Era of Globalization
By Richard Falk
Professor Princeton University, currently visitng
professor in Hanoi
I. Framing the
Secular varieties of nationalism were not an invariable backdrop, but it was the most characteristic political form in which modern forms of citizenship flourished under conditions in which the state was the focal point of a juridically conceived nationalism, that is, a geographically bounded ideal of political community. This contrasts with an ethnically or religiously conceived nationalism whose borders are rarely coterminus with those of a sovereign state. As such, secular nationalism emphasizes the inclusiveness of carefully delimited and widely recognized international boundaries that specify, with dogmatic clarity, the distinction between the political community that is inside and the international anarchy that is outside (Hobbes 1991; Walker 1993).
Such a dichomotizing of political reality underscored the importance of full membership in a political community as opposed to the vulnerability of "the stateless person." Citizenship in one of its dimensions is a means of ensuring the full rights of membership, including engaging both the protective responsibilities of the state under international law and the duty of loyalty by the individual to a particular state.
Despite the external juridical equality of citizens/nationals of states themselves, internal discriminatory practices within states have made the struggle for equal participation by all citizens a momentous, unfinished struggle raising a myriad of subsidiary questions about gender, race, class, religion, region. Nevertheless, citizenship has often served as a focal point for individual rights and benefits, the latter especially with respect to social and economic concerns.
This highlighting of citizenship is an enduring tribute to the seminal importance of the French Revolution in defining the relationship between the individual and the government at the level of the sovereign state. More widely conceived, it was a direct outcome of the struggles in Europe against the absolutist claims made on behalf of royal and divine authority, a process that in various ways can be traced back at least as far as the Magna Carta. What emerged from this historical process was an assurance of formal equality under law independent of specific class, ethnic, and religious identities, which was a mean achievement if compared to the feudal hierarchies that preceded modernity.
Globalization tends to weaken
But the effects are divergent, and even contradictory. Some individuals adversely affected by globalization are more territorial and chauvinistic than ever. In keeping with the postmodern mood, it has become fashionable in certain circles to talk grandly these days of being "a global citizen," "a citizen of Europe," "a citizen pilgrim," "a netizen," and the like. Such deterritorializing of citizenship seems presently, and for the foreseeable future, to reflect exceedingly "thin" sentiments (either superficial and utopian or real, as with ardent Internet surfers, but engaging only a tiny fragment of society) as compared to the still "thick" affinities that bind the overwhelming majority of generally patriotic citizens to their state and its flag. These are ties of loyalty unto death, if such an ultimate sacrifice is perceived as necessary for the defense of the realm. The sovereign state in its heyday was the recipient of thick feelings of loyalty (Walzer 1994).
A Western experience - progressive and
Further, in the context of progressive forms of resistance to the abusive sides of economic globalization, the strong tendency has been for individuals to bond across boundaries, which weakens in other respects traditional territorially-based citizenship and its core reality of a symbiotic relationship to the state. In contrast, it is the generally regressive forms of resistance to globalization that have been reviving exclusivist notions of national identity via the revival of chauvinism, patrioteering, and anti-immigrant postures, thereby eroding notions of tolerance that had come to animate the idea of being a citizen and even more so the liberal ideal, of being an active citizen in a modern secular state.
This secular emphasis is especially true for those exemplar states that were until recently making steady progress in combining prosperity and deepening constitutionalism in the setting of a multi-ethnic, plural religious population. As a result, economic globalization, and its diverse impacts, seems likely to produce a decline in the quality and significance of citizenship unless the idea of political membership and existential identity can be effectively transferred to the global village realities of community and participation in a post-statist or post-modern world. If such a process is to succeed it must proceed in a manner that is able to engage non-Western as well as Western social and political forces, and is psychologically meaningful for large numbers of people at all levels of society.
Ideology not conducive to empowering
Unfortunately, the ideological climate of the 1990s is not at all receptive to Reich's line of thinking, especially in the United States, and to some degree in Europe. The dominant outlook in the West, with its embrace of unvarnished versions of neo-liberalism, is exerting downward pressure on government expenditures for public goods (other than defense), including education, with responsibility increasingly being left to the generally untender mercies of the private sector (Falk 1997).
