Thinking the world: a comment on philosophy of history and globalization studies
It may be that the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel initiated the practice of philosophy of history between 1822 and 1831 when, in his lectures collected under the title The Philosophy of History (1837), he wrote that “philosophic history” amounted to more-or-less the “thoughtful contemplation” of world history on a global scale. (1) In essence, Hegel imagined world history as a singular process. As first developed in The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), global development could be understood as the unfolding of “Spirit,” which might be loosely understood as “mind” or “consciousness.” This unfolding of “Spirit” happened dialectically; the mind engaged in constant self-reflection, and all concepts and human relations were fraught with inner tensions that demanded reconciliation. In The Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel chronicled the development of the different stages of consciousness in the context of the singular mind. In The Philosophy of History, however, “Spirit” became a matter of global culture, or “World-Spirit”–groups of individuals and events interacting with themselves and others at a world-historical level. These interactions, asserted Hegel, could then be comprehended on a global level by the individual standing at the most recent point in “Spirit’s” development–the most developed of whom represented the “thoughtful” mind. (2)
Hegel’s style of questioning what drove change on a “meta” or “global” scale and how that change should be understood has met various fates. Although the notion of a singular “Spiritual” development in world history was challenged in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-most notably by historian Jacob Buckhardt, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and sociologist Max Weber–the idea that a larger scale of human development was the ultimate object of the best historical thinking nonetheless remained a central theme for human scientists of the period. (3) Hegelian-style philosophy of history received its most serious challenges after the Second World War. First, as thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School for Social Research (e.g., German philosophers and sociologists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno) have effectively pointed out, the Second World War seemed to represent the Hegelian dream of world comprehension turned on its head. Rather than the achievement of Hegel’s cognitive “Absolute,” or fully rational intake of the world as a whole, Frankfurt School thinkers asserted that the task of world comprehension lent itself to a “negative dialectics.” (4) This meant the ability of reason and “Spirit” to become absolutist or totalitarian. In other words, full investment in the concepts of “reason” and “Spirit” themselves to an overweening sense of historical destiny and moral rectitude could become the basis of fascism and oppression instead of historical “improvement” and “liberation.” (5)
Similarly, although generally rejecting the specific vocabulary of “negative dialectics,” Hegelian philosophy of history also suffered attacks from French post-structuralism and the discourses of European and American “postmodernism.” Posing themselves firmly against models of universal contemplation, figures such as philosopher/historian Michael Foucault maintained that by the second half of the twentieth century the search for a subject which is “transcendental to the field of events or runs in its empty sameness throughout history” was over. (6) “Thoughtful contemplation” on a global scale, Foucault argued, should be replaced by the recognition of the violence, unpredictabilities, and disjunctures of the historical system. Foucault thus claimed the new vision of history to be concerned with what he termed the “regime of truth”–a connection between power and knowledge that included the production of history on a global scale as an artifact of “discourse” and the imagination, and the rejection of absolutes such as “Spirit,” or even spin-off’s such as Karl Marx’s trans-historical “class,” in determining social reality. (7)
There are two reasons for offering this thumbnail excursus on the history of philosophy of history. First, one might realize that despite his claims to undo the Hegelian task of world comprehension, Foucault himself may have perpetuated Hegel’s undertaking by simply substituting the “regime of truth” for “World-Spirit” and “thoughtful contemplation.” In other words, while Hegel advocated the possibility of comprehending history on a global scale as the product of the fact that history presented itself as the playing out of the “Spirit,” Foucault suggested that the “regime of truth” was the new key to history. (8) This “regime” was truth “linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it.” (9) This relation, argued Foucault, gave individuals within the “regime of truth” a certain access to its workings: instead of looking for the operations of “Spirit,” one could now look for the decidedly less rational operations of “discipline,” “regimentation,” and “control” as specific modes of the exercise of power. History thus gained a new “meta” or “global” theme that revolved about games of political power and contests for control over knowledge not necessarily operating inside the boundaries of “rationality.” (10)
The second reason for this opening excursus on the philosophy of history forms the central argument of this paper. That argument consists of two elements. First, upon entering a new century it is important to recognize that the heydays of French post-structuralism and European/American “postmodernism” are over three decades old. This might indicate a number of things: a space for new fashions in the human sciences, an aging of the figures who dominated intellectual history in the middle to late part of the twentieth century and, thus, perhaps a simple changing of the intellectual guard in Western history. In any case, the newness of post-structuralism and postmodernism are wearing off and that upon entering the twenty-first century we might be establishing new sets of intellectual signposts on which we inscribe our Zeitgeist, or the cultural themes of our age. (11) As post-structuralism and postmodernism may be giving way to other historical thematics, it may also be that the skepticism toward the Hegelian project central to the work of figures like Foucault may be giving way as well. (12) Stated plainly, philosophy of history in a more-or-less traditional, or Hegelian sense, might have found new life within human scientific discourse at the start of the twenty-first century through discourses on globalization and, specifically, the rise of “globalization studies.”
