Globalization vs. Regionalization
Something more than
an apparent contradiction
Prof. Omar Horacio Gejo
National University of Luján
Alexander von Humboldt
Centro of Studies
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.
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 statu quo.
GLOBALIZATION: BACK TO GEOGRAPHY?
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)
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.
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.
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 evolution.
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
This period, 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.
From 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)
The concept of globalisation
gathers a series of implications that greatly present a geographical
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,
Distance has historically constituted one of the most
powerful differentiating mechanisms: What is distant presupposes something
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.
The 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.
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)
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
“ new 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.
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 “emerging markets”.
We should regard this term as the partial detachment, a
differentiation of what was formerly called Periphery or Underdeveloped
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 structure.(6)
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 man’s control.
Undoubtedly, 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.
A first significant instance, that
acts as a backdrop for the explicitness of globalization is, no doubt, the
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
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
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.
It goes without saying , that this other sociological abstraction
,probably to the highest extent, in a micro-sociological scale, made of
the world society a “workshop”.
All this interpretations evidently
respond to a misleading analysis that would be well defined as
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 technological imposition.
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”.
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 War.
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 “glory”.
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
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.
This period (second half of the
century) presented a balance among classes, parties, states and nations.
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
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
The repercussion of these events is important.
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.
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.
THE REAL EXPRESSION
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)
The region comes back. Rediscovering geography?
ORTHODOX, HETHERODOX, UNITED
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 globalization.
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 conservative source.
Economist, will give us a lesson on the Apology of Geography and, at the
same time will denounce the “unsavable” limit for the circulationist
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 devouts”. (10)
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 situation.
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
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
This is how the regional phenomenon is regarded as a
contradiction within the macro-context of globalization.
analysts, though, find regionalization an intermediate stage in the long
journey doomed to definite globalization.
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
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
“Globalization-International integrated production and World Economy”
Chapter 3, in World Investment Report, 1994
“Imperialism and World Economy”
Past, present and future editions.
Bs. As., 1971
“Geography is still relevant”
forces of Globalism are being resisted by neighbourhood” Bs As, 5/08/1994
DOS SANTOS, THEOTONIO
“The theory of Dependence and Worldwilde
System” in Tool N°8 Bs. As., Spring-Summer 1998/99
”State Reconstruction” in La Capital newspaper, Mar de Plata, 14/05/00
“The Geography of Manifest”, in Peripheries N°5, Bs
“Back to Big Depression Economy”
Editions-Bs As, 1999
“Governality is a main
challenge” The Ambito Financiero newspaper Bs As, 24/05/00
“ 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
TOBALTRAIN, JUAN GABRIEL:
“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 Manifest”.
(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 contact.
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.
Along this 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
“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.
The main point is that Brazil cannot be
ignored in the trade policy in Argentina”. (Fernando Navajas, in the
Ambito Financiero newspaper, 23/03/00)
“There’s no 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.
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
(c)Centro de Estudios Alexander von Humboldt