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The dominance of globalization and terrorism: Jean Baudrillard's argument on 'unequal returns'
In the essay "The Violence of the Global," social scientist Jean Baudrillard argued and analyzed about the emergence of terrorism and its gradual prevalence in the period of globalization. In analyzing the current state of socio-political affairs among nations of the world, he came to the conclusion that the prevalence of terrorism was directly linked with globalization. Globalization, meanwhile, was also linked to the universalization of virtues and norms that have prevailed in modern society, specifically American society, for centuries. Universalization, globalization, and terrorism were thus linked together through Baudrillard's theory on 'unequal returns,' an occurrence throughout the human history that eventually led to a violent response, thereby resulting to wars and in the case of the present period, terrorism.
Baudrillard's discourse posits two important generalizations relating the three concepts enumerated earlier (universalization, globalization, and terrorism). The first assertion that he claimed was that the death, or rather, the suicide of universalization was due to the emergence and eventual dominance of globalization in the modern to post-modern societies. The second assertion that he discussed in the essay was that, due to the 'unequal return' of the opportunities given to the West by the Enlightenment -- that is, usage of these positive effects of the Enlightenment and modernism without giving these benefits to other societies in return -- societies that have learned to cultivate an anti-universal social culture have later resorted to acts of violence against United States through terrorism.
In analyzing these two assertions presented by Baudrillard, it is essential to discuss how the age of Enlightenment is linked to the emergence of both universalization and globalization. Baudrillard connects the Enlightenment to universalization based on the principles that composes the latter -- "human rights, liberty, culture, and democracy." These important concepts associated with the Enlightenment gave birth to modernism, the period wherein unparalleled intellectual and social developments occurred. The Enlightenment contributed to the emergence of universalization of norms and virtues because it established human rights, liberty, culture, and democracy as the foundation of new modern societies that developed after the 19th century. Without these concepts, societies would not have developed and become what they are at present. Thus, the Enlightenment is inevitably linked with the emergence of globalization in the 20th century towards the present time.
Because of the reflexive relationship between the Enlightenment and globalization, the social order established in the period of globalization -- the period wherein capitalism became the dominant socio-economic society -- is characterized as also believing in the promise of human rights, liberty, culture, and freedom of humanity. However, Baudrillard noted that despite the prevalence of this social order (prevalence of these concepts) in the period of globalization, it was basically the development of globalization that led to the death of universalization, and in effect, the principles of the Enlightenment. As argued by Baudrillard, "[a]ny culture that becomes universal loses its singularity and dies," reflecting the fact that this event had already happened in the case of the present society, which was generally considered as modern and harbored beliefs on equality, individual rights, and free will.
What was exactly the nature of a globalized society that made it inevitable for universalization to 'die'? For Baudrillard, universalization's death can be attributed to the "violence of the global," the prevalence of a "perfectly indifferent culture." Catalysts for the development of this 'indifferent culture' were the propagation of extant ideologies that have not been disseminated or known before, but are now extant to all societies with the help of new computer technologies. With the development of technologies that made information management and communication faster and easier, extant ideologies such as the Muslim culture, as cited by the author, became known and have found a place and role in the 'universal society,' where all extant societies belong.
What led to the death of universalization, said Baudrillard, was due to the 'death of singularities,' the occurrence wherein dichotomies are no longer present and existing. This happened in human history, wherein the modern society that preceded the birth of globalization led to the emergence of a post-modern society, wherein equal values were given to all societies and cultures in the world. Thus, in the period of globalization, cultures are neither high nor low, better nor worse.…[continue]
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