GLOBALIZATION AND EUROPE-ASIA:
RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES, af Johan Galtung
ASEM4People Conference, Copenhagen, 19 September 2002
Johan Galtung, Director TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network
We are meeting under the signs of globalization, in principle a process
whereby all genders, generations (also future), races, classes, nations
and countries and regions pull together
and cooperate, in a participatory and equitable way, to produce a world
with better livelihood for all. In Europe, Asia, all over.
The problem is that no such project exists in the world of today. We
have a male-middleaged-white-upper class-Western project particularly
from the OECD countries, and then even more particularly from the USA,
running the world. A more descriptive term than
"globalization" would be "Americanization"; a somewhat more generous
term would be "Westernization". But even those terms only locate the
process nationally/geographically; they do not touch the other
dimensions, of gender/generation/race/class. The whole process is
dominated by a small group of people, in a small group of countries,
using the term "globalization" as a cover-up. Uncritical use of the term
a part of that cover-up.
Nor is there any neo-liberalism. Liberalism connotes liber, free,
freedom, freedom of choice. That choice, of course, will include choice
of economic system. But what happens in the world is the promotion of
only one of the many economic systems: the free, meaning unfettered,
unregulated by anything, market system. There is no denial that this
system offers an enormous range of choice for those with the purchasing
power to enter the market. And never in history have so many had that
But never in history have so many been excluded in a world economy
where the 20/20 gap in purchasing power is increasing 3.10% annually,
while the world economic growth is only 2.8%. Increasing misery at the
bottom, and at the very bottom: death.
We live in a world where half of humanity has less than $2 per day, 1.7
billion people have less than $1, and 100,000 die every day because they
cannot buy the minimum needed for survival.
And there is no alternative. To refer to this in the rarefied air of the
academe as "neo-liberal", mindless of how "the other half" lives,
insults not only that half, but also the superb English philosophers
behind the idea of liberalism. But that cynical neglect of life at the
bottom of a killing economy is not the only reason to prefer the term
"neo-fascism" to "neo-liberalism".
In the real world globalization is run by an axis World Bank-IMF-WTO
these days. But to that has to be added a US State
Department-Pentagon-CIA solid political and military power
axis, to enforce that single economic system all over the world.
Supporting "free market"-oriented parties till they win the elections
(Bulgaria); bombing state, not private factories (Serbia);
using NATO forces to conquer and privatize (to foreign capital) state
mines (Trebca in Kosovo),promising enough aid to overcome the problems
of excessive rain and land-slides if they change the system (North
Korea)--all of this goes far beyond the presumed automatism of the free
market. And to that add the keynesian use of the military economic
sector as force motrice.
This is the use of political/military force for political ends, killing
human beings and letting them be killed by a cruel structure for
political purposes. That is called "fascism"; not the
fascism that springs from faith in a superior race or a nation with a
strong state, but a fascism that flows from the faith in an economic
system to end all systems and run the world. Hence "neo-fascism". like
in neo-liberalism. Or "geo-fascism", democratic on the inside, fascist
on the outside;like UK colonialism used to be.
There is also much talk about "democracy" these days. Under
globalization this means world rule, with the rulers ruling with the
consent of the ruled, according to generally accepted rules. A world
system against the will of the majority is undemocratic. But if the key
system actors are World Bank/IMF/WTO backed by State
Department/Pentagon/CIA, then the problem of their democratization
arises. Of these six actors three are major intergovernmental
organizations in the field of banking, financing and trade; and three
are the fists of "the only superpower", not even controlled by US
voters, let alone by a world electorate. On the other hand, if the USA
is "a global nation with global interests" (former head of the JCS John
Shilakasvhili) then the key to democratization would be a world
electorate participating in US elections. But that project is evidently
not on; nor for the three global economic actors run by a
priesthood of "economists".
A market is an expression of zillions buyer-seller deals; in the
market, not of, about the market. In principle all the three could
develop NGO fora for the governmental meetings, and inside the buildings
rather than on the streets outside fighting the police in encounters
reminiscent of the Bastille day. Those fora could then gradually become
more representative, even based on direct elections (not on selected
parliamentarians). They could learn from the UN,
and chances are that they would need less police to protect their
secluded, non-dialogical "politicians".
