Globalization vs. Regionalization
Something more than an apparent contradiction
Prof. Omar Horacio Gejo
Lic. Ana María
National University of Luján
Alexander von Humboldt Centro of
Due to its imposing presence over the last
few years and being the subject matter of almost every relevant discussion, not
taking into account the level of formality of the former, the concept of
globalisation has turned into a supreme idea in which its explanatory and
descriptive capacity have achieved an absolute consensus including not only its
supporters but also those who are against it.
However, beyond all discourse
maelstrom brought about by this phenomenon, it is convenient to maintain a
“healthy prudence”, that is a preservative scepticism so as to avoid being
carried away by the fierce forces generated by context imposition, which tends
to produce “ thought-killers”, vacuous consensus which leads to the so-called
GLOBALIZATION: BACK TO GEOGRAPHY?
The main goal of this new concept has been that of highlighting
substantial differences if we compare it with what we had previously
experienced. To put it in a nutshell, globalisation would imply being in the
presence of a different world, dissimilar in many aspects, of course. (1)
are bound to find various opinions about the surge of this new term. Some people
date back to the 60’s.
The majority, however, agree that it was the decade
of 80 that triggered this situation, to become, later on, the onset of
significant controversies leaving the 90’s marked by a vast phraseology that
derives from the simple utterance of this allencompassing word which will end up
compressing and squashing everything on its way. (2)
But the massive consent
to its existence has been accompanied by an extreme difficulty in reaching an
agreement on the several meanings that this word carries. That is to say, if
there’s no disagreement on the acceptance of its reality, the question will be
much less clear when dealing with its implications, laying bare its lack of
consistency and paradoxical baseline of the previous extended agreement.
sudden irruption of these issues have allowed Geography to regain certain
importance in the Science field due to the resurgence of the spatial dimension
as a necessary step for the analysis –or study- of societies development and
Over many decades we had witnessed a total domination of the
sociological approaches to reality. The many analysis of social organisations
came across as a phenomenal abstraction from which the conditions, in which
social relations took place, were bound to be elided.(3)
probably open during the 60’s, was beginning to close-at least formally- when in
the 90’s the spatial or territorial issue was firmly re-installed, giving way to
the inevitable need of geographical contextualization of the events.
this point of view, globalisation has been the vehicle that Geography has found
to make its approach necessary once more, in its attempt to understand the
evolution of reality. (4)
concept of globalisation gathers a series of implications that greatly present a
The first of them is probably, that of greatest
amplitude, and what is more, because it’s the support from which structures of
arguments tell us about this conceptual updating, renovation.
historically constituted one of the most powerful differentiating mechanisms:
What is distant presupposes something distinct.
The different conceptions of
Orient and Occident, find their source on this. In the same way, the least
philosophical one, and more materialistic but at the same time dicotimic
North-South confrontation carries itself the same characteristic.
communication revolution, especially telecommunication has implied a dramatic
reduction in the field of information transmission. Instantaneity has become in
some way or other, reality, and based on this the possibility of the world’s
unification has arisen. That former idea of the “global village” acquires today
something more than features of verisimilitude.
Behind these images, we can
find the idea of a reduced world “on the move” and that of the almost total
absence of the geographical factor, this is, understood as distance mediation
and differences as misleading.
However, at the same time the drastic
reduction in distance would appear to have made the globe an interrelated
place-we would say-that would bring about a formal recognition of the places,
all of them active and influent. (5)
A second phenomenon that accompanies
inevitably the concept of globalization, is that we are in the presence of a new
era in Economy, or put it in other words, without hesitation, a
economy”. This would imply forgetting about prehistorical Economy, made up of
cycles, discontinuity, crisis, etc.
On the contrary, this economy inspired
on the happy 90’s of the American one, would be characterized by a constant
growth. This is a sequence of having reached a threshold that would imply
getting rid of a series of ties which imposed a sequential determinism on the
economy. The hypothetical increase in the productivity, the defeat of inflation
and the reduction in unemployment that would date back to the golden 60’s, would
appear to demonstrate to those “Globalization supporters”, the existence of a
new reality of limited expansion.
A third element that is usually attached
to globalization is the surge of categories of economies or promising countries
from the “economic expectations” point of view.
