Talking Back to Globalization

Texts and Practices

by Brian Michael Goss (Volume editor) Mary Rachel Gould (Volume editor) Joan Pedro-Carañana (Volume editor)
Textbook XXIX, 239 Pages


Globalization is one of the most widely circulated, high-stakes buzzwords of the past generation; yet discussion of the topic is often encased in paradox and contention over what globalization is, to whom and where it may (or may not) apply, and to what effect. In Talking Back to Globalization: Texts and Practices, contributors provide a series of case studies that stress the interplay between culture, politics, and commerce.
Interviews with Natalie Fenton and Radha S. Hegde survey globalization and its interpenetration with the spheres of journalism, activism, social media, and identity. The overview furnished by the interviews is followed by the volume’s two additional extended sections, «Texts» and «Practices.»
Chapters in the «Texts» section seek clues about globalization through its insinuation into mediated forms. The diverse selection of cases cover television, films, online travel web pages, blues music, and the political valences of Portuguese neo-fado.
Chapters in the «Practices» section address more diffused cases than media texts. Their analyses largely orient toward institutional concomitants of globalization that precede the subject’s experience of it. Chapters cover the trajectory of the European university, campaigns to shape journalistic practice during the Cold War, the posture of intellectuals vis-à-vis globalization, and the ideology that animates the Facebook experience.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Washed Up on the Shores of Neoliberal Globalization
  • Section One: Interviews
  • Preface to the Interviews
  • Chapter One: A Conversation with Natalie Fenton: “Resocializing the Political and Re-politicizing the Economy”
  • Chapter Two: A Conversation with Radha S. Hegde: Globalization: “It’s Everywhere; It’s Nowhere”
  • Section Two: Texts
  • Chapter Three: “Petting the Burning Dog” of Orientalism: Implications of Occupation (2009) and Generation Kill (2008) for Cosmopolitan Assumptions About Globalization
  • Chapter Four: Courting the LGBTQ Consumer: A Global Perspective
  • Chapter Five: The Globalization of Blues: Rural, Urban, Transatlantic
  • Chapter Six: “Ai, é tão bom ser pequenino!”: OqueStrada’s Fado-Chanson-Ska and Local Sustainable Capitalism
  • Section Three: Practices
  • Chapter Seven: The Globalization of Universities: European Higher Education Area Viewed From the Perspectives of the Enlightenment and Industrialism
  • Chapter Eight: Strategic Sociability: US-led Journalist Reorientation Programs and Cold War Media Practices
  • Chapter Nine: Defending Human Rights in the Twenty-First Century: Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?
  • Chapter Ten: Facebook’s Global Imaginary: The Symbolic Production of the World Through Social Media
  • Afterword: The Global City and the Uses of the New Multiculture
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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Washed Up on the Shores of Neoliberal Globalization


In April 2015, the world witnessed the courage and sacrifice of 34-year-old Antonis Deligiorgis. An off-duty Greek army sergeant, Antonis bolted from a nearby beach-side café to hoist twenty immigrants to safety from a capsized vessel off the Island of Rhodes (Smith, 2015). Antonis’s heroic acts were captured in a photo by Argiris Mantikos that quickly circulated around the globe. In the photo, burly Antonis shepherds an obviously frightened Eritrean, Wegasi Nebiat, from what could readily have been the pregnant woman’s death in the treacherous waters.

At the same time that Antonis is rightly celebrated as a hero—one of countless unnamed people who have selflessly assisted migrants in peril in recent years—the photograph is saturated with relations of power (Castells, 2009; Freedman, 2014; Flew, 2007, pp. 4–8; Thompson, 1995). In the economic realm, the neoliberal economic program that has rampaged across the world in recent decades has generated sufficient “push” that immigrants are willing to risk uncertainty, harm and even death for opportunities in the world’s wealthier precincts (Harding, 2012; Wearing, 2015). No person or cabal enforces the power that drives this type of migration; it is power expressed quietly and impersonally, as it compels this person to leave his or her country to find work, or that one to speculate on currencies.

