What Is Globalization? Some Radical Questions

 

Danilo Zolo interviews Ulrich Beck

 

D.Z. It seems to me that there is a deep theoretical continuity with your previous books – especially Risikogesellschaft and Gegengifte – and your last book, Was ist Globalisierung?, which is about to be published in the Italian edition by Carocci Publisher.

 

U.B. Yes, since I am working in my book Risk Society, which has been published in Germany in 1986, with a distinction between first modernity and second modernity. First modernity I describe based on nation-state society, collective patterns of life, full employment society and rapid industrialization with the 'unseen' exploitation of nature. This model of first or simple or industrial modernity has far back going historical roots. It transformed society in Europe since the 18th century by various political and industrial revolutions. Now, at the end of the millennium, we are confronted with, what I call a 'modernization of modernization' or 'reflexive', 'second' modernity where basic assumptions, limitations, and contradictions of modernity itself are being questioned and reflected upon. That relates to key problems of modern politics. Enlightenment based on modernity is challenged by five processes: globalization, individualization, unemployment/underemployment, gender revolution and, last but not least, global risks (as the ecological crisis and the breakdown of global financial markets). I think there is a new kind of capitalism, a new kind of economy, a new kind of global order, a new kind of personal life coming into being, all of which differ from earlier phases of social development. So we do need, sociologically and politically, a new frame of reference.

 

D.Z. Even in this book there is a substantial historical optimism. You analyze rationally and critically the dilemmas and the risks which globalization involves. I think this is the most stimulating aspect of your book, which is in any case very rich from the point of view of themes dealt with, brilliant and not apologetic at all about the international situation at present and the political and economical powers which govern it. At the same time, though, you still suggest a fundamentally optimistic attitude, even though one could define it as a ‘dramatic optimism’.

 

U.B. No, how can somebody be just optimistic about the situation of the world we live in? How can somebody only be pessimistic? The world we are facing is made out of perplexing paradoxes. We have to get rid of anthropological certainties and at the same time search for coherence in contradictions and for continuity in disruptions. And it is to experience hope embedded in despair. Look at Europe. A black century of two bloody world wars, the Holocaust, fascism and imperial communism has ended finally with prospects of a democratic Europe which has to be build in the years to come. Isn't this reason enough to be optimistic and pessimistic at the same time?

 

D.Z. Your final goal, through an interpretation that you define ‘dialectic’, is to present globalization as the starting point of a new modernity. You affirm that the ‘society of risk’ – both domestically and globally – does not lead to an abandonment of the illuministic tradition, as ‘post-modern’ irrational theories maintain. On the other hand, you make an effort to identify a social theory which following Weber can find the profile of a new modernity in the present. Just as in the nineteenth century industrial modernization dissolved and overcame the corporate system of rural society, in the same way global modernization is doomed to overcome, according to you, contemporary ‘nation-state’ policies and the late capitalist economy. Right?

 

U.B. Yes, but it is changing, as I said, the basic assumptions, the anthropology, the paradigm of modernity itself. Modernity has, of course, always been another word for ongoing crises, discontinuities and uncertainties. But what is being questioned in reflexive modernity is that we do have basic answers to the challenges and global risks modernity produces itself: more and better technology, more and better economic growth, more and better functional differentiation, and the challenges – unemployment, destruction of nature, ego-society and so on – will be solved.

 

D.Z. Well, allow me to insist on this point: what can ‘new modernity’ mean, if referred not only to Western and European culture, but to all human cultures? Aren’t you facing the danger of adopting an eurocentric perspective, of unwillingly ending up in the thread of ‘cultural imperialism’, as the most famous Western globalists do, from David Held to Richard Falk and, in a way, also Jürgen Habermas? Don’t you think that the reflections of Samuel Huntington on the conflict among civilizations, although they are evidently weak from a theoretical and political point of view, should warn us about the fact that Western values, though precious, are not at all universal and should not be ‘exported’ through force, economic pressure or propaganda?

