< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: A Hegelian View on Globalization

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Hegelian View on Globalization

Dan of tdaxp and I have had a little back and forth on the globalization debate and how it might be viewed from a Hegelian perspective. Here goes my effort...

The relevance of Hegel is greater now as a result of the fall of iron curtain. In my own opinion, the current epoch is one where Hegelian philosophy will gain in relevance if for no other reason than it forces the thinker to be comfortable with the nature of things lying in a state of contradiction. In an era of high value volitility (the things which are valued highly changes greatly from day to day) understanding the change (instead of the substance itself) becomes paramount, and Hegel gives us a way to do just that.

There is a direct analogy here to the world of distressed finance. When a business enters distress it enters a state of high value volatility. What becomes critical is not bottom-line growth, but the change in cash from day to day. Those who succeed in this arena are those who aren't bothered by subject matter but instead are only concerned with the change in cash over time. An analyst covering a distressed company will have a lot of deltas on her spreadsheet while an analyst covering a stable company will have far fewer on hers.

Today we see evidence of high value volatility all around. None so strikes the soul as the morally duplicitous imagery invading our homes (ie, American soldiers "fighting for democracy" simultaneously displayed with images of those same soldiers hooking electrodes up to the genitalia of their prisoners and snapping party pics of the event). Such sights make one feel almost criminally complicit and this leads any observer to a crisis of authority.

Don't be afraid here, Hegel can help us understand how these two images might be explained. By embracing the processes of what Hegel calls "speculative reason" we might be able to at least make a little sense out of the madness of it all. There is no reason to choose either a realist ennui, or a dangerously blind idealism. Now, let's jump in.

The standard pop-Hegelian historical account is the French Revolution. Its helpful to a point (though after more detailed analysis, I believe it ultimately falls apart) so here's what it would look it in the Carlson depiction (if you are lost, don't know what a Carlson diagram is, or need some Hegel help, see this post).You must assume that the notion "empire" is somehow a product of the middle term between the reign of terror and the revolution. I've seen this argued, albeit somewhat unconvincingly. But it doesn't matter, what matters is that you see how this works. "I am the Revolution" is negated and turns out to be the "Reign of Terror". The double negation of both leads to the "Empire" (in one sense, the spreading of the revolution and the reign of terror to the world). A9 commenter angelica poses this somewhat American spin on things.

Given the rather extreme Constitutional changes following the Civil War, any legal scholar would agree some sort of regime change took place. Giving it the tag of "empire" is arguable, but in my opinion, quite right.

Whatever you call it though, at the end of the slave regime, and the conclusion of the original republic, America entered the world of nations. It had become a memberof the global regime of nation-states established post-Westphalia. What happened to the US in the Civil War had already happened to the Western world some two-hundred plus years earlier.

In Hegelian terms, the "empire" had eventually forgotten its beginnings, it focused on itself and shed away its origin. It then took what was unique to it, and posited this as its new order. This is the speculative moment.
Here we are then, in today's order, which took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to achieve, the world of nation-states. Speculative moments are almost always violent and take a long time to achieve. Especially when they posit to the being side of things. Creation is a bloody enterprise (as we are seeing) and always involves more than the planners could have anticipated.

But then what is globalization? Is it a new world order or a negation of the status quo? I would propose a negation. The World of Nation-States says: "I, the state, am the source of good" while globalization says: "no, no one nation is the source of good". Globalization tears down the borders (real and imagined) that nation-states erected through history. In other words...
And since we now know that out of a negation a double negation is formed (eg, section 3 in the diagram above) we know that a sublative moment is about to occur. In other words, the opposition between nation-states and globalization is aiming towards some goal. And that goal is the double negation.

So what is the double negation? What takes the middle term between "a state is the source of good" and "no single state is the source of good"? I will argue, somewhat simplistically, that is "global-state". That is, "the globe is the source of good". Or...
Clearly, we are nowhere near section 4 as of today. Globalization has just burst onto the scene and begun its process of negation. We don't even know where the areas of double negation are yet. However, we do see evidence of 4 coming to be. Regional cooperation between nation states, NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO, etc. all appear to be areas of possible double negation (that is, they are the negation of the negation, or what rises above the negative effects of globalization). Out of these areas one can guess some sort of framework will arise, perhaps decades, maybe even generations from now.

Yet what is clear is that this is where we are heading. We are not destined to a utterly failed, dark aged world. John Robb's global guerrillas will wreck things, but they won't continuously wreck things. As a negation they have a short shelf life. Similarly though we can't expect the nation states to regain traction either. Their days are numbered as their negation is now on the scene. The "core" and the "gap" will never become wholly one or the other, but will rather sublate. That is eventually, out of the tension between these two orders, out of the dust and ashes, and perhaps out of the legal frameworks we are now building, will arise a third, globally organized community. It may be hell getting there, but getting there is inevitable, in my opinion.

And a final cautionary note to skeptics who would like to ignore, those who have resisted the implications of the Logic have not fared well in history (just like those who have resisted the advice of their restructuring officers have fared).