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Optimism and Pessimism within Hyperglobalization : How McWorld vs Jihad is deconstructing States; A comparison between Pakistan and the Gaza Strip

After the great feedback from my 'Problems of reaching arms agreements' - I thought I'd post another academic-style blog post. Hope you enjoy as much as the last one guys!!

This project will a****s the argument that Globalization has led to an increasingly h***genized world culture, where cultures are subject to an imposed ‘Anglo-Americanization’. The project will go on to analyze to what extent there is a situation known as “McWorld vs Jihad”. This will be illustrated using a comparison of Pakistan and the Gaza Strip, where the two different sides of the debate have manifested.

One of the Keystone debates within those that study the effects of Globalization is the extent to which people across the world have become more alike or more different. One of the most obvious ways in which people are now globally linked is through the medium of the internet. This worldwide exchange of information allows a huge amount of the global population to have instant access to images, ideas and other people, and has also allowed for an easier expansion into foreign markets for businesses. It is not only business that is enhanced by a global connection however, as the internet allows cultural practices to expand out of their locality, becoming available to an ever increasing amount of global citizens.

Wether sameness is a good or bad thing is the issue of debate between Optimistic and Pessimistic Hyperglobalizers. Hyperglobalizers see Globalization as an age where;

‘Traditional nation-states have become unnatural, even impossible business units in a
global economy’ (Ohmae, 2005, p. 5).

From an economic perspective, this argument suggests that neo-liberal Globalization has created a single global market, and that States’ economies are becoming De-Nationalized by new Global networks. This view is supported by Ohame who suggests that;

“In this ‘borderless’ economy, national governments are relegated to little more than transmission belts for global capital or, ultimately, simple intermediate institutions sandwiched between increasingly powerful local, regional and global mechanisms of governance.” (Ohmae, 2005, p. 65)

With this in mind, it is important to identify that hyperglobalizers believe that globalization is re-designating social structures that will go on to outstrip nation states as the units of World Society.

Optimistic Hyperglobalizers see sameness as a benefit of Globalization. This is supported by academics such as Francis F**uyama, who argues that Anglo-American values and lifestyle is simply an expansion of democracy and free markets. F**uyama claims that globalization leads to an increase of living standards and self-awareness, suggesting that;

“As people become wealthier, more cosmopolitan, and better educated, they demand not simply more wealth, but recognition of their status.” (F**uyama, 1992 p.207 )

He believes that this desire for recognition is the missing link between liberal economics and liberal politics, and that the urban, mobile and well educated people created by advanced industrialization have led to a correlation between themselves and liberal democracies.

Optimistic Hyperglobalizers see the information links that are forged as a result of globalization as responsible for new forms of cultural expression. This lifestyle however, is centered around business and as a result, global citizens find that their identities are being moulded by advertising. Polanyi, despite writing in 1944, sees that commercial interests dominate society by means of a savage market logic that disconnected economics from social relations. (Polanyi, 2002)

In opposition to Optimists, Pessimistic Hyperglobalizers see global sameness as a distressing by-product of Global markets. George Ritzer develops the idea of “McDonaldization” where he sees globalizers as rational in their attempts to satisfy people’s needs with efficiency, and that this rationality;

“Allows individuals little choice of means to ends. In a formally rational system virtually everyone can (or must) make the same optimal choice” (Ritzer, 2008 p.25)

He goes on to observe how McDonalds has come to control both workers and customers within what he dubs ‘grobalization’ - the growing influence of American organizations throughout the world. Workers are effectively reduced to being ‘robots’ thanks to the level of control that technology within the globalized workplace allows.

