The Global Soul, II
There are many articles and essays posted on the Web that address this issue of “globalism versus globalisation”, usually with the former being considered the desirable and the latter judged as undesirable. “Globalisation”, as currently understood, has become identical with the ideology called “neo-liberalism”, and the core belief of neo-liberalism is the belief that the “free market” (or Capitalism) will unify and integrate the world. This very lop-sided belief is typically what is also referred to as “economism“. In that sense, it is perceived as a secular form of fundamentalism or reductionism.
Unfortunately, the term “globalisation” (or planetisation) has become captive of the spin-doctors and perception managers, and for that reason has become contentious. The process of globalisation has some positive content inasmuch as it also describes a process of planetary integration, but its negative polarity is seen in its directly opposite results — dis-integration and fracture. As mentioned, even a champion of neo-liberalism, Amy Chua, has written about this pernicious or perverse effect of globalisation in her book World On Fire.
It is because of this lop-sidedness presently of the process called “globalisation” that it is riddled with self-contradictions, and seems more nihilistic than creative. It is described as a “juggernaut” — after the carriage of the god Jagannatha, “Lord of the Universe”. Jagannath, who is an avatar of the god Vishnu, is a god worshipped by Hindus and neo-liberals, neo-socialists (that is “New Labour” or the Blairites), and neo-conservatives altogther. Blake would probably identify him as his deranged Zoa “Urizen” (who he also calls “Noboddady” or “Jehovah” or “Ancient of Days”). In fact, since Urizen is the ruling Zoa of this age, neo-liberalism, neo-socialism, and neo-conservatism all worship at his altar and under his tent. That is why there is so little to distinguish between them. Politically speaking, it’s the primordial “soup” or “gray goo” all over again. The “neo-” prefix really means nothing more than an attempt by these secular ideologies to come to terms with the convergence and emergence of “One World” since the First World War — a way of ordering this process according to known precedents and paradigms. That model and paradigm is a religion — faith in the “free market”. This is what we call “economism”.
As you know I’m critical of that faith and its logic as being obsolete and antiquated. Some really fine minds have done a masterful job of dissecting the contradictions of this model — David Korten (When Corporations Rule the World), Tom Frank (One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy), William Greider (One World Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism). Naomi Klein (No Logo, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism). All find “globalisation” desirable except in the nearly fanatical way it is currently being implemented, rationalised, and justified. As such, they have had to come up with a term to distinguish themselves from that biased and pernicious approach to “globalisation” without abandoning the positive aspects of the process. Hence the dispute between “globalism versus globalisation”.
I would say that, at root, we are facing really a “spiritual” problem, if we can put it that way. And that problem is the confusion of the meanings of “assimilation” and “integration”. They are used confusedly because they are assumed to be synonyms for each other. In fact, they are diametrically opposite in meaning. “Assimilation” means “to make the same”, and that’s pretty much the intent of what is called “modernisation” or “westernisation”. It’s a term related to metabolism and digestion, hence the notion that “globalisation” is simply another form of imperialism. “Integration” means “to heal” or “to make whole” or “peace-making”.
This confusion of different values (which recalls Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”) relates to what I consider the ultimate confusion: the tendency to use the terms “whole” and “total” as synonyms for each other. And I think that right here we come to the gist of the whole current problem, and the main difference between The Mechanical Philosophy and The Holistic Philosophy, as I’ve tried to describe it in previous posts. The “whole” means “healthy” (which is the meaning of the term “integrity” or “integrality”), while “total” is merely a sum and aggregation. In fact, “total” is very likely related to the Germanic word for “dead”, which is “tot“, or “death”, which is “Tod“. That difference explains the reaction to the first English population census, which was referred to as “the Doomsday Book” — this form of measuring by number, summation, aggregation. It seems that earlier, people knew full well the difference between “whole” (the “commonweal” or quality) and “totality” (mere aggregation or quantification). Over time, this difference has become conflated, and this collapse of the higher value into the lower value is what Rene Guenon describes as The Reign of Quantity. And, again, Blake would call that the hegemony of his Zoa “Urizen”. Urizen is alienated reason, and is fully the same as what Jean Gebser calls “the mental-rational structure of consciousness functioning in deficient mode”. Nietzsche simply calls that “nihilism”.
