‘Globalisation’ is too a simple a concept. The term is commonly perceived in economic terms, resulting in an anthropocentric view on the subject.
This essay’s aim is to integrate non-human agency in the debate. To pursue this aim it will work its way from the anthropocentric view, based on economic Globalisation, into the non-human space. The current dominance of economic affairs in the realm of social organization, as well as the still all too present financial crisis, justify this approach.
The essay unfolds as follows: first, Cochrane and Pain’s concept of Globalisation as three-dimensional process is introduced. Here the importance of flows will be touched upon the first time. The economic dimension then serves as foundation for an outline of the importance of human created financial flows in creating territory and driver of Globalisation.
Afterwards, the essay proceeds into the non-human realm. The complex struggle over territorial dominance of human and non-human forces on the Antarctic continent, serves as illustration of the power of non human forces to drive Globalisation.
Works of Sassen and Gould underpin arguments in both paragraphs.
In conclusion a picture of Globalisation as complex interplay between various kinds of flows, on territory in motion, should emerge. This also makes clear that, while the term ‘Globalisation’ is a human invention, the actual phenomenon is not.
In order to appreciate the complexity of Globalisation, its multi-dimensionality must be recognized. Cochrane and Pain describe cultural, political and economic dimensions (Cochrane and Pain, 2004, p. 15). They permeate each other. These dimensions are increasingly homogenized as connectivity among territories and peoples intensifies across the globe (Clark, 2008, p. 16). This increased interconnectivity consists of:
1) stretched social relations;
2) intensification of flows;
3) increasing interpenetration;
4) global infrastructure (Cochrane and Pain, 2004, p. 15).
The first two characters are of particular importance for this essay.
At the core of increased connectivity is the intensification of flows – quantitative as well as qualitative, brought about by a revolution in telecommunications and air travel technology. These technologies in their materialized forms (cables, planes) serve as mediums for the transportation of flows. The digitizing of flows transforms ideas and especially finances into immaterial digits, which make them “hypermobile” (Sassen, 2004, p. 97), i.e. transportable across boundaries of nation-states, time and space. Sociologist Saskia Sassen has done important work on human-produced digitized flows in the financial world.
One of her key observation is the consolidation of financial centres in a connected world. This is due, she argues, to the importance of social connectivity in information exchange (Sassen, 2004, p. 98). These consolidated financial centres are to be seen as territories specialized in channeling financial flows, present within the boundaries of networked nation-states; sending capital in digitized form via telecommunications technologies, across the globe into distant territory. The networked nation-state possesses the political, financial and technological means to provide for communications infrastructure, which embed it in and expose it to infinite communication flows. Recent cyber attacks on government infrastructure support this claim. Furthermore, the networked nation-state in this context refers to an entity with clearly defined and mutually recognized – sovereign – physical borders. Networked nation-states of this kind are predominantly located in industrialized and industrializing countries (Silverstone, 2008, p. 71). Sassen observes further that there is specialization of labour among the dominant centres (Sassen, 2004, p. 100). This way, financial flows are dispersed more efficiently and yield higher returns when brought back into the proximity of the centre. Actual profits, however, are kept at a distance from the grip of the tax system. Thus, territories, such as the Cayman Islands, are primarily identified with tax saving schemes, and are regulated and administered (i.e., made) according to the needs of such schemes (Pryke, 2008, p. 83; Deutsche Bank, , in Pryke, 2008, p. 82), because the financial flows of economic Globalisation have dominant impact. This relationship often mirrors colonial structures and a master and servant relationship, as tax havens usually have no power in deciding where to send capital flows (Pryke, 2008, p. 86).
When referred to Cochrane and Pain that increasing economic interconnectivity is an integral dimension of contemporary Globalisation; it can be observed that human agency is a prime driver of the phenomenon. The importance of territory in form of the networked nation-state when it comes to managing financial flows should be kept in mind as the next section complexifies relations between territory and flow.