Immigrants who defy the regime of entry visas that is meant to stymie their efforts to reach Europe (or other destinations) are increasingly subject to what Thompson calls “coercive powers” (1995, p. 17) that effectively criminalize them. However much one may yearn for orderly governance of immigration processes (cf. Sassen, 2005), being without documents effectively amounts to the ← xi | xii → criminalization of a person as a function of his or her nation of origin; for being relatively poor, for being from the “global south,” for wanting something more out of one’s life, as poignantly captured by director Michael Winterbottom’s quasi-documentary In This World (2003, United Kingdom).

Finally, the photo of Antonis’s rescue of Wegasi is laden with what Thompson terms “symbolic power.” As a white man sacrifices to save the dark-skinned female subject, tropes of western benevolence echo and chime with centuries of Orientalist tales (and Orientalist photos, and news reports, and films). In this view, the western subject is always already positioned as a selfless actor, or even a victim assuming burdens. There are, of course, some important material concomitants that animate these tropes. A European photographer brought this scene to the world’s attention, because this globalization drama occurred on Europe’s shores. Europe’s longstanding economic prowess both summoned the immigrant—and Europeans’ symbolic power to capture that summons in photography as well as in tropology, since economic power seeps into and permeates the register of symbolic power. At the same time the photo transmits a poignant message about sacrifice and hope, about deeply held dreams of global togetherness via the stout European and a frightened but determined African. Moreover, Antonis’s own nation, on the edge of Europe, is increasingly a victim of the same abusive neoliberal policy package that exerts palpable power over the stream of migrants to Greece’s shores (Kuttner, 2013).

Antonis and Wegasi’s story testifies that globalization is haunted by the spectre of socio-economic class in all of its dimensions, including mobility. But hold on: Does that sound like overheated, precious academic rhetoric, delivered from a heroic, if slightly stilted, seminar room posture? Consider that in Europe right now, within the continent’s chimerical responses, increasingly hard-edged forms of power are directed at migrants seeking refugee status (alongside, at times, more emollient public posturing from elected officials). Countless people have now undertaken dangerous, often deadly journeys—on sea and land, shepherded by shadowy fixers, within a legal twilight in which one’s mere presence in a given place is criminalized. They are driven in the tens of thousands by, for example, escape from the gruesome civil war in Syria and the ongoing instability and mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan that has followed long-term US intervention. While Europe has witnessed extraordinary grassroots mobilization (along with spontaneous assistance) on behalf of migrants, in the long haul, the fortifications are hardening into place: scrutiny is intensified, walls are being built and processing center installations planned further from the continent’s perimeter. Fences always have holes—and conservative business interests may even welcome the expansion of the “reserve army of labor” through the mass introduction of ostensibly docile immigrant populations. Nevertheless, the props of coercive power and control are being assembled against the aspirations of migrants. ← xii | xiii →

At the same time, and putting aside the services afforded to free-spending tourists, very rich subjects are being welcomed and ushered to the front of the line for five-star treatment. The willing rich are right now being garlanded with the offer to buy into Europe—that is, to literally buy European Union citizenship. In particular, Malta offers an EU member nation passport at an all-inclusive cost of 1.2 million euros (Anderson, 2015). One American expatriate, currently resident in non-EU Switzerland and for whom price is no object, enthuses that, “It’s an incredibly powerful passport.” The future is at stake for this nakedly post-national subject: “My kids will have the ability to live and work anywhere in the E.U.,” he adds. While there is opposition to the scheme in Malta, it also bears mention that Spain had already implemented a similar (if less extreme version of the) program in which buying property in the country is rewarded with legal residency (Domínguez & Samavati, 2013).

Barriers alongside “benjamins” (or “big bucks”): Such is the strange world of globalization.