 

U.B. I am opposed to the picture Samuel Huntington is painting of our world. If you ask what kind of experience he has in mind speaking of the 'Clash of Civilizations' I think he is actually talking about his experience of a male white protestant Anglo-Saxon threatened by the rapid emergence of a multi-cultural North America dominated by non-European traditions. But my theory of second modernity is a serious attempt to overcome this Western imperialism of a one-way modernity. I want to revise the evolutionary bias that afflicts much of Western social science up to this day, a bias whereby contemporary non-Western societies are relegated to the category of 'traditional' or 'pre-modern' and thus defined not in their own terms, but as the opposite or the absence of modernity. Many even believe that the study of pre-modern Western societies can help us understand the characteristics of non-Western societies today. Second modernity means we have to situate the non-Western world firmly within the ambit of 'Modernization of Modernization' and therefore allows a pluralisation of modernity. It opens up for the conceptualization of divergent trajectories of modernities.

 

D.Z. What do you think of Japanese, Malaysian and Chinese authors, like Shintaro Ishihara, Mahathir Mohammed, Son Qiang and Zhang Xiaobo, who refuse the cultural and political values of Western modernity and yet accept industrialism and market economy? The refusal, as we know, especially concerns the liberal tradition of democracy and the doctrine of human rights. Among them there are some who affirm the universality of ‘Asian values’ against the Western world. Lee Kuan Yew, for instance, the famous king-philosopher of Singapore, maintained that the Confucian tradition, with its paternalistic concept of power and its organic idea of society and family, offers the best ideological background to control the ‘anarchical’ aspects of market economy and to overcome the disintegrating effects of Western individualism and liberalism.

 

U.B.  There are indeed very challenging debates ahead. First of all we Westerners have to recognize that there are regional debates about divergent modernities going on – fairly unrecognized by Western self-sufficiency – in Asia, in Africa, in China, in South America. In my book What is Globalization? I tried to contribute to this global dialogs by distinguishing between  'universalist contextualism or relativism', which is the postmodern attitude on the one side and 'contextual universalism' on the other side, which overcomes the either-or – either one universalism or no universalism – by finding out about my universalism and your universalism, that is many universalisms. So we have to be careful not to exchange mistakes. In the world risk society non-Western societies share with the West not only the same space and time but also some of the basic challenges of second modernity in different places and with divergent cultural perceptions. This aspect of sameness – not otherness – has been illustrated by a debate 'Korea: A Risk Society?', which has been published lately in Korea Journal (Vol. 39 No.1 Spring 1998). The articles, presented in this volume, are a wonderful example how the same perspective on risks as the dark side of rapid modernization can produce culturally divergent and highly interesting prospectives, scientifically and politically.

 

D. Z. The society of risk - you affirmed in Risikogesellschaft – is a society which, in spite of all, offers new possibilities of transformation and rational development of the human condition: more  equality, larger individual freedom, and ability of self formation. The imperative which you then theorized was the need that the perspective of a new ‘political ecology’ prevails on the schemes of the purely economic logic of production, consumption and profit. In the same way today you maintain that the risks which threaten globalized society can mobilize – especially in the Western world – new social and political energies. My question is: what leads you to believe that a transnational policy can prevail over the schemes of ‘economic globalization’ and that a collective sense of responsibility for the fate of the world can oppose the apathy and the political disenchantment - lately there have been arguments regarding the neo-edonism and the neo-cynicism of new generations – which today abound in the Western world?

 

U.B. When I wrote the book on globalization one and a half years ago this citicism of neoliberal globalism sounded quite idealistic in the old German sense. But we really live in a run-away-world. In the meantime public concern has shifted to the question how to control the global financial market and its global risks. What could and should responsible globalization look like? How does it become possible? Market fundamentalism, of course, presume that financial markets are self-regulating and always tend to equlibrium. In his latest book Georg Soros makes use of the concept of 'reflexivity'  (which Anthony Giddens and myself are using) to propose a much more realistic view. He argues that because of the reflexive approach of information, financial markets tend towards instability. They can become chaotic, can be influenced by bandwaggon effects, mass behaviour and panics. So global financial markets surely belong in the category of world risk society. The consequences are: The era of the free-market ideology is a fading memory. The opposite is becoming true – a politisation of global market economy. In Asia we are somehow witnessing an 'economic Tschernobyl': The 'social explosiveness' of global financial risks is becoming real. It sets off a dynamic of cultural and political change that undermines bureaucracies, challenges the dominance of classical economics and neoliberalism and redraws the boundaries and battle fields of contemporary politics. New options are opening up: national and regional protectionism, the importance of transnational regulations and institutions and how they can be democratized.