But the USA is dead against any such development. The market forces
should not be tampered with, as if the market is an articulation of
transhuman, divine will, properly understood only by
neo-classical/liberal economist priests. And only in their language,
the modern Latin, mathematics.
Such arguments reveal severe deficits in the understanding of
democracy. The essence of democracy is linked to the concept of
decision-making, and amounts to this: anybody affected should have a
say. But decision-makers have always jealously protected their
decision-making monopolies, with arguments ranging from the incompetence
of common people, to the delicate nature of the market and security
negotiations behind their closed doors.
Few decisions affect so many so deeply as those of the major economic
organizations. Opaque to the public eye, inaccessible to articulations
of the volonté générale, they are not only
authoritarian, but totalitarian. That they fit into what has been
referred to as "neo-fascism" above is obvious. It does not help that
governmental delegations may pretend to be accountable to national
assemblies at home. The system does not work the democratic way at the
national level either, domestically by the logic of state more than
This system of self-proclaimed "globalization" is too absurd to stand
the test of time. In a Sarkar cycle with power running
Military-Intellectuals-Merchants-People-Military we are now in
the Age of the Merchant. The Age of the Military was the Second world
war-Cold War and of the Intellectuals the 1970s till Thatcher-Reagan
identified a merchant wave on which they could ride. Widespread revolts
point to an Age of the People, of types the two iron fists cannot
handle, soon dwarfing the November 30 and April 15 demonstrations
against WTO and World Bank/IMF. Nonviolently.
But state reactions to such struggles may also easily be highly
autocratic military state- centered regimes ushering in a new Sarkar
cycle. Revolts against autocracy do not necessarily lead to democracy;
they could also lead to a different autocracy.
What we have seen so far can certainly be referred to as globalization
from above; economically, militarily, politically, and also culturally.
The culture of the West, and particularly
of the USA is found all over. The flow of counter-culture from below is
minuscule, and mainly limited to music and food. With that extreme
top-heaviness small wonder there are reactions, however misguided they
may be in the details. Almost all meetings of the World Bank/IMF/WHO
have been accompanied by demonstrations, in some of them violence has
evidently gotten out of hands.
But that demonstration violence is so triflish relative to decisions by
a small number of non-elected government officials! For such monumental
decisions affecting so many, more direct links to the world's population
are needed. As mentioned, the UN, not the Washington-based caricatures,
have managed this much better. The three should learn, like the World
Economic Forum, Davos may be learning something from the World Social
Forum, Porto Alegre.
In a world (UNDP) where 358 billionaires have more assets than half of
humanity, the metaphor "market" as something all-embracing is
ridiculous. The billionaires (and others) are not
only buying and selling. They also decide products and factor profiles,
changing the life of billions of people (like downsizing through
automation). They are no only operating in the market, they have power
over the parameters of the market.
Globalization means global sharing of the positive and negative
externalities, side-effects, of economic growth. Not only the wealth
generated but also the side-effects are very unevenly
distributed, with most positive side-effects landing high up and the
negative side-effects low down. At the feet of the poor. The "science"
of economics is blind to side-effects. Unintended?
With increasing disappearance of national markets, and more
importantly, local markets; with increasing world-wide disparity and
above all increasing displacement of people as ecological, economic,
political, military and cultural refugees (1 billion on the move by the
year 2030?) with hardened borders around rich countries and security
villages for rich people this will all become increasingly visible .
With the mobility (out-placing) of entire companies in search of cheap
labor, and lower or negative taxes (incentives), state and local
revenues will decrease in many countries. Privatization takes this even
further, depriving the state of revenue-creating companies.
Ever-increasing productivity leads to downsizing (unemployment) or
reduction of working hours (contract). If 1.7 billion earn less than $1
per day and 3 billion less than $2 we get
oversupply-overproduction relative to demand-consumption (80 million
cars chasing 60 million buyers). Ever-increasing top-bottom disparity
then leads to more short-term portfolio investment in search of profit
on the top, and more basic needs in search of satisfaction at the
bottom, in turn leading to underconsumption for basic needs, misery.
