on globalization

this i expect will be a series of essays, i’ll start off with globalization, a topic i had the opportunity to lecture on a few months ago (’twas fun ;)) and the one that runs (in thought) parallel to my opinions on convergence.

i’ll start off with a definition for globalization that i picked up browsing through google books:

Contemporary Globalization is the increasing flow of trade, finance, culture, ideas, and people brought about by the sophisticated technology of communications and travel and by the worldwide spread of neo-liberal capitalism and it is the local and regional adaptations to and resistances against these flows.”

– Ted Lewellen, The Anthropology of Globalization

the four main “manifestations” of Globalization then, are Political, Social, Economic, and Technological. One might indeed argue, that the four are inter-linked, or even that either can be completely defined in terms of another of those four; but i’ll keep these four categories for the sake of structure.

beginning with political structures, all distinctions really begin here with the notion of the state. the sovereignty (or lack of) of states is the first indication of validity or authority in the action and duties it performs, and the policy it generates. abstracting slightly from Michael Porter’s notion of “Clusters” states can be further divided into global or regional powers or collaborators with global or regional powers, and as members of global organizations or regional associations, such as the World Trade Organization, or NAFTA or the EFTA (this of course being in the economic realm, equating political capital with economic success) generating value clusters. As economic ties become closer between nations (in the generation of these value clusters), so do societies, and as a result, so does the political establishment (if grudgingly so)

these value clusters are generated by political or economic needs, or political or economic wants–more power, and bargaining chips.

consolidations into giant economies (the EU) or FTAs (NAFTA, ASEAN) are part of this process, too. consolidation implies the convergence of two or more entities in some form or the other, does it not? FTAs however are established between many nations, each playing suitors off against competitors, many associating with either when things suit their needs. that is not convergent behavior then, but rather simultaneously a paradoxical convergent and divergent one.

socio-culturally, too; we have all seen the rapid rise of “pop-culture” especially in the post-War period, as transmission technologies (film, television) improved. pop-culture (or rather as i will say from here on, a standardized “collective conscious”) does not overtake or supercede another indigenous culture when introduced to one; or rather, it does so only at the fringes of culture. barring the sort of genocides seen in the transplanting of religions in the historic fertile crescent; (from pagan worship to the first “one God” worship) “new” movements rarely completely replace old ones, they rather give established ones new dimensions or alterations that are purely cosmetic–as a study of religious practices (and their development through the ages) might tell you. Two interesting reads you might consider on this are “A History of God” by Karen Armstrong; and “The Alphabet versus the Goddess” by Leonard Shlain.

“Westernization” then, like other cultural movements does not quite imply the same to every user of the term. it often means the adaptation of ideas within the Western stream of thought to the indigenous culture; or the reinterpretation (as a form of validation) of the indigenous culture with new tools made available by the (largely) reason-based metaphysical inquiry of the West.

the point where this trade of ideas becomes a reason for conflict is usually reached when the “old guard” of one tradition fear for the continuity of it; or when a situation occurs where one tradition must be weighed against another within a receiving culture.

next up: (in order)
on technology and transmission
asking the wrong questions
the invisible continent

ip and free information

and this is where the plot thickens.”open-source” services such as wikipedia and answers.com allow greater access to ideas and opinions; while aggregators such as Google’s Google News service give people access to breaking news.both these movements contradict (in fact, they existed before) the new business models being applied by traditional media sources to their services. examples would be websites of newspapers such as the New York Times, or magazines such as The Economist, or financial papers such as the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times who all now charge money per article read or monthly fees for those wanting to read articles.the theory is that the credibility developed by the brand (and its superior editorial quality) supercedes the cost that the “consumer” (note: not “reader”) pays for the articles (about 99 cents), in the mind of the consumer.theoretically though, it fails to take into account the exact “problem” it is meant to address. the assumption that people will pay to not have to go through the millions of pages online to get information forgets that news is available on a variety of media; and the internet itself provides many credible sources for news. such a model therefore relies on the customer being willing to pay more than already fixed costs of a TV News channel subscription, and a newspaper subscription.and news delivery is just one (if admittedly the major) part of the puzzle. as mentioned earlier; open-source encyclopedias such as wikipedia; or collaborators with traditional and open-source forms such as answers.com both take the battle to the doorsteps of services such as Encarta or the World Book; both of which are limited by their payment models.that however brings up a whole new question… what CAN you charge money for on the internet? when do you choose to make your service–your work, research and service free, and when do you make people pay for it?–or rather, when CAN you make people pay for a service?it’s going to be an interesting couple of years as companies attempt to install themselves as leaders in the realm of knowledge online.

on IP and copyrights

came across an interesting debate on copyrights.

now historically, my take on copyrights (this is for reproduction of Music and Film; maybe even books, considering they’re the two main things people get tried for in court) has been that while a copyright must be respected; someone purchasing any copyrighted material should theoretically be allowed access to all other forms of the same product.

so for example, if i own a music CD; there should be no restriction on me transferring it onto iTunes and putting it onto my iPod; and the same for films (so the iPod plays them too. yay :D) it seems only fair that anyone buying a copyrighted offering such as music or film should have the right to access the same across all formats over which the offering is transferable and “play-able”

realistically though; DRM software alters that balance. in order to prevent piracy (distribution); DRM prevents conversion, regardless of intent.

on the efficacy (or lack of) of reservations

There has of course been raging debate over the issue of—the concept and the implementation of—reservations in higher education. Arguments for reservations have ranged from bridging social justice to proposing it as a way of overthrowing the caste system that has for so long held back the progress of society as a whole. Arguments against reservations have focused on the importance of merit.

To start with, let’s look at the government’s and pro-reservation lobby’s position on reservation. They believe (or say they believe,) that reservations are an important necessity in achieving social justice. They further believe, that merit (by the first idea) is not absolute, but rather subjective; that one must take into account the disadvantages in the past when discussing the notion of merit.

The anti-reservation lobby on the other hand; is divided into two camps—those who believe reservations are wrong as merit is an absolute that can not—must not; be compromised upon; and those who believe that reservations are an exercise in futility due to the corruption of governments and bureaucracy, and the inevitable corruption in implementation that must follow (as is evident in the notion of the “creamy layer” that has been debated)

My own point of view on this issue is (admittedly) based upon the liberal western tradition that I tap into, to generate my ethical and moral standpoint; and the following is an extrapolation of those ideals.

To start with then; I believe that reservations in any form whatsoever, for any level of education (or employment, for that matter) is bad—and its implementation anywhere almost bordering on criminal intent. Coming from a political elite, (and considering the history of divisive politics in our country, one must take this into account) reservations are rather bribes that parties hand out to those whose votes they believe can help them win the next election, than any tool that can help us forward the cause of social justice and equality. I call it criminal then; as reservations are effectively two things—they are cards in a game of politics, and they are essentially false advertising. Reservations sell hope to millions of the discriminated-against; telling them they can lead better lives without truly facilitating the same. By lowering the threshold for entry into courses and work of importance, reservations further harm the cause of those who are discriminated against, as they (since they enter at lower thresholds) are unable to cope with the education itself; or otherwise unable to cope with life after graduation—or at least, not to the professional level that is demanded/will be demanded of them in a fast globalizing world. Furthermore, reservations are an affront to those who are discriminated against (like it or not, they really are) as they (in their very form) imply that people who take advantage of reservations aren’t good enough to have otherwise made it to the course.

Most importantly, in the divisive furor generated in the aftermath of the quote proposal in parliament; we, the people forget the most important of issues—the abolishment of poverty and the caste system is not an issue of political implementation—it is the political establishment that benefits from dividing the country. Who said only the British “divided and ruled”? What happened then happens today—and Indians were complicit in both. In a country where politicians gain their power from the enforced ignorance of the weaker sections of society; it is the politicians themselves who must be bypassed in order to initiate social progress.

The abolishment of poverty is what needs to be done in order to succeed here—and the abolishment of poverty is not quite a policy issue (i.e. reservations) as it is an implementation and ideation one—which the government has chosen to ignore in its agreement on the bill. The reservation bill is merely one that displays the government washing its hands off an important issue instead of taking the necessary steps that it must—but wont, since there is probably too much corruption, to much of cronyism to clear up in order to get things done on the ground.

If you want to enforce laws, have compulsory primary and secondary education, develop schools that cater to all sections of society, develop incentives for parents of poor children, such that they are able to send their children to school. This basic notion is easier to help succeed than governments would like you to believe, with only their own “needs” lying between success or failure of societies. It often happens in developing nations—especially those with identities as diverse as this; that fanning the fires of hate, discrimination and divisive politics rather benefits parties—which of course implies that what they “say” is good for the country is actually only good for them.

Social Justice and Merit then, are two completely unrelated ideals; and can not—must not be “consolidated” as is suggested. They must both follow separate systems and run their own course in order to “correct” the number of have-nots.

Those who genuinely believe that reservations are the way forward should—must take another look at the issue. This is an economic problem, and it needs to be solved on economic terms, not on those of caste or creed. In proposing reservations you mean well, I’m sure… but as they say; “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”