Hybridization and cosmopolitanism

Globalization empowers hybridization nations and communities to fight cultural imperialism or chauvinism by helping them to describe who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. Globalization and technology assist communities develop cultural networks free from state or hierarchical controls, regulations, or limitations. It as well helps to demystify cultural differences by easing intercultural connectedness, interactions, and hybridization. Therefore, while properly managed, globalization can be good for cultural inspiration, diversity, and development.

There is a ‘new cosmopolitanism’ in the air as, through criticism, the concept has been rediscovered and reinvented. As the late nineties there has been a sharp increase in literature that attempts to relate discourse on globalization (in cultural and political terms) to a redefinition of cosmopolitanism for the global age. “The new cosmopolitanism is the prerogative of wealthy, self-serving, anational agents of capital on the one hand and, on the other, international moralists” Nussbaum, “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.

For this reason it is worth pointing out that etymologically, cosmopolitan is a blend of ‘cosmos’ and ‘polis’. Thus ‘cosmopolitanism’, captivatingly enough, relates to a pre-modern ambivalence towards a dual identity and a dual devotion. Every human being is rooted (beheimatet) by birth in two worlds, in two communities: in the cosmos (namely, nature) and in the polis (namely, the city/state). More exactly, every individual is rooted in one cosmos, but concurrently in different cities, territories, ethnicities, hierarchies, nations, religions, and so on.

This is not an elite but rather an inclusive plural membership (Heimaten). Being part of the cosmos nature all men (and even all women) are equal; yet being part of diverse states organized into territorial units (polis), men are different (bearing in mind that women and slaves are expelled from the polis). Leaving aside for one moment the issue of women and slaves, ‘cosmopolitanism’ at its root includes what was separated by the logic of barring later on.

‘Cosmopolitan’ ignores the either/or principle and symbolizes ‘Sowohl-alsauch thinking’, the ‘this-as-well-as-that’ principle. This is an ancient ‘hybrid’, ‘melange’, ‘scape’, ‘flow’ idea that is even more structured than the new offshoots of globalization discourse. Thus cosmopolitanism generates logic of non-exclusive oppositions, making ‘patriots’ of two worlds that are concurrently equal and different. Anti-globalization

My concern with terminology is to do with the role that conflicting discourses of ‘globalization’ play in the taking up of political positions. The discourse of being pro- or anti-globalization is a case in point. (Brah 2002:34) The ‘anti-globalisation’ label became prevalent after the Seattle demonstration, apparently ‘a coinage of the US media’ (Graeber 2002:63). However, it is significant to realize that the term is strongly contested amongst activists – and that numerous if not most, reject the label ‘anti-globalization’ entirely.

So what is it, accurately, that activists oppose? Although there has been significant attention lately to militarism in the context of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, it seems to me that most activist accounts in current years have focused more centrally on phenomena linked with economic globalisation: the increasing power of corporations, the growing role of international financial institutions, and the neoliberal policies of trade liberalization and privatization propounded by the latter and from which the former benefit.

These are seen to produce economic inequality, social and environmental destruction, and cultural homogenization. They are also accused of leaching power and autonomy away from people and governments – of being anti-democratic. Such an understanding of ‘the enemy’ chimes with many commentaries on the movement (Starr 2000; Danaher and Burbach 2000). It can as well be discerned on activist websites. The Charter of Principles of the World Social Forum (2002) declares participant groups ‘opposed to neoliberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism’.

The statement of principles on the Globalize Resistance site (2002a) indicates that it is primarily against the extension of corporate power over people’s lives under the heavy hand of international financial institutions similar to the WTO and IMF. The group’s newsletters then target the exploitative practices of particular multinational corporations and drawing attention to problems of debt and financial restructuring. Lastly, the Peoples’ Global Action manifesto (1998) articulates opposition to the expansion of the role of ‘capital, through the help of international agencies’ and trade agreements.