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The Global and the Universal

G l o b a l i z a t i o n a n d universality d o n o t g o t o g e t h e r . I n d e e d , t h e y m i g h t b e said t o b e
m u t u a l l y exclusive. G l o b a l i z a t i o n i s t h e g l o b a l i z a t i o n o f t e c h n o l o g i e s , t h e m a r k e t ,
t o u r i s m a n d i n f o r m a t i o n . U n i v e r s a l i t y i s t h e universality o f values, h u m a n r i g h t s ,
f r e e d o m s , c u l t u r e a n d d e m o c r a c y . G l o b a l i z a t i o n s e e m s irreversible; t h e universal
m i g h t be said, by c o n t r a s t , to be d i s a p p e a r i n g . At least as c o n s t i t u t e d as a s y s t e m of
values a t t h e level o f W e s t e r n m o d e r n i t y , w h i c h i s s o m e t h i n g t h a t has n o e q u i v a l e n t
i n any o t h e r c u l t u r e . E v e n a living, c o n t e m p o r a r y c u l t u r e like t h e J a p a n e s e has n o
t e r m for it. N o w o r d t o refer t o a system o f values w h i c h regards itself a s a t t u n e d
t o all c u l t u r e s a n d t h e i r difference b u t w h i c h , paradoxically, d o e s n o t c o n c e i v e itself
as relative, a n d aspires, in all i n g e n u o u s n e s s , to be t h e ideal t r a n s c e n d e n c e [depassetnent] o f all t h e o t h e r s . W e d o n o t i m a g i n e for a m o m e n t t h a t t h e universal m i g h t
m e r e l y b e t h e p a r t i c u l a r style o f t h i n k i n g o f t h e W e s t , its specific p r o d u c t - a n
original one, admittedly, but in the end no m o r e exportable than any h o m e - g r o w n
p r o d u c t . A n d yet, this is h o w t h e J a p a n e s e see it, as a specific, W e s t e r n feature; a n d ,
far f r o m s i g n i n g up to an abstract c o n c e p t , they, by a s t r a n g e twist, relativize o u r
universal a n d i n c o r p o r a t e i t i n t o t h e i r singularity.

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universalization o c c u r r e d at the top. d e m o c racy. w h i c h is a fine d e a t h . a n e l e v a t i o n t o t h e d e g r e e z e r o o f value. t h e i r m a x i m u m e n t r o p y . D e g r e e X e r o x o f value. w h i c h i s a n i g n o b l e d e a t h . w h e r e a s we are d y i n g f r o m t h e loss of all s i n g u larity. T h e i r e x p a n s i o n c o r r e s p o n d s t o t h e i r w e a k e s t d e f i n i t i o n . F o r t h e w o r l d w i d e b r o a d c a s t i n g 32. E v e r y c u l t u r e w h i c h universalizes itself loses its s i n g u l a r i t y a n d dies away. . Today. It is t h e t r i u m p h of la pensee unique o v e r universal thought. p o r n o g r a p h y . w i t h o u t g a u g i n g t h e m o r t a l d a n g e r that p r o m o t i o n r e p r e s e n t s : far r a t h e r t h a n a n e l e v a t i o n . alternatively. t h e universal p e r i s h e s i n g l o b a l i z a t i o n . b u t it is also h o w it is w i t h o u r s i n its p r e t e n s i o n t o universality. T h e editor of Le Monde diplomatique has defined it as 'the translation into ideological terms . I n fact. of the interests of a set of e c o n o m i c forces. T h i s i s h o w i t i s w i t h h u m a n r i g h t s . in particular those of international capital' (Ignacio R a m o n e t . 490. Le Monde diplomatique. as Utopia. i t h a p p e n s a t t h e b o t t o m . i n o t h e r w o r d s . T h e difference i s that t h e o t h e r s d i e d o f t h e i r singularity. T h i s is h o w it is w i t h t h o s e we h a v e d e s t r o y e d by t h e i r e n f o r c e d assimilation.S C R E E N E D O U T E v e r y c u l t u r e w o r t h y o f t h e n a m e c o m e s t o g r i e f i n t h e universal. b y a n e u t r a l i z a t i o n o f values d u e t o t h e i r p r o l i f e r a t i o n a n d indefinite e x t e n s i o n . f r o m t h e e x t e r m i n a t i o n o f all o u r values. I n E n l i g h t e n m e n t times. O n c e it is t u r n e d i n t o a reality. In c u l t u r a l t e r m s . W e b e l i e v e t h e fate o f e v e r y value i s t o b e elevated t o universality. ceases to exist as s u c h . 3 2 W h a t first b e c o m e s globalized is t h e m a r k e t . t h e p r o m i s c u i t y of all e x c h a n g e s a n d p r o d u c t s . It implies a single-track t h i n k i n g of the kind o n c e referred to in Britain by the acronym T I N A ('There is no alternative'). t h e d y n a m i c of t h e universal as t r a n s c e n d e n c e . . 'La pensee u n i q u e ' . January 1995). T h e g l o b a l i z a t i o n of t r a d e p u t s an e n d to t h e universality of values. as ideal g o a l . it is t h e p r o m i s c u i t y of all signs a n d values or. 'La pensee unique' has in recent years b e c o m e o n e of the watchwords of French political dis- cussion. by an u p w a r d progress i o n . e t c . t h a t process r e p r e s e n t s a r e d u c t i o n or. no. 156 . t h e p e r p e t u a l flow of m o n e y .