Understanding this argument involves several elements. First, it should be noted that the term “globalization” is defined here as “the set of economic, environmental, technological, political, cultural and social processes” that “shrink distances through networks of connections” and “first connect and then integrate societies, transcending the traditional social structures they confront.” Under this definition, globalization studies–as opposed to globalization as a historical phenomenon–is a field of academic study concerned with the varieties of inquiry that investigate economic, environmental, technological, political, cultural, and social processes that supposedly “transcend traditional social structures” and “shrink distances through networks of connections.” Globalization studies also try to comprehend how such “social transcendences” and spatio-temporal “shrinkage” occurs. Indeed, one could argue that the point here is not so much the “shrinking” of time and space, or even the specific instances of social “transcendence,” or what one might call “cross-border” forms of economics, environment, technology, politics, culture, or society. Rather, the point is the state of “cross-borderness,” or what one might think of as “transnationality,” “trans-culturality,” “trans-politicality,” and “trans-sociality” themselves. These are states of nationality, culturality, politicality, and sociality that can no longer be contained within traditional national, cultural, political, and social structures. Sociologist Roland Robertson, an important figure in the field of globalization studies, has identified this new state of global culture as “the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole”–the idea that, in thinking about the world, the “whole thing” should be (and increasingly is) thought of simultaneously. (13) Here one gains a specific example of the concurrent between globalization studies and Hegel-esque philosophy of history: history is a “world” affair and needs to be considered in such terms. (14)
At this juncture the keen reader will realize that there are several qualifications that might be brought to bear. These concern the definition of philosophy of history and globalization offered here. With regard to philosophy of history, it should be noted that it is not universally accepted that all of what is often referred to as philosophy of history is reducible to Hegel, or some variety of “Hegelianism.” One could point to Marx, and Marx’s conception of class, as a good example. Although it has become relatively commonplace in the discourses of post-structuralism and postmodernism to accord Marx Hegelian characteristics by way of his seeming insistence on “class” as some variety of historical “absolute,” Marx himself did not necessarily see things this way. (15) As Marx made clear in texts such as The German Ideology (1845-46), putting class at the center of history was intended to reverse Hegelian discourses of “Spirit.” This was because class was ultimately material: it was about production and its so-called “means and modes” (production’s technologies and social relations) and the fact that these were “empirically verifiable.” (16) “Spirit,” observed Marx, was fully speculative in nature and amounted to little more than “phantoms of the brain.” (17) Through his extrapolation of this idea, such as his exposition on the “fetishism of commodities” in the first volume of Capital (1867), Marx offered a clear sense of how discourses of “Spirit” such as Hegel’s might be considered by-products of historical development under a material impetus rather than vice versa–in other words, the material world was somehow a product of “Spirit.” As Marx phrased it, commodities–things “outside of us that in [their] properties satisf[y] human wants of some sort or another”–become “stamped with the history of class relations that brought them into being.” (18) Commodities–including ideas–could thus take on a mystical, seemingly non-material component. This was crucial to further conceptions of history concerned with criticizing Hegel, such as those of the Frankfurt School which suggested that discourses of “Spirit” amounted to little more than ideology, or consciousness based on “mystification.” (19)
The second qualification concerning our identification of a “concurrence” between globalization and “Hegel-esque” philosophy concerns understandings of globalization. Here one should recognize that some see globalization as about the production of the “local” as much as the “global”–in other words, a more geographically limited historical processes as opposed to those on a “world” scale. Sociologist Anthony Giddens, for example, refers to such dichotomies of global/local as the “pulling away” and “pushing down” of globalization. The “cross-border” nature of globalization removes identities from their more localized contexts and places them on a global, or “world-historical,” level, yet, at the same time, these same processes provide for a resurgence of more localized identities. (20) One could identify many examples of this: political resistance to European Union (EU) enlargement by nationalist parties, cultural identity movements attempting to preserve local cultures in the face of the increasing presence of American and Western commodities, or perhaps (and tragically) even ethnic cleansings intended to “purify” cultural geographies in a world with increasingly porous borders. (21) To provide a relatively innocuous example, one might point to the moment after the 2004 Olympics when EU Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen claimed that EU athletes had “swept the floor” at the games, winning over 280 total medals as opposed to the 103 of their nearest competitor, the United States. (22) This claim of EU Olympic victory, grounded in “cross-border” historical processes–so-called “Europeanization” and “European expansion”–resulted in outcries from many European nations asserting that it is not the history of Europe that their athletes represent, but the history of their particular nationalities. “Isn’t this yet more evidence that the federalists [i.e., pro-Europeanists] do not understand the unique pride that comes from national identity?” asked London’s Daily Mail. (23) Here the claim was that “local” identity supersedes global identity at a causal level. In such cases, then, one could argue that globalization opposes Hegelian philosophy of history insofar as globalization’s end result is to emphasize the “local.” If so, the “global” or “world” scale to history that one might “thoughtfully” contemplate becomes a construction whose essentially falsity is revealed by more “concrete” locale realities.
Nonetheless, the definitions of philosophy of history and globalization provided here are defensible in two ways. First, regarding the example of Marx, one might recognize that there is something to the post-structural and postmodern critique of him as retaining Hegelian characteristics. To make discourses of “Spirit” a historical by-product of history’s material nature and, from there, to make the playing out of that nature via class conflict over the “means and modes” of production history’s basic characteristic, is to grant materiality the same status as that accorded to “World-Spirit” by Hegel in The Philosophy of History. Phrased another way, opposed to “Spirit,” history under the authority of class conflict simply gains a new universal mechanism unifying it on a “world” basis. Even beyond the famous statement that starts The Communist Manifesto (1848)–that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class conflict”–Marx’s writings on colonialism in India, for example, reveal a thinker hoping that the intrusion of capitalism on traditional societies would destroy what he saw as the feudal and oppressive natures of those societies. (24) This would then clear the stage for the confrontation between bourgeoisie and proletariat that he saw as dominant in modern, industrial society–a conflict that was supposed to ultimately end in “workers” control over the means and modes of production, or something of a Marxist “Absolute.” (25)
Secondly, regarding what one might call the “localization” of globalization, or the claim that globalization encourages “local” as much as “global” identities (its “pushing down” as much as “pulling away”), one has to realize that the assertion of local identity as posed against the locale is predicated on the production of global identity. To return to the “controversy” over the 2004 Olympics, for example, the national outcries against the idea that the EU had “swept the floor” at the Olympics stood as a de facto recognition of Europeanization and the efficacy of new “cross-border” identities of the EU. To that extent, then, one gains a smaller version (i.e., on a European as opposed to “world” scale) of the recognition that globalization places history on a “world” scale, or, at the very least, on a level that the “local” is no longer sufficient to explain history. It then becomes the task of the globalization scholar to comprehend history at this level.
Through the 1970s, 1980s, and the early 1990s, several texts often referred to by globalization scholars as “proto” globalization studies set the stage for the resurgence of such historical “world comprehension.” In The Modern World-System (1976-89), sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein posited the historical constitution of a singular global economic system–what he terms the “capitalist world economy”–by way of Western expansion and its creation of a single global division of labor. (26) Departing from efforts to make a historical accounting of postmodern society, geographer David Harvey, in The Condition of Postmodernity (1989), emphasized the importance of technology as a driving force in history. Very much responsible for the vocabularies of spatial and temporal compression (“time-space compression”), Harvey avers that new, “hyper-capitalist” or “post-Fordist” modes of accumulation and increasing technological rapidity over the twentieth century contributed to a sense of global distances becoming shorter and time moving more rapidly. (27) In Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), critical theorist Fredric Jameson argued that an American-dominated global economy had given rise to a Western postmodern fantasy world which has been able to dictate cultural standards to the world at large. (28) Finally, in the widely read and controversial The End of History and the Last Man (1992), political economist Francis Fukuyama characterized the twentieth century as a dialectic between capitalism and communism that he describes in Hegelian terns. To Fukuyama, capitalism’s victory in the Cold War ushered in a kind of utopia where the major conflicts marking historical time stop. (29)
The case might be even clearer in texts from the early 1990s that more clearly organize themselves around the explicit idea and vocabulary of “globalization.” (30) In Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (1992), Roland Robertson offered five phases of the spatial and temporal compression earlier identified as lending globalization one of its central qualities. The first phase extended from 1400 to 1750 and included early Western exploration or “expansion”–e.g., Spanish and Portuguese exploration in Africa and the Americas, followed shortly by Dutch, British, and French exploration. In terms of conceptions of the world, Robertson names the advents of mapping and geography that accompanied these exploratory efforts. The second phase of globalization, from about 1750 to 1875, included the emergence of the international system, or the systematization of relations between nation-states that had been developed during the first phase of globalization. This period includes colonialism and, by way of the international system and the growth of colonialism, increased levels of cultural exchange between Europe and the world outside of it. The third phase, 1875 to the mid- 1920s, included imperialism, or what might be thought of as more thoroughgoing versions of the colonial effort, the First World War, and increasing levels of economic internationalism. (31) The fourth phase, from roughly 1925 to 1969, includes widened global conflict via the Second World War and the founding of international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Robertson’s fifth phase extends from 1969 to the present. This era includes the development of increasingly rapid cross border communication technologies, mostly in terms of telecommunications, the consolidation of multiple international organizations (for example, the increased importance of the U.N. and the rise of non-governmental organizations [“NGOs”]), and the increasing invocation of world-wide standards of human rights. (32)
The point of Robertson’s analysis is not particularly complicated. Though correct, interesting, and germane for his thesis on globalization, the elements he points to in order to delineate his phases of globalization more-or-less follow those one might find in an introductory level world history textbook. (33) His narrative is the oft-told tale of Western expansion’s creation of an international system that might eventually lead to today’s more porous cultural system. Robertson’s innovation, however, was to see this expansion as an element of globalization, or part of a singular process with decided genealogies which one might call “pre-global” world or world before levels of “cross-border” interculturalism reached contemporary levels. Analysts considering the world today, argues Robertson, are faced with the project of apprehending apparently dispersed historical phenomena as interrelated–how might we have become global, asks Robertson, and how can we find locations or “sites” of globality in the past? Indeed, in a fashion reminiscent of the Hegelian idea that all historical transformations are the embodiment of a singular historical process (the working out of “Spirit”), Robertson suggests that, in the context of globalization, we are faced with the “particularization of universalism”–a functioning of historical processes on a global scale that are felt at multiple moments and locations associated with those processes. (34) To Robertson, this represents a new historical narrative.
