The discourse of globalization has become dominant in recent years in an extraordinarily wide variety of contexts, equally on the left and on the right – from journalism to public policy discussions, from business strategy to labor organizing, and within the university across the social sciences and humanities. It is something like the discourse on postmodernism that blossomed about a decade earlier but seems to me even more extensive. This paper is an attempt to sort out some of the political positions taken within the discourse on globalization to help clarify the stakes in the globalization debates and the political consequences of the various theoretical and empirical claims. My assumption, in fact, is that political positions or desires dictate to a large extent the various analytical characterizations of globalization. What I will attempt, then, is to construct a typology of positions on globalization using the question of democracy as the first line of division. In other words, I will first divide theories in two groups: those who claim that globalization fosters democracy and those who maintain that globalization hinders or obstructs democracy. I will further divide these positions into arguments on the right and those on the left because this is a context in which I believe there remain very clear divisions between right and left, and it would be incoherent to group them together. After sketching out this typology and giving some examples of work in the different segments of it, I will present some of the arguments contained in Empire, the book I co-authored with Toni Negri (Hardt and Negri 2000), and try to situate our work with respect to these other arguments and the typology more generally.
Before beginning with this typology, however, it is useful to point out that globalization is a relatively unstable and or perhaps incoherent term in contemporary discussions. It is tempting to say that everyone is talking about globalization, but they are all...
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