 

D.Z. Your effort, in this book, has been that of analyzing the various aspects of the globalization process in a different way from the traditional schemes which oppose the supporters of globalization as a coherent development of Western modernity to its antagonists. These last ones identify globalization essentially as a factor of turbulence and, at the same time, an relentless fall towards the concentration of international power, the growing gap between rich and poor countries and the flattening of cultural diversities. My question is: which are your arguments against those who affirm that the globalization processes tend to strengthen the hierarchy of international relations, with the industrial powers on top, especially the United States, the European Union and Japan?

 

U.B. There is a strong tendency which equals globalization with Americanization or even a new imperialism. But this is not the whole story. At the same time there is a strong evidence that globalization on the contrary is becoming increasingly decentered – not controlled or controllable by a single nation or a group of nations. In fact, the consequences of globalization  do or may hit the US as well as France, Italy, Germany or the Asian countries. This, at the least, is true of the global financial risks, global communication and the media or the devastation of nature (global warming etc.). The nation-state is being challenged in South America as well as in Asia or Europe or the US. There is even a 'reverse of colonization' becoming observable. Reverse colonization means the non-Western countries shape the developments in the West – examples like the 'latinisation' of the US mega-cities, the emergence of a deterritorialised globally oriented high-tech sector in India and Malaysia or the selling of Brazilian music and TV programs to Portugal. But, of course, there are winners and losers of globalization. Very few are getting richer and richer, and a growing majority is getting poorer and poorer. The share of the poorest fifth of the world population in global income has dropped from 2.3% to 1.4% over the past ten years. The proportion taken by the richest fifth, on the other hand, has risen from 70% to 85%. As a writer put it recently, rather than a global village this is more like a global pillage.

 

D.Z. Yet wouldn’t you agree that the concentration of international power creates as a consequence a growing tendency on the part of the great powers to violate or avoid international law? How do you judge, for instance, the tendency of the United States to act as planetary policeman through an instrumental use also of the Security Council of the United Nations, like I think very recently happened in what has been called the ‘third Gulf War’? Aren’t we facing the danger that all this can eventually lead to increase – and according to many even justify – international terrorism?

 

U.B. Well, as I said, we live in a world risk society. The world is getting chaotic. To me it is not very difficult to imagine all kinds of break downs. Second modernity does not mean, everything goes fine. This is a complete misunderstanding. There are new threats nobody is prepared for also waiting around the corner. I am myself working on a book for some years about The Ugly Citizen, the citizen who uses his liberties to counteract the manufactured uncertainties he or she is facing and has to live with. But this is not the whole story. It would be intellectual easy going if it were. It is much more difficult to reconstruct and develop the new options, the new horizons of the social and political, the processes of restructuring, which are emerging at the same time. So, again, it is a one-sided easy way to be just a pessimist nowadays. I am an optimistic pessimist or a pessimistic optimist. I want to find out about the new. My key concepts of risk society cuts across optimism and pessimism.

 

D.Z. In your book you wrote some very interesting pages to criticize the fatalism of those who swear to believe in the unavoidable cultural unification of the globe. You maintain that George Ritzer’s thesis, in the book McDonaldization of Society, is wrong; and that it is exaggerated to believe that the cultural globalization would flatten everything else and create the ‘Westernalization of the world’. This is the thesis, as we know, of Serge Latouch. But even other sociologists of globalization –Mike Featherstone and Brian Turner, for instance – believe that we are facing phenomena of ‘creolization’ of indigenous cultures. It is an extended contamination of ‘weak’ cultures by the consumption models and the life styles which mass media - usually rooted in Western countries – spread in the rest of the world, especially through commercial advertisements. It is a phenomena of destruction of the diversity, the complexity and the beauty of the world …

 

U.B. To me this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the debate on cultural globalization which is mainly produced by Anglo-Saxon writers – anthropologists and cultural theorists – like Appadurai, Robertson, Featherstone, Lash, Urry, Albrow, Eade, and many others: There is a new significance of the local coming up in the global age. This whole literature is a very colourful and convincing counterproof of the simplistic stereotype of the McDonaldization-thesis which occupies the public mind. What is clear is that in these transnational landscapes something is (often illegally) blended together which seriously hinders national states in their claim to exercise control and order. The spaces for living and acting, which take shape here, are 'impure'. To analyze them sociology must stop thinking in Either-Or terms and open itself to specific, distinguishable modes of Both-And living.

 

D.Z. Do you really believe that there are cultures and civilizations able to resist to the strong drift which Western science, technology, bureaucracy, industrialism and individualism spread in the world? And what could stop the mass migration from poor countries to industrialized countries, with the consequences it involves, from social inequalities and work exploitation to the destruction of cultural identities? Globalization processes can favor – or on the other hand suffocate – the push towards ethnic autonomy or national independence: I am thinking of, among the many others, the Tamils, the Palestinians, the Curds, the Basques, the Corses.

 

U.B. Two ways of conceptualizing and seeing globalization have clearly to be distinguished, simple or linear globalization and reflexive globalization. The simple version presumes the container-theory of society, the nation-state society based on a more or less homogeneous and more or less essentialistically defined collective (national or ethnical) identity. Globalization in this view and framework is something which is 'added', which comes from 'outside' and therefore is threatening or even attacking 'us', the 'we-ness' of the we. In the perspective of reflexive globalization the definition of community and society itself changes basically. Living together does no longer have to mean living geographically nearby. It can also mean living together across national borders and even across continents. This does not only apply to 'global players' and global managers of global capitalism, but also to Indian taxi drivers in London or Mexicans in New York and in Mexico who decide across borders on communal affairs in Mexican villages. These examples stand for a whole literature. So, territory is not, as the era of nation-state makes us believe, an imperative for community life and society. The non-territorial social and political relationships and bonds which evolve in the cosmopolitan global society have yet to be discovered, affirmed and encouraged. So, at last, I answer your question with: Yes, I believe that the one-way modernity can be broken up from within. The 'iron cage' (Max Weber) of modernity is opening and being pluralised through reflexive modernization itself giving space for divergent modernities.

 

D.Z. You maintain that globalization is an irreversible reality – at the economic, ecological, technological, communicative, civil and industrial level. Thus no kind of protectionism, old or new, can stop it or influence it: not the ‘black’ protectionism of nationalists, nor the ‘green’ protectionism of radical ecologists who are today rediscovering the national state as a ‘bio-type’ which may be extinct soon and they rush to protect it; nor, finally, the ‘red’ protectionism which anachronistically supports the catch sentence of global class fight …

 

U.B. Yes, there is a 'protectionistic reflex' in all countries and all political parties to observe. But it is part – the re-actionary part – of the ongoing globalization. Of course, you can understand that. Nobody is prepared for this fundamental change which is going on. Everybody hopes that globalization destructs the basic assumptions the neighbours built their house and their life upon. So, globalization produces what one could call a 'snail's shell effect'. But this is not very helpful. Not wanting to know what is going on and not adventuring into the new is not a very good preparation for the future.

 

D.Z. But don’t you think that there are aspects of globalization which the countries of the ‘borders’ of the world should attempt to oppose, even with political means in order to resist to the equalizing force of the market and of its ideological follow-ups? Can the idea of nation and of national state really be considered as a relict of the past? Isn’t it true that it is not possible to separate the entire tradition of ‘rule of law’ the doctrine of human rights from the history of the national sovereign state?

 

U.B. The nation-state is changing, not withering away. It could be even reinforced, as I argue in the book, becoming a cooperative state, a transnational or cosmopolitan state. But it will not be a nation-state in the old sense anymore. The state of the second modernity has to become active at the same time on various local and various transnational levels and institutions far beyond borders in order to realize its 'national' interest. One could even use, for example, Europe as an excuse for national non-decisions or enforce on a European level decisions, for which a national government could get no majority. Transnational actors like multinational firms are main powers in the center of state affairs since they produce or reduce paid work here or elsewhere. But at the same time a new regional protectionism could be helpful too. In the book I prepose a thought experiment: Let us image a world in which the costs of cross border information and transportation increase significantly. Consequences will be: The regional economies, regional markets which even take up ecological principles do get a chance.

