GLOBALIZATION: AN ASCENDANT PARADIGM?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James H. Mittelman

 

American University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GLOBALIZATION:  AN ASCENDANT PARADIGM?

 

 

This essay explores the question, Does globalization constitute an ascendant paradigm in International Studies?[1] Put in perspective, this question goes beyond our field’s three “great debates” over ontology, methodology, and epistemology. Now, another debate, which focuses on globalization as a paradigmatic challenge, is heating up, kindling theoretical controversies, and fusing the issues vetted in earlier rounds. The first debate was waged between “realists” and “idealists”; the second, “traditionalists” and “scientists”; the third, “positivists” versus “post-positivists,” or “mainstreamers” versus “dissidents” (in the terms of Lapid, 1989; Wendt, 1999:39; and Puchala, 2000:136). 

Now, it is time to move on. International Studies is on the cusp of a debate between those whom I will call para-keepers, observers who are steadfast about maintaining the prevailing paradigms and deny that globalization offers a fresh way of thinking about the world, and para-makers, who bring into question what they regard as outmoded categories and claim to have shifted to an innovatory paradigm. This distinction is a heuristic for examining multiple theses. The ensuing heuristic argument does not posit a relation between two positions such that one is the absence of the other. Rather, between the keepers and the makers there are many gradations and dynamic interactions. These are tendencies, not absolutes.

In our field, ascendancy to a new paradigm would mark something other, or more, than the fourth, a successor, in a sequential progression of debates. True, building new knowledge may be a cumulative process; but it is not necessarily a linear one, and only occasionally involves paradigmatic rupture. To be sure, paradigms do not shift frequently, quickly, or easily. International Studies specialists are supposed to be the knowers, but, frankly speaking, often follow the doers in the sense that we trail events, even massive ones, as with our failure to anticipate the end of the Cold War, and still resist changing the paradigms in which many of us are invested.

If a paradigm in Kuhn’s sense (1970) is understood to mean a common framework, a shared worldview that helps to define problems, a set of tools and methods, and modes of resolving the research questions deemed askable, then globalization studies makes for strange bedfellows. Perhaps constituting an up-and-coming subfield within International Studies, globalization research brings together different types of theorists, with varied commitments and stakes.

            No one would deny that globalization is the subject of a rapidly proliferating theoretical literature. Notwithstanding its antecedents, primarily studies in classical social theory and world history, and on the rise of capitalism, a scholarly literature on globalization per se did not really exist before the 1990s. To a certain extent, globalization is a synthetic concept—a reconstruction of precursor concepts through which analysts seek to comprehend reality. Clearly, this reconstruction is of recent vintage, and the literature and contestation over its importance go to the heart of our field: What is the fundamental problematic in International Studies? Primarily peace and war? Mainly what states do to each other? Rather, states and markets, a binary in much teaching and research on International Political Economy (even though Strange [1996, 1998] and others exploded it to include a wide variety of non-state actors)? Or, if  globalization really strikes a new chord, how does it change the problematic, and what are the implications for the ways in which disciplinary, cross-national, development, and area studies relate to our field?

For the purpose of addressing these issues, globalization may be best understood as a syndrome of political and material processes, including historical transformations in time and space and the social relations attendant to them. It is also about ways of thinking about the world. Globalization thus constitutes a set of ideas centered on heightened market integration, which, in its dominant form, neoliberalism, is embodied in a policy framework of deregulation, liberalization, and privatization.[2]

In this essay, then, the objective is to pull together the divergent positions, which heretofore are fragmented and may be found in many scattered sources, on the question of the ascendany of these ideas and the formation of a new paradigm. I want to frame and sharpen the debate, and seek to strike a balance, though not necessarily midway, along a continuum, marked on either end by the resolute arguments put forward by the para-keepers and the more grandiose claims of the para-makers. In so doing, I will stake out postulates in globalization studies, disclose its inadequacies, and note the explanatory potential.

