Globalization or Glocalisation? Networks, Territories and Rescaling

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Globalisation or ‘Glocalisation’? Networks, Territories and Rescaling Erik Swyngedouw University of Oxford
Abstract This paper argues that the alleged process of globalisation should be recast as a process of ‘glocalisation’. ‘Glocalisation’ refers to the twin process whereby, firstly, institutional/regulatory arrangements shift from the national scale both upwards to supra-national or global scales and downwards to the scale of the individual body or to local, urban or regional configurations and, secondly, economic activities and inter-firm networks are becoming simultaneously more localised/regionalised and transnational. In particular, attention will be paid to the political and economic dynamics of this geographical rescaling and its implications. The scales of economic networks and institutional arrangements are recast in ways that alter social power geometries in important ways. This contribution, therefore, argues, first, that an important discursive shift took place over the last decade or so which is an integral part of an intensifying ideological, political, socioeconomic and cultural struggle over the organisation of society and the position of the citizen. Secondly, the pre-eminence of the ‘global’ in much of the literature and political rhetoric obfuscates, marginalizes and silences an intense and ongoing socio-spatial struggle in which the reconfiguration of spatial scale is a key arena. Third, both the scales of economic flows and networks and those of territorial governance are rescaled through a process of ‘glocalisation’, and, finally, the proliferation of new modes and forms of resistance to the restless process of de-territorialisation/re-territorialisation of capital requires greater attention to engaging a ‘politics of scale’. In the final part, attention will be paid to the potentially empowering possibilities of a politics that is sensitive to these scale issues. But what I especially wish to make of it, is a machine to launch your brother’s grand projects … We establish it in order that it may assist the financial and industrial companies which we shall organise in foreign countries … [Know then] that I hope to double, quadruple, quintuple this capital as fast as our operations extend! That we must have a hail of gold, a dance of millions, if we wish to accomplish over yonder the prodigies we have predicted! Ah! I won’t say there will be no breakage—one can’t move the world, you know, without crushing the feet of a few passers by. (Zola [1891] 1994, 119)

The recent debate over the alleged increasing globalisation of the world economy, however intellectually stimulating it might be, appears to be increasingly like a discussion over the sex of the angels (Rayp 1995). Internationalisation, mundialisation, delocalisation, international competitiveness, cultural hybridisation and other more or less fashionable concepts are marshalled into a plurality of heavily mediatised discourses. The plurality of ways in which these words ISSN 0955-7571 print/ISSN 1474-449X online/04/010000-00  2004 Centre of International Studies DOI: 10.1080/0955757042000203632

26 Erik Swyngedouw and their abstract definitions are used often produces a Babylonian confusion that seems to serve specific interests and power positions (Hout 1996). I shall argue in this article that (1) an important discursive shift has taken place over the last decade or so which is an integral part of an intensifying ideological, political, socioeconomic and cultural struggle over the organisation of society and the position of the citizen therein; (2) the pre-eminence of the ‘global’ in much of the literature and political rhetoric obfuscates, marginalises and silences an intense and ongoing socio-spatial struggle in which a key arena is the reconfiguration of spatial scale, or the arenas around which socio-spatial power choreographies are enacted and performed (Swyngedouw 1997a; 1997b; 2000a) (I conceive scalar configurations either as regulatory...
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