Ritzer explains further that the low nutrition, high fat levels and links to cancer that are associated with fast food, are mirrored in globalization’s undermining of cultural diversity, and that Globalization’s similarity with McDonalds’ imposition of uniform standards is dehumanizing social relations, Ritzer identifies several driving forces behind customer use of McDonalds, and in referring to a child’s emotional commitment to the brand, claiming that they;

“Care little about the rational aspects of McDonald’s; they are drawn to it because of emotions created to a large extent by advertisements. Children are more likely to value McDonald’s for its own sake and not because it seems to offer material, especially economic advantages.” (Ritzer, 2008, p.41)

It is possible, therefore, to see a transformation by McDonald’s from an efficient, predictable franchise brand into a lifestyle choice that is effectively McDonaldization for it’s own sake . Robin Leidner supports Ritzer’s work in her a****sment of the success of McDonalds. In suggesting that the success of the brand is thanks to it’s uniformity and predictability, she observes that;

“There is a McDonald’s way to handle virtually every detail of the business, and that doing things differently means doing things wrong” (Leidner, 1993 p.46)

Pessimists argue that the h***genization of culture under globalization does not allow for cultures to develop, and stops them from expanding through the channels that globalization itself creates.

The centerpiece of the debate between these two sides is Benjamin Barber’s “McWorld Vs. Jihad” - Originally an article, but later written as a book due to the debate created around it’s main arguments. Barber sees ‘McWorld’ as the product of hollow American popular culture of the 1950s and 1960s, as a result of an expansionist commercial interest. Barber suggests that McWorld’s Americanization has come up against cultural, political and traditional resistance through nationalism and religious orthodoxy, which he brings under the umbrella of ‘Jihad’. Barber claims that in a struggle for popular allegiance, both McWorld and Jihad work against participatory democracy and are both prone to undermining civil liberties, and thus constraining a global democratic future. (Barber, 2003)

However, there are many issues with Barber’s argument. Arguably the most important of this is Barber’s use of the word ‘Jihad’ . While he goes some way in his introduction to recognise the use of the word Jihad in stating that;

“Jihad, I recognize is a strong term. In it’s mildest form, it betokens religious struggle on behalf of faith, a kind of islamic zeal. In it’s strongest political manifestation, it means bloody holy war on behalf of partisan identity that is metaphysically defined and fanatically defended...I borrow its meaning from those militants who make the slaughter of the ‘other’ a higher duty” (Barber, 2003 p.9)

While Barber admits he is using the most extreme interpretation of Jihad, his use of the word overlooks ethnic reactions to globalization, and the way in which particular cultures adapt to globalization in different ways. Martin Lewis goes further in exploring Barber’s use of ‘Jihad’ in explaining;

“Barber's title alone ought to serve as cause for concern. Jihad is an inappropriate if not bigoted term for the very real phenomenon of militant ethnic particularism that often confronts the logic of enveloping globalism... More problematic, however, is that proponents of jihad have never sought the kind of ethnic fragmentation that Barber associates with it, but rather the exact opposite” (Lewis, 2000 P.606)

Lewis is highlighting how Barber is generalizing the Islamic world, and suggesting that nationalism and religious orthodoxy which stands up to globalization, is intrinsically linked to the Islamic World. Lewis goes on to critique both Ritzer and Barber, by countering the argument that McDonald’s is a global icon, and indeed one of the most important elements of Americanization, stating that;

“The larger McWorld thesis (which covers music, film, and an omnibus roster of popular culture) is undercut by the main findings of most cultural anthropologists who have actually examined how American culture plays out overseas.” (Lewis, 2000, p.607)

In a****sing both Optimistic and Pessimistic Hyperglobalizers, particularly in Barber’s work that outlines the interdependence between McWorld and Jihad, McWorld needing the ‘cultural parochialism’ that Jihad provides, but can only do so thanks to the commercial producers that it faces. As a result of this Kellner is able to illuminate a flaw in both theories, outlining that;

“Most theories of globalization, are reductive, undialectical, and one-sided, either failing to see the interaction between technological features of globalization and the global restructuring of capitalism or failing to articulate the complex relations between capitalism and democracy. Dominant discourses of globalization are thus one-sidedly for or against globalization, failing to grasp the contradictions and the conflicting costs and benefits, upsides and downsides, of the process.” (Kellner, 2002, p..289 )

