Books Discussed in this Section
James Rosenau (2003) Distant Proximities: Dynamics Beyond Globalization, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
The various voices in the previous sections have been developing the notion of multiscalar, multidimensional, as well as multi-directional globalizing forces at play. These forces are accountable for both large scale globalizing effects as well as the emergence of new microscales of openings along with a new generation of hybrid (local-global/ global-local) actors. We are beginning to realize that the global and the local are neither dichotomous terms nor opposite movements, but rather, are interrelated or entangled operations of a single epochal transformation. With forces at play that move simultaneously up, down and across the scales of human action, forces that amass greater interconnectivities and interdependencies while simultaneously shattering their old relationships and redistributing both their contexts and meanings, forces that simultaneously reinforce and challenge the power laws, continually shifting the tides of human agency in a constancy of flows– it is no wonder that the old templates of scalar anlayses no longer fit. One might argue that these old ways of looking at things, based in the hidden assumptions about order, hierarchy and optimization, actually undermine the conditions required for resilient action. This in turn might create a disconnect between the human-action systems and the ecological systems in with which they are entangled, mutually embedded and mutually enfolded. The various voices in the previous section have given us a strong sense of what is to follow; but none has achieved a more comprehensive description of the forces at play than James Rosenau. His insight and analyses are so critical to the understanding needed in the emerging epoch, that he is quoted at length in this section. A thorough understanding of what Rosenau calls “fragmegration” — the simultaneous process of fragmenting and integrating, provides the essential bridge to the further reaches of this manifesto.
Rosenau starts with a spatial oxymoron called “distant proximities” to account for a defining shift in geosocial space in the age of globalization and which highlights the inadequacies of previous terms. Rosenau says his distant proximities is the concept with which to organize the currents of world affairs.
Globalization is bringing peoples closer apart and places further together — John Rennie Short
His hope in this book is to introduce conceptual equipment beyond that of globalization that can substantially clarify, enrich, and expand our grasp fo the course of events as the twenty-first century unfolds” …
[T]he best way to grasp world affairs today requires viewing them as endless series of distant proximities in which the forces pressing for greater globalization and those inducing greater locatlization interactively play themselves out. To do otherwise, to focus only on globalizing dynamics, ot only on localizing dynamics, is to risk overlooking what makes events unfold as they do.
One of the useful conceptual tools Rosenau gives us is the term “framegration” intended to “suggest the pervasive interaction between fragmenting and integrating dynamics that are unfolding at every scale of life.”
[T]he fragmegration label captures in a single word the large degree to which these rhythms consist of localizing, decentralizing, or fragmenting dynamics that are interactively and causally linked to globalizing, centralizing, and integrating dynamics.
Throughout his book, Rosenau uses informal testimony– anecdotes and statements from participant-observers who document these kinds of events as they unfold today, such as the following two examples:
I use the local and the global as prisms for looking at the same thing… [I]t would be wrong to think that you either work at one or the other, that the two are not constantly interpenetrating each other. … [W]hat we usually call the global, far from being something which, in a systematic fashion, rolls over everything, creating similarity, in fact works through mobilizing particular identities, and so on …
[G]lobalization and localization unite all spatial scales. There is little, and maybe nothing that is global that does not have some sort of a local manifestation. And each local manifestation changes the global context. place centeredness is the amalgam of global change and local identity. Every place reveals itself at a variety of scales. Local perceptions are shaped by global influences, the combination of which process local actions. These in turn are fuelled by local aspirations, many of which are the product of global images and expectations. All these local activities accumulated to create chaotic but global outcomes.
Rosenau also describes the way new identities emerge and collate in geosocial space through the processes of fragmegration, and the way different individuals respond to them, by recombining and redefining their own distant and proximate worlds, and constructing as well as choosing (or refusing) new roles as participant actors within these newly subjectively-relativized regions.
[A]s distant developments become ever more proximate, the emergent epoch enables people to develop new, more flexible constructions of themselves. Their orientations, practices and lives are still shaped by macro structures, but the latter are now more numerous and flexible than in the past, freeing (even forcing) people to shoulder greater autonomy and to evolve new identities and shifting allegiances.
[T]he values, identities, capacities, strategies, and interests of individuals are posited as pervasive variables that, as they vary remain constant, can aggregate into substantial consequences for macro structures and the interaction sequences through which they are linked to their collectivities.
In short, fragmegrative circumstances constitutete “a condition that promotes personal autonomy from socially embedded expectations and opens up the world to exploration and personal experimentation: we can, to an increasing degree, choose who we are … .”
