Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

Globalization: Paradox, Apocalypse and Redemption-A Response to David Held

Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

Globalization: Paradox, Apocalypse and Redemption-A Response to David Held

Article excerpt

The paper is a critique of David Held's thesis on globalization. In his attempt to reframe global governance. Held has repeatedly counter-posed the extensity and intensity of contemporary collective issues with the weak and incomplete means of addressing them. This has also been served by Held as the paradox of our times. The paper locates the problem in the underlying assumptions of this apparent paradox with reference to the critical literature on globalization, democracy and global governance. It argues that Held's normative conceptualization of globalization also informs his proposals on reforming global governance and is oblivious to elements of power in the globalization discourse.

The collective issues we must grapple with are of growing extensity and intensity and, yet, the means for addressing these are weak and incomplete.

- David Held (2006)

Introduction

The choice of the opening quote is deliberate as it captures the essence of David Held's thesis on globalization. It is the opening line of David Held's "Reframing Global Governance: Apocalypse Soon or Reform!" (2006).1 Held has been one of the most prolific and influential advocates of globalization and global governance, and the statement is grounded in his widely acknowledged contribution to the study of globalization that provides the frame of reference for our arguments.2 These are also examined with reference to the critical literature on globalization, democracy and global governance. The attempt here is to provide a critique of Held and that does not by extension require that we advance an alternative hypothesis even if it risks acceptance of the status quo. The paper critically looks at some of the underlying assumptions in the way Held has posed the collective issues and how they relate to his analysis of globalization and global governance.

The Paradox

Some apparently stylistic issues need discussion before we engage with wider arguments in the paper. These relate to the nature of presentation-language, tone and pitch-that have come to inform Held's arguments in recent times. These can never be read in an objective manner, as often ambiguity is deliberately built into theory to widen its appeal and applicability. The opening lines are dramatically served as the 'paradox of our times'. In linguistics, paradox is acknowledged as a non- literal figure of speech with affinity to irony, metaphor and exaggeration, all of which "relegate the interpretation of paradox to the undifferentiated notion of inference."3 Paradox is commonly employed in rhetoric and wordplay, and not surprisingly its usage is very popular with writings on globalization (both for and against).4 Norrick defines paradox as a "figure of speech in which an initial contradiction resolves itself into a consistent proposition at some higher level."5 So it is not only the contradiction that is important in a paradox (as commonly assumed), but also its resolution. Held's positing of the 'collective issues' in their 'extensity and intensity' and the 'weak and incomplete means' for addressing them does not pose a contradiction, as one could argue that collective issues after all need collective solutions. The apparent paradox thus suggests other congruencies tied up with Held's perception of collective issues and means of resolving them, but they do not exist in the 'paradox' itself.

Apocalypse Soon

The second issue resides not only in the title6 but is repeatedly emphasized in the article-'Apocalypse Soon'. The apocalyptic pattern of thought is pervasive in the Christian tradition, but it has also become increasingly common in a particular genre of Western political ideology.7 Held narrates the story of global warming, poverty, nuclear catastrophe and bio-terrorism in strikingly dark and horrific terms, frequently invoking death and disaster in 'here and now' terms. A crisis-driven canvas of collective problems is painted with 'statistical data' and 'scientific evidence' serving as useful alibi. …

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