Aspects of globalization have been widely discussed in literature concerned with a range of sociological, financial and political factors. From different points of view, the term has been integrated with several discourses and faced diverse views on consequences as well as effects. Given the process of transnational development in the mentioned areas of research is considered a fact, it is vital to problematize the impact of globalization on several fields in citizens’ everyday lives. It can, and has been since the term had its revival in the beginning of 1980’s (still the financial and trading processes are nothing new), be discussed from perspectives of democracy, human rights, finance, politics, trade as well as marketization of the media.
Just as every new phenomenon spreading there are optimistic as well as pessimistic views on effects and consequences from it. In terms of the globalization discourse, optimists argue among other things for the increasing opportunities of choice for individuals, financial stimulation created by global economies, cultural integration and the immediate spread of information through global communication systems. On the more critical side, emphasis is often put on marketization, global terrorism, increased divisions between rich and poor countries and so forth. From this it is also natural to argue for an increasing gap between rich and poor countries. Nations like India and China, which have expanded financially during the last decade, have moved closer to Western developed countries (mainly the US) while third world countries in for example Africa and Asia have lost ground against the west. Development in communications and media technology are perhaps the most visible examples of areas on which this argument is built.
So if we have all these dimensions in front of us, how can we ideologically comprehend our current society and use the extensive (however in my opinion sometimes utopian) intellectual contributions to the discussion on human awareness, morality, human rights and social development?
Globalization is closely connected with the term cosmopolitanism and this concept derives from ideas on how every human being belong to a single moral community. This is the startingpont taken by the German sociologist Ulrich Beck, in his book Cosmopolitan Visions (2006). The term can be traced back to the Stoics in ancient Greece (who’s usage of the term Immanuel Kant later adopted) as well as to closer historical references such as a noun to describe jews in World War 2. But from more current processes of globalization within varied social sectors, more and more academic attention has been aimed at a “cosmopolitan turn”. It is a theoretical normative framework situated in contemporary discourses of democracy and builds on respect for cultural integration and moral acceptance of traditional “otherness”, aiming for global understanding and dissolved boundaries in human awareness. And in the book Cosmopolitanism, Ethics in a world of strangers (2007), Kwame Appiah (an american philosopher with Ghananian roots) seeks to explain how we must apply to our own sense, our reason of thought to appreciate other individuals independent of cultural belonging, thereby avoiding conflicts in social interactions. This is a view closely linked to Immanuel Kant’s original ideas on universal hospitality, however also a narrow view dependent on a strong belief in the capacity for insight of human beings.
Mentioned Ulrich Beck highlights a shift of outlooks in contemporary society. He argues for a structural transformation from a national to a cosmopolitan outlook. The former has been a dominating view since the modernization process and establishment of nation states and is constituted by a view on the nation state as fundamental in the creation of national sociologies and limiting similar concepts to the national per se. Historically, political institutions has emerged from a strong division of nation states. Geographical boundaries have always set conditions for traditional politics and its regulatory dimensions. Considering this strong link between politics and state itself, it is an overwhelming experience to evoke interest in how present political spheres are transforming, and has been for years. Signifiers of postmodern politics are labelled as dissolving boundaries, growth of global and social movements (like Occupy Wall Street), profileration, personalization, individualization and medialization etcetera. These postmodern conditions come handy in explaining what Beck labels ‘the cosmopolitan outlook’. He emphasizes a latent potential to systematically abandon the national ”narcissism” which is seen as governing thought and action into restricted life worlds and institutional patriotism. To me this sounds like a sense of boundarylessness in which a reflexive awareness influence the human consciousness, leading up to cultural contradictions that shape social relations in society.
And this is interesting today since our current society is situated by a social climate in which global terror and risks have dissolved earlier differentiation between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between national and international – and have led to a need for cosmopolitan ideals for survival. The conceptual linkage between globalization and cosmopolitanism I would describe as proceeding, in the meaning of how the latter can be seen as a extension of globalization processes.
Further theoretical contributions sharing Beck’s rather optimistic ideal of a cosmopolitan future can be seen in Sonya Benhabib Another Cosmopolitanism (2006). She emphasizes a cosmopolitan political structure in which the European Union is set as a paradigm for global alternation. Just as the famous sociologist Jürgen Habermas in The Divided West (2007), she uses the work of Kant to analyze how we can integrate universal norms and values in factual democratic processes on a local and regional level. By talking about individuals and citizens in a larger political context, Benhabib suggests that human rights would be coextensive with liberal rights, underscoring individuals right to institutions within the democratic sphere in which they are citizens.
The pragmatic outcome of all this would be to conclude how a spreading belief in the cosmopolitan ideal, grows within social sciences and contemporary philosophy. My earlier reference to a somewhat utopian vision in these beliefs is based on current political restructuring in mainly the Middle East and a larger Arab region, where new forms of nationalism have been embraced by citizens themselves. However, visionary contributions are necessary (just as the criticism of the same) for managing a rather complex reality and future to come. And in the midst of all this stands human beings, and the fundamental issue of humanity and human rights.
Through democratic iteration– meaning how nation states review their legislation to encapsulate universal ethical principles and rethink current definitions of citizenship – basic human rights have larger possibilities to be respected and practiced.
Forgive me for this rather extensive post, but the subject is as important as it is hard to summarize briefly.