Antonio Marturano (UK)
According to Hardt and Negri (2000, p. 3), we have two different trends in the account of globalisation: one is seeing that phenomenon as rising up “spontaneously” out of the interactions of radically heterogeneous global forces, as if this order were a harmonious concert orchestrated by the natural and neutral hidden hand of the world market; the other sees globalisation as dictated by a single power and a single centre of rationality transcendent to global forces, guiding the various phases of historical development to its conscious and all-seeing plan something like, they say, a “conspiracy theory of globalisation”. Seems to me Negri and Hardt follow this line along their entire book without asking if historically these two different and incompatible views on globalisation have merged neither are questioning about the consequences of keeping quite well separated these two alternative narratives.
Another interesting question is raised by Anthony Giddens well known book The Third Way (Giddens, 1998). Giddens argues with Hirst and Thompson’s (1996) claim that a fully globalised economy is the result of the advance of trade within and across different economic blocs which has simply taken us back to the late nineteenth century (Giddens, cit, p. 29). Giddens, in other words, claims that globalisation is a very new phenomena as its salient characteristics (such as the fall of the keynesian economies which, on the contrary, characterised the first post-war era, and the revolution communication) are not shared with the late nineteenth century.
In my opinion an alternative conception of globalisation is provided by Bertrand Russell. In the present essay I will argue against Hardt and Negri, that the “spontaneous” account and the “conspiracy theory” of globalisation were historically not so broadly sharpened, but on the contrary both accounts merged together. In Bertrand Russell these two diverse account are reunited, becoming what Louis Greenspan called as “the incompatible prophecies” (Greenspan, 1978) which form the basis for the actual impasse in the world politics. Moreover we will argue against Gidden’s account of globalisation as a revolutionary and unprecedented step. Russell, in fact, provides arguments for looking at the actual state of globalisation as, according to K. Coates (1993, p.7), a world situation which resumes something closer to the condition that was familiar to him at the beginning of the past convulsive century, against which Mao launched his ragged and heroic legions.
Russell in fact explain in a very straightforward way how information technology and the rising of the multinationals was leading since the nineteenth century to the actual process of globalisation. The peculiarity of Bertrand Russell’s notion of Globalisation is thus the fact that he envisages how its two driving forces such as technology and economics, localisms and the lacking of a supranational legal system were going to create a colliding clash. Hardt and Negri’s starting point is Kelsen’s vision of international law which was at the basis on the actual aspect of the UN in order to balance the weight of the single nations. However they even realising the reduction of the importance of the single nations (or at least that nations having not a leading role on the international scenery) they not didn’t realised, as Russell clearly explain, that step was achieved by the rising of the multinationals in the beginning of the past century. A shift in the globalisation paradigm is therefore realised: there is a change in the paradigm of World Order when we understand that from a supranational legal system (which is needed for peace-keeping reasons) we need to pass to a World Government which is needed not only for peace-keeping reasons but also to allow the multinationals (which have the real power inside the single state-nations – that is they are leading the international politics) to have a free trade across the nation independent from localisms. Not only a supranational legal system for peace-keeping is needed (that’s what Kant and Kelsen had in mind) but also a system of international free trade in order to protect business.
Giddens, A. (1998): The Third Way, London, Polity Press
Greenspan, L. (1978): The Incompatible Prophecies, Oakville (Ont.), Mosaic Press
Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2000): Empire, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press
Kelsen, H. (1960): Reine Rechtslehre, Wien, Springer-Verlag
Coates, K. (1993): Forewords to The Problems of China, Nottingham, Spokesman
Russell, B. (1923): The Prospects of Industrial Civilization, London, Routledge, 1996