Models of Globalization The first four meetings of the Interdisciplinary Scientific Seminar “Octav Onicescu”
By the end of June 2017, when the seminar on “Marxist mathematical economics” was wrapping up, I announced a plan to organize a scientific seminar on “Models of globalization”, and I expoused its basic themes. It extends the economic study from the national to the supranational (of international organizations) and global levels, as was the obvious progression of inquiries. In September, after consulting with potential participants and especially professor Emil Dinga (director of the Seminary “N. Georgescu-Roegen”, of Logic and Methodology of Economics), a plan of organization and a list of reviewers and reports were established. Hence, on the 28th of September 2017, I was able to publish online the purpose, the organization and the program of the seminar, which was described as “interdisciplinary”. Latter on, under the approval of the participants, it was named “Octav Onicescu”, because he was an important promoter of interdisciplinary studies and the seminar was housed by the Institute for Mathematical Statistics and Applied Mathematics, of the Romanian Academy, which bears his name. I also managed for the seminars (together the discussions) to be recorded and published on youtube,com and to be broadcast live, through Skype.
In the beginning, 25 researchers and university professors (for various sciences) expressed their desire to participate; later on, another four joined them. On October 10th, 24 of them participated in the inauguration seminar, together with Mr. Constantin Marin, Director of the Center for Financial and Monetary Research “Victor Slăvescu” (of the Romanian Academy), which hosted the meeting in its council hall. Here follows a sketch of the inauguration speeches and, after that, the reports of the following three seminars.
In the opening speech, I stated that our seminar should be an interdisciplinary one, as an economic seminar on the same theme was organized by the Institute of World Economy (of the Academy). Surely, we are interested to have an exchange of opinions with its members. Globalization could be defined as a process of extending economy, policy, society and culture across the borders of states and groups of states. Such a process has existed for a long time, but an important problem concerning its last period is whether there is only a simple amplification of existing trends or whether new features emerged. Certainly, economic globalization and the activity of multinational companies are the most visible, striking and – perhaps – shocking. Are they the single important factor of the global transformations? How much have they changed the world configuration? Have the interacting components and dimensions of the globalization led to changes of these parts and, consequently, to new properties of the whole, and which are unpredictable when starting from the previous properties of its parts?
Globalization must not consist in spreading and enforcing a prefabricated standard model of society (that is, the Western one), but in achieving a whole which does not abolish the differences of its components. Its parts must to improve their qualities, by interaction and reciprocal knowledge, leading to a richer and more harmonious unity.
The search for an answer to these questions and problems requires an interdisciplinary approach to the study of globalization. I tried to assemble persons not only from different sciences, but having collateral concerns, other than the basic ones. In such a way, it could be easier to build up a common language and method for all participants, which otherwise possess, perhaps, only specialized languages and research methods. Such a reciprocal understanding was already achieved, to some degree, since a part of the participants to our seminar are also members of the “Roegen” seminar (where problems of almost all sciences were discussed). The problem of the “quarrel of methods” (Methodenstreit), in natural and social sciences, is still lasting from the 19th century, but there are such debates even within particular sciences. So is the question of the mathematization of economics. In order to facilitate our understanding, I recommended to the referents to avoid, as much as possible, the usage of mathematics (although I am a mathematician). On the other hand, we wish that the participants will express, without any reserve (as at the “Roegen” seminar), their objections to the content of the reports, since only an open debate can lead to an increased knowledge of truth.
Concerning the rules of functioning, the meetings are open to anybody and will be held bimonthly, Thursday, at 5pm, and each will contain two reports. To stimulate the discussion and confrontation of ideas, they will present, generally, a subject shown from different or even opposite points of view. These reports will be transmitted to participants 7 days earlier, to be studied and to allow for objections on a sound basis. The authors may use some of their previously published papers, keeping the intellectual rights of the reports, and may publish them as they wish. However, we plan to collect the texts (after each semester and subject to the authors’ approval) in an electronic volume which will be published. On this purpose, the reports should have some common rules of writing. At the end of our annual cycle of seminars, we hope to find a publisher for all the texts (perhaps improved and/or increased).
