The Global Condition: Global or International?

I titled these posts the Global Condition as I thought my Internet-inspired, immigration-induced state of life is best expressed as such, but the debate whether this is living global or being international is still quite topical.

International it indeed used to be, till Global became commonplace. Again, as in my personal narrative, I don't know when the pivot came, but one can say that our views, and words, changed at some point in the early nineties. Perhaps this was Berlin Wall, perhaps this was the demise of Soviet Union, perhaps it was World Wide Web making Internet a commonplace. International used to be cool - it was connected to workers' movements and the global legislative body was named 'United Nations' rather than 'Global Forum' - and nation-state was a progressive, forward-looking thing; but then global took over.  

In that sense, one could say being global and living internationally are not the same. It is perhaps rooted in the left-right divide. In the world of GATT and Breton Woods, the post-war financial system, national sovereignty was the building block of the world: It was an international system. But that world is long dead and gone: The world of WTO, one of free capital movements and neo-liberal convergence, one of shaping all the societies after the American Dream, thrives on a borderlessness, a global condition. 

Sure, one could argue that poor people's world is international - just look at the condition of refugee camps in Europe and you will know - while the rich people have globality. This is how lots of people see it and today's unease with 'global' - and its manifestation in Brexit or Trump - is very much shaped by that. Comrade Corbyn's worldview, one that combines embracing every possible cause of international justice with scepticism about the EU, is symptomatic of this resentment: Globality is a bankers' thing, unjust and unsentimental and utterly destructive. 

However, it doesn't have to be, and that is my reasoning for being global. There is a romantic appeal in all nationalism, but the experience of nationalism hasn't been emancipatory. In most cases, one privileged group, a ruling caste, took over national power, mimicking the imperial oppressions but having none of its restraining imperatives of balancing between various groups. In most cases at least, national independence didn't resolve the struggle for identity, but rather emphasised it and made it a field of battle. This is not an argument for preferment of the imperial, though this is exactly how the neo-imperial arguments run, but rather a case for the global. It is only through the acknowledgement of the global nature of human life that true freedom can start.

One could reasonably argue that global makes politics even more distant, making people powerless. This is indeed the point of Trump and Brexit - taking back control! But the experience of those very events can tell us that empowering a national elite, free from restraining powers of global commitment, hasn't given back control, but rather created a blurry field of vision where unseen, external, forces can be blamed for all ills, allowing the Twitter-wielding autocrats more, not less, power. In fact, a global field of politics, because it makes the ruling classes less homogeneous, may mean more political accountability, more local participation and the more fraternal relationship among people.

Therefore, my argument is indeed that it is time to embrace global, even for those concerned with social justice, and free the concept, and the promises of common humanity, from the prison of neo-liberal limitations. The global condition is not merely a consumer label: It is the most apt description of the human condition at this point in history.


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