From Regionalization to Globalization: Problematic

EDITORIAL, 31 Oct 2016

#453 | Johan Galtung

“Future of the World between Globalization and Regionalization” – European Center for Peace and Development, Belgrade, 2-29 Oct 2016

Summary: Most states are too small given the speeds of transportation and communication–hence regionalization of neighbors with cultural similarities. The biggest states, China-India-Russia-USA-Indonesia-Australia-Brazil, are in fact regions. The next step, globalization, is very problematic.  We have overcome geographical distance but not cultural distance. And USA uses globalization for world hegemony financially.  Better would be a North American region with Canada, for dialogue with other regions.  The Rest will work on globalization, but how?

We are witnessing these years a historical transition from a world state system to a world region system. There are about 7:

ELAC-Latin America-Caribbean, AU-African Unity, EU-European Union, SAARC-South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, ASEAN-Association of Southeast Asian Nations, OIC-Organization of Islamic Cooperation, SCO-Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  Mostly recent, so many believe the logical step from a region system to a global system, globalization, is around the corner. Two major problems, though.

First, humanity is very diverse.  The state system, based on the cultures of their dominant nations, accommodates much diversity, less than the primitive tribal and traditional village systems. However, will globalization also accommodate diversity or impose uniformity?

Second, the USA may use globalization to impose a global market with no state and regional borders for financial objects, derivatives, through privatization of all central banks, coordinated by the Bank for International Settlements, BIS, the bank of banks in Basel, Switzerland.

Many states, adapted in size to 20 km/h means of transportation, not to what is now possible, have joined others with similar cultures within the same civilization.  The civilizations are still different, giving rise to several and diverse regions.  However, we have only one globe to globalize. There is something final about globalization. It may protect diversity.  But it may also be uniform, one design only.

Such designs exist.  They come from the religions claiming to be single and universal truths, for all, forever: Christianity and Islam.

They have messages about afterlife salvation, and salvation in this world through their globalization.  For the Christian world headed by the United States of America, USA, and national evangelism; for the Islamic world by the Islamic State, IS, and a Sunni Caliphate.

The European Union is limited to regionalization in Europe, but UK membership made it party to Anglo-American globalization.  With USA losing its grip on the continent after Brexit the future is unclear.  In principle USA is not party to those negotiations.

What does the West in general, and USA in particular, understands by globalization?  Not the missionary command Matt 28:18-20, but their utopia, a world government Western style, with division of power and a legislature by fair and free elections in member state constituencies, like today for the European Parliament.  One representative/million?

And what does Islam in general, and IS in particular, understand by globalization?  Islamization certainly, and their utopia: Islam from Casablanca to Mindanao, tomorrow beyond, in numerous provinces– not states–with countless Imam-Mosque-Shariah Court units in each; for the expanding ummah, the community of the true believers.

Western globalization is centralized, for the West in general politically, for the USA in particular economically, militarily for both–they will be in command, and with a dominant Western culture.

Islamic globalization is localized, with much political autonomy, linked by Qur’anic trade economically–and a dominant Islamic culture.

The two globalizations look incompatible, and they will probably tell us that they are. In fact they may not be. There is much sympathy in the world for “small is beautiful” and for “some big is necessary”.  Islam has a model for the former, West for the latter.  Islamic and Japanese localism, Buddhist sangha communities, Chinese communes might join the former; the West might provide a soft setting for them all.

More worrisome is the cultural hegemonies: only one, or the other.

And that brings us to the other civilizations and their stands on globalization.  General answer: the very idea of global universalism is itself occidental. Others, Hindu-Buddhist-Daoist-Confucian-Japanese in Asia, and lesser ones in Africa and the Americas, are concerned with doing their own things, letting others do theirs.  They may soon discover that this attitude is at odds with the two universalisms just described, both in their religious and in their more secular versions.

But 2.1 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims, even if half of humanity, cannot dictate the terms of globalization to the rest and then fight it out between the two of them.  Is there a solution?

Let us call it “soft globalization” as opposed to the hard ones, and it is not difficult to identify.  It is based on the social trick of making conflictuous, competitive, combative actors equal members of the same organization for shared concerns and goals, taking the brunt off their sharp edges.  For states, the two “world” wars in Europe led to the League of Nations and to the United Nations.  They both failed.

Some were more equal than others as permanent UNSC members with veto, and fight for that privilege against reforms. But even with more power to the General Assembly, the UN members will still be states.

The answer is a United Regions, UR; 8 with North America, 11 with West Asia, Israel-Palestine and the Kurds, Central Asia split by the Durand line and East Asia by the East and South China Seas. 7, 8, 11 are good numbers around a table, better than the UN at 193. Mirroring global reality with diversity, UR stands a better chance than the UN.

On the table are their relations, and political, cultural, military, economic globalization.  Politically by consensus, meaning equality among regions and veto for all.  Culturally by dialogue of civilizations, not monologue.  Militarily the equality might make UR succeed where the UN did not with a Military Command.  Economically: by regional sharing, no regional monopoly.  A feasible, soft utopia.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 450 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 31 Oct 2016.

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