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IN THE AFFECTIVE GRIP OF GLOBALIZATION

Importantly, globalization does not just effect individuals at a purely rational or meaningful level. It also impacts them affectively. Discourses surrounding globalization contain a strong emotional component. Indeed, different interpretations of this phenomenon are necessarily associated with contrasting feelings about its consequences (Kellner, 1998). For those who support corporate globalization, their rhetoric has an almost uniformly optimistic ring to it. Conversely, its critics infuse their disagreement with pessimism over the future and the urgent need for a change in political and economic direction.

Globalization discourses, then, produce certain socialized affective responses. They represent more than just policy prescriptions for a rapidly interconnected world. Instead, they are almost “mythical” in their impact, romanticized visions that play on our deepest hopes and fears. Indeed, globalization has been described precisely in these terms, as a modern myth. According to Spich there exists currently a “hyper enthusiastic version of the globalization folklore myth” encapsulated in the triumphant capitalist story that:

The world is changing rapidly and really getting smaller. The internationalization of domestic economies, the interdependence of issues and nations, the opportunity to think and act globally have forced us all to note that new political-economic regime is at hand ... The way to get the most out this new world context is to foster free-market institutions and practices while simultaneously limiting government to the important role of protecting and guaranteeing free-market activity. (Spich, 1995: 8)

This mythical account of globalization allows it to be seen in a different light. Rather than discourses merely describing what is “objectively” happening, they instead create the very ground upon which individuals understand and invest in this new socio-political reality. To this effect, globalization discourses create what Hay and Rosamond (2002) call “ideational structures.” Significantly, these ideational structures influence and are to an extent determinative of these globalizing processes. They culturally delimit for individuals and communities what is perceived to be politically and economically realistic and imaginable. They, in this respect, “become institutionalized and normalized and thereby socially construct conceptions of ‘the possible’ amongst political actors” (Hay and Rosamond, 2002: 147).

Consequently, globalization discourses help “frame” the world for individuals. According to Fiss and Hirsch (2005: 46):

In the case of globalization, a varied and discursive landscape emerged in which the structural and discursive factors combined to create assorted domains of meaning, with actors in some discursive fields supporting a positive framing, while others emphasized a negative or neutral framing.

Such framing is especially crucial, given the uncertain and often quite dislocating effects caused by the spread of marketization internationally. Discourses of globalization help individuals “make sense” of these profound shifts. More precisely, they become part and parcel to a broader romanticized narrative of individual and collective progress.

The discursive support for corporate globalization involves, moreover, an entire construction of a “globalization” politics. The “normative re-ordering” linked to globalization, discussed in the previous section, is made possible by situating individuals within a broader hegemonic politics in support, either directly or indirectly, of this neoliberal ideology. Steger (2005) lists “6 claims of globalization”:

  • 1. Globalization is about the liberalization and global integration of markets.
  • 2. Globalization is inevitable and irreversible.
  • 3. Nobody is in charge of globalization.
  • 4. Globalization benefits everyone.
  • 5. Globalization furthers the spread of democracy in the world.
  • 6. Globalization requires a War on Terror.

Globalization, in this way, affectively “grips” individuals through its culturally provided discourses. In doing so, it helps provide them with a deeper ontological security, producing and maintaining them as social subjects. The affective “grip” of globalization goes beyond emotion to the very heart of how individuals identify and understand themselves.

 
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