 

D.Z. I believe that the ideological emphasis on globalization underestimates the fact that the national state appears to be destined not only to retain for a long time many of its traditional functions but also to obtain new functions, which will not be absorbed by regional or global aggregation structures. Only a national democratic state seems to be able to guarantee the best relationship between geopolitical extension and citizens’ loyalty, and at least for this reason it performs in my view a function which cannot easily be replaced, also in regards to the excesses of ethnocentric nationalism. And perhaps one should not forget, as Paul Hirst noticed, that people are much less mobile than money, goods and ideas, not to say of the contents of electronic communication: people are much more ‘nationalized’ and even in the future it will be necessary to look for support in their national and territorial roots in order to legitimize supranational institutions.

 

U.B. Here we have the main dissent and most important controversy of political science today: Is there a democracy beyond the nation-state? Or is the nation-state the only shelter for the rule of law and the principle of human rights? Can there be some kind of transnational procedural legitimation? To me, discussing in Europe, these questions are merely theoretical. Turning back the clock to national democracy in Europe is sheer illusion. Ther will be no democracy in Europe – unless it is a transnationally enhanced democracy. Democracy has been invented on a local level more than thousand years ago; it then has been transformed during the first modernity to a national level. Now and in the foreseeable future it has to be reinvented on a transnational level. This is what the democratic project of Europe is all about.

 

D.Z. In your book you maintain that we are living in a global society where any attempt to represent ‘closed spaces’ can only be fake. And the state itself is conceivable only as a ‘transnational state’, whose ‘civic society’ is crossed diagonally by many agencies and transnational institutions, starting from the big economic enterprises, financial markets, technologies of information and communication, cultural industry, and from the global policy performed by INGOs like the United Nations or by NGOs like Greenpeace and Amnesty International. In a summary, you maintain that the specificity of globalization lies in its extension, its density and its stability in the network of relations and interdependence between global and local (the so called ‘glocalization’), something which the entire humankind is now realizing through the reflective image that mass media communication spreads. Globalization, you maintain, is the cognitive horizon which no one can avoid any more. But maybe one could counter-argument that there are entire continents – I am thinking for instance of Africa – and huge amounts of new poor and new illiterates even within the richest and most powerful countries which are left excluded by the cognitive horizon of globalization (as well as by the use of the electronic means which spread its reflective awareness).

 

U.B. Let me answer with a story. A few years ago an anthropologist, specialized in the study of rural Cambodia arrived at a small village, where she wanted to carry out her fieldwork. In the evening she was invited to a local home for an evenings entertainment. She expected to find out something about the traditional pastime of this isolated community. The evening turned out to be a viewing of Basic Instinct on video. At that time the film had not even reached the cinemas in London. So, indeed, globalization in this meaning cannot be avoided anymore anywhere. Anthropologists tell the story over and over: local cultures on the globe cannot be studied and understood without 'global cultural flows' (Appadurai). But we may not confuse this unexclusiveness with the increase of global inequalities.

 

D.Z. Zygmunt Bauman talks about a new stratification of the world population among globalized rich people and localized poor people. And you as well remind that the countries of the European Union have become more rich, in the past twenty years, of a percentage included between fifty and seventy per cent. And yet in Europe we still have twenty million unemployed people, fifty million poor people and five million homeless people. Doesn’t this reveal new, deeper and probably irreversible diversities in power and wealth among the inhabitants of planet earth? Isn’t this the beginning of the ‘brazilianization’ of the world?

 

U.B. Yes, in my recent book I just finished*, I expel this thesis of the Brazilianization of the West, which I scratched at the end of the globalization book. Reversing Marx's judgement, we could say that many parts of the 'Third World' today show Europe the image of its own future. On the positive side we could list such features as the development of multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies, the cross cultural life models and the multiplication of sovereignties. On the negative side we could point to the spread of the informal sector, the flexibilisation of labour, the legal deregulation of large areas of the economy and work relations, the growth of unemployment and underemployment (part-time work, limited term jobs and contract employment, home workers, paid self-employed workers and some other categories for which we barely have found proper description). And, as you say, radicalisation of inequalities, high rates of everyday violence and crime.