This year, the content of the reports will be mostly informative, to apprise the participants of each science regarding the research in other domains. The burden of the reports will lay mostly, by the force of things, on the coordinator of the seminar and on Mr. Dinga. However, we wish that the seminar will have, starting with the following year, a more qualified bearing, by presenting scientific papers issued from the original scientific research of the individual or collective participants (grouped by spontaneous preferences, around a common concern, and using an interdisciplinary approach).
For the time being, the ensemble may be divided, using the scientific specialty, in 8 groups, organized in reverse order based on the number of their members (to each member, we added his collateral concerns):
1) economics (11): Professor Emil Dinga (philosophy, literature, politics), Professor Valentin Cojan (philosophy and history of economy, editor of The Journal of Philosophical Economics), Associate Professor Octavian-Dragomir Jora (geo-economics and geopolitics, journalism, editor of journals OEconomica and The Market for Ideas), as well as 8 members of the seminar “Roegen” (associate professor Mariana Trandafir, Gabriela Ionescu and PhD students: Mirel Berechet, Sorinel Ionel Bucur, Monica Dutcaș, Gabriela Iordache, Patrick Ștefan Mehedințeanu, lecturer Dr. Cătălin Munteanu);
2) political sciences (6): Lecturer Aurel Giugăl (electoral geography, political ideologies, economics, cinema), Aassistant Silviu Petre (sociology, economy, cinema), Dr. Dan Alexandru Chiță (philology, philosophy, political economy, literature), Dr. Alexandru Racu (philosophy, theology, politics), PhD candidate Irina Iacovoiu (history, foreign languages), Radu Pătrașcu (security and information analysis, geopolitics, war analysis, economics);
3) mathematics (4): Professor Gheorghiță Zbăganu (philosophy, politics, economics), Professor Alexandru Popovici (computer sciences, economics, physics, biology, philosophy, history, literature), main researcher Dr. Voicu Boșcaiu (medicine, biology), Dr. Sorin Baiculescu (philosophy, biology, computer sciences);
4) journalism and communication sciences (2): Associate Professor Maria Cernat (philosophy, sociology, politics) Vladimir Mitev (politics, economy, editor of Baricada.org platform and of the Romanian-Bulgarian Podul prieteniei [Friendship Bridge] blog;
5) electronic engineering (2): Professor Adrian Mihalache (reliability, economics, cyberculture, literature, theatre, editor of Lettre Internationale magazine), Răsvan Stănescu (computer sciences, quality management);
6) human sciences (1): Professor Claude Karnoouh (physics, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, politics);
7) physics (1): Associate Professor dr. Francisc Dionisie Aaron (philosophy, history);
8) philosophy (1): Assistant Dr. Mihai Iuliu Novac (logic, ontology, epistemology, plastic arts).
It is important that all these persons meet together not for financial or political purposes, but by a common orientation toward a complex field of research. We are not funded by anybody, and we are independent of any administrative, economic or political power. Our political views are different, but we have decided that we will not promote some party ideology. When we will be concerned with policy, it will be from a scientific point of view, as we can contribute to the diminishment of black and white, polarizing attitudes.
The elephant in the room
In consequence, globalization would be “the ensemble of the phenomena of a necessary type, of structural nature, with spatial vocation and fractal character, which occurs within a determined time horizon. on a planetary level” (E. Dinga).
Globalization was characterized, by different researchers or political movements, as either a beneficial or harmful phenomenon. I think that, as any social phenomenon, globalization is ambivalent, dialectical. More precisely, as a tendency to the unification of humanity, it is a necessary process, but the ways in which it is attempted are not always the best ones. It is true that, in history, the good final results were frequently achieved by bad means (“the ruse of history”, as Hegel wrote). However, I think that a purpose of the true research is to explore and find the best and painless path to attain this goal, to ensure an equilibrium between the human and the economic optimum.
Globalization must not consist in spreading and enforcing a prefabricated standard model of society (that is, the Western one), but in achieving a whole which does not abolish the differences of its components. Its parts must to improve their qualities, by interaction and reciprocal knowledge, leading to a richer and more harmonious unity. Our leading paradigm could be, perhaps, more than an exercise of collectable “epistemic delights”, as Mr. O. Jora warned, but one in “systemic passion” (joining together effort, suffering and joy), a result of a passion for truth. Let us tend to a total truth, which would synthesize our more or less different views, and could also offer a guide to a practical action of Romania.
