Globalization has been a buzzword since I was a kid. But I don’t know how many people really understand what this process actually is.
Globalization is the end of the power of the state, when the flow of trade, investment, and labour across the Earth moves so fast, with such high volume and intensity, that states can no longer control what happens in their own territory. Unless they want to go the full North Korea and become a basket case.
|State armies hit their highest power when they conquered|
the world as the engines of imperialism. But they
couldn't last forever.
You read Antonio Negri, like I’m doing, or maybe read any critical history or philosophy of the development of the state. You see a process where autonomous cities and towns were taken under the authority of massive militaries controlled by kings.
After the kings consolidated their power over formerly free people and against each other, they turned to the rest of the world to find more riches and power. Even in those early days before the kings and elites of Spain, France, Holland, and England cared about any lands overseas, imperialism happened in Europe itself. Imperialism is the consolidation of state control.
That consolidation doesn’t just happen with pure military might. It’s inherently unstable for the same reason workers never respect a boss who does nothing but bully and abuse them. People chafe at the explicit violence of control.
So the most effective forms of control are ideologies that obscure what our interests – freedom from dictatorial, state, or military control – really are. That’s why we grow up praising our ethnic group, feeling national pride, feeling hatred, fear, and resentment toward different ethnic groups.
Such people worship their state as the ultimate form of solidarity. It’s a false solidarity because it excludes people on the grounds of a fiction. A false, mutant, violent solidarity, because a working man sees more of himself in common with the pampered oligarchs and heirs of his own nation than the fellow working man of a different colour, language, or culture. But it’s still a solidarity.
That's why interracial love is such a radical, transformative act. It makes the most fundamental parts of your own life – your family and your children – a living up-yours to values of ethnic purity and violent nationalism. Your very life breaks boundaries.
Globalization breaks boundaries. Even though we may decry its own injustices – its global exploitation more intense than workers have ever been exploited – we can’t understand globalization unless we also accept its real vectors of freedom.
|From the anti-globalization protests of Seattle in 1999.|
The embrace of exclusive solidarity as a response to globalization trades the violence of nationalism for the violence of exploitation. And a truly global resurgence of imperialism – states with enormous armies conquering whole continents – would destroy globalization.
Negri acknowledges this, and decades of critical thinkers (Negri particularly cites Rosa Luxemburg) have understood it. Imperialism is about erecting borders and subsuming other lands and peoples within them. Globalization, or as Negri calls it Empire, is about breaking down and eroding borders.
But it’s too late for a resurgence of imperialism. The First World War was imperialism’s first major moment of self-destruction. Imperialism began with the consolidation of the modern state in the European wars of the 1600s. It came to a crashing halt when those states finally ran up against each other as they parcelled out the world.
Today, we’re dependent on forces beyond the control of any one state for our prosperity and our basic economic functions. I talk to a lot of my friends who, like me, are suffering from shitty economics – jobs are unstable, many underpay, and many of us face serious issues building a livelihood.
Many of us blame the government, either the last one or or the current one, depending on your existing beliefs and proclivities. But when you look at the way our global economy works, it’s really the wrong place to blame. The Prime Minister or Premiers, for example, can’t save the economies of Alberta or Newfoundland from a cratering oil price.
That’s a globalized process. And it’s beyond the control of any one state. The politics that responds to these globalized processes can’t stop at the state alone, if we want it to be effective. We need a truly global movement.