Home > Books, Economics, Politics > Globalisation and Particularism in the Work of José Saramago

Globalisation and Particularism in the Work of José Saramago

Below is an excerpt from Christopher Rollason’s paper, Globalisation and Particularism in the Work of José Saramago: the Symbolism of the Shopping-Mall in A Caverna.

The veteran historian Eric Hobsbawm has defined globalisation as a phenomenon having three main aspects – technical (“the abolition of space and time”), economic (“the abolition of trade barriers and liberalisation of markets”), and cultural (“the trend towards homogenisation”); while seeing globalisation itself as “undoubtedly irreversible”, he denies any such inevitability to “the ideology based on globalisation, the neoliberal, free-market ideology” to which he gives the name “free-market fundamentalism”. Another radical critic, the US academic Benjamin R. Barber, rather more apocalyptically views today’s world as a battlefield between globalisation (whose combined forces he calls “McWorld”) and the localist, particularist and often intolerant forces which he symbolically denominates as “Jihad”. Humanity, Barber fears, may be “reduced to a choice between the market’s universal clutch and a retribalising politics of particularist identities”, in a world where “everyone is a consumer; everyone belongs to some tribe. But no-one is a citizen”.

José Saramago’s perspective on globalisation is overwhelmingly negative. At a recent Madrid press conference, according to El País, “afirmaciones como ‘la globalización engullirá al ratoncito de los derechos humanos’, ‘la globalización fabrica excluidos’ o ‘el totalitarismo tiene muchas caras y la globalización es una de ellas’ jalonaron la mayoría de respuestas de Saramago a los periodistas” (“Saramago’s replies to journalists were typically studded with phrases like ‘globalisation will eat up the poor mouse of human rights’, ‘globalisation manufactures exclusion’, or ‘totalitarianism’s faces are many and globalisation is one of them'”). He believes globalisation to be a tired euphemism for the economic and political power of international capital (“aquelas que efectivamente governam o mundo, as empresas multinacionais e pluricontinentais” [“those who really govern the world, the multinational and transcontinental companies”]) and the ideological power of the media (“Estamos confundiendo las imágenes de la realidad con la realidad la propia realidad se convierte en espectáculo” [“We confuse images of reality with reality; reality itself becomes a spectacle”]. In this totalitarian planetary space, the Portuguese writer fears that democracy, fundamental rights and the critical spirit are doomed to wither on the vine unless radical counter-action is taken.

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