John Boli, Michael A Elliott, Franziska Bieri. Handbook of Social Problems: A Comparative International Perspective. Editor: George Ritzer. Sage Publication. 2004.
After a decade or so of self-congratulatory neoliberal homilies about the wonderful new world forged by the irresistible deus ex machina of globalization, by the late 1990s globalization had become the target of wave upon wave of fist-shaking critics and self-proclaimed champions of the poor and the oppressed. Vivid images of heavy-handed police tactics at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Seattle, raw street violence in Genoa, the clamorous World Social Forum gatherings in Porto Alegre to challenge global capitalism’s annual summit in Davos (the World Economic Forum)—all this, and much more, have made “antiglobalization” a prominent presence on the world stage. Not a coherent movement but an inchoate array of disparate nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), activists, grassroots organizations, labor unions, anarchists, academics, and numerous other elements, the antiglobalization forces preach a long litany of complaints that have little in common except for one overriding theme: Globalization is the problem, not the solution.
Our purpose here is not to assess the purported sins of globalization. Rather, we will survey the antiglobalization landscape, conducting a kind of ecological analysis of the many species of antiglobalization in the context of a theoretical framework that can help answer several fundamental sociological questions: Why has globalization become the dreadful scourge of the twenty-first century? Why do social movements increasingly express their concerns as problems of globalization? What social processes give rise to these movements, and what is the deeper meaning of the social problems they identify as consequences of globalization?
Our analysis begins with a theoretical framework within which we situate the globalization problematique. We use ideas borrowed from Durkheim (2001, 1984), Douglas (1966, 1986), Ellul (1975), and several global cultural analysts (Boli and Thomas 1999; Meyer et al. 1997; Robertson 1992; Thomas et al. 1987) to depict the rising tide of complaints about globalization as efforts to preserve or restore sacred elements at the core of the world moral order. Put another way, globalization is used as an umbrella term covering a panoply of failures of various authoritative or powerful actors in world society—states, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), corporations, and individuals—to act in accordance with global models specifying the broadly legitimated responsibilities they are expected to assume. In this depiction, globalization itself (as a catch-all concept used in numerous theories-of-everything) could emerge only under particular world-cultural conditions, and its appropriation by moral guardians as the embodiment of evil is a logical consequence of those conditions.
We then conduct our ecological survey, identifying the many species of ills linked to globalization and further elaborating our counterfactual analysis regarding species of ills for which globalization could be, but is not, blamed. This survey has two components: We review the ills themselves and identify the types of victims championed in antiglobalization discourse as well as the presumed villains and heroes in the great struggle between good and evil that globalization has come to represent. Our penultimate section discusses the solutions offered to redeem the sins of globalization, and the conclusion discusses structural conditions that affect the intensity of concern about globalization and speculates briefly about future developments.
Theorizing the Globalization Problematique
An important substantive observation for our theoretical analysis is globalization’s polymorphous character. Laments about the imprecision of the term are commonplace—it means too many things in too many contexts. For many, globalization is only or essentially economic (Amin 1997; Chase-Dunn 1998; Gereffi and Korzeniewicz 1994; Sklair 2001): rising world trade, expanding foreign investment, global companies, multinode production chains, and the IGOs (mainly the IMF [International Monetary Fund], and GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade]/WTO) that manage the world economy. Others emphasize political globalization in the form of international law and courts, democratization, the general population of global governance IGOs, the rapidly expanding array of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) that constitute global civil society, and so on (Diamond 1993; Keohane and Nye 1989). Still others focus on cultural globalization—values (e.g., human rights and environmentalism), lifestyles (fast-food restaurants, video games, high fashion), media consumption (CNN, Hollywood, and Bollywood), and problematized local cultures and national identities (Appadurai 1990, 1996; Hannerz 1991, 1996; Küng 1998; McLuhan 1989; Smith 1980; Ritzer 1993). The concept has become so elastic that it verges on totality.
This totalistic quality has the interesting consequence of making globalization available as an explanation of almost any observable feature of contemporary world society. It has the added attraction of bringing to the fore the most powerful actors in world society as both engines of global development and potential brakes on global progress. Thus, transnational corporations (TNCs) are often seen as the dynamos powering the globalization dreadnaught, backed up by mighty states (of the capitalist core, the West, or rising Asian countries), and facilitated by the neoliberal programs of the IGOs that manage the world economy (Broad 2002; Mander and Goldsmith 1996; Rodrik 1997; Sklair 2001; Smith and Johnston 2002). States (and, in most accounts, only states) can also inhibit globalization if they are sufficiently strong, misguided, or fanatical.
In any case, globalization is the arena in which the giants of the modern world pit their strength and wiles against one another. The combatants of the globalization arena are daunting in their power, wielding their gleaming technology like master arc welders or time-warped gladiators. The world arena buzzes with the excitement of the splendiferous riches offered by globalization while an undercurrent of grave danger and potentially illimitable catastrophe swirls beneath the arena floor.
A realm of superhuman beings with the capacity for great good and evil, offering rewards beyond imagining to those who do their bidding but threatening by their sheer size and strength, locked as they are in intense competition, to crush the mere mortals who observe in awe their momentous struggles—this is the global morality play it is our pleasure and horror to attend. The play’s script is grounded in the global moral order that is a fundamental pillar supporting the broader world-cultural canopy that has crystallized over the past two centuries (Boli 1997). Globalization has become a dominant concern within the global moral order as both the god of peace and prosperity and the beguiling devil that visits humanity with misery and destruction. What has brought globalization to the fore as the central moral dilemma of our time is, thus, the dense organization and institutionalization of world culture and its foundational moral order, particularly over the past 50 years (Boli and Thomas 1999; Meyer et al. 1987; Meyer et al. 1997).
To understand globalization’s moral centrality, therefore, we begin with the world moral order. Like all moral orders, the global instance builds on a distinction between the sacred and the profane (Douglas 1966; Durkheim 2001). The sacred is both powerful and dangerous (Ellul 1975), constituting the central locus of authority, value, and meaning in the cultural realm. It commands reverence, deference, respect, and sacrifice. Those subject to the sacred must approach it with care and discipline, never treating it with the instrumentality or casualness that earmark everyday behavior in the realm of the profane.
Weber (1968) argued that rationalization disenchants the world, stripping away the gods and spirits and leaving nothing in their place but emptiness. Here, Weber erred. The world is disenchanted, yes, but not so the cultural complex that has disenchanted it. Rather, as Ellul (1975) argues, the disenchanting forces themselves have generated new forms of sacrality in place of the demoted sacred order. Durkheim (1973) and Goffman (1956) corrected Weber’s misunderstanding by showing that rationalized (differentiated) culture embeds sacrality first and foremost in the individual—not in individuals as discrete carbon units, but in “the Individual” as a mythic concept around which a cult of great power has coalesced. The individual is the ultimate source of political authority: Sovereignty resides in the people and is delegated by them to the institutions that govern them. The individual is the ultimate source of (monetarized) value: Individuals labor, harvest, invest, deal, invent, and sell, producing wealth and ever-rising gross national product (GNP)/capita. The individual is the ultimate locus of meaning: Only individuals are capable of deriving meaning from the swirl of life; only individuals can give life the meanings it assumes. For those whose worldview is thoroughly constructed by individualist culture, all this is patently obvious: Only individuals are real, tangible, acting agents. Families, ethnic groups, companies, states, and INGOs are nothing but collections of individuals, convenient fictions without distinctive substance.
But the sacred core of the world moral order is not so simple. Alongside the mythic Individual, collectivities enjoy some degree of sacrality. In line with many historical traditions, the family is not wholly reducible to the sum of its (individual) parts; neither is the village, the clan, or the ethnic group. In rationalized form, “protected classes” of individuals—racial and ethnic minorities, identity groups defined by disability, sexual orientation, and the like, and various other particularistic categories—are moderately reified and sacralized. Yet these collectivities are continually undermined by the highly reified individual, and only one collectivity—the nation—enjoys a sacred status that is at all comparable to that of the individual. The nation provides a major source of identity for individuals as citizens, a consequence of the extensive nation-building efforts of states and private actors that downplay other sources of identity in favor of the national collectivity (Anderson 1991; Bendix 1964). Nations are the primary collective building blocks of world society, managed by states that are presumed to represent the will of their ultimately sovereign citizen-individuals. States are therefore the armed protectors of the sacrality of citizen-individuals, and the assumed (if rarely realized) coincidence of nationhood and statebounded territory makes the collectivity of citizenindividuals within the territory a sacred entity in its own right.
The mythic Individual is instantiated by each individual person; as such, the world moral order posits a fundamental egalitarianism among these carbon units that was always present in the doctrines of Christendom (a major source of the original version of the moral order). Christendom allotted one and only one soul to every person; the more secularized global order allots one and only one personality (two or more constitute a pathology). Christendom made eternal salvation the ultimate and universal existential issue; the global order makes individual development and self-actualization in this world the primary measure of the “life well lived.”