An Emerging Debate

            In the evolving debate, it is worth repeating, there are different shadings on a spectrum, not a sharp dichotomy, between para-keepers and para-makers. Indeed, in time, the para-makers may become wedded to keeping their paradigm and experience attacks by other para-makers. To discern their positions in respect to globalization, one can illustrate--not provide comprehensive coverage--by invoking explicit statements expressing the commitments of scholars and by examining logical extensions of their arguments, taking care, of course, not to do injustice to them. 

The keepers are naysayers who doubt or deny that globalization constitutes an ascendant paradigm. They include realists, interdependence theorists, social democrats, and some world-system theorists. Regarding globalization as “the fad of the 1990s” and as a model lacking evidence, Waltz declares that contrary to the claims of theorists whom he calls “globalizers”--what I take to be a shorthand for globalization researchers--“politics, as usual, prevails over economics” (1999: 694, 696, and 700). Clinging to the neorealist position that “national interests” continue to drive the “interstate system”--advanced two decades before (Waltz, 1979)--he does not examine the foundational theoretical literature by “globalizers” who worry about the same problems that concern him. Surprisingly, Waltz fails to identify major pioneering theoreticians (such as Giddens, 1990; Harvey, 1990; and Robertson, 1992), opposing points of view, and different schools of globalization studies. Waltz would probably find much to respect and much to correct in this work. Recalling Keohane and Nye’s 1977 book, Power and Interdependence, Waltz’s point (1999) is that the globalizers’ contention about interdepedence reaching a new level is not unlike the earlier claim that simple interdependence had become complex interdependence—i.e., countries are increasingly connected by varied social and political relationships and to a lesser degree by matters of security and force. 

In fact, more recently, Keohane and Nye maintained that contemporary globalization is not entirely new: “Our characterization of interdependence more than 20 years ago now applies to globalization at the turn of the millennium” (2000, 104). Thus, like complex interdependence, the concept of globalization can be fruitfully extended to take into account networks that operate at “multicontinental distances,” the greater density of these networks, and the increased number of actors participating in them (Keohane and Nye, 2000). In comparison to Waltz, Keohane and Nye reach beyond classic themes in politics to allow for more changes, and build transnational issues into their framework. However, like Waltz, Keohane and Nye (1998) posit that the system of state sovereignty is resilient and remains the dominant structure in the world. Implicit in their formulation is that the state-centered paradigm is the best-suited approach to globalization; by inference, it can be adjusted so long as it is utilized in an additive manner—i.e., incorporates more dimensions into the analysis. 

Not only do interdependence theorists (and neoliberal institutionalists, in Keohane’s sense of the term, 1984) seek to assimilate globalization to tried and tested approaches in International Studies, but also social democrats have similarly argued that there is nothing really new about globalization. By extension, from this standpoint, a new theoretical departure is unwarranted. In an influential study, Hirst and Thompson (1999, echoing Gordon, 1988) claim that the world economy is not really global, but centered on the triad of Europe, Japan, and North America, as empirically demonstrated by flows of trade, foreign direct investment, and finance. They argue that the current level of internationalized activities is not unprecedented; the world economy is not as open and integrated as it was in the period from 1870 to 1914; and today, the major powers continue to harmonize policy, as they did before. Leaving aside methodological questions about the adequacy of their empirical measures and the matter of alternative indicators (Mittelman, 2000:19-24), clearly Hirst and Thompson adhere to a Weberian mode of analysis consisting of a dichotomy between two ideal types, an inter-national economy based on exchange between separate national economies versus a full-fledged global economy. Taking issue with advocates of free markets whom, the authors believe, exaggerate globalizing tendencies and want to diminish regulation, Hirst and Thompson, on the contrary, favor more extensive political control of markets—greater regulation.

World-system theorists also contend that there is nothing new about globalization, a phenomenon that can be traced back many centuries to the origins of capitalism (Wallerstein, 2000) or even longer.  From this perspective, it is argued that the basic conflict is between a capitalist world-system and a socialist world-system. However, as will be discussed, the point of much globalization research is to expand binaries such as the inter-national versus the global and capitalism versus socialism so as to allow for multiple globalizing processes, including at the macroregional, subregional, and microregional levels as well as in localities. If anything, globalization blurs many dualities—state and non-state, legal and illegal, public and private, and so on—that are customary in our field.

