Monday, December 05, 2005

week 10 analysis

I read some more of Global Transformations by Held and Co, rather than The Weight of the World.

“The most public symbols of globalization consist of Coca-Cola, Madonna, and the news on CNN . . . Despite the complexity of cultural interactions between societies over the last three thousand years, the intensifying movement of images and symbols and the extraordinary stretch of modes of thought and modes of communication are unique and unparalleled features of the late twentieth century and the new millennium” (327).
I can’t remember what my initial thoughts were when I read this statement and chose to include it, but I suppose I just found it interesting. Even in the small amount of world traveling I have done, I can testify to this firsthand. I went places in India where they were living in pieced together huts, but they had Coke.

“We argue that from around the late eighteenth century onwards, the centrality of these older forms of cultural globalization was displaced, on the one hand, by the emergence of nation-states, national cultures, and national cultural institutions . . .” (328)
This and the next two are comments that interested me in connection with my concerns about nationalism. It would make sense, in light of this statement, that nationalism would be a problem peculiar to our time, at least in its extent and power. After a couple hundred years of this process becoming normal, nationalistic ways of thinking are now taken as common sense.

“For the faiths that are usually dubbed ‘global’ have only been described as such once the spatial extent of the faithful has already greatly exceeded its place of origin and creation. As Mann puts it, ‘they became significant because of one shared characteristic: a translocal sense of personal and social identity that permitted extensive and intensive mobilization on a scale sufficient to enter the historical record’.” (332)

“They are systems of belief and ritual that have had the capacity at crucial historical moments to reach out from their place of origin and embrace, convert and conquer other cultures and other religions. Most clearly in the cases of Islam and Christianity, the mobilizing capacity of religion was coupled with the capacity to extend military power and cultural influence . . . Christianity would have to wait until the military and colonial expansion of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to acquire a global presence” (332-3).

These quotes I found noteworthy for obvious reasons. The above quote speaks of the church’s (and others) ability to provide the people with a sense of self that transcended their other national and cultural boundaries. What bothers me is that the second quote makes it clear that this process happened in tandem with military expansion. How ironic is it that the ‘religion’ that claims to be centered on a crucified messiah experiences its most potent growth through military warfare? Something is seriously with this picture.

“The nation is a cross-class community, whose shared sense of identity, solidarity and interest is rooted in an ethic identity and common historical experience (real, imagined, or interpreted) and whose central political project is the possession of a distinctive state in a bounded territory. Nationalism, in this perspective, can be seen as both a psychological and a cultural affiliation creating a connection with the community of the nation, and a political and cultural project which seeks to achieve self-determination and to create and shape states” (336).

“The historical record suggests that even where a proto-sense of the nation existed prior to the eighteenth century – for example in France, Sweden or England – it was always but one identity or point of allegiance. It necessarily competed with larger transnational identities and more particularistic, local and regional identities” (337).

These quotes again discuss the issue of nationalism. In the past, even when certain geographical groups began to act like ‘states’, they always had to compete with other identities, to the extent that national identities were always secondary. Now the situation has reversed to a large degree. There is still competition, but nations seem to be winning.

“There is considerable evidence to suggest that processes of national cultural fragmentation are at work in the contemporary world” (373).
Overall I take this to be a good thing. I hate the personal anguish caused by a person’s realization that they have no idea who they are or where they belong, but I see it as yet another opportunity for the church to be the church.


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