From this dual underpinning of the egalitarian individual and the encompassing nation, the global moral order presents a complex set of derivative categories, mostly collections of individuals who are deemed worthy of special consideration because they suffer inequalities or are excluded from progress and justice. Recent decades have seen a proliferation of these categories, thanks in no small part to the great success of social scientists in discovering new dimensions of inequality and exclusion, and in inventing new properties of (categories of) individuals with respect to which inequality and exclusion can be identified. Thus, the status and well-being of many categories related to disability, illness, cultural background, sexual orientation, and so on are now well ensconced in the global moral order as matters of concern and motivations for action.
Violations and Victims
Moral transgressions violate the sacred. Analyzing violations—heinous deeds—is thus a trustworthy means of identifying the sacred. Heinous deeds have victims, and they can be victims only if they are imbued with sacrality. Lacking sacrality, the object of a deed that causes injury or damage is not a victim, and the deed itself is not heinous. Thus, individual people, as sacred entities, are victims whenever they are the direct objects of injurious or damaging deeds; we call such violations assault, robbery, rape, and murder. The property of individuals, however, is not directly eligible for victim status; one would be quite astonished to read that a convenience store from which goods were burgled in the night was the “victim” of the burglary. The store is not sacred, though it may be valued and treasured by its owner; as an extension of its owner, it is to be protected from harm, but it cannot be victimized. Similarly, the moral order renders nonhumans and most inanimate objects as only weakly sacralized, if at all. A dog shot by a grouchy neighbor is not a victim; a car struck by a drunk driver is not a victim; a massive rock formation destroyed for road construction is not a victim.
Categories of individuals can be victims, and this type of claim is common. Weak or vulnerable categories of people are especially likely to be identified as victims; they may not be inherently more sacred than the strong or the privileged, but violations of their sacrality are more heinous. The aged, the infirm, the very young; “women and children” as, say, civilian victims of warfare (more than civilian men!); ethnic or national minorities with long histories of repression or discrimination; the poor, the uneducated, the marginalized—such categories, when violated, are especially worthy of concern.
Can collective entities as such be victims? Here, the moral order is less clear. In extreme cases such as genocide or severe repression, when the very survival of a group is at stake, collectivities are reified as more than mere aggregates of individuals. Anguish over the collective fate of, for example, the Bosnian Muslims, the Kurds, and the Tibetans has been widespread. In addition, such holistic entities as “Tibetan culture” and the “traditions” of rainforest dwellers are regularly invoked as victims of various types of violations of the moral order. Such usage, however, is far less frequent than the identification of violations of individuals separately or as members of categories.
Alongside human-based entities, nature is also sacred. Numerous forms of the moral violation of nature are commonly lamented. Specifications of nature’s sacrality are many, indicated by violations that threaten “endangered” species, “fragile” ecosystems, revered natural places, and so on. A different set of abstractions reflects the sacrality of the nation: Desecrations of historic sites, of totems like the national flag and national monuments, of statues of national leaders, and of war memorials are gravely reprehensible acts. However, strictly national sacred entities and abstractions are only weak candidates for global moral lamentation unless they are conceptualized as elements belonging to humanity as a whole, for example by their appearance on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List (UNESCO 2003). Sacred sites on this list, such as the giant stone Buddhas in Afghanistan that were destroyed by the Taliban, are much more likely to evoke global concern than comparable sites where sacrality is linked only to a particular nation.
The degree of severity attributed to a violation—the amount of horror, fear, disgust, shame, or guilt it evokes—indicates the degree of sacrality of the entity being violated. This principle underscores the derivative sacrality of property, and of nonhuman objects more generally, as compared with persons. Robbery without battery is deemed much less serious than a “brutal” mugging (“At least you weren’t hurt!”). A suitcase bomb that destroys the unoccupied offices of a TNC is less shocking than a car bombing that kills a company executive; the extinction of a species through overfishing is much less regrettable than a rampaging rebel group wiping out a pygmy tribe in the Congo.
In the prevailing global moral order, people as individuals and categories are the center of the universe; people’s cultures are of considerable concern, their particular nations less so; nature’s sites, fauna, and flora deserve variable degrees of reverence and protection, tempered by the logic of resource extraction and exploitation that compels an instrumentally unsympathetic view of nature. At the highest level of abstraction, the global moral order still makes room for a variety of gods, particularly those high gods chartered by “world” religions, but violations even of the high gods are often couched in terms of the sacrality of individuals. For instance, violations of “freedom of religion” imply limitations on the rights of individuals to believe in the god or gods of their choosing, not the victimization of one or another god. In this sense, even the sacrality of the high gods is increasingly derivative of the sacrality of persons.
Global Movements as the Ritualistic Restoration of Sacrality
Violations threaten the sacred. In the realm of the high gods, violations thereby threaten the miscreant as well because the high god may react punitively. In the “secularized” global moral order that enthrones the individual as the greatest and highest god, however, responses to violations must come from the individual, acting alone or in concert with others. The modern individual is not simply empowered with extensive rights but also saddled with sober responsibilities regarding the moral order. Thus, a responsible world citizen (Boli and Thomas 1997) is to be on the alert for violations of the global moral order and to take action when they occur. Timber companies ravaging the “lungs of the earth” in Brazil or Borneo? Write a protest letter! Indonesian subcontractors demanding 12-hour work shifts of textile workers in poorly ventilated factories? Support the International Labor Rights Fund! Corrupt government officials siphoning development aid to buy villas on the Riviera? Establish Transparency International (as former World Bank officer Peter Eigen did) to expose the corruption and outline reforms that could curb it!
Transnational social movements (Guidry, Kennedy, and Zald 2000; Keck and Sikkink 1998; Khagram, Riker, and Sikkink 2002; Smith, Chatfield, and Pagnucco 1997) impelled by considerations of equality, justice, liberty, autonomy, self-actualization, empowerment, cultural authenticity, and many other watchwords anchored in the global moral order are the white knights, the rescue squads, the holy redeemers of the contemporary world. They constitute the “conscience of the world” (Willetts 1996); like ubiquitous Quakers, they bear witness to the transgressions of global villains (Wapner 1996; Wapner, Ruiz, and Falk 2000) and preach to the iniquitous (TNCs, states, elites, and interest groups great and small) that they may better their ways. At heart, those who call globalization into question, who see in global structures and processes the source of many ills, who rage against the IMF, lambast Unocal’s Burmese pipeline project (EarthRights International 2003), monitor Mattel’s Asian factories, or gather signatures petitioning for poor-country debt relief are dedicated above all to restoring the global moral order that has been violated, in their eyes, by these powerful transgressors.
The special property that lifts these critics of globalization to the highest moral plane is their disinterestedness. Self-interested action is legitimate in the moral order—individuals and other actors are entitled to pursue their rights and satisfy their needs and desires—but self-interested action is not virtuous. Virtue adheres in transcendence of the self, transcendence of particularism; the truly virtuous are those who relate to the world as servants of others. Virtuous action is civilized action, the overcoming of primordial drives and instincts that shout of ego and defense and narrow horizons, in favor of the broad perspective, the long sweep, the good of the many. Virtue is selflessness, the willing abandonment of self-interest on behalf of, especially, those who are unable to pursue their own interests effectively. By this logic, those members of the fortunate, comfortable classes of the world who dedicate themselves to righting the wrongs of globalization as activists, organizers, intellectuals, and office staffers become excellent candidates for redeemer status. They work not for themselves, but for those in need of aid, indeed for all of humanity and nature. If they approach their selfless (and often thankless) tasks with substantial doses of humility and unpretentiousness, they may even become paragons of virtue, joining the ranks of such shining global lights as Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jimmy Carter.
The restorative action of the virtuous redeemers, now routinized, rationalized, and expanding across virtually every domain of human endeavor, is ritualistic in the crucial Durkheimian sense (cf. Wuthnow 1987): The redeemers participate in recurring collective action, often of substantial emotional intensity (viz., street demonstrations, confrontations with police), in which the moral order is repeatedly invoked and affirmed such that its preeminent status and, indeed, its ineffable reality become unimpeachable truths for the redeemers themselves. One obvious result is heightened solidarity among the world savers, who, armed with the slingshots of their moral invocations and the stones of scientific analysis, data on poverty and disease, and models of socially responsible actors, stand against the Goliaths who threaten to enslave humanity and destroy the planet in the service of the perennial devils of plunder, profit, and power. The more important result is the continual propagation of the global moral order by antiglobalization forces. In this, they are joined by a host of other transnational and national organizations whose routine practices have the same effects—including, ironically enough, many of the targets of antiglobalization rhetoric and mobilization who are seen as major violators of the moral order (more on this below).