Coming down differently on the debate over globalization qua paradigm are diverse theorists who resist pigeonholing into any particular tradition or traditions, yet all of whom support the proposition that globalization constitutes a distinctive theoretical innovation. However difficult to categorize collectively, this transatlantic group of authors signals the stirrings of a paradigmatic challenge to International Studies. Emblematic of this position are the writings of four scholars with different commitments but whose position on new knowledge converges.

Representative of the innovatory stance is Cerny’s assertion that theorists are seeking an alternative to realism and that “the chief contender for that honour has been the concept of globalization” (1996:618). Similarly, Clark’s Globalization and International Relations Theory makes the unequivocal argument that “globalization offers a framework within which political change can be understood” and that “if globalization does anything, it makes possible a theory of change” (1999:174). Joining Cerny and Clark, Scholte holds that “[c]ontemporary globalisation gives ample cause for a  paradigm shift” (1999:9), or, in another formulation, “the case that globalism warrants a paradigm shift would seem to be incontrovertible” (1999:22). Although Scholte does fill in some of the blanks, the question still is, What are the characteristics of this new paradigm? 

While globalization theorists have tentatively, but not systematically, responded to this question (an issue to which we will return), there is also a more moderate intervention in the debate over globalization’s status as a paradgim. Noting “parametric transformations” in world order, Rosenau clearly sides with those who affirm that globalization forms a new point of paradigmatic departure; however, he holds that his concept of globalization is “narrower in scope and more specific in content” than are many other concepts associated with changing global structures. According to Rosenau, globalization refers to “processes, to sequences that unfold either in the mind or in behavior” as people and organizations attempt to achieve their goals (1997:80; emphasis added). In other words, globalization is not only an objective trend, but also constitutes, or is constituted by, subjective processes. It is a mental, or intersubjective, framework that is both implicated in the exercise of power and in scholarship that informs, or is critical of, public policy. Certainly because of the need for greater theoretical, as well as empirical, precision, a qualified response to the question of the rise of a new paradigm is worthy of consideration. The route to this response will be a Kuhnian notion of what sparks paradigmatic transformations. 

The Question of New Knowledge[3]

            In his study of the history of the natural sciences, Kuhn (1970) famously argued that new paradigms appear through ruptures rather than through a linear accumulation of facts or hypotheses. Normal science, he claimed, is a means of confirming the type of knowledge already established and legitimized by the paradigm in which it arises. According to Kuhn, normal science often suppresses innovations because they are subversive of a discipline’s fundamental commitments.

No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of  phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others. Instead, normal-scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies. (Kuhn, 1970:24)

 

            Or, to extrapolate, one might say that members of a shared knowledge community not only normalize certain types of questions, but also suppress the ability to raise them. Most important, Kuhn's insight is that only rarely do intellectuals refuse to accept the evasion of anomalies: observations at odds with expectations derived from prior theoretical understandings. A new paradigm emerges when the burden of anomalous phenomena grows too great and when there is incommensurability between competing paradigms to the extent that proponents of alternative frameworks cannot accept a common ground of assumptions.

            Some observers dispute whether Kuhn's thesis, derived from the natural sciences, can be imported into the social sciences--and, I might add, into a field like International Studies, which is far more heterogeneous than disciplines such as physics. My concern here, however, is not the epistemological debate over the disparate means of discovery in respective branches of knowledge (see Lakatos, 1970; Ball, 1976; Barnes, 1982). Rather, my contention--globalization is not only about "real" phenomena, but also a way of interpreting the world--is more pragmatic.

To be sure, a Kuhnian perspective of the generation of knowledge is vulnerable insofar it is limited to social and psychological conditions within the scientific community, and does not give sufficient credence to socially constructed knowledge outside this community. The factors internal to the social sciences cannot be fully explained without reference to the external elements. There is nothing, however, to prevent joining Kuhn's insight about theoretical innovation with a broader analysis of social conditions. Moreover, unless one believes that International Studies is rapidly approaching a Kuhnian crisis, i.e., the overthrow of a reigning paradigm or paradigms--and I do not--then it is important to grasp the dynamic interface between established knowledge sets, including the structures (curricula, professional journals, funding agencies, etc.) that maintain and undermine them, and a potentially new paradigm. It would appear that even without a paradigm crisis, an ascendant paradigm could emerge.