Furthermore, the possibility of taxing the rich to facilitate the entry of more of the disadvantaged of one's own country onto the world stage goes contrary to the ascendancy of self-aggrandizing market logic of shifting capital to where the costs of production are lowest, a downsizing of the social agenda, as well as their own emergent borderless self-image of being "global citizens," and thus being quite unreceptive to the argument that it is beneficial to invest more heavily in the disadvantaged of oneís own country than elsewhere (Reich 1991).
Perhaps more revealingly, at no point in the history of the West did privileged sectors of society voluntarily act to improve the condition of disadvantaged fellow-citizens unless put under effective pressure in the form of a serious challenge to preeminence mounted by those Immanuel Wallerstein has usefully labeled as "the dangerous classes" (Wallerstein 1995). Whether the pressures of globalization are in the process of reconstituting dangerous classes among the losers in various countries and regions is beginning to be an interesting question in the late 1990s (The Economist 1996). Such a process has been difficult to discern because of the absence of an ideological alternative, making resistance to globalization assume an ad hoc and exceedingly local character that may be concealing its systemic implications.
The East Asian experience
Revealingly, it is these states, with their Confucian heritage, that now appear to be providing the best educational preparation, along the lines proposed by Reich, enabling a larger proportion of their societies to contribute to and benefit from economic globalization (Newsweek 1996). Significantly, it is precisely these societies which have until very recently been enjoying the most spectacularly successful records of participation in the world economy. Despite certain democratizing moves, impressive grassroots activism, and some expansion in the political space available for individual initiative, the members of these societies continue to resemble subjects more than citizens when it comes to their relationship to the governing process. Their identities seem to be forged these days mainly by the ambiguous assertion of civilizational identities in the form of Asian values, and the like, which is surely suspect to the extent that it is opportunistically invoked to shield oppressive regimes from domestic discontent.
It is too soon to depict the impact of the financial and currency crises of 1997-98 on the Asian model of capitalism and on Asian political identity. To the extent that Asian governments swallow a heavy dosage of neo-liberal fiscal medicine as the price for an IMF bailout, the American model of state/society will gain further global ascendancy.
Reich's effort to promote what he calls 'positive economic nationalism' on behalf of America tries to combine the logic of territorial loyalty with the logic of market opportunity (Reich 1991: 311-315). It flies in the face of another feature of Western political culture since the Enlightenment, especially in its American embodiment, which is the celebration of the individual and an ethos of individualism.
Thus Reich's plea is unlikely to achieve more than cosmetic results unless a politics of resistance takes shape in a form that threatens the stability of the domestic political order, as arguably has been the effect of the French strikes over the past two years, yielding by now a stream of concessions on grievances that were at odds with neo-liberal precepts and inconsistent with the French Government's own embrace of fiscal austerity, which partly reflects its effort to remain on the fast lane of European economic integration. But the stagnancy of the French economy raises serious questions as to whether an economy of even France's size can modify the social costs of globalization with serious losses of market share.
Global capitalism versus citizens'
ethics: six factors
This thesis on the decline of citizenship will be analyzed by reference to a series of different factors: (1) the changing role of the state; (2) the rise of civilizational, religious, and ethnic identities; (3) new forms of backlash politics; (4) the assertion of non-Western perspectives; (5) trends toward post-heroic geopolitics; (6) rise of transnational social forces.
A final section of the paper will examine the future of citizenship in an era of economic globalization with an eye toward reversing adverse effects, arguing that decline seems probable but not inevitable.
II. The Decline of Citizenship: Some Dimensions of Adjustment
(1) The Changing Role of the State
As is familiar, ruled and ruler in the West struggled over the centuries to achieve a dynamic equilibrium, which was formulated with primary reference to the rights and duties of the citizen, a status that was to be sharply distinguished from the earlier royalist notion of the individual as subject. The advent of political democracy sharpened this distinction, emphasizing the legitimating role of citizens in the selection of leaders through the medium of periodic, free elections and the selection of accountable representatives, as well as a constraining constitutional framework that imposed limits on government and ensured rights.
As Marxist and other lines of critique established, governments despite democratic pretensions and electoral rituals, were often governed largely on behalf of dominant interest groups. Nevertheless, their orientation was territorial in its essential functioning. And citizens, with varying degrees of commitment and alienation, conceived of their future exclusively within the frame of the state. Even workers of socialist persuasion with little to lose but their chains proved to be poor converts to transnational identities premised on the imperatives of class solidarity. In wartime during this century, nationalist identities and patriotic appeals easily overwhelmed calls for socialist solidarity with comrades on the other side of international frontiers (Kolko 1994).