Nietzsche refers to these distinctions of meaning as the difference between “noble” and “ignoble” (or vulgar) values, or the confusion of what is traditionally referred to as the spiritual and the material. The assimilation of the noble into the ignoble, or the conflation of the noble and ignoble, is his understanding of “nihilism” — all higher values devalue themselves. This is the problem we refer to as “reductionism” or “fundamentalism”, or the reduction of the whole to a mere totality, the assimilation of “quality” into “quantity”. There isn’t really much to distinguish rationalist “reductionism” from religious “fundamentalism”. They actually grew up together in the Modern Era like the Gemini twins; or like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.
Globalisation is fractious because of this root contradiction. That is why the naive faith of the “free marketers” or the “neos” in the unifying power of the market is frustrated by notions and realities about “clash of civilisations” and culture war and of a “world on fire”. It isn’t integrating. It is what I’m calling “ironic reversal” or, otherwise known as perverse outcome, unintended consequence, revenge effect, and so on. These consequences are what the Greeks referred to as “hybris” followed by “Nemesis” or reversal.
Some means had to be found to preserve the value of “the whole” and integral against this pernicious and insidious conflation of the higher value with the lower value. That leads to the distinction between “globalism” and “globalisation”.
Now, because the “nation-state” (which was an invention of the Modern Era and its rage for “systems”) cannot adequately manage globalisation, and is at its wits end trying to navigate this new “space” called “the globe”, it has more or less handed power over to the institution that can navigate in this new space — the transnational corporation a.k.a. the “free market”. This is the process also associated with globalisation and neo-liberalism — “privatisation”, “deregulation” or “pubic-private partnership”. The Corporation has been given a mandate (some might say, has “usurped” powers) to re-organise this new “space and time” called “the globe”. That is the gist of Korten’s complaint in When Corporations Rule The World, and many other books on the subject. It’s the meaning of Thatcher’s notorious TINA principle (“There Is No Alternative”).
This is not a solution, however, but a problem. The transnational corporation has been granted powers to manage and regulate the new transnational space called “the globe”. The earlier League of Nations and its successor The United Nations tried to do this following a quasi-democratic model, but was handicapped by an inadequate logic and understanding for maneouvering in this new environment. In fact, it still doesn’t understand that the essential problem of globalisation is not space but times — the convergence of times and of different traditions and histories rather than national spaces. In some cases, the clumsiness of the very process of globalisation is resulting in the dissolution of nation states — such as the former Yugoslavia or even the Middle East, today (especially in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan).
That’s another aspect of the “globalism” versus “globalisation” debate. The essential problem is seen as the convergence of times rather than the convergence of spaces, which again points to the confusion of values. Integration is not the same as assimilation; the whole is not the same as the totality. Some people are even referring to the new global space as “third space”. That’s just retrograde habit. It’s not about space, principally, but about time, which is also confused with space. Different peoples simply don’t live in the same time-horizons, or what we might call “threads”. This is why Rosenstock-Huessy referred to his integral method as “synchronisation of antagonistic distemporaries”. The modern “perspectivising” consciousness, however, is obsessed with the coordination of spaces and doesn’t grasp the critical and crucial problem as Rosenstock and others perceived it. The problem of globalism isn’t the coordination of spaces principally, but the synchronisation of different times. “Integration” is principally about time and timing. “Assimilation” is principally about space. The apparent inability to switch modes of thinking in this regard is what I’m calling, more broadly, the problem of human “narcissism” (ego-fixity) and of entrenched “perspectivisation”.
Once “synchronisation of antagonistic distemporaries” is understood as the core problem of globalisation, then the process will be corrected without all the turbulence and self-contradiction of the present process we call “neo-liberalism”, whose rationales and protocols I hold to be utterly delusional and demented — Greider’s “manic logic”. That “manic logic” is, once again, what Gebser refers to as the “deficient mode” of reason, or the mental-rational (or logico-mathematical) consciousness structure.
In the next post, we’ll talk about that and the “secret” meaning of the famous American Statue of Liberty, for it also is a symbolisation of a consciousness structure, too — the “modern”, and quite explicitly. It was a gift from France, a gift from the Old World to the New World, a highly meaningful gesture of the Old to the New. That gesture is loaded with ironies, as we will see.