The IMF functions like physicians with only one medicine: increase
company autonomy, of the state (privatization, lower taxes,
devaluation), of the workers (labor flexibility, contract work), of
the country (repatriation of profit), of the public (no subsidies for
basic needs, no taxes on luxury products). Credit is made available to
such unscrupulous companies, leading to more disparity, misery, free
speculation capital and dependence. The net result is not a "war on
poverty", but a war on poor people. The problem to be explained in this
sad picture is not that people demonstrate, but that the reactions are
not even stronger. Still.
As a result of this the crises become self-sustaining. The system
will move from one crisis to the other, showing up where the system is
weakest, with attention to symptom therapy: preventing crashes on the
stock exchanges by building in delays to prevent panics, by bailing out
foreign firms. A major crash, with recession and even depression is
indeed highly likely.
So much for globalization from above; except for a personal remark
from this particular author. I love it, from a purely egocentric
cost-benefit point of view. I move like a strong fish in
globalized waters without any borders. I am globalized and also
privatized and do my thing, mediation, education, training and research
for peace and development accountable to nobody but
to the users of my skills. But I know that billions are not that
privileged. And I find the smithian idea, the basis of neo-liberal
economics, that one zillion egoisms adds up to altruism, one of the
most poisonous lies ever invented by the human mind. In the name of
solidarity with humans all over I extend my cost-benefit analysis to
humankind, and the disaster becomes visible.
What, then, would globalization from below look like?
The 1990s saw the demise of the Soviet style economic system. Localized
traditional systems with production and consumption within the
perimeters of the horizon, contradicting the material and mental
mobility of the transportation/communication revolution were also badly
hit. But maybe historians will argue that this was also the beginning of
the end of globalized capitalism? Anyone who can tolerate its
consequences without feeling revolt in the heart may be
accused of having none. The capitalist system contradicts the basic
material needs of the most needy like the Soviet system the spiritual
needs for freedom and for identity.
Massive failures call for massive innovation, and massive conflicts
call for massive remedies. Here are some crucial possibilities to be
included in a globalization from below:
The reinvention of local authorities: a major task of a local authority
would be to coordinate production for basic needs on a local basis (or
in a confederation of LAs), to see to it that they are met, internalize
externalities (side-effects), and reduce pollution due to transportation
and other factors, all of this accountable to local democracy;
The reinvention of the state: a major task of the state is to
coordinate the production of normal goods on a state basis (or in a
confederation of states), to internalize externalities, to
reduce pollution and to be a redistributive agent. But this has to be
accessible to all, with good quality at affordable prices,
efficient/effective, and accountable to national democracy;
The reinvention of the company: companies have to assume ecological and
social responsibility, and be rewarded and punished accordingly by their
customers. This presupposes accurate information about all major
companies to know which companies to punish through boycott. And which
companies to prefer, probably not because the side-effects of the
production, distribution and consumption of their goods and services are
perfect, but because they are better than the average. In imperfect
Nobody will force anyone not to buy from blacklisted companies. Market
behavior should be free. But freedom will have to based on relevant
information. Nobody in a democratic information society can possibly
want to withhold information relevant for informed opinion about
anything so important as buying and selling. Company-customer dialogues
are badly needed.
The idea, cherished by mainstream economists, that the only relevant
information is quality to you as an individual, and the price, also to
you as an individual, is sickening in its egocentric limitation. Other
types of economists are needed.
The reinvention of civil society: consumer consciousness must lead to
collection of data as a basis for the organized preference for, and
organized boycott of, companies, as argued above. This means more power
to the LAs over the country's finances, a ecentralization, devolution
downwards with the LAs deciding over, say, at least 50% of public
budgets. They know better where the shoes (plural) are pinching. But
the may also engage in localist "municipocentrism" -
so don't given them 100%! And strong NGOs, among them the political
parties, must be there to supervise the resource allocation from a basic
But these are mainly tasks in the field of economics. Then there is
the political task of exercising political pressure on the national
governments, from below - and of relating to other NGOs in other
countries--like the LAs which also will have to internationalize and
cooperate--in order to gradually eliminate inter-governmental
organizations like the three suspects above.