The pace at which and extent to which individuals and collectives are capable and willing to adapt, accommodate, and incorporate new roles through their efforts at recombining aspects of the distant and the proximate, the local and the global, determines what kinds of “world”they come to occupy, the “world” they see themselves in as actors or non-actors — determines whether a local, global, or private world arises as their geo-social spatial reality. This is not to suggest that only imaginaries are at work in creating new social spaces and new actor- roles and new world-scapes. Rosenau identifies eleven modern developments that are catalyzing changes that “increasingly generate multiple equilibria” :
- Microelectronic Technologies
- The rise of network forms of organization– particularly "all channel networks" in which every node can communicate with every other node– is one of the single most important effects of the information revolution for all realms, political, economic, social and military. It means that power is migrating to small, nonstate actors who can organize into sprawling networks more readily than can traditionally hierarchical nation-state actors. It means that conflicts will increasingly be waged by "networks" rather than by "hierarchies". it means that whoever masters the nettwork form stand to gain major advantages in the new epoch. Some actors, such as various terrorists and criminals, may have little difficulty forming highly networked, largely non-hierarchical organizations; but for other actors, such as professional militaries that must continue to uphold hierarchies at their core, the challenge will be to discover how to combine hierarchical and networked designs to increase their agility and flexibility for field operations.
- The Skill Revolution
- [In short, the primacy of the skill revolution has resulted in the global stage becoming more dense with actors.] In earlier epochs, it was occupied mainly by states and their inter-governmental organizations, but in the emergent epoch the cast of characters has multiplied time and time again.
- The Organizational Explosion
- If hierarchically structured states still dominated the course of events and were thereby able to contain and control the vibrant spread of horizontal networks, it is doubtful whether a new epoch would be emerging. For better or for worse– and given the vitality of the drug trade and crime syndicates, sometimes it is for the worse– the ever-greater salience of organizational networks is serving to restructure the underpinnings of world affairs.
- The Bifurcation of Global Structures
- In effect, the bifurcation of global structures nas become institutionalized and, as a result, contributes to the weakening of states… by creating spaces for the formation or consolidation of collectivites in the multi-centric world and, thus, for the activation of individuals who have not previously had an outlet for their global or local orientations. This
- The Mobility Upheaval
- Statistics for every form of travel reveal sharp and continuous growth, and the trend shows no sign of letting up. Not only is tourism among the world’s largest industries, but the data on business travel also portray a continuing and growing flow of people around the world. And then thee are the migratory flows that are driven largely by a search for employment and involve mostly people from the developing world moving into the industrial and financial centers of the developed world. All of these flows have been facilitated by transportation technologies, particularly the jet aircraft that have– through reduced travel time and lowered airfares– had a profound impact on diverse institutions throughout the world.
- The Weakening of States and Territoriality
- [The] very epoch of the nation-state is near its end. … It may well be that the emergent postnational order proves not to be a system of homogenous units (as with the current system of nation states) but a system based on relations between heterogenous units (some social movements, come interest groups, some professional bodies, some nongovernmental organizations, some armed constabularies, some judicial bodies).
- The Decentralization of Governments
- [The] longer-term and worldwide process whereby authority is undergoing relocation in response to the skill revolution, the organizational explosion, and the mobility upheaval has hastened the decline and decentralization of national governments. In some instances this trend has resulted in vacuums of authority filled by criminal organizations or by undertainties regarding where the rule-making power lies; but more often than not local, provincial, or private authorities move into the vacuum and sustain the processes of governance.
- Authority Crises
- With people increasingly skillful, with states weakened, and with other types of organizations proliferating, governments everyhwere are undergoing authority crises in which traditional conceptions of legitimacy are being replaced by performance criteria of legitimacy, thus fostering bureaucratic disarray, executive-legislative stalemate, and decisional paralysis that, in turn, enhance the readiness of individuals to employ their newly acquired skills on behalf of their perceived self-interests.
- Subgroupism arises out of the deep affiliations that people develop toward associations, organizations, and subcultures with which they have been historically, professionally, economically, socially, or politically liked and to which they attach high priority. Subgroupism values te in-group over the out-group.
- The Globalization of National Economies
- In contrast to the tendencies toward decentralization and subgroupism, the dynamics at work in the realm of economics are powerful sources of centralizing tendencies. … [For the most part] economic globalization in the last few decades has resulted in financiers, entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers now being deeply enmeshed in transnational networks that have superceded the traditional political jurisdiction of national scope.
- The Proliferation of Independence Issues
- Whereas the political agenda used to consist of issues that governments could cope with on their own or through interstate bargaining, conventional issues are now being joined by challenges that their very nature do not fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of states and intergovernmental institutions. Six current challenges are illustrative: environmental pollution, currency crisis, the drug trade, terrorism, AIDS, and the flow of refugees.
