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Asunto:NoticiasdelCeHu 161/02
Fecha:Viernes, 22 de Marzo, 2002  23:08:00 (-0300)
Autor:Humboldt <humboldt @............ar>

NCeHu 161/02
 
 
Globalization vs. Regionalization
Something more than an apparent contradiction
 

Prof. Omar Horacio Gejo
Lic. Ana María Liberali
National University of Luján
Alexander von Humboldt Centro of Studies
ARGENTINA
 
 


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 statu quo.

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)
We 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.
The 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 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 elided.(3)
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 SCOPE

The concept of globalisation gathers a series of implications that greatly present a geographical characteristic.
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.
Distance has 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.
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.
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
“ 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.
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 “emerging markets”.
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 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.


THE CONTEXT

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 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.
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 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 technological imposition.
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 Germany and-especially-Japan.
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 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”.
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 the 70’s.
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.
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 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.
The 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.

THE REAL EXPRESSION


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)
The region comes back. Rediscovering geography?

ORTHODOX, HETHERODOX, UNITED

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 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.
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 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 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 legacies.
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 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 different realities.

RE-DESCOVERING BURJARIN

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).


BIBLIOGRAPHY

WORLD BANK
“Globalization-International integrated production and World Economy”
Chapter 3, in World Investment Report, 1994
BUJARIN, NICOLAI
“Imperialism and World Economy”
Past, present and future editions. Bs. As., 1971
THE ECONOMIST
“Geography is still relevant”
The 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
GIDDENS, ANTHONY: ”State Reconstruction” in La Capital newspaper, Mar de Plata, 14/05/00
HARVEY, DAVID:
“The Geography of Manifest”, in Peripheries N°5, Bs As, 1998
KUNGUAN, PAUL
“Back to Big Depression Economy”
Norma Editions-Bs As, 1999
MENEM, CARLOS
“Governality is a main challenge” The Ambito Financiero newspaper Bs As, 24/05/00
NAVAJA, FERNANDO
“ Mercosur can’t be replaced by anything” in the Ambito Financiero (newspaper) Bs As, 23/03/00
PARRINI, KARL
“The Ultraimperialism Era”
Peripheries N° 6 Bs As, 1999
SACHS, JEFFREY
“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
“Cosmos”- Berlin

REFERENCES


(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.
(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.
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 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 policies.
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.
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 von Humboldt

Artículo publicado en Posición Internacional Año 2, Nro 2.