Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Deconstructing Globalization

For some years now we have become accustomed to incomprehensible, barely coherent left wing attacks on 'globalization'. Not to be outdone James Poulos steps up to the plate to provide a barely comprehensible, incoherent right wing attack on globalization.

I came across the article after Kevin Drum took affront to the phrase 'hegemony of engineers' in the piece. This seems a weak criticism to me. Poulos has at least correctly identified technology as opposed to capital as the principle driving force behind 'globalization', even if he appears to have no more idea what the term means.

Where Poulos goes seriously whackadoodle is in passages such as this one:

On balance, I’m content for America to continue in its capacity as globalizer. I’m much less sanguine about America becoming a globalizee. This isn’t just because I’m a nationalist; it’s because I’m convinced that the United States has, and depends upon, a globally unique system of government which is itself dependent upon America’s unique geopolitical, cultural, and religious heritage.

If there is one thing that does not travel well, even in the age of globalization, it is small-minded nationalism. The US system of government is globally unique? I rather think not. On the contrary it is generally considered a point of national pride that so many other countries have adopted constitutions modeled on the US scheme.

It is of course very easy for the likes of Poulos to be entirely convinced of American exceptionalism: They will loudly denounce anyone who disagrees with them as anti-American. The distinctive mode of US political debate is ad-hominem.

So what is unique about the US cultural heritage? Well there is putting a man on the moon for a start. That would be engineering of course. Ditto, the Hoover Dam, Mt Rushmore and skyscrapers. OK, how about Hollywood? That is certainly culture, but other countries have film industries. Hollywood's distinction is the big budget special effects blockbuster. Oh dear, engineering again.

When you get down to it, unique is rarely a good thing. If something is worthwhile it is generally copied. So what has the US done that the rest of the world has not copied that might be under threat through 'globalization'?

I can think of many ways in which globalization is going to change the US political scene, none of which I regard as being at all bad. I think that within a very short space of time it will be realized that gay-bashing is no more socially acceptable than racism and that the Rovian wedge issues designed to exploit anti-gay bigotry are precisely that. I also think that the US is going to have to come to terms that the Bush years have severely damaged its international standing and that those who complain about 'anti-Americanism' should first blame those who made oderint dum metuant the US foreign policy.

At some point the US will realize that the small section of US public opinion that is considered when formulating policy with regards to the middle East occupies a space far to the right of Likud on the Israeli political spectrum. The idea that the US can perform the role of 'honest broker' in any peace negotiations is thus a fantasy.

Globalization will puncture these and many other bubbles the nationalist right has been accustomed to living in. That was exactly the plan.

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