Interrogating the Present II: Globalization
- Discussion Question
- How do the views of Gray and Friedman converge and diverge? What in their views do you find particularly illuminating in forming your own ideas about current way of the world?
- Discussion leader: Amy Rae
- Required Readings
- John Gray, "The World is Round," The New York Review of Books, Vol. 52, No. 13, August 11, 2005 Read
- Thomas Friedman, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (New York: Picador, 2007), Chapters 1, pp. 3-51 Read
- Manfred B. Steger, Globalization: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), Chapters 1 & 2, 7 & 8, pp. 1-36, 113-135. Read ISBN: 019280359X
- Supplemental Reading
- Freeman Dyson, "Our Biotech Future," The New York Review of Books, Vol. 54, No. 12, July 19, 2007 Read
- W.J.Thomas Mitchell, "Work of Art in an Age of Cybernetic Reproduction," Modernism/modernity, Vol. 10, No. 3, Sept. 2003, pp. 481-500 Read from Project Muse
RESPONSE TO READINGS
Hello all! Here are my responses to this week's readings. There are plenty of questions to discuss, so feel free to dig in deep when an interesting question strikes you. I'm looking forward to a wonderful discussion. See you there! Best, Amy Rae
From fifth grade classrooms to the oval office, the world is exploring the meaning of globalization. The word is used to describe a “a process, a condition, a system, a force, and an age” (Pg 7). Bigger profits, sweatshops, exporting jobs, eradication of poverty, the Internet- with so many facets to examine, how can researchers agree on a definition? In his article, Globalization, Steger attempts to flesh out the complexities utilizing a thorough examination of historical global changes. This examination makes it clear that “there is not much that is ‘new’ about contemporary globalization” (Pg 16). Consulting the work of globalization scholars, a working definition is achieved:
“Multidimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch, and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and the distant” (Pg 13).
This discussion raises serious questions about our future:
• “The term ‘globalization’ suggests a sort of dynamism best captured by the notion of ‘development’ or ‘unfolding’ along discernible patterns. Such unfolding may occur quickly or slowly, but it always corresponds to the idea of change, and, therefore denotes the transformation of present conditions” (Pg 8).
o What does constant change really mean?
o What is the impact of constant change on organizations or groups grounded in tradition?
o What does this mean for school systems and education?
• “It behooves us to refrain from imposing deterministic ideas of ‘inevitability’ and ‘irreversibility’ on globalization” (Pg 19). Is this not an essential part of assessing how to proceed into the future? What about global warming and climate change? Are we not doing irreversible damage to our planet?
• Pat Buchanan, representing the particularist protectionists and Ralph Nader, representing the universialist protectionists, are significant voices in American politics. Why, then, have they not been real contenders for the presidency? Furthermore, what is America’s role in globalization?
• Big American brands are readily tied to globalization. Take a look at this perspective on branding and globalization. Do you think this argument is fair to big business? Why or why not? Is it fair to say that most Americans do not think about where their food, clothing and other products come from? Pick an article of clothing and try to trace it's origins: from unspun cotton to shelves.
• “As recent events have shown, globalization’s very survival will depend on its radical transformation… world leaders must design and implement a comprehensive ‘Global New Deal’…” (Pg 134). What is a ‘Global New Deal’ and what should be included to ensure “solidarity”?
• Steger suggests an answer: “transformative social processes must challenge the current oppressive structure of global apartheid… If that happens, globalization will have ushered in a truly democratic and egalitarian global order” (Pg 135). "Transformative social processes" seems too general. Should the transformative social process be the ‘Global New Deal’? Or something else?
Friedman and Gray: FLAT vs. ROUND
As previously noted, globalization is so multifaceted and complex that researchers have difficulty agreeing on a definition. As a result, many scholars (in our case Friedman and Gray) are fundamentally divided. Friedman is an unabashed “Neoliberal” – “having a wide variety of views on political and social matters… but at one with seeing the free market as the fountainhead of human freedom” (Gray, Pg 1). Conversely, Gray seems to be a “Universalist Protectionist,” siding with “progressive political parties dedicated to establishing a more equitable relationship between the global North and South. [Ultimately] fighting against globalist elites that desire to continue the divide” (Steger, Pg 115). These contrasting worldviews make it easy to assess where opinions diverge.
Friedman sees globalization and capitalism inextricably connected. Innovation and technology fuel social progress, also called ‘technological determinism.’ Globalization is the key to solving world poverty and bringing peace and prosperity to otherwise downtrodden nations. Religious and nationalist passions and consequences of those passions are wholly ignored in Friedman’s argument. Issues of access to digital technologies is also omitted.
