Santiago 2009 - 21st World Congress of Political Science

Event Date: 
Saturday, July 11, 2009 - 17:37 to Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - 17:37

GLOBAL DISCONTENT? Dilemmas of Change

The seeds of globalization were sown long ago. Today, it dominates our lives. While the phenomenon of internationalization has been with us for a long time, the development of the process as we know it is far more recent. Long gone is the notion that technology was creating a "global village." Globalization, nowadays, refers not only to the speed with which information, money and goods travel, but to complete economic and political re-organization.

The collapse of the bipolar world order gave way to the rise of globalization as an ideology. Its proponents view the world through this cognitive lens, and use it to shape the world of the 21st Century. But there is considerable resistance to the movement. These challenges may be summed up in the term "global discontent."

Globalization continues to be used casually as a catch-all term for the economic and financial integration of emerging market societies as well as the social and political implications of the information era. Among these implications are the technological developments that have led to e-government and e-politics. These multiple meanings have sparked the evolution of countless conceptual frameworks and analytical trends. More recently, to specify the dimensions involved and avoid some of the terms ideological undertones, global processes has been offered as an alternative to globalization. As political scientists, advancing our theoretical and empirical understanding of the phenomenon loosely referred to as globalization is an opportunity as well as a challenge.

Globalization influences politics in numerous ways, direct and indirect. With the widespread removal of barriers to the free movement of capital, goods and information, the nation statethe primary unit of human political organization since 1648 is being challenged. One response has been the emergence of multi-level governance, which speaks to an effort to reinvigorate the state by forming new or stronger bodies at the regional and global levels.

Some argue that states are increasingly constrained in the exercise of their sovereignty by
multinational corporations, international financial institutions and organizations, both governmental and non-governmental. To bring prosperity to its citizens, the nation state, it
appears, relies less on coercive powers than on securing the consent of independent economic players. Where economic players once had to persuade nation states to account for their needs and preferences, the so-called enabling state is quick to accommodate them.

The nation state, as mentioned, has tried to meet the challenge of globalization by forming
regional unions and/or establishing multi-level governance. The European Union, the most
complex example of this, aims for political union and is not limited solely to trade. All such
unions share a similar intention, however: to form a bloc capable of influencing developments related to globalization while minimizing negative outcomes and maximizing positive ones.

Multi-level governance extends to institutions as well, with many now spanning the globe.
The possible weakening of the nation state has invited the resurgence of sub-national groups demanding acknowledgement of their existence and recognition of their culture and political rights. Integration is once again a chief concern of national governments. Some countries histories or cultures may present attitudes and institutional frameworks that are helpful in meeting these challenges. Others do not. Most nations now face these challenges, however, as people try to hang on to their origins, identities and cultures. The search for new means of holding societies together goes on, frequently accompanied by violence.

Globalization produces a variety of trends, some convergent, others contradictory. A marked trend, for example, is the one toward democratization, a global process with formidable challenges. In emergent market democracies, economic integration goes hand in hand with the public clamour for constitutional democracy. Elected politicians and government elites face unprecedented new challenges as they attempt to strike a balance between two distinct constituencies with two distinct sets of policy goals. Meanwhile, the expectations and changing moods of domestic and international markets are rarely in harmony with the perceptions and demands of the electorate. Policymakers, with little room to maneuver, are under pressure to satisfy both constituencies. Is this impossible?

Societies that play a greater role in shaping the globalization process project their political
and economic values onto the world. A market economy and a democratic government seem to be the main criteria for this ideological movement. Yet, doubts have been cast on the health of democracies, even so-called mature democracies. As well, democratic forms have been superimposed onto societies previously ruled by other means, often resulting in
uncertain outcomes; similarly, protected national economies have been integrated into the
international market economy, often with destabilizing consequences. The rationalization of economies, the privatization of state enterprises, and the reduction or termination of food and fuel subsidies, in general, have worsened the lot of the poorest and swollen their ranks.

Interestingly, those who defend the free movement of goods and capital have been adamant
about instituting new barriers to the free movement of labour. Meanwhile, the ever-widening gap between rich and poor and between rich and poor countries is the subject of increasing debate. The disadvantaged are demanding changes to the international economic order sometimes referred to euphemistically as the new financial architecture championed by international markets. Yet no new arrangement setting out basic rules for a new international order has replaced the Bretton Woods system, a situation that has generated instability in developing nations. Indeed, the Doha round of WTO talks dubbed the “development round has met serious difficulties leading to the suspension of negotiations.

Economic despair and frustration have paved the way for a series of negative developments.
Terrorism is one. The spread of organized crime is another, as global syndicates operate in
the drug trade, human trafficking and prostitution, Internet fraud, arms, and weapons of mass destruction. A third outcome is the movement of unauthorized labour across borders. A proportion of citizens in the developed world view this influx of labour as an economic and cultural threat hence the appeal of ideologies in favour of driving out illegal workers. The unauthorized workers who make up this labour force experience an uneasy and marginal existence, with no political rights or influence. Instead, they resort to unorthodox means, sometimes violent, to communicate their needs and frustrations.

Many now believe that globalization, at least in its initial stages, has worked to the advantage of developed and industrialized nations. At the national level, however, it is thought to favour the privileged at the expense of the middle and lower classes of society. In historical hindsight, these judgments may prove too harsh or even inaccurate. After all, China and India, among others, are enjoying unparalleled growth and prosperity. At the same time, though, countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have yet to see the benefits globalization is supposed to bring. Some have turned to low-cost instruments to challenge the established order. Rogue states are suspected of supporting terrorist movements, developing and exporting weapons of mass destruction, and using proxies to intervene in the domestic affairs of other countries. These policies have sparked retaliation in the form of military intervention by major players in the global system.

Globalization has occasioned global problems, not the least of which is climate change, seen by many as the primary threat to our survival. Politics has failed to bring about a solution.

Developed countries, to provide a safer environment, export their problems to the developing world, where poor countries don't have the resources to devote to them.

Globalization has brought about a redistribution of power both domestically and internationally. Like any other major transformative process, there are winners and losers. As the process moves forward, it generates its own discontents, critics and opponents. It
produces politics of resistance and compliance, with states and NGOs playing a central part.

At this critical juncture, we believe that the globalization process and its outcomes constitute critical topics of study for all political scientists. We propose that global discontent constitute the central theme of our 21st World Congress. The broad framework of globalization offers opportunities to participate in a grand intellectual enterprise, one that analyzes, criticizes and evaluates the prevalent phenomenon of our times.

Students from all disciplines international relations, comparative politics, political economy, political thought, public policy, political change and development, environmental politics, gender politics, ethnic politics, urban politics, local government, politics of resistance or reaction are welcome to contribute.

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