Movements against globalization are ritualistic in a more superficial sense as well: The heroic redeemers engage in actions whose efficacy in washing away the sins of the world is so difficult to establish that only great faith can render the actions sensible and meaningful. Definite antiglobalization successes are uncertain and rare. One of the more widely trumpeted victories came against the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), which evoked vigorous mobilization by a wide range of organizations who felt it would strip developing countries of their capacity to regulate foreign investment (Ayres 2002). Though the MAI was withdrawn in 1998, its proponents only grudgingly admit that anything other than technical and economic considerations led to this decision (Kobrin 1998). On the other hand, movements against big dams, often tied rhetorically to the fight against globalization, have stopped many projects (Khagram 2000), and the demonstrations against the WTO have been effective inasmuch as the WTO has felt compelled to increase its interaction with NGOs, be less restrictive in releasing information to the public, and establish an NGO “room” in its Web site (WTO 2003). Nevertheless, as critics of globalization energetically write letters, prepare policy papers, conduct investigations, lobby at international meetings, send delegates to monitor corporate behavior, and so on, they do so without much tangible evidence that their efforts make a difference. Like supplicants to a mighty and mysterious god, they find vindication more in the conviction that their actions are just, proper, and disinterested—that is, in accord with the global moral order—than in the knowledge that they are making progress toward their immensely ambitious goals.
What makes the attempts to restore the sacred order so numerous and widespread is, above all, the radical ambiguity of globalization’s effects (cf. Ellul 1980). Every new job created in a Mattel toy factory in China implies that yet another exploited worker with no union support joins the workforce. Cheaper travel both enables more people to enrich their lives by going abroad and increases the threat of rampant tourism to local cultures. Though the Amungme have been displaced by Freeport McMoRan’s mining operations in Irian Jaya (Abrash 2001; CorpWatch 1997), Javanese miners have found the means to put tin roofs on their bamboo houses and feed their children more protein. These examples illustrate the dualistic consequences of every instance of large-scale social development when considered in relation to the global moral order. Globalization brings much that is welcome and much that is deplored—and much that is welcome and deplored at one and the same time.
Such ambiguity inheres not only in globalization processes themselves but also in the complexity and internal inconsistency of the moral order. The Individual that lies at the core of the moral order is both egalitarian and empowered (“agentic,” to use an academic term for this mythological aspect). Empowerment demands freedom of action, choice, and orientation, but egalitarianism demands restrictions on that freedom: Nothing is more certain than the inequality and exploitation generated by a totally free market (Polanyi 1944; Roemer 1982, 1988). Make a move toward freedom and equality is at risk; push for equality and freedom declines. Similarly, the pursuit of rationalized progress, as conventionally understood, necessarily entails the disenchantment of traditional cultures and encroachment on the natural habitats of nonhuman species. At a more abstract level, cultural relativism—the principle that every people’s culture should be judged from within its own value system and historical circumstances—crashes headlong into the cultural absolutism of doctrines of universal human rights, liberal democracy, elaborately psychologized personhood, and other valued constructs derivative of the global moral order. In toto, those who seek to gain purchase as critics of globalization have a virtually unlimited number of handholds ready for the grabbing, thanks to the complexity and contradictions of both globalization processes themselves and the moral order that is also an aspect of globalization. The wondrous puzzle, in fact, is that critics are so selective regarding the range of evils they attribute to globalization. Much more moral outcry is possible.
Counterfactuals: Globalization Not on Trial
Not every human problem is linked to globalization. Consider noise pollution: Do demonstrators railing at the WTO or G8 carry signs demanding “Keep Our Cities Quiet!”? Do we find specialized INGOs charging that TNCs are responsible for traffic accidents or jaywalking? Has any prominent critic made a name for himor herself by depicting globalization as the root cause of white-collar crime or petty larceny? Divorce rates, psychological disorders, litigiousness, learning disabilities, voter apathy, suicide, and many other purported ills of modern societies are yet to find their global crusaders or make a splash in the ocean of antiglobalization discourse.
One might object that these problems are not decried as ills of globalization because they are not global problems; they are individual, local, or national issues, even though they may be found worldwide. Exactly! This objection overlooks the fact that no problem or transgression is inherently global. Only in the context of an encompassing culture that begins with the conception of the world as a single entity—of a global society and natural environment, of universalistic science and technology, of global systems and global projects, above all of a global moral order—can any social problem become associated with globalization. Prior to the nineteenth century, there were essentially no global problems; in the twenty-first century, interpreting problems globally is routine. But this routinization of the global problematique (Robertson and Chirico 1985) remains an opaque process that is poorly understood. Theories to explain why particular types of social problems are seen as global while most types have yet to be constructed as arenas for global moral combat are notable by their absence. While such theorizing is outside our scope here, this lacuna should be kept in mind as we turn to our ecological survey of the ills of globalization.
Dimensions of Globalization’s Ills
For convenience, we have grouped the problems attributed to globalization under five rubrics: economic, environmental, cultural, political, and human. We begin with the economic dimension.
Globalization as an economic phenomenon is roughly synonymous with the worldwide expansion of capitalist markets, financial and investment flows, and production commodity chains and distribution networks. Globalization’s champions insist that these processes boost wealth and prosperity worldwide, giving everyone greater access to goods and services and dramatically increasing standards of living (The Economist 2001b, 2001c, 2001d; Wolf 1997). The benefits of economic globalization purportedly extend to other dimensions as well; the “new world order” proclaimed after the first Gulf War imagined economic liberalization and global integration creating common interests (via interdependence) and promoting shared liberal values (freedom, democracy, civil rights, the rule of law) that would thereby reduce conflict and promote global solidarity.
Globalization’s critics espy instead a capitalist juggernaut of untrammeled exploitation and neoimperialism, driven by the avarice of wealthy countries, TNCs, and the western-dominated IMF, WTO, and other IGOs that manage the capitalist world economy (ATTAC 1998; International Forum on Globalization [IFG] 1995; Oxfam 1996). The relentless global expansion of capitalism, uneven in its effects and unstable in its cyclical operations, threatens the rights and well-being of individuals and nations. Put another way, it violates important principles of the global moral order, above all the principles of egalitarian individualism and national development—and so, at a deeper level, it violates the sacrality of both the individual and the nation.
Threats to Egalitarian Individualism
Whether driven by greed (as frequently presumed by globalization’s critics) or competition (a hollow excuse, in critics’ eyes, because of capitalism’s inherent tendencies toward monopoly), capitalists at all levels systematically exploit workers. Global capitalists are especially vile because the powerful TNCs they command give them strong leverage over political elites in less developed countries. Capital seeks new production sites with low wages and generous state subsidies; the result is wages that amount to a few dollars for each pair of Reebok running shoes that retail at $100 a pair or each silk blouse that Donna Karan sells at Bloomingdale’s for $125. Labor is not being paid the full value of its production. Instead, local subcontractors, global distributors, and the TNCs that control commodity chains rake in the profits (Gereffi and Korzeniewicz 1994). The result is steep inequality, the working masses earning little more than subsistence wages (if that!) while the capitalist few enjoy lives of unconscionable luxury.
Inequality also results from such secondary mechanisms as corruption, fraud, and financial manipulation (additional violations of global moral principles). Local and national politicians demand kickbacks to approve foreign investments, workers are denied overtime pay, financial wizards concoct elaborate schemes to inflate reported profits or swindle investors. The notorious recent scandals involving Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, and other giant corporations are presumed by antiglobalization activists to be standard operating procedure in both the core and the periphery. Tying together all these violations committed by the juggernaut of capitalism is the umbrella concept of neo-imperialism. The capitalist core, pushing its neoliberal agenda by means of the IMF and WTO, offers loans, investments, and jobs in exchange for compliance with free market reforms that lower tariffs, privatize government functions, and reduce spending on welfare programs. These so-called structural adjustment programs ultimately constitute a scheme to provide more opportunities for profit and expose workers to further exploitation (Amin 1997; Bello 1996; Broad 2002; Klein 2002). When investment occurs in the form of subcontracting, the exploitative machinations of the TNCs are concealed by the direct control of native capitalists and managers, a practice that deflects complaints from the TNCs themselves.
The inequalities that global capitalism generates are inequities because they violate the principles of egalitarian individualism. Regarding egalitarianism, the world moral order does not insist on complete equality of outcomes. However, severe inequalities that leave a large portion of humanity living in deplorable conditions are wholly illegitimate, and theories that explain this deplorable state as the result of capitalist exploitation find many adherents. Where basic needs, such as adequate food and shelter, clean water, and functioning refuse and waste disposal are lacking, the inequalities involved are not simply unjust; they are violations of essential human rights, as spelled out especially in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (United Nations [UN] 1966) and similar conventions of recent decades. At this point, sacralized individualism enters in: These impoverished people are denied the capacity to live with dignity and the opportunity to develop as capable, empowered world and national citizens. To the extent that their impoverishment is due to capitalist exploitation, it is plainly wrong. Everyone should enjoy the just fruits of their labors, but market operations are always distorted in favor of the capitalists.
Global inequalities become inequities by another logic as well. The global moral order is tolerant of inequality only if it is merited, that is, only if equality of opportunity actually obtains. Insofar as disparities in income and wealth are consequences of differences in diligence, persistence, integrity, inventiveness, and the like, they are acceptable and can be useful stimulants to entrepreneurship and innovation. But economic inequalities, especially in the severe form found in world society, necessarily imply great inequality of opportunity both within and among countries. Those oppressed by capitalist exploitation, corruption, fraud, and manipulation are denied opportunities of many sorts: for education, job training, small-business loans, Internet access, and much more. They lack the opportunity to participate in modern, rationalized institutions that would enable them to produce and consume at the level of their more fortunate counterparts in the capitalist core countries. This sweeping violation of egalitarian individualism is a huge affront to the moral sensibilities of responsible world citizens.
