Professor Griffith and Bakich
12 September 2011
In his book, Beyond Fundamentalism, Reza Aslan makes a point to express his opinion on globalization and it becomes a theme of the book. In fact, his opinion surfaces, in a more conservative form before the book even begins. In the introduction Aslan says, “Globalization has radically altered the way people define themselves, both individually and as a collective” (Reza 10). Even though this brief statement does not give a direct suggestion to whether his feelings are positive or negative, readers can be sure that he has strong feelings one way or the other about the issue. However, a quick two paragraphs later he expresses his true feelings with the statement, “…with the precipitous rise of globalization and steady decline of secular nationalism…which now threatens to plunge the globe into a century of cosmic war…” (Reza 10-11). Aslan goes on to develop a convincing argument as to why globalization is not the way of the future.
The first question the reader might ask themselves is “Is globalization a real issue that is affecting our current society?” Aslan has modified a definition of globalization set forth by Roland Robertson, “a concept that refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole” (Reza 19). After finding a few definitions, along with Aslan’s definition, readers might decide that globalization is a real issue in our modern society. For that reason readers may feel that it is one of the most important themes of his book. Not only does it affect us now, but in the future it will most likely play an even bigger role in our lives. This statement also uses the term “us”, which is used broadly to mean the entire human race while spanning every religion and background.
Aslan starts off his opinions by saying that globalization is nothing new. In fact, he believes that it first started when people began to migrate out of Africa. This logic seems a little extreme because at the time, when Africans may have been taking part in such actions, the Earth was not as populated. In order for globalization to take place there must first be very distinct nations, which at this point in time were likely not quite fully developed.
Aslan’s next statement, “The age of empires was in some ways the height of globalization; the Romans, Byzantines, Persians, and Mongols were able to cross-pollinate their trade, communication, and cultures across vast distances with fluidity and ease”(Reza 18). While this seems like the ideal vision of globalization, there are some weak spots in this theory. While the empires themselves are demonstrating the very characteristics of globalization, the world outside of the empire makes it difficult to call the entire world globalized. The whole basis of globalization is global cooperation; in the age of the empires there was cooperation within the empire but a disconnected feeling from other nations. There was hatred and dislike for the empires, not to mention the internal dissent. When the empire was established it was done mostly by force,not consent. Therefore, the internal melting pot was a more forced thing, which contradicts the definition that globalization is a consensual agreement among bodies.
The main strength and what makes the concept really apply to the current day in age is his relation of globalization and technology. He simply states their relation by saying,
In its contemporary usage, however, the term “globalization” refers to modern trends such as the expansion of international financial systems, the interconnectedness of national interests, the rise of global media and communication technologies like the Internet, and the mass migration of peoples-all taking place across the boundaries of sovereign nation-states.(Reza 18)
One of the most relevant points in this statement is the Internet. This day in age people spend at least some portion of their day on the Internet; whether shopping, doing research, watching videos, or just playing games. Many would also agree that the younger generations are the ones who spend most time on the computers and this generation is the one that will soon be leading the world. They will likely continue to expand their technological skills and oversees communication will become a “new normal.” This instant communication will enable the world to trade, communicate, and cooperate just like globalization describes.
Aslan seems to believe that globalization means losing defining characteristics, such as nationality. He believes that things we used to describe ourselves in the past, such as nationality, race, culture, and many more, are becoming less prominent as our world moves towards globalization. On page nineteen Aslan says, “And since the self is composed of multiple markers of identity- nationality, class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and so on-if one of those starts to give way (say, nationality)it is only natural that another (religion, ethnicity) would come to fill the vacuum.”(Aslan 19) By saying this Aslan seems to imply that we as humans are naturally against globalization. If we cannot be identified in one way we will find another form of identification, and identifying the entire population as one is not acceptable. Humans wish to differentiate between one another, want to know where people are from, what others believe, and be able to define themselves. After all, haven’t we been taught since a young age to be ourselves and not be like everyone else? In this sense, Aslan has a strong argument that globalization is moving us away from those identifiers and we are strongly objecting. In fact, people such as the jihadists, are acting in rash ways, fighting, suicide bombings, and violent actions, to distinguish themselves from others.
Throughout his book, Aslan makes many plausible assertions as to how globalization is a real and pressing issue. He scores a home run when he describes how technology is one of the driving forces behind globalization. It makes people realize that the instant communication from the United States to China or any place in the world is facilitating faster trading and is interlinking national economies more than ever. He also makes a strong argument that as we lose defining characteristics we rely more heavily on others. This leads us to believe that humans are naturally opposed to this unified world that globalization is leading us toward. Aslan makes a convincing argument as to why globalization is not the route we should follow.
Reza, Aslan. Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization. New York: Random House Trade