We are referring to
We should regard this term as the partial detachment, a
differentiation of what was formerly called Periphery or Underdeveloped World.
They are a bunch of countries with certain capacity to produce a magical
“take off” from its situation of “postponed” “left behind” as soon as they
received a deluge of external inversions, that would act as the “trigger”. This
conception of the macro-socioeconomic process means a “farewell” to
underdevelopment and to the traditional way of analysis in search of overcoming
this situation. With this, the critical situation that emerged as a necessary
emendatory for the establishment of the world market, now, at present day, the
latter is enough condition to generate the transformation of any socioeconomic
A fourth and crucial element is so peculiar that is the one
that usually rounds off any discussion, no matter its depth.
What we mean is
that we should identify globalization as a historical coronation-acquiring
then-a feature of inevitable phenomenon. (7)
Globalization constitutes on
the one hand, a natural, historical exit. On the other hand, it is all the same
if this destiny is positive or negative, since we are precisely in the presence
of that, Destiny, the fatal result of multiple determinations that aren’t under
this conjoint of ideas has been forged within a certain frame, this is to say,
alike all that exists it couldn’t have been generated out of nothing.
first significant instance, that acts as a backdrop for the explicitness of
globalization is, no doubt, the technological change.
In some cases, it has
been claimed to be a technical- scientific revolution, a way of labelling a
series of technological variations that when combined, would generate the
productive transformation first and the, the social one.
Within this frame
numerous descriptions of a new society have been discussed, which profiles were
not entirely consolidated and therefore, caused a gradual negative confrontation
to develop, for its opposition to the one that was coming to an end. It was the
industrial society that was “petering out” leading to a post-industrial one. The
expansion of the service sector to the detriment of the industrial one, seemed
one of the essential features of this upcoming process.
We had come up
against a change from the material “kingdom” to the immaterial one from the
output or product to services and from machines to the so-called “know-how”.
The society of information emerged. A sociological mishap or -if you will
allow us- a “socialisation derivation”.
To the same label belongs this
description that made intrafabric relations the starting point of almost all the
changes in present day society.
The decadence of the mass production old
system, individualised from the automobile industry experience in America, would
lead to the eighth marvel in industry organization, the “just in time” system
that finds its origins in the successful Nippon industrial force.
without saying , that this other sociological abstraction ,probably to the
highest extent, in a micro-sociological scale, made of the world society a
All this interpretations evidently respond to a misleading
analysis that would be well defined as technological determinism.
Technological changes can’t, of course, be denied; just as Heraclito’s
legacy in which he claims the impossibility of denying change itself, but
another completely different thing is to submit to the blind forces of the
Technology and change must be analysed in the
light of social organization and never the other way about. That is to say, the
technological process carries in itself an undeniable social cost and this is
what we must refer to; deal with; set about analysing. A second phenomenon that
has marked this period, was the end of the so-called “Golden years” of
Capitalism. We are refering to the sudden post-war reconstruction. The so-called
30’s, 25’s or even the glorious 20’s, were years which showed the old central
areas gaining a sustained impulse and finding peaks of long-term increase in
The enormous destruction of the Second World
War had raised the possibility of a real post-war “miracle”.
To this miracle
also contributed the keynesian therapies known as demand policies, which became
popular since the problematic 30’s and were systematised after the second World
Over almost two decades and having a favourable starting point that the
Second World conflagration had left, the Economy met a 15-year- period of
However, towards the end of the 60’s a number of problems had been
accumulated. The economy begins to collapse, capital accumulation finds its
limits and budgetary deficit became numerous; inflationary explosions form a
recognizable landscape on the horizon and “money drops” constituted a crucial
element for the internal and external contradictions-of those situations-during
From then on, a new conjoint of lineaments were brought in, and
these are opposed, theoretically speaking.
The demand economy was replaced
by the offer one, an approach that focused on the cost reduction that in turn,
imposed an effective reduction in workers’ income and subsidized capital.
This policy acquired, eventually, classist-like characteristics. The offer
policy would represent then an offence of the capital against workers, which
would make use of technological tools.
Finally, a third element that would
give a definite shape to the macro-context that is being described, is as major
event. We are referring to the downfall of the Post War Order.
(second half of the century) presented a balance among classes, parties, states
The Berlin Wall’s fall down put an end to that state of
affairs. The big socialist spaces, marginally inserted to the world market are
in different stages of an unfinished process of absorption by capitalism.