Threats to Labor
A good deal of the criticism of globalizing capitalism builds on a less individualized concept of labor, using collective terms such as the working class, peasants, even “the masses.” Such formulations are especially prominent with regard to labor issues. Campaigns against sweatshops, for example, reflect a growing concern over the mistreatment of workers as a class in both the core and the periphery (Bonacich and Appelbaum 2000; Featherstone 2002; Klein 2002; Louie 2001; Ross 1997). Some groups worry as well about lower-level white-collar workers (clerical, administrative, data processing, and similar positions), raising concerns about excessive working hours, poor ergonomics, and even restrictive dress codes. To protect labor and prevent abuses, much agitation focuses on legal measures regarding collective labor rights and regulations. Clearly, the well-meaning efforts of the International Labour Organization (ILO) over many decades have been insufficient to ensure labor rights everywhere in the world. Unless worldwide economic practices are improved to guarantee full bargaining rights, the right to strike, labor representation in decision-making processes, and the like, labor, especially in the periphery, will continue to be violated (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions [ICFTU] 2001; International Labor Rights Fund 2003).
Threats to National Development
Following the logic of dependency and worldsystem arguments (Cardoso and Faletto 1979; Frank 1967, 1979; Galtung 1972; Wallerstein 1979), critics of globalizing capitalism contend that neocolonialism continues to inhibit economic development in the periphery. Foreign direct investment and subcontracting create enclaves of labor-intensive production, often in special economic zones heavily subsidized by peripheral states. Poorly integrated into the respective national economies, these enclaves perpetuate peripheral subordination to the core, whose advanced technology, domination of research and development, and financial resources ensure core control of economic relations (Chasedunn 1998; Dixon and Boswell 1996). Through the repatriation of profits from the periphery, TNC managers can pacify core workers and lavishly reward themselves. The result in the periphery is less capital accumulation, lower consumer demand, and uneven development. At the same time, core capitalists have lured peripheral countries to borrow heavily, particularly in periods of economic crisis (e.g., the oil shocks of the 1970s, the Asian meltdown in 1997). The result is crushing debt burdens and austerity programs imposed by the IMF that make life even more difficult for peasants, farmers, and the working classes (Jubilee Movement International 2001).
In more specific terms, the globalization of agribusiness is decried as undercutting the principal means of economic support in many peripheral countries (Shiva 2000a, 2000b). Core-country agriculture is vastly more productive than its counterpart in the periphery; the push for lowered tariffs via the GATT and WTO has exposed peasants using oxen to pull wooden plows to the competition of megafarms using global positioning system (GPS)-guided tractors and miracle-grow fertilizers. This assault on the livelihood of the rural poor is made even worse by extensive dumping of surplus core production in the form of food aid (most infamously under the Public Law 480 program of the United States), which especially undercuts smaller and poorer producers and thus promotes steep inequalities in the agricultural sector.
Finally, the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have become prominent sources of evil profiting from new forms of exploitation. The drug companies operate programs to systematically evaluate the diverse flora of tropical rain forests in search of plants that local peoples have identified as useful in their “traditional” medical treatments. The biotech firms, meanwhile, scour the earth for varieties of crops produced by local peoples through patient centuries of selection and hybridization, seeking to identify the genetic composition and mechanisms involved (Shiva 2000b). Both pharma and biotech then seek patents on these promising innovations so they can profit by licensing them to users—including the local peoples whose knowledge and long labors have made the patents possible (Shiva 1997; Tokar 2001).
All of these threats to national development obviously violate the sacrality of many individuals, as discussed above. They also suggest a more collective concern: They are violations of the sacrality of the nation. If the nation is exploited, its industries undermined, its resources controlled by foreigners, and its capital resources dwindling, it has no hope of succeeding in the pursuit of progress. The state will be weak, corrupted by foreign capital and unable to meet its responsibilities to ensure the welfare and liberties of its people in accordance with the standard world-cultural model of the state (Meyer et al. 1997). The nation will be perpetually poor and vulnerable, not autonomous and truly “developing.” This sin of globalization is thus both collective (an assault on the nation) and individual (injuring the nation’s citizens), making it a severe violation of the global moral order.
In many accounts, globalization is the bane of the environment. Activists bemoan the destruction caused by globalizing technology, industry, and consumerism (Klein 2002; Sklair 2001), protesting everything from strip mining to offshore oil drilling to nuclear power generation. Air and water pollution, encroachment on natural wonders, destruction of the habitats of plants and animals, acid rain, tropical deforestation, species extinction, and much more are linked to the irresponsible behavior of profitobsessed global companies and the states that compete for their investments and production facilities.
Dating from the 1960s, the explosion of environmental awareness was an important factor in the emergence of the discourse of globalization because it assumed a single, integrated natural world encompassing the entire planet. Grounded in the Darwinian view that humanity is part and product of nature (Frank et al. 1999), the environmental movement warns that destruction of the environment and excessive use of nonrenewable “natural resources” that cannot be replenished threaten not just nature but also humanity’s own welfare and future. Beyond these instrumental concerns, nature is imbued with sacrality in its own right and thereby worthy of protection and preservation. Thus, the “ecological sensibility” (Wapner 1996) to which environmental organizations habitually appeal rests on this dual anchoring in the global moral order: On behalf of sacred individuals and sacred nature, environmental care is both virtuous and necessary.
Threats to Individuals
Globalization threatens individuals environmentally in many ways: Air pollution causes respiratory problems, toxic wastes cripple human cells, and the ozone hole increases skin cancers. Humans suffer directly, and humans suffer from large-scale damage that throws entire ecosystems out of whack. Thus, for environmental critics, the supposed prosperity celebrated by globalization’s champions is superficial and shortsighted. If economic development is not tempered by environmental considerations, future generations will face catastrophe (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). The globalization juggernaut must be brought under control; “sustainable development” that balances economic growth with environmental management is imperative.
Individuals also suffer from the inequalities inherent in environmental problems (“environmental justice” has become an entire scholarly field). The drivers of globalization—TNCs and core states—push their dirty industries and dirty laundry (toxic wastes) on the third world, and the economic inequalities produced by globalization leave poor countries with few resources to cope with their environmental problems (Hofrichter 1993). Thus, the argument goes, the poor get poorer also in environmental terms. At the same time, the poor become guinea pigs for untested adulterations of nature (GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, in the form of seeds and foodstuffs; see Tokar 2001; Shiva 1997, 2000a). Thus, once again, those who suffer most in the environmental realm are the poor, the marginalized, and the defenseless, to whom the benefits of globalization are completely out of reach.
Threats to Nature
While preserving nature is considered crucial to human welfare, plant and animal species as well as the natural landscape itself are also sacralized, as is evident in such measures as “endangered species” legislation and the list of World Heritage Sites mentioned earlier (many sites are natural rather than cultural places). Globalization’s threat to the natural world is incessant and always abhorrent. Consider the horrified reaction in November 2002, when an oil tanker sank off the coast of Spain. Bad enough that local fishermen lost income; still worse, in many eyes, that (economically valueless) fish and birds were also harmed. The more radical forms of environmentalism see no other way to preserve nature’s sacrality than the declaration of great swaths of the natural world as entirely off-limits to human presence. Nature is profoundly vulnerable to human incursions; the balance between human sacrality and nature’s sacrality must not always tip toward the former.
To preserve nature’s sacrality, one of the more radical approaches is the “voluntary simplicity” movement—choosing not to consume resources, indeed, choosing not to be a “consumer” at all. Vegetarianism, veganism, recycling, and reusing are ritualized efforts to restore the sacred nature of nature. Adherents of these practices—whether they are individuals, municipalities, companies, or states—seek to purify themselves as a means of purifying nature, reducing their exploitation of nature’s wonders to help ensure longterm ecological health. Activists in global movements promoting these practices hope to steer globalization in directions that will avoid the ultimate collapse of the natural world.
Threats to the Planet
At the broadest level, planet Earth (the “blue planet” of Karliner 1997; “Gaia” of Lovelock 1988) and everything on it are threatened by globalization. If the trajectory of global development—ever more, ever faster, ever higher, ever wider—is not radically curtailed, globalization will bring its own demise. (The parallel to long-lived Marxist scenarios of capitalism sowing the seeds of its own destruction is not entirely accidental.) There is only one “Mother Earth,” and we must make every attempt to ward off evil from this sacred goddess. Rescuing the planet means shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy alternatives, defusing the “population bomb” (Ehrlich’s catchy 1971 phrase), shifting to a closedcycle economy, decommodifying nature, and so on. Radical reorientations are demanded to avoid the coming catastrophe. The horsemen of the looming apocalypse are many and varied: rising ocean levels from global warming, the collapse of food production due to monocultural reliance on genetically engineered grains, unstoppable swarms of insects that have developed resistance to pesticides, and on and on. All this, because globalizing capitalism and technological hubris refuse to accept the “limits to growth” (Meadows, Meadows, and Randers 1993) that are inherent in the carrying capacity of this small, lonely planet.
