Sunday, November 13, 2005

Part of an occasional series, the rebuttal and commentary posts will address the roundtable on Globalization and War. This format is open to both the symposium's participants and other interested bloggers or scholars who would like their views published here.

Link Preface:

Globalization and War by Dave Schuler

"Globalization and War

by Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye

I thought I might put in my own two cents (uninvited) on ZenPundit’s roundtable topic, Globalization and War. First, a definition might be in order. Globalization is the idea that, as a result of increasing linkages in modern communications, trade, and social contact that the world is becoming consolidated on a global scale. This may be reflected in the development of a single world market, a single world society, a single world government or all three.

Opponents of globalization tend to portray the final outcome as a mean, homogenous mess in which economic welfare is spread out, as one critic put it, so that the average person would have a lifestyle that would “look good to a Pakistani bricklayer” and world culture would become a simulacrum of popular American commercial culture whose epitome is Ronald McDonald. That’s certainly a possibility but I think others are possible and, indeed, more likely than the “McDonald’s model” in which most people receive a subsistence wage and culture is a uniform commercial nightmare.

Another such model is the “Disney model”. In the Disney model there’s at least the illusion of prosperity but nearly all institutions worldwide are highly uniform. Everyone acts, believes, and thinks the same differing only in menu, language, and national costume. Think of the “It’s A Small World” ride at Disneyland.

A third model of globalization and one that I think is much more likely actually to come about might be characterized as the “linguistic model” in which there are many different styles of institutions and culture in “free variation”. In linguistics two sounds are in free variation when either sound may appear in the same environment without a difference in meaning and without a native speaker considering that either is wrong. For example, the word “economics” may be pronounced with the first sound as “eh” as in “get” or as “ee” as in “geese”, possibly by the same person. The sounds are in free variation.

This won’t mean that anything goes. There will be social pressure for a limitation on the number of acceptable options particularly on the outliers—whereever practice differs most dramatically from world norms.

Some people think that globalization is just another word for American dominance. I think that this is completely the opposite of the truth particularly if the “linguistic model” obtains. In many, many things including ideas of the nature of law, the role of government, and the position of the individual within society, the United States is the outlier and I suspect there will be mounting pressure on people in the United Status to adopt attitudes that are closer to those that are prevalent in the rest of the world.

Does globalization lead to war or discourage war? I think that the answer is “Both”. As countries become more interdependent economically war will become quite difficult and unpalatable. The commodity that Americans usually think of when they think of economic dependence on other countries is oil but I’d like to consider another: computer memories. Computer memories are not just used in computers. They’re used in a huge number of everyday objects including automobiles, electronic goods of all kinds, gas pumps, ATM’s, and stop lights. Computer memories are necessary for our military, government, and daily life to function as we’ve become accustomed.

We used to produce nearly all of our computer memories domestically. We produce nearly none now. Most are produced in South-East Asia: China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, etc. That’s globalization for you.

We’re simultaneously reluctant to go to war with the countries that produce the things we need (like oil or computer memories) and willing to go to war to protect our access to supplies of these things.

Still, as Clausewitz put it, “War is a continuation of politics by other means” and that doesn’t just mean external politics it pertains to internal politics as well. It’s possible to go to war with another country for reasons that have very little to do with country but everything to do with domestic politics. As countries come under the pressure to change due to globalization that pressure is all but certain to manifest from time to time as war. I suspect that this will be particularly true for the outliers especially when their cultural, political, or social variants depend on ignorance or force to maintain."

(Editorial Note: Dave Schuler's views are always welcome here at Zenpundit - an open invite to you Dave )


Thank you for the very interesting post.

Isn't "the linguistic model" exactly what al Qaeda is fighting against?

What does the first sound of economics mean in relation to anything else? Nothing. It is "free" of a true semantic network," floating independent of anything else.

Sure, there's social inertia dragging it along, but nothing that makes life worth making. Nothing that makes a future worth saving.