This process, of exceptional political, social and economic features,
imposed a modification to the statu quo, brought in after the Second World War.
Europe and Asia, constitute, then the two big areas on the planet included
in this process. Having been on the edge of the Cold War, they are the core
place where the capitalist restoring offensive is developed nowadays.
repercussion of these events is important.
In Occident there has been for a
long time an insistent capital offensive towards workers. The conjoint of rights
and guarantees that strengthen the labour force, has been the “butt” of all
attacks. The social policy of the bourgeoisie has completely lost the “subtlety”
of the immediate post-war.
The social and political contention of
workers-within the Social Wellfare frame-has become a systematic, depredating
action that swallows all the “privileges” and “acquired rights” by the masses.
Either in Western Europe or in North America-or even in Japan-this “war”
policy has a name. But also in Latin America, Africa or Asia this attack is
given the same denomination: “flexibilization”. Behind this characterization we
can’t find nothing but the “necessary” and “only natural” adjustment of the
labour force (Paraguayan, South Africa, South Korean, German, North America,
Japanese, and so on and so forth) to the present day needs ,the imperatives of
the technological change and the world market competitiveness, that is to say,
the articulating mechanisms for the workers to submit to their burgesses.
This exceptional-due to its abarcative characteristics- offensive has had an
ally in the downfall of the Socialist regimens. The depth of one has to do with
the serious crisis of the other.
At the same time, the new international
situation required a new alignment among the main capitalists policies. The
“hole” left by the disintegration of the Oriental Board, one of the supporters
of the post-war geopolitical order, led to the commercial-economical
confrontation among the U.S.A, Japan and Western Europe. These confrontations
had been anticipated when in the 70’s the American dollar begins a devaluatory
process, modifying a great part of the systematic monetary architecture that had
been presented after the Second World War.
Globalization expresses various things. But in
all cases we are in the presence of an ideological expression (pro-market),
greatly influenced by the geographical factor. The dramatic reduction in
distance, brought to a limit, it’s the key that leads to the kingdom of
perpetual circulation in which friction of space has virtually disappeared. The
market then can show there, all its beneficial effects that come from the
extended continuous exchange. Of course, this domination of circulation, forces
constant geographical references to a dull accompaniment of the events, making
this transformation an insipid and useless geographization, that is in fact the
clearest instance of a sound negation of geography itself.(8)
comes back. Rediscovering geography?
Half way through along the road of globalization a
number of manifestations that generate some confusions have arisen. The
domination of the continuous circulation; absence of obstacles and the reduction
in differentiation, has been shaked by expressions about differentiation the
survival of conditions that are opposed to the principal concept of
That is how- along with the imposition of ideas about
globalization- the notion of region has been consolidated. Suddenly, in front of
the world’s attractions (globalization) the existence of areas with certain
characteristics was proved. This areas were internally, to some extent,
heterogeneous but at the same time they showed signs of heterogeneity compared
with the rest of the world’s space.
Apart from this, it is clear that this
“homogenous heterogeneity” had decisive influence, when they didn’t represent
discontinuity, in the phenomenon of circulation.
During the 90¨ s, and in
the globalizing idea being all the rage, an opposing movement begins, a new one
that will rediscover geography.
Early enough, a European trustworthy and
The Economist, will give us a lesson on the Apology of
Geography and, at the same time will denounce the “unsavable” limit for the
circulationist approaches. (9)
From a different perspective, the American
economists, Paul Krugman, has also made of geography a profession of faith, and
has emphasized the necessity to take into account the material frame for the
economic events, that separately analysed are a vain and -why not- mystifying
effort making of this the most important phenomenon for all those “market
The interesting thing about this “geography rescue” is that
this revaluation of distance as a positional phenomenon, and that of the region
as an event referred to differentiation of areas,dates us back to a problematic
It turns out to be pathetic to find well-known members of
liberalism “beating around the bush” to finally resort to the old issue about
distance, brought up again as a crucial factor in economic terms. And all this,
after going on about globalization and its technological changes, just to end up
in the Middle Ages. (11)
Not only for those conservatives , is the
geographical factor a way back to the conceptual archaism, but also for
keynesians or neo keynesians the rediscovery of geography means a dangerous
“cross-roads” since it can also serve as a way to sink in the depths of past
This is how the regional phenomenon is regarded as a contradiction
within the macro-context of globalization.
