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Globalization and the end of the State?

| 17 January 1997


Throughout the human sciences ‘globalization’ has become the explanatory concept of social change in the 1990s. In the study of political economy a rich combination of interconnected characteristics are conventionally identified as constituents of the larger dynamic: the ascendance of the ‘stateless corporation’; the emergence of the trillion dollar ‘24–hour, integrated global financial market–place’; the sharpening of competition under capital mobility and the ‘law of one price’; the proliferation of foreign direct investment; the increase in intercontinental migration; and the emergence of a ‘global information society’. Of consequences, everything from the reimagining of urban space, the fragmentation of institutions and institutional boundaries, and the rise of neoliberal transnational technocracy, to decolonisation, democratisation, pluralism and sub-nationalism, and crises of governance, ecology and citizenship, have been explained in relation to the ‘globalization process’.

Equally important, though rather less studied, has been the way in which a series of social imperatives have been established on the back of the rise to hegemony of the concept of globalization. These imperatives include: ‘agility’, ‘rapidity’ and ‘mobility’; ‘transformation’, ‘adaptation’ and ‘invention’; ‘competitiveness’, ‘outlook’ and ‘foresight’; ‘self-reliance’, ‘self-motivation’ and ‘self-monitoring’; ‘economy’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘excellence’, the list continues. Indeed, a whole new lexicon has emerged alongside the more concrete characteristics studied in detail by political scientists and economists. What is less certain, but surely intriguing, is the way in which this new range of icons, slogans and words have engendered a ‘political rhythm’, or a rationality of government. And yet no-one has raised the question. Not one sustained analysis of the discourse of globalization has been written. Globalization has yet to be interrogated as a conduct of politics.

It would seem that this line of approach has been largely ignored because globalization has been seen foremost to be a fragmentary movement, driven by markets and independent actors, and entailing the transcendence of state-authorial structures. This thesis has implications for a ‘politics of resistance’ to globalization. The critique of globalization as a form of political ordering has been foreclosed by the hegemony of market, technical, accidental and developmental explanations of its ascendance.1 In each, the forces deemed to be constitutive of globalization are seen to have come from outside the political body. Globalization is seen to be inexorable (a logic to which ‘there is no alternative’), and inevitable (history conditioning the present). Questions of power, order and politics are eradicated from the discussion. In the attempt to open up new spaces for critique, indeed existence, we may usefully begin by questioning this depoliticisation. In this brief essay I attempt to show how many of the most important constituent themes of our contemporary epoch have come from within, not without, the realm of political order.

Globalization and the end of state authority

The most conspicuous proponents of the claim to the externality of globalization are Theodore Levitt, Robert Reich, Kenichi Ohmae and Susan Strange. The primary evidence suggested for this externality is the decline of state authority in general. Strange, in an essay entitled ‘The Defective State’ writes: “ … state authority has leaked away, upwards, sideways, and downwards. In some matters, it seems even to have gone nowhere, just evaporated. The realm of anarchy in society and economy has become more extensive as that of all kinds of authority has diminished.” The state, for Strange, is increasingly ‘hollowing out’. “[A]ccelerating technological change … inevitably, relaxes the authority of the state over enterprises based and directed from inside their territorial borders.” In Strange’s view we are witness to a process by which: “ … authority over society and economy has become diffused in a neomedieval fashion, and that some necessary authority once exercised by states is now exercised by no one.”2

Similar themes are developed by Levitt. “Cosmopolitanism … ” he writes:

… is no longer the monopoly of the intellectual and leisure classes; it is becoming the established property and defining characteristic of all sectors everywhere in the world. Gradually and irresistibly it breaks down the walls of economic insularity, nationalism, and chauvinism. What we see today as escalating commercial nationalism is simply the last violent death rattle of an obsolete institution.3

For Reich also: “Gone is the tight connection between the company, its community even its country. Vanishing too are the paternalistic corporate heads who used to feel a sense of responsibility for their local community … When it comes to global managers, no group of citizens, no government, has a special claim.”4

However accurate an assessment of reality these statements may be, they have been backed up by a whole wave of commentators and pundits who for varied reasons have sought to foretell the decline of the state and traditional authority. A number of sub-themes have emerged. First, free and unregulated global finance has outrun the ability of economists and ministers alike to keep up. “It is virtually impossible … ” writes Vincent Cable, “ … to go back to exchange controls as an economic regulator.”5 Inevitability is established. Second, the hypermobility of the ‘stateless corporation’ is deemed to challenge the legislative and taxing capacities of governmental institutions.6 “Governments are forced back onto indirect taxes … ”7 Further privatisation and marketisation is validated. Third, the rise of new market actors have rendered the nation state deficient. “The Nation State … ” writes Ohmae, “ … has become an unnatural, even dysfunctional unit for organising human activity and managing economic endeavour in a borderless world.”8 Globalism is naturalised within the popular unconscious. Fourth, in creating a ‘global society’ globalization has fragmented centralised authority.9 In the words of Mathew Horsman and Andrew Marshall:

Effortless communications across boundaries undermine the nation-state’s control; increased mobility, and the increased willingness of people to migrate, undermine its cohesiveness. Business abhors borders, and seeks to circumvent them. Information travels across borders and nation-states are hard pressed to control the flow … The nation-state … is increasingly powerless to withstand these pressures.10

Political agency is decentred. As Peter Riddell has argued: “ … politics has entered an age of increasing limits … ”11

Restrictions of space prevent me from examining each of these claims here. In any case what is particularly apposite to me is not their actual truth index, but rather the truth that these claims set up by remote: the culture that they reflect and shape. Others are already questioning the globalization thesis on its own terms. Indeed, it has become something of a cottage industry. Of the more important refutations we may note in passing the excellent work of Eric Helleiner on the ways in which the historical reversal of the monetary principles of the Bretton Woods agreement was mediated and initiated by governments.12 Alternatively we may look to the important analyses of Bob Jessop on how the transition to post-Fordism and the ‘Schumpeterian Workfare State’ entails not an outright rejection but the reformulation of the principles of the Keynesian Welfare State.13 We may also note the conceptual and empirical work of R.J.Barry Jones, Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson on internationalization, transnationalization, interdependence and globalization, and the distinctions between them.14 This work is welcome. Indeed, it allows us to think again about the concept of globalization, its, and the place of governments in the processes that are commonly put forward as its constituent parts. This research, however, needs to be supplemented. A far deeper reading is called for (and possible).

In my view, we need — for a brief moment at least — to think about the ways in which the impulses that surround us fit in to the historical development of modern political order. As the next section hopes to make clear, the analysis of this historical development raises important questions as to the validity of popular correspondence between globalization and the end of the state. My own substantive argument is that we are not witnessing the ‘evaporation of authority’ but its reverse: the deeper embedding of order through marketisation, the rise of neoliberal orthodoxy, and the reduction of the world to a single place. Globalization (a.k.a. for each of these) must be questioned as a ‘rationality of government’ and method of politics. The aim is not to evoke attitudes of fatalism, quietism and paralysis in the face of a reading of the equivalence between globalization and the modern development of codes and practices of order, but rather to begin the task — which is simultaneously the first responsibility of a ‘politics of resistance’ — of knowing the terrain within which we are situated. In the words of Lewis Mumford: “Without a long running start in history, we shall not have the momentum needed, in our consciousness, to take a sufficiently bold leap into the future … ”15

Globalization and the history of modern political order

At the deepest level, one principle can be seen to define globalization: the eradication of space through the domestication of time. It is this principle that underpins the contemporary discourse of the ‘stateless corporation’, the birth of an ‘information society’, the linking of all parts of the globe to virtual markets, and indeed, the end of the state. Yet contrary to popular belief, this principle is hardly new. Described by Mumford, it is the sixteenth century which marks the emergence of a new era of generalised mobility. The ‘new spirit of society’, he argues: “ … was on the side of rapid transportation … [t]he hastening of movement and the conquest of space … Mass, velocity, and time were categories of social effort before Newton’s law was formulated.”16 For Mumford, however, this ‘new spirit’ could not be explained only in terms of technology or accident, but had to be seen within the context of what he termed ‘biotechnics’ (the ways in which man establishes mastery over the realm of ‘men and things’).

Michel Foucault, in a number of philosophical and historical works, also identified the ‘problem of movement’ as one defining the modern epoch.17 Like Mumford, Foucault sought to explain this problem in relation to the development of certain forms of political order (the social structures through which populations have been organised, combined, multiplied and made effective). Analysing the birth of the modern citizenry as the precondition to the birth of modern capitalism, Foucault’s histories are an essential contribution to the history of modern political order. Of particular import to Foucault’s account was what he saw as the central aim of modern political rationality: the necessity of mobilising society for the goal of productivity, without making it more difficult to govern. A new political knowledge of capabilities and levers was necessary to control the activities of the ascendant masses. Chillingly, in the classical period this political knowledge was referred to as the ‘theory of police’.

