The determining influence of global economic, political and cultural unification on local societies could not but generate opposite estimations not only of the very globalization phenomenon but also of abstract models that describe it. Herewith, the critical position of various anti-globalist groups around the world looks naturally marginal owing to the inability to offer systemic alternative to what is presented as the main line of civilization development. Generally, critics praise to high heaven either fully or partly moribund institutions, ideas and conceptions that cannot secure effective solutions of global problems, or aim at questioning real significance of threats that require collective counteraction.
Discontentment with the real course of global integration on the one hand and unconstructive objection of followers of all sorts of isolationism on the other hand is found in the voices supporting the so-called alternative globalization (altermondialisme – in the French-language tradition). This definition covers various groups of people with different mindsets, which support the idea of global unity at the same time disagreeing with existing forms of “neo-liberal” globalization in economic, political, and cultural spheres. Despite a significant variety of ideological movements here, general theoretical foundations allow us to consider them as a unified phenomenon.
All supporters of alternative globalization postulate the presence of critically important problems of global standing, the solution of which by efforts of nation states is absolutely impossible and exceedingly difficult at the current level of international integration. The issue is about saving global ecosystem suitable for the mankind, ensuring international security, timely redressing the imbalance in social and demographic spheres, combining efforts in developing large-scale research and technology projects, etc. Supporters of national isolation may keep sticking to the nihilistic denial of actuality of these and other issues for twenty years max. After that, it will become impossible to ignore the main challenges of the present even with the blindest eyesight.
Another most important argument of the alternative globalization ideology is the obvious insufficiency of defensive instruments sovereign states can employ to effectively deal with the growing influence of transnational corporations and both economic and political supranational institutions related to them. Resultant disproportion of international trade, growing gap between the rich and the poor, migration crisis, and other adverse effects are impossible to overcome by falling back to isolation. In modern world, even traditionally self-sufficient Switzerland can’t have full autarchy if it wants to preserve the attained quality of life and is not ready to get back to natural economy. Sooner or later, macroeconomic and social and demographic conjuncture will devaluate all protectionist measures, all social warranties of a separate national state (even if the state is maximally cut off from the rest of the world).
The process of political and cultural integration is self-contained. It not only shapes globalization trends in economy, but also gives its own rules to international players. Freedom of information, internationalization of prevailing forms of ideology and interweaving of national political elites are closely connected with it. History shows us that development of supranational forms of collective self-identity, international political arrangements, and economic and cultural contacts generally lead to the emergence of larger political and social structures that meet the increased needs of society. Any attempts to hinder the integration of society into a pleasing cultural and political environment are mostly unsuccessful and provoke crises within the old system.
The necessity to search for collective solutions of global problems gives the adherents of alternative globalization the grounds for revaluation of political instruments the humankind possesses. At the same time, existing international institutions are conventionally divided into “capitalistic” and “community-focused”, depending on whether they encourage further aggregation of capital or are dedicated to observing all possible rights, liberties and social guarantees. Only the latter ones are considered admissible and desirable, which is embodied in self-presentation of some of alterglobalist movements like the Global justice movement. Pragmatic theorists disclose here certain naivety and point out to strong interrelation between “neo-liberal” economy and dominant ideology along with basic values of modern democracy, as well as direct dependence of all kinds of international institutions on political preferences of market leaders.
Theoretically, one may try to present the essential elements of a unified mechanism to solve global problems without regard to special aspects and limits imposed by real forces in the modern world. Given that it’s worthless to count on self-organization of international entities for the sake of general benefit, it would be better to start with an assumed decision-making center and leverages that should be available to it. In order to be able to pursue general policy regardless of private interests and opinions, the structure needs to have discretionary funding, as well as effective enforcement mechanisms. In other words, it needs to have those most important characteristic features of a fully valid state on a global basis. That is, in point of fact, representing a world government – not a conspiracy, but quite a real one – kind of UNO with a budget, influence, finance, diplomacy and military of the United States. That kind of a bureaucratic monster is a long-standing boogeyman of all anti-globalists. But still there is no functioning alternative to the institution that holds a universally accepted monopoly on the use of violence to support social consensus, even though it’s a forced one.