            For Kuhn, the transition to a new paradigm is all or nothing: “Like the gestalt switch, it must occur all at once (though not necessarily in an instant) or not at all” (Kuhn, 1970:150; also pertinent are the nuances in is his subsequent work, 1977a, 1977b). In explaining transformations in this manner, Kuhn falls short insofar as he underestimates the tenacity of forerunner paradigms and their ability to modify themselves. By all indications in the social sciences, they fight back, usually with gusto. Nevertheless, by identifying the propellant of a new paradgim as the refusal to accept the evasion of anomalies in conjunction with the quest for an alternative, Kuhn has contributed powerfully to understanding theoretical innovation.

            In this vein, it is well to recall Weber’s “’Objectivity’ in Social Science and Social Policy” (1949). Like Kuhn, Weber indicated that the prevailing intellectual apparatus is in constant tension with new knowledge. According to Weber, this conflict is a propellant for creativity and discovery--concepts are and should be subject to change. However, there should also be a certain staying power in the intellectual apparatus that enables one to ferret out what is worth knowing. In other words, there is nothing worse than the fads and fashions that come in an out of vogue. In the end, Weber called for a mid-course between unyielding old concepts and unceasing shifts in paradigms.

Following Kuhn and Weber in the chase for paradigmatic advance, what are the anomalies in our field, and is globalization a viable contender for fixing these imperfections?

Discomfort with International Studies

            A discipline without complaints would be a non-sequitor. After all, scholars are trained in the art of debate; the skills of nuance are our stock-in-trade. That said, it is important to consider the specific anomalies within International Studies. Although some of these anomalies are perennial, it is no wonder that others have appeared, given monumental changes after the Cold War, and with the distinctive mix of global integration and disintegration at the dawn of a new millennium. While others could be cited, five anomalies seem most important, but can be considered only succinctly here.[4]

            First, the term International Studies suggests a focus on relations between nations. But this is not so. The discipline has primarily concerned relations between states, the nation being only one of many principles of social organization (Shaw, 1994:25; also Shaw, 1999). Closely related, observers (e.g., Rosenau, 1997; Baker, 2000:366) have long argued that the conventional distinction between separate national and international spheres of activity is a misnomer. Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to maintain the lines of demarcation between the domestic and the foreign realms, or between Comparative Politics and International Politics. Globalization means that the distinction between them is hard to enforce. Increasingly evident are myriad forms of interpenetration between the global and the national—global economic actors even exist within the state, as with global crime groups in Russia or the International Monetary Fund/World Bank’s structural adjustment programs in developing countries.

Thus, a third discontent is opposition to the persistence of statecentrism. From this angle, the case for an ontological shift springs from the anomaly between the objects of study seen through a realist or neorealist lens and globalists’ vision of a polycentric, or multilevel, world order. New ontological priorities--an issue to which I will return--would consist of a series of linked processes. Toward this end, globalization researchers are attempting to design a framework for interrelating economics, politics, culture, and society in a seamless web. Hence, in large measure a response to globalization, some scholars have shifted attention to global governance: an effort to incorporate a broader ontology of structures and agents. The state is treated as one among several actors. It is not that state sovereignty is losing meaning, but the multilevel environment in which it operates, and hence the meaning of the concept, is changing.

Methodologically, the field of International Studies is based on the premise of territoriality, reflected in central concepts such as state-centered nationalism, state borders, and state sovereignty. Yet, with the development of new technologies, especially in communications and transportation, the advent of a “network society” (Castells, 1996), and the emergence of a “nonterritorial region” (Ruggie, 1993), there is a marked shift toward a more deterritorialized world. Hence, Scholte has challenged “methodological territorialism”—the ingrained practice of formulating questions, gathering data, and arriving at conclusions all through the prism of a territorial framework (1999:17; and 2000). Without swinging to the opposite extreme of adopting a “globalist methodology” by totally rejecting the importance of the principle of territoriality, Scholte calls for a “full-scale methodological reorientation,” and concludes: “[T]hat globalisation warrants a paradigm shift would seem to be incontrovertible” (1999:21-22).