 

D.Z. ‘Economic globalism’, you theorize, is something extremely different from globalization. It is the ultra-liberal ideology – you even mention a ‘metaphysic of the global market’ - , which attempts to hide the risks which the processes of economic and financial globalization involve. The much more dangerous risk, you say, comes from the strongest sectors of globalized economy: specifically, it comes by the growing ability that the big industrial and financial corporations have to avoid the obligations of national solidarity, especially fiscal impositions. The structure of the big multinational corporations is as such that they can choose as they like and also change very fast the geographical or functional bases of their own production factors, thus obtaining enormous advantages and subtracting themselves from any rule coming from state organs. This allows them to increase their profits and as a consequence it produces a dramatic fall of the state budgets which can count less on the fiscal entries linked to production activities. Which counter-measures do you foresee as possible, apart from the ‘global government’ and the ‘global State’, which you too seem to consider a non-desirable perspective?

 

U.B. Let there be no illusion: A capitalism focused only on ownership and profits, which turns its back on the employed, on the social welfare state, and on democracy, will undermine itself. So what is now at risk is not 'merely' millions without work. Not 'merely' the social welfare state. Political freedom and democracy are at risk! We have to ask: What are the contributions of global economy and transnational corporations to support national or cosmopolitan democracy? We have to make the economy responsible for the future of democracy by enforcing transnational politics in Europe, but also by strengthening transnational consumer movements (boycotts) and a global civil society.

 

D.Z. The development of electronic technologies – automation, computer science, telemathics – accelerates the level of productivity of multinational enterprises, which thus tend to increasingly eliminate workers who are not highly qualified. A global capitalism is taking place which is able to escape the fiscal costs and the work costs, and in the future also the work itself. These are the new pincers which even in the richest industrial countries are grinding the new generations, more and more hit by unemployment and non employment. But who is also threatened is the generality of citizens which do not belong to the minority of those who can perform highly specialized and technically sophisticated tasks. The majority of citizens, even when they do find a job, is compelled by the logic of ‘flexibility’ to accept temporary positions, with low wages and which often alone are not enough for a dignified subsistence.

 

U.B. This is very true. We have to recognise that even in the so called full employment countries like the US and Britain one third to one half of the employable population  are now 'flexworkers' in the many and highly ambivalent meanings of this word. The case is the same as with the 'normal family model': What used to be typical is about to become a minority phenomenon. We need to rethink and reform the welfare state on the basis of discontinuous work and life patterns.

 

D.Z. At the same time, while the profits of big enterprises rapidly increase, in the Western countries the financial resources which were traditionally destined to pensions, social services and elders’ assistance are rapidly decreasing. You write that this phenomenon requires a reconsideration about the whole relationship between the rights of citizenship and the right to work, which cannot be assured any longer but to a few minorities. My question is: must one deduct that any form of Welfare State is by now destined to extinction and the defenders of social rights in the Western countries are fighting against windmills?

 

U.B. No. Suddenly we have a broad majority of left centered governments in Europe, including Italy and Germany, Britain and France. The debate about the 'Third Way' is basically about the reform of the welfare state in the global age. In his book on The Third Way Giddens scratches some ideas about a society of 'positive welfare' and social investment strategies. This is just the beginning of the debate on the architecture of a social and democratic Europe in the years to come.

 

D.Z. You believe that it is possible to find political answers capable of neutralize the most dangerous risks of economic globalization and to launch the project of a new modernity. In my opinion this is the most suggestive aspect, but maybe also the most problematic one, of your work. You stress the corrective possibilities of a series of intervention which would submit the anarchical forces of global markets to political rules and cooperative logic. Of all these interventions you particularly point out the increasing of international cooperation, the affirmation of an ‘inclusive’ concept of state sovereignty, the appeal to mechanisms of the workers participation to enterprises’ profits, policies of great financial and organizational commitment in the formative sector, the support for autonomous professional activities in the sectors of new technologies, experimental cultures, smaller markets and public enterprises.

 

U.B. There is, indeed, a contradiction coming up in the intellectual climate. The postmodern Zeitgeist strongly believes in the end of politics and the end of rationality. I see highly political times emerging. But, of course, in reflexive modernity the self-definition of the situation is the situation. This is one of the reasons why I am so badly opposed to postmodern thought: It may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And a boring and dangerous one too.

 

D.Z. Your political indications direct towards the recovering of politics at the global level, after the policies of the national states and within the national states appear to be less and less efficient and further away from the classical models of representative democracy. But which do you think are the arenas or the transnational spaces where it will be possible to fulfill the objectives that you indicate? And where are the political or economic forces which could be interested to this kind of corrective interventions? Or are you thinking of a revolution in the lifestyles of citizens in the Western countries which would bring them away from market values and from its powerful acquisitive and consumerist ideology?