Sociologist Martin Albrow, in The Global Age (1996), advances a similar thesis. Albrow argues for the existence of a “global age,” or “epoch” based on an assessment of political, social, cultural, and economic trends over the twentieth century. In so doing, he advocates an “epochal theory of history,” or a philosophy of history whose prime interest is periodization, much like Robertson. To develop this idea, Albrow draws directly on works generally seen as part of the tradition of philosophy of history extending from Hegel’s early nineteenth century historical meditations: Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche, as well as those of philosopher Oswald Spengler and historian Arnold Toynbee. Albrow argues that while “postmodernity” is often taken as the successor to modernity, postmodernism does not satisfy the requirements of a global experience that are necessary for establishing such an “epochal” theory. Rather, what one sees today is a culmination of diverse trends on a world-historical basis disturbing the ability of nation-states, national societies, or specific cultural geographies to contain politics, social organization, economics, or cultural practice. This suggests the dawn of an age with distinct characteristics but structurally related to the histories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As opposed to “globality,” argues Albrow, postmodernism was too geographically limited to stand as the designation of a world historical “age” (i.e., it was an essentially European and North American phenomenon). Indeed, it is the international trends of modernity, he posits, that offer the roots of the “global age.” (35)
In Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture (1999), political scientist David Held, international relations specialist Anthony McGrew, environmental sociologist David Goldblatt, and economist Jonathan Perraton offer another “epochal” reading of globalization. They suggest that globalization should be divided into four phases (as opposed to Robertson’s five): (a) before 1500, (b) 1500-1850, (c) 1850-1945, and (d) 1945 to the present. The period before 1500 features political and military empires (for example, Rome, the Mongols, and the Ottomans) and the movement of people into uncultivated areas. The period from 1500 to 1850 highlights European expansion and colonialism. The period from 1850 to 1945 emphasizes the consolidation of European power through imperialism, radical transformations in transportation and communications technologies, and accelerated levels of interculturalism. Finally, 1945 to the present features the disintegration of European empires, the increasing acceleration of transportation and communication technologies, and the “transcend[ing of] political borders and regions” to the end of full global interconnectivity. (36) Like Robertson and Albrow, the point here is that the historical analyst cannot avoid the “world” or “global” scale of history as trends at that level have effects at multiple, in not all, levels of social experience. Indeed, this is not only applicable in the present, but also before the pale of the era one would generally call “modern” (after 1500). (37)
As interesting as these texts are, readers should nonetheless realize that philosophy of history–including philosophy of history understood in Hegelian terms–is not merely concerned with “epochization,” or “periodization.” Although Hegel discussed “epochs” of the “World-Spirit” and their giving way to what he called “truth of ages” (the essential historical characteristics of “epochs”), periodization presents a central problem for the “thoughtful contemplation” of history: how do ages become ages? (38) In other words, what accounts for the transition from one age to another? This was central to the concept of “Spirit.” “Spirit,” Hegel asserted, “does not merely pass into another envelope?” (39) Rather, “‘Spirit’ makes war upon itself” and, in doing so, “consumes its own existence.” (40) This resulted in the “working-up” of “Spirit’s” existence into a new form, with each form becoming a new stage in the history of the world. (41) “Spirit” thus has an active function in world history as a causal mechanism. History, according to Hegel, maintains a basic set of causal relations that account for change over time, and the transition from “epoch” to “epoch.” (42)
To this extent, then, not all globalization studies that follow the Hegelian charge to “world-comprehension” have basic causal relations as one of their central concerns. In other words, following the question of periodization in terms of world-historical comprehension, studies such as Robertson’s, Albrow’s, and Held, et al.’s engage history in a manner more akin to what Foucault called “archeology,” that is, looking at cross-sections of historical time that provide less of a sense of how or why change occured than that it occurred and how the arrangements of the past might be viewed. (43) Robertson, Albrow, and Held, et al. generally view globalization as a reality and that it has historical roots. They are less interested in offering large scale, or “meta,” causal mechanisms accounting for that change. (44) Their various works are thus related to philosophy of history by insisting on the idea that history happens on a “world” basis and that is the level where the analytical eye needs to be trained.
The situation is different, however, in works such as those of sociologist Manuel Castells’ The Information Age (1996-98), anthropologist Arjun Appadurai’s “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy” (1990), and political theorist Michael Hardt and political activist Antonio Negri’s Empire (2000). In his three-volume text, Castells echoes Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity by portraying technology as the driving force of history. Technology’s forward progress, increasing rapidity, and pervasive presence in everyday life is characterized as history’s basic causal mechnanism. The Internet is the primary example: the basic social orientation of the global age, Castells claims, is between “the Net and the self.” (45) This orientation is then underpinned by the increasing “micralization” (making micro) and geographical dispersion of technology, or technology’s increasing availability in a greater number of places. Castells especially notes this micralization and geographical dispersion in the study of telecommunications (i.e., the Internet and mobile telecommunications). With these technologies, one sees the breakdown of nation-states and more isolated cultural geographies as the major organizing factors of the contemporary historical scene. Castells further asserts that identity is neither constituted nor plays out within homogenous national or cultural boundaries. The nature of contemporary identity thus reflects a cultural reorientation toward a more globalized form of consciousness akin to Robertson’s argument–an engagement with “swirling ocean[s] of unknown flows and uncontrolled [global] networks” that govern our lives. (46)
Appadurai’s “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy” also accords a high level of importance to technology. For Appadurai, technology is one of the major “landscapes,” or levels, at which global change happens. (47) But unlike Castells, Appadurai does not privilege technology over finance, media, ideology, or socio-cultural behavior. The essential movement of global culture, asserts Appadurai, is based on an increasing divorce (“disjuncture”) between five global “landscapes”: “ethnoscapes” (movements of people), “financescapes” (movements of money), “technoscapes” (movements of technology), “mediascapes” (movements of images), and “ideoscapes” (movements of ideas). (48) In his portrayal of global culture, landscapes have two levels. First, each level of the global system has the ability to move independently. For example, despite the fact that multiple cultural groups might be brought together under the authority of a particular economic system in relation to a particular technology, or even coexist in the context of a singular ideological or media system (e.g., guest workers in a particular national economy or company), these cultural groupings will not necessarily become homogenized, or made either like each other or those surrounding them. Although working in the same place, Appadurai notes, “some … guest worker groups maintain contact with their home nations … but others desire to live [mostly] focused on their new homes.” (49)
For Appadurai, these arguments signify the divorce of the cultural level of the global system from the other levels; it becomes “disjoined” (disjuncture) and functions under its own momentum. Nonetheless, “disjuncture” changes what one might call the historical totality, that is a total configuration of the historical situation encompassing all levels of experience. In other words, in the new, diversified cultural milieus within national economies, ideological systems, media systems and technological environments, those economies, ideologies, systems, and environments may, and probably will, be effected by cultural diversification. Economics and politics, for example, must react to new cultural circumstances as markets and accommodate problems of social legislation concerning rights and residency. Under these circumstances, “disjuncture” takes on a second meaning: it represents the strategic contact of different levels of the global system–“landscapes”–creating new realities within the different levels that, once so changed, divorce from one another again. This process of contact, effect, and divorce between historical “landscapes” effectively becomes history’s central causal mechanism.