Mr. Constantin Marin, the director of the “Victor Slăvescu” Center, offered to host the new seminar, whenever it would be necessary. He underlined the importance of the effects, on the globalization process, of the free circulation of capitals, working power and culture. If Marx said, in “Theses on Feuerbach”, that, until then, the world was interpreted and it was necessary to change it, now we may say that the world changed much and it is necessary to interpret these changes. All voices and results must be turned to account (without party labels) for exploring the globalization perspectives.
Mr. E. Dinga, coordinator of the “Roegen” seminar, showed that the actual globalization is different from internationalization (the latler being a process beginning many centuries ago). An abstract scientific approach to globalization is necessary, which will avoid not only the clichées of thinking, but also the particularities. Nothing but the language of generalities and abstractions could be the common language of the interdisciplinary approach. In this context, the usage of “models” is welcomed, because a theory of globalization must lead and consist in building-up of one- or multi-disciplinary, logical and mathematical models. At least the economists should know and use mathematics in their research.
By examining several proposed definitions, it resulted that globalization would have 7 dimensions (which form a hierarchical, multi-level structure): ecological, technological, economic, social, political-military and cultural (A. A. Popovici).
In the discussions which followed, Mr. C. Karnoouh asserted (alluding to the debate of Noam Chomsky with Michel Foucault) that the generality must still keep the contact with reality, risking otherwise to transform itself in a pure speculation. He reminded that the globalization process began with colonization, which he asserted in one of his books, and proposed to support this hypothesis with a report in a seminar (which was accepted). Mrs. M. Cernat declared that the seminar is welcome both through its topic, and through its extraction of the researchers from the avalanche of administrative problems and of publishing under the pressure of professional promotion. Mr. G. Zbăganu sustained that the mathematical scientific approach is a necessity, and that the scientists must learn one from another. Mr. F. Aron (scientific secretary of CERN-RO) showed that the establishment of the CERN European institute, after the war, was an important step to science globalization.
Nuts and bolts
The second seminar brought together 16 participants and the first report, “Concept and typology into the globalization problem”, presented an economic perspective on the process of globalization, as told by professor E. Dinga. Primarily, he characterized the economic behavior and its specific causality. Related to globalization, he referenced the possible errors in its characterization, the sufficient predicates (inherence, spatiality, fractality, and structurality) and the necessary ones (irreversibility, auto-catalysis, and homogenization) for its definition, the criteria used for classifying this process and the classes which result, and finally – the possible evaluations of globalization. In consequence, globalization would be “the ensemble of the phenomena of a necessary type, of structural nature, with spatial vocation and fractal character, which occurs within a determined time horizon. on a planetary level”.
There is an interaction between the components of a level and the ensemble itself of that level (as a structural level). More than that, an inferior level is conditioning its superior level, while the latter is acting on the former. The degree of freedom and plasticity increases, starting from the microphysical level, to the human one.
In the second report, “Dimensions and concepts of globalization”, I tried a critical overview of some of the most notorious scientific contributions regarding this process. By examining several proposed definitions, it resulted that globalization would have 7 dimensions (which form a hierarchical, multi-level structure): ecological, technological, economic, social, political-military and cultural. Later on, for each of them, I analyzed some of the proposed theories.
Ecological theories (V. Smil, C.S. Southwick, S.E. Jorgensen) studied the interaction between society and biosphere (by historical and structural-dynamical approaches). They correctly showed the consequences of pollution, but exaggerated the climate and natural resource factors. Technological theories (M. McLuhan, M. Castels) referred to the informational technologies (typing, television, computers and networks), but neglected other technologies (energy), perhaps of equal importance.
Toynbee shows that these civilizations were born as a creative answer of human beings, to a major natural or social defiance, and perish when they cannot give an adequate answer to the problems highlighted by their evolution.
Economic theories may be divided into two groups. The continuous-historical theories (F. Braudel, I. Wallersein, C. Chase-Dunn, K. Pomeranz, P. Hirst, S. Strange, B. Eichengreen, G. Soros, J. Stiglitz) contend that the globalization process is linked to the evolution of capitalism (which would begin in the 15th century), and that there are no new qualitative features of the actual process, in comparison to the 19th century. On the contrary, the discontinuous-structural theories (L. Sklair, W.I. Robinson) assert that new effects emerged in the last decades, or even new global processes, social classes and institutions, which radically changed the old socio-economic structures. I think that, indeed, through the current globalization, a different economic structure was made up, but it is not, in any way, as simple as these structuralists want to show it. Theoretically, there is no absolute incompatibility between structure and evolution.
