R. Kilminster, “Globalization as an Emergent Concept” by R. in The Limits of Globalization: Cases and Arguments, 1997

R. Kilminster argues that globalization has existed since the 1960s, but new migrations of peoples, technologies that further shrink time and space, and the continuing interplay of states in a system of inequality have reshaped globalization’s meaning. However, Kilminster fails to see the strict focus on economic develops as a positive, rather he views such Marxist reductionism as problematic. As such, Kilminster takes issue with several other thinkers such as Emmanuel Wallerstein for their inability to consider cultural factors in their respective equations. Ultimately, Kilminster wants to show “the character of ideas on the subject of humankind as a whole as well as more systematic models of the functions of social relations on a world level…” (261)

Hoping to illustrate the integrative nature of globalization, Kilminster reviews the views of leading sociologists/philosophers from Herder and Marx to Condorcet and Turgot. Kilminster locates a long standing tendency to associate humans with memberships beyond the nation state [uses Herodutus as example]. If earlier writers envisioned global communities or associations, the rise of the national state greatly hampered such past formulations, “it has been the nineteenth and twentieth century interstate conflict and rivalry that has produced the more exclusionary and chauvinistic forms of modern nationalism, blinding us to the developing international interdependencies which these ideological antagonisms belied.” (264) [sounds a bit likes Hobsbaum] Continuing with this line of thought, Kilminster argues that “Globalization fosters forms of cosmopolitan consciousness and stimulates feelings and expressions of ethnicity.” (280)

The political influence of the nation state and the position that many social scientists take in relation to its dominance has, according to Kilminster, distorted their arguments. Wallerstein serves as Kilminister primary contemporary foil. While accusing Wallerstien of ignoring cultural influences and resorting to a teleological viewpoint (which to be fair he also ascribes to Marx), he also credits Wallerstein with suggesting that scholars consider the creation of “social reciprocities and interdependencies integrated at a level above that of the nation state.” For Kilminster, the political trap that many social scientists fall into lay in their no doubt principled opposition to the dominance of Western nation states. However, he cautions that such polemical tropes lead to the establishment of arguments that can be neither proven nor disproven. [Wallerstein is esp. guilty of this] Moreover, Kilminister acknowledges that peoples have traditions that predate Marxism and the like that are not simply constructed social manifestations. [he also notes some cultures are more conducive to “successful “ economic development].

Kilminster provides several suggestions to avoid the teleological/reductionist traps the social sciences sometimes slip into 1) relative distance from political convictions 2) move beyond political economy (materialism), (structured)/ idealism, and (culture) confrontation 3) developing and interdisciplinary and cooperative approach and 4) rise above nation state thinking. [“national disintegration goes hand in hand with the transnational reintegration at a higher level particularly the continental with an accompanying reinvigoration of ethnicity In addition, Kilminster notes that an ironic development within this new globalization concept revolves around the idea that expanding interdependencies can also create increasing tensions between such dependencies that reinforce national self images. [“globalization is then viewed … as an emergent concept, ” (272)]

One interesting aspect of Kilminster argument seems to be the somewhat optimistic view he takes of recent developments. For example, though he agrees nations remain unequal economically so to are rich nations less likely to resort to violent coercion at least in comparison to colonialism. However, this viewpoint carries with it the caveat that nations remain more willing to resort to violence then most citizens. The power of poorer nations can only be grasped when one “considers the relations between interdependent peoples in the round, and not only economically.” (275)

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