The champions of globalization had hoped that the world becoming a global
interconnected village would create a new history – the end of war, of economic
crises; a united earth, where everyone consumes the same news (CNN), listens to
the same music (MTV), wears the uniform of globalization (the blue denim jeans),
eats the same food (McDonald’s), and even speaks the same language (English as
defined by Microsoft Word).
The critics of globalization think little of
this, and see in globalization an effort to erase distinct values, cultures,
ways of life, political systems and identities. Both parties are partially
It is true that globalization is constantly gaining momentum –
ours is an increasingly borderless world enabling the movement of people
(tourism), trade (free trade), money (the financial markets), information
(global media networks and especially the Internet) and social networking
(through social media).
Through these processes, people discover
similarities and possibilities to communicate, despite differences. Yet
societies continue to cling to their distinct cultures, values, beliefs, faiths
A borderless world did not bring an end to war or to
Interests clash violently between and within
societies, often with cultural and religious underpinnings, such as the American
war on al-Qaida after September 11 and the tensions between the West and Islam,
or the ever-growing economic gaps between Europe and Africa.
In an age of
technological revolutions, globalization will continue to gain ground, yet in
parallel, the local forces of our world will also be strengthened. This is a
function of how people and societies define themselves – they want to be
“citizens of the world” when it comes to information, travel, the financial
market and communications, and at the same time are dedicated citizens of their
countries and cities. They admire global icons such as Madonna, but will sing
along proudly in their native language or accent. They look through the Windows
of Microsoft to the world, and through the windows of their kitchen to their
garden and neighborhood.
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They wear jeans and and T-shirts, but will often
combine them with their local garment.
They admire their local dish and
local sports clubs. They are thus part of the global family of nations, but very
much see themselves as belonging to their nation’s family as well.
forces and interests have often clashed with local ones. The 9/11 attacks were
an onslaught by terrorists with a worldview harkening back to a distant and dark
past, against the bastion of globalization.
America’s subsequent wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq were devised as wars on terror, but were perceived by many
Muslims as an attack on their beliefs, values and way of life.
President Obama having, quite successfully thus far, put an end to these wars,
the time has come to build a bridge between the forces of globalization –
pursuing a global system, a “global patriotism” and pride, and the local forces
– pursuing local patriotism and local sets of beliefs and values, not just in
the Muslim world, but the world over.
Therefore we advance a notion of
compromise – “Glocalization,” advocating a balance between the forces of
globalization and local forces.
Globalization may have reduced the clout
of the nation-state and strong government, as international frameworks and
multinational corporations have taken over part of the decision-making process.
Indeed, in general people in this era of information revolution and social
networks are more difficult to govern, as we witnessed in the Arab
In the wake of this, the one entity that seems to gain in
strength is the city, as it melds the trends of globalization into its local
character, and takes on more power and influence.
Urbanization is on a
dramatic rise, and now is the first time in history that most people live in
cities, rather than in rural areas.
Take Barcelona for example – a
leading “glocal” city, whose mayors even engage in city-to-city diplomacy.
Barcelona offers all the fruits of globalization to its inhabitants and
visitors. It is the largest metropolitan on the Mediterranean coasts, with 5
million people in its metropolitan area. Its borders are truly open – it is the
fourth-most visited city in Europe. It is also the fourth-richest city in the
European Union, in terms of GDP per capita.
And yet Barcelona is
fundamentally local, even passionately so – with enthusiastic Catalan
patriotism, a sense of belonging to a distinct culture, that fought off Franco’s
assault on its very being, when the Spanish dictator abolished Cataluña, the
right to speak its language or have a flag.
The famous soccer club
F.C. Barcelona is a prominent expression of this “glocal” identity. The
No. 1 soccer club in the world, a global phenomenon, admired the world over
(with 27 million fans on Facebook alone), it is nonetheless very local in many
senses – the famous Barca pride, the colors of its uniform and the Catalan flag
and language that go with it. And still, it is involved in contributing to
global causes, through UNICEF, the Gates Foundation and the YaLa – Young Leaders
Glocalization is also very prevalent in education. With
distance learning and the large numbers of “foreign” students in every
university, academia has been increasingly globalized in recent decades. Yet,
most universities stay true to their local environments.
reach 100,000 students the world over, through distance learning, and yet it
remains a distinctly West Coast American institution.
also been glocalized. Facebook, the global power on the rise, is an expression
of this. It has 800 million users, communicating the world over, yet those same
users chiefly identify themselves according to their home country and city,
communicate in their own language and share their local music and films. Thomas
Friedman noted in his book The World is Flat: A Brief History of the
that the Internet encourages glocalization by encouraging
people to create websites in their native language.
It seems that the
losers in this developing equation are national governments – they lose to
global forces which have an important impact on the decision-making
And they lose to local forces which empower the citizen, the
society and the city, at their expense. This is expressed in the global
This phenomenon is especially prevalent in the Middle
East. The young revolutionaries in the Arab world want to belong to a free,
globalized world and reap its benefits, mainly when it comes to education and
employment, but they do so with a passionate patriotism and sense of local
identity. It is also true for young middle class Israelis.
They too want
to be citizens of the world, to travel, to earn their living at global companies
and benefit from globalized education, and yet they are Israelis to their
For both these constituencies, it must be clear that to be part of
a globalized world on the one hand, and to preserve local values, identity and
interests on the other, there is one sole prerequisite which cannot be avoided –
War endangers both the global belonging and local
interests.The writer is president of the Peres Center for Peace and
served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.
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