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Champagne liberals and « classes dangereuses »

Class, Identity and Cultural Production in the Contemporary Global System
Jonathan Friedman
p. 151-176


This article deals with the relation between class formation and the dynamics of global process. It suggests that class is an extremely important parameter of analysis that has been overlooked and even avoided by most of the anthropological literature on globalization, a phenomenon related to the fact that much of this literature is derivative of a dominant culturalism in anthropology that emerged in the 80's. It begins by suggesting, contrary to culturalist assumptions, that class relations have a definite cultural content and are susceptible to ethnographic scrutiny. It continues with an attempt to locate class as a process in relation to larger global processes, suggesting that class structure in European states represent something of a « structure of the long run ». This is accomplished by a comparative historical analysis of the discourses of global elites. It is suggested that cosmopolitan identity displays common forms of expression and discourse and that the current multicultural/hybrid discourse is a rerun of earlier cosmopolitan discourses. This implies that much of the contemporary assumptions concerning globalization are socially positioned ideological products rather than examples of scientific analysis.

Cet article traite du rapport entre la formation des classes et les dynamiques du processus global. Il propose que la classe est un paramètre analytique extrêmement important qui a été négligé et même évité par la plupart de la littérature anthropologique sur la globalisation, un phénomène lié au fait que cette littérature est en grande partie dérivée d’un culturalisme dominant apparu en anthropologie dans les années 1980. Il suggère d’abord, à l’encontre des suppositions culturalistes, que les relations de classe possèdent un contenu culturel précis et sont susceptibles à un regard ethnographique. Il s’efforce ensuite à situer la classe en tant que processus par rapport à des processus globaux plus larges, proposant que la structure des classes dans les États européens représente en quelque sorte une « structure de la longue durée ». Ceci est accompli au moyen d’une analyse comparative historique des discours des élites globaux. Il est proposé que l’identité cosmopolite manifeste des formes communes d’expression et de discours, et que le discours actuel sur le multiculturalisme et l’hybridité est une répétition de discours cosmopolites précédents. Ce qui implique qu’une grande partie des suppositions contemporaines relatives à la globalisation sont des produits idéologiques socialement positionnés plutôt que des exemples d’analyse scientifique.

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1The study of class became rather unpopular in the 80s and 90s in many quarters of Anthropology that presume to deal with the contemporary world, with the urban, the global, the ethnic and the issues that are patently arenas where conflict appears to be ubiquitous today. Part of this absence is related to a more general turn away from materialism and even from structure and a certain determinism that was associated with the most mechanical versions of materialism. In the United States these years witnessed the so‑called « cultural turn » and the post‑modernist decline of theoretical paradigms. This is a period which also is permeated by the decline of society‑wide political projects and ideologies and the rise of culturally based identity movements in which many begin to look to the past rather than the future for their self‑affirmation. Roots, ethnic politics, multiculturalism, indigenism, regionalism, religiousity all expand quite rapidly from the mid‑70s. This takes more or less violent forms depending on the particular context, but in all cases the issue of culture becomes paramount. This is not, of course, culture in the usual anthropological sense of the specificity of life forms and their products, but culture as identity, especially self‑identity, a more limited selection from cultural worlds for the sake of self‑expression. It evinces a decline of modernism, but also a decline of state finances in general and of welfare state programs in specific, one that has led to a real decline in real wages throughout most of the period, with variations from country to country. The contraction of the nation state – or, perhaps the separation of the state from the nation, in the form of the rise of new political classes – is an aspect of the process that I try to address in the following pages.

2Here I propose that the issue of class is doubly important. First, I suggest that the current discourse of globalization, not least in Anthropology, is very much a product of the transformation of class and cultural formations in the contemporary situation. Second, the study of this transformation in itself should help us to understand a number of other phenemona that have become increasingly salient and which are related to globalization which is, in our analysis, a historical phase within an already established global system and not as sometimes assumed, a general evolutionary stage into which we are finally moving as in the phrase « once we were local, but now we are global ». This is a vision that I have called the « leaky mosaic », one that in cultural terms is the source of the popular term, hybridity. In this approach, globalization occurs in definite historical moments which usually entail hegemonic decline in some places and a shift of wealth or capital to potentially new hegemons. This Braudelian view has been recently developed in detail by researchers such as Arrighi (1997, 2003) and Wallerstein (2003). Arrighi especially views the decline of the United States and the rise of China as systemically linked phenomena, a position for which we have argued for a number of years. Such periods of global shift have occurred often in the past centuries, most recently at the end of the 19th century, and they are characterized by extreme turbulence; financial bubbles, capital export, political and cultural fragmentation, class polarization, population displacement and mass migration, and all of the phenomena associated with globalization. In such periods there is also an increasing saliency of the latent opposition between cosmopolitan elite identity and national/regional/indigenous localism.

