Globalization & the Third World communities, Is it a negative cultural/economic force? Case study: Middle East - Arabic Societies White Paper By: Hussein Al Ahmad Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology International Communication and Culture Forum March 2007 ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. Abstract; While some people think of globalization as primarily a synonym for global business, indeed, it is much more than that. Globalization chiefly describes the political, economic, and cultural atmosphere of today. It is the central catchphrase of the times debate, where terms such as the ‘global village,’ ‘global governance’ and ‘global transformations’ were all incorporated in order to generate an obvious understanding around the phenomenon of globaliza- “What is generally called globalization is a vast social field in which hegemonic or dominant social groups, states, interests and ideologies collide with counter-hegemonic or subordinate social groups, states, interests and ideologies on a world scale”. (Boaventura de Sousa Santos 2006). tion.1 Actually, it is the prominent progress and developments that occurred chiefly in computer technology, communications and transportation ease, which supplied a fertile environment for the thriving of globalization process in most of our life aspects. Consequently, Globalization actually have acceded the economic arena to be its primary focus within the society. Most of our life aspects were effected by the globalization process and its consequences. Furthermore, we still find that societies differ in their temporal orientation, some focusing on protecting the past, others on forging the future. Accordingly, neither economic nor culture -as the map of whole human livelihood-, have never been isolated or protected from those impacts and evolving changes. “The official ‘national culture,’ in particular, reflects a hybrid ideology of the current state establishment, embodying such inherently contradictory elements as, socialism, capitalism, modernism and globalism” (Liu, 2003).2 On the other hand, and according to Arjun Appadurai (1994)“The complexity of the current global economy has to do with certain fundamental disjunctures between economy, culture and politics which we have barely begun to theorize.” This paper will try to discuss how and to what extent Arabian national cultures (as Middle East countries) can sustain their identity, and keep their economic flourishing locally; within a globally extended economy that generates powerful forces on the discrepancy of local cultures worldwide. We will examine whether globalization is or not a negative economic force for communities, and what benefit can they generate if those communities focus on a desired outcome and concentrate on providing a specific type of product or service that may reserve their identity and protect their growth and development. ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. Understanding Arab societies Social and political structure While focusing on social issues like political freedom and divisions between socio- economic classes, most of Arabic studies reflect a complex society in all its complexity. I think many Americans and western people get their impressions of Arabs from cartoons, such as Aladdin, and made-for-TV movies featuring terrorists or billionaire oil sheiks. Many western candidates or students, who came to study in Palestinian universities have told me that when they got the chance to travel to the Arab world, what they see there is very different from what they had perceived about that region from the mainstream Western mass media. An important side where cross-cultural interaction may bring better understanding! For those who want to gain a rigorous understanding about the real structure of the Arab community, they must examine issues ranging from the pervasive influence of religion and believes on society, to the political and economic consequences of the constant state of confrontation between Arab and the various imperialism waves passed over the region, from 1914 Arab revolution against Othman Empire, to the Oslo agreement signed in 1992 between Israel and Palestine, while navigating the history through 1948 Israeli occupation for the Palestine and the constant Israeli Arab conflict, to 1952 revolution in Egypt against England, to last war between Israel and ‘Hezb Allah’ in Lebanon. Edward Said, (1995) briefly illustrates the harsh affects of Oslo “Israel has achieved all of its tactical and strategic objectives at the expense of nearly every proclaimed principle of Arab and Palestinian nationalism and struggle. Thus Israel has gained recognition, legitimacy, acceptance from the Arabs, without in effect conceding sovereignty over Arab land, including annexed East Jerusalem, captured illegally by war.” agreement on the region; Consequently, the Arab societies suffer vital obstacles that hurdled its development, chiefly the disarray of geographically separating related-states. One can attain better understanding of Arab cultural structure by focusing on their lack of security, Arab nationalism, the influence of religion, male-dominated social and political hierarchy, political repression, technological research, sufficient medical care, social and psychological alienation, as well as socio-economic barriers separating urban and rural dwellers. Peace forms the resolu- “But Israeli elites have failed to turn the idea of the New Middle East (NME) into a hegemonic concept, as this attempted liberal hegemony invoked a Polanyian ‘double movement’ that undermined the peace process.” Comments Guy Ben-Porat, PhD. at the Ben-Gurion tion key for any positive change in the area, University, Israel. 