While the global moral order is fundamentally individualistic, the sacrality of the nation as a holistic collectivity provides a basis for moral championing of distinctiveness and difference (“diversity”) in the form of cultural variations across societies. An interesting contradiction is at work here: The global moral order is, in most respects, highly universalistic—it applies everywhere, to each and to all—but it also encompasses the principle of cultural relativism. This principle holds that, ultimately, no culture can be judged except from within its own framework because no culture has a monopoly on truth or righteousness. In its strongest form, the principle implies that all cultures are equally “valid” and, therefore, equally deserving of respect and protection. The contradiction produces much contention in world society, including lengthy debates about whether human rights are indeed universal or are particular to given societies or civilizational arenas. Considerable consensus reigns, however, regarding the desirability of diversity as a general principle. The great variety of cultures is seen as central to the human condition, making life richer and more interesting; accordingly, preservation of that variety is a strongly ensconced moral value. Put another way, cultural authenticity is highly prized and worthy of protection. The Balinese dance show performed for drunken tourists in a raucous, smoky Kuta Beach bar is a regrettable sham compared with the same movements observed in a remote village where foreigners are rarely seen.
Globalization’s threats to cultural diversity and heterogeneity are several. Many of the forces of globalization are strongly homogenizing, producing organizational and structural isomorphism in economic and technical realms, state institutions, educational systems, and the like (Meyer et al. 1997). Every global traveler recognizes the sameness of the world’s airports, business hotels, tourist beaches, and fashion styles. For most analysts, globalization is essentially homogenizing—and this is a great threat to distinctive cultures everywhere. A bland, undifferentiated, always-familiar world is on the horizon; no individual culture can stand up to the massive onslaught of culture-leveling globalization.
The most visible and vitriolic critiques of cultural homogenization are less generic. This aspect of globalization is the latest and, one could say, highest form of imperialism: cultural imperialism (Mattelart 1979; Schiller 1976; Smith 1980; for a critique, see Tomlinson 1991). The world is being reshaped in the image of the West, especially the United States. Dressed up in the finery of discourse about “universal values” and “liberal democracy,” the Americans and Europeans are imposing their values and ways of life on the rest of the world. In the age of naked imperialism, guns and merchants and priests forced the West’s culture on the colonies; now Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Disney, and Vivendi are seducing, brainwashing, manipulating, and forcing their way into every town, village, mayoral office, and presidential palace. National cultures are undermined, often with the willing cooperation of the state and business elites. The pursuit of profit trumps all other considerations, making a mockery of local distinctiveness and rendering cultural authenticity impossible. A bleak future in which all of humanity has been transformed into mindless consumers of tasteless fast foods, violent video games, frivolous Hollywood blockbusters, and mass-produced fashions is in the offing (Klein 2002).
On the flip side, globalization also produces new forms of heterogeneity through massive migration. While the principle of diversity suggests that this rising heterogeneity would be welcome, the challenge to cultural authenticity that it constitutes also provokes strong negative reactions. This is one area in which most of the opposition to globalization comes not from the left, but from the right, and in the core more than the periphery. Even the most powerful countries are not safe from the impurities of foreign blood, customs, and values. The response is a variety of measures meant to restore the (mythical) purity of the national culture: French critics decry the Muslim invasion, German skinheads attack Turkish immigrants, American conservatives seek to seal the border with Mexico.
Beyond the concern for individual cultures, globalization has also engendered what is increasingly seen as a broad threat to the entire human collectivity: fundamentalisms. Both popular (Barber 1995; Friedman 1999) and scholarly (Lechner 1993; Lewis 2002) accounts depict fundamentalisms as dialectically generated by globalization, partly in reaction to its homogenizing cultural threats and partly as identities justified by the principle of cultural authenticity that provide powerful vehicles of mobilization to compete in global systems. While Huntington’s (1996) thesis of clashing civilizational arenas—Christendom versus Islam, or the West against the Rest—has some cachet, and the hot topic of the day (terrorism) is widely seen as Islamic fundamentalism’s defiance of the West, broader views see globalization’s fostering of many fundamentalisms, both religious and secular (Ellul 1967), as inimical to human civilization as a whole. The extremism associated with moral certainty, intolerance, and dedicated evangelistic fervor can lead to nothing but violence, disorder, and collapse. Here, the principles of cultural relativism and moral universalism collide in spectacular fashion.
Threats to the Nation
The global moral order’s incoherent, but nonetheless powerful, embrace of both universalism and particularism (Robertson 1992) is played out in the ethnonationalism conundrum that has intensified in many parts of the world. Because the moral order accords value and the right of protection to distinct cultures, any group that can plausibly claim a shared identity and history is eligible to be considered a “nation.” Coupled with the right of national selfdetermination, one of the pillars of international law, any such group can therefore claim the right to its own state. Globalization heightens this tendency, educating ever more groups with ever more dubious “national” status about the rules of the system and encouraging them to seize the opportunity to mobilize for autonomy. The result is widespread civil war, particularly in weak states where effective centralized authority is problematic. Globalization thus threatens the (often fictive) nation in many independent countries, even while it strengthens the status of would-be nations.
Threats to the State
The state is famously disparaged as being too small for the big things and too big for the small things. The first half of this gibe, for most observers, has become a truism: States are, they hold, overwhelmed by globalization (Sassen 1996; Strange 1998). They have lost control of their economies and are powerless to deal with large-scale environmental problems. Global competition puts constant downward pressure on wages and social spending, while volatile stock and currency markets make a mockery of state economic planning. State sovereignty is in decline, state capacities are insufficient, and power has shifted to global capital and TNCs. In addition, globalization intensifies corruption; state officials have their hands in the deep pockets of investmenteager companies before the latter can even reach for their wallets. States rot from within, becoming little more than private enrichment clubs for those who have clawed their way to the pinnacles of power.
These assertions about globalization’s incapacitation of the state are not in themselves of particular moral significance because, unlike the nation, the state is not (pace Nietzsche) a repository of sacred value in the global moral order. The state is modeled as a functional, instrumental structure; it is to use rational organization to perform an increasingly broad range of tasks in the centralized management of society. The incapacities of the state become violations of the moral order, however, insofar as they indicate that states are no longer capable of meeting their obligations to their citizens (cf. Boli 2001). If the state does not educate (to create human capital, empower individuals, and promote tolerance), if it does not provide adequate health care (to maintain labor productivity and economic growth), if it does not enforce the law (to maintain the order upon which all other social functions depend), the state is delinquent and, ultimately, illegitimate. Worse still, if the state is so weak that it cannot keep ethnonationalist rebellions in check, it fails even in its most basic responsibility of ensuring the physical integrity of its citizens, who may be forced to flee the country and end up suffering in squalid refugee camps for many years.
But globalization also offers correctives for this disabling of the state. A host of experts, advisers, technicians, consultants, lawyers, and other professionals from NGOs, bilateral aid agencies, IGOs, UN bodies, and the private sector swarm around the state to identify problems, teach global norms, propose solutions, and help manage projects (Chabbott 1999; Finnemore 1993; Meyer et al. 1997). In other words, legions of globalized actors—in this case, largely not associated with the antiglobalization movements or discourse—are ready to rush in to diminish violations of the global moral order and help (or induce) the state to operate in accord with the expectations imposed on it by that order. States must respect and ensure the realization of a large set of human rights; if they cannot or will not do so, world society swings into action (with, of course, highly variable effectiveness).
Threats to Egalitarian Individualism
The incapacitation and corruption of the state purportedly engendered by globalization also imply that the nature of the state itself is perverted, that is, that it does not accord with the deep foundations of the global moral order. States are to operate through principles of universal, egalitarian citizen empowerment; participatory democratic processes are to determine state policies and programs. To the extent that state elites are given to toadying to foreign investors, conspicuously consuming high-status global commodities, peddling influence on behalf of comprador bourgeois interests, and the like, democracy and the impartial rule of law are shoved aside. Global capital is more interested in stability than democracy, its critics claim, and it props up autocratic regimes by turning a blind eye to abuses of power. Thus, one of the self-evident bases of the good society envisioned in the global moral order—“power to the people” in the form of the universal and egalitarian empowerment of citizens—is gravely imperiled by globalization (Hertz 2002).
Undemocratic countries are subject to a variety of pressures promoting democracy, and waves of national level democratization have repeatedly swept through world society (Loya 2003). At the level of global politics, however, the situation is decidedly less promising. Charges of global elitism in the world economy and of core-country (especially the United States) domination of major IGOs are rampant. A transnational capitalist class (Sklair 2001) controls all the important institutions of global governance and steadfastly opposes any degree of meaningful democratization of those institutions. This global autocracy makes the struggle for national level democracy irrelevant because states are themselves increasingly irrelevant (Strange 1998). Thus, calls for democratization and transparency at the global level, and the construction of democratically structured global institutions that would, in effect, amount to a genuine world state, are common themes of much of the antiglobalization discourse. A global civil society has already been constructed, but it can achieve only so much through moral suasion, consumer boycotts, shaming, and the other familiar mechanisms of informal pressure tactics. If the nation-state is increasingly unable to implement the global moral order, it must be supplanted by a democratic global state that will do so effectively.
