Sustainable Development and Learning: Framing the Issues

By Neil Chalmers; William Scott et al. | Go to book overview

13

Globalisation and fragmentation

Science and self

Globalisation

According to Christie and Warburton (2001, 25):

Sustainable development requires that we learn to govern the globalization of markets, rather than letting it dominate societies the world over.

(emphasis added)

'Globalisation' is a word which has passed into everyday parlance, if only because millions of viewers around the world have seen television news pictures of anti-globalisation protesters at one international function or another. 'Postmodernism' trips off fewer tongues but deserves to be mentioned in the same breath at least once in any discussion, because it draws attention to the fact that even as globalisation leads to greater standardisation across the globe, so it also tends to undermine established elements of the structure of societies. These include family, religion, school, local community, geographical setting and type of employment (Payne, 1997). The result may be resistance, as people unite in the attempt to uphold and celebrate the local and/or the traditional; alternatively, it may be social disintegration; finally, it may be both at once, as groups coalesce around social micro-narratives (Lyotard, 1984). All these possible secondary outcomes seem to be evidence of fragmentation and so contrary to globalisation itself.

Farrell (2001) helpfully notes that postmodernism may take the form of a claim either about history or about knowledge. To illustrate this with an example relevant to the theme of this chapter, postmodernists are generally dismissive of the 'grand narrative' that progress is achieved through rationality and science. This can mean both that: (a) there is no credible basis in logic for this grand narrative (a claim about knowledge); and (b) whether or not there is such a logical basis, people generally have now widely ceased to believe in the ability of rationality and science to deliver progress (a claim about history). In terms of the claim about knowledge, the continuing potential efficacy of science as a means to progress has been a significant thread throughout this book. We have tried to argue that progress though the acquisition, dissemination and application of knowledge is perfectly possible; but that, at the margins of complexity, uncertainty, risk and necessity, it is likely to be an incremental, non-linear and surprise-prone enterprise. In terms of the postmodern

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