” uses an outdated 19th-century template of the nation-state in order to analyze the existence—or rather, the inexistence—of a global culture (278). He is joined by the majority of the academic intelligentsia in using this template as a framework. Smith chiefly attributes the inherent unattainability of a global culture to the absence of globally homogenous social agents and to the inexistence of collective history that awakens memories, which are tied to a specific place and time and momentously unite a population in spirit (278:281).
Because critics of globalization use Smith’s template to analyze global culture, they frequently believe that it does not exist today. To authoritarian nationalist leaders, anti-globalizers, and those in concert with Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations hypothesis, which states that “the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural [rather than economic],” Smith’s outlook is a prevailing lens (Huntington 22). However, this outlook that global culture will eternally remain an unrealized liberal utopian project is shortsighted because it does not fully account for present-day interconnected cultural realities. For those who endorse a global culture, Smith’s view is limited by his emphasis on the aging template of the nation-state. Nevertheless, the belief in the existence of a global culture does not necessarily downgrade the importance of national patriotism, unless it reaches an alarming degree of radicalism.
In a world where information and knowledge travels by “modern chariots of the global telecommunications systems” (Smith 279) and the commonality of open borders allows for cross-national movement and cultural appropriation, how much power should be given to the perspective that culture is tied to a distinct place and time (281)? I believe if Smith’s template is tailored to account for the present day, it is a valid way of analyzing global culture.
If we assume that culture, whether national or global, is artificially architected through economically and socially incentivized inventions of race, political ideology, and religion (to name a few) and is based on common building blocks such as values, behaviors, and practices, then global culture is possible. This is because, if these building blocks may be used to create a national culture, then it is possible to some degree to consequently engineer a global culture. Arguably, the lived realities constructed by the force of globalization have already built the foundation for an early form of a global identity. Hence, the next question is who has designed and legitimized the building blocks of global culture.
Smith argues that for an identity to be legitimate and not reduced to a set of “common denominators of patterns of life,” three key attributes of common cultural experiences should be present: a “sense of continuity (…) between generations, shared memories of specific [historic] turning-points [, and] a sense of common destiny” (280:281). It appears that this trifecta of criteria is currently satisfied to a sufficient degree, taking into consideration that globalization has not yet reached its full potential. Émile Durkheim, who by many is considered one of the founders of modern sociology, argues, “a function, economic or any other, can only be divided [i.e., shared] between two societies if they take part in some respects in a same common life and, consequently, belong to a same society” (Inglis 107). Common life in the global sphere has been initially stimulated by the means of shared economies. Today, we see this demonstrated through the formation of the European Union and the existence of various global trade agreements—for example, NAFTA—as well as international trade laws.
One of the most influential products of the processes of globalization is the interdependence of economies, which cultivates shared commodities as well as interconnected cultural experiences in the realm of politics, academia, leisure, and business. Anti-globalists acknowledge interconnected economies but not joint cultural experiences as a foundation for global culture. For those who advocate a global culture, the economic linkage first creates merely a “material culture,” yet as the latter gradually becomes integrated into a domestic way of life, it sets a communal platform for the transfusion of cultural ideas and the inception of global common life (Inglis 107). This subsequently empowers the social construction of Smith’s desired trifecta of criteria—“sense of continuity (…) between generations, shared memories of specific turning-points [, and] a sense of common destiny” (280:281)—needed to build a national culture.
Smith’s trifecta applies to global circumstances, if we recognize that the commonality is not political ideology or location-specific history but in fact a coalescent notion of sustainable human survival and the advancement of an individual rather than of a nation-state or an ethnic civilization. Despite its controversial nature, it appears that moral philosopher and “father of economics” Adam Smith’s dogma of self-interest continues to be the decisive apparatus for guiding one’s economic (and thus social) decisions (Schechtman 25). The actions and beliefs motivated by self-interest then spark the desire for individual advancement, which serves as the commonality needed to fulfill Smith’s trifecta.
The proposition of a (global) common destiny is particularly controversial considering the troubled state of world affairs and the reoccurrence of cultural wars, just to name some of the many battles to which Smith points. Yet, due to the elastic nature of cultural elements (i.e., beliefs, practices, and values) that formulate a sense of collective belonging at both a national and global domain, it seems as if nation-state cultures intertwine and create new borderless co-experiences (both of beneficial and harmful natures), which contribute to an intermixed global history. This claim, although liberally utopic in theory, is to some extent practiced today. Citizens of nation-states create global history through co-experience, whether of applauded social advancements such as discoveries in the domain of health, technology, and policy, or of the global misery that events such as world wars and disease as encountered on media programs or public debates. More specifically, this may be highlighted by the vast devastation of polio and the subsequent global spread of its vaccine, which displays how innovations of magnitude unite our lived experiences and create common memories and destinies.
Such shared historic events and borderless values are not a mere display of solidarity of “cultural families” linked by a lingua franca, nor are they just a complement to national culture (Smith 284). In fact, because these events directly affect citizens worldwide on a personal and collective level, they in part legitimize the collective global history that Smith claims is crucial to an emergence of a common culture (279). This position reflects the perspective of globalization as a force of liberation from the sense of belonging imposed by national governments. It appears that global culture, when compared to national culture, is more elastic and significantly more influenced by the values and practices of the hegemons (interchangeably, the West). On the other hand, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, the 21st century post-Marxist philosophers, make the somewhat radical argument that the force of globalization itself is the boundary-less empire, i.e., the newly arising hegemony. Consequently, according to Hardt and Negri, no nation-state can dominate the world order or global culture.
