The reading of Chapters 2 and 9 in the book Sociology of Globalization (edited by Keri Smith) has removed the last remaining doubts in my mind, as to the fact that there is nothing accidental about the ongoing “decline of the West” – the process that during the recent decade has attained an exponential momentum. The reason for this is that the concerned book is not only filled with a number of rather erroneous claims, which are supposed to be seen (by students) representing an undisputed truth-value, but also illustrates the authors’ reduced ability to grasp the discursive significance of geopolitical/socioeconomic dynamics in today’s world.
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To prove the validity of this suggestion, one will not have to go far. For example, Chapter 2 opens with the following statement: “Indisputably, the United States is the only superpower in the world” (Peterson and Osterhammel 11). The authors, however, did not bother to clarify that by evoking the term “superpower”, they, in fact, were referring to the term’s Western (Anglo-Saxon) conceptualization. According to it, “superpower” is the country in the position to be bossing the international community around, while expecting nothing but unquestionable obedience from the rest of international actors.
As the authors euphemistically noted: “The inescapable leadership role it (“superpower”) assumes… brings with it special responsibilities” (Peterson and Osterhammel 11). There is, however, an alternative outlook on the connotative subtleties of the notion in question, professed by Russia and China – “superpower” is the country that refuses taking orders from the US, without having to face any dire consequences whatsoever. It is understood, of course, that this alone exposes the sheer wrongness of Peterson and Osterhammel’s suggestion. There are at least three “superpowers” in today’s world – even if we were to exclude North Korea. After all, this country has just shown to the whole world that the US prefers to fight specifically those enemies that cannot bite back, and that for as long as there is even a slight possibility for such hypothetical development to take place, the talk about “fire and fury” is being instantly replaced by the one that stresses out the importance of “resolving differences through negotiation”.
As it can be inferred from the chapter, its author did not come very close to understanding the actual nature of the political issues that he aimed to discuss either. For example, he refers to the recent upsurge of ethnic nationalism in Europe as something that does not make much of a rational sense. There is, however, nothing “phenomenal” about the described trend. It symbolizes the strength of people’s determination to take control of their own destinies in the land that belongs to them. Apparently, these people have had just about enough of the Neoliberal governance, which undermines the integrity of the European societies from within by means of endorsing the “reverse colonization”, and which strives for nothing short of depriving citizens of their sense of gender identity – all due to the considerations of “political correctness”. Therefore, there is nothing truly “mysterious” about the observation that the new political scene does not fit into the old left-right divide. The described situation has to do with the fact that, as of today, it indeed often proves impossible to tell any difference between politicians in the West, regardless of the nature of their political leanings – the same grey suits, the same meaningless/politically correct rhetoric, the same ability to lie to the public in the most convincing manner, etc.
Hence, the true significance of European separatism – after having realized themselves not being in the position to influence the policy-making process in their own countries, the residents of the “separatist regions” have come to conclude that there is no other option for them to be able to oppose the absurdity of political correctness, but aspiring for independence. And, there is indeed a good reason to believe that the “identity politics” policy is ill-conceived, to say the least. To illustrate the validity of this claim, we can refer to the opinion that there is an “irrational” quality to the rise of an anti-immigrant sentiment in the EU, which supposedly justifies “cultural conservatism”, on the part of the newly arrived ethnic immigrants: Evidently enough, the author doesn’t seem to understand the dialectical essence of the relationship between causes and consequences in this world. If “cultural conservatism” of such immigrants is reflective of their tendency to gang-rape women and derive religious ecstasy from driving trucks into the crowds of innocent bystanders, then there is indeed a good reason for most native-born Europeans to feel skeptical about the eventual outcomes of the “celebration of diversity” policy.
What contributes even further towards undermining the extent the chapter’s objective value is that it features many sophistically sounding but essentially unintelligible terms, such as “space of flows”, “voluntary interdependencies”, “post-international multilateralism”, “reflexive modernity”, etc. It is really quite impossible to tell what the author had in mind while deploying these terms at will. However, as one reads through the chapter for the second time, it begins to dawn on him/her what accounted for the author’s argumentative agenda. In a nutshell, Peterson and Osterhammel strived to convince readers that: 1) It is thoroughly natural for the West/America to be in charge of defining what Globalization is all about. 2) One’s sense of self-identity has very little to do with the concerned person’s social status/class, but rather with the particulars of his/her ethnic affiliation/sexual lifestyle. 3) It is only a matter of time, before the concept of “national sovereignty” becomes utterly outdated – the development that will result in endowing the American-based transnational corporations with the quasi-sovereign status.
What this means is that the reviewed chapter best discussed as being strongly biased, in the ideological sense of this word. It may be the case that back in 2013 (when the book was published), some of the outlined argumentative claims did make sense. After all, back then the collective West still had the illusion of being “on top of things”. As of 2018, however, it became perfectly clear to just about everybody that, allegorically speaking, the “king is naked”. Therefore, even though the book Sociology of Globalization indeed contains some interesting insights into the nature of Globalization, it cannot be regarded particularly enlightening. I would not recommend it for reading.
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Peterson, Niels and Jurgen Osterhammel. “A New Millennium.” Sociology of Globalization, edited by Keri Smith, Westview Press, 2013, pp. 11-17.