 

U.B. For just that purpose the new political subject is necessary: cosmopolitan parties that represent transnational matters transnationally, but do so within the political arenas of nation-states. Therefore they can only exist, programmatically and organisationally, in a plural mode – as national, global movements, as parties for global citizens. They would compete with national parties in what are only apparently national conflicts about policy and power. Cosmopolitan parties would be the first actors in party politics to copy the strategies of corporations and break out of the territorial trap of the nation-state; they would be active here and there; they would pay off nation-states against eachother. But where are the voters that cosmopolitan parties can address and represent? It is in the metropoles, the global cities, where a postnational understanding of politics, responsibility, the state, justice, arts, science and public exchange might emerge. Being connected to the internet does, indeed, not by itself generate global citizens.

 

D.Z. And yet it is left open, in my view, the theme of forms and institutions of transnational policy: a theme which is not dealt with explicitly in your book, apart from the consideration of the European integration process as an important referral point both practically and theoretically. However, the regional integration phenomena occurring today in some of the richest areas of the planet appear to be hardly exportable globally. If anything they can be seen as a strengthening of the particularistic logic of state sovereignty, and not as a step forward towards the desired goal of a global democratic governance. Is the perspective of a ‘European super-state’, that is a political-economic-military entity provided with exceptionally high powers, a reassuring perspective in order to cut down the risks of the economic globalization?

 

U.B. I do not believe in a European superstate. Again this would be a linear not a reflexive model of modernization. Europe is an eldorado of difference and, as far as I am concerned, it should stay that way in the global age. But at the same time it is the laboratory for a cosmopolitan society and politics. The Euro forces us in this direction. The more successful the Euro is, the more urgent Europe needs a democratic soul. After monetary union has been achieved, Europe must be strengthened with new political ideas, crossnational debates, institutions, and citizen groups. For only an intellectually vital Europe can spell out the old European idea of democracy for a new global era.

 

D.Z. Let me conclude with some questions regarding the functions which according to you international law can play in order to contain the destructive pushes of globalization and in order to guarantee a new global order. In your book you quote Zum ewing Frieden by Kant and every now and then you seem to sympathize with the idea of a ‘cosmopolitan law’ and of a ‘juridical pacifism’. My question is: do you agree with Kelsen and his followers that law and international institutions are the main instrument to assure global order and specifically a stable and universal peace? Do you share, in other words, Kelsen’s theses of Peace through Law?

 

U.B. I surely do. At the beginning of the second modernity we have to ask again: Who are the intellectual founding fathers and mothers of the cosmopolitan global society? To me, among others, Kant, Kelsen, but also, for example Nietzsche and Hannah Arendt or Montaigne are of burning actuality.

 

D.Z. And which do you think is the probable destiny of United Nations? Does globalization favor, or require, their strengthening or is it doomed to overwhelm them? Are United Nations able not only to assure peace among states but also to oppose the diffusion of weapon production and to win the challenge of the big criminal organizations – weapons, drugs, women and emigrants’ trade -, which by now have grown into global dimensions?

 

U.B. Transnational democracy has to take account of fundamental changes in patterns of transnationally organised crime and violence. Classic distinctions between 'war' and 'peace', 'internal' and 'external', 'civil society' and 'barbarism', associated with the autonomy of the nation-state, seem to be breaking down. It is at the same time possible to identify new tendencies for civility that could provide a basis for perpetual peace. The United Nations need to be strengthened. But the globalization of crime and violence must be answered by a cooperative state structure too.

 

D.Z. Some recently mentioned a global expansion of judiciary power. What do you think in this regard of the new international criminal tribunals: those already working for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the universal and permanent one, whose statute was approved in Rome last June? Do you think they can actually offer a significant contribution to the maintenance of peace and to the international protection of human rights?

 

U.B. Of course, the international court would be a major achievement on the long and slow run to a cosmopolitan order. Is all we talked about and agreed upon cloud-cuckoo-land? No, I do not think so. It is as unrealistic as the demand for national democracy was 150 years ago in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt (during the German revolution). But I hope it doesn't take that long.

 



* U. Beck, Die schöne neue Arbeitswelt, Frankfurt/M., March 1999.