In talking back to globalization, a conundrum arises at the start: There is evident difficulty in ascertaining what globalization means, even beyond contestation about whether globalization is even occurring to widely assumed specifications (Hafez, 2007; Martell, 2010, pp. 8–11, pp. 19–36). Consider the game efforts of Manfred B. Steger (2009), a leading scholar of globalization, as he attempts to clarify what the phenomenon is. He observes that globalization has been taken to flag “a process, a condition, a system, a force, an age” with attendant cross-hatchings between them (2009, p. 8). In an effort to sort it out, Steger ventures the new term “globality.” Whatever the phenomenon shall be called, Steger oscillates as he construes globalization as of the present and as a force that will mainly play out in the future. More concretely, he identifies globalization as “a social condition characterized by tight global economic, political and cultural interconnections” that is distinguished by transformative impacts and ruptures (original emphasis, 2009, p. 8). Transformations implicate “shifting forms of human contact” (2009, p. 9), as well as the imaginary realm of “people’s growing consciousness of belonging to a global community” (2009, p. 10).

While Steger may understate the countervailing frictions around globalization—notably with respect to oppositional movements and the marked asymmetries of (economic and symbolic) power that structure the global scene—we take up his assumptions about a multifaceted social condition. In aligning our approach with a critical interpretation of globalization, we further assume that few people actually stepped up and placed an order for globalization to, in some measure, steer our destinies. People, Karl Marx maintained, “make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past” (1852, p. 1). In this view, globalization is largely imposed on publics that negotiate its conditions as best they can. ← xiii | xiv →

If one grants that globalization is already in motion, one may also ask since when? Timothy Brook (2008) observes that by Johannes Vermeer’s time (1632–1675), all Dutch households could be assumed to harbor ceramics from export-oriented Chinese workshops halfway around the globe. Vermeer’s paintings of Delft, Holland unselfconsciously capture further manifestations of globalization already in motion: Hats from North American pelts, rugs from Turkey, offices of the Dutch East India Company looming in the cityscape. In that case, when did globalization begin to scale up to recognizable proportions? 1492? 1789? 1945? 1973? 1989? What about 1978’s advent of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” that inaugurated liberalization of the national economy and its insertion into the global system that it increasingly influences (Fenby, 2012)? When globalization is thought to have spiked to a transformational tipping point may depend on where one looks, as evident in Armand Mattelart’s (2000) thoughtful grand tour of globalization’s stops and starts since the end of the eighteenth century.

Without succumbing to the seductions of “presentism”, we maintain that there is something different about the present time that, in turn, drives a volume such as this one. Live, global events were first evident through early television and satellites in the 1950s and 1960s (Schwoch, 2009). The tempo of live, global events has since stepped up dramatically, from global sport and celebrity pseudo-events to the heinous spectacles of terror franchises and asymmetric violence between and within nations (often misleadingly called “wars”, even when one side brings all the firepower). Something may be said to be different about the present when secular, profit and non-profit organizations that transcend nations and nationalism in the first instance have proliferated and are consequential actors (European Union, Amnesty International, World Bank, Al Jazeera, Fédération Internationale de Football Association [FIFA]). Eric Hobsbawm deflates facile assumptions of a static and insulated world in previous generations when he observes that the years from 1880 to 1914 featured “the greatest migrations [of people] yet known, within and between states” (1992, p. 91). Nonetheless, and even given prior incarnations of massive global porosity, we contend that something may be different when, to an unprecedented degree and with as yet unknown possibilities, faraway people and obscure information may be readily and directly encountered without leaving one’s salon.

We provisionally resolve the puzzles that we have introduced as follows: Globalization can be understood as both a universal and a particular phenomenon that is embedded in the everyday and the local (Ballesteros, Luján, & Pedro, 2010). As a form of spatial expansion, globalization processes and practices have taken place since the origins of humankind (Steger, 2009, pp. 19–26). These processes have intensified in different moments of history, reaching their highest expression in the ongoing technological revolution and worldwide expansion of the capitalist system. But, more specifically, how do globalization processes play out? ← xiv | xv →


Three paradigms that have discursively circulated around globalization reveal its contradictions when considered together. Following Terry Flew’s terminology that pulls together previous literature, these three paradigms may be called “differentialism,” “convergence,” and “mixing” (2007, pp. 162–169).