In social theories (A. Giddens, G. Ritzer, S. Sassen), globalization is conceived of as a continuation of modernization, but with some aspects of irrationality and dehumanization, of financial concentration in the metropolis, which anchors global networks.
Within political theories, one may distinguish three currents. The realist, modernist (H.G. Morgenthau, K.N. Walz, R. Gilpin, D. Held, Z. Brzezinski) theory considers international policy (even the actual one) as a reality which is autonomous relative to human conceptions and which proceeds from the policy of nation states, tending to a systemic equilibrium of powers. The constructivist, post-modernist theories (A. Wendt, S. Huntington, M. Hardt, A. A. Negri) consider this policy as depending on the ideas and images of its agents, and leading, through globalization, to a harmonization within a global state or, on the contrary, to a manichaeistic clash between civilization or classes. Both of these currents are suffering from oversimplification and from objectivism or subjectivism (all of them excessive) in the constructed models. Finally, the third current (which I find more compelling), of a synthetic or pluralist methodology (R. Aron, B. Buzan, R. Little) succeeds or only tries a dialectical synthesis of subjectivism and realism, of ideals and interests, and of different scientific views.
Two directions are shaped within the cultural theories (as in the economical ones): structural and historical. The first one (R. Robertson, J. Tomlinson, R. Harindranath, J. Niedeveen, R. Pettman) outlines the multidimensionality of globalization, as well as its structures and paradigms. The second orientation (F.J. Lechner, J. Boli, S.L. Montgomery, A. Kumar) shows the continuities of this process, by passing from the national to the global level, as by overtaking the cultural-scientific achievements from one civilization to another, from Antiquity to Renaissance.
Concluding, it is necessary, within an interdisciplinary approach, to connect the causal explanation with an understanding of human significances, to use both structural and dynamic methods, which do explore the relationships between the levels of the social and natural reality, the interactions of the parts of each level, and of the ensemble and its parts. All of them could fulfill both the avoidance of reductionism and the emphasis of the new, synergetic qualities of the global system.
- Mehedințeanu, G. Iordache, R. Pătrașcu, S. Baiculescu, M. Cernat, O. Jora, C. Karnoouh, and E. Dinga participated with questions and suggestions regarding the two reports.
In each volume, a level of the economic life was studied [by F. Braudel]: the subsistence economy, the institutions of commercial exchanges, and finally, the big capitalist processes, born out of monopolist long-distance commerce and financial markets, modeled using the “world-economies” (a concept introduced by I. Wallerstein), organized as hierarchies of a developed center, with sub-periphery and periphery.
In the third seminar, I presented the report “Globalization and the philosophy of multilevel reality” to the other 14 participants. I tried to offer, through a certain philosophy of sciences (explained in other articles, published in OEconomica, 1-4/2014), a basis for the interdisciplinary and hierarchical approach of globalization, which, by necessity and nature, proceeded from the globalization theories outlined in the previous report. While analyzing the differences and similarities between natural and social sciences (economics being in the middle), which intervene in the study of globalization, some ontological and epistemological problems were presented, together with their possible solutions. Using an approach both structural and historical, I sustained the interactionist, evolutionist, and deterministic-probabilistic options for the ontological solutions, as well as – from a gradualist methodological point of view – for explanation and understanding, for the iterative alternation of analysis and synthesis. All these options succeed to maintain both the fundamental unity, as the autonomy of the ontological domains of nature and society, and – similarly – of the associated sciences.
It emerged that the hierarchy of sciences is not only formal, but corresponds to the true organization of reality, in levels having specific components and properties. There is an interaction between the components of a level and the ensemble itself of that level (as a structural level). More than that, an inferior level is conditioning its superior level, while the latter is acting on the former. The degree of freedom and plasticity increases, starting from the microphysical level, to the human one. Individual knowledge is itself a process of reciprocal action and accommodation between subject and object, between different subjects, between their collective and the entire world. The interlacing and development of these processes lead to a greater objectification and amelioration of the human knowledge (and of the people themselves) regarding the natural and human universe.