Finally, globalization entails risks of injury and incapacitation that strike at the very being of human beings. With the ever-greater speed and intensity of global flows, both ancient and new social ills previously confined to certain locales or regions proliferate rapidly throughout the world. Global transportation systems, production and distribution networks, and information technologies make every point on the planet liable to these human harms.
Threats to the Moral Integrity of the Individual
The global moral order envisions a highly idealized model of the universal Individual: competent, disciplined, industrious, inquisitive, emotionally stable, compassionate, and so on. Anything that interferes with the ability and commitment of individuals to pursue this idealized model is morally suspect. Consciousness-altering drugs are a prime example. Globalization has made the drug trade emphatically worldwide (Schaeffer 1997; Wilson and Zambrano 1994), linking coca-producing Colombian farmers to Russian wholesalers to Chicago street retailers. The global drug trade is a scourge that prevents individual “self-actualization” both directly (through use and addiction) and in countless derivative ways, producing violence, corruption, disease transmission through needle sharing, and drug-financed rebels who challenge weak states in outright civil wars.
Another threat of moral degradation is trafficking in individuals. Slavery was outlawed in the nineteenth century, but it repeatedly rears its ugly head in the global sex trade that traps poor women and children in webs of prostitution and pornography (Williams 1999). A more moderate form is the “mailorder bride,” which critics see as a thinly veiled ploy by rich white men to exploit poor, desperate women of color (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women 2003). The global pornography industry, powered by the Internet, poses special threats to children and perpetuates violence against women. Once again, apocalyptic images are painted by energetic crusaders—the assault on individuals’ moral fiber is beyond the control of states, the gates of hell are gaping wide. So dire is the problem that a “war” on drugs and pornography is required, and the more tolerant attitude toward drugs and pornography in some developed countries only confirms the fear that, woe unto us, the war is in danger of being lost.
Threats to the Physical Integrity of the Individual
As a highly sacralized entity in world culture, the individual must also be protected from physical harm. Contemporary models of selfhood promote not only a morally sound psyche (free from sin, vice, and dysfunction) but also a healthy body, free from ailment and disease. The articulation of concerns for physical integrity has a longer pedigree than most of the problems discussed here; international conferences focused on cholera, the plague, yellow fever, typhus, and smallpox were held as far back as the latter part of the nineteenth century (Goodman 1971; Howard-Jones 1975). With rapid globalization, however, the problem of infectious and endemic diseases has intensified greatly. At greatest risk are the populations of poor or peripheral countries, where mechanisms to provide universal protection of the individual are most problematic. As the global health system has become highly organized, with strong links to national health care systems, outbreaks of new diseases or ailments are now routinely interpreted as globally threatening, so global machinery swings into action to combat them (as with the drug trade, military metaphors are popular here). The effort to control the spread of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) was a watershed event that boosted the global response system to unprecedented heights, and the recent example of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) shows how insistent the global system has become regarding universal, coordinated action to protect the physical integrity of all individuals. China has been raked over the coals for its slow and deceptive action; as in several other areas, China is a laggard with respect to enforcement of the global moral order, and it has been duly castigated as such.
The imperative of preserving physical integrity and the principle of global egalitarianism come together with respect to another health-related ill of globalization: the inordinately high price of drugs and medicines offered by global pharma. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) treatments have been the focal point of most critical voices in this area, but many other medications priced out of the reach of the truly needy are also at issue. Antiglobalization movements blame global agreements on intellectual property rights and patents (World Health Organization [WHO] 1998) for this transgression, castigating the World Intellectual Property Organization for its unwillingness to relax property rights in limited areas related to individual health. The logic of the complaints is clear: Disregard for the principles of the global moral order cannot be justified by considerations of profit and revenue maximization. Health care (i.e., the physical integrity of the individual) is a human right, not simply an opportunity for high returns on investment.
Threats to the Integrity of the Species
Humanity as a collective entity is less highly reified in the global moral order than the individual or nation, and humanity is often understood as only an aggregate of individuals, but with respect to some issues, it is treated as a transcendent collectivity (“homo sapiens”). Threats to the integrity of the species are constructed as both terrestrial and, at least since the previous era of rapid globalization in the nineteenth century, extraterrestrial. On the earthly plane, cloning and other forms of genetic engineering take center stage. Globalized research and development have opened the door to genetic manipulation and selection that were almost inconceivable before 1950. The issue is posed in terms of purportedly fundamental questions: What does it mean to be a human being? Who are we to be playing God? What calamities await us if we allow genetic design to enter into the most holy realm of human reproduction (Hanson 2001; Tokar 2001)? The ubiquitous issues of inequity and homogeneity are also invoked: Genetic selection could legitimate and revitalize eugenics, leading to discrimination against those with disabilities and diseases; cloning could lead to the eradication of human diversity altogether.
A closely related issue is the creation by artifice of (quasi-)human life, as dramatized in cinematic productions such as Blade Runner (1982) and AI (2001). The same fundamental questions arise when the drama is generalized to technology as a whole: Like Frankenstein’s monster, the products of globalized technology turn on their creators (viz., Chaplin’s Modern Times, Kubrick’s 2001, Cameron’s Terminator films). A cottage industry of ethicists and academicians has arisen to worry about these matters, constantly searching for answers anchored in the global moral order, but the rapid pace of global scientific advance often leaves the moralizers dealing with last year’s issues. Explicit antiglobalization activity targeting genetic engineering or technology as a whole is relatively rare, but the threat is clear: Globalization enables evildoers to embark on potentially cataclysmic scientific endeavors, whether the world is ready for them or not.
Finally, a remarkable set of problems linked to globalization, but not yet the theme of antiglobalization petitions or protests, involves extraterrestrial threats to humanity: alien visitors, massive meteors, space-traveling diseases, and so on. Because globalization entails an ever-stronger sense of the Earth as a single, integrated entity, efforts to bound and protect this small, largely defenseless home of l’humanité entière from cosmic perils are on the rise. Globalization does not “cause” these cosmic perils, but it leads to worldviews in which, for example, building space-based missile systems to intercept potential collision-course meteors is a reasonable, even necessary, activity.
Many and varied are the ways the world could end, thanks in no small part to the ongoing elaboration of the global moral order and the ever-expanding range of threats that can be identified by inventive scientists and intellectuals. Considering the full panoply of problems and perils associated with globalization, it is a wonder that world society has not long since gone completely under.
All is not lost. The world need not come to an ignoble or catastrophic end. Globalization is not inevitable or unstoppable (Starr 2000); it is not necessarily “out of control” (Hedley 2002). Valiantly battling the evils of the world, redeemers impelled by a sense of extreme urgency to cleanse the world of its sins are everywhere. Taking advantage of the global systems of communication, transportation, and finance that are, in their analyses, themselves part of the problem, the redeemers outline a range of soteriological solutions that should restore the sacred core of the moral order: the individual, the nation, and nature. They seek to ensure that the many rights associated with these sacred entities are respected or guaranteed. This is most explicit in the many calls for democratization, individual empowerment, and citizen participation, which represent attempts to restore or protect the sacrality of the individual. We will show that this logic applies to the principal features of other types of solutions as well.
Antiglobalization movements see democratization or democratic control of the villains of globalizing capitalism—global governance IGOs, core capitalist states, and TNCs—as an absolute imperative. Peripheral states are in no less need of democratization, though they are depicted as not only villains but also victims because they are forced to submit to the domination of global capitalism. Chronically disregarding the interests of the common people, the villains promote the narrow interests of the privileged. They shield themselves from the will of the people, resisting demands for transparency and accountability. What is needed, the critics of globalization insist, is broad inclusiveness and participation so the voices of the many will be heard and alternative visions of world order can have a hearing. Vibrant, active, inclusive civil societies at both national and global levels are crucial to restructuring, changing, or abolishing the current system dominated by free market neoliberalism. Individuals everywhere should be empowered as citizens and consumers; whole societies must be mobilized to avoid the perils of unregulated globalization.
Not surprisingly, the globalization critics themselves, and the organizations that stand behind them, are presumed to be essential to democratization. Since 2001, they have gathered in glorious diversity at the World Social Forum (WSF): local women’s groups, peasant and labor organizations, environmental, development, and religious movements, and many other types from all sorts of countries. The open-armed inclusiveness of this event is intentional, as it legitimates the WSF as the “voice of the people” in opposition to the elitism of states, IGOs, and TNCs. Inspired and informed by each other in increasingly complex and fluid networks, these global, national, and local groups take democracy into their own hands. They lobby, circulate petitions, sponsor local initiatives on environmental protection or indigenous rights; they swarm to UN and other IGO conferences, take stands on legislation, and mount street protests. From grassroots organizing to transnational networking, they are promoting democratization by practicing it, and they steadfastly insist that democratization is essential if globalization’s ills are to be cured.
