Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Globalisation Theory

I've just finished reading Justin Rosenberg's 'Globalisation Theory: A Post-Mortem'. It's possibly the best thing on 'globalization' I've read. Quite a few people have recommended it to me - including Badmatthew - but I've only just got round to reading it. If you're at all interested in globalisation - and interested in an analysis which quite comprehensively debunks the claims not only of the so-called 'hyperglobalisers' (the end of the nation state is nigh) but also the rather more sophisticated and restrained (self-styled) 'transformationalists' ('the end of the nation state as we know it is nigh' - transfer of 'sovereignty' to multiple sites of power, global governance, cosmopolitan democracy and all that shite) - and in fact 'transformationalists' like David Held and Tony McGrew are Rosenberg's main targets - then this is highly recommended.

Unfortunately I've come to Rosenberg's work a bit late - I have no intention of changing the argument of my thesis at this very late stage. If I'd got round to reading it sooner I probably would have tackled the stuff I've got on capitalist internationalisation (a term I prefer to that awful word 'globalization') differently. Ah, well. I've been trying to squeeze a theory of 'globalization' (ie - an account of the acceleration of capitalist internationalisation in the 1990s) particularly out of Poulantzas' Classes in Contemporary Capitalism (or at least Panitch's reworking of that stuff) and Gowan's The Global Gamble - that is, an account which focuses on the 'transformative effects' of inward FDI on the 'host' country's relations of production married to Gowan's account of the strategic reconstitution of US international hegemony under Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2 (which involved the promotion of 'globalisation' as a form of indirect, 'non-territorial' US imperialism). Between you and me, it's a bit creaky. Especially since I once asked Gowan what he thought of the Panitch/Poulantzas stuff and he was a bit dismissive. Never mind.

Part of the trouble is that I've been trying to fit what I've been saying into David Held (et al.'s) classification of the different approaches to the analysis of globalisation - 1. Hyperglobalisation, 2. Sceptics, 3. Transformationalists. I've never been happy with that classification - not least because it's rather self-serving on Held's part - he is of course a 'Transformationalist' and therefore rather superior to those crude hypers on the one hand and flat-earther sceptics on the other. Rosenberg shows quite convincingly however, that the whole approach Held and others promote is inherently flawed and presents, instead, an account of 1990s globalisation focusing on the intersection of two (interrelated) historical developments - the slowdown of the post-war boom + the collapse of the USSR. Globalisation Theory captured the zeitgeist of the time - but mistook temporary developments (the speeding up and extension of transnational flows of various kinds as they raced to fill the vaccuum created by the collapse of state socialism and social democracy) for signs of the emergence of an epochal shift in economic/political/cultural development.

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