Gray does not subscribe to this idealist vision of globalization. Instead, he draws a distinct correlation between capitalism, industrialism, war and revolution. “Conflicts are integral to the process itself, whose future course cannot be known” (Gray, Pg 6). He does not believe that increasing communication produces a “quantum shift in human affairs” (Gray, Pg 3). Moreover, he finds no relationship between a free market and globalization. Both scholars converge, admitting that globalization is ‘leveling the playing field’ for different groups. Friedman calls the world ‘flat’ and Gray calls it ‘round’ – but regardless of shape, the world is becoming more connected. Constant change is a unifying theme in both writers’ arguments.
Who is right?
• At times, the truth is often in the middle of two opposing views:
Steger: “Like the blind men in the parable, each globalization researcher is partly right by correctly identifying one important dimension of the phenomenon in question. However, their collective mistake lies in their dogmatic attempts to reduce such a complex phenomenon as globalization to a single domain that corresponds to their own expertise” (Pg 14). Do you agree? Why?
Other questions for the future:
• What is the difference between a flat world and a round world? Is there one?
• In Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, he suggests that right-brained thinkers (creative, intuitive, expressive) are the leaders needed for the future. In response to American jobs going overseas, Friedman suggests: “If you are an American, you better be good at that touchy-feely [right-brained] service stuff, because anything that can be digitized can be outsourced to either the smartest or the cheapest producer” (Pg 15). Is this what our future holds? Will American left-brainers eventually be out of a job?
• In China, “more than half of students graduate with engineering or science degrees, and even those who don’t… are still being directed to spend a year studying Japanese or English, plus computer science, so that they will be employable” (Friedman, Pg 35). What implications exist for the future of a global job market? Will lower SES countries take over right-brained tasks?
• Friedman says: “Every new product…goes through a cycle that beings with basic research…[phases listed]. Each of these phases is specialized and unique, and neither India or China nor Russia has a critical mass of talent that can handle the whole product cycle for a big American multinational” (Pg 30). This statement was published in 2007. What does this statement mean in 2008? If Russia, India and China surpass America in capabilities, what will happen?
• In the CCTE program, individuals from all over the world can complete a Masters degree in Computing and Education completely online. The market for education has become more global than ever. Do you think the corporate job market will soon follow? What do you think about Japanese and Indian citizens be competing with Americans for corporate jobs in the USA, connecting through new digital technologies and “homesourcing” or “outsourcing”?
• Gray states, “the coming century could be marked by recurrent resource wars, as the great powers struggle for control of the planet’s hydrocarbons” (Pg 5). What impact does globalization have on the environment?
• Gray argues, “rising nationalism is part of the process of globalization and so too are intensifying geopolitical rivalries” (Pg 5). Do you agree? If so, where will this lead us? If not, what will keep us from conflict?
Our Biotech Future: Dyson & The Work of Art in the Age of Biocybernetic Reproduction: Mitchell
Though both readings were only suggested, I highly recommend taking time to explore a fascinating and terrifying juxtaposition of perspectives on a budding biological revolution. Frankly, after reading both articles, I was shocked. I always realized biotechnology was an up-and-coming field, affording opportunities to create new medicines and save lives. While this is true, the darker side of biotechnology has the potential to alter the planet as we know it.
Dyson predicts “that the domestication of biotechnology will dominate our lives during the next fifty years at least as much as the domestication of computers has dominated our lives during the previous fifty years” (Pg 1). In this article, he suggests the altering of genes will be the newest form of artistic expression, allowing for entirely new races of plants and animals to exist on the earth. Think: choosing the look, intelligence, and talents of your baby or the possibility of creating a species that will dominate our own.
Dyson champions this technology, singing praises of the unlimited opportunities and benefits without considering the extremely dangerous and deadly consequences. Honestly, I think this guy is nuts. I couldn’t get through the first page without picking up my phone to call someone and talk about the possible implications this technology may have for the future of our species. If you can, read the Dyson before next class; It’s barely 6 pages and will provide a basis for interesting discussion.
The entire argument raises questions about morality of life, ‘playing God’, defining art and artistic expression, testing the bounds of corporate influence, defining the emergence of ‘bioethics’ and making tough decisions about what to do in the present to prevent our planet from exploding. OK- that was a bit dramatic.
Though Dyson does not give us answers, he does leave us with some questions about bioethics and the future:
• Can it be stopped?
• Ought it to be stopped?
• If stopping it is either impossible or undesirable, what are the appropriate limits that our society must impose on it?
• Fourth, how should the limits be decided?
• How should the limits be enforced, nationally and internationally?
Check out this YouTube video showing the genetically altered glowing fish being sold in pet stores.