In Empire, Hardt and Negri focus on a similar situation concerning historical causal mechanisms. Without doubt, the analysis here has Marxist overtones. A political as much as a analytical text, Hardt and Negri end Empire by declaring the “lightness and joy of being communist.” (50) Furthermore, they place a high premium on economic production. For Hardt and Negri, “Empire” consists of the mechanisms that “regulate exchange” in a fully globalized world. In other words, “Empire” is a conglomeration of the multiplicitous elements that keep capital and identity flowing on wholly inter- and transnational bases. (51) The primary result of these flows is what Hardt and Negri call “multitude”: an international producing class whose multiplicitous identities are in part serviced by “Empire” (e.g., by way of the discourses and institutions of international human rights or “development”) yet becomes simultaneously exploited by “Empire” by way of “Empire’s” ability to configure identity groups in opposition to one another (a point they deem as essential for the flow of capital). (52)
Understanding the producing class–“multitude”–as in fact multiplicitous in terms of identity is crucial. Here, like Appadurai, cultural exchange and politics become central to the multitude because “Empire’s” global nature means that culture and politics are no longer contained within specific geographies. This confuses unidirectional or singularized models of historical causality, such as Castells’ emphasis on technology or, for that matter, Marx’s emphasis on class conflict and material production or Hegel’s emphasis on “Spirit.” The factors at work in “Empire” are as multiple as the identities of the multitude itself. Moreover, historical conflict also plays itself out at the level of the multitude against “Empire” or the producing class opposed to the structures of global exchange that it produces. However, in a manner reminiscent of moves to “epochization” this has clear results in terms of reordering history’s ages. As Hardt and Negri portray it, the end of “Empire” is upon us: world history is nearing the moment of the multitude’s realization of its own identity multiplicity and the invocation of that multiplicity in resistance to “Empire’s” exploitative economics. In other words, the multitude’s diversity threatens the radically unequal distribution of global wealth. However, this reveals more of mono-causal historical vision than they might like to admit: the sustenance of identity diversity and the elimination of identity-based oppression through a more egalitarian global economics (Hardt and Negri label this “the decline and fall of Empire”) is defined by an international capital economy that simply makes the classes in conflict more multiplicitous than Marx’s bourgeoisie and proletariat. (53) In this way, Hegel creeps back in–we have not only world history, but world history with a singular set of causes that must also be read as world history.
In offering some concluding remarks, it should be noted that any discussion of globalization studies should not be limited to those texts discussed in this commentary. Nor is it the case that they are the only ones that might be seen as bearing a relation to philosophy of history as defined in this paper. Indeed, one could argue that all texts associated with globalization studies as defined here–i.e., texts that seek to examine the phenomenon of “cross-borderness” on a global scale–could be taken as at least having implications for philosophy of history or, perhaps more importantly, replicating something of philosophy of history’s basic analytical moves. In addition to the texts discussed here, one might also take particular note of anthropologist Ulf Hannerz’s “Scenarios for Peripheral Cultures” (1990), sociologist Ulrich Beck’s What is Globalization? (2000), and specific essays found in critical theorists’ Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi’s The Cultures of Globalization (1998). Hannerz’s “scenario” for peripheral cultures is domination by Western commodities. History, he suggests, follows the nexus of political and economic power in which he sees culture being transmitted. (54) Beck’s vision of globalization is drawn from his thesis on “risk society”: the complexities of global interconnectivity mean that we trust ourselves financially, politically, socially, and even emotionally to others whom we can neither know or see, yet whose effects on our lives are very real. History in this context is driven by a myriad of complexities whose interrelatedness is real, but unknowable in a total form. (55) Finally, from The Cultures of Globalization, philosopher Enrique Dussel (“Beyond Eurocentrism: The World-System and the Limits of Modernity”), like Robertson and Held, et al., recognizes that globalization has roots before 1500. However, in the manner of Castells, Appadurai, Hardt and Negri, Dussel is interested in the causal impetus to the increased entrenchment of global states of affairs–an impetus he portrays as a matter of the intellectual superstructure of capital, which he sees as organized around discourses of liberalism and freedom. (56) Literary scholar Walter D. Mignolo (“Globalization, Civilization Processes, and the Relocation of Languages and Cultures”) sees globalization as very much a “civilization process”–as he defines it, the spread of modern technologies and forms of social organization, as very much connected to the international and transnational spread of languages. This happens in a manner one might identify as connected to structuralism, or in which “deep” linguistic structures become the bearers of culture. (57)
Beyond expanding our view of globalization texts, however, one should not forget the problem of representing historical change as a major question in philosophy of history. In other words, beyond simply challenging a Hegelian view of history as the only approach to philosophy of history, it might be that the most effective challenge to the conception of philosophy of history offered in this paper is that it ignores the problem of historiography, or historical writing–a topic that would be addressed in many discussions on philosophy of history, (58) In terms of representing history, one can see that globalization studies offer a major proposition: the “story” of history, or what has been referred to by some as history’s “grand narrative,” is to be found at the global level. (59) This represents a challenge to more topically based historical narratives such as “national” histories or geographically limited social, economic, or cultural histories that form the basis of the “monographic” writing that define the field. Indeed, such works as Appadurai’s “Disjuncture and Difference” take the challenge of historical writing to a higher level of difficulty. Heeding “postmodern” warnings such as that one should maintain an “incredulity” toward grand narratives, Appadurai suggests a situation in which the shifting, “disjunctive” nature of the global system provides the grounds to imagine that historical perspectives, or understandings of history’s “story,” might be as shifting and “disjoined” as history itself. Cultures, the cultural “mind,” and cultural behaviors, he suggests, are unpredictable and perhaps can not be all-embracing. (60) It thus seems logical to think that the cultural imagination of the past would maintain a similarly perspectival nature.