Empowerment of the Victims
The lion’s share of antiglobalization activity is carried out by the privileged and comfortable denizens of the developed countries. Their efforts, no matter how well-meaning or sincere, are hardly enough. Rather, the victims themselves must be empowered. Antiglobalization movements stress “giving voice” to the marginalized, the poor, women, children, indigenous peoples, nature, and so on to counter the hegemonic domination of global neoliberal capitalism. The Third World Network (2003) speaks on behalf of its namesake—the great majority of the world’s population—in calling into question many aspects of globalization. The Grameen Bank (Yunus and Jolis 1999) takes practical action to empower the poor through microlending. Women’s empowerment is the goal of the World Women’s March, the NGO parallel summits at UN conferences on women, human rights and health campaigns opposing female genital mutilation, and so forth. Support is mustered to empower indigenous peoples in their struggles regarding, for example, Newmont Mining’s proposed operations in forest reserves in Ghana (Project Underground 2000) and the Enron/Shell pipeline through the Chiquitano forest and “indigenous ancestral homelands” in Bolivia (Amazon Watch 2002).
The WSF (2001:1) reflected this focus on inclusion and empowerment in its Porto Alegre Call for Mobilization: “We are women and men, farmers, workers, unemployed, professionals, students, blacks and indigenous peoples, coming from the South and from the North, committed to struggle for peoples’ rights, freedom, security, employment and education.” Global civil society provides a forum for the oppressed, a fleet of vehicles propelling them to the seats of power. They shall be empowered; the global moral order demands it.
Democratization and empowerment depend on awareness: The ills of globalization must be publicized, alternatives to neoliberalism must be articulated, and consciousness of oppression, exploitation, and injustice must be raised. The masks behind which the villains of globalization hide their machinations must be torn away. Unmasking is the selfappointed task of a great many international and domestic INGOs, which uncover and publicize the villains’ irresponsible, selfish, shortsighted behavior. Amnesty International regularly puts the finger on human rights abusers; Transparency International posts lists of highly corrupt states on the Web; CorpWatch monitors TNCs to reveal human rights and environmental violations; AccountAbility audits corporations to ensure that their social responsibility deeds match their words. Global campaigns always make increased awareness a primary goal, whether it be the Infact campaign against Nestlé (1977–1986) and its current “Hall of Shame” list of TNCs (Infact 2003), the alliance fighting against the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, or the Jubilee 2000 effort to win debt relief for poor countries (Jubilee Movement International 2001). More traditional consumer awareness campaigns are conducted by organizations pushing for fair (not free) trade and sustainable development, and even by some TNCs that have “seen the light” and become paragons of virtue for the antiglobalization forces (Max Havelaar, the Body Shop, Patagonia, and a few other companies). To guide the awareness efforts, numerous policy and research operations have emerged to articulate alternatives to neoliberal capitalist globalization. The IFG presents elaborate studies and position papers; the Institute for Policy Studies, Economic Policy Institute, and Transnational Institute counter the proglobalization forces with a wide range of documents and press releases.
Awareness, in the activists’ view, is crucial for empowerment and mobilization. Awareness enables and motivates the powerless to stand up for themselves, to protect their own sacrality, to push for the respect and protections to which they, as instances of the sacred Individual, are entitled. Awareness will help restore the sacred order; it is necessary to know the word of God to attain salvation.
Rationalizing Regulation of TNCs
Because in many accounts, TNCs are the engines powering globalization’s wheels, they are especially problematic. As everyone knows, many TNCs are richer and stronger than most states, and even the most powerful core states are often depicted as little more than sycophantic retainers of their TNC overlords. Hence, the TNCs must be brought under control and reoriented to human, not financial or hierarchical, purposes. The general mechanism for reining in the TNCs is regulation, although this is too formalistic a term in that it suggests legal action to shape TNC behavior but states are not the principal players on this stage. At work is a less formal notion of regulation by which global civil society organizations, acting as watchdogs, nags, monitors, and moral guides, attempt to reform and redeem the sinners.
Knowing that moral exhortation alone is usually ineffective, the guardians of global virtue try to make it costly for firms to pollute, exploit, or discriminate. They assume that negative publicity, especially if systematic and recurring, will create legitimacy and image problems for their targets. If a company is broadly seen as a doer of evil, investors may become leery, suppliers may fear “guilt by association,” and consumers may look for alternatives. The possibility of declining sales, profits, and share prices thereby becomes a powerful motivator for companies to embrace “social responsibility” and “corporate ethics.” The “Triple Bottom Line” (SustainAbility 2003) that adds social and environmental impacts to conventional financial results becomes an attractive concept, however cynical or manipulative company executives may be about it.
Make no mistake: Corporations have enormous resources and reach, compared with their critics, and antiglobalization groups entirely lack formal political authority. Yet their cultural authority—based on pious invocation of the global moral order, the prestige of scientific evidence, the credentials of their members, their ability to speak on behalf of “all humanity,” and the fame of some of their leaders—is not insignificant (Boli 1999). They have been a key factor in the widespread reorientation of TNC rhetoric and, in some domains, of TNC behavior as well.
The specific mechanisms involved are several. First, of course, is the targeting of the TNCs themselves, in terms of both negative publicity and direct contact and lobbying. Activists concentrate on highprofile TNCs with strong brands, such as Nike, Reebok, the Gap, the infamous Kathy Lee Gifford operation, Coca-Cola, and the like. Increasingly, TNCs are willing to meet with their critics and even to establish liaison offices to regularize relationships with them, though much hostility is also evident. Second is the monitoring of company-generated codes of conduct, ethics, or behavior. Many companies have developed in-house codes to which they claim to adhere; Levi Strauss was the first to establish a comprehensive code of conduct for its manufacturing and finishing contractors, in 1991. Similarly, business and industry INGOs have established industry codes to guide their members’ practices. In the early 1990s, responding to NGO pressure and the lessons learned from Nike’s global problems, Levi Strauss, Reebok, and Liz Claiborne led the way in establishing an apparel industry code, primarily targeting their overseas contractors. While such codes are, strictly speaking, purely voluntary and self-policing, they offer a fulcrum by which globalization critics can gain leverage against the companies if they detect violations.
Third is the creation and promulgation of codes of conduct by INGOs and national organizations. As a way to reduce the exploitation of child labor, for instance, the Clean Clothes Campaign pushes its 1998 “Code of Labor Practices for the Apparel Industry.” Rugmark (an INGO) promotes its certification process whereby manufacturers can attest that children are not employed in the making of rugs and carpets. Similarly, the “Ethics on the Label” (“De l’ethique sur l’etiquette”) campaign directed at toy manufacturers and other companies for human rights violations in the workplace has urged consumers since 1997 to buy only goods produced under acceptable conditions, thus also informing companies of the sins to be avoided.
A fourth mechanism is general business codes of conduct or ethics that outline social responsibility obligations for TNCs in general. The first general code to gain global recognition was the Sullivan Principles, initiated by Baptist Pastor Leon Sullivan in 1977 to reduce U.S. business activity in South Africa and thereby weaken apartheid (Sethi and Williams 2000). By 1994, 150 American TNCs had adopted the Sullivan Principles. Later efforts include the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies’ CERES Principles, developed in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska and now endorsed by 50 major companies; Social Accountability 8000 (SA 8000), an endeavor by the Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency from 1997 to assess labor practices, working conditions, and trade; and AA1000, a standards procedure for measuring the social and ethical achievements of companies, developed by Account Ability (an INGO promoting social responsibility and sustainable development) in 1999. A much more highly rationalized program that comes closer to the conventional sense of “regulation” is the ISO 14000 set of standards for environmentally sound organizational practices. Though also voluntary, this program requires companies seeking certification to undergo an intensive review by independent experts and demonstrate conformity with a large number of conditions.
IGOs have also been involved in conduct code development, beginning with the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in 1976, which was followed in 1977 by the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s Draft Code of Conduct. An outgrowth of the intensive mobilization by third-world countries in the 1970s to establish a New World Economic Order, New World Information Order, and the like, these early efforts were ineffectual and are largely forgotten. A more recent example that has both inspired some activists and drawn considerable criticism from others is the 1999 Global Compact, largely the creation of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose nine principles concerning human rights, labor, and the environment envision a “partnership” among states, international organizations, and TNCs to work cooperatively for global improvements. Its anchoring in the global moral order is strikingly evident on the home page for the compact, which prominently quotes Secretary-General Kofi Annan as follows: “Let us choose to unite the power of markets with the authority of universal principles” (UN Global Compact 2003).
We should note that codes of conduct rarely address issues of global economic inequality directly; they deal primarily with issues lumped under the rubric of “human rights” (labor rights, child labor, women and minority issues, etc.) and with environmental matters, though responsibilities toward the local community also show up frequently. A major theme in recent years, though not always explicitly discussed, is sustainable development, which has become a loosely conceived catchall notion that envisions a “balance” between development and environmental concerns. Yet it too has come under fire from globalization’s critics, who worry about TNCs and major IGOs adopting the term to disguise their tendency to put much more emphasis on “development” than on “sustainability” (IFG 2002).
