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Globalization and National Identities - The Society of Negotiation
by Dimitra Karantzeni
2008-05-19 09:01:06
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To start with, globalization can be interpreted from many different perspectives: economic, social, psychological, political, and even philosophical. There is little argument, though, that globalization is now a major characteristic of our daily lives, and particularly, that strange compression of time and space.

Apart from the new, already discussed forms of communication, due to important technological progresses of our century, globalization is a conception that affects seriously, the core of social reality. Indeed, ethnicities are being transformed into a new form of social unification, as people tend to feel that they belong to a wider community than in the past, called by J. Habermas, a global public sphere.

What has really changed, is the way people confront their problems and think of themselves among the others. They try to react as if they are parts of this nationalized community, whereas at the same time, the behave as if they ought to protect their regional culture, habits, morals, language, religion, from the intrusion of modern, well-developed societies, that mean to demoralize them.

This paradox, though, has its routes in a contradicted situation that has taken place, usually considered as one of the consequences of globalization at semi-developed or developing countries. This situation, which is accurately named by specialists as "glocalisation", describes how people of nowadays, are strongly attached to their tradition and at the same time, react as cosmopolitans, claiming for recognition of all that universally assimilated characteristics. It’s that special niche, - that German scientist I. Toennies has underlined as the difference between ‘Gemeinschaft’ and ‘Gesellschaft’ - what they are looking for, in order to live between two different horizons, combining the advantages and the drawbacks of these totally different realities. But, are they really different?

I mean this kind of imperative negotiation between tradition and modernity doesn’t seem to leave unaffected the two different ‘poles of the magnet’. It isn’t useful to always discuss the effects of globalization, as it’s not a one-way approach. On the contrary, we can say that in reality, global tries to be adapted to local needs and vice -versa.

For example, when it comes to cultural industry, there are, of course, some globally accepted prototypes that function as role models, due to their great and important success. However, researches show us that local products, TV series, books, newspapers, cinema, though being influenced, try to embody the regional attributes that are more commonly recognizable to locals, as they reflect their own personality and way of everyday living. This constitutes what we call ‘community communication’ that rests at the very opposite of mass communication, maintaining the balance between the world and the local system. It is of course, the language, the discrete element that provides them with the necessary means of social connection, whose bonds are tough enough to survive evolution.

Then, while talking about the enlargement of communication boundaries, we now enjoy the advantages of a national development of new networks of information and communication, as mass, mediatized communication has conquered every aspect of everyday life. Satellites and digitization in general, have imposed themselves, causing the reduction of the so-called ‘small-scale electronic media’, who lack the technological abilities in order to be spread widely.

In such a computer-mediated society, what happens to local communities? Is it right, the opinion which states that every individual, non-familiarized with these new forms of living, unable to follow the transformation of the society, is damned to complete marginalization?

Well, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t feel like supporting this idea, not because it’s disappointing, but because in my opinion, things are not always black or white. Local communities, do have the will and the power to remain critical against everything that doesn’t fit in their personal character, as they support fervently everything that has the same references and interests, paying respect to their patrimony and history. It’s their memories; their invented traditions which last through ages, their pride, their origin, and the resurrection of past events that tend to homogenize them and at last, keep them together.

And that is because, above all, the formation of national identities is a psychological procedure. That does not of course mean that people should be narrow-minded or negative towards development and progress. Needless to say, that it is wrong, and mainly, completely useless, to cultivate a nationalistic or xenophobic behaviour towards other nations, as no one is inferior or superior to others. Therefore, it seems to me, that a constructive compromise is exactly what we need, in order to bridge the gap, as we, above all, are already living in a society of negotiation…

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Akli Hadid2008-05-19 11:40:48
As Plato would say "I am not an Athenian, I am not a Greek, but I'm a citizen of the world". Glocalization is encouraged by most countries. If you walk in the streets of New York and speak English with an accent, people will immediately ask you "where are you from". There are imposed norms and structures, such as the fact that Arabs should have connections with terrorism, or at least support it. The danger is not fear and hatred, what is actually threatening glocalization is love. With an increasing number of international couples, love will end up leading people to what could be called a "global gesellschaft", one where people from different countries would not be categorized, often as civilizations inferior to the Euro-centric norm.

Emanuel Paparella2008-05-19 15:04:08
Insightful, thought provoking article on globalization. Indeed, the danger of globalization is exactly there, in a tendency to flatten all unique and irreplaceable regional cultures to the least common denominators so that we all drink coca cola and all go to Burger King and consider ourselves citizens of the world. In that case “citizen of the world” will simply mean “cultural philistine.” The picture that accompanies this article says it all. To the contrary, true citizens of the world with an allegiance to Truth are often considered subversives of national allegiances. Aristotle almost ended up the way of Socrates and had to run away from Athens. What I find paradoxical even in a EU so proud of its universal principles (often loudly proclaimed but not always applied in practice) is that while the union—so called—keeps on enlarging with a bigger and bigger bureaucracy in Brussels, within it you have separatist and nationalist movements such as the Basques in Spain, the Corsicans in France, the Veneto Region in Italy, La Penn, Umberto Bossi, the Roma community, just to mention a few. Perhaps it is time to realize that neither common soccer games and a common bank will do the trick of forging a common cultural identity and that regional cultural patrimonies need to be protected. We do live in interesting times, no doubt about it.

Dimitra Karantzeni2008-05-20 13:57:59
Thank you both for your very interesting comments.. Indeed Emanuel, we live in interesting times, but it's essentiel not to stay pathetic and just wait for the change to come.. At least, we have to know, to understand what is going on, because some things, are irreplaceable..Akli, maybe you're right.. Perhaps love is going to be transformed into a global gessellschaft with the consequences you've already described.. Who knows?

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