Finally, there is the postmodernist complaint, which, arguably, has not really registered in our field.[5]  As Said (1979) contends in regard to Orientalism, it is hard to erase certain representations of reality, for in Foucaultian terms, they take on the aura of authoritative expressions and are implicated in the exercise of power. Knowledge sets may thus operate as closed systems—what Caton (1999) terms “endless cycles of self-referring statements”—thwarting counterrepresentations that might have the power to challenge normal knowledge. As scholars in International Studies, perhaps we should reflect on this allegation about collectively self-referential work, for we spend an enormous amount of time engaging in intramural debates over concepts, often without sufficient attention to the phenomena themselves. Still, it would be wrong to gloss over Said’s insight that representations manifest as knowledge are tied to the establishment, maintenance, and exercise of power. In International Studies, probing Said’s point about reflexivity involves shifting explanatory levels above and below the state--a characteristic of globalization research.

Characteristics of Globalization Studies

            Globalization theorists, of course, are not univocal.  Inasmuch as their writings abound, there are different interpretations and considerable contestation. As Puchala  aptly put it, “[C]onventional theories all have a table of outcomes that inventory what needs to be explained.” For example, the realist table of outcomes is chiefly wars, alliances, balances of power, and arms races. For liberals, the outcomes are regimes, integration, cooperation, and hegemons (Puchala, 2001). By contrast, the problematic that globalization theorists seek to explain, while dynamic and open-ended, not invariant, may be gleaned from an emerging series of core, linked propositions. I will highlight six of them.

1.      Many contemporary problems cannot be explained as interactions among nation states, i.e., as International Studies, but must be construed as global problems. Although this claim is not unique to globalization studies, at issue is a series of problems--e.g., the rise of organized crime, global warming, and the spread of infectious diseases--partly within and partly across borders, partially addressed by states and  partially beyond their regulatory framework. 

2.      Globalization constitutes a structural transformation in world order. As such, it is about not only the here and now, but also warrants a long perspective of time and revives the study of space. A preoccupation with what Braudel called "the world of events"--the immediate moment--focuses attention on a frame that differs from the longue durée, an observation point that some  researchers find advantageous for viewing the spatial reorganization of the global economy.

3.      As a transformation, globalization involves a series of continuities and discontinuities with the past. In other words, the globalization tendency is by no means a total break—as noted, there is considerable disagreement about how much is new--but the contemporary period is punctuated by large-scale acceleration in globalizing processes such as the integration of financial markets, technological development, and intercultural contact.

4.      New ontological priorities are warranted because of the emergence of a dialectic of suprastate and substate forces, pressures from above and below. The advent of an ontology of globalization is fluid, by no means fixed. It includes the global economy as an actor in its own right (as embodied, for example, in transnational corporations), states and interstate organizations, regionalist processes (at the macro, sub, and micro levels), world cities, and civil society, sometimes manifest as social movements.

5.      Given shifting parameters, the state, in turn, seeks to adjust to evolving global structures. States, however, are in varied positions vis-à-vis globalizing structures, and reinvent themselves differently, the gamut of policies running from a full embrace, as with New Zealand’s extreme neoliberal  policies from 1984 to 1999, to resistance, illustrated by Malaysia’s capital controls in 1998.

6.      Underpinning such differences is a set of new, or deeper, tensions in world order, especially the disjuncture between the principle of territoriality, fundamental to the concept of state sovereignty, and the patent trend toward deterritorialization, especially, but not only, apparent in regard to transborder economic flows. The horizontal connections forged in the world economy and the vertical dimensions of state politics are two dissimilar vectors of social organization, with the latter seeking to accommodate the changing global matrix.

However schematically presented, the aforementioned, interrelated propositions put into question some of International Studies’s ingrained ways of conceptualizing the world. At present, although the attempts at reconceptualization are in a preliminary stage of formulation, it is worth identifying the traps and confusions.

