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Globalization on Trial: The Human Condition and the Information Civilization. (Book Reviews).

Globalization on Trial: The Human Condition and the Information Civilization Farhang Rajaee; Ottawa, Canada: IDRC/Kumarian Press, 2000, 150 pages

Professor Farhang Rajaee, PhD in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and visiting Associate Professor in the College of the Humanities at Carleton University, with experience in Europe and Iran, provides us in this book with a critical overview of the primary interpretations of the complex phenomena labeled globalization, as well as a vision of the future. To the author, dialogue and understanding are building blocks for the betterment of humanity.

Chapter 1, "The New Creation," examines globalization and its dynamics, putting these into historical perspective. The author follows a dual process, capturing the nature of the transformation of the world's condition and setting off a boundary for this new creation to identify its consequences. He attempts to combine description and prescription in a time of deep transformation and theoretical deconstruction and reconstruction.

The method of research in this essay is multidisciplinary, and includes the "holistic approach" and the "civilizational approach." Rajaee defines his theoretical approach as "complex integrative" (integrating three forms of rationality: postmodernism, utilitarian rationalism, and fundamentalism), and his practical method is "consiliance" (first introduced by Osborne Wilson, the "father" of sociobiology) which consists of the harmonization of data and analyses from different lines of inquiry.

In the second chapter, "A Theory of Globalization," Professor Rajaee examines the competition among paradigms to explain the phenomenon of globalization and the future shape of our globalized world, in order to embark on an explanation of his complex alternative theory. First, he presents the political approach, expressed mainly in the theories of Kaplan and Huntington, as a claim that the state system had lost most of its authority, and that culture and civilization have become the proper focus for political loyalty. The author expresses the opinion that the political paradigm explains only one aspect of humanity's existence, that of competition, whereas there is more to life than competition and struggle.

Second, readers are introduced to the economic approach, where the most prevalent view of globalization is that of the economists who see it in terms of increased economic interdependence and the integration of all national economies into one economy within the framework of a capitalist market. In the emerging global market the power of computer communications technologies has changed the nature of finance and trade, thus putting an end to geography, creating a borderless world, and signaling the twilight of national sovereignty. In the author's opinion the Asian crisis showed the risks inherent in one immature market, without the supporting social infrastructure.

Third, the cultural approach indicates that the realities of globalization have so affected our philosophical and cultural understanding that the old paradigms no longer explain what is going on. The familiar sociocultural paradigms were communism and democratic capitalism, both of which constituted and projected alternative forms of modernity. Globalization has crystallized the crisis of modernity as paradigm, and the alternative paradigm has been dubbed "postmodernity." The chapter presents the main features of premodern, modern, and postmodern thought. The most important idea is that postmodernism aims to emancipate humanity from itself by making it conscious of its shortcomings. Like the premodern way of thinking, it invites one to appreciate the totality of existence, the former out of religious conviction and the latter out of the realization that our earth is precarious and requires our care.

It is very instructive to read the author's critique on the religious and secular radical approach, introducing some Islamic scholars whose ideas are not very familiar to the Western reader. Chapter 2 ends with a detailed exposition of the civilizational approach, focusing questions as important as: What is a civilization? When is a civilization born? And how long does a civilization flourish? Finally, a very interesting comparison of the globalization with Islamic and modern Western civilization is presented. The author warns that the civilizational approach should not be taken as what anthropologists call "adscriptive characteristics;" that is, attributes and categories that remain stable and require no revision. Rather it is a learning device and a comprehensive conjecture, and these features enable it to respond to many of the shortcomings of the more extreme approaches to the study of the human condition.

"The Coming of the Information Civilization" is the title of the third chapter, which centers on the effects produced by the union of communication technology and computer data processing on the ways the humanity has been conducting its affairs recently. It explores the nature of technological society and the meaning of the information revolution and follows up with issues pertaining to the functioning of the new information civilization. The four pillars of modern life--technology, society, humanity, and the media--have reached full interaction, both horizontally and vertically, thereby influencing politics, economics, and culture. The Internet has a particular role in this process. It is very important that globalization tolerates plurality in various forms and allows people to take diverse paths to the truth. There are two important areas in which this is occurring readily: the area of the Western portrayal of non-Western cultural systems and civilizations and the other is the area of gender and gender rel ations.

If globalization has produced a new phase of human civilization, why is it claimed that there is one civilization and many civilizations? Globalization has made it possible for those who used to be called minorities to have their voices heard. Multiculturalism is thus a paradoxical concept, simultaneously expressing diversity and unity. Nevertheless, common sense dictates that as long as the notion of the unknown remains alive in humanity, it will have the notion of the "other." The author's plea is for the recognition that the "other" may in many ways, be an asset rather than a liability.

The new global civilization has brought challenges, dangers, and opportunities. It has greatly facilitated interactions among people, but it is not a panacea. In the last chapter, "The Future of Global Governance," Farhang Rajaee presents the principal theoretical and practical challenges of the new era, as well as some practical responses and unexplored issues.

The topics and issues addressed in the book are far ranging. The author summarizes and draws together much of the existing multidisciplinary research in the field of globalization, contributing important new ideas. There are very interesting viewpoints and theories of some Islamic researchers. The contents could be enriched by more detailed analysis of the economic and financial effects of globalization, and their direct implication on the new civilization. I believe this book will force a lot of reflection on the part of students and researchers in history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, psychology, economics, and administration. Besides, it can be recommended to all those persons interested in the contemporary issues of globalization.
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Author:Boncheva, Antonina I.
Publication:The Social Science Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:1125
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