In 2008, as in 1999 (the Seattle WTO’s meeting moment), what we have used to call “Globalisation” — following Bill Clinton, Mikhaïl Gorbachev, Arjun Appadurai or Joseph Stiglitz — remains an extraordinarily complex, multi-faceted and confusing issue. The profit and loss account of economic Globalisation stays fiercely debated by “pro” and “anti”. The major social, cultural, environmental, epidemiologic and financial disasters contemporary of the ongoing Globalisation wave are widely considered as its “results” or side effects, but other analysts strongly deny such interpretation. More and more, Globalisation is conceived as a “well known” process, phenomenon or subject. More and more it is used as a striking argument or universal explication: an unlimited source of ready-to-wear “answers”... But less and less, it looks problematic per se. On the contrary, the so-called “Globalisation debate” appears as no more than a new Realm of Obviousness. That is why I would like to propose a critical and trans-disciplinary discussion of the ten following theses:
Global issues, Global studies, research on Globalisation(s) are certainly neither obsolete nor outdated. The more “Globalisation” is perceived as a mere “fact” that we should only accommodate to, the more it proves a suspect, ambiguous and deceiving concept upon which we need to mobilise all the critical resources of Philosophy and the Humanities.
“The End of Globalisation” motto should be heard as the expression by its promoters of the following wish: that with such a “Globalisation death” decree will simultaneously cease all critical investigation, all comparative approach, all philosophical enquiry, all scientific revaluation of conflicting Globalisation figures and processes.
On the reverse, we should sustain this standpoint that the considerable field of “Research and studies on Globalisation(s)” — field which was invested by critical thinking for no more than ten years — currently experiments only its initial phase.
What has been achieved worldwide for about ten years by different individual contributions and collective work — be they academic or not —, is not to be neglected: i.e. an already impressive de-construction work (sub-field by sub-field), associated with a deeply rooted conceptual discussion, completed by a decisive reformulation of the Globalisation(s) vocabulary, and therefore of its dictionary.
The limits that have been reached by this multilateral, trans-national, trans-disciplinary movement of critical thinking, weakly organised but lively and performing, were above all: i) an insufficient circulation of concepts and research produced within the media, political and economical spheres, and, correlatively ii) a poor capacity to modify normative paradigms on Globalisation used by journalists, political and economical leaders — and subsequently: to generate inflexion of their “Global affairs” vision and management.
The future of “Research and studies on Globalisation(s)” is nothing but obvious, first of all due to the point stressed in Thesis n°2. Not only these research and studies motivate very few people — even within the academic world —, but they are also widely considered as useless, even within the so-called “progressive” groups and parties. Such statement implies that the next step should be focused on a quasi lobbyist strategy, aimed at circulating core ideas developed for the last decade and at convincing more and more people of the pertinence and usefulness of Global research.
The huge and compulsory trans-disciplinary effort that it requires proves to be a very strong limit to the expansion of such research field. Indeed, we do not live in the times of Diderot, Condorcet, Kant, Hegel and their like, who would have been much better intellectually equipped than we are to “think Globalisation(s)”, due to their multi-faceted Bildung. What appears critical for the advancement of Global research is therefore both i) to become individually more and more “trans-disciplinary”, and ii) to convince usually reluctant Universities to change their mind about trans-disciplinary studies, so that they favour those which are more particularly concerned with the “Globalisation(s) field”.
Emphasis on the multilingualism issue is also critical for a true development of Global research out of its normative expansion path. Indeed, it looks daily more dangerous to approach Global issues through the sole bias of English, German, Spanish or French. “Globe”, “Welt”, “monde”, “Globalisation”, “mondialisation”, aside their translation in other Indo-European languages, need to be confronted with their “equivalent” and their "different" in the Buddhist, Islamic, Guarani, Yoruba or Inuit traditions — a confrontation to be carried out in the long run.
We should never forget that “Globalisation” is a cultural issue — i.e. i) it is first of all a cultural issue and ii) it is a cultural issue. First of all means that the perception, understanding, description of “Globalisation” is cultural before being economical, political, social… Cultural means that the substance, features or evolution of “Globalisation” are intimately linked to cultural references and cultural debates.
The future of “Research and studies on Globalisation(s)” is not written. As of now, it even looks “open”. But it will soon be judged on the capacity of such research and studies of modifying the own judgement of non-intellectual leaders about the diverse and contradictory Globalisation projects. And of providing these leaders with objective and serious reasons of privileging the emergence of a true “Cosmo-political citizen” (Weltbürger) rather than of a mere “Global consumer”.
What is and remains at stake in this process would be a shared understanding of the ontological difference existing between, on the one side: : i) a authentic “world” (mundus politicus) where could be experimented plural “mondialisations” (mundializations), respectful of human rights, human dignity and cultural diversity, and, on the other side: ii) a pure “globe” where could only reign — without alternative — a unique and lethal pattern of Globalisation.