Nonetheless, one might realize a connection between philosophizing on history “itself” and philosophizing on historical writing. What one takes as history’s major “epochs,” or the reasons for which shifts from “epoch” to “epoch” happen, may have a great deal to do with how one tells history, or the way in which the major events and features of history are shown to others. Therein, globalization studies provide an assertion about historical representation itself. This is a view of representation implicit in Hegel’s assertion of the “thoughtful contemplation” of world history on a global scale itself: world representation becomes possible when one engages in world “contemplation.” The question for historical writing becomes not who tells history’s story, but what story about the past is being told. (61) Here the possibilities offered by globalization studies are well defined, even for someone like Appadurai: the history of globalization must be the history of the “world” itself.
In positing a connection between globalization studies and philosophy of history, this author is not suggesting the event of a new “great age” of philosophy of history. In the “transition years” from the twentieth to the twenty-first century there may still be a great deal to the assertion that Frankfurt School and postmodern/post-structural critiques of philosophy of history have pushed the field to the margins of our vision in terms of what it means to engage the question of human transformation. It has also guaranteed that any return to the center occur with a changed face. Perhaps primary in this regard is the idea that history itself has changed: our world is not the world of Hegel or, for that matter, even the world of Marx, the Frankfurt School, or Foucault. It is also not the case that Hegel discussed “cross-borderness,” “interculturality,” “trans-nationality,” “trans-sociality,” or “trans-politicality” as shown here, and as others do in globalization studies. Hegel was not a scholar of globalization. Nor, for that matter, was he able to imagine a new relation between “the Net and the self,” an ephemeral regime of global “Empire,” or the “disjuncture” of historical “landscapes?’ Certainly, he could not imagine historical “epochs” extending from either 1969 to the present (like Robertson) or 1945 to the present (like Held, et al.), as those time frames did not exist for him. It may well be, then, that discourses on “Spirit” may be done for good–and, indeed, many would hold that trans-historical “class conflict,” “negative dialectics,” or the assertion of a “regime of truth” sound old as well by now. (62) Nonetheless, what might be most powerful about Hegel, if not Marx, the Frankfurt School thinkers, and Foucault, is that while Hegel asserted that “nothing in the past is lost,” he also declared that history never stands still. (63) The “truth” of an age will always give way to the truth of another as nothing either ever is or will be precisely what it was. Under such circumstances, one can declare with reasonable assuredness that globalization studies is not philosophy of history. The age of philosophy of history was a different age, and globalization is very much the property of today’s world. Yet, the scope and basic task of the discourses and analyses of globalization–“globalization studies”–may bear a family resemblance to philosophy of history. Therein, though recognizing that, in a certain way, philosophy of history might be “dead,” it might also be possible to say that the conditions of our times–the “truth” of our age–provides us with the basis for a reinvigoration of the form, if not specific content, of a classic project whose relevance we have created for burselves once again.
(1) Georg W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree (New York: Dover, 1956), 8. Other names, such as the philosophers David Hume, the Marquis de Condorcet, and Immanuel Kant could also be thought of as early “philosophers of history”-all of whom predate Hegel. None, however, gave the question of history the same level of systematic thought as Hegel did. This is one of the reasons why Hegel became a central foil for later philosophies of history, such as Leopold von Ranke’s historicism, Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism, or major figures of the neo-Kantian movement in philosophy, such as Wilhelm Windelband and Heinrich Rickett. See Robert Bums and Hugh Rayment-Pickard, eds., Philosophies of History: From Enlightenment to Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 2000).
(2) Hegel, The Philosophy of History, 8; Georg W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenolgy of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).
(3) Again, I would refer the reader to Bums and Rayment-Pichard, eds., Philosophies of History on this point. See also William H. Dray, On History and Philosophers of History (New York: Brill, 1989).
(4) Hegel writes that “The highest point of development of a people is this–to have gained a conception of its life and conditions–to have reduced its laws, its ideas of justice and morality to a science; for it is in this unity that Spirit can attain to in and with itself.” Hegel, The Philosophy of History, 76. See also Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, 479-93. The term “negative dialectics” is borrowed from Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E.B. Ashton (New York: Continuum, 1973).
(5) See Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “The Concept of Enlightenment,” in Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cummings (London: Verso, 1979), 3-42.
(6) Michael Foucault, “Truth and Power,” in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 117. It should be noted that post-structuralism is usually thought of as a specific movement in human scientific thought and postmodernism a generalized cultural and aesthetic state of affairs. However, the two terms are often interchangeable as post-structuralism is seen to maintain a “postmodern” intellectual aesthetic, and the work of post-structuralists has provided theorists of postmodernity with their analytical vocabulary. See, for example, Thomas Docherty, ed., Postmodernism: A Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).
(7) Foucault, “Truth and Power,” 133.
(8) Hegel asserted that “Reason is the Sovereign of the World” which “constituted the necessary and rational course of the World-Spirit–that Spirit whose nature is always one and the same, but which unfolds this its one nature in the phenomena of the World’s existence.” Hegel, The Philosophy of History, 9-10.
(9) Foucault, “Truth and Power,” 133.
(10) The vocabularies of “discipline,” “regimentation,” and “control” are borrowed from themes found in Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1977).