Ronald Robertson however, believes that there is no Anglo-American hegemonic sameness, but that there are in fact “Cultural Constellations” that are created as a result of regional differences. Robertson dismisses the cultural h***genous thesis, stating that instead, globalization is cultural in local contexts. He suggests that the interaction between Global and local spheres leads to “Glocalization” which is characterized by cultural borrowing, and as a hybrid of the two, cannot be the same as other localities due to it’s complexity. (Robertson 1992) . This is supported by the fact that living and acting across cultural borders has led to both a loss of traditional culture and the creation of new symbolic expressions, and the h***geneous effects of Americanization has meant that states no longer have a self-contained culture. This idea of Glocalization is supported by Taylor when he suggests that;

“The idea of "multinational multiculturalism," ...is clearly becoming an important, perhaps even defining, strategy of European and American businesses.” (Taylor, 2000, p.178 )

As a case study, this blog will present both the cases of Hamas in the Gaza strip, and the state of Pakistan. These two examples show two different ends of the spectrum, leading to two very different situations. Pakistan, although being an Islamic state, has allied itself with the US War on Terror, opened it’s markets and endorsed ‘McWorld’, whereas Hamas has pursued a nationalist and Islamic discourse and is symbolic of Barber’s idea of ‘Jihad’

Pakistan, as an Islamic nation should fall in with Barber’s a****sment that;
“An empirical survey of existing governments in Islamic nations certainly affirms a certain lack of affinity between Islam and democracy. In nearly all Muslim nations, democracy has never been tried or has been pushed aside after unsuccessful experiments.” (Barber, 2003, p.207)

However, it has tried several times to increase democracy in order to meet the requirements of the Bretton Woods institutions. In an attempt to adapt itself to the global economy, Pakistan saw a huge number of economic changes under Ayub Khan. The most important of which were the incentives for export orientated industries, that came primarily in the form of income and sales tax concessions, exemptions from customs duties on imported capital goods and easy access to credit for export-orientated companies.

Further measures to ensure Pakistan’s legitimacy in global trade were the financial measures assisting exporters to achieve ISO (International Organization for Standardization) classifications, specifically ISO9000 ad ISO14000 which guaranteed to foreign markets that formalized business processes were being applied to the company. This was coupled with the promotion of Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Pakistan’s export sector through the creation of export processing zones in Karachi and Lahore. These zones boasted tax holidays and a better infrastructure than in other regional export zones, as well as unrestricted repatriation of capital and profits, which meant companies were able to profit from, and not buy back into, Pakistan’s economy.

In 1955, the Truman doctrine, a post War establishment of secure Western markets meant that Pakistan was able to benefit financially from the Cold War. Pakistan’s joining of the US network of international defence treaties against Soviet Russia, according to Hassan Gardezi;

“Marked the beginning of an enduring trend in Pakistan to follow every one of the strategies of development devised successively in Washington and promoted globally.” (Gardezi, 2005)
Through Ayub Khan, the US promoted an economic strategy of low wages for labour in order to maximise profitability and acc**ulation of capital, based on the principle of functional inequality. however, due to the fact that Pakistani workers were already on subsistence pay, there was widespread mistrust of the government and General Zia rose to power in a popular military coup. Despite this, Pakistan was still heavily reliant on the Bretton Woods institutions and was the 10th Largest recipient of loans in 1980.
A deregulation of the Rupee by 10% in 1993, and a further devaluation of 7%in 1995 led to a more healthy economic situation, and appreciated the value of the dollar thanks to cheaper goods being exported from Pakistan, but also led to an inflation in prices for the poorer population of the country, worsened by the removal of price controls on flour and cooking oil. The Bretton Woods institutions had created a free movement of capital flows and investments that ensured that American standards of living were improved and that the workers of the production markets in Pakistan saw their standards of living degraded. This shows how American fiscal policies were not effective in improving the standard of living for Pakistani citizens.