On a differentialist view that emphasizes the ostensibly timeless local rhythms of classical conservatism, movement toward globalization is inevitably checked by irreducible, recondite differences between cultures. Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis is a clear exemplar of differentialism in positing six global cultures that are fundamentally incommensurate with each other (Huntington, 1993). In making his differentialist case, Huntington thunders, “Islam has bloody borders” (1993, paragraph 35)—thusly ignoring Europe’s exceptionally gory history through the mid-twentieth century as well as the United States’ continued adventurism along whatever it construes as the perimeter of its interests (considered contemporaneously by Chomsky, 1993). Huntington’s contention that different cultures reside in different worlds is not debilitated by a mere failure to striate the globe into enough distinct cultures—astrology would be equally superstitious if it posited 18 astrological signs rather than 12—but by the principle of culture as a hermetically sealed entity. Nonetheless, theories can be wrong and still attract ardent adherents (at least provisionally). To cite one recent example: the clash-of-civilization electoral warriors of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)—a party hostile to immigration and that agitates for the UK to exit the European Union—was the third biggest vote-winner among British parties in the May 2015 general election with 3.8 million votes (British Broadcast Corporation, 2015). Moreover, the biggest vote-winner in the same election, the Conservatives, minted the same anti-immigrant and anti-Europe rhetoric, albeit in less volatile terms.

By contrast, the convergence and mixing paradigms have more in common with each other than either does with differentialism. They are, nonetheless, distinct. In the mixing (or “postmodern”) view, the world is constituted by bricolage of global influences and its subjects constantly cut and paste them into novel configurations. Arjun Appadurai (1996) may be taken as an intellectual lodestar of globalization as mixing, with its attendant cosmopolitan accents. More concretely, in joining Chinese-inspired noodles to tomato cultivation imported from Latin America, Italian cooking may be said to enact the global that is inscribed within the national; that is, before Italian cooking once again busted out of the national to circulate internationally as a concomitant of Italian emigration to the US and Argentina (Severgnini, 2015). Similarly, mega-pop star Shakira surfs on the ← xv | xvi → mixing wave. Colombian-born and raised, resident in Spain, with an Arabic stage name, Lebanese ancestry, and bilingual (Spanish/English) versions of her songs, Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll operates as a flagship for the mixed subjectivities found all over the globe (in her case, to the tune of vast commercial success).

Globalization-as-convergence adherents similarly maintain a world of places articulated to each other and open to influences from beyond their own borders. However, rather than the free play of bricolage, convergence posits a transnational order in which heightened homogeneity is the rule; an incipient “end of history”, as posited in a leading convergence manifesto (Fukuyama, 1992). In this view, events continue to occur, presidents and prime ministers come and go, market shares shift—but the fundamentals do not change. Mass republics and market-driven economics are, by convergence logics, the only remaining contenders with respect to how to organize people. The advent of the euro across Western Europe as a transnational currency is a harbinger of convergence; as is the global ascendance of the English language that you are reading right now. Spoken by relatively few people as a first language, English is spoken with some degree of fluency by literally billions of people as a second (or third, or fourth) language (Steger, 2009, pp. 80–83).

These three paradigms may be taken to abet the many doubts around globalization rehearsed earlier (for example, when did it begin?). Taken together, the litany of unanswered questions may suggest a world of nebulous formations and depthless ambiguities, a hall of mirrors in which everything is up for grabs. However, we do not assume that lumpy formlessness characterizes globalization’s contours. It is a given that talking about, or back to, globalization is complex; no surprise, considering the scope of the phenomenon that is signified in the term itself. However, we maintain that distinct and legible patterns emerge in globalization.

In this view, how does one make sense of Flew’s three paradigms of globalization? It is reasonable to maintain that all three may be in play at once—albeit, in different registers and with varying intensities across time and global space. Within the same city, some barrios are more evidently globalized via, for example, tourist brigades and services that cater to them, immigration patterns with their attendant ensemble of restaurants and cyber cafés, and the farrago of languages cascading on the street. In Madrid, the Puerta del Sol-Lavapiés corridor in the city’s center is highly globalized by these informal indices. At the same time, the center is grounded in local history: keyhole architecture may remind the contemporary flâneur that the name “Madrid” is a corruption of the city’s original Arabic name () bequeathed by Moroccan invasion, alongside the statues of medieval Castilian kings of central Iberia. In the same city, at the same time, some other peripheral barrios are relatively sparse in these signs of globalization.

