Globalization under Interrogation:
Yahya M. Madra and Jack Amariglio
The term "globalization" is a terrain of struggle. It is a term that has shown up decisively and emphatically in the anticapitalist demonstrations that have taken place this past year in the United States, from Seattle to Washington. It is also a term that has enlivened many similar actions in Europe and of course, and perhaps fundamentally, throughout much of the non-Western world, as "globalization" has joined such related terms as "postcolonialism" in framing theoretical and practical movements on all continents against the policies of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and international capitalist corporations. And, yet, it is also a term of endearment for many within exactly these same (often reviled by the Left) institutions. "Going global" has inspired investment and development endeavors as much as it has had a certain "utopian" implication in discussions of a world (and diverse peoples) getting closer, all the while (supposedly) expanding human possibilities.
For the Left, this term, of course, is fraught with myriad problems even though many leftists have found it convenient and even inspirational as a rallying cry against a purported (and sometimes identifiable) global foe, as we saw in Seattle and Washington. Yet, the term globalization has also displaced older notions, such as "imperialism" and "colonialism," that inspired previous generations and movements and whose genealogy can be traced at least partly within Marxist and other left discourses during the past century and a half. This displacement remains to be accounted for, and also remains to be evaluated in terms of what was limiting but also illuminating and stirring for movements that saw the international spread of  capitalism as their primary adversary. Globalization as a term has been applauded and used precisely because it has avoided some of the Marxist and even Leninist implications of the older terms. Yet, it has also been a concept around which leftists have rethought the whole issue of the putatively inexorable expansion of capitalism. Such a rethinking has often focused on the kinds of "uneven developments" and strategies of resistance in culture, politics, and even economics that earlier generations of Marxian theorists mostly gestured at but were unable or unwilling to delineate. Thus, the status of globalization as a useful concept for the Marxian left remains something deeply in need of interrogation. This is a project that requires placing it among the foremost issues on a left agenda, and certainly for this journal, dedicated as it has been from its inception to "rethinking" Marxism in light of its own past. Hence we have initiated a series with the title "Globalization under Interrogation."
When we first thought of this series, being launched in this issue with Arif Dirliks meditative and important essay, we deliberately steered away from loading the term with too many preexisting meanings. In particular, as Arif Dirlik does in his essay, we thought it would be incumbent upon contributors to this series to distinguish between the representations of globalization as an actual process and globalization as, itself, a particular kind of representation. This was not because we disbelieve that globalization is a complex and overdetermined process with material consequences on the lives of the exploited and oppressed multitudes. On the contrary, we believe that as a conjunctural configuration of various historical processes, globalization deserves the close scrutiny of all those who are committed to a project of deepening the democratic revolutions worldwide and, in particular, of transforming the exploitative forms of appropriation of surplus labor into collective forms. However, we also believe that such a theoretical project and the political practices that might flow out of it should be prefaced by questioning the very politics of the constitution of our object of analysisnamely, globalization as a representation as such. In our preliminary view (which we hope will inform many of the contributions to our series), each discourse that meditates on globalization articulates it within a particular chain of historically identifiable and operational signifiers. In each articulation, the meaning of globalization shifts and retains a new significance. We believe that a Marxist and materialist investigation of this sign(ifier) of our times should begin by recognizing the differential investments made by particular discourses (and those advocating on their behalf) that (or who) are theorizing it. Rather than simply beginning our interrogations by assuming that globalization is an ontological given (or at least is indisputable as the name for the contemporary "real"), our hope is to use this series to discern the particular and different ways in which the term "globalization" is conceptualized and the possible material consequences of each and every different conceptualization. We believe that through such a recognition of the performative dimension of all discourses on globalization and the important differences that attend the present proliferation of such discourses, we may be able to keep our distance from the multiplicity of representations of globalization that constrain, rather  than expand, the realm of the possible for those who feel "globalization" (or something like it) perhaps as a force upon their bodies.
What appears to us to be common to many of the prevalent discourses on globalizationand a main reason for us to want as Marxists to interrogate the termis the constitution of globalization as representing a historical process which, significantly, is thought to limit the possibilities and effectivities of left politics (for exceptions see Hirst and Thompson 1996; Gibson-Graham 1996; Hardt and Negri 2000). These representations often construct a chain of equivalences where globalization lines up with capitalism, capitalism with world markets, world markets with "the economy," and "the economy" with historically mandated necessity. This chain of equivalences has, as one effect, the sedimentation of globalization as the necessary ontological ground on which the Left should operate and navigate. Consequently, this imaginary of globalization as the realm of the necessary shapes the space of politics in such a way that a wide variety of social transformations that could be offered as "alternatives" are foreclosed from the outset as impossible. Such significations of globalization, while often put forward as an attempt to make clear just who or what exactly "the enemy" is, serve paradoxically to block any attempt to radically question the existing state of affairs, as the "possible" and desirable run up against the "necessary" and all-encompassing.
It is our hope in inaugurating this series that contributors will instruct us as to how to question the existing state of affairs through a rigorous questioning of the representations of the complex and overdetermined process of globalization. A productive and perhaps even deconstructive engagement with the very process through which globalization has been constituted as an object of analysis for the Left will, we hope, open up the possibilities of reading the current conjuncture otherwise: not as a regime of necessity but as the proliferation of "real" possibilities. Among other aspects of such an alternative reading, we hope that it will enable a different take on the realm of "the economy"the quintessential referent these days to global necessityas a sphere that is constituted through and through by the political and the cultural, often thought to be "contingent" and recessive in the face of the economically mandatory. Perhaps such fresh readings will denaturalize the economy as the always/already in place "foundation" of globalization, and enable us to envision previously uninscribed ways to assert alternative modes of production, class structures, and political arrangements though novel strategies that frontally engage with globalization as a process.
These are our hopes. Let the series begin.
Gibson-Graham, J. K. 1996. The end of capitalism (as we knew it): A feminist critique of political economy. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hardt, M., and A. Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Hirst, P. Q., and G. Thompson. 1996. Globalization in question: The international economy and the possibilities of governance. Oxford: Blackwell.