Discomfort with Paradigmatic Pretension

            Barring caricatures of the concept and phenomena of globalization—e.g., it is totalizing, inevitable, and homogenizing, rather than, as many scholars maintain, partial, open-ended, and hybrid—surely there are grounds for discontent. For one thing, globalization may be seen as a promiscuous concept, variously referring to a historical scenario, interconnections, movements of capital, new technologies and information, an ideology of competitiveness, and a political response to the spread and deepening of the market. Hence, the complaint lodged earlier in this article: Observers (e.g., Kearney, 2001) are crying out and striving for more analytical precision.

            Moreover, globalization is sometimes deemed overdetermined— too abstract, too structural, and insufficiently attentive to agency. From this perspective, it is thought that the logic is mechanically specified or misspecified in that it is too reductive. For some, especially scholars carrying out contextualized, fine-grained research on particular issues and distinct areas, globalization is regarded as too blunt a tool. After all, what does it leave out? What is not globalization? In response, it may be argued that globalization is mediated by other processes and actors, including the state. Furthermore, globalization has a direct or indirect impact on various levels of social organization, and becomes inserted into the local, thus complicating the distinction between the global and the local.

            Another problem, then, is that the globalization literature has spawned its own binary oppositions. On the one hand, as indicated, the phenomena of globalization blur dichotomous distinctions to which International Studies has grown accustomed. For example, civil society now penetrates the state (as with members of environmental movements assuming important portfolios in government in the Philippines; and in several African countries, state substitution is abundantly evident--some so-called “nongovernmental organizations” are sustained by state funding or, arguably, their agendas are driven by the state or interstate organizations.) On the other hand, globalization research itself presents new binary choices—”globalization from above” and “globalization from below,” top-down and bottom-up globalization, and so on—that certainly have heuristic value but must be exploded in order to capture the range of empirical phenomena.

How Far Have We Come?

            It would be remiss not to join a discussion of the drawbacks to globalization as an avenue of inquiry with its real gains, even if the nature of a new paradigm is tentative and being contested.

            In the main, globalization studies emphasizes the historicity of all social phenomena. There is no escaping historiography: What are the driving forces behind globalization, and when did it originate? With the beginnings of intercultural contact, the dawn of capitalism in western Europe in the long sixteenth century, or in a distinct conjuncture after World War II?  Research has thus opened new questions for investigation and debate. And even if one returns to old issues, such as theories of the state, there are opposing views and vexing questions, especially in the face of public representations, such as Margaret Thatcher’s attack on the “nanny state.” Should the state be construed as in retreat (Strange, 1996), as an agent of globalization (Cox, 1987), or, in an even more activist role as the author of globalization (Panitch, 1996; from another perspective, Weiss, 1998)?   Taken together, the writings on these issues combat the fragmentation of knowledge. Not surprisingly, given the themes that globalization embraces--technology, ecology, films, health, fast-food and other consumer goods, and so on--it is transdisciplinary, involving not exclusively the social sciences, but also the natural sciences, the humanistic sciences, and professional fields such as architecture, law, and medicine.

Arguably, within the social sciences, economic and political geographers (including Dicken, 1998; Harvey, 1999; Knox and Agnew, 1998; Olds, 2001; Taylor, 1993; Taylor, Johnson, and Watts, 1995; Thrift, 1996) have carried out some of the most sophisticated research on globalization. Even though the importance of spatial concerns is increasingly apparent, many International Studies specialists have not noticed the work of economic and political geographers.

For the purposes of teaching globalization, one way to draw students into a subject that, after all, involves thinking about big, abstract structures, is to focus on spatial issues as they relate to the changes in one’s own locale. Reading a collection of essays consisting of anthropological fieldwork at McDonald’s restaurants in different Asian countries (Watson, 1997), and then comparing the findings in the literature to their own fieldwork, including interviewing employees and customers at a nearby McDonald’s, my students are asked to analyze the cultural political economy of globalization: a production system, the composition of the labor force (largely immigrants and members of minority groups in our locale), social technologies, and the representations conveyed by symbols. The students pursue the question of meanings—the intersubjective dimensions of globalization—in the writings of architects, e.g., on shopping malls and theme parks (Sorkin, 1992), and by visits to local sites.