Similarly, within the nation of Spain, the main cities are more evidently shaped by global currents (international airports, hosting Olympic games and ← xvi | xvii → World Exhibitions) than the smaller provincial capitals and their satellite villages. Yet, all share US televisual productions clotting the screens, Chinese restaurants tucked onto side streets, German-manufactured cars rumbling along the roadway—along with resentments against these, and other, perceived intrusions. In other words, the three paradigms discussed above may coincide in time and space in densely layered forms. As will be further elaborated, globalization phenomena exhibit variations according to the particular context of each society and the concrete configuration of the power relationships between local and global actors.

Nations No More? Not Really!

The paradoxes, contradictions and discontinuities of globalization suggested above may also be mapped by a quick look at where the nation stands. As Immanuel Wallerstein points out (1991, pp. 132–134), the nation is constructed and contingent, however much its contours are subsequently taken as given, even in historical studies. The successful implementation of the nation has brought with it the infrastructure of nationhood: standardized language (or official compromise on languages), schooling, roads, research and development, industrial policy, holidays, flags and other chains of often inconspicuous symbols that consolidate nationhood while marking out differentiations beyond precisely mapped boundaries (Billig, 1995/2010).

Unruly and aberrant subjectivities within the nation have largely been glossed over or damped down under a single flag (e.g., submerged ethnicities, regional nationalisms), often through the bureaucratic reach of State services in a form of endo-convergence (Hobsbawm, 1992, pp. 30–39). In turn, a central paradox is that the rise of national entities across the past several centuries has been the precondition of what we construe as globalization. As nations consolidate, each can be inserted as a coherent node within a similarly coherent network of nations. Contradictions multiply. The nation may depend on a widespread popular sentiment of nationalism—and the subject’s internalized image of the nation pivots on strong feelings of distinction from other peoples’ nations, even as the nation itself has been the necessary precondition for organized transnational cooperation (Mattelart, 2000).

At the same time, national space intersects with—indeed, may be transformed by—globalization in other respects. Affluent, cosmopolitan residents in the core of a globally connected city—say, São Paulo—may readily have more in common with affluent New York cosmopolitans than with people a few kilometers away on the outskirts of their own metropole. The resultant “archipelago economy” signifies a strong, albeit class-based convergence for the globe’s gated communities (Mattelart, 2000, p. 99). As concerns space in a global milieu, Mike Davis (2000, pp. 93–107) describes the bottom-up construction of “transnational suburbs” as ← xvii | xviii → enclaves of Latin Americans in the United States that have retained substantial “economic and cultural umbilical cords” with home countries (2000, p. 96). Transnational suburbs are facilitated by low-cost telephony and air travel even as they reshape the terrain (through concepts about use of public space, entrepreneurial activity) of their host nations. Much the same can be said of transnational suburbs constructed in bottom-up fashion that connect Spain and Romania, France and Algeria, and most everywhere that harbors the vast expatriate populations of China and India—in all cases, with their attendant mixing.

At the same time, differentialist frictions are evident vis-à-vis globalization. Differentialist anxieties were in play in the US, when one of its flagship soft drink firms uncorked a Super Bowl advertisement that featured eight languages. The ad flaunted the fact that, like other transnational firms, it could care less in what idioms orders are placed or in what currency bills are paid; an affront to traditional-minded differentialists who hallucinate megabrands as being as tightly girdled within the nation as the Main Street family-run store (wholly marginalized by transnational enterprise).

More interesting than the dead end offered by revanchist resentments are the ostensibly “successful” instances of convergence that, nevertheless, reveal the fault lines and contradictions that cross-hatch transnational convergence. On the one hand, the euro currency is the paradigm of a technocratic success of globalization as the currency used daily by more than 300 million people (European Central Bank, n.d.), many of whom have been historically hostile to each other. On the other hand, the “success” of the euro has simultaneously exposed significant fissures. German national exports benefit tremendously from a transnational euro that is artificially devalued vis-à-vis the national deutschmark it supplanted. At the same time, the euro has wounded the lower productivity economies of Greece and Spain through the very same fiscal regime (Kuttner, 2013).


