Impact of Global Forces and Complex Interdependencies
Impact of Global Forces and Complex Interdependencies on the Modern State System
In Distant Proximities: Dynamics Beyond Globalization, Rosenau argues that the world is a rapidly undergoing an epochal transformation. Part of this random transformation is the relentless scientific and technological advancements which have resulted in a collapsed time and distance. Consequently, this has altered the dimensions of the political space. In addition, Rosenau provides a detailed and multifaceted analysis of the complexities of globalization as opposed to the ever-shrinking world of uncertainty, contradictions, and change. In his analysis, Rosenau traces the links which indicate the interactions between people at the individual level and institutions such as states, multinational corporations and non-governmental organizations. In addition, the emerging new realities at the global level has contributed to people increasingly pervading the routines of life at home and opt for distant proximities.
Rosenau distinguishes between local, global and private worlds through their inhabitants’ orientations towards developments elsewhere. He also analyzes how the residents of these worlds shape and are also shaped by the diverse collectivities of the global stage. The local worlds such as the state level of governance are undergoing an enormous transformation which is leading to a decline (Rosenau 79). However, it is still not possible to draw clear-cut lines between the local and the global worlds because they both embrace the concepts of mental constructs as well as geographical spaces hence not easy to delineate unmistakable boundaries that separate various types of local worlds (Rosenau 80). Similarly, Rosenau states that there are at least four global worlds which are totally different from one another. As opposed to the local worlds, the global worlds are populated by individuals who share the tendencies to think and act on a scale exceeding the local context. However, the global worlds are differentiated by the ways in which the large scale is conceived (Rosenau 118). Three of the four worlds is populated by the Affirmative Globals, elites activists and persons whose thoughts and actions are worldwide in scale. In addition, the people are not bound by the territorial boundaries. However, there is one global world which is resistant and it is no less worldwide in scale in terms of orientation. Rosenau also suggests that the Specialized Globals are the persons whose territorial orientation are not bounded locally. However, they are only oriented towards limited issues on the global agenda.
Rosenau further asserts that states as local worlds cannot alone suffice to achieve a benign globalization. However, he is quick to note that through enhanced local worlds, it is easier to achieve environmental protection, global social equity, large scale bureaucracy and undemocratic tendencies at the global level. The introduction of global democracy through the existing state-wide systems is not innovative according to Rosenau. The reason is because the practice of adhering to the traditional modes of international relations through multinational treaties among nations results to difficulties in terms of enforcement. According to Rosenau, states cannot be forced to bind themselves and neither can binding treaties be forced absolutely. Therefore, since the world is taking a global perspective in terms of economies and governance, the state system is slowly crumbling hence rendering the realist paradigm obsolete.
In the first three chapters of the book, Rosenau outlines the crux of his theory in terms of world affairs. According to his theory, the emergent epoch in globalization is characterized by the fact that no events are truly remote or irrelevant (Rosenau 3). According to him, even the most seemingly localized happenings usually have far-reaching consequences to other people regardless of their locations. In addition, the contemporary world is highly fragmented which implies a perversive interaction between both the fragmenting and the integrating dynamics which are unfolding at every level of the community (Rosenau 11). The author also undertakes a comparison between the past state of events before and after globalization. According to him, the macrostructures such as the governments and corporations are less central and historical currently than they used to be before the age of globalization. Unlike in the past when state system was common, individuals have become more involved with the course of events. Therefore, a primary reason why the state system is breaking down is because it was more concerned with the macro structures. On the contrary, the global forces of complex interdependencies are rapidly emerging because it is not only based on the actions and motives of the collectives, but also to the micro-macro interactions between the individual people and the institutions representing them (Rosenau 25).
Under fragmentation, Rosenau describes four major trends which describe the current fragmenting and interacting forces. The first trend evident in the modern world is skill revolution whereby the pace at which individuals are acquiring skills has expanded at a faster rate compared to the previous epoch (Rosenau 233). The second trend which is hampering the state system while promoting globalization is the modern technological advancement and concurrent information revolution leading to a rapid exchange of the same (Rosenau 256). The last two major developments which have supported fragmentation include the attenuation of the traditional authority structures such as governments and replacement of the same by new, more flexible spheres of authority such as nongovernmental actors. The new development has shifted the linear into the nonlinear and the sequential into the simultaneous (Rosenau 262).
Rosenau also applies his theoretical framework on globalization in four main global issues including corruption, human rights, quality of governance and poverty. He categorically outlines the changes that have been experienced in human right protection in terms of the four fragmegrative dynamics. Among the major issues analyzed include the tension between the national sovereignty and individual liberties. Also, the author discusses the human right issues related to civil versus social and economic rights. As opposed to the state system which has a reputation for denying individual rights depending on the constitution and the form of government in charge, the global system is more open to various aspects of human rights. In addition, the global system counterchecks the rights of individuals on a global scale hence deriving the existing differences between various systems.
The book also discuss various ways in which the people experience fragmentation in the current global system. According to Rosenau, people are more concerned about populating any of the twelve worlds which correspond to a predominant perspective of life. Based on this perspective, people are likely to arrange their priorities in consistent with the available opportunities, the values they hold dear, the goals they aspire, the horizons viewed as salient and the threats conceived as serious (Rosenau 41). This provides the ultimate difference between the state and the global system which Rosenau names as the local and the global worlds. According to him, people think and act on a scale which exceeds the local context (Rosenau 118). The four private worlds which are neither local nor global worlds include the Tuned-Out Passives, the Cynics, the Illegals and the Circumstantial Passives (Rosenau 154). Using the twelve world model, Rosenau has created an innovative method of contemplating about globalization both at the state and at the individual level. In the global level, the society and its people are increasingly becoming interdependent. Consequently, its situations and conflicts are also becoming complex. These complexities are proving extremely difficult to address using the long-standing norms (Rosenau 205). Some of the complexities of the global system which are are increasingly paralyzing the state system include the expanded war on terrorism, the effort of the International Criminal Court to prosecute foreign heads of state accused of crimes against humanity and cyber terrorism. Although Rosenau emphasizes the need to reflect on the past recorded processes of observation, it is also critical to select out some circumstances as important and dismissing others as trivial.
Another impact of globalization outlined by Rosenau is on the structures of authority. According to him, most of the authority structures in various parts of the world have become overtaken by crises as a result of dynamics of fragmegration (Rosenau 273). Most of the state systems are vulnerable to global crises requiring a wider range of solutions beyond the territorial boundaries. In addition, it is important to move meaningfully beyond globalization in the transformation of structures, institutions and processes which are key to the sustenance of the modern economic, political and social life (Rosenau 274).
Although Rosenau makes critical arguments in the book, there are several shortcomings with his theories on globalization. For instance, the concepts of distant proximities, micro-macro interactions which he describes at the book’s postscript are so obvious. Secondly, he does not back some his contentious claims with adequate evidence such as historical comparisons. This makes his theoretical constructs null and void. In addition, Rosenau fails to take a position consistently on most of his argument especially on the matters of the importance of dichotomies in his theoretical constructs. However, he provides an alternative and unique angle through which globalization can be studied and its influence on the current state system clearly seen.
Rosenau, James N. Distant proximities: dynamics beyond globalization. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2003.