Epitomised in the ‘cameralist’ writings of Seckendorff18, Dithmar19, Darjes20 and Justi21, the aim of this new political knowledge was to make individuals ‘useful for the world’. Power had to reach into the very grain of individuals, their tastes, perceptions and desires.22 The central theme of cameralism’s ‘police science’ was the concern for the ordering of the populace. In the words of Justi: “The domestic security of a state consists in such a well-ordered constitution of the same that all parts of the civic body are held in their appropriate correlation, and in the consequent repose, while the persons and property of individuals are protected against all injustice and violence.” The aim was to maximise the benefits to the individual from society at the same time as the individual would him or herself be maximised for the benefit of the state. Described by Gerhard: “ … our civic science is chiefly concerned with finding out good external and voluntary means, through which, without harm or injustice to others, the welfare of the community [gemeinen Wessens], that is, the permanence and security of the same, may be properly maintained, promoted and increased.”23 Thus we find the three coordinates of the cameralist state: freedom, inner strength and security.24 Productivity, diligence and happiness were the techniques of the cameralist mode of government (simultaneously individual and total). For Foucault, the government of ‘all and one’ imagined in these writings was what defined modern political order. Where might globalization be found in this narrative?

Obviously much has changed since ‘police science’ was practised in continental Europe. In raising these issues vis-à-vis the question of globalization my aim is not to suggest a perfect match. Cameralism was collectivist, globalization is individualist. Whether we deem the end of the welfare state to be a political move or a market consequence, for sure individuals themselves, rather than the state, have been forced to provide for their own security. In addition, the contemporary state would seem to have little to do with sustaining and creating group and individual happiness. Yet a number of cameralist themes remain, to my mind, at the heart of the contemporary art of government. Moreover, globalization is making these themes more visible.

All and one, mobile yet docile

Foremost is the dual aim of mobilisation and government described by Foucault as the basic aim of modern political rationality. For cameralist and physiocratic thinkers the objective of the art of government was: “ … to develop those elements constitutive of individuals’ lives in such a way that their development also fosters the strength of the state.”25 It is this imperative that I read to be the hidden face of globalization: a form of power that at once reaches into the very grain of the individual and touches the political imagination of the whole of society. In its contemporary form this mode of power can be seen best in the discourse of globalism.

A number of developments are both indicative of, and follow on from the ascendance of the discourse of globalism. On the one hand is the imperative of shrinking the world (“For U.S. Corporations, the Modern-Day Byword Is ‘Globalize or Die’”26 … ). On the other, the potential power of holding that world in one’s hand (“Just plug in and the world is yours.”27 … ). In both instances the impulse is individualising. Yet the implications are broader. The importance of not only predicting the future, but attempting to shape it, necessitates greater form of synchronicity between the levels of society, institution, or firm. The means by which this is done is the acquisition of technology (in particular informatics). Whole societies move to what Paul Virilio has called ‘technological time’, ensuring a correspondence of referents, standards, codes and basic practices. The globe itself is the most powerful metaphor of this synchronisation of all and one. At once it is mobilising, in the sense of common purpose and history it imposes upon the social body. It is also levelling, inspiring the awe of which Heidegger once spoke.28 One may indeed argue that the NASA ‘earthrise’ is the most important single political image ever to be ‘captured’ on film. It has certainly invaded the popular unconscious in ways that would seem worthy of further study.29

In terms of the implications of the discourse of globalism for the art of government, foremost has been the historical reversal of motivational crises.30 This has been achieved through an intensification of anxiety allied perfectly with the discourse of the ‘defective state’. The spectre of ‘global competition’, described by Kevin Philips as the ‘continuation of war by other means’, begins to haunt, with increased rigour, the dreams of contemporary man.31 To transform, to evolve, to learn and move on, become the social principles in a new discourse of exploration institutionalised through a global paranoic politics. “Companies that do not adapt to the new global realities will become victims of those that do.”32 There is, in the words of Walter Wriston, ‘no place to hide’.33 ‘Risk’ and ‘doubt’ become central organising concepts. As described by the German sociologist Ulrich Beck, people become the ‘centre for their own lifeworlds’. Self-monitoring becomes the social imperative of our contemporary order.34 … what they are doing is competitive.” Richard O’Brien (Chief Economist at American Express Bank), in interview, BBC ‘Horizon’, (April 1995).]

The correspondence with Foucault’s emphasis on the ‘interiorisation’ of power is striking. Disciplinary power, rather than moulding all to a single mass: “ … separates, analyses, differentiates, carries its procedures of decomposition to the point of necessary and sufficient single units.”35 As we move from the political management of bodies to the political management of souls, self-examination, self-organisation and self-reliance take on a new level of importance. It was in response to this modification of the political economy of power that Foucault sought to highlight the problem of subjectivity (of how, in an inward modification of temperament, attitude and disposition, the individual turns him or herself into a subject). “Globalization … ” we are told, “ … has placed new demands on business executives … ”36 Developing: “ … a global strategy requires managers to think in new ways.”37 As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute has argued, in the face of global competition: “ … people are going round with guillotines over their heads.”38

Movement becomes speed

This image of the guillotine is an appropriate one from which to return to the history of modern political order. Variously described as ‘the most efficient killing machine in history’, the guillotine was defined, of course, by its speed. In this sense the image of headless corporate bodies dotting from one continent to another serves as a perfect bridge between the concerns of early modernity with ‘circulation’, ‘economy’ and ‘exchange’, and the accelerated impulses that continue to inform our own epoch. The difference is but one of degree: in late modernity the ‘problem of movement’ is substituted for what Paul Virilio has termed the ‘movement of movement’ (speed). The principle of order, however, is the same.

In the words of Elias Canetti: “ … the regulation of time is the primary attribute of all government.”39 Like Canetti, Foucault also linked the control of time to the constitution of political and social power. In Foucault’s account, from the Classical period onward, an art of ‘political anatomy’ was born, defining the means by which to ensure not only that others’ bodies may do what one commands, but that: “ … they may operate as one wishes, with the techniques, the speed and the efficiency that one determines.”40 Urbanist Paul Virilio in a series of books and essays has picked up these themes and single-handedly radicalised the ‘politics of time and movement’ in what he terms ‘speed’. In particular Virilio has sought to trace the passing of Occidental culture into the ‘age of the accelerator’, entailing the disappearance of power itself in a form of absolute colonization.41 His insights are mirrored in few places better than the discourse of globalization. And one doesn’t have to dig too deep to find it.

In 1973 First National City Bank run an advertisement for their ‘global transfer system’ with the headline: “Citibank — the bank to look to for speed in moving money.”42 In 1978 Chase Bank run an advertisement with the pun, ‘Today’s Chase’, followed by the subtitle: “Everyone talks global network. Our bank has it.”43 In 1983 business guru Theodore Levitt argues that two ‘vectors’ shape the contemporary world — technology and globalization. In 1988 Walter Wriston talks of a ‘velocity of change’ so great that there are ‘literally no precedents to guide us’.44 In 1989 Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of General Electric talks of ‘lightening speed’, ‘fast action’, and ‘acting with speed’. “The world moves much faster today.”45 In 1991, President and CEO of Asea Brown Boveri, asks: “Why emphasise speed over precision? Because the costs of delay exceed the costs of mistakes.”46 In 1994, Susan Strange talks of the ‘accelerating pace of technological change’, and of ‘rapid change’.47 In 1995, Kenichi Ohmae talks of the ‘speed and volume of transactions’, the ‘accelerating convergence of tastes’.48 For Nicholas Negroponte and Danny Goodman, ‘being digital’ and ‘living at light speed’ is the only means to avoid being roadkill on the information superhighway.49 Rapid change is both desirable and ‘unstoppable’, global and ‘inexorable’. Reginald Dale talks of ‘accelerating world trade’, the ‘speed of change’, the ‘split-second flows of international funds’, and the ‘dynamic world of the 21st century’.50 U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Lawrence Summers suggests: “ … it is only a slight exaggeration to say that this is the era when 3 billion people got on a rapid escalator to modernity.”51 A special issue of TIME on technology and the ‘global agenda’ begins the cover story article with one word, followed by a full stop. The word is ‘acceleration’.

In terms of the implications of the ‘logic of the race’ for the art of government, foremost again has been the historical reversal of motivational crises. “Work smarter, not just harder”, is indeed a touch of genius, underwriting both the imperative of self-monitoring, and the power of speed.52 The growth of subcontracting, small-batch production, outsourcing and ‘Just-in-time’ epitomise the pursuit of rapidity. ‘Feel the burn’ was the catchphrase of the 1980s. “[I]f you’re not flexible enough to handle rapid change and make quick decisions, you won’t win.”53 The growth in part-time, unsecure wage labour, the ‘fear of unemployment’, and the erosion of trades unions only adds to the pressures borne by the individual in the global age of political economy. The discourse of speed and uncertainty, having altered the composition of labour markets, ensure optimum performance at no expense to the employer.

In the ascendance of globalism and the social extension of speed outlined above, to what else are we witness if not the historic mobilisation of individuals to the rhythms of political order of a type envisaged by Justi, Sonnenfels and Quesney, and enshrined in Clausewitz’s ‘assembly of forces’ and Napoleon’s ‘motorized armies’?54 There is, of course, the immediate objection: ‘but all you have described is the market, not the state’. Yet the state cannot, nor ever could, be defined merely as the institutions of government. To return to the defective state thesis, one can agree with the assessment of Susan Strange: the ‘state’ is hollow! The difference between the assessment I suggest and that of Strange is that despite our agreement on that point alone, I dispute that our contemporary epoch is a ‘return’ to neomedievalism. The modern state was ever thus. Since the rejection of Machiavelli and the rise of social contractarianism the modus operandi of state authority has been diffusion: to find new means by which to mobilise the populace. In cameralist as well as physiocratic writings it is clear that the ‘just administrator’ is he who can steer the automatism of society (both state and market). If the genealogy of modern political authority teaches us anything it is that populations are bearers of order. From the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries onward it is the task of channelling this automatism that emerges at the heart of political rationality. In this sense whole societies, rather than demarcated bureaucracies, are affected by the processes of rationalization. This form of ‘government’ cannot be reduced instrumentally to the actions of institutions. As Colin Gordon suggests, ‘the state has no essence’.55 In simple terms, the dissolution of the face of government (institutional fragmentation, dispersion of state authority, diminishing policy autonomy, and so on), says nothing of the practices of governance. ‘The state’, then, has to be more widely defined. In this way, Foucault’s work may serve as a template for the investigation of governance beyond the state, into what he termed the ‘positive unconscious’, or ‘code of knowledge’: “The fundamental codes of a culture — those governing its language, its schemas of perception, its exchanges, its techniques, its values, the hierarchy of its practices … the space of knowledge.”56