The War against Terror allowed Pakistan to gain new economic stimulus packages through their co-operation in the ‘McWorld’ coalition. Washington demanded that Pakistan cut ties with the Taliban government in Kabul and countered domestic anticipated regional extremist opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan. The Bush administration, in return for improving Pakistan’s links in the international community (with emphasis on the Bretton Woods institutions) also expected Musharraff to reduce domestic sectarian violence and curb state support to Jihadi activities in relation to Kashmir. In addition to increased prestige in the global community, Kennedy tells us that;

“The U.S. also held out the "promise" that it would at least look with fresh eyes at Pakistani claims in the Kashmir issue. The United States "promised" not to target Pakistan as a facilitator or harbor for international terror, as long as it complied with the U.S. global war against terrorism.” (Kennedy,2005, p. 107)

As Musharraff knew that Pakistan had been active in the promotion of the Taliban, and the Nuclear secrets that his country had passed to States such as North Korea and Iran, he strengthened the anti-terror courts set up under Nawaz Sharif and banned militant sectarian groups in Kashmir. Pakistan also embarked on a series of violent conflicts in South Waziristan against the local militia, who were declaring regional autonomy. From a realist perspective, Musharraff was using the American discourse on rooting out terrorism to secure his power in frontier regions. These areas were identified as a safe haven for the Taliban, and Shiv Malik explains that the problem with these mountainous areas is that;

“The central government has not been able to integrate the tribal areas into its normal federal structure in 57 years. This is largely because the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, also known as the Durand Line, has always been disputed territory, and the Pashtun tribes have used this to their political advantage over the years” (Malik 2005)

It is possible to see that Pakistan’s use of the War on Terror secured power for the Pakistan government, but the Afghan border, or Durand line, is still an area dominated by Taliban control. Barber goes some way to explaining this;

“What ends as Jihad may begin as a simple search for local identity, some set of common personal attributes to hold out against the numbing and neutering uniformities of industrial modernization and the colonizing culture of McWorld” (Barber, 2003 p.9)

Musharraff also introduced a series of economic reforms designed to further align Pakistan to the US. The reforms can be divided into four main themes; Firstly, there was an attempt to ensure macroeconomic stability through creating a working relationship with the Bretton Woods institutions and the Asian Development bank, these were introduced to restore economic growth. Secondly, Structural reforms were introduced to remove distortions on the economy, increasing productivity and therefore further integration into globalization. Thirdly, there was a drive to improve governance, with emphasis on the economic sphere to ensure that Pakistani governance was capable of sustaining the growth of the economy over time. Finally, there were a series of poverty alleviation measures.

While these reforms went some way to improving the Pakistani economy, Musharraff was forced to resign from the presidency among calls for impeachment, and the Pakistani people’s party achieved a majority in the parliamentary elections after a delayed poll date due to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, showing the relative political instability of the country. Despite the new government, a series of terrorist attacks in Kashmir shows that the country’s sectarian groups have not been muted by the fiscal reforms designed to Americanize Pakistan.

It is clear that the way in which Pakistan openly followed Western ideas of neo-liberal economics did not echo the prosperity that American blue-collar workers saw. From the ‘Jihad’ perspective, Pakistan, and particularly Musharraff, had betrayed the Islamic world in creating ties with ‘McWorld’ and as a result often saw themselves as independent autonomous states, such as South Waziristan, which became a safe haven for Al Qa’Ida, and became an example of how Central power in Pakistan weakened at the frontiers of states rife with Islamic fundamentalism.

The Hamas organization on the other hand, is an example of a group using Barber’s principle of Jihad (cultural, political and traditional resistance through nationalism and religious orthodoxy) that have evolved through Globalization. Abu-Amr tells us that;

“Hamas started with a straight Muslim Brotherhood program but over time have stressed nationalism more and Islamic rules less.” (Amr,1994, p.25).

This is perhaps because of the increased tension within the Gaza strip, where Hamas have the largest support base. A rivalry with Fatah, an alternative radical Islamic group within Palestine has meant that Hamas has had to adjust it’s structure to gain the maximum support base possible, as a result, they have pursued a strategy of ‘infitab’ (opening) aimed at establishing and maintaining a Palestinian national dialogue across sectarian and factional divides, thereby creating momentum for a territorially based national struggle. Hamas has also seen Israeli security increased, and this has led to more difficulty in carrying out attacks in the state. It is possible that this is the reason for Hamas statements broadening out from the traditional anti-Israeli stance and aligning itself against those that it sees as imposing their will on Islamic states. An example of this is when Abd-Al-Aziz,(who at the time was second in command of Hamas) released a statement in 2003 calling on Iraqis to;

“Prepare an army of martyrdom seekers and tens of thousands of explosive belts to confront any US aggression” (Paz, 2003, p.32.)

