A little stream-of-consciousness 2006 year-in-review. With footnotes? (Maybe.)
Physical networks of trade and commerce have been global for centuries. Speaking in terms of “globalization” is often irrelevant, because the structures and mechanisms in question have existed for much longer than is usually assumed: what has changed are the names, the definitions. If a global trade circuit is now associated with a company name, this does not mean the trade circuit has not been global since before the naming of the company, or the acquisition by the company of all members of the circuit. The essential operation of the “machine” has not changed.
From the 1500s or so, until very recently, there has been a trend towards increasing hierarchical structures, as opposed to distributed, “socialist” configurations. This is perhaps exemplified by the general idea that having a stable nation, with defined codes and laws, is the best of all possible configurations for society. We talk of “failed states”, and we refer to Iraq or Somalia, where the “government” is not “effective.” While I don’t advocate anarchy, the very fact that we consider a centralized government superior to a social system of distributed tribes is a testament to how embedded we are in our own narrow conception of what civilization can entail. That the news media insists on referring to al qaeda as an organization (and not simply an idealogy) reflects this inertia.
“Take me to your Leader.”
I believe there is a shift occurring, and the current reliance on national identities will soon dissolve. While the US builds fenced on the Mexican border and demands RFID’d licenses for every man, woman and child, Europe is busy opening its borders, allowing smoother travel and trade, and in general dissolving the divisions they have spent 1000 years demarcating.
You can trace terrorism, youtube, time’s “you”, wikipedia, “truthiness” all to the same “abstract machine” – all of these things represent a dissolution of faith in traditional hierarchical power structures, and a increasing faith in the collective opinion of a given population. It is a shift from canonical objectivity to collective subjectivity.
and so on.
here are some books i found particularly interesting this past year or two, in no order:
Jared Diamond, Collapse
Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel
Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee
Manuel DeLanda, A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History
Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society
Deleuze & Guiattari, 1000 Plateaus
Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat
Lester Brown, Plan B
Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism:
Vol. 1, The Structures of Everyday Life
Vol. 2, The Wheels of Commerce
Vol. 3, The Perspective of the World
Kalle Lasn, Design Anarchy
Bruce Mau, Massive Change
Charles Mann, 1491