3 ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. National values and believes By considering that post-colonialist experience of peoples, whether in Asia, Africa or the Middle East, is unusually similar, I think that Arab’s believes and customs emanating from the Middle East, especially during tense political situations, are often misunderstood and misinterpreted in the West, “mainly because of a lack of appreciation for the cultural nuances implicit in the Arabic values, believes, customs or style of life.”4 as stated by Khalil Barhoum, an Ara- bic literature and culture lecturer at Stanford University. In his opinion, we “ not to brand everything Westerners have written about the Arab world as stereotypical, negative or far-fetched, but to put some of these writings in their proper cultural, historical and political perspective, balancing them with the believes and writings of Arabs about their own land, culture and people.” from another point of view, and according to Guy Ben-Porat; “The ‘rise and fall’ of the NME cannot be separated from wider global developments and must therefore be studied in relation to them, in both their ideational and material aspects.”5 have ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. Stagnation in Arab Societies Technology In its outcomes, the ‘Arab Human Development Report 2002’ released in Cairo – Egypt, in July 2, 2000 by Arab intellectuals commissioned by the United Nations, warns that “Arab societies are being crippled by a lack of political free- dom and isolation from the world of ideas that stifles creativity.”6 The report remarks that while oil income has transformed the landscapes of some Arab countries, the society remains “richer than it is developed.” Pro- ductivity is declining, research and development are weak or absent at all, science and technology are dormant. Actually, intellectuals flee a stultifying or sometimes repressive political and social environment towards the free world “Sadly, the Arab world is largely depriving itself of the creativity and productivity of half its citizens,” the report concluded, relating to the issue of de-emphasizing women’s of the west, where they can perform and erect better future. role in society.7 And here we wonder; what worse results than those of our isolation may globalization or any other threaten power bring to our deprived societies!? Political topography There are some very terrifying signals that are specific to Arab countries and not other regions. For the Palestinians in particular, the report says, human development is all but impossible under Israeli occupation. Moreover, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict 8 “has been a cause and a pretext for delaying demo- cratic change.” Then came another critical issue; the attacks on the United States (which –to this paper’s concern- plays a major role in the globalization process), giving researchers unexpected new relevance as explanations for Arab anger against the West are being sought, that Arabs often question the United States’ commitment to promoting democracy in the Middle East, arguing its policies are inconsistent and even hypocritical. In addition to its unjustified and boundless support to Israel in all aspect, the USA’s other prominent concern is the availability of oil at stable prices. Those issues launched a wave of hostility against the USA in most Arab and Islamic regions, which extended against other western countries that support Israel too. ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. How can Middle East benefit from globalization? In ‘Globalization and Its Discontents’, Stiglitz (2002) pointed out that “despite all the promises of globalization, the developing nations of the world didn’t seem to be, well, developing.” What seems to be the problem? Political, Economic Forces and the Context of Globalization In a one-day conference of Middle East and functional specialists convened by the National Intelligence Council (NIC), USA, May 2005.9 to discuss likely regional trends between now and 2020. The participants assessed that while some Middle Eastern countries have made progress in diversifying their economies, the area as a whole remains economically underdeveloped and highly dependent on petroleum revenues (mainly Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Libya, and Oman). While smaller countries (such as Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen…etc) are doing a better job of integrating into the world economy and will benefit more from globalization than those states with either large popu- “Current high oil prices will allow some states to avoid making difficult economic and social decisions, but will not let those with smaller resources off the hook”, remarked the reporters. A price collations or high hydrocarbon revenues. lapse, which will have significant economic and political ramifications in the area, is likely to occur in five to fifteen years.10 “One of the most important economic issues that the hemisphere now faces is a mix of cooperation and disagreement on energy trade.”11 remarked Sidney Weintraub & Simon Chair, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC. As it can be generated from the above conference results, as a ‘Long Term’ vs. ‘Short Term’ orientation, the ideological background of the Middle East has to draw upon the ideology of globalization and effort to share its fundamental tenets of rationality, professionalism and virtues of market economy. The effects of the increasing position of Asian economic Odds are when the Chinese military entered the U.S. Navy EP-3 spy plane and opened its computers, they found … ‘Made in China’ stamped on all kinds of chips, circuit boards, and other high-tech gear.12 As the NIC 2020 Project’s Report emphasizes,13 the rise of China and India