Monday, November 07, 2005

Week 6 Resou, Evalu & Analy

We've been reading Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture by Held, McGrew, Goldblatt & Perraton. Here are some thoughts from the first couple chapters of the book.

Their historical description of the emergence of territorial nation-states and the "rules" that governed their interactions with each other was interesting to me. One thing that struck me was how the Westphalian model that developed from 1648 into the 18th and 19th centuries seemed to set up the global 'society of states' in such a way as to easily allow the global market to be dominated by one (or a few) overpowering nation or economy. All nations were seen as "equal before the law," and yet because the understanding was that differences between nations would be "settled by force" the wealthiest or largest nations could easily dominate the global economic landscape by sheer show of power. It's clear how that model set up the global colonial domination of
Europe as a whole and Britain in particular in the 19th Century. The developing understanding of the free sovereignty of each individual nation somewhat ensured that empires in the model of Rome would no longer exist, but the "principle of effective power" (essentially that might makes right... survival of the fittest) meant that new empires of global economic presence and influence like Great Britain's in the 1800's (on which the sun never set) were free to flourish, to the detriment of weaker, poorer nations.

The similarities between the evolving and pervasive global dominance of
England in the 19th century and the current state of United States global influence are uncanny to me. As territorial or political imperialism diminished, global domination of trade routes, precious natural resources, and socio-economic systems became the new model of influence. "Powerful national economic interests were often able to retain hegemonic positions over former colonial territories through the replacement of 'a visible presence of rule' with the 'invisible government' of banks, companies and international organizations" (Held et al, 45). In a somewhat Westphalian way, the sovereignty of each nation is recognized more now than ever and yet the United States has been so dominant on the global landscape... mostly in those same "invisible" ways... through pervasive financial systems, internationally influential corporations, and organized associations of nations in which the U. S. can so easily enforce its own national interest.

From a Global Media perspective the thing that intrigued me the most was the effectiveness of
England's implementation of speedy global communications. The connecting of their colonies with a submarine cable telegraph system must have been the first electronic global media. The ways that helped them cement their influence globally via quick communication and global dissemination of British-dominated information is a fascinating historical counterpart to the United States' pervasive use of global electronic media for leveraging cultural influence through its number one worldwide export: Popular Culture.

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