Lecture 3: The Global Imaginary

Globalization Pros and Cons

  • McLuhan and the Global Village (pros)
  • Mumford and the Pentagon of Power (cons)
  • Sen (it’s not globalization’s fault)
  • Technological vs. Social Determinism

The Imaginary

  • Appadurai: Imagination is a social fact, a staging ground for action. This refers to when people write and think about globalization through their imagination for the better of the society. Thus, action comes forward afterwards
  • The role of the imaginary in defining
  • Ourselves
  • Others
  • An emerging, global imaginary?
  • How do we conceive the imaginary?
  • The imaginary: Deep-seated modes of understanding that provide general parameters within which people imagine their communal existence
  • Imaginary as a term is appropriate because culture has become over-saturated with meanings. Thus, Strauss at the beginning of her work clearly states that culture or culture knowledge can be seen as the imaginary

Approaches of the Imaginary

  • Jacques Lacan: A French psychoanalyst who was heavily influenced by both Freud and Marx.
  • Lacan argued that in order to understand the imaginary, it has to been seen from the individual perception, which consists of three orders:
  • The Imaginary: The imaginary is false identification of things. The imaginary is a being that has never been anything more than his construct in the imaginary and that this construct disappoints all of his certainties (Ex. Facebook posts that consist of image crafting to produce a false version of selves. Dave Smith posted as his status: Guess who got into Med School! OR another example where you post a picture of a healthy salad to show others that you are a healthy person. Thus, you are displaying an imaginary self)
  • Similar to Marx, he is speaking of alienation of the self
  • Why do people do it? It allows them to craft a social status and be viewed in a positive and viewed in a positive light
  • The Symbolic: Symbols that distort reality
  • The Real: The actual object, real world that can be perceived by individuals

Defining ‘Eh’ Nation

  • What does it mean to be Canadian? Being Canadian is associated with multiple features such as ice hockey, Tim Hortons, diverse, freedom, health benefits, maple syrup, cold weather and so forth

Cornelius Castoriadis

  • Castoriadis was a Greek philosopher and economist
  • He extended the imaginary to the society/institution. He argued that people share a ‘social imaginary’ and specific social groups view society in a certain way

Benedict Anderson

  • Anderson was a political scientist who viewed imaginary on the level of nations
  • He argued that nations are the result of ‘imagined communities’ and they come together through media

Charles Taylor

  • A Canadian philosopher who borrowed from Anderson’s work but he is not interested in nations
  • Taylor argued that our social imaginary can be seen in daily life through average people and the practices they engage with
  • But who is ‘we’?
  • Enter Strauss and cultural models theory

Is There a Global Imaginary?

  • The global imaginary is created through the compress of time and space creating a global imaginary
  • The global imaginary is flattening geographical boundaries. Thus, there is the existence of a postnational imagination

Destabilizing the National

  • We are entering a postnational state
  • Transnational terrorist networks
  • Global pandemics
  • Global climate change
  • Global sports fan clubs
  • Thus, the world is getting smaller due to the existence of a global village

Politics of Optimism

  • Massey argues that we live in a virtual world which overcomes the burden of geography. Post-modern times have reached a new stage, or in other words, a new phenomenon called time-space compression
  • Time-space compression refers to movement and communication across space, to the geographical stretching-out of social relations, and to peoples’ experience of all this. The usual interpretation is that it results overwhelmingly from the actions of capital, and from its currently-increasing internationalisation (Ex. Jumbos have enabled Korean computer consultants to fly to Silicon Valley as if popping next door, and Singaporean entrepreneurs to reach Seattle in a day. Thus the borders of the world’s greatest ocean have been joined as never before due to time-space compression)
  • Power-geometry: Caused by time-space compression, in which different social groups, and different individuals are placed in very distinct ways in relation to the different flows and interconnections
  • Some initiate flows and movement, others don’t (Ex. There are jet-setters who send and receive the faxes and the e-mail, hold international conference calls, distribute the films, control the news, organize the investments and the international transactions. These are the groups who are really in a sense in charge of time-space compression, who can really use it and turn it to advantage, whose power and influence it very definitely increases)
  • In contrast, there are groups who do a lot of physical moving, but are not ‘in charge’ of the process in the same way at all (Ex. The refugees from El Salvador or Guatemala and the undocumented migrant workers from Michoacán in Mexico, crowding into Tijuana to make a perhaps fatal dash for it across the border into the US to grab a chance of a new life. The experience of movement here is completely different from those in charge of time-space compression)
  • Thus, with the existence of a power-geometry due to time-space compression, there is differential mobility where some people move more than others and some groups have control of time-space compression
  • However, time-space compression has led to consequences as well. It is involved in producing and reproducing the daily lives of the comfortably-off in First World societies, not just their own travel but the resources they draw on, from all over the world, to feed their lives. May entail environmental consequences, or hit constraints, which will limit the lives of others before their own
  • Negroponte: The post-information age will remove the limitations of geography
  • Geography and space are always a burden in a society where people are obsessed with speed with the increasing existence of technology
  • Furthermore, physical proximity is not a good measure of social and cultural distance (Massey) (Ex. Toronto vs. Montreal)
  • Massey points out a particular problem with the conception of place. It seems to require the drawing of boundaries. He argues that a sense of place cannot be defined by geographical boundaries because this approach is static/reactionary
  • Another problem is that there is a consistent notion of identifying place with ‘community’. For Massey, this is false, because communities can exist without being in the same place, from networks of friends with like interests, to major religious, ethnic or political communities
  • Massey concludes that economic, political and cultural social relations are each full of power and with internal structures of domination and subordination, stretched out over the planet at every different level, from the household to the local area to the international. From this perspective, what gives a place its specificity is not some long internalised history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular set of social relations. Instead of thinking of places as areas with boundaries around, Massey views each place as a meeting place which links to the wider world
  • Each place is the focus of a distinct mixture of wider and more local social relations. They do not have to be viewed as boundaries which frame simple enclosures, especially when we are conceptualizing a place


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