If we place these phenomenon within our lexicon of human action, we find that six of them are primarily phenomena of geo-social space (bifurcation of global structures, mobility upheaval, weakening of states and territoriality, decentralization of governments, authority crises, subgroupism)– all factors which tend toward decentralization and the opening of micro-spaces and emergence of new actors moving toward the shattering old connectivities and creating new localized roles; whereas the proliferation of independence issues is a factor of geo-social space where new localized actors emerge and move toward the creatin of new globalized roles. Similarly, we can map the three factors, microelectronic technologies, the skill revolution, and organizational explosion onto the technological domain of human action, and note that technologies facilitate movement in both directions– toward integration and globalization as well as fragmentaion and localization. Finally, the phenomenon of the globalization of national economies, is seen to be the defining movement in the economic domain of human action– a movement toward increasing aggregation, connectivity, consolidation, and globalization. These are important registers to remember about the particular dynamics in the three domains of human action– that the geo-social movement is toward opening and discontinuities, whereas the economic movement is toward consolidation and connectivities; while the technological domain remains a "neutral" — yet is a powerful multiplier that can as well facilitator or deter movements in either "direction."
The bulk of Rosenau’s book is dedicated to identifying and describing the world-scapes that emerge from these fragmegrative dynamics. Various Local Worlds are distinguished from several types of Global Worlds through the ways in which distances and proximities are conceptualized and placed into the context of one’s life. In Local Worlds, both local (in the contextualized sense) and localized (in the spatial sense) phenomena become "increasingly salient as sources or goals of the attitudes, behavior, or policies of individuals and collectives." In Rosenau’s scheme, differing conditions and varying dynamics in turn give rise to four types of Locals
The Insular Locals are distinguished by an exclusive concern with spatial proximities, with the geographically near-at-hand, with circumstances that can be directly encountered; the Resistant Locals and Exclusionary Locals contextualize proximity and allow for the spatially remote to be near-at-hand, but the Resistant Locals perceive the spatially remote as so threateningly close as to necessitate opposition, whereas the Exclusionary Locals are inclined to avoid the distant proximities they view as becoming too close.
[The fourth Local World] is occupied by persons who are neither isolated nor inclined to retreat in the face of globalizing dynamics. They are, rather, capable of absorbing external encroachments on their own terms without fearing their local world will loose its integrity. Indeed, by adapting the external inputs to local practices and norms without diminishing the distinctive feature of their world, the Affirmative Locals … can contribute to the integrative dimensions of fragmegration as much as they do to its divisive dimension.
In contrast to these Local Worlds, Rosenau describes four Global Worlds, three of which consist of persons “whose thoughts and actions are worldwide in scale and not confined to any territorially bounded space”
One of these is populated by Affirmative Globals, by elites, activists, and ordinary people who share positive inclinations toward the processes of globalization–especially toward those dynamics that foster and sustain a global marketplace– seeing them as moving humankind toward greater integration and prosperity.
In contrast, the Resistant Globals are no less worldwide in the scale of their orientations, but they, like their Local counterparts, regard one or more of the prevailing dynamics that sustain globalization as detrimental to the wel–being of peoples.
Similarly, the Specialized Globals are persons whose territorial orientations are not locally bounded but who are oriented toward only limited issues on the global agenda.
Roseanu alsod describes a fourth Global World, the Territorial Globals, "whose scale of thought and action is large but territorially bounded" and for whom foreign policy officials are the "quintessential examples."
Finally, to complete his inventory or world-scapes, Rosenau adds a brief exegesis of four Private Worlds,– the Alienated Cynics, Alienated Illegals, Circumstantial Passives and Turned-Out Passives– non of which include persons who authentically assume an actor-role in the realm of human action.
As a result of Rosenau’s inventory of the many worlds arising from the dynamics of fragmegration, we are left with the image of a densely overlapping and multi-dimensional, highly complex and multi-scalar, continually shifting field of world-sca;es, of which we are for the most part at a loss to grasp with familiar conceptual tools. How do we then design a future in response to both the positive phenomena we would like to facilitate, and the negative phenomena we would like to mitigate in this shifting field? How do we choose to meet future challenges? With what conceptual tools do we address such empirical complexity? With what normative judgments do we distinguish what are favorable or unfavorable phenomena, when faced with conditions we can neither prestate, much less predict, nor dynamics we can sufficiently model, nor the luxury of conventional wisdom, much less the traditional analytics of scale and the hidden assumptions about human action that have been outdated perhaps for decades now.
As Rosenau writes
The salience of such questions– and the uncertainty they generate– reflects the conviction that we are deeply immersed in an epochal transformation likely to foster a new worldview about the essential nature of human affairs … .