Books Discussed in this Section
Saskia Sassen (2007) Deciphering the Global, Routledge, NY
~ Anthony D’Andrea : Deciphering the Space and Scale of Global Nomadism – Subjectivity and Counterculture in the Global Age
~ Anne Bartlett : The City and the Self – The Emergence of New Political Subjects in London
The key to “deciphering the global” and its paradoxical character, one might argue, is in understanding how globalization dynamics differentially affect the three domains of human action. With respect to economies, globalization dynamics are conservative (increasingly resistent to change over time), accumulative (enacting power laws that predominantly scale upwards both linearly and hierarchically). The perfect diagram of this kind of dynamics is the pyramid. With respect to technologies, globalization dynamics tend to be conservative, but distributive, enacting power laws that predominantly extend the breadth of their reach over time. The perfect diagram of this kind of dynamics is a river branching across wider and wider regions on its way to the sea. With respect to geo-social spaces, however, the dynamics are progressive (increasingly resistant to stasis over time) and discontinuous, enacting power laws that are nonlinear and dynamically critical. A diagram of this kind of dynamics would be a much more complex illustration, and might look like diagrams of autocatalytic sets.
At the critical edges of these nonlinear processes of geo-social space are novel openings and appearances– of “segments of self-marginalized subjects”: highly mobilized postmetropolitan individuals, individuals disaffected with mainstream society, global nomads, tourists of the new leisure class, new age pilgrom, migrant workers, countercultural expatriates, techno shamans, and numerous types of bohemians, and other variations of deterritorialized countercultures. D’Andrea points out that
… new forms of subjectivity and identity are being developed in a dialectic interplay with major global processes … In this sense, globalization refers to the sheer intensification of processes of mobility, digitalization, multiculturalism, and reflexivity.
For D’Andrea, this process of cultural globalization and transformation also entails
… the dissolution and retooling of traditional and modern ways of life, along with the emergence of new forms of identity that are defined by their fluidic, deessentialized and reflexive nature.
Although extreme, these examples of completely de-localized gdo-social identities, contribute to the catalyzing of new spaces of appearances emerging on the global stage– appearances that are antithetical to stasis and conservation, as they thrive on permanent displacement and constant movement– actualized by and through the complex dynamics of globalizing cultures, wherein identities are formed primarily through geographical triangulation, across exotic locations and temporary or semi-permanent homeland bases– a pattern that, according to D’Andrea
… confirms the claim about the dialectic of mobility and moorings as key components of globalization… Overall, it is the moorings that enable movements. And it is the dialectic of mobility/ moorings that produces social complexity.
Although these self-marginalized subjects are enacting a crucial component of the processes of globalization, it is by no means clear that they are interested actors within the realm of human action. For the most part, these identities emerging at the far edges of geo-social space, are catalysts for the creation of alternatie social actor-identities on the global stage. Prominent among these emerging actors are politicized refugees, immigrants, and expatriates, who have incorporated the global stage as strategic terrain to practice their formal and informal political goals. On London streets, for example, journalist Anne Bartlett describes how
… refugees and immigrants build their own fowms of political meaning and act to redefine themselves as political subjects capable of making change…
Bartlee goes on the describe how the global comes to be enfolded into the urban landscape, as these deterritorialized global actors redefine the parameters of what it means to be political in urban centers today.
Changes, borne of disjunctures and contradictions between old and new migration flows, between competing ideologies of nation, region and tribe, and parity between formal and informal ways of doing politics, open up the political landscape and allow new modes of being political to emerge. Deciphering the global means getting into these spaces of contestation– into the cracks that are appearing in the political landscape and wathcing as new forms, new actors, and practices start to make themselves known.
Bartlett describes in detail the ways in which dynamics on the micro-level give rise to emerging identities as new global actors. She sees the city as the appropriate scale where multiple scales and actors can operate through local practices that are articulated with what she terms global flows. Thesenew identities, she argues, do not emerge in a vacuum, but through the points of encounter between individuals whose very identities have become, in a sense, the locus of conflict– the kinds of boundaries that are driving such change.
The key to understanding boundaries in this repsect is not to think of them as territorial encasements but as lines of difference that emerge or fade. … by focussing on entities in the making, it is possible to see how particular conjunctions or disjunctions act to produce, stabilize, and enact certain kinds of spaces and possibilities of being.
In these spaces new kinds of political selves can be generated by direct face-to-face contact with the other. But here I argue that extended sets of relations generated through the use of the Internet and other technologies constitute a different yet equally important moment of production. With the exponential increase in email Internet and satellite phone traffic, there is a multiplier effect of possibilities and means through which political actors can constitute themselves vis-a-vis others. And these new possibilities for identification, counter-identification, hostility, and alliance create new tensions that do not just reside in the virtual sphere; they collide on the street to produce new ways to do politics and new ways of political actors to think of themselves. Microspaces of gateways for action open up, created by flows and dynamics no longer contained within territorial bounds.