Predictably enough, champions of neoliberalism and TNC-dominated economic globalization have gone on the offensive against their antiglobalization critics. Leading the charge have been the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, and other major business publications, along with neoconservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and Hoover Institution. Officials of the IMF and WTO have also swung into action. The backlash’s starting point is simple: The benefits of globalization far outweigh its drawbacks; globalization is a progressive, modernizing force that promises salvation from the world’s evils (The Economist 2001b). Free markets generate efficiency and the optimal allocation of resources through the principle of comparative advantage. The competitive global economy benefits consumers by producing the best products at the lowest prices. Free markets expand individual freedom and the capacity to choose. Inequality is a consequence not of markets, but of individual variability with regard to self-discipline, entrepreneurship, planning, self-investment, and so on. In any case, the rising tide of global economic development lifts all boats, both those of the more advanced North and those of the developing South. TNCs provide capital and employment opportunities in developing countries that compensate for the lack of indigenous capital; the positive spillover effects of foreign investment gradually pave the way for self-sustaining economic growth. Globalization enhances environmental protection because TNCs are much more aware of and committed to the importance of the environment than are local companies. What is more, free markets produce free polities—economic openness will lead to democratization, not dictatorship. And finally, what is misinterpreted as cultural imperialism is only the result of free individuals freely making choices; if their choices lead to homogenization, what could be more proper?
Directly contrary to globalization’s critics, the neoconservative backlash thus bemoans not too much marketization, but too little. Corruption distorts markets, shifting capital and revenues to inefficient uses. Weak law enforcement distorts markets by allowing coercive and manipulative measures to determine business decisions. Government monopolies distort markets by encouraging fiscal irresponsibility, large budget deficits, and excessive indebtedness. If the South suffers in its trading relations, the problem is that trade is not completely free, so disequilibria in global production and consumption still plague the world economy. Economic liberalization has not gone far enough; the universal solution is the total triumph of the market.
Challenges to the Legitimacy of Ngos and Global Civil Society
Besides flooding the world with neoliberal ideology, the defenders of globalization have also launched direct assaults on antiglobalization critics and movements. These protestors, activists, and NGO representatives are not elected by any identifiable constituency—and certainly not by those whom they claim to represent. Neither are they accountable to any constituency; policy proclaimers such as the IFG and CorpWatch can advocate anything they please because they cannot be held responsible for their words or deeds. This lack of accountability, the backlash forces continue, leads antiglobalization activists to endorse policies that would harm the very people they claim to support (arguing, e.g., that forcing subcontractors to pay above-market wages in a given country would only force companies to move their plants elsewhere). Antiglobalizers are even depicted as enemies of the poor (The Economist 2001a). Contrary to the pretense they try to maintain, they are hardly the embodiment of virtue, acting selflessly on behalf of the poor and oppressed. They have their own narrow interests, and they often care more about basking in the light of moral righteousness than working toward practicable, meaningful solutions to global problems. Their calls for world democracy, transparency, and accountability ring hollow because they are themselves neither democratic, transparent, nor accountable (International Chamber of Commerce 1998).
Another line of attack relates to expertise and professionalism: Globalization’s critics do not understand the issues; they are misinformed, and they have simplistic approaches to complex realities. “The valid criticisms are buried under a heap of error, muddle and deliberate distortion” (The Economist 2001e:21). Their accounts of business malpractice are unfair, exaggerated, or false. They are sensationalistic, staging splashy but pointless events to attract members and funding. True experts keep their distance from these irresponsible movements; thus, the critics’ data, publications, and analyses are incorrect and unreliable. And, in the end, the antiglobalizers have little to offer in terms of constructive alternatives to neoliberal globalization. They whine and complain but cannot build. Small wonder—for they are themselves by-products, as it were, of globalization itself. Without global information and communication systems, the free movement of people, and the resources that the world economy has generated, globalization’s critics would be entirely marginal and invisible.
The Radical Critique: Co-Optation
Antiglobalization movements face criticism not only from globalization’s defenders but also from within their own camp. Popular NGOs and global civil society groups are all too willing, the argument goes, to cooperate with the villainous forces of global capitalism. Starr (2000), for example, puts the feet of these movements to the fire for not being anticorporate enough. They are content with superficial reforms, negotiating away the vital changes that must occur if the needs of the many are to take precedence over the needs of the few. Microcredit lending is a debt trap for the poor; antisweatshop campaigns support the capitalist paradigm; and fair trade groups and sustainable development movements reinforce unequal exchange and other systemic evils of capitalism. For Starr, the antiglobalization forces that penetrate to the core of the problems are the anarchists, hackers, and other radical groups who steadfastly refuse to accept the world capitalist system’s unrepentant nonchalance toward the moral order.
Agents of the Same Global Moral Order?
The often rancorous conflicts between antiglobalization groups and their neoconservative detractors obscure an important underlying commonality: By and large, the parties to the conflict adhere to the same global moral order. From both sides, the welfare and empowerment of individuals (the holiest of holies) are invoked first and foremost to justify policies and practices. Not even the most myopic defenders of capitalism dare endorse neoliberalism as a means of exploiting workers, keeping the masses in check, or defusing the population bomb through starvation and disease. Their backlash arguments assume the same general goals of rising living standards, better health, more education, cleaner air, and the like that the antiglobalizers argue are inhibited by untrammeled capitalism. The same goes for the sacrality of nature (how often do oil companies place newspaper ads gloating over the devastation of nature in the name of progress?), the nation (does anyone endorse the collapse of societies or cultures?), and various special-protection groups (what right-wing think tank demands increased discrimination against minorities or women?).
Agreement about the content of the global moral order is thus extensive.7 With regard to some principles, there is significant variation in emphasis: Globalization’s critics stress the importance of equality (everyone has the right to a minimum standard of living; excessive wealth is inherently exploitative) while their opponents focus more on freedom (minimizing constraints on individual action is the supreme value; inequalities may result, but in a truly open system they are due to individual characteristics alone). Similarly, some strains of antiglobalization rhetoric downplay individualism in favor of collective entities (the family, village, ethnic group, nation) or public goods (peace, solidarity, local autonomy). On the whole, however, these variations span a quite narrow range. Most of the dimensions of the global moral order are well institutionalized, which implies that most of the debate about globalization’s problems are likely to continue along the same tracks that have already been laid.
Globalization is, as we have seen, an elastic concept that has been stretched in many directions. Correspondingly, globalization is assailed as the cause of a host of social problems. When the term came into fashion in the 1990s, intellectuals and activists of many sorts latched onto it in a wave of oppositional enthusiasm and imagination not seen since the revival of Marxism 30 years earlier. The irresistible allure of globalization as a master concept for describing and decrying the world’s ills reflects both the awesome power of the presumed engines of globalization (TNCs, states, IGOs) and the broad and deep institutionalization of the global moral order in the second half of the twentieth century. Intense commitment to guarding and protecting the entities occupying the sacred core of the moral order—especially the individual, the nation, and nature—has yielded a vast array of organizations and networks that relentlessly seek out violations of the moral order and expose the violators to public scrutiny and pressure.
Increasing cultural complexity and global integration heighten the ambiguous duality of globalization processes, constantly enhancing the opportunities to identify new global problems while also producing increasingly precise information about ever more dimensions of social life that can be used to detect violations of the global moral order. If we had meaningful measures of the globalization problematique (counts of the number of antiglobalization organizations, position papers, press releases, individuals involved, network links), they would surely show exponential growth throughout the 1990s. Whether that growth has continued is less certain because one aspect of globalization, terrorism, has occupied so much space in the global public realm since the 2001 attacks in the United States. Never before has a single issue so rapidly erupted into the public realm, and the terrorism theme has recast many of the globalization debates in sometimes unlikely ways. But a tour of antiglobalization Web sites should be enough to convince anyone that the current obsession with terrorism has hardly diminished concerns about other problems of globalization. Indeed, other problems have often been reinterpreted to show why solving them would also help to remove the conditions that produce global terrorism.
As long as the world economy continues to become more integrated, global organizations continue to expand their responsibilities for global governance, world communication and transportation systems continue to develop, and global flows of goods, services, cultural products, and people continue to expand, there is every reason to expect the problematization of globalization to expand as well. We should expect further increases in global imagery, world-society thinking, relativized conceptions of “nation” and “culture,” and the like by a growing proportion of the world’s population. Further elaboration of the theme of the global will be accompanied by further elaboration of the problems of the global.
Of course, unending globalization is not inevitable. Excessive unilateralism in the guise of a “war on terrorism” by the hegemonic world power could undermine global institutions and geopolitical mechanisms that maintain global systems. Too-rapid expansion of the European Union could lead to its collapse and a surge of bugger-thy-neighbor nationalism. Regional integration could produce armed rivalries for the control of vital resources and global domination. Any scenario that produced a substantial degree of “de-globalization” would probably also reduce the construction of globalization as the source of global ills. The significance of the global moral order would thereby give way to particularistic (but still largely similar) moral orders at lower levels, for example, by shifting primacy away from the sacred Individual and nature in favor of particular nations. Even with the great disruptions that these scenarios would entail, though, it seems likely that globalization would eventually make a comeback, as it did so spectacularly after the world wars. We suspect that the globalization problematique is with us for a very long time to come.