Chilling Out With Cohen and Good Political Choices

In The Politics of Globalization in the United States, Cohen defines Globalization as ‘the process through which events and actions within the borders of any given state are increasingly shaped by events and actions beyond its borders, and in which actors are increasingly aware of this situation’ (p18). He discusses how the growing globalization affects economics, immigration, cultural differences, employment, borders, social life and most importantly, the suggestion of the United States losing its sovereignty as a nation state. While in the beginning Cohen appears to argue against globalization and its negative implications, he introduces the concept that both sides of the debate overemphasize the effect globalization has towards ultimately being solely responsible this change. He finalizes his objective by declaring while we may not agree with the effects of globalization, we still possess the ability, through political choices, to take control of our future and control the influence globalization has on us as a nation state.

Giddens, on the other hand sees a more powerful globalization as he states ‘This is more than diffusion of Western institutions across the world, in which other cultures are crushed’ (p175). For as where Cohen sees globalization as merely existing and gives our political process the ability to control it, Giddens sees it as an all-encompassing power which our political systems ‘become fundamentally altered’ (p178). I disagree with Giddens view and suggest that, along with support from Cohen, that as a nation state we decide to what affect globalization has on our nation. Giddens dramatically scares us as he writes ‘A large-scale military confrontation using purely conventional weaponry would be devastating in its consequences’ p172. Since this was written in 1990, the United States has engaged in large-scale military confrontations in the middle east without these so called devastating consequences as Giddens would have us believe. Cohen grounds us in our political checks and balances system and reminds us no matter what, the political system and the choice it makes prevents us from devastating consequences.

When Giddens discusses the roles of social movements and their influence as ‘significant guidelines to potential future transformations’ (p158), he neglects Cohen’s political choice argument entirely. When the United States saw recently aggressive social movements such as the Occupy Wall Street movement, or the uprisings during the 2014 Ferguson uprising after the shooting of Michael Brown, the United States political system did not crumble as Giddens would have us believe. Neither of these two highly influential situations had any effect on our nation state as a whole, nor did it have lasting social influence as Giddens’ ‘significant guidelines’.

The calming writings of Cohen become much more clearer against the chaotic back drop of Giddens alarmist themes. Giddens writes ‘Modernity is inseparable from the abstract systems that provide for the disembedding of social relations across space and time’ (p151). If we take Cohen’s lead and consider world currency after WWII, the Bretton Woods system, overlay Giddens viewpoint of inseparability, we see we created this system, it served its purpose, and the system was dissolved around 1968 to 1973. Even when Giddens writes ‘Perhaps too many of these suffer from design faults which, when they lead systems to go wrong, send us spinning away from our projected paths of development?’ (p151), we can still reference Bretton Wood as an example which defies Giddens. Once again, our political choices controlled the effect globalization would ultimately have on us, not vice versa.