Can we really say that ‘authority’ in this sense has ‘evaporated’?

In setting up a simple distinction between diffusion (anarchy) and authority (order), Strange, Ohmae, Reich and others simply misread the history of the modern state. To be sure, physical territory was important to Bodin, Justi, Sonnenfels, Napoleon and others. But is there any reason to think that the information economy is not also a battle for territory? Is there any reason to think that the decline in the importance of place correlates to a fracture, rather than reformulation, of civil authority? It is clear that current research on the issue of globalization, in remaining blind to the genealogy of modern political rationality, is unable to effect anything near the strength of critique needed to highlight the political interests that profit from the governing of men and things. Moreover, in the context of the discourse of globalization, this blindness to the history of modern political order has worked in important ways to legitimate a series of truth claims of an ascendant ideology (neoliberalism).

Underpinning the ‘withdrawal of the state’ has been a broad consensus that state mediation is no longer possible. During the mid to late 1970s, this in itself became a popular presupposition, galvanising popular and intellectual allegiance to the icon of the market, and laying the foundations upon which the project of globalization could be built. Two themes were central in normalising the notion that state mediation was no longer possible. These two themes are clearly identifiable in the social, economic and political literature of the time. The first theme centered on ‘capital’ and developed through the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s, predominantly (though not exclusively) in the Marxist/Left tradition. Its central message was that the world economy was approaching (if not on the brink of) a structural crisis of capitalism.57 Though in a historical sense this was a fascinating discourse in itself, what is more important is the way in which this initial discourse of crisis created the environment in which the second theme could emerge. This theme focused not on capital, but on the limits to capital.58

The message of this second theme was that the rumblings within the world economy that might spark a global crisis of capital, could be traced to the attempts to regulate and restrain world markets. Governments were getting in the way. This discourse emerged as a political force in the mid to late 1970s and ran throughout the 1980s, accelerating after the stock market crash of 1987, and the world-economic slowdown in the early 1990s.59, Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntingdon and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies [Trilateral Commission, 1975], William P. Bundy, The World Economic Crisis [Council on Foreign Relations, 1975]), military security (e.g., Colin S. Gray, War and Peace and Victory: Strategy and Statecraft for the Next Century [Simon and Schuster, 1990], Keith Suter, Global Change: Armageddon and the New World Order [Albatross, 1992]), fiscal policy (e.g., J. O’Connor, The Fiscal Crisis of the State [St. Martin’s Press, 1973]), the welfare state (e.g., Institute of Economic Affairs, Crisis ’75 … ? [London, 1975], Ken Judge, ‘Is there a crisis in the welfare state?’, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy Vol. 1 No. 2 [1981], Adrian De Kok, ‘Crisis in the Welfare States’, Social Policy and Adminstration Vol. 18 No. 2 [1984]), immigration and population (e.g., 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Dan Gallin, ‘Inside the New World Order: Drawing the Battle Lines’, New Politics Vol. 5 No. 1 [1994]), the environment (e.g., David W. Orr and Marvin S. Sorros, The Global Predicament: Ecological Perspectives on World Order [University of North Carolina, 1979]), and the moral foundations of American capitalism (e.g., Robert Wuthnow, ‘The moral crisis in American capitalism’, Harvard Business Review, [March-April, 1982]).] This second theme established neoliberal claims to the redundancy (indeed, counter-productivity) of governmental management of the economy.60 This in turn preempted and sterilised opposition in the face of a deep and rapid rationalisation of the ‘advanced’ economies (labour markets in particular), in the context of the wider rumblings described earlier by the Marxist-left as the beginnings of the historical crisis of capitalism.61

Taken together, the (Marxist) capital-based theme and the (neoliberal) government-based theme fed the perception that the 1970s signified in a double sense ‘the end of the state’. In parallel a new range of concepts emerge, transcending the state itself (‘global governance’, ‘global responsibility’, ‘globalism’, ‘global risk’, ‘global crisis’, ‘global opportunity’, the ‘global imperative’). We also see the (re)emergence of certain implicit and unstated organising principles: competition, innovation, scientific wealth, informatisation, the ‘mastery of chance’, and the ‘elimination of uncertainty’. The birth of a global economy is the hidden background to the turbulence of this period in history. The historical withdrawal of the state could be presented as a logic of ‘global capital’, and global capital could be presented as the logic of the withdrawal of the state. The true history of the role of the state was obscured by the sound and the fury. It is only now that the noise has died down enough to allow alternative voices to be heard. I would suggest that we reread this epoch. It may be time to invert the Habermasian thesis: rather than a crisis of rationality and legitimation, we have witnessed a legitimation of a series of rationalisations through the discourse of crisis.