As noted earlier, there is considerable debate about the what, how, and when of globalization. We assume globalization to be steered by the global expansion of the social systems implicated in capitalism—more specifically, the neoliberal capitalist program that supplanted the post–World War II Fordist “compromise” between capital and labor. Neoliberalism haltingly began in the 1970s and has arguably accelerated after the economic crash of 2007–2008. Neoliberalism may, in turn, be characterized as a totalizing social model in its ambitions, driven by an ideology that attempts to place social life increasingly under the rules of the market (Giroux, 2008; Harvey, 2003, 2005). ← xviii | xix →

What are these rules? Neoliberal doctrine posits that markets should be largely unfettered from State intervention, aside from a distinctly limited remit that includes enforcement of property rights and other juridical questions, printing money (albeit with restraint as to not raise inflation), and national defense (Friedman & Friedman, 1980). While neoliberals differ in the details, they look askance at long-established government interventions into markets that include universal public schooling, research and development, minimum wages, antitrust enforcement, taxes and tariffs, and labor organization. In turn, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” (1994) is posited to generate optimal economic and social solutions to all problems, with an acumen that, for apostles of neoliberalism, industrial planning cannot achieve.

Despite the often heated anti-State rhetoric in which neoliberalism is couched, its policy package presents an unacknowledged but palpable re-calibration of government activity. That is, neoliberalism in practice moves the State’s center of gravity away from regulation, social investment (e.g., universal public schooling), and mild redistributions of wealth; and moves that center instead toward indulgence of corporate interests (e.g., tax breaks), bailouts, and heightened policing of the social disaster associated with unrestrained markets. Recessions, bailout episodes, crises, collapses, and low growth rates with broadly stagnant or declining standards of living also characterize the outcomes of the neoliberal program (Duménil & Levy, 2011; Harvey, 1989, 2005; Klein, 2007). At the same time, neoliberalism presents an irreducible class dimension in practice since wealth is effectively siphoned upward in the class pyramid.

Neo-Marxist political economists John Bellamy Foster and Robert McChesney (2012) define the current neoliberal period as monopoly-finance capitalism, noting the intensification of the system’s tendency toward economic concentration with its attendant warps in the allocation of property, wealth, and power. Financialization can play out as Romneyism: Buying firms, carving them into constituent parts while slashing payroll, and then selling off the pieces. Financialization achieved (sans production nor innovation)! Monopolistic and financial capital also target non-speculative “virgin territories” that may in turn reproduce marketization through an ideological inscription on less tangible products; notably, culture, knowledge, and communication. In this vein, Núria Almirón (2010) documents the convergence of interests between the owners of media groups and the commanding heights of finance when media circle back to promote the logic of financialization in symbolic forms.

Homo Economicus?


XXIX, 239
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (May)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XXIX, 239 pp.

Biographical notes

Brian Michael Goss (Volume editor) Mary Rachel Gould (Volume editor) Joan Pedro-Carañana (Volume editor)

Brian Michael Goss (PhD, University of Illinois) is Program Director for Communication at Saint Louis University’s Madrid Campus. His two most recent books are Global Auteurs: Politics in the Films of Almodóvar, von Trier and Winterbottom (Lang, 2009) and Rebooting the Herman and Chomsky Propaganda Model in the Twenty-First Century (Lang, 2013). Mary Rachel Gould (PhD, University of Utah) is Associate Professor of Communication at Saint Louis University’s Missouri Campus. Her research interests include the study of travel and tourism, documentary studies, digital storytelling, and popular culture. Joan Pedro-Carañana (PhD, Complutense University of Madrid) is Assistant Professor in the Communication Department at Saint Louis University’s Madrid Campus. His multilingual publications and research interests address the social mediations performed by communication and educational systems and processes.


Title: Talking Back to Globalization