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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Globalization Is Doubly Chimeric

If I may be permitted an observation standing in for a proper essay (it's my brief vacation between my spring term in the City just ended and my summer intensives at UC Berkeley beginning in a week, and I am feeling a little glib and a little glum): Globalization seems to me to be doubly chimeric, in the senses both of mirage and of assemblage. First, the postwar Washington Consensus is a dumb dream of Empire, at best an eyeblink empire, ephemeral, militarily inept, profoundly unaccomplished (characterized by the phony productivism of marketing and promotional forms presiding over the inflation of a catastrophic petrochemical bubble), one hopes the last and least of the patriarchal war machines. Hence, "late" capitalism, post-modernity, twilight of the idols, and the rest. Of course, the post-modern is supposed to consist in an incredulity toward metanarratives, and yet there is quite a metanarrative embedded in this very observation, as there cheerfully admittedly are in Lyotard's, too. Although I tend to disapprove of the corralling together of the disparate and contentious figures who tend be critiqued under the heading of the "post-modern," usually to provide excuses for not really reading them, I do think there is a real usefulness in describing "modernity" as the way of European encounter with itself by way of its enabling others inside and outside itself across the long world-shattering world-making epoch book-ended by the Thirty Years' War and the Second Thirty Years' War (in the Churchillian framing of the early twentieth century's two World Wars as a whole). It isn't accidental but essential to my way of looking at these things (if "things" they may be said to be) that the querelle des anciens et des modernes is inaugurated in the French ascendancy in the immediate aftermath of the Thirty Years' War by the legibly national intellectuals in the Académie française and was then taken up in the creation of self-consciously nationalist culture criticism in the English Restoration epoch. This leads to the second point, actually already underway, that globalization is chimeric as well in the Second sense of hybridity, functioning as a hinge between more significant social formations, on the one hand a tattered post-war vestige of European internationalism (the modern epoch of the nation-state system and colonial empires) and on the other an inking of the epoch of sustainable polycultural planetarity to come (if humans do not destroy themselves first through war, waste, pollution in this awful transitional epoch). Nation-state internationalism, UN/Washington Consensus globalism, and the polycultural planetarity to come are all toti-planetary formations, of course, as the Alexandrians, Chinese, Romans, Spanish definitely were NOT, the first predatory, the second illusory, the third provisory (defined at once by the values of sustainable provision and always provisional equity-in-diversity). As I said, an observation, not an essay.

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