A t any rate.a k i n d of rejection n o t o n l y of t h e f a m o u s global t e c h n o s t r u c t u r e .S C R E E N E D O U T a n d p a r a d i n g o f a n y t h i n g a n d e v e r y t h i n g over t h e n e t w o r k s i s p o r n o g r a p h y . in t h e fragments of this b r o k e n m i r r o r . T h e o n e s w e t h o u g h t t h r e a t e n e d s u r vive. T h e increasingly intense resistances to globalization — social a n d political resistances. t h e o n e s w e t h o u g h t h a d d i s a p p e a r e d revive. G i v e n all this. for u s t h e m i r r o r of t h e u n i v e r s a l is s h a t t e r e d (we c a n . o r b e e n h o n o u r e d a n y w h e r e b u t i n official m o r a l i t i e s . all t h e singularities r e .have to be seen as h a r b o u r i n g an o r i g i n a l defiant r e a c t i o n to t h e sway of t h e universal. T h i s r e s u r g e n c e — or e v e n i n s u r r e c t i o n — of singularity m a y assume 157 .like oil or capital. b u t of t h e m e n t a l s t r u c t u r e of t h e identification of all cultures a n d all c o n t i n e n t s in t h e c o n c e p t of t h e universal. q u i t e r e m a r k a b l e i n this c o n n e c t i o n .e m e r g e . A k i n d o f painful revisionism i n respect of t h e established positions of m o d e r n i t y . directly c o m b i n i n g t h e singular (the p o w e r o f ritual) w i t h t h e global (virtual p o w e r ) . w e m a y ask o u r s e l v e s w h e t h e r t h e universal has n o t already s u c c u m b e d t o its o w n critical mass. o n c e again. N o n e e d for sexual o b s c e n i t y . for. d e s p i t e w h a t i s said. in fact. S o m e t h i n g w h i c h goes b e y o n d t h e e c o n o m i c a n d t h e political. J a p a n has a c h i e v e d its (technical. this i n t e r a c t i v e c o p u l a t i o n suffices. in respect of t h e idea of progress a n d history . T h e case o f J a p a n is. t e c h n i c a l success. B u t p e r h a p s this is f o r t u n a t e .s e r v i c e p a i d t o it. W e m a y e v e n s u p p o s e t h a t i t was a s a result o f n o t b e i n g e n c u m b e r e d b y t h e universal t h a t i t has h a d s u c h global. w h i c h m a y s e e m like an archaic r e j e c t i o n of m o d e r n i t y at all costs . see in this s o m e t h i n g like t h e m i r r o r . A t t h e e n d o f this process t h e r e i s n o l o n g e r any difference b e t w e e n t h e global a n d t h e universal. b u t has d o n e so without passing through the universal (the succession of b o u r g e o i s ideologies a n d f o r m s of political e c o n o m y ) a n d w i t h o u t l o s i n g a n y t h i n g o f its singularity. a n d i f i t has ever h a d a n y t h i n g b u t l i p . e c o n o m i c a n d financial) g l o b a l i z a t i o n b e t t e r t h a n a n y o t h e r c o u n t r y .s t a g e of h u m a n i t y ) . T h e universal itself i s g l o b a l i z e d : d e m o c r a c y a n d h u m a n r i g h t s circulate like a n y o t h e r global p r o d u c t .