But the impacts of globalization, while uneven, have been reorienting the state and the outlook of dominant elites, giving their perspectives an increasingly non-territorial character that is definitely weakening the sense of national identification. This generalization applies with particular force to the individualistic West since the end of the cold war. It applies most strongly of all to those states that have never developed a paternalistic relationship toward their citizenry, that is, where the memories of kings and bishops is dimmest, or non-existent.
More concretely, governments are adapting their role and function to globalization by accepting as priorities expanded trade, favorable balances, sound fiscal and macro-economic policy, and maximum opportunities for capital mobility. The mentality of the ruling classes is deterritorialized to an extent that even "security" is defined more by reference to the global economy than in relation to the defense of territorial integrity (Sakamoto 1994; Mittelman 1996). The Gulf War exhibited these priorities, as well as new patterns of collective action in support of shared interests. In contrast, the largely civil tensions of former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the torments of sub-Saharan Africa have been treated as strategically trivial, that is, neither capable of inspiring significant collective action nor perceived by governments as worth fighting or dying for.
What happens to citizenship, given these circumstances? First of all, the influence of globalization tends to minimize political differences within states among contending political parties, thereby trivializing electoral rituals. The options offered to the citizen are becoming far less meaningful, especially for that bottom 80% of the citizenry, that appears to be losing out as a consequence of economic globalization. Passivity, despair, and alienation result, with the privileged 20% feeling more and more detached from the misfortunes of their fellow citizens except to the extent that backlash phenomena serve as a reminder that territorial passions can, if aroused, still exert considerable influence. Bonds of solidarity among the citizenry, never too strong in the face of antagonistic interests and against the grain of individualism, have been fraying badly as of late.
The disadvantaged citizenry fragments into the following main components: first and foremost, an inert, confused mass public; secondly, an angry and misled tribalist minority giving renewed vitality to right-wing fringe politics; and thirdly, a visionary, activist minority that organizes itself locally and transnationally (but not nationally and not yet politically) giving rise to an alternative globalization, an emergent project to construct a global civil society premised on an ethos of cosmopolitan democracy (Held 1995; Held and Archibugi 1995).
This project to reconstitute democracy is animated by a greater sensitivity to disparate identities associated with gender, race, and metaphysical standpoint, giving rise to various feminisms, diverse types of ecological consciousness, and many efforts to recover spiritual traditions, including those belonging to native peoples. Citizenship, as preoccupied with membership and participation in the secular, territorial state seems very marginal to these normative endeavors that are undoubtedly, in part, psycho-political adjustments to the deterritorializing of the state.
(2) The rise of civilizational,
religious, and ethnic identities
The causal connections of these developments with economic globalization are difficult, if not impossible, to establish, as all such cultural moves connected with something as fundamental as political identity are over-determined, that is, there are several convergent explanations that are intertwined. And beyond that, each society has its own story, ways of responding to a mix of external and internal social forces active at a particular historical interval.
Nevertheless, the intensity, specificity, and widespread nature of the magnetism of these non-secular poles of identity seem definitely connected with meeting the combined challenges of globalization and modernization without succumbing to Westernization. Take Malaysia or Singapore as instances of countries that are successful in their efforts to benefit economically by participating in the world economy, and yet are governed by political leaders who are seeking to stress cultural specificity as self-conscious modes of resistance directed at the alleged menace of Westernization. In these instances it is government leaders who are encouraging a societal emphasis on these civilizational, ethnic, and religious identities, finding indigenous cultural foundations for inter-ethnic tolerance rather than relying mainly on the rule of law and secular constitutionalism to instill respect for difference. What is striking here is that there is far less opportunity for the emergence of a strong sense of being a citizen, especially given the cultural effort to repudiate the individualism of the West and the claim of an alternative ethos, often articulated as 'Asian values,' based on the salience of sentiments of community (Tu, Nov. 1996).
In the West the context is different as globalization is not experienced as culturally alien or as the victimization arising from a hegemonic project that imposed heavy costs in the past. And so the adjustment of identity for Westerners is either in the Huntington mode of an integrative shift to a civilizational locus that is embattled and defensive in relation to non-Western civilizations or moves in disintegrative multi-cultural directions that has been a major feature of cultural postmodernism. Both of these patterns of adjustment transform the normal domain of the citizen into a subordinate category of identity.