A linguistic future sounds like a meaningless future. To many, a future worth aborting.

Dan tdaxp
Dear Dave Schuler,

I thoroughly enjoyed your essay and I hope you will indulge a comment.

It has been pointed out by others that the process of globalization addresses two levels of human civilization--the world of individuals and the world of state actors.

In his contribution to the Roundtable, Prof. D.J. Rummel demonstrated how, in free democratic societies, the citizens tend, in the long run, to select policies and leaders that have a relatively high utilitarian value for producing happiness and prosperity in their societies, including, significantly, long and peaceful lives.

The frequency distribution of such choices against a ranked list of them -- from most useful to least useful, is a power-law distribution (Zipf's Law), which reflects the observed data in the Core states, where the "area under the curve" is mostly in the realm of the high-utility choices in policies and leaders (being fully cognizant of "outliers" and the "long tail".).

This at least is the observed "equilibrium" distribution after 200 years and a long turbulent start with slavery, "the Indian Problem", sexual and racial inequality, and even a short dalliance with Empire between 1898 and 1935.

I would argue that had American populations not made the highly utilitarian historic choices they made in leaders and policies that addressed those "initial conditions" -- there might not be a peaceful and prosperous society in America today. As much as the differences between Republicans and Democrats look large, seen up close, I hazard to guess that in a zoomed out view, their antagonism has produced acceptable approximations to some ideal (though the antagonism will be perpetually essential!).

Now, a power law disribution is highly skewed and not homogeneous at all. I think that argues against the predictions in the first and second scenarios of an homogeneously desultory global culture. Instead, this predicts a non uniform distribution weighted toward such things that make for a vibrant, creative, highly fecund and most of all useful or utilitarian global culture--the free variation scenario with kickapoo juice and large dimensionality. In existing exemplars such societies are also not Disney worlds, unless one would characterize present-day America in that way. Such societies exhibit diverse genres in the free pursuit of happiness or unhappiness: in religion, art, culture, science, and politics..

But what is "free"?

My definition of freedom is this: Freedom can be pictured as special kind of network topology--a highly connectable network of human beings and their institutions (just like the Internet is a highly connectable scale free network of human beings and their machines.). The degree of freedom in any given society is really the degree to which any human element of it can connect OR disconnect and back again with any other human element or institution in the network

"Free" societies are where the humans, who own all the free will, can freely connect or disconnect -- at will. Unfree societies are just the opposite. They are composed of disconnected Gulags -- archipelagoes of hate and division and demoralization, and violence.

I know this is a roundabout way of saying freedom is good, but it does buttress a strategy that you have already pointed out: to altruistically connect the Gap and Rogue state societies to the Core, so that the right memes get through. This is not just to engender good will, but to prepare the battleground of ideas for the proper operation of the "Rummel Principle."

I would argue that breaking the "Digital Divide" is more than a goodwill gesture with PR benefits. I think breaking that divide is crucially important because if it is not, the digital have-nots will be tinkering with bombs and bullets instead of commenting on blogs, or even just clicking on porno.

[Here in the Philippines (the First Iraq) we are determined to acquire, or would be ready to receive and deploy any spare computers and servers you might have because the enemy is well-entrenched in the old media and our best thinkers proclaim that communism has already won the peace though they lost the war. They call for us to surrender these connections. They call it nationalism.]

The problem of how to describe the ideal topology for the network of state actors, is however an outstanding one, even after all states are "Rummel-optimized. The stage upon which governments play are definitely not a scale free network of democratically interacting agents. Never could we have one nation one vote. I think democracies can definitely go to war on each other--I don't believe we can generalize that they don't. even if they have deep "connections" of culture, trade, science and ideas, as you say.

Maybe the key lies in the struggle between the two layers of Civilization: the citizens and the governments. In the long run, one of them has to get on top of the other. Computers and already globalized networks can help one of them do that.

But which one?

Dean Jorge Bocobo
Philippine Commentary
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