3In the following I suggest that there are certain invariants involved in the last 500 years of the European state systems with respect to just such polarities as local/cosmopolitan identification, ethnicity in relation to territory which are crucial to understanding the nature of the nation‑state as a particular constituted political form and the current re-emergence of pluralist ideologies and what might appear to be the « evolutionary » demise of the nation state but which is more of a separation of the state from the nation, one in which the cosmopolitan/local divide has become ever more salient. It is argued that cosmpolitanism and localism become marked in definite historical periods even if the categories are always potentially available. It is this conjunctural, even cyclical, specificity that might account for the current elaboration of these categories and their penetration into academic discourses such as anthropology. While the discourses of globalization offer some surprising similarities with traditional cosmopolitan and aristocratic representations, the particular configuration of class position, identity and cultural production can be quite different. That is, the contemporary cultural/class order might be envisaged as a specific transformation of a single category structure rather than an entirely new product.

  1. Structures of the Long Run

  • 1   These variations are reflected in major works of political philosophy as well, i.e. Rousseau, He (...)

4Categories such as globalization, cosmopolitan elites, national elites, middle classes, immigrant minorities, regional minorities and indigenous populations are not categories that appear in a particular historical era. They are basic structural features of the capitalist state system, and more specifically the nation state system. Their salience may vary over time, but they exist, at least potentially, throughout the history of the system. It might be argued that the nation form is a product of capitalist state organization. This is however a mere potential that depends upon a number of different processes only some of which are strongly connected to the commodification of social relations within the territorial state. The process by which local solidarities and institutions are dissolved by the joint action of the state and commerce and by which the individual is liberated from dependency on lower order social relations to become in turn dependent upon the wage relation, whether high or low, is a process that gradually empties the social space between the self and the state. This is a variable process that only approximates an ideal type in social democratic states which in the contemporary period have sought to sever all bonds that are not themselves state organized. Thus the family may be replaced by a string of socializing agencies, from day care to university at the same time as the wage labor/tax nexus becomes generalized to such an extent that the individual is rendered totally independent economically on former social networks. This is a process that has been described in terms of individualization and is a principle charateristic of « modernity ». It is in a highly atomized social field that identification with the state can replace other collective identities, especially if socialization into the nation is institutionalized. The space is then filled with propositions about reality, about relations to nature, to destiny, to history. This, of course, can occur without the dissolution of lower level structures as has been proven throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The nation state form is not merely a relation between individualized subjects and a larger collectivity. It is also an organization that envelops and cuts across class relations. This is a complex affair with plenty of variation of course, but it is crucial to understanding the dynamics of interstate relations as well as the transformation that we have come to know as the welfare state. As this is not an essay in history but in structure, I do not intend to delve into the variations of national identity within modern states. I shall focus on a single phenomenon, the relation of a self-defined people and the state as the focal point for a practice of self-identification, in either positive or negative terms, depending on the particular social position from which actors practice their identifications. Thus the fusion of state and people in Sweden earlier this century can be contrasted with what appears to be a radical opposition between nation and state in Australia (Kapferer, 1988). It has been argued that class struggle has been organized in terms of a We, a self‑identified people, against capital, with or without the support of the state. The state has been « captured » by certain working class movements, at least ideologically transforming the former into an extension of peoplehood itself. Sweden is certainly a prime example of this, but it is to be noted that the fusion thus imposed has a strange past. The notion of « people’s home » a society equivalent to a family is not an invention of the left but of the conservatives, a not uncommon variation on the paternalist ideology of the conservatives. This was assimilated into social democratic ideology and has played a crucial role in national politics allowing elites to impose a total restructuring of working class lives, from racial hygiene to housing, in the name of a union of a national population under the aegis of a single social project. It is not then so extrordinary that the word society commonly substitutes for state in political and even everyday discourse. While the Swedish case is something of an extreme, the same parameters can be found in most nation states1. The latter relate to the role of the state as an instrument of the people and to the need to pronounce broadly social goals that indicate the self‑evident responsibility of the state with regard to the people’s welfare. This ideology concerns the rights of the working class as well as the responsibility of capitalists. While there are clearly liberal interpretations of the nation state in which the market is said to ensure the welfare of all, it is necessary that the welfare of all is stressed, i.e. that the capitalists also wish the best for their workers. The good in this model is welfare itself, the wellbeing, well financed, of ordinary people. The taming of social elites is part of the process of welfare development, the submission of all to a common project. The logic of this process of consolidation in which people and state become joined if not fused, generates the category of the « we », a « we the people ». And this occurs under the umbrella of the territorial state itself. It is bounded and tends toward the assimilation or at least integration of differences within a larger core of a common project.

