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紀登斯教授「全球化的進展與影響」聽後
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胡卜凱

On “The Progress and Consequence of Globalization”
 
“The Progress and Consequence of Globalization”, the lecture given by Professor Giddens on April 16, 2002, is not, strictly speaking, an academic event such as an inaugural address of an Emeritus Professor or the President of American Sociological Association would be. Professor Giddens used plain language to explain the concept of “globalization” to a general public in the lecture. Following are my comments on that concept and on what he said.

Before I start, I would like to express my appreciation for Professor Giddens’ presence here in Taipei, and his taking time to enlighten us. The lecture was substantive and witty befitting Professor Giddens’ status as the leading social theorist and one of the most original thinkers in the field today. Although my comments is not academic by any stretch of imgination; it is a discourse on methodology, globilization, and sociology.

1.  Methodology

1.1 How To Determine Baldness

Professor Giddens said there was a debate about the “really” of a “globalization process” in the late 20th century. He also qualifies the current one as “more comprehensive, more intense, and more dynamic” comparing to the one happened in the late 19th century. I don’t think that anyone really argued about the “reality” of the the globalization process observed in the late 20th century. What people debated about should be on whether this one is fundamentally or qualitatively different from the one started a century or so ago. More or less similar to the debate on baldness. How can we be sure that John is as bald as James is? Both issues can be settled rather easily with a phenomenological descriptions of each case in question, and a list of criteria for determining respectively if they are indeed different from each other and, if they do, to what extent. In my opinion, the statement of “more comprehensive, more intense, and more dynamic” can not be considered sufficient for descriptions and criteria that we need to settle the issue.

1.2 Normalization

I did not survey all the literatures on globalization. After reading a few, I would suggest the “normalization” procedure used by engineers and economists to make a comparative study on the same phenomenon occurring at different space or time. In simple terms, here are the steps on how to conduct the normalization.

1)  We define a set of common factors or elements (independent variables) of the two things under study.
2)    We define a set of common indicators (dependent variables) of the two things under study.
3)    We measure the two sets of dependent variables at different space or time in terms of the same set of independent variables. Hence the name “normalization”.
4)    We can then make a statistical statement on how the two phenomena are correlated. For example, if the later one is a natural outgrowth of the previous one or, if there indeed is a quantum jump of some sort from one to the other.

A case in point: Professor Giddens gave a quantitative description of the daily amount of U.S. dollar transactions worldwide today as compared with fifty years ago. The normalization procedure would ask in addition to the dollar amount such questions as:

a.    Are they measured in the same “dollar value”?
b.    What is the ratio between the number of world populations then and now?
c.    What is the ratio between the number of sovereign nations then and now?
d.  What is the ratio between the sum of individual nation’s GDP then and now?

I am not saying there is or there is not a qualitative difference between the two globalization processes. I am only suggesting that the arguments presented in the referenced literatures can be put in a more quantitative and less argumentative fashion.

2.  Globalization

2.1 Historical Review

To me, the globalization process started when the first group of Homo Sapiens moved out of Africa. Darius, Alexander, the Romans, and Ganges Khan can be taken as peaks of globalization in an otherwise flat background activities. I think the great voyage in the 15th – 16th century was the first quantum jump to a new plateau of globilization. The colonization, or expansion of imperialism, in the late 19th century brought the process to a new plateau. The common thread of all these is a quest for new survival space, and in economic terms, a quest for new territories of markets and resources. It is reasonable to consider the process as a continuous, albeit steep or even spiral, rise in the slope of change. As I suggested above, this qualitative issue can be settled quantitatively if we agree to a set of measurable charateristics and corresponding criteria.

Historically, I would put the day when RCA opened its first off-shore assembly plant, or the day when MacDonald opened its first overseas franchise as the date the current phase of globalization has started.

2.2  Notion of Globalization 

2.2.1 What It is About

“The globalization process should not be treated as an external force; it is an internally driven process. Examples of these forces are: media access, transformation of institutions, transformation of identification, negotiation of personalities, etc.;”

Professor Giddens offered two definitions for the globalization process:  generally speaking, it is “Interdependence, i.e., all nations are linked to other parts of the world.” Sociologically, it is “structural transformation of basic institutions with transformative effects”. The first one is general indeed as it lacking a defining feature. The second one sounds like the definition of modernization, itself not too long ago a pet concept of almost every practicality oriented sociologist.

I am not sure “link” and “interdependence” can be treated as synonyms. We are indeed linked by CNN, internet, and the like. However, in most cases, the dependency is one-sided and can hardly be described or construed as “inter”. Cases in point, the most prominent media event before the 9/11 in the last fifteen or so years were the Tien Ann Man square demonstration and the war in Bosnia. People all over the world watched them in horror, disbelieve, disgust, and furor. Were we affecting them or affected by them at the personal level at all? Was there anything we as people can do to prevent the ensuing massacre in the former and the genocide in the later? On the other hand, the big corporations depend on the people of the world for profit, and we the people depend on the business only for comfort and convenience. Without us the former would be out of business. Without them, our life still go on, may be a little harder or blander. This is a tilted dependency, not an interdependency.

As for the sociological definition, I don’t see the “structural transformation of basic institutions with transformative effect”. Are our “basic institutions” transformed? As far as I am concerned, the government is still the device for big corporation to exploit the rest of the nation. The educational institutions are still giant machines generating ideologies for the paying interest groups. The family is still the basic unit of society, may be losing its relevancy. The financial institutions are still financial in essence, may be more efficient and powerful, or too efficient and powerful. These two features never really “transform” anything unless you are a believer of Hegel. Oh, yes, the internet, isn’t it just another super duper device for making a buck? On the other hand, The globalization process have a lot to do with bringing almost the whole world upon Iraq during the gulf war and Afghanistan in the latest anti-terrorist campaign. The former was about oil, and the latter has much to do with the prestige of U. S. as revenge for the innocent victim. Have anyone or any institution been transformed?

Things, institutions, and people get smarter, more effective, and more ingenuous. These are the results of mechanization, computerization, digitization, modernization, etc. If the scholars intend the globalization process as a catch-all term, that is fine. Somehow, it smacks the smell of another euphemism for economic exploitation or plunderance. (Well, I’m not a Marxist either, I just give a lot of weight to his analysis on human behavior at the macro level.) 

2.2.2 Technology and Globalization

The telecommunication technology is a catalyst, a device, which speed up the process. Without it, globalization will nevertheless march on. Technology never drives anything or any movement. It is people with their greed, ambition, vanity, lust, quest for power, quest for knowledge, quest for longevity, etc. that drives. It is people who invented and refined the technologies that serve as driving devices.

2.2.3 The Current Debate

1)    “What are the dynamic forces driving the process?”
2)    “What the policy makers can do in response to the forces driving the process?”
3)  “The electronics-based economy made the industry-based Soviet Union economy obsolete, which contributed to its disintegration.

However, in my opinion, integration of market and the role of financial institutions are not to be identified with the globalization process.

Examples of these forces are: media access, transformation of institutions, transformation of identification, negotiation of personalities, etc.; the last one was evidenced by the women’s emancipation. Women have assumed new roles across the world. This in turn affects the changes in other aspects of the social structure such as structure of family, women’s position, job, deferring of child bearing, etc.”

2.2.4 Off-Hand Remarks

I was amazed at the word “losers” Professor Giddens used to describe members of anti-globalization groups. Is that hubris or lack of sensitivity?

The philistines probably called Jesus loser as well. I’m sure Professor Giddens is a winner as far as social and academic status are concerned. However, there are other ideals and standards in the world. The classification of “losers” sounds like political labeling rather then scholarly evaluation.

I am also amazeded at Professor Giddens’ comment on the Starbuck Coffee house, namely, “Nobody forced you to drink their coffee.” It reminded me the opium war back in the second phase (Professor Giddens’ “first phase”) of the globalization process. I am sure the East Indian Company official was saying, “Nobody is forcing anyone to take opium.” I can just hear the big bosses of the drug cartel arguing their cases, “ We are only globalizing the cocaine trade as Professor Giddens advised. We don’t ever force nobody to take the shit.”

As for the diagnosis that the Soviet Union disintegrated because of the electronics and communication revolution, it is unconvincing if not far-fetched.

3.  Sociology

(未完成)


後記

偶然翻出這篇20多年前的舊作。當時可能被其它雜事耽擱,沒有寫下第三節。隔了這麼長的時間,自然忘掉當時想說些什麼;相信應該跟紀登斯教授演講內容或所提出的意見有關。有空()會試著回想一下。

本文可跟拙作批判《五角大廈新地圖》一文合看

本文於 修改第 5 次
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