Glocalization: When Globalization Goes Local
Valdai Papers
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Alexander Iskandaryan

Founding Director of the Caucasus Institute, Yerevan, Armenia.

Valdai Discussion Club

At the 14th meeting of the Valdai Club, globalization as a phenomenon was the topic of one of the sessions. The participants, including the author of these lines, were asked to discuss how globalization challenges the world order, how attempts to unify different societies give rise to the opposite tendency – the rise of identity politics, repulsion of the global and strengthening of local identities around the world. The participants in the discussion, from political scientists and politicians to writers and playwrights, attempted, in their own language and based on their geographical and cultural background, to comprehend the phenomenon of unification and the reaction of societies.

The results of the discussion turned out to be curious: almost all the participants agreed with the basic points. The speeches were rather complementary than arguing with one another. All of them were far from alarmistic and everyone treated the phenomenon of globalization as something natural, contrary to what conspiracy theorists believe in.

In social discourses, globalization most often seems to be a new phenomenon, characteristic of modernity, or even of postmodernity only. However, one can also say the opposite: globalization accompanies humanity throughout its history, or its written history at least. Unifying rules on big territories is a way of behaviour, which is natural for large states, economies, cultures and religions. Moreover, this was natural for empires, which were the rule rather than an exception in the pre-national state world. An example of the classical globalization model in the Eurasian part of the world is Hellenism, which is already about two and a half thousand years old.

At the same time, complete globalization, i.e. absolute unification of the normative guidelines of different societies, cannot lead to success. Societies successfully localize global mechanisms, they change them and adapt to local cultures phenomena of any order, from Christianity to the ingredients at McDonald’s.

Moreover, globalization itself creates locality. World economic players need variety and diversity for the successful transaction of anything – from flows of labour and products to tourism. Streams between identical entities are impossible. Thus, global players often consciously cultivate locality in order to remain global. Now, perhaps, to a greater extent than in the pre-modern period, it is important not how a person lived and what they sought, but, in the first place, where they were born. The place of birth can determine how a person is destined to live and what they can achieve. We can say that in postmodern globalization, locality is more important than ever.

Complexity and diversity make the world more stable. A global world with identical political, economic, and any other elements could have had more, less conflicts. Globality is getting localized, and locality can be globalized. These two trends do not contradict each other: on the contrary, their synthesis is a source of stability. Private contradictions and conflicts occur constantly, and, as a result, systemic complementarity of globality and locality is being born. Now the world is once again looking for balance between these two trends, giving rise to a specific dialectical term: glocalization.

Valdai Discussion Club