5It might well be argued that the nation state as such is no constant in the history of the modern world, but that a certain tendency in class formation has been more of a structure of the longue durée. Here I would like to suggest something along these lines, but the structure to which I refer is not a particular set of class categories. Instead it is a tendency to the distribution of positions with respect to local populations and the larger regional, or global, arena. This is a structure that has distributed a number of categories with respect to one another, from interstate or cosmopolitan elite relations to localized relations to more limited state or sub-state territories. I have previously represented the structure in the following terms:


7The graphic representation applies to a global arena organized into nation states, but the categories are similar in fundamental ways even in other state formations. In earlier eras, for example, the state elites were at the same time cosmopolitan elites, as aristocrats that participated in an interstate realm in which royalties and aristocracies were joined in marriage and political alliances, in which they sent handicraft specialists, architects and artists from court to court in generous gestures. These states were not nation states in any sense. They were aristocratic/royal domains linked by marriage and political alliances as well as by conflict and warfare. Territorial populations were not integrated into the larger territory as a mass of individuals. Instead there were numerous regional and local political structures. Migration was certainly an integral part of the dynamics of such states, the product of royal policies and demands for specialized labor. But insofar as ordinary people were subjects rather than citizens they were essentially pawns in a larger set of strategies. National or ethnic identity was limited primarily to local groups and regions or to diasporic populations. And there was clearly identification with larger units on the part of warriors and those who could gain by becoming attached to royal courts.

8What is important for this discussion is the continuum from the local to the interstate level and the potential oppositions that developed among them. However, it should be clearly noted that the very praxis of the absolutist state created a social field of national identity. Long before the French Revolution there were letters of « naturalisation » offered to foreigners who came to live in the country. This was a hotly debated issue surrounding the imposition of taxes on foreigners in 1697. There was a great deal of migration and aristocratic tourism following the war against the Augsburg coalition. As one contemporary described it:

9Depuis que la paix était faite, il y avait eu dans Paris un si grand abord d’étrangers que l’on en comptait quinze à seize mille dans le faubourg Saint‑Germain seulement… au commencement de l’année suivante, on trouva qu’il y en avait trente‑six mille dans ce seul faubourg (Dubost & Sahlins 1999: 15).

10And the word « nation » is used to identify individuals throughout the period, terms such as:

11Anne Sauvage, « anglaise de nation » described as « pas mariée en France, qu’elle ne suit pas la coutume de Paris et qu’elle n’est pas naturalisée » (id.: 378).

12Jacques Lieurard, a protestant convert from the North of France wrongly taxed as « fils d’un étranger originaire de Hollande » (id.: 379). Francais imparfaits (id.: 380).

13Immigrant status was also inherited for three generations for those arriving after 1600, that is, it was defined in terms of descent from specific national origins. The author Fénélon expresses in his Aventures de Télémaque a clear opposition to what he associates to the urban, commercial, foreign merchants and the international from a position that can be interpreted as Christian and agrarian (1920: 391). There is a twofold set of representations generated in this division between the peasant and the urban sectors of the larger territory. The latter insists on the royal strategy of the state elites to increase their economic base, demographically and in capital, the former on an increasingly salient notion of a national population, sedentary and exploited by the latter. It might be suggested that this growing opposition is the foundation for the French Revolution in which « peoplehood » is established as a sovereign body within the confines of the territorial state, thus creating the nation state. As the Abbé de Sieyès stated the case in 1789, it is the sovereign people and not the king that incarnates the nation, the « Third Estate » is a « corps d’associés vivant sous une loi commune et représentés par le même législateur » (Noiriel, 2001: 89).