Time permitting, consideration is also given to the legal and medical spheres. Cybergangs and some novel types of crime do not neatly fit into the jurisdiction of national or international law (see, for example, Sassen, 1998). The field of public health has called attention to the nexus of social and medical problems, especially with the spread of AIDS. The tangible consequences of a changing global division of labor and power include new flows and directions of migration, the separation of families, a generation of orphans, and the introduction of the HIV virus into rural areas by returning emigrants. As these topics suggest, globalization studies identifies silences and establishes new intellectual space—certainly one criterion by which to gauge an ascendant paradigm.

Pushing the Agenda

Notwithstanding important innovations, as a  paradigm, globalization is more of a potential than a refined framework, worldview, kit of  tools and methods, and mode of resolving questions. Where then to go from here? Although these are not the only issues,  the following challenges stand out as central to developing globalization studies:

1.      Just as with capitalism, which has identifiable variants, there is no single, unified form of globalization. Researchers have not yet really mapped the different forms of globalization, which, in the literature is sometimes preceded by adjectival designations, such as “neoliberal,” “disembedded,” “centralizing,” “Islamic,” “inner and outer,” or “democratic.” The adjectival labels are but hints at the need for systematic study of the varieties. Or should the object of study be globalizations?

2.      Closely related is the problem of how to depict the genres of globalization research.  What are the leading schools of thought? How to classify them so as to organize this massive literature and advance investigation? To catalog globalization studies according to national traditions of scholarship, by disciplinary perspective, or on single issues risks mistaking the parts for the whole. Avoiding this trap, Guillén (2001) decongests the burgeoning globalization research by organizing it into key debates: Is globalization really happening, does it produce convergence, does it undermine the authority of nation-states, is globality different from modernity, and is a global culture in the making? In another stocktaking, Held, McGrew, Goldblatt, and Perraton (1999) sort the field into hperglobalizers who believe that the growth  of world markets diminishes the role of states, skeptics who maintain that international interactions are not novel and that states have the power to regulate international economic flows, and transformationalists who claim that new patterns and an unprecedented configuration of global power relations have emerged. But there are other debates, major differences among policy research (Rodrik, 1997), structural approaches (Falk, 1999), and critical/poststructural accounts (Hardt and Negri, 2000).

3.      What are the implications of globalization for disciplinary and cross-national studies? How should  these domains of knowledge respond to the globalization challenge? It would seem that in light of the distinctive combinations of evolving global structures and local conditions in various regions, globalization enhances, not reduces, the importance of the comparative method. However, there is the matter of exploring disciplinary and comparative themes within changing parameters and examining the interactions between these parameters and the localities.

4.      Similarly, what does globalization mean for development and area studies? McMichael (2000:149) holds  that “[t]he globalization project succeeds the development project.”  Surely development theory emerged in response to a particular historical moment: the inception of the Cold War, which, if anything, was an ordering principle in world affairs. After the sudden demise of this structure, development studies reached a conceptual cul de sac. Put more delicately, it may be worth revisiting development studies’s basic tenets, especially apropos the dynamics of economic growth and the mechanisms of political power in the poorest countries, which have experienced a fundamental erosion of the extent of control that they had maintained—however little to begin with. This loss has been accompanied by changing priorities and reorganizations within funding agencies, a crucial consideration in terms of support for training the next generation of scholars, particularly apparent with regard to fieldwork for dissertations. Although some para-keeper area specialists have dug in their heels and have fought to protect normal knowledge in their domain, the task is to reinvent and thereby strengthen area studies.

5.      Insufficient scholarly attention has centered on the ethics of globalization. The telling question is, What and whose values are inscribed in globalization? In light of the  unevenness of globalization, with large zones of marginalization (not only in a spatial sense, but also in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and who is or is not networked), there is another searching question, Is globalization ethically sustainable? What is the relationship between spirituality and globalization, an issue posed by different religious movements?  Which contemporary Weberian will  step forward to write The Neoliberal Ethic and the Spirit of Globalization?

