Globalisation: In Search of Utopias

Claude-Raphaël Samama
Director of the journal l’Art du Comprendre
Claude-Raphaël Samama is director of the journal l’Art du Comprendre and author of Développement mondial et culturalités. Essai d’archéologie et de prospective éco-culturales (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose).

Samuel Huntington merely popularized an existing model derived from international relations or scenarios of confrontation. He fails to theorize a truly socio-transcendental, spiritual and existential – rather than political – stage upon which the deeper identity of human groups is played out. The cultural groupings he superficially calls “civilizations” are not merely ethnolinguistic groups, systemic ensembles stemming from international relations, or simple intersections of circumstantial interests, such as the theorized “islamo-confucian” alliance or the “serbo-orthodox” bloc. In some ways they are less, not possessing the power to impose themselves as civilizations, which is to say as sovereign, unifying, generalized, and transformative entities, as the West is today. But they are also more, from the perspective of their oft overlooked anthropological soundness. The “signs and signifiers” produced by Confucian, Hindu, Judaic, Christian, or Quranic cultural symbolisms cannot be fully explored here. Nonetheless, they are indeed the cause for possible confrontations in the context of globalization, as Huntington believes, but the stakes in question are more than anything socio-transcendental, spiritual, and existential, as it is their worth and mutual respect that is called into question. We will put forward some perspectives, to be taken as counter-models, or axes to explore.

  1. The economicist solutions currently proposed in the shadow of globalization are either rather too brief or do little more than simply endorse the same old development models without calling significant aspects of it into question. Limitless planetary growth, an exclusively financial conception of markets, and unbridled liberalism are thus confused for a truly human equilibrium.
  2. Models of regulation proposed by international organizations (IMF, WTO, World Bank, etc.) claim to help the poorest or to level the playing field, but these are instead beholden to their foundationally inegalitarian structures and draconian neo-liberal orthodoxy and dogma (Galbraith, Stiglitz). Policies of supposed “structural adjustment,” simplistically imposing Western market standards – without any regulation – to diverse contexts have almost all failed. The very countries that were supposed to be en route and working towards these ideals were brutalized by these rules and by the institutions that applied them without a spec of nuance. The successive crises in Mexico, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as Argentina, Greece, Lebanon, and many African countries are abundant proof of these failures.
  3. It is political solutions that are the most cruelly missing today. The collapse of the communist system, which for decades, despite its flaws, did nonetheless bolster the struggle against imperialism and for decolonization, left a theoretical and ideological gap that has not been refilled. No operational economic theory capable of universalizing its concepts has replaced a heuristic doctrine of which we most often only remember its political character or the patent failures of its applications throughout history.
  4. Countermodels abound, some characterized by protectionist tendencies and a desire to reestablish the nation-state’s prerogatives in opposition to bureaucratic or falsely communitarian entities that call for autotomy or greater margins of national maneuver, and others who more sparingly reject only the boundless nature of borderless capitalism and its imperialism (Amin, Chesnais, Wallerstein, Latouche, Maris, Stiglitz, Sen, etc.). They can certainly provide effective temporary alternatives to globalization which is often perceived to be fatally inevitable.
  5. The role of humanitarian models steeped in “human rights,” often hypocritically formal, seeking to widen development aid, institutional solidarity, or cooperation between nations, is naturally well-intentioned. But the multiplication of NGOs, whose goals are no doubt noble and presumably generous, has over the decades failed to truly modify the existing structures. It is possible that all these movements are simply not capable of effectively opposing a West-centered expanse, squashed between its powerful oligarchies and multinational corporations that are often even more powerful than states themselves on the one hand, and the sputtering desires to exist within singular identities or to simply find other manners of existence on the other.

To imagine, build, and think new utopias is the most important task of today. It may only be through models that advocate rupture, through the most imaginative and subversive constructions or “deconstructions,” through the invention of shocking but harmonizing forms, that the solutions to a uniform and flattening, multidimensionally destructive, globalizing globalization can be found.