Globalization and political resistance

It is in this process of rereading that perhaps we find our greatest chances of profound resistance. In not allowing concepts and meanings to become static we can guard against their exclusive inclusion into the political projects of social groups of whatever kind. We must leave open the paths of negotiation. Against the silent practices that demark globalization as a domain of power we should reserve our right to raise objections. In this way we may break open the discursive limits of the contemporary art of government, and globalization as a form of that political reason. This is not to say that we ignore the critique of actual situations, but that our aim should be, in addition, to interrogate the rationality at stake. Beyond the nature of political economy and the regimes of international and transnational relations we need to think of the broader social structures that define what is permissible in our society. In doing so we’ll better understand the order of which we are part. And having understood that, in the words of one philosopher: “ … the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.”62

Globalization then, in this essay, refers not so much to the day-to-day workings of the IMF, the GATT, the World Bank and other such visible institutions, but rather the deeper forms of ‘assembling’ (often reflected in these institutions) that affect the day-to-day lives of ordinary citizens. In conceiving ‘the state’ in terms only of its instrumental functions (legislature, taxation, border controls, etc.), analysts have missed these forms of ordering that support, rather than fragment, political rationality. In doing so they have artificially delimited forms of possible resistance. Hence, in the current environment, the most radical statement that can be made is to call for a nationally regulated, socialised market. My analysis proposes that we rethink the concepts of state and governance. Clearly this entails the rethinking of many of the themes basic to the contemporary study of political economy and international relations. So be it. Under any other illusion we’re missing the fact that globalization is itself a form of power: not so much a bonfire of controls as a recoding of the politics of order.63

By internalising the discourse of ‘the global’, and its associate myths, we all become ‘vectors’ ensuring the transmission of the new normalcy. The recognition of our current dangers is not an abstract nihilism, but the only possible beginning in the task of thinking anew about the possibilities of the future.

This paper was published in New Political Economy, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1997), pp. 165-77.