Some other analysts, though, find
regionalization an intermediate stage in the long journey doomed to definite
In this sense, region appears as bygone phenomenon, as a
”naturalised” event, this is, as a large conjoint of basic and natural
conditions- -that distinguish, as a starting point, any single region; therefore
acting as a resistance against ongoing processes; that is to say, globalisation
means the effective destruction of the physical distance and acts as trigger of
What many people unluckily claim “Regionalization
Time”(Toklatian 2000) doesn’t mean to return to the past, that in time, would
mean a certain intrusion in history. On the contrary, it is a resulting
phenomenon from present day phenomenons and it doesn’t imply a formal
contradiction of globalization. Not even a temporarily resistance to the
negative destiny of distance (They are bound to disappear). According to this,
we can say that regionalization is just an example of the impossibility of
globalization -in the terms that it is stated- since that responds to the
inestability in the world market, as a result of struggles among monopolies and
their “sponsor” states.
This means, the question of globalization takes us
back to a former discussion (already overcome) at the beginning of the century,
about the possibility a total integration of the world market controlled by
political power geographically situated, what has been known as ultraimperialism
(12), and the restrictive claim of its geographical implausibility contained in
the magnificent refutation by Nicolai Burjarín(13).
“Globalization-International integrated production and World Economy”
Chapter 3, in World Investment Report, 1994
“Imperialism and World Economy”
Past, present and future editions. Bs.
“Geography is still relevant”
The forces of
Globalism are being resisted by neighbourhood” Bs As, 5/08/1994
“The theory of Dependence and Worldwilde System” in Tool N°8 Bs.
As., Spring-Summer 1998/99
GIDDENS, ANTHONY: ”State Reconstruction” in La
Capital newspaper, Mar de Plata, 14/05/00
of Manifest”, in Peripheries N°5, Bs As, 1998
“Back to Big
Norma Editions-Bs As, 1999
“Governality is a main challenge” The Ambito Financiero newspaper Bs As,
“ Mercosur can’t be replaced by anything” in
the Ambito Financiero (newspaper) Bs As, 23/03/00
Peripheries N° 6 Bs As, 1999
“Argentine a huge illusion” in The Clarin newspaper, 9/01/00
“Regionalization Time” in, La Nación paper, Bs As 18/12/99
VON HUMBOLDT ALEXANDER
(1) The world goes through a period in which there are big changes,
generating a general commotion. The acceleration of the technological
revolution, that comes behind this process of globalization, has such magnitude
that drags in its twister all the countries, even the U.S.A. On the
international stage at the beginning of the 21st century, the U.S.A. isn’t just
another powerful force, it emerges with great force, sometimes threatening,
finding its source in the technological determinism and in the economic
globalization that characterise this word period (Carlos Menem, Ambito
Financiero, May, 2000)
(2) We should bear in mind that the concept of
globalization is surpringsily young, people think that-since everyone talks
about it-it’s something old, but it’s not true. A feature of globalization is
globalization itself. Over the last two years I’ve been to approximately 40
countries and I haven’t found any of them in which globalization isn’t talked
of. Ten years ago this word was completely unknown (Anthony Giddens, in the La
Capital de Mar de Plata newspaper, 14/05/00, Bs As)
(3) An interesting
viewpoint is given by Theotonio Dos Santos: “Until the 30’s, in Argentina or
Brazil, for instance, we had a labour movement without much latinoamerican
conscience, it had a “more European like” formation. But after the 30’s, this
labour movement begins to acquire a deep latin american dimension that was
ignored and even attached by former socialist groups which couldn’t understand
that “latin americanity” was part of the affirmation of the working class of
this region, for no one can claim oneself as a class if you’re not within your
nation or your immediate social reality. The great part of the left wing has
witnessed this reality’s alienation with an abstract vision of humanity, that
doesn’t have concrete cultural contents” p.p61-62
(4) That the terms
Boundaries and Peripheries correspond to Social Studies magazines, is clearly
reflected in Argentina. In the N° 5 edition of the “Peripheries” magazine, for
example, it is noticeable that the piece of work by Anglo-Saxon geographer,
David Harvey, begins the 1150th Anniversary Commemoration of the Communist
Manifest. The tittle of this work is more than a hint “The Geography of
(5) Many of the technological achievements during the post- war
period have improved other technologies. The achievements in transport
technology have been continuous, reducing time and cost for the transportation
of the materials for products and people. For instance, the aeroplane evolution
has dramatically shortened global distance. New York is said to be “just a
stone’s throw” from Tokyo, in terms of time and journey that was once from
Chicago during the second half of the 19th century.