i m p u g n s a s a n e x c e p t i o n o r a n o m a l y ) . I f w e will n o t u n d e r s t a n d this. c u l t u r e s . b u t also. as t r i u m p h a n t g l o b a l i z a t i o n s w e e p s away all differences a n d all values. o n e can see t h a t n o n e o f w h a t has b e e n sacrificed to this c o n c e p t has really disappeared. N o w . in fact. B u t it w o u l d be a basic e r r o r (the v e r y e r r o r o n e sees e m e r g i n g i n t h e m o r a l o r c h e s t r a t i o n o f t h e politically c o r r e c t disc o u r s e c o m m o n t o all t h e p o w e r s . against t h a t abstract u n i v e r sality (and this includes t h e frantic a n t a g o n i s m of Islam to W e s t e r n values: it is because it is t h e m o s t v e h e m e n t protest against this W e s t e r n globalization that Islam t o d a y is public e n e m y n u m b e r o n e ) . b u t also c h a n c e .b e a n d t o m a n y 'intellectuals') t o c o n d e m n all these u p s u r g e s o u t o f h a n d a s populist. irrational aspects from t h e v i e w p o i n t o f ' e n l i g h t e n e d ' t h o u g h t it m a y take e t h n i c . 158 . i n d i v i d u a l s a n d c h a r a c t e r s . at t h e individual level. m a y find expression in character disorders or n e u r o s e s . It has simply g o n e u n d e r g r o u n d . t h e universality o f values a n d t h e singularity o f f o r m s (languages.p o i n t w h i c h has.d i f f e r e n t ( u n ) c u l t u r e .t h a t . We have before us a c o m p l e x t h r e e . T h a t Utopia has fallen apart t o d a y a n d its deep-level dislocation is a d v a n c i n g e v e n m o r e q u i c k l y t h a n its c o n s o l i d a t i o n by force. H o w e v e r . i n k e e p i n g w i t h its law. E v e n i n o u r societies w h i c h are a c c u l t u r a t e d t o t h e universal. b e e n lost sight of in t h e m e a n t i m e .p o i n t — an e n d . E v e r y t h i n g w h i c h constitutes an event t o d a y is d o n e against t h e universal. t h e s i t u a t i o n c h a n g e s a n d b e c o m e s m o r e radical. u s h e r i n g in a perfectly i n . in a universal c u l t u r e of difference.S C R E E N E D O U T v i o l e n t . a n o m a l o u s . t h e n w e will b e c a u g h t u p in an endless a n d pointless w r a n g l e b e t w e e n a universal t h o u g h t assured of its p o w e r a n d g o o d c o n s c i e n c e a n d a n ever greater n u m b e r o f implacable singularities. archaic o r e v e n terroristic.all t h a t t h e universal. S o l o n g a s t h e y c o u l d assert t h e m s e l v e s a s m e d i a t i n g values. e t c . a c c i d e n t . . t h e y w e r e ( m o r e or less well) able to i n t e g r a t e t h e singularities as differences. a s universal values lose s o m e o f t h e i r a u t h o r i t y a n d legitimacy.t e r m arrangement: there is the globalization o f e x c h a n g e s . A n d w h a t i s n o w r u n n i n g b a c k w a r d s i s a w h o l e self-styled progressive history. religious or linguistic f o r m s . a w h o l e e v o l u t i o n i s m crystallized on its e n d .

B u t today. b e i n g m e r e l y t h e p h a n t o m s o f a v a n i s h e d universal. I n t h e face o f its h o m o g e n i z i n g . A n d o n c e t h e universal has disappeared.this latter b e i n g c a u g h t u p i n t h e s a m e d e r e g u l a t i o n a n d h a v i n g barely a n y m o r e s u b s t a n c e t o i t t h a n i n t e l l e c t u a l o r m o r a l p o w e r .n a i l revolt o f singularities o n t h e o t h e r . h o w e v e r . T h e universal has h a d its h i s t o r i c a l c h a n c e . b u t antagonistic and irreducible. t h e stakes h a v e risen. a n d g l o b a l i z a t i o n isn't certain t o b e t h e w i n n e r . finally settled. forces w h i c h are n o t o n l y different. d e m o c r a c y a n d h u m a n r i g h t s c u t a v e r y p a l e figure i n d e e d . A n d i t i s h a r d t o i m a g i n e t h e universal r i s i n g f r o m its ashes o r t o b e l i e v e t h a t t h i n g s can b e s o r t e d o u t b y t h e m e r e play o f politics . M a t t e r s are n o t . all t h a t r e m a i n s i s t h e a l l . w e c a n see h e t e r o g e n e o u s forces s p r i n g i n g u p all over.a n d .S C R E E N E D O U T t h e y can n o l o n g e r d o this. t h e c o n c e p t s o f liberty. solvent p o w e r . 18 March 159 1996 .p o w e r f u l global t e c h n o s t r u c t u r e s t a n d i n g o v e r against t h e singularities w h i c h h a v e r e v e r t e d t o t h e w i l d state a n d b e e n t h r o w n b a c k o n t h e i r o w n d e v i c e s . e v e n if it is n o w all up w i t h universal values. I n t h e v o i d left b y t h e universal. c o n f r o n t e d w i t h a n e w w o r l d order to w h i c h there is no alternative. w i t h an irrevocable globalization on t h e o n e h a n d a n d t h e w a y w a r d drift o r t o o t h .