will be a major trend both internationally and in the region, impelling these two ascendant powers to play a growing political and economic role in the Middle East. The emerging substitute for the USA and Western products in ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. China and India, may bring some benefits for the Middle East societies in managing a new competition between those powers to attain better chance in attracting technology and international capital, instead of staying only consumers. Virtually, consumers may, in many cases, have limited horizons in making their choices, still they are not forced to consume particular goods and services - they have the liberty to choose and bargain. In his article ‘New player in global investing: India Inc.’ at the ‘The Christian Science Monitor’, Mark Sappenfield, explains how Indian firms are venturing (regional) beyond the subcontinent with conviction. India is going global, and the main reason is that Indian companies managed to supply the capital they “While the growth in the domestic market here has helped, international investors have provided the real fiscal fuel.”14 He remarked. need. According to the statistics he included in his report, Mark Sappenfield states “Investors are looking to put their money into companies with high growth potential, leading many to Indian firms. As a result, stock prices for Indian companies are consistently valued three to four times higher than Western ones with the same revenues. That gives them disproportionate buying power.”15 Actually, that this may be a unique model for Middle East markets to interpret, actually, Dubai markets stands as an evidence of possible success. ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. Globalization trends and impacts on the region “It appears that it is better to be a cow in Europe than to be a poor person in a developing country,” writes Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz in his new book, Making Globalization Work.16 Global Politics Can globalization be a politically opening exercise? Some participants in the (NIC) argued that the vitality of expanding production, combined with the increasing role of performers like China that are eager to de-emphasize the importance of political liberalization as an international issue, is likely to reduce the international pressure on agreements for political reform. However, others remarked that the international investment that globalization brings often caries with it international business standards and practices of transparency and accountability. In this regard bilateral and multilateral trade agreements are taking on an increasingly vital role in mediating countries’ relationships with the global economy. For instance, Bahrain’s bilateral agreement with the US has proved a model that other Arab political regimes are interested in following. While at the same time Saudi Arabia (as the leader of the Gulf Cooperation Council -GCC) feels threatened by US agreements with individual Gulf countries, considering it to be harmful for regional cooperation of the (GCC). Somehow, regional cooperation and alienation stands as a key factor in this issue, in addition to the conscious integration of the world economic giant, whirling overseas. Global economy vs. regional integration Some economists may consider the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be the gateway to the integrated global economy, and thinks that joining it brings international standards of transparency and accountability. Some of the NIC conference participants on the other hand discussed the better trade framework which has the powerful agenda to bring the economic success and political liberalization, whether it is regional, bilateral, or multilateral. Others so far remarked that joining the WTO brings shocks in addition to benefits, considering the bilateral model/approach (like that of the US has taken with Bahrain and other countries) brings nothing similar standards of accountability. I think for counties like Palestine and its neighboring Arab countries with few resources and fewer skilled workforces, within such a framework, will be forced to compete with other countries in a framework of rules and agree- ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. ments that will definitely inconvenience its growth. In order to keep a sustainable future vision of survival and development for our economics and cultures, I think we are to organize and protect efficient and innovative domestic economies, integrated into regional and global entire economical regime, as “I mean “globalization” used in a neutral sense just means “international integration.” This in turn it was adequately articulated by Noam Chomsky (2005); necessitates our maintenance for the political systems that supports progress and equality, and allows us –at the regional and universal level- to deal with variety of regional environmental crises that are perceived with increasing “We have to choose between a global market driven only by the calculations of short-term profit, and one which has a human face,” (UN Secretary General Kofi Annan).17 frequency across increasing numbers of domains. internationally, accordingly, global rule must be changed in favor of –our at least account forthe developing countries. High/Low Context Cultures Contrary to western and democratic regimes, while some experts consider that economic stagnation has held back democratization in the Middle East, indeed such explanations discounts the fact that Arab authoritarian systems have mainly saved their power because they are skilled in managing internal and external pressures. Their authoritarian type of control allows limited degree of political participation and economic liberalization. On