While reconciling oneself to the existence of a single center for global issues settlement, one should not over-charge it with perpetual problems of individual character. National governments systematically try to solve these problems but never succeed. According to the estimates of sociologists, there is a good reason for the fact that the gathering pace globalization (though not widely accepted) is accompanied by a parallel process of regionalization that allows to refer pressing questions to the level of competence that guarantees making maximally effective decision. Nowadays, that’s rather an exception than a rule. Owing to the distrust of the governments, powers of regional and sub-regional structures are considerably restrained during contacts with foreign partners. Instead, the authorities of many countries widely delegate the right to deal with various problems to large corporations, including transnational ones. That would be they, rather than groups of people, who form basic elements of global political and economic system, which is being created these days.
Surely, the supporters of alternative globalisation propose to change it all and turn various human societies into a keystone of a single all-planet regulatory network. This could reduce social tension, at the same time paving the way for inevitable illegal schemes of transnational corporations, promoting their interests with bribes to regional elite, various forms of economic and noneconomic pressure on societies. This is why, instead of excluding corporations from the process of decision making, a more promising approach would be to regard big businesses and human societies as equal elements of sub-regional and regional self-administration with an exact set of legislative reciprocal obligations, infringement of which would be regulated through the courts, not by administrative means.
With this allocation of powers: the largest possible range of problems to be solved at lower levels, and a reduced to minimum set of problems of all-planet importance to be regulated on a global basis – there is no need for any intermediate structures while nation states become entirely outdated. Under these conditions, the migrant crisis could be controlled by several mechanisms at a time. First of all, global institutions do not allow systemic milking of certain regions by so-called mature economies and transnational corporations. They also prevent any country from promoting ideology in the ‘third world’, using weapons and ignoring international law and absence of mandate given by international institutions. This way, the migration flow falls short of constant feeding. Corporations determine the quantity of additional working hands that they are able to deal with being obliged to comply with the same employment and labor laws for immigrants as they do with citizens. Finally, the very societies decide within the limits of primary self-administration how many new members and bearers of what cultural tradition they are ready and willing to accept. The lack of politicians of national level who stay distant from plain electors make needless the speculations about hospitability, multiculturalism or, vice versa, substitution of titular nation by tractable and low cost incomers.
But this is theory, which is unsustainable without earnest involvement of key elements into the activity of the whole structure. Nothing in the modern world can wean transnational corporations from promoting their interests via mercenary lobbies within political circles of sovereign states. The population of developed countries can’t immediately turn from commoners who shift the burden of care on the government into responsible citizens who exercise their rights in the form of direct grass-roots democracy. No one can convince 90 per cent of officials at national and supranational institutions of their total irrelevance. Today it’s nation states and their political and military alliances that wield the most effective power, including monopoly on using violence. This is why one needs to assume that they will do their best to prolong their own existence, their vision of life, their allegedly universal values, even though it requires ignoring unstoppable evolution of public modes and proclaiming “end of history”.
Meanwhile, in the relatively recent past there was a moment when sincere enthusiasm for the idea of common just world across most of the planet had a chance to overcome self-interest of national bureaucracies. Let’s cast thoughts back on year 1991 when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and the USSR ceased to exist. From the point of view of global balance this event can only be considered as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. Speaking of which, the postwar world order was destroyed at that very moment, it has no connection to later events in Yugoslavia and Ukraine. All further changes on the world map are natural implications of the loss of a whole cluster of key elements by the system of international relations. However, every crisis opens the potential for further development of the system. The greatest crisis of contemporary history has created a unique situation.
Radically renovated political class and an active part of the population of one of the two superpowers existing in the world (no matter whether it was done under the influence of Western propaganda or due to deliberate break from the past that did not match their inner needs) voluntary took down one of the military blocs involved in global confrontation. That was not an admission of defeat in the cold war. Nothing of the kind would have happened if only the Russians had known they would be labeled losers. Everyone was meant to be a winner. A huge country managed to form global socialist system around itself, and then readily renounced one third of its territory and half of its population because it accepted liberal values with absolute inner willingness and gave way to the triumph of Western type of democracy on the planet. Nowadays, the advantages of that choice are tirelessly praised only by professional promoters of the world-wide democracy project. But, whatever the attitude to political form of all-planet unification that did not take place, the important thing is that global integration and therefore further advancement of public modes became possible after all.
It was hard to escape an evident and consistent step: confirm the ideological victory of the only claimant to the role of global regulator via official reorganization of the Western world into one whole world. Russia was ready to become part of a new, just and universal world order. By that point in time, China had not yet achieved considerable economic impact and would have been forced either to remain in desperate isolation or eventually take up the lead of other states. All other supporters of the idea of national exceptionality on the planet would have become a drop in the ocean of the united humankind, a museum specimen, a record of the past. In order to make this Utopia happen, there was “only the need” to reconsider the goals of project “NATO” and project “EU” for the sake of developing project “UNO”.
As we know, such reconsidering never happened. Block thinking prevailed. The United States failed its historic mission. Instead of assuming responsibility for the world’s fate, it preferred to stay a consumer rather than become a producer. The US is satisfied with the role of a pumper of resources from every place available instead of assisting their effective and possibly fair redistribution. The United States sticks to spreading around the world its own political standards and life values that used to be impressively viable but are getting inevitably outdated, instead of searching for new promising social and political models in cooperation with other countries and civilizations. And most importantly, the US maintains an obsolete wall between a small part of the humanity and the rest of the world in the form of the only significant military alliance on the planet.
The very existence of a select club of countries creates imbalance of the evolving global political and economic system. Total product is produced by various countries while its distribution is entirely in the hands of members of the Western club owing to the economic dictate that was legalized by countless supranational merchant, political and judicial institutions backed up by liberal ideology and military dominance. Not only does NATO work towards this, but so does the EU. The European Union never became a role model for other regions. It meant to be the first link in the chain of global unity but remained an appendage to NATO, with the Atlantic element of its self-identification dominating over the European one.
As a result, globalization in the sphere of international relations along with economics has a strongly marked hierarchical character: it tries to involve everyone in favor of very few. The model adopted by the USA and the EU presumes that, instead of promoting material and educative equation of people, the global “uniform rules” of international politics, commerce and humanitarian sphere are designed to eternally extend the current well-being of the elite club, and ensure that the well-being is maintained by the workforce outside the Western world. This process would result in permanent economic inequality of regions, dismissing poorer and weaker countries from taking part in shaping their own future; consolidation of transnational corporations with Western bureaucratic institutions; systematic lack of stability in domestic policy beyond “democratic community” and permanent migration crisis at its borders.
Destruction of the post-Soviet system of international relations, structural problems in global economics and social and demographic spheres clearly demonstrate that the process of globalization as it is now has become deadlocked. The vast majority of countries and nations refused to act the part assigned to them in the new “united” world. Millions of people uprooted and crowded Europe and the USA claiming their share of global prosperity. Those displeased with the theory and practice of westernized globalization massively side with radical Islamic movements feeding traditionalist Islamic Reconquista and bringing hostility to the streets of European cities. China and India are creating alternative centers of force as well as new rules for “the game” in economy, politics and culture that slowly but steadily subvert models of international cooperation based on Western values. Finally, Russia with its still rather tangible military assets has cut the everlasting retreat in the face of expansion of the West and showed unexpected insistence in defending what it believes to be the “final position”, which are its national borders and vital positions in troublesome regions of former USSR.
All those are systemic failures of globalization. Proponents of European-American democracy and Western lifestyle prefer to justify them by personal qualities (very mean ones) of people who represent other cultures. Tenacious unwillingness to concede the failure of global integration happening in the form of turning the entire world into cultural, economic and political periphery of the West, which is reflected in total predominance of NATO and EU institutions and nation states over the UN institutions: all that induces dedicated Atlanticists to try to tackle systemic difficulties time and again reviving dead political mechanisms. The result is the unsuccessful global war on international terrorism, undeclared but increasingly violent economic war of the USA and the EU against China, and genuine threat of a nuclear conflict between the West and Russia.
Is it not a good idea to stop expanding and heightening the building that is evidently doomed to collapse and bury only heaven knows how many billions of people under its debris? Isn’t it better to deconstruct the ungainly erection and start building all over again? But this time avoid focusing on defensive walls and moats that spur the planetmates to erect walls in return. Instead, better set about the united common home, disband NATO, reform the EU and allow some of the “bricks”, which are sovereign states while we cannot use self-sufficing regional micro-communities as basic elements, to try to adjust to each other within the framework of the UNO, a more authoritative structure possessing all the necessary leverages. Perhaps, doing so will make it probable for us to attain the dream of truly just, effective and secure world order that is based on mutual benefits rather than on leveling advances and identities of certain cultures.