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The global individual

May 25, 2013

I’m still working through Parkins and Craig’s Slow Living… in which they explain:

Slow living in the global everyday […] is not an escapist pastime but is both the result of, and a response to, the radically uneven and heterogeneous production of space and time in post-traditional societies.
Slow living in the global everyday also needs to be contextualized within a consideration of how globalization is articulated with the local, given that the very character of globalization threatens to erase the local. Whether strolling through a shopping mall or an airport, one can see evidence that the uniqueness of the local is increasingly undermined by global forces. Globalization represents a shift from a territorial framework to a deterritorialized perspective, to a form of ‘supra-territorialization’ that is increasingly removed from the reference of physical, geographical space. Subjects who are thoroughly implicated in global culture are often defined by their mobility and their freedom from the ‘constraints’ of local, fixed space, acquiring social capital through such mobility when ‘Being local in a globalized world is a sign of deprivation and degradation’ (Bauman 1998: 2). In fact, however, globalization can be seen to be characterized by two seemingly contradictory movements: a power shift away from the national to transnational institutions and to more local bodies. As in the popular slogan, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’, the local can be seen as a site of resistance in global culture (Hall 1996: 619), even as subjects are assumed to have a sense of global responsibility.” (p.10)

Parkins and Craig continue: “The positing of the local as a site of resistance from the global does not, however, imply that the local can be isolated or sealed off from the global and its effects. the local may not be annihilated by global forces but it is defined through [-p.11] its particular encounters with globalization, as Robertson’s term the ‘glocal’ (1995) attempts to capture. The mutual imbrication of local and global practices and contexts means that the local can have no meaningful existence outside of these globalized contexts and indeed that globalization in some sense involves the invention of locality’ (Robertson 1995; see also Beck 2002: 17). If we see slow living, then, as a response to globalization, this is not to define it as merely a defensive retreat to the local but rather as part of a reconfiguring of local social relations and identities in new reflexive ways which ‘utilize, criticize and even contribute to globalization, while developing new senses of locality and community’ (Purdue Duerrschmidt, Jowers and O’Doherty 1997: 645).
As this reconfiguring of identities and relations within a dialectical understanding of the global and local implies, such a process has profound ramifications for contemporary subjectivity. Globalization establishes a fundamental linkage not only of global forces with everyday life but also of everyday decisions with global outcomes and consequences. Any decision to purchase food or clothing, for example, can be made with awareness of global consequences, whether they are the working conditions of someone in another country or the degradation of the environment due to certain farming practices. Globalization, as Giddens has expressed it, is an ‘in here’ matter (as opposed to an ‘out there’ one) ‘which affects, or rather is dialectically related to, even the most intimate aspects of our lives’ (1994: 95). Alongside a still-influential national sphere of experience there is also the emergence of a global dimension ushering in ‘a new way of doing business and of working, a new kind of identity and politics as well as a new kind of everyday space-time experience and of human sociability’, a new figuring of cosmopolitanization or ‘internal globalization’ (Beck 2002: 17, 30, original emphasis). This new, dialogic cosmopolitanism – or ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’ – both ruptures binaries such as local/global and requires a notion of localism (Beck 2002: 19, original emphasis).” (pp10-11)

[BTW I also found this statement interesting here: “…the global everyday is not characterized by singular experiences of speed and geographical dislocation but by the negotiation of an increasingly complex coexistence of different temporalities and spatial contexts.” (p.10)]

However, back to their connection of the individual with the global through the local… Parkins and Craig explain that their “examination of slow living […] begins from two assumptions about everyday life: that it has a creative and ethical potential; and that it must be reflexively negotiated and managed by contemporary subjects. This latter assumption is indebted to the concept of ‘individualization’ as delineated by Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, who describe the pressure for individuals to construct their own ‘biographies’ in contexts where traditional ways of life and identities are increasingly under question (see Beck 1997: 95). Differing from earlier manifestations of individualism, ‘individualization’: [quoting Beck and Beck-Gernsheim: ‘] is a social condition which is not arrived at by a free decision of individuals. …[It] is a compulsion, albeit a paradoxical one, to create, to stage manage, not only one’s own biography but the bonds and networks surrounding it and to do this amid changing preferences and at successive stages of life, while constantly adapting to the conditions of the labour market, the education system, the welfare state and so on.
One of the decisive features of individualization processes, then, is that they not only permit but they also demand an active contribution by individuals. As the range of options widens and the necessity of deciding between them grows, so too does the need for individually performed actions, for adjustment, coordination, integration. If they are not to fail, individuals must be able to plan for the long term and adapt to change; they must organize and improvise, set goals, recognize obstacles, accept defeats and attempt new starts. They need initiative, tenacity, flexibility and tolerance of frustration.[‘] (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002: 4)” (p.7)

“Individualization, then,” Parkins and Craig write as they pick up the thread again, “has significant consequences for everyday life and places new emphasis on both an ethics and a politics centred on ‘the quality of life’ (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002: 212), even as it may also account for a withdrawal from public engagement by some constituencies within post-traditional societies (Bauman 2002: xviii-xix).” (p.7)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold mine) Wendy Parkins and Geoffrey Craig (2006) Slow Living.  Berg: Oxford, New York.

Reference is made to: Bauman, Z (1998) Globalization, Cambridge: Polity

Beck, U. (2002) ‘The Cosmopolitan Society and its Enemies’, Theory, Culture and Society, 19(1-2): 17-44

Beck, U. and Beck-Gernsheim, E (2002) Individualization, Institutionalized Individualism and its Social and Political Consequences, trans P. Camiller, London: Sage.

Giddens, A (1994) ‘Living in a Post-traditional Society in U Beck, A Giddens and S Lash Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Cambridge: Polity

Hall, S (1996) ‘The Question of Cultural Identity’ in S Hall et al. (eds), Modernity, London: Blackwell


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