Globalization and National Identity

National identity still a very powerful thing in our lives: Giddens

Giddens for recasting national identity in a progressive way

“In the global age, peace and security depends on cooperation of nations”

Rapid rise of India, China and other Asian countries to world prominence has disposed of the idea that globalisation benefits the West at the expense of the rest, eminent social-theorist Prof. Anthony Giddens has said.

Delivering the D.T. Lakdwala memorial lecture on “The Nation-State in the Global Age” here on Saturday, he said globalisation was not just a synonym for the global dominance of the U.S. or of the West.

“It is obvious that the affluent countries tend to dominate the major world institutions. Virtually all of the technologies of communication that have been so important in creating greater global interdependence emanated from the developed states. These countries have also taken the lead in opening up world markets. Yet globalisation is by definition a two-way set of processes, not just a system of imbalanced power,” said Prof. Giddens, the former Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science. On the issue of the future of the nation-state in the global age, he said national identity, the feeling of belonging to a national community, was still a “very powerful thing in our lives.”

Prof. Giddens, who developed the theory of structuration, which is the understanding of the relationship between individuals and the conditions around them, sought to distinguish between the nation-state, the nation and nationalism. “The reason one must distinguish these three is that you can have each of them without the others.”

Noting that globalisation produced major new tensions and cleavages within many nations, Prof. Giddens said the rapid pace of change and uncertainties had been ably handled generally by most societies, including Western and non-Western. But others saw their ancient traditions as being under threat and they yearned for the certainties of an earlier age.


“For centuries India has been highly pluralistic, in terms of culture, religion and philosophy. The Hindu tradition, as Max Weber so forcefully emphasised, allows for the coexistence of quite divergent, indeed contradictory beliefs,” he said.

On a more macroscopic level, Prof. Giddens said, the identity of nations also become problematic. He said there were running debates in many countries about national identity. “India is the most pointed challenge to those who say that authoritarian government is the condition of rapid economic development. India has always had a cosmopolitan elite — look at manifold influences on the life of Mahatma Gandhi,” he pointed out.

Arguing in favour of recasting national identity in a progressive way, Prof. Giddens said that in the global age, peace and security depended upon the cooperation of nations, as well as the recognition that no nation, however powerful, could cope with the problems alone.

“In an age of interdependence we are partners in prosperity but also in adversity, in respect of the threats the world faces. The U.S. has recently explored the limits of unilateralism, with disastrous consequences. Ideals of freedom, democracy, freedom of the press may have originated in the West, but they are universal in their implications.” Prof. Giddens cited the example of the European Union as the most important attempt in the world today to sustain real sovereignty through the common pooling of resources.




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