In effect, the rootlessness associated with globalization generates a series of dialectical responses that represent efforts to ground identity, but given the strength of the discipline of global capital in reorienting and appropriating the outlook of the state, these efforts marginalize the role and function of the citizen. That is, it is not the state that responds defensively to the adverse territorial impacts of globalization as the state itself is most often under the primary control of globalizing elites and responsive to their claims.
(3) Backlash Politics
But backlash politics associated with opposition to globalization has generally functioned in the West as a source of reinvigoration for right-wing populism. In this regard, opportunistic politicians have tended to build on grassroots discontent by contending that jobs were being lost to overseas markets where labor conditions were horrible and that immigrants were driving down domestic wages and exerting pressure on public services all to the detriment of the ordinary worker and his/her family.
Such backlash politics has become a structural feature of this period, present in virtually every advanced industrial society. It fosters chauvinistic and xenophobic types of nationalism that are essentially intolerant of difference, and hence radically inconsistent with the sort of juridical nationalism that is the ideological taproot of the modern secular state, including its stress on the citizen as an individual member purged for political purposes of secondary identities, and pledged to reconcile private concerns with the promotion of the public good for the whole of society.
There is also beginning to emerge a violent backlash in some Third World contexts against the domestic policies of a governmental turn to neo-liberalism, especially if promises made by politicians fall short. Several Latin American countries, for instance, are experiencing a new round of revolutionary violence, but this time as a reaction to the failures of globalization to address the misery of the poor.
(4) The Rise of Non-Western
The further point here is that to the extent that the ethos of world order is becoming inter-civilizational in dialogue and practices, the saliency of individualism and citizenship is being lost even in the West, and for the non-West these ideals never enjoyed saliency. Unlike democracy, and even human rights, where abundant non-Western antecedents exist in a variety of cultural forms, the notion of citizenship seems comparatively specific to Western civilization and thus in this sense represents a somewhat "provincial" focus for an inquiry into political identity if conceived inter-civilizationally or globally.
The future of citizenship, which is indeed a Western preoccupation these days, partly connected with the decline and changing role of the state, is a favorite topic, but characteristically addressed as a matter of almost exclusively intracivilizational concern (van Steenbergen 1994; Nussbaum and others 1996).
(5) Trends Toward Post-Heroic
This post-heroic mode of geopolitics makes the role of the patriotic citizen far less crucial to the operations of the national security state, thereby further marginalizing citizenship at this juncture of world history. The claims on resources for military purposes tend to be rationalized more in relation to the conditions of globalization, and thus do not draw on the historical memories and political myths associated with wars of the past that involve the vital narratives of glory and shame that molded the consciousness of a typical citizen. Indeed, under current conditions the state is likely to encourage popular demobilization, keeping the citizenry apathetic and apolitical, as a means of coping with the displacements and disappointments associated with economic globalization.
(6) The Rise of Transnational Social
It also represents an effort to offset the adverse impacts of globalization and a mimicry of its positive techniques of fashioning global arenas for the pursuit of its interests. It is illuminating to contrast these transnational social forces as creating an alternative globalization, 'globalization-from-below,' to offset the cooptation of governments by the market-oriented forces associated with 'globalization-from-above' (Falk 1993). Semantically, it is possible to discern in this development either further evidence for the decline of citizenship or the rudimentary elements of an emergent transnational citizenship that is accompanying the formation of a global civil society. A reluctance to shift the idea of citizenship to a transnational locus is explained by the view that it is still such a weak and irregular type of politics as to be transient or incapable of standing up to a backlash-from-above.
To the extent that transnationalization of identity and participation is happening, a major goal is to provide a regulatory framework to constrain the operation of transnational forces of business and finance. The objectives of activists here include the protection of the global commons, the erection of a global safety net for the poor, the promotion of the agendas of vulnerable constituencies, and the creation of more adequate forms of governance at regional and global levels.