14It is noteworthy that there is a notion of the larger world in opposition to the local and the parochial that appears as a historical invariant. This is more clearly expressed in the elite sector than in the popular sector. It accounts for the early appearance of religious doctrines that are clearly global in scope. In the early 17th century there are fairly clear expressions of a notion of a single humanity, of the need for the establishment of a world order, not, in fact, foreign to the Catholic Church’s interpretation. The Rosicrucians are said to have published, in 1614, a pamphlet entitled Fama. In that pamphlet it is proposed that all learned men throughout the world should join forces towards the establishment of a synthesis of science. Behind this effort stood allegedly an illuminated brotherhood – « the children of light », who had been initiated in the mysteries of the Grand Order. This « Brüderschaft der Theosophen » was said to have been founded by Christian Rosencreutz (1378‑1484), who had become an initiate during his travels in the Middle East in the fifteenth century. He founded a brotherhood which was supposed to have operated in secret ever since.

15Now it is somewhat less clear to what extent there were indigenizing or nationalizing tendencies in the early history of Europe, but it is widely accepted that the nation state was very much a project of state oriented elites with the caveat that the latter produced an opposing project rooted in the exploited classes to capture the state and make it an instrument in the service of its own needs. The various regional and local resistences that proliferated within emerging absolutist states are evidence that there were and are numerous sub-state identities of varying strength right up into the present. It is necessary to find the resonance bases for the different collective identifications that characterize our history so as to avoid falling into the trap of envisioning such identities as mere intellectual constructs that people have somehow been seduced into accepting.

16The cosmopolitanism of certain elites is apparently a well established European habitus or even tradition. This is clearly evident in the history of the Free Masonry. The latter, after being taken over by aristocrats and then wealthy capitalists clearly expressed a set of values that are equally visible in today’s world. Thus the new age managerialism that is so common in the contemporary world of elites has its more aristocratic forerunners in the Freemasonry of the past. These themes can be outlined as follows:

171. An opposition to organized religion in its Western form.

182. An attraction to Oriental religious philosophy, not least its holism.

193. An interest in primitive and ancient religions.

204. The individual as the center of spirituality and a direct link to the sacred or godhead, understood in pantheistic terms.

215. The superiority of the elect who can attain this relation to the sacred.

226. In political terms, an orientation to the world as a whole, to Mankind.

23– A. this implies opposition to the nation state or any other sub-national units except as sources of spirituality.

24– B. the internal differentiation between leaders and follow­ers, or the elect and the rest.

257. In class terms this implies the formation of an international elite identity.

268. A millenaristic view of the future...the New Age which is to come.

27These themes incorporate notions of holism and of being chosen by higher spiritual powers. The elite is the « chosen few », selected to lead all of humanity to the promised land. It implies distance rather than identity with the population that is subject to its rule and this provides a link to the pluralism that is so prevalent in older and new versions of multiculturalism. In one critical interpretation:

28The cosmopolitan bourgeoisie in the eighteenth century came to adopt a perspective on its own society as if it were a foreign one a target for « colonial » exploitation. Freemasonry provided a cover for developing the new identity on which the exploitation of members of one’s own community is premised. By entering the masonic lodges, merchants and those otherwise involved in the long‑distance money economy such as lawyers and accountants, realised the primordial alienation from the community which is the precondition for market relations, exploitation of wage labour, and abstract citizenship (Rosenstock-Huessy, 1961: 364, quoted in Pilj 1998).

29Another aspect of this particular global position is its association with finance rather than industrial production, so that finance is associated with the cosmpolitan as opposed to industry which is crudely localized.

30By being expressly non-manual, divorced from actual labour, British masonry reproduced the aristocratic preference for arms-length control over direct entrepreneurial involvement. The English gentleman preferred « to sit above the commercial fray, pulling levers, dangling rewards and applying sanctions » (Hampden‑Turner & Trompenaars 1994: 321).

31This is an important logic, one that connects finance with the cosmopolitan, and in turn with a sense of a higher power and even mission. The values of the humanism that emerged in the enlightenment are very much woven together with this particular version of cosmopolitanism.

  1. The small worlds of cosmopolitanism

32One of the outcomes of the historical continuity in the cosmopolitan elite as a constant category of the modern state is the production of social worlds that are more or less socially bounded. Cosmopolitan identity commonly represents itself as world encompassing as opposed to the smaller worlds of national and other more localized populations. This is a significant, but also a telling, misrepresentation of reality, one that confuses geographical with social closure. It has led to absurd assertions that, for example, diasporas are instances of cosmopolitan openness, a notion that flies in the face of practically all that is known of such transnational groups where boundaries must absolutely be maintained if the diaspora is to survive, implying high levels of endosocial relations including endogamy and strict control over children. It is, in this respect, enlightening to investigate the life of transnational elites, which display some of the characteristics of diasporas. An interesting study of what has been called l’immigration dorée in France (Wagner, 1999) reveals a number of interesting properties of the social life that as developed in such transnational elites. Focussing on foreign elite communities via their relation to international schools and other associations, she depicts a two layered structure, one newer, the product of the recent emergence of a transnational managerial class and the other the old, more aristocratic, cosmopolitan elites. Although she has concentrated on a relatively limited time period, it appears that almost a third of all transnationals in her sample marry with other transnationals, though not necessarily of the same nationality. They send their children to a limited number or schools where education consists in learning to be international. They play at representing the world, at being a United Nations devoted to a celebration of cultural difference and they often have official connections with these international organizations. But they also identify themselves in the idiom of blood, even where it is mixed.

33J’ai le sang ex-patrié… Je suis américain, de passeport et de nationalité mais ma famille et celle de ma femme aussi, ont un grand nombre de ramifications dans beaucoup de pays, ce qui fait qu’on a toujours eu un pied aux États‑Unis un pied à l’étranger (Wagner, id. : 116).

34Mon père était un peu vagabond, et on avait ça dans les veines. Mes frères, c’est pareil : j’ai un frère en Autriche, un en Finlande, une sœur en Espagne. Mon père se déplaçait beaucoup, et j’ai dû prendre ça (ibidem).

35The very expression « ex‑patriot blood » expresses a combination of roots and routes of the kind announced in much of the post‑colonial cultural studies literature. The transnational is concretized in biological terms. The self definition of a cosmopolitan ethos which is common to both aristocratic and managerial groups is an essential part of their self‑understanding.

36La curiosité, l’ouverture, la tolérance sont des termes souvent employés pour désigner ces qualités (id. : 142).

37This is the ethos of the world traveler always open for new adventures, to new kinds of experience and different kinds of people. But it should be noted that the actual social arenas of these cosmopolitans are limited to a number of associations, clubs, schools where they constantly meet and are able to identify one another by their common interests, tastes, but also differences regarding national origins and cultures.

38There is also the expression of the opposition between themselves and the more terrestrial ordinary nationals. They latter are even referred to as terrestrials in some comments.

39Alors le terrien, c’est quelqu’un qui a un espace limité. Son activité se concentre sur la terre qu’il possède. Si l’autre va sur sa terre, il ne l’acceptera pas. Il est attaché à sa famille, à ses enfants, qu’il veut garder chez lui, parce que sa famille cultive sa terre... L’Allemand est industriel et commercial. Pour lui, le monde est grand... (id. : 204).

40And there is the opposition including the usual classification of the local « other ».

41Je crois que la classe populaire est plus attachée à ses origines. Les Anglais en France sont plutôt des gens des classes moyennes. En Angleterre les classes populaires sont plus nationalistes que les autres, moins ouvertes (id. : 189).

42If the cosmopolitan is a constant structure in the modern territorial and nation state, it becomes increasingly salient in periods of globalization. One may even speak of an unstable opposition between the local, national and the international in which ideological dominance shifts markedly over time.

43At the very top of this hierarchy are the families that have been designated the grandes fortunes. This group keeps its distance from the others, with its own clubs and associations, listed and ranked in journals like Le petit mondain, in terms of their places of residence.

44Cosmopolitisme des relations multiterritorialité étendue aux pays étrangers ce sont là deux composantes essentielles de la haute société (Pinçon & Pinçon‑Charlot, 1996 : 120).

45Wagner presents the example of the comte de Chatel. His genealogy is mixed, Italy, England, Belgium, Argentina; marriages among the elites. The family’s capital is directly linked to the family’s international segmentary structure. M. de Chatel is never an ex-patriot when he travels. He is always on his own property somewhere in the world. But he is also a professional chameleon in cultural if not class terms.

46Oui on me prenait pour un Anglais en Angleterre, comme en Argentine on me prend pour un Argentin. C’est un des seuls dons que m’ait donné le bon Dieu. J’imite les accents avec énormément de facilités (il imite l’accent marseillais). Ça ne sert pas à grand‑chose, mais bon ! (Wagner, op. cit. : 122).

47The differentiation between the upper crust and the managers, besides being socially marked in very clear terms, is also a difference between a cosmopolitan identity in which an aristocratic world tends to be homogeneous and a more multinational world in which cultures are compared and ranked. This may be more of a variation than a true difference since there is a strong overlap in perspectives. But Wagner’s findings suggest a difference in the two spheres.

48Les deux formes de rapports à l’étranger restent néanmoins bien distinctes. L’international se définit aussi par opposition au cosmopolite. Le cosmopolitisme repose sur la cohésion d’une petite élite aristocratique, et ne met pas réellement en jeu des relations entre des cultures différentes. A l’inverse, la culture internationale des cadres repose justement sur la valorisation de la diversité des cultures nationales (id. : 212).

49But in both groups there is a tendency toward a distancing to the local and the national and an identification with the international or transnational.

50La capacité d’etre chez soi, au sens à la fois matériel, social et symbolique dans plusieurs pays, l’incorporation d’une identité cosmopolite qui produit ses effets sur toutes les dimensions de la personne définissent bien le modèle vers lequel tend la culture internationale des cadres (ibidem).

  1. Cosmopolitanization and globalization

51In the graphics above I suggest that there is a tendency to cosmopolitanization of elites in periods of strong globalization as we have today. This can be understood as a product of the convergence of social and spatial mobility, one that situates its adherents above the world where they can encompass the diversity that lies below without being part of it except in the sense of being able to consume it in the form of products. This distinction creates an opposition to the local as something which is decidedly lower in status and which conflates immobility with cultural poverty. It would be a mistake, thus, to assume that the encompassing self‑representation of the cosmopolitan implies a real engagement with the world. Geographical movement, yes, but this is within a narrow space of class in which relations established are bounded and often highly segregated, in which identity is strong and homogenous with respect to status and position. The negation of social praxis in the self‑identification of the cosmopolitan is a logical outcome of the nature of social position within this system. The generalization of cosmopolitanism to all domains of transnational connections appears in this light to express a kind of struggle for ideological hegemony. This generalization tends to equate cosmopolitanism with globalization itself and to generate the argument for the evolution from local to global referred to above. Locals are not merely at the bottom of this process, they are also represented as precursors to the present. They are in this sense primitive, but in a way that conflates the Freudian primitivity, libidinous and resident in all of us, with a temporal sense of being backward and the two are of course strongly associated evolutionary discourses. It is the logic of this representational structure which, ultimately, makes the local dangerous as in the French expression « classes dangereuses ». Primitive culture, of course, is perfectly wonderful, but it needs to be extracted from its lived context and transformed into objects that can be consumed without danger. The museological understanding of culture that has become increasingly popular in recent years expresses this sublimation or even displacement of the libidinous and potential violence of otherness into objects of consumption/contemplation and celebration. And, it is this transformation that enables diversity to be collected and displayed in the salons of the elites. This is also essential to the identification of such elites with diversity and multiculturalism. The strength of this ideology depends on the balance of forces in the field within which it is produced.

52Cosmopolitanism tends to emerge simultaneously with and in a dialectical relation to localizing ideologies, with nationalism, and other regional identities. This is happening today just as it occurred in the previous period of globalization between 1870 and 1920. It is interesting to compare the two periods in this respect. The British Empire contains a core of cosmopolitanism that is quite central to developments later in the 19th century. It is Cecil Rhodes and his Society of the Elect whose strategy was to set the agenda for the continued success of the Empire in this century. The League of Nations seems to have been conceived in part by this group as was the Union of South Africa and the Commonwealth. One of the central members of this group displays the flexibility of this particular elite.

53Milner was not really a conservative at all. Milner had an idea – the idea that he obtained from Toynbee and that he found also in Rhodes and in all the members of his Group. This idea had two parts: that the extension and integration of the Empire and the development of social welfare was essential to the continued existence of the British way of life, and that this British way of life was an instrument which unfolded all the best and the highest capabilities of mankind (Quigley, 1981: 29).

54But the group was perfectly capable of forsaking internationalism for reasons of expediency and following 1931 it embraced the model of national economic regulation (Quigley, op. cit.: 248). While this all sounds like the extension of empire it must be understood as part of hegemonic decline and increasing competition. The turn of the century was a period of the fragmentation of empire, of the last European formal empire, the Habsburgs, and the already declining Ottomans. That empire was understood as traditionalist, religiously orthodox, rigid and yet its ranks were swelled by a new liberal class of cosmopolitans, many of whom were Jews and who were protected by the imperial court. Thus what is today considered progressive could easily be associated with the past, with absolutism, while nationalism was understood as the way of the future. Now while the situation was more complicated than this, since there were other powerful cosmopolitanisms in Europe, the emerging conflict in the world system was spurred on by national competition all of which led to the Great War. The configuration of the period is brilliantly captured in Gellner.

55Hence the deep irony of the situation: an authoritarian Empire, based on a medieval dynasty and tied to the heavily dogmatic ideology of the Counter-Reformation, in the end, under the stimulus of ethnic, chauvinistic, centrifugal agitation, found its most eager defenders amongst individualist liberals, recruited in considerable part from an erstwhile pariah group and standing outside the faith with which the state was once so deeply identified (Gellner, 1998: 12).

56This was an arena that plunged into a war and strengthened the nation state as well creating new such entities, but which also established the League of Nations, and an international strategy of nation state formation. It was riddled with all of the contradictions referred to above. In the end, however, the cosmopolitan was by and large defeated. In the current situation there are clearly similar tendencies, but political organization seems to have a stronger tendency to empire formation, however fragile. Thus it might appear that cosmopolitan tendencies are on the rise. International organizations, such as the United Nations, and the most powerful ideological apparatuses, UNESCO, the World Bank and numerous other instances such as the World Economic Council have all converged on a similar set of representations of world order. And the heritage of the Rhodes group as hegemony shifted to the United States, is clearly in evidence, clearly exemplified in the post World War II clubs such as Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission and the Mount Pelerin Society where overlapping membership is strong and which all culminates at Davos in the World Economic Forum. Global media such CNN also partake in this ideology which is significant given the force of repetetive imaging and moral framing in the creation of everyday reality, however virtual. It is also significant that a large number of intellectual elites, academics and politicians have become adepts of this world view. I have tried to detail the way in which academic anthropology has been influenced by this trend (Friedman, 1997, 1999, 2002), partaking in the « postcolonial aura » (Dirlik, 1997) that celebrates movement in itself as « the good » along with its identities, the transnational, translocal, transsexual, bordercrossing etc. as opposed to the dangerous rednecked locals who are associated with nationalism, racism, roots and that greatest of all evils, essentialism. This has even become a critique of what is assumed to be the general anthropological perspective, well epitomized in expressions such as the following:

57… anthropologists’ obsession with boundedness is parallelled by the ways in which the people they study try to deal with seemingly open-ended global flows (Meyer & Geschiere, 1999: 3).

58What a pity that the people we study have got it just as wrong as ourselves. We all obviously are in need of re-education.

59It should be noted that cosmopolitanism is not equivalent to internationalism. This is an important distinction that even attracted the attention of Marcel Mauss who defined the former as « deux sortes d’attitudes morales bien distinctes » (Mauss, 1969: 629). He chose to define cosmopolitanism as a set of ideas and tendencies oriented to the destruction of the nation, while internationalism was merely against nationalism as such but not opposed to the nation state. Thus the socialist internationals struggled with these two concepts and eventually chose the international rather than the cosmopolitan. But there is another difference as well. The cosmopolitanism of the turn of the last century was largely modernist in the legacy of Kant. It identified itself with universal values, moral, rational and scientific. Contemporary cosmopolitanism is the descendent of aristocratic transnationalism discussed above. It is a self identified status position and one which is quite the contrary of Kantian universalism in that it celebrates and encompasses difference rather than opposing it. This is why the notion of hybridity is a logical consequence of the formation of such identities. The cosmopolitan today is not rationalist-universalist but primarily a fusion of all cultures, expressed in the song title « We are the world ». It is postmodernist rather than modernist, not the unification of mankind in a unitary project, but the collection under a single roof of the world’s cultural differences. And it this space of juxtaposed differences that is the hybrid space of the global collector.

  1. Empire?

60The large volume by Hardt and Negri is an interesting example of the continuing reinforcement of a particular ideology of the global. This can be found in some of their major thematic statemets. There is no question for them that we are entering a post-imperialist world, one revealed by the end of the Vietnam war, by the disappearance of the Berlin Wall and by the globalization of the world economy. They understand all of this in evolutionary terms even if they are aware of the previous existence of empires and that such structures are themselves fragile in the long run. The main changes that that signal the new era are:

611. Rhizomatic transformation, equivalent to the development of networks of power replacing vertical state forms.

622. A foucauldian totalization of power; it’s everywhere and nowhere, therefore not in any one hegemonic place such as the US.

633. The Openness of the imperial polity so that there is no longer any outside.

644. The emergence of the nomadic as dominant figure of the future.

655. The formation of a « multitude » to replace the former class‑defined proletariat.

66The United States is the leader in this development. Europe is still based on territorially strong national sovereignty while the US has transcended all that. In the US model we already have the tendency to empire. Unfortunately the Indians had to go as they could never really be inside, but the project remains an open one, the frontier that has always to be confronted and transcended and therefore incorporated. This is the self-representation of American pluralism in some ways and therefore is positive for many on both the right and the left who vote for the immigrant nation. Empire is also inevitable, which explains the largely felicitous attack on Arrighi’s theory of cycles. More consistent with current globalizing ideology is the treatment of the nomadic as the star of the future. The latter is defined as revolutionary whereas the local is relegated to the backward, even harboring fascist potential. This, of course, is an argument for the globalists. Not only do the nomads represent the good and progressive, but their very existence is enough to perform their historical task and pave the way for the final revolution of the multitude. None of this is documented and it could be interpreted as well as a scenario for the ultimate decline of one empire...heralding perhaps a new dark age or feudalism (already taken care of in Appadurai’s treatment of new forms of citizenship, i.e. partial membership and cross cutting ties). Where the authors of this book place themselves in this world of overlapping global discourses is not at all clear, but the totalizing style of the presentation is clearly something that produces resonance among many globalizers. The book is in its 6th printing and has been hailed from many quarters. It is an extraordinary text, praised by reviewers in such disparate places as Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, lauded by authors close to journals like Public Culture. The text has a ring of radical chic perhaps, transcending a number of former perspectives. No longer is there a class issue. The latter is fast becoming a « multitude » whose principle characteristic is its lack of a single unifying identity or strategic goal. The resistence to emergent Empire is simply the essence of all multitude activities since they express projects that are not the dictates of higher powers. The world to come is one that is totalized under Empire in the same sense as globalization is assumed to make the world into a single place. For both, there is no longer an outside. The empire is defined as all encompassing and boundary‑less and the multitudes are characterized as migrant/nomadic, not because they are forced to be so, but because they are the essence of global desire, the desire to be on the move, to deterritorialize. It is this which makes movement in itself, geographical movement, progressive while immobility is reactionary. The same underlying perspective can be found among globalizers, who see a glorious future in a diasporic world of transnationals (Appadurai, 1993; Kelly, 1999) that express a higher stage and higher status than the apparently potential rednecked homebodys who make up, unfortunately for these authors, more than 98% of the world’s population. Both globalization discourse and Empire represent the same set of basic themes. The major difference between the two is that Empire includes a more holistic political image of the future than most of the globalization literature, since the latter is almost entirely focused on lateral relations of transmission and movement. Hardt and Negri take on the state and they also reformulate the issue of class relations within their vision. But their totalization is of the same order. This is why Foucault is so important in characterizing power, which is no longer a verticalized relation, but a generalized structure of total control. If the multitude threatens this structure it is because it expresses the same properties in essence, openness, nomadism and flexible multiculturism (Deleuze and Guattari). So perhaps the revolution has already occured? If the projects of the multitude are an extention of those of empire then its basically all the same.

67There are interesting points of similarity and overlap here between this supposedly radical thinking and cosmopolitan ideology. They can be summarized in the following list:

681968 1998

69The national The postnational

70The local The global

71Collective Individual

72Social(ist) Liberal

73Homogeneous Heterogeneous

74Monocultural Multicultural

75Equality (sameness) Hierarchy (difference)

76These terms are meant to capture the transition of self-identified progressive thinking over a period of thirty years. These terms form sets of dualist oppositions and they are of course somewhat oversimplified, but not enough to miss the nature of the shift. The postnational is today seen as the royal road to the future of mankind whereas the national is a horrible leftover from a nationalist past including essentialist and therefore racist tendencies. The global similarly is an expression of this new nomadic desire to transcend the prison of locality. Individualism has crept into the former collectivist ideology and has manged to associate the latter with Foucauldian totalistic control. Similarly the liberal has successively cannibalized the socialist from the inside, producing a great deal of confusion of the kind expressed in ideologies such as New Labor and contemporary social democracy in general. The heterogeneous has become a goal in itself, a generalized cultural pluralism of different identities, religions and political projects. This is a paradox in conditions where the advocates of such a position are also liberal individualists since the cultural identities in question are collective. The multicultural quandary is an expression of the same shift toward heterogeneity. The only consistent way out of the contradictions of this position is in the transformation of culture from a structure of existence to a mere role set, so that the individual can practice culture by choice, by elective affinity, like joining the golf club instead of the Wahabists, at least on Monday. In the process of this transition equality is increasingly replaced by hierarchy via an emphasis on difference. This is the key to pluralism as a political form one in which elite rule is essential. Difference becomes the dominant value while equality is seen as an ugly result of totalitarian rule.

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1   These variations are reflected in major works of political philosophy as well, i.e. Rousseau, Hegel etc. but the focus here is on the more spontaneous political representations as they emerge in what can be called political culture.

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