(11) Among these, we might count new varieties of “realism,” sociological problematics of “development,” and discourses of trans-nationality and interculturality. See, for example, Jose Lopez and Gary Potter, After Postmodernism: An Introduction to Critical Realism (London: Athlone, 2001); Susanne Schech and Jane Haggis, eds., Development: A Cultural Studies Reader (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 2002); Frank Webster, ed., Culture and Politics in the Information Age: A New Politics? (London: Routledge, 2001); Ben Dorfman, “Globalization and Critical Realism: Thinking Through Philosophy of Science in the Global Age,” in Impact: In Memoriam Inger Lytje, ed. Henrik Scharfe (Aalborg: Aalborg University Press, 2003), 276-93.
(12) For figures “like Foucault,” I think mostly of philosophers Jacques Derrida and Jean-Francois Lyotard as well as social theorist Jean Baudrillard. See, for example, Jacques Derrida, “Positions: Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta,” in Positions, trans, and ed. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 37-96; Jean-Francois Lyotard, “Missive on Universal History,” in The Postmodern Explained, eds. Julian Pefanis and Morgan Thomas (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 23-27; Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End, trans. C. Turner (Cambridge: Polity, 1994).
(13) David Cameron and Janice Stein, “Introduction,” in Street Protests and Fantasy Parks: Culture, Globalization and the State, eds. David Cameron and Janice Stein (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2002), 1.
(14) Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (London: Sage Publications, 1992), 8.
(15) See, for example, Lyotard, “Missive on Universal History,” 23-38; Foucault, “Truth and Power,” 109-33.
(16) Karl Marx, The German Ideology, ed. C.J. Arthur (New York: International Publishers, 1970), 46.
(17) Ibid., 46-47.
(18) Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling (New York: International Publishers, 1967), 43.
(19) Marx, The German Ideology, 31.
(20) Anthony Giddens, Runaway World: How Globalization is Changing Our Lives (London: Polity, 2000), 24.
(21) For more on these points, see, for example, Anne Cvetkovich and Douglas Kellner, eds., Articulating the Global and the Local (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997); Mark Kearney, “The Local and the Global: The Anthropology of Globalization and Transnationalism,” Annual Review of Anthropology 24 (1995): 547-65.
(22) Thair Shaikh, “EU Was Real Winner of Olympics,” The Times Online, August 31, 2004, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,15809-1240518,00.html [accessed October 13, 2004], 1.
(23) “Hijacking the flag,” The Mail Online, August 31, 2004, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/newscomment.html?in article id=3 1 [accessed September 14, 2005], 4.
(24) See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, ed. Samuel H. Beer (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1955), 9; Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, vol. 12 (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1975-).
(25) “In communist society,” wrote Marx, “nobody has an exclusive sphere of activity” and “society regulates the distribution of production.” This, Marx claimed, represented the end of the class division of labor. Marx, The German Ideology, 53.
(26) See Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, 3 vols. (New York: Academic Press, 1974-89).
(27) See David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Inquiry into the Origins of Social Change (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989).
(28) See Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991).
(29) See Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1992).
(30) For an overview of the multiple approaches in globalization studies, see, for example, John Beynon and David Dunkerely, eds., Globalization: The Reader (London: Athlone, 2000).
(31) It should be noted that the equation of colonialism versus imperialism is sometimes seen as a tricky issue, with “colonialism” as more of a seventeenth century artifact and imperialism as belonging to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Certainly imperialism, of which the “Scramble for Africa” at the end of the nineteenth century is typical, involved a more thoroughgoing economic and military effort. Nonetheless, it is precisely this point that allows the two phenomena to be seen in a continuum. See, for example, H.L. Wesseling, Imperialism and Colonialism: Essays on the History of European Expansion (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997); Harrison M. Wright, The New Imperialism: An Analysis of Late Nineteenth-Century Expansion (Boston: DC Heath and Company, 1961).
(32) See Robertson, Globalization, 58-59.
(33) See, for example, John P. McKay, et al., A History of World Societies (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), 490-525.
(34) Roberston, Globalization, 100.
(35) See Martin Albrow, The Global Age: State and Society Beyond Modernity (London: Polity, 1996), 7-27. As perhaps the two least known names in this list, it should perhaps be mentioned that Spengler and Toynbee are both known for their conceptions of “cyclical” history, or history as moving in cultural “life cycles” featuring “rises” and “falls.” See Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, ed. Helmut Werner (New York: Modern Library, 1965); Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, eds. Arnold Toynbee and Jane Caplan (New York: Weathervane, 1972). It should also be pointed out that, typically, Nietzsche is seen as opposing Hegel’s philosophy of history. Nonetheless, as I argued earlier in the paper, it is still possible to see Nietzsche as advocating something of a world-historical vision that gives him more than an incidental resemblance to Hegelian philosophy of history. See, for example, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1989).
(36) David Held, et al., Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture (Cambridge: Polity, 1999), 429. I have also referred to Beynon and Dunkerly, Globalization, 9-10, in relation to both Robertson and Held, et al.’s historical arguments.
(37) In fact, globalization has come into the periodization debate as two significant articles have identified 1492 as the opening of a new era in world history precisely because, as one author puts it, 1492 represents the year “the regions of the world came into permanent and sustained contact with one another.” See Jerry H. Bentley, “Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History,” American Historical Review 101:3 (June 1996):751. The point is that texts such as Held, et al.’s suggest that this process predates 1492. I use 1500 to coincide on a rough basis with the Renaissance. See also William A. Green, “Periodizing World History,” History and Theory 43:2 (May 1995): 99-111.
(38) Hegel, The Philosophy of History, 73.
(41) Ibid., 78.
(42) This is perhaps even easier to understand in the Marxist vision of history. Production–material production–is always present in world history. The result of this ever-present problem of material production, however, are different states of economic development. This gives us history’s basic causal basis: the demands of production–its “means and modes,” or technologies and social relations–come into conflict with one another. See, for example, Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 9-22.
(43) Foucault’s works are generally divided into two periods: the “archeological” and “genealogical.” The major artifacts of his “archeological” period are The Order of Things and The Archeology of Knowledge. The major artifacts of his “genealogical” period are Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality. Foucault defines his historical archeology as concerned with establishing in the “confused unities we call ‘periods’ … stages of formalization.” In other words, he finds an intellectual order within defined historical periods. Genealogy, however, offers a noticeably more causal impetus to history by emphasizing power by way of the “regime of truth;” i.e., how does one account for the transition between intellectual orders within historical periods? See Michael Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon, 1972), 148. See also Michael Foucault, The Order of Things, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1994); Michael Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vols. 1-3, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1996); Larry Shiner, “Reading Foucault: Anti-Method and the Genealogy of Power-Knowledge,” History and Theory 21:3 (October 1982):382-98.
(44) The term “meta” is borrowed from Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973) in which he asserts “metahistory” as both the deeper, linguistic elements structuring historical thinking as well as the lack of a dividing line between larger-scale attempts to philosophize about history and more detailed attempts to “write” it. In other words, “metahistory” provides a larger scope to the historical imagination.
(45) Manuel Castells, The Information Age, vol. 1, The Rise of Network Society (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 1996), 25.
(46) Castells, The Information Age, vol. 3, End of Millennium (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 1998), 378. Indeed, this argument seems to adopt half of Marx’s thesis: technologies of production–what Marx termed the “means” of production–engender transformation at the social and political levels. As Castells characterizes it, not only is the nation-state increasingly obsolete and finance fully international, but crime is as international and electronic as the “official” world driven by new technologies. Ibid., 169-210
(47) See Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy” in Theorizing Diaspora, eds. Jana Braziel and Anita Mannur (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 2003), 31.
(49) Ibid., 35.
(50) Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 413.
(51) Ibid., xi.
(52) Ibid., 42-65, 393-413.
(53) Ibid., 393.
(54) See Ulf Hannerz, “Scenarios for Peripheral Cultures,” in Culture, Globalization and the World-System, ed. Anthony D. King (Binghamton, NY: SUNY Binghamton/MacMillan, 1990), 107-28.
(55) See Ulrich Beck What is Globalization? (Cambridge: Polity, 2000); Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Toward a New Modernity (London: Polity, 1991).
(56) See Enrique Dussel, “Beyond Eurocentrism: The World-System and the Limits of Modernity,” in The Cultures of Globalization, eds. Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 3-31.
(57) It was very much Claude Levi-Strauss’ breakthrough, as the “father” of structuralism, that culture was a product of language’s “deep structures.” See, for example, Claude Levi-Strauss, Anthropology and Myth, trans. Roy Willis (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984). See also Walter D. Mignolo, “Globalization, Civilization Processes, and the Relocation of Languages and Cultures” in The Cultures of Globalization, eds. Jameson and Miyoshi, 32-53.
(58) The most famous example of this is surely White’s Metahistory. See also Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); F.R. Ankersmit, History and Tropology: The Rise and Fall of Metaphor (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994).
(59) Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), xxiv.
(60) The vocabulary of an “incredulity” toward historical grand narratives is derived from Ibid.
(61) Hegel himself also reflected on this point, offering a division between what he termed “original history,” “reflective history” and “philosophical history.” “Original history” refers to observations and records of one’s own time. Hegel lists Herodotus and Thucydides as examples, whose writings on the Persian Wars and Peloponnesian Wars, respectively, were generally based on first-hand observation. “Reflective” history includes what Hegel calls “Universal History,” “Pragmatical History,” and “Critical History.” “Universal History” covers large swaths of historical time and includes a great number of events, not all of which are covered in detail. “Pragmatical History” is the past viewed through the lenses of, or as leading to, the present. “Critical History” involves criticism or judgment of the past. All of these modes of history involves problematics of representation which have “fragmentary” characteristics (i.e., they are not complete enough to give a full image and comprehension of the past). In terms of representation, this is provided by “philosophical history,” or history on the terms of what I have identified as “philosophy of history.” See Hegel, The Philosophy of History, 1-10. See also, Herodotus, The Histories, ed. John M. Marincola (New York: Penguin, 2003); Thucydides, A History of the Peloponnesian Wars, trans. Rex Warner (New York: Penguin, 1954). For more on Hegel’s conceptions of historical writing and representation, see Georg W.E Hegel, The Philosophy of Fine Art, vol. 3, trans. F.P.B. Omaston (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1920).
(62) Again, I would point to claims to new and renewed varieties of “realism” in this regard, as well as emphases on “concrete” global thematics such as problems of interculturalism, transnationality, and development. For references on these points, see note 11. Also of interest in the domain of culture and media studies in terms of surpassing the discourses of the Frankfurt School and post-structuralism/postmodernism is the concept of cognitive studies, or claims that biologically based processes of mind are central to understanding cultural behavior and media reception. See, for example, Norbert Ross, Culture and Cognition: Implications for Theory and Method (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004).
(63) Hegel, The Philosophy of History, 79. As I have tried to emphasize in this paper, Marx, and, to no small extent, the Frankfurt School thinkers and Foucault, tried very much to distance themselves from Hegelian thinking. Nonetheless, they share a commitment with Hegel to the idea of history, and the idea that claims to be “genuinely new” always carry with it the qualification that the new is generated out of the past and thus, in a certain way, sustains that past.
BEN DORFMAN is an Assistant Professor of History in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark.
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