III. Kant’s Modernized “Global Civil Society”
Anthony D. Smith highlights the importance of national culture equipping its citizens with a source of moral leadership. Still, global culture may too produce moral norms and values, which guide one’s individual and collective consciousness. The roots of this idea can be found in the Kantian teachings of the “global civil society.” Immanuel Kant, the influential Enlightenment philosopher, explains that in a “world moral culture, a moral outrage happening in any one part of the world is condemned in all parts of the globe” (Inglis 111). Such widespread disapproval of certain moral truths and the empowerment of others, perhaps in the realm of ethical obligations to human rights, shape universal elementary beliefs and provide rudimentary moral leadership. Not only can ideologically specific guidance not be attained due to national factors at play but also it may not be desired.
Despite communal moral fundamentals, it appears that present-day global culture is fragmented into two major subgroups: the cosmopolitan influencers and the non–cosmopolitan influenced. Cosmopolitanism, as a school of political thought, “posits people as citizens of the world rather than of a particular nation-state,” which denationalizes domestic politics (Benning). In comparison to liberalism, which puts sovereignty in the hands of the national government, cosmopolitanism bestows this political and social power to the people, emphasizing the significance of human plurality (Benning). Today, the cosmopolitan subgroup exhibits the international borderless identity. This subgroup not only actively influences the content and the dynamic of the shared experiences and beliefs that construct global culture, but also frequently enjoys the entire gamut of economic, social, and political benefits of a globalized world. Generally, members share historical memories, originate from similar familial backgrounds, and embody a sense of belonging to the world rather than to a specific nation-state (Benning). Importantly, they appear to be the chief designers of the building blocks forming global culture.
The influenced subgroup comprises of citizens who are affected by the force of globalization, whether in a positive or negative way, yet, do not possess the necessary power resources (for example, leadership positions, media control, and funds to fully enjoy a cosmopolitan life) to shape global culture to a degree sufficient to permanently influence its course. This elitist-like stratification, rather intuitively, demonstrates the power struggle of those who control the means of globalization and those who are its (limited) consumers. Here, unlike in the other subgroup, the cosmopolitan appreciation for human plurality is common yet not unanimous, based on the present-day nationalist sentiment among voters around the world. It appears that the dichotomy between the two subgroups results in the commonly discussed clash of “winners” and “losers” of globalization. This disconnect between the influenced and the influencers is exemplified by the rise of President Trump, the popularity of Marine Le Pen in France, the right-wing government in Poland, and Brexit. Each of these movements demonstrates the sentiment of the influenced subgroup, i.e., those who feel victimized by the force of globalization.
The differences in the lived experiences between the two subgroups lead to a conflict of interest between the ideology of nationalist populism (generally represented by authoritarian principals) and that of liberal democracy. Arguably, radical nationalism—destructive to the Liberal Tradition and its byproducts—is the manifestation of a fragmented global culture. Since populist governments did not rise in the majority of the world and the share of low-skilled workers is on the decline (arguably, the “losers”)—additional factors must explain the recent advancement of the populist movements, epitomized by the rise of President Trump (Gros). Evidently, case-by-case-specific factors also played a critical role in such developments; however, this turn of events further stratified the dichotomy of the cosmopolitan influencers and the non-cosmopolitan influenced.
IV. The Global Culture Ahead
It appears that an early form of global culture engineered by the force of globalization already exists if we use Smith’s trifecta of criteria, when present day social contexts are taken into account. The pressing question then becomes, what will global culture lead to? The dark prognosis is that the commonality of values and lived experiences matures to “the end-point of history,” where human greatness comes to a halt (Inglis 107). One contraposition points to the emergence of (an unknown yet form of) Kant’s vision of Perpetual Peace and global government. Both propositions envisage a possibility of global peace in the distant future. Yet, whether the world to come will be defined by exhilarating or mediocre strides is our decision, whilecontributing to this critical and privileged choice is one of the greatest virtues that we possess today.
Benning, Joseph F. “Cosmopolitanism.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2 April, 2016, https://www.britannica.com/topic/cosmopolitanism-international-relations
Gros, Daniel. “Is Globalization Really Fueling Populism?” Project Syndicate, 6 May 2016, https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/understand-factors-behind-rising-populism-by-daniel-gros-2016-05?barrier=accessreg
Huntington, Samuel P. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, 1993, pp. 22–49.
Inglis, David. “A Durkheimian Account of Globalization: The Construction of Global Moral Culture.” Durkheimian Studies / Études Durkheimiennes, vol. 17, 2011, pp. 103–120, Jstor, www.jstor.org/stable/23867179
Schechtman, Marya. “Self and Self-Interest.” Personal and Moral Identity, edited by A.W Musschenga, W. van Haaften, and B. Spiecker, Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy, vol. 11, Springer, 2002, pp. 25-49, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-015-9954-2_2
Smith, Anthony D. “Towards a Global Culture?” Theory, Culture & Society, edited by Mike Featherstone, vol.7, issue 2-3, pp. 171-191, http://journals.sagepub.com/toc/tcsa/7/2-3
Published February 5, 2018.
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