The arrival of the
satelital technology in the early 60’s has expanded the geographical scope of
communication. However, a main feature of the period immediately after the
Second World War has been the development (and from the late 60´s) and the
widespread importance of new technology based on the microelectronic revolution
and specially, what is considered as most relevant and new generic technology:
media technology. This settles a new technical-economic paradigm, given that the
introduction of the new media information has such effect of insertion over
economy that changes the production and management style through the system
(World Bank, 1994)
(6) Of course, the use of the term emerging market also
denotes a loss, to a great extent ,of the developing perspectives more adjusted
to the possibility of direct foreign inversion in a peripheral space, and the
domination of the financial inversion as a mechanism for the centre-periphery
(7) I believe that there are some aspects of globalization that are
to be regulated. We just take the Internet phenomenon as an example. It was a
project of the Pentagon at the beginning, a project of the Cold War. Now it’s
widespread, you just can’t step back, you have to get used to it, “adapt”
somehow. We have to accept and understand the opportunities it can give but we
have to regulate its results” (Anthony Giddens, op.cit)
(8) Nature is- for
thinking people- unity within multiplicity, a summation of subjects, natural
things and the natural forces as a “living whole”. The most important result of
physical investigation-carried out with sense-is what follows: to recognize the
unity within multiplicity, from what is individual embrace all that this era
offers us with its discoveries, alienate peculiarities analytically and avoid
being defeated by its mass. Taking into account the human destiny, understand
the spirit of nature that lies hidden underneath appearance.
road, our vocation goes through the fragile boundary of the world of the senses,
and we can achieve a domination, through ideas, from the raw material of the
empirical point of view, understanding nature. (Humboldt “Cosmos” Berlin)
(9) People are not thinking machines (they absorb at least as much
information through eyesight, smell and feelings, as the abstract symbol and the
world is not immaterial, virtual reality is not such reality. The weight of
time, space, territory and history over humanity –to sum up, geography- is
greater than that that could ever cause earth technology. (The economy
newspaper, August 1994)
(10) You can find out about this author: “Back to
the Big Depression Economy”
(11) It should be inferred by “liberalism” as
“conservatism” or orthodoxy. We shall see two examples:
“The first point
that should be mentioned is the trade increase within the Mercosur members,
which according to the way that it has been generated it is regarded as
“derivation” (in contrast with “creation”) of trade. It’s a phenomenon that
would have given-anyway-during the following years of having followed unilateral
This is because, in a world where the transport costs-and also
those of communication-are still huge. The aperture has to necessarily favour
trade within neighbours, this is to say, the regional commercial integration.
The fact that “geography matters” for the determination of trade, discards
rapidly other integration opportunities with the NAFTA or the alliens.
main point is that Brazil cannot be ignored in the trade policy in Argentina”.
(Fernando Navajas, in the Ambito Financiero newspaper, 23/03/00)
doubt that part of the most terrible problems in Argentina are due to the huge
distance that separates the country from the main European and American markets.
If Argentina were situated in Western Europe, the problems with its
commercial and technological backwardness would be solved. The problem, of
course, is how to overcome this physical distance. In this sense, the
technological achievements give Argentina an important spatial advantage. Now
that instant communication is possible, the most distant economies can be very
competitive in the high-tech area. (Jeffrey Sachs, in the Clarin newspaper
9/01/00; p.g. 7)
12) The classic version of “ultraimperialism” corresponds
to Karl Kautsky at the beginning of the century. But there have been constant
renderings of this approach. You can resort to Carl Parrin, 1999
(13) We are
referring to his well-known work: ”Imperialism and World Economy” 1971.
(c)Omar H. Gejo y Ana M. Liberali
(c)Centro de Estudios Alexander
Artículo publicado en Posición Internacional Año 2, Nro 2.