Up until now a major arena for these developments has been provided by the United Nations system in the form of global conferences on social issues, with increasing opportunities for transnational associations of various kinds to participate. The Copenhagen UN Social Summit in 1995 was the peak of formal influence achieved by these transnational forces, providing a quasi-official endorsement of the search for a social agenda to balance the economic agenda of market forces. The leading market-oriented governments did their best to ensure that the Social Summit did not mount radical criticisms of economic globalization, and was largely successful. Two results ensued: first, a sense of confusion arising from the uncritical mixing of market and social logics (the latter directed especially at employment and poverty) that was evident at the conference and in its formal documents; secondly, an unannounced, yet unmistakable, resolve by market-oriented governments to avoid in the future making available such anti-globalization arenas.
The clear implication is that the future of transnational activism on behalf of the social agenda of public goods is unlikely to be able to avail itself of the state-centric auspices and arenas of the United Nations. Whether equally effective forms of transnational activism can be established will depend on whether the assault on the traditional methods and objectives of citizens are being successfully recast. The label of transnational citizen is not deserved unless the means exist for effective participation. So far, it seems premature to proclaim the existence of transnational 'citizenry.'
III. Economic Globalization and Conjectures about the Future of Citizenship
Despite the threats to the modernist role of citizenship as a consequence of the decline of the territorial sovereign state and the strength of global market forces, the potential contributions of citizenship to the safeguarding of democracy and the realization of human rights remains an important basis for hope about the future.
The idea of citizenship as the basis for rights and duties in relation to the state continues to provide a legitimate grounding for oppositional and reform politics being pursued in a variety of national settings. The citizen is entitled, among many other things, to expect that the government and its political leaders will adhere to law, including those international obligations that pertain to the ordering of domestic society. And, in fact, globalization is already generating unprecedented interest in the implementation of economic and social rights on a domestic level as part of the human rights package.
This is a new move in human rights activism in Western societies that had tended to reduce their operational concern about human rights to the domain enclosed by civil and political rights. Even NGOs accepted this focus, and in that regard, provided no normative basis to oppose rolling back welfare or to take full notice of those members of the territorial community that were being victimized by the workings of the global market.
Of course, in a situation of growing rivalry for jobs, there emerges a tendency to draw ever sharper lines between citizens and resident non-citizens, denying the latter social protection and full access to opportunities for health, education, and other services. In this regard, unless there is an outreach that incorporates immigrants, the invocation of the status of citizenship could serve as one further pretext to impose burdens on the most vulnerable members of a particular society. Thus it is important to couple the entitlements of citizens, and their posture of expecting protection against the harm wrought by the global market, with a sense of inclusiveness toward the territorial community as a whole.
To achieve effective social protection may increasingly require action at the regional level, giving rise to a more meaningful conception of transnational or regional citizenship than has existed in the past. It may be, for instance, that the austerity decreed by international competitiveness can be resisted only through agreements negotiated at a regional level, as is the case in Europe in the form of the Social Charter.
In time, this wider framework of action may take on a global dimension by way of a global social contract to respect economic and social rights. It would be naive to expect such a development in the near future. There exists too much unevenness in working conditions among countries to engender an acceptance of universal standards, although there are some signs of gropings in this direction. One such initiative is the International Labour Organisation proposal of a new international convention to prohibit so-called "extreme" forms of child labor (Raghavan 1996). But even if standards can be agreed upon, their implementation would be extremely tenuous given current degrees of unevenness in economic circumstances.
Finally, a fundamental shift on the aspirational side of citizenship involves a movement from an emphasis on space to an emphasis on time. Such a shift corresponds to the decline of territoriality as the foundation for political identity, and the seeming exhaustion of government as a source of creative problem-solving with respect to fundamental social concerns. It also reflects the impact of economic globalization, and the current absence of countervailing ideological and political possibilities, yet the need for alternatives with normative content, both to moderate the cruelest effects of the global market and to give impetus to reformist perspectives.
Time becomes, then, the essential component in a search for solutions. That is, it is necessary to look primarily to the future rather than to the existing capacities of regional and global institutions, or any other existing institutional setting, in the search for a more compassionate politics. The challenge is to construct such a future through the engagement and impact of transnational social forces, eventuating in the emergence of a global civil society worthy of eliciting participation, and of grounding a postmodern sequel to the sort of secular, territorial citizenship that emerged with the modern states of the secular West (Falk 1992; Falk 1995; Gordon 1997).
© Richard Falk 1998. All rights reserved.
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