Understanding Local Responses to Globalisation: The Production of Geographical Scale and Political Identity
A common perception persists that local responses to globalisation are inherently fundamentalist in nature. The purpose of this essay is to critique two recently published best-selling books that propound this argument. In Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman argues that the globalisation of capitalism is an intrinsically democratic process, which has nonetheless sparked local, fundamentalist reactions. Benjamin Barber argues in Jihad versus McWorld, that democracy, rooted at the scale of the nation-state, is being undermined from above by a globalising consumer culture, and from below by a fundamentalist backlash to globalisation. The Lexus/McWorld versus Olive Tree/Jihad framework therefore implies that local identity-based responses to globalisation are always regressive in nature. This binary division is inadequate because it ignores the many examples of progressive community responses that have also occurred. This essay argues that by adopting a social theory of geographic scale, we can recognise that that nature of local responses to globalisation is a geographically and ideologically open question. The essay concludes by examining three identity-based communities in the US, Canada and Spain to show how they used cooperatives to progressively articulate with the capitalist world economy, while retaining their local identities and attachment to place.