But they should aim higher than a life as pressure groups and lobbies.
The global civil society, LA-rooted, NGO-rooted, is already today in a
position to take matters in their own hand rather than waiting for slow,
lazy, semi-conscious governments. The general experience is that where
the civil society leads the way after thorough work and negotiation,
governments will sooner or later follow, if for no other reason not to
be left behind. Recent examples--land mine, debt forgiveness and
international criminal court treaties--are numerous and compelling.
The reinvention of the media: liberating the media from corporate and
state interests, and direct and indirect censorship. The national and
world civil societies would be better at running
decent media being closer to real people and their real needs, not only
"life-styles". Media should make State, Capital and Civil Society, and
the elites and people in all three transparent to each
other. All of this at the local, national and global levels. A tall
bill indeed. A fine challenge for journalists to take on!
The invention of global governance would include massive taxation of
speculation, and basic needs guarantees for humankind as global human
rights for global citizens. Two ideas dear to the "globalization from
above"-discourse, "globalization" itself, and "democracy", combine into
global democracy: more than the sum of countries calling themselves
democracies regardless of disrespect for people outside their own
borders (and often inside, too).
To get there takes some time. But the image will as usual precede
reality: a United Nations immensely strengthened by having a UN Peoples
Assembly in addition to, and gradually over and above the General
Assembly, of course with that feudal institution of veto power for big
powers abolished. Democracy is such a good idea that it is worth
practicing, at all levels! So, do it!
Like in the European Union and the Indian Union (the Soviet Union might
even have survived had they added democracy). And with dialogues between
companies and consumers practicing the power of "to buy or not to buy".
And with media living up to these tasks.
The civil society will have to be the driving force. European and Asian
governments meeting behind closed doors and driven by corporate
interests will not do it. People will have to lead the way for anything
basic. They always did. They will do so again.
But let me add to this some non-economic themes.
The European Union, particularly in its early phase as a six states
European Community, and ASEAN, have a very positive achievement to their
credit: peace among the member countries. A very troubled part of the
world, the Middle East, could learn from this. Five neighbors
accommodated Germany after 1945 as a member of a family; how about
Syria-Lebanon-(fully recognized) Palestine-Jordan-Egypt doing the same
to a peaceful Israel? EU and ASEAN have important experience to share.
Material support in building a Middle East Community(MEC) would also be
Europe-Asia stretches from the Atlantic way into the Pacific. Soon
there will be a train running, from Japan, then on a ferry to Pusan in
South Korea, then across the terrible divide
splitting the Korean nation caused by Japanese colonialism and
superpower, mainly US dictate, and through the vastness of Russia into
any part of Western Europe. There will also be a southern link through
South and West Asia. Make it a peace train with thousands of youth
traveling at affordable fares, weaving the world together.
And let us overcome the colonial pattern of taking it for granted that
Asian youth has to learn European languages and not vice versa. That
train could also be a rolling language laboratory. Let command not only
of a foreign language, but of a language from another
continent, become a sign of culture!
Human rights: Europeans see them as individual, in a cultural tradition
Europeans think is universal; Asians add such collective rights as the
right of villages not to be swallowed by expanding cities, of
traditional crafts not to be killed by "modernization" and of extended
families to be juridical persons. Fascinating themes, as key topics in
an evolving dialogue of civilizations.
1)Moderates All Over The World, Unite!
2) “Another World Is Possible”, But Only If We Act Together!
Please forward these articles to individuals, friends and organisations
you believe may be interested in receiving them. If you would like to
re-print these articles in your magazine or journal, please feel free to
do so, including a reference to their source and link to the TRANSCEND
web-site at www.transcend.org . Organisations and individuals wishing to
include the articles on their web-sites are asked to do so by creating
links to the