The Impact of Globalization on Citizenship: Decline or Renaissance?

By Smith, Peter J | Journal of Canadian Studies, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Globalization on Citizenship: Decline or Renaissance?


Smith, Peter J, Journal of Canadian Studies


This article contests two commonly held views about politics and citizenship: (1) that politics and citizenship are only possible within the boundaries of the state; (2) that economic globalization erodes the significance of the state, thereby diminishing the scope of politics and citizen activity. The very processes and means of communicating that are making economic globalization possible are making globalization contestable. Politics and citizenship, like the market, have burst the borders of the nation-state. Information and communication technologies (ICrs), primarily the Internet, have facilitated new forms of political expression and connection among groups and the growth of new public spaces. Canadians are among the most active users of ICrs in the creation of new public spaces and possibilities of citizen engagement that challenge the top-down, statedriven processes of international governance and multilateralism.

Cet article conteste deux vues communement admises au sujet des politiques gouvernementales et de la citoyennete : 1) que les politiques gouvernementales et la citoyennete ne sont possibles qu'a l'interieur des frontieres d'un etat; 2) que la mondialisation de l'economie erode l'importance de l'etat et, par le fait meme, diminue 1'etendue des politiques gouvernementales et des activates des citoyens. Ces me mes processus et moyens de communiquer qui permettent la mondialisation de l'economie rendent contestable cette mondialisation. Tout comme le marche, les politiques gouvernementales et la citoyennete ont fait Mater les frontieres de l'etat-nation. Les technologies de l'information et des communications (TIC), et surtout l'Internet, ont favorise une nouvelle forme d'expression et de rapports politiques entre les groupes, ainsi que la croissance de nouveaux espaces publics. Les Canadiens et Canadiennes sont parmi les plus grands utilisateurs des TIC en ce qui concerne la creation de nouveaux espaces publics et les possibilites d'engagement des citoyens, qui defient les processus descendants, vehicules par l'etat, lies A une gouvernance et A un multilateralisme internationaux.

lobalization is the catchword of our time. While some praise it, claiming it has brought a new era of wealth, freedom and democracy, others decry it, claiming that globalization brings the opposite - poverty, environmental devastation and corporate domination. The only point of concurrence seems to be its inexorability. Both sides agree that globalization, economically and technologically, is an irresistible and unstoppable force imposing its will on anyone or anything that might stand in its way, including the nation-state (Ohmae, Strange). In sum, as states, of necessity, open themselves up to the global economy, they suffer a loss of political and economic authority. "Diminished," "narrowed," "hollowed out" are some of the adjectives used to describe the state's reduced capacity and scope of policy action. In this portrayal of globalization as a deus ex machina, structure triumphs over agency, citizenship, a phenomenon of the nationstate, loses its relevance and globalization becomes our fate. Or so it seemed until lately.

Recently, however, there has been an increasing awareness that globalization can be contested. The controversies over the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are an indication of increasing concern about, if not hostility towards, globalization. As objects of discussion the primary instruments and agencies of globalization have moved from corporate boardrooms to the kitchen tables of everyday citizens, and governments have had to take notice. What seemed so certain now seems less so as globalization becomes a political, not just an economic, phenomenon. While politics still matter, however, the status of the state as the sole container of politics, public spaces, citizenship and identity is put in doubt. …

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