the other hand, and in spite of the popular desire for democracy in our region is widespread but appears to be shallow, narrow-minded, while majoritarian in nature. There is widespread and significant popular desire for more free, open, participatory, and accountable government, but the desire does not encompass the full range of rights and liberties considered essential to liberal democracy. Our nations stay so far from democratic and open systems of communications in a global sense, unless a basic, dramatic change happen in the mentality and believes of our generations, to the degree that enables us to challenge instead retreat, endure instead flee, cooperate instead seclude. Global systems may be the shaman who led to the brightness, … who benefits from the free movement of ideas, goods, people and capital? The answer definitely is: The vast majority of the world’s population, mainly those, who enormously lacks it. ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. Conclusion “The problems facing mankind can only be solved on the basis of universally recognised principles and norms of international law and in a fair and rational world order.” Hu Jintao & Vladimir Putin, (2005). By referring to how Marshal McLuhan connected the term technology (our ways and means) with the concept culture (our customs and beliefs), I believe that any industry (say agriculture as an essential economic sector in our region) is a knowledge-intensive sector; and so, the facilitation of access to knowledge through globalization is a promising opportunity. Hence, if we are trying to underline only the positives and ignoring the negatives when we say that Middle East is ‘globalized’ and is flourishing, then the occupied territories (Palestine) might disagree. My intention; to attain positive outcome from globalization, it is neither an abstract idea to accumulate nor a package to accommodate. it is how people, information, and capital can travel further and faster than ever before. It is where limits on that movement, which used to be quite high, are now remarkably low. Still, it is the double-edged weapon that necessitates high degree of consciousness and qualification while integrating any of its domains to our restricted community, market, or culture. Just like fire, globalization neither good nor bad, when used properly, brings unlimited benefits, when used haphazardly, fire can destroy lives and towns in moments. To close the cycle, while looking at the tremendous opportunities globalization can bring “Just as capitalism requires a network of governing systems to keep it from devouring societies, globalization requires vigilance and the rule of law.”18 for aggressive communities, it is vital to keep in mind that When academics write about sports, they are capable of accomplishing the impossible, when it comes to application, the mere mention of globalization generates anger, discord, and accusations; sucking all the pleasure and fun from the spectacle. While Skeptics can say unrealistic days of globalization appear to be over; its promises of the simple spread of markets would melt poverty, dissolve dictatorships, and integrate diverse cultures proved to be false. A revived, inspirited Chinese adult performer would proudly yell; onward …, it is the epoch of China. ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. End Notes: 1. http://www.academon.com/lib/essay/globalization-local-culture.html 2. Liu, Josie. ‘In a Search for Cultural Identity, Clothes Definitely Maketh the Han.’ South China Morning Post, 09/10 2005, Accessed 15.9.2006 at: http://www. wacc.org.uk/wacc/publications/media_development/2006_1/globalization_ national_culture_and_the_search_for_identity_a_chinese_dilemma. 3. Ben-Porat. G., ‘A New Middle East. Globalization, Peace and the ‘Double Movement’, Ben-Gurion University, Israel, accessed online 15.10.2006 at: http://ire.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/19/1/39 4. Barhoum, K. 2002, ‘Understanding Arab Societies Through Literature’, Cairo University press. 5. Ben-Porat. G., ‘A New Middle East. Globalization, Peace and the ‘Double Movement’, Ben-Gurion University, Israel, accessed online 15.10.2006 at: http://ire.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/19/1/39 6. Barbara Crossette: ‘Study Warns of Stagnation in Arab Societies’, New York Times, July 2, 2000, accessed 18.10.2006 at: http://www.globalpolicy.org/ socecon/develop/devthry/democracy/2002/0702stagnation.htm 7. ibid 8. ibid 9. http://www.fas.org/irp/nic/index.html 10. http://www.dni.gov/nic/NIC_globaltrend2020.html 11. Weintraub, Sidney & Chair, Simon: ‘ Political Economy’, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Reprinted with permission from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Accessed online 20.10.2006 at: http:// www.globalenvision.org/library/15/1271/1/ 12. http://www.keepmedia.com/Search.do?refinePubTypeID=101&criteria=globaliz ation&extID=10008 13. http://www.dni.gov/nic/NIC_globaltrend2020.html 14. Sappenfield, Mark: ‘New player in global investing: India Inc.’, The Christian Science Monitor, accessed 15.9.2006 at: http://www.csmonitor. com/2006/1017/p01s04-wosc.html 15. ibid 16. http://www.keepmedia.com/pubs/USATODAY/2006/10/02/ 1848883?ba=a&bi=11&bp=7 17. http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/pqdweb?did=1140292521&sid =7&Fmt=2&clientId=16532&RQT=309&VName=PQD 18. Porter K., ‘Your Guide to Globalization Issues’, About Newsletter, accessed 18.10.2006 at; http://globalization.about.com/cs/whatisit/f/FAQ2.htm ©Hussein I. Al Ahmad S3066241, March 07. Bibliography: 1. Lee, R., James. West Hartford, CT 2000: Exploring the gaps: vital links between trade, environment, and culture, Kumarian Press. 2. 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