The questions and discussion session which followed saw interventions from M. Novac, S. Baiculescu, E. Dinga, P. Mehedințeanu, C. Karnoouh, A. Racu, V. Boșcaiu and A. Popovici.
Thinking fast and slow?
The fourth seminar, with its 14 participants, contained two historical approaches to the globalization process. In his report, “The criticism of the I. Wallerstein’s theory of the world systems, in the context of uneven development theories” (based on two original papers, published in 2008 and 2012), professor V. Cojanu contrasted two paths which were self-declared “ways of thinking” and “grammars”. These were the “high development theory” (HDT), of the economist P. Krugman (as explained in four of his papers), and the world-system analysis (WSA), of the historian I. Wallerstein (in his three-volume work, “The modern world system”), both of them being used in studying the large-scale, long-term economic development.
The report also proposed an epistemological appraisal, based on two tenets. The first – that both theories display striking explanatory similarities regarding their subject matter (that is, the hidden explanation of uneven development), in spite of clearly distinct modes of argumentation. The second thesis sets forth a criticism which points to the epistemological limits of both the mathematical construct of HDT and the historical arguments of WSA. The discussion raised a general problem of economic study, namely the directions along which the inquiry should proceed, in order to achieve a coherent understanding of historical evolution. In the report, the epistemological analysis was supplemented by presenting the evolution of the liberal ideology, from 1789 to 1914 (following the 4th volume of Wallerstein’s work).
Globalization is a process on several levels of cyclical development; unification tendencies manifested themselves as coagulations around certain economic and political centers; unifications did not succeed in subduing the internal differences and conflicts; the internal and external interactions led not only to conflicts, but also to cooperation and socio-cultural enrichment, in favor of participants and the ensemble.
In my report, “Globalization from the perspective of the history of civilizations”, I examined some works which marked this discipline in the last century. “The Decline of the West” (2 vols., 1918-1922), by O. Spengler, studies 9 major civilizations, having unique features, differentiated through a morphologic and typologic study, inspired by Goethe’s naturalism, L. Frobenius’s ethnology, neo-kantian philosophy of history and Nietzsche’s philosophy of culture. In “A Study of History” (12 vols., 1936-1961), A.J. Toynbee compared 33 civilizations, in order to find similar forms and evolutions, and produced a genealogical tree for three generations. He shows that these civilizations were born as a creative answer of human beings, to a major natural or social defiance, and perish when they cannot give an adequate answer to the problems highlighted by their evolution. In “The Rise of the West” (1964), W.H. McNeill follows (using the American ethnographic theories), the succession of 6 “leading” (by their achievements) civilizations, which have influenced each other by diffusion and emulation, by their material infrastructure, social institutions and spiritual achievements (religions, arts, sciences).
Finally, F. Braudel (whose work strongly influenced I. Wallerstein), has built, through “Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century” (3 vols. 1979), a history of capitalism’s birth and early development in Europe, in connection to the economies of parallel civilizations in the world. In each volume, a level of the economic life was studied: the subsistence economy, the institutions of commercial exchanges, and finally, the big capitalist processes, born out of monopolist long-distance commerce and financial markets, modeled using the “world-economies” (a concept introduced by I. Wallerstein), organized as hierarchies of a developed center, with sub-periphery and periphery.
The main conclusions, which resulted by analyzing the works of these historians (beside their faults and merits), were the following: globalization is a process on several levels and of cyclical development; unification tendencies manifested themselves as coagulations around certain economic and political centers; unifications did not succeed in subduing the internal differences and conflicts; the internal and external interactions led not only to conflicts, but also to cooperation and socio-cultural enrichment, in favor of participants and the ensemble.
Participants included E. Dinga, P. Mehedințeanu, C. Karnoouh, M. Cernat, G. Zbăganu, A. Giugăl, A. Popovici, R. Pătrașcu, D. Chiță, and V. Cojanu.
In lieu of conclusions
For the time being, judging by the evolution of the seminars and the large number of active participants, one can say that the themes and reports were interesting and stimulating. Discussions were open and gave the opportunity for an honest and valiant confrontation of opinions. This gives us hope that the seminars have a good perspective for continuing down the same path and for clarifying, if not solving, the problems highlighted by the reality and the study of globalization.