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GIF Minutes for May 24, 2005

Prepared by Roland Stahl

Graduate Idea Forum, May 24, 2005
How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World
Participants: Anneliese Butler, Judy McCormick, Roland Stahl, Anne Dalke, Paul Grobstein

For today's discussion we read the following article:
Barber, B. 1996. Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism are Reshaping the World. New York: Ballentine Books.

We begin the meeting by talking about Barber’s main thesis, namely the conflict between global corporatization and tribal identities in the 2nd and 3rd world. Anne quotes a passage in the book which refers to this conflict (p. 151)
“ But whose world are we? Where is the “we” in McWorld? It acknowledges welters of me’s operating impulsively in and anonymous market, but it provides not a singly clue to common identity or to the place of community in the market. No wonder the new tribes pummeling the nation-states see in McWorld only the destruction of everything that constitutes their common identity”. Our discussion revolves around the question whether Barber is actually correct in problematizing globalization in this particular way.
Michael mentions that Barber is not always careful in defining the core terms employed in his argument. For example, it is never quite clear what Barber means by ‘civil society’. Roland agrees, and critiques Barber’s argument further as an example of simplistic leftist thinking about the problem of globalization in the sense that Barber’s basic assumptions on which he rests his argument is never made explicit (e.g. the valorization of community and individuality). Judy doesn’t quite agree with this point because, according to her reading of the book, Barber is correct –if maybe a bit simplistic- to analyze the consequences of economic globalization in very bleak terms.

We then talk at length about Paul’s statement that both Jihad and McWorld depend on people who are not willing or able to ‘think for themselves’. We define ‘thinking for themselves’ as ‘thinking right’ although not in a substantive but rather in a procedural sense. I think it was Corey or Anneliese who referred to a passage of Barber’s book (296) where he states that “the lesson of modern pluralism that undergirds the concerns of this book is that humankind depends for its liberty on variety and difference”.
As in previous GIF debates we then discuss the usefulness of ‘difference’ and ‘curiousness’ as a normative core principle in political philosophy. As a consequence of debating these skeptical notions of important normative principles of ‘society making’ we further debate the difference between ‘heterogeneity’ and ‘collectivism’. We try to define the differences between these two concepts and their relationship to the ideas of ‘difference’ and ‘curiousness’.

Next meeting:
Tuesday June 14th, 9am. We will be discussing:
Civilization and Its Discontents
by Sigmund Freud

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