6.      Emanating mostly from the West, globalization studies is not really global. In terms of participating researchers and the focus of inquiry, there is a need for decentering. The literature on globalization unavailable in the English language (e.g., Ferrer, 1997; Gómez, 2000; Kaneko, 1999; Norani and Mandal, 2000; Podestà, Gómez Galán, Jácome, and Grandi, 2000) is rarely taken into account in the English-speaking world.  Still, only limited work has thus far emerged in the developing world, including studies undertaken by the Council for the Development of Economic and Social Research in Africa (1998), the National University of Singapore (Olds, Dicken, Kelly, Kong, and Yeung, 1999), the Latin American Social Sciences Council (Seoane and Taddei, 2001), and the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies at the National University of Malaysia (Mittelman and Norani, 2001).

7.      Apart from the development of individual courses, there is a lack of systematic thought about the programmatic implications of globalization for the academy. Does global restructuring warrant academic restructuring in the ways in which knowledge is organized for students? If a new paradigm is emerging, then what does this mean in terms of pedagogy and curriculum? Will universities—and their International Studies specialists--be in the forefront of, or trail behind, changes in world order? Will they really open to the innovation of globalization studies?

To sum up, it is worth recalling that on more than one occasion Susan Strange held that International Studies is like an open range, home to many different types of research. Today, there is diversity, but surely one should not overlook the fences that hold back the strays.  Mavericks who work in non-Western discourses, economic and political geographers, postmodernists and poststructuralists, not to mention humanists (whose contributions are emphasized by Alker, 1996; Puchala, 2000; and others), have faced real barriers.   

It is in this context that globalization studies has emerged as a means to explain the intricacy and variability of the ways in which the world is restructuring and, by extension, to assess reflexively the categories used by social scientists to analyze these phenomena. The para-keepers, to varying degrees, are reluctant to embrace globalization as a knowledge set because some of its core propositions challenge predominant ontological, methodological, and epistemological commitments—what Kuhn referred to as “normal science.” Again, not to dichotomize positions, but to look to the other end of the spectrum, para-makers advance a strong thesis about the extent to which a new paradigm is gaining ascendancy. The debate is fruitful in that it engages in theoretical stocktaking, locates important problem areas, and points to possible avenues of inquiry. It also helps to delimit space for investigation and to identify venues of intellectual activity. But, in the near term, there is no looming Kuhnian crisis in the sense of an impending overthrow that would quickly sweep away reigning paradigms. Given that systematic research on globalization is only slightly more than a decade in the making, it is more likely that International Studies has entered an interregnum between the old and the new.

Although globalization studies entails a putting together of bold efforts to theorize structural change, it would be wrong to either underestimate or exaggerate the achievements. Judging the arguments in the debate, on balance, a modest thesis is in order. The efforts to theorize globalization have produced a patchwork, an intellectual move rather than a movement, and more of a potential than worked-out alternatives to accepted ways of thinking in International Studies. In sum, this fledgling may be regarded as a proto-paradigm.


 



Notes

 

 

[1] This paper will appear in International Studies Perspectives (2002). I owe a debt of gratitude to Donald J. Puchala, three anonymous reviewers, and the ISP editors for critical comments on drafts of this article. Thanks, too, to Patrick Jackson, who generously shared materials and insights--too numerous to pick up on entirely here.

  

[2] The literature (e.g., Beck, 2000; Giddens, 2000) suggests a number of other ways to come to grips with what constitutes globalization.

 

[3] This section draws from, and builds on, Mittelman, 1997.

 

[4]The question of the meaning of power and counterpower under globalization is a topic too broad to examine here. I am exploring this theme elsewhere.

 

[5] I have the strong impression, but cannot “prove,” that International Studies scholars, with notable exceptions (e.g., Der Derian, 1994; Peterson, 1992; Sylvester, 1994; Walker, 1993), have been more insular in the face of incursions from postmodernism and poststrucuralism than have those in the other social sciences.

 

 

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