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  1. The ‘market’ approach is best epitomised in the writings of Theodore Levitt, Richard Barnet, Kenichi Ohmae and Michael Porter. The ‘technical’ approach can be found in the writings of Susan Strange, Walter Wriston, Manuel Castells, and François Chesnais. An ‘accidental’ theme can be found in the writings of Phil Cerny and Walter Wriston. The ‘developmental’ approach is outlined in the work of Roland Robertson, Anthony Giddens and Immanuel Wallerstein.
  2. Susan Strange, ‘The Defective State’, Dædalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts, Vol. 124 No. 2 (1994), p. 56., p. 59, p. 71.
  3. Theodore Levitt, ‘The Globalization of Markets’ Harvard Business Review (May-June, 1983), p. 101.
  4. Robert Reich, ‘Who is Them?’ Harvard Business Review March-April (1991), p. 78.
  5. Vincent Cable, ‘The Diminished Nation-State: A Study in the Loss of Economic Power’, Dædalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts, Vol. 124 No. 2 (1994), p. 27.
  6. William J. Holstein, ‘The Stateless Corporation’, Business Week, (14 May, 1990), pp. 98-100.
  7. Cable, ‘The Diminished Nation-State’, p. 42.
  8. Kenichi Ohmae, ‘The Rise of the Region State’, Foreign Affairs (Spring, 1993), p. 78.
  9. Mathew Horsman and Andrew Marshall, After the Nation State: Citizens, Tribalism and the New World Disorder (Harper Collins, 1994), pp. 234-235, J. A. Camilleri and J. Falk, The End of Sovereignty: The Politics of a Shrinking and Fragmented World (Edward Elgar, 1992), and Kenichi Ohmae, The End of the Nation State (Free Press, 1995).
  10. Horsman and Marshall, After the Nation State, p. 60.
  11. Peter Riddell, ‘Leaders in Cloud Cuckoo Land’, The London Times (28 August, 1995), p. 14.
  12. Eric Helleiner, States and the Re-emergence of Global Finance (Ithaca, 1994). See also: Ron Martin, ‘Stateless Monies, Global Financial Integration and National Economic Autonomy: The End of Geography?’ in: Stuart Corbridge, Nigel Thrift and Ron Martin (Eds), Money, Power and Space (Basil Blackwell, 1994).
  13. Bob Jessop, ‘Post-Fordism and the State’ in: Ash Amin (Ed.), Post-Fordism: A Reader (Blackwell, 1995).
  14. R.J. Barry Jones Globalisation and Interdependence in the International Political Economy: Rhetoric and Reality (Pinter Publications, 1995), Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson, Globalization in Question (Polity, 1996).
  15. Lewis Mumford, The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations and Its Prospects (Harvest, 1961), p. 3.
  16. ibid, p. 368. Michel Serres argues a similar point in analysing the transition from the ‘clockwork age’ to the ‘motor age’. See: Michel Serres, ‘It was before the (World) Exhibition’, in: Jean Clair and Harold Szeeman (Eds), The Bachelor Machines (New York, 1975).
  17. The prevalence of the metaphor of ‘immobility’ in early-modern medical research of the causes of melancholia (and ‘perpetual flux’ as the cause of mania) is highlighted in Michel Foucault’s, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (Tavistock, 1967), pp. 123-134. On the importance of ‘mobility’ to 19thC economic thought, see: Timothy L. Alborn, ‘Economic man, economic machine: images of circulation in the Victorian money market’ in: Philip Mirowski (Ed.), Natural Images in Economic Thought: ‘Markets read in tooth and claw’ (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 173-196. On the principle of circulation (and its government), in urban planning, see: Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology (Semiotext(e), 1986), Popular Defense and Ecological Struggles, and The Lost Dimension (Semiotext(e), 1991). On exchange see: Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (Tavistock, 1970), pp. 166-214.
  18. Viet Ludwig von Seckendorff, Der Teutsche Fursten Staat (1655), Der Christen Staat (1685). See: Albion M. Small, The Cameralists: The Pioneers of German Social Polity (University of Chicago Press, 1909), pp. 60-106.
  19. Justus Christoph Dithmar, Oeconomie, Polizei- und Cameralwissenchaft (1755). See: Small, The Cameralists, pp. 222-231.
  20. Joachim Georg Darjes, Elementa metaphysica (1743), Institutiones juriprudentiae universalis (1745), Discurs uber Natur- und Volkerrecht (1762). See: Small, The Cameralists, pp. 267-284.
  21. Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi, Staatswirthschaft (1758). See: Small, The Cameralists, pp. 315-393.
  22. Similar impulses are displayed in ‘physiocratic’ writings (especially Quesnay, Mirabeau and Baudeau). See: Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners and State Formation and Civilization (Blackwell, 1994), pp. 35-40.
  23. D. Ephraim Gerhards, Einleitung zur Staats-Lehre (1713). See: Small, The Cameralists, pp. 175-184.
  24. Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi, Grundatze der Policeywissenschaft (1756).
  25. Michel Foucault, ‘Omnes et Singulatim: Towards a Criticism of “Political Reason”’, in: Sterling M. McMurrin (Ed.), The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Vol. 2 (University of Utah Press: 1981), p. 252.
  26. International Herald Tribune (3-4, September 1994), p. 15. I am grateful to Barry Gills for bringing this reference to my attention.
  27. Planet Online Ltd. Other examples include: IBM: “Solutions for a small planet.”;; Reebok: “This is my planet.”; Sky TV: “You wanted to travel? No need to bother.”
  28. “I was frightened when I saw pictures coming from the moon to earth. We don’t need any atom bomb. The uprooting of man has already taken place.” Martin Heidegger, ‘“Only a God Can Save Us”: Der Spiegel’s Interview with Martin Heidegger’ in: Richard Wolin (Ed.), The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader (MIT Press, 1993), pp. 105-6.
  29. Corporate examples include: British Airways; British Gas; British Telecom; the BBC, Cellnet; Unilever; Vodafone; Hoya; ICI; Reebok; IBM; and Digital Processing Systems Ltd.
  30. Jürgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis (Heinemann, 1976).
  31. Kevin R. Philips, Staying On Top (London, 1984), p. 13.
  32. Theodore Levitt, ‘The Globalization of Markets’ Harvard Business Review (May-June, 1983), p. 93-112 (emphasis added).
  33. Walter Wriston, ‘Technology and Sovereignty’, Foreign Affairs Vol. 67 (1988), p. 71.
  34. “ … everybody has to be more worried … [about whether
  35. “These are humble modalities, minor procedures … ”, but a ‘permanent economy’. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison (Penguin, 1977), p. 170.
  36. Jeswald W. Salacuse, Making Global Deals: Negotiating in the International Marketplace (Houghton Mifflin, 1991), p. 1.
  37. Thomas Hout, Michael E. Porter and Eileen Rudden, ‘How Global Corporations Win Out’, Harvard Business Review (September-October, 1982), p. 108.
  38. Norman Ornstein, quoted in: Reginald Dale, ‘Toward the Millennium: the economic revolution has begun’ Special Report: Global Agenda, TIME, International (13 March, 1995), pp. 45-6.
  39. Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power (Penguin, 1973), p. 462.
  40. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 138.
  41. Paul Virilio and Sylvère Lotringer, Pure War (Semiotext(e), 1983), p. 25, p. 88.
  42. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 51 No. 4 (1973), p. A-1.
  43. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 57 No. 3 (1978), p. A-2.
  44. Wriston, ‘Technology and Sovereignty’, p. 63.
  45. Jack Welch, quoted in: Noel Tichy and Ram Charan, ‘Speed, Simplicity, Self-Confidence: An Interview with Jack Welch’, Harvard Business Review (September-October, 1989), p.115.
  46. Percy Barnevik, in: William Taylor, ‘The Logic of Global Business: An Interview with ABB’s Percy Barnevik’, Harvard Business Review (March-April, 1991), p.104.
  47. Susan Strange, ‘Wake up, Krasner! The world has changed’, Review of International Political Economy, Vol. 1 No. 2 (1994), pp. 209-12.
  48. Kenichi Ohmae, ‘Putting Global Logic First’ Harvard Business Review (January-February, 1995), pp. 119-22.
  49. Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital (Coronet, 1995) pp. 4-12, Danny Goodman Living at Light Speed (Arrow, 1995), pp. 151-2.
  50. Dale, ‘Toward the Millennium’, p. 45.
  51. ibid.
  52. British Telecom marketing campaign, 1995-6.
  53. Tichy and Charan, ‘Speed, Simplicity, Self-Confidence’, p. 114.
  54. See: Elias, The Civilizing Process, p. 37., Manuel De Landa, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines (Zone Books, 1991), p. 141., and Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, Volume II: The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, 1760-1914 (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 447-450. In the words of Justi: “A properly constituted state must be exactly analogous to a machine, in which all the wheels and gears are precisely adjusted to one another; and the ruler must be the foreman, and the main-spring, or the soul … which sets everything in motion.”, quoted in: Mann, The Social Sources of Power, Volume II, p. 447.
  55. Colin Gordon, ‘Introduction’ in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon and Peter Miller (Eds), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), p 4.
  56. Foucault, The Order of Things, p. xx-xxii.
  57. e.g., Paul Sweezy, Modern Capitalism and other Essays (Library of Congress, 1972), ‘The Present Stage in the Global Crisis of Capitalism’, Monthly Review Vol. 29 No. 11 (1978), D. Yaffe, ‘Marxist perspective on crisis, capital and the state’, Economy and Society Vol. 2 (1973), Peter Coffey, The World Monetary Crisis (Macmillan, 1974), Andrew Gamble and P. Walton, Capitalism in Crisis (Macmillan, 1976), John Holloway and Sol Picciotto, ‘Crisis, Capital and the State’, Capital and Class Vol. 2 (Summer, 1977), M. Itoh, ‘The Inflational Crisis of Capitalism’, Capital and Class Vol. 4 (1978), and Andre Gunder Frank, Crisis in the World Economy, (Heinemann, 1980), Crisis in the Third World (Heinemann, 1981), Reflections on the World Economic Crisis (Hutchinson, 1981).
  58. e.g., Henry Owen and Charles L. Schultze, (Eds), Setting National Priorities: The Next Ten Years (Brookings Institute, 1976), Milton Friedman, Money and Economic Development: The Horowitz Lectures of 1972 (Praeger, 1973).
  59. this discourse has had a wider base than the first, taking in issues of democracy and governance (e.g., Francois Duchêne, Kinide Mushakoji and Henry D. Owen, The Crisis of International Cooperation [Trilateral Commission, 1973
  60. e.g., Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (University of Chicago Press, 1962), Friedrich von Hayek, The Tiger by the Tail (IEA, 1972), James, Buchanan, John Burton and Richard E. Wagner, ‘The Consequences of Mr. Keynes’, Institute of Economic Affairs (1978), David Marsland, Self-Reliance: Reforming Welfare in Advanced Societies (Transaction, 1995).
  61. Jürgen Habermas, ‘The New Obscurity: The Crisis of the Welfare State and the Exhaustion of Utopian Energies’, Philosophy and Social Criticism Vol. 11 No. 2 (1986).
  62. Michel Foucault, ‘What is Enlightenment?’ in: Paul Rabinow (Ed.) The Foucault Reader (Penguin Books, 1984), p. 50.
  63. I borrow this phrase from Colin Gordon’s introduction to: The Foucault Effect, p. 26.
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We negate and we must negate because something in us wants to live and affirm — Friedrich Nietzsche