This new global rhetoric is reflected in Hamas’ activities. While often seen as isolated within the Gaza strip and Palestine, Hamas received $35 million from Saudi Arabia, one of the US’ key oil producers.(Natta & O’Brien, 2003) This shows that there is financial sympathy within the Islamic World for organizations that are increasing their anti- McWorld global reach. Klein suggests that;

“Hamas has an extensive infrastructure in the US mostly revolving around the activities of fundraising, recruiting and training members, directing operations against Israel, organizing political support and operating through human-rights front groups. While Hamas has not acted outside Israel, it has the capability of carrying out attacks in America if it decided to enlarge the scope of its operations.” (Klein, 2006)

It is perhaps this threat to the United States, and McWorld itself that has meant Fatah, the rival party in Palestine were allowed to oust the democratically elected Hamas from their seats in the West Bank in June 2007. Almost simultaneously, Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza. effectively destroying any chance of Hamas’ government in the Gaza strip surviving. This was further enforced by the walling off of the Gaza strip, creating what is effectively the largest open prison in the World and cutting off ‘Jihad’ from the global market of ‘McWorld’. In December 2008, Israel launched operation Cast Lead, controversially using White Phosphorous to bomb civilian targets.

Despite this, Hamas have recently stated that they would welcome communication from Obama’s administration. in August 2009, the Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal stated that;

“As long as there's a new language, we welcome it, but we want to see not only a change of language, but also a change of policies on the ground. We have said that we are prepared to cooperate with the US or any other international party that would enable the Palestinians to get rid of occupation” (Khaled, 2008)

This shows that despite Hamas being paraded as a terrorist organization, it is, from a realist perspective, open to change and alliances in order to ease its economic blockade from Israel and reopening itself to global markets, reinforcing Barber’s argument that Jihad needs McWorld to survive.

In conclusion, this blog has taken the view of pessimistic Hyperglobalizers and argued that ‘McWorld’ has had a detrimental effect on cultures, and that the h***geneous Americanization of culture replaces social structures already in place. Although Robertson’s argument of ‘Glocalization’ does have some merit, cultural borrowing still degrades and blurs old social orders, which academics such as Barber then brand as ‘Jihadist’

In the comparison between Pakistan and the Gaza Strip, there is a clear difference in the way both states have reacted to the Americanization of ‘McWorld’. Pakistan, in an attempt to open it’s markets to globalization and adapt to the American idea of a neo-liberal democracy, has failed it’s poorer citizens, allowing price controls to be removed, and devaluation of currency to increase inflation of basic goods. Pakistan has also used the War on Terror as an excuse to reinforce it’s power over regions that previously enjoyed regional autonomy under the guise of rooting out Taliban sympathizers. In stark contrast to this, the Gazan people elected Hamas as a ruling party under Israeli persecution. Hamas, through the global infrastructure that ‘McWorld’ has created, have broadened their activities, and globalized their network. The case of Hamas shows how a success by the nationalistic and cultural forces of ‘Jihad’ can be severely economically restrained by the proponents of ‘McWorld’ and when Juxtaposed with Pakistan, shows how the two forces can have very different effects on states.

Views: 11523

Comment by Nick Heyming on March 22, 2010 at 4:08pm
Capitalism has only recently been synonymous with hyper-globalization and neo-liberal economic policies. Your post does a good job of illustrating the shortcomings of that system, and the unsatisfying alternatives people are faced with in this polarized world.

I'm hoping the 21st century will harken back to more localized entrepreneurship that leverages our global communications network to keep it fresh and competitive.
Comment by Adam Sunman on March 24, 2010 at 5:42pm
I'm not sure. I do a lot of work around empire, and european states' reasoning for it, which primarily is the expansion of markets, and capitalist. -without sounding like a conspiracy theorist I think neo-liberalism is an easy cover for the spread of a far more sinister right wing agenda by American policy makers.


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