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CIAO DATE: 12/00

A Critical Geopolitics of Global Governance

Simon Dalby *

Chair of International Governance, Amsterdam, Netherlands

International Studies Association
41th Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA.
March 14-18, 2000


Governance as a concept has emerged as an important theme in discussions of post-Cold War politics at the global scale. Often used as either a supplement to, or as a critique of, international organizations involved in contemporary globalization, it suggests that governance is not just a matter of state authority and international organization but also a matter of authority and legitimacy in other social arrangements. In its mode of critique governance can be used to challenge the geographical specifications of politics at the largest of scales and in particular the traditional preoccupations of geopolitics with territorial control and power politics. But likewise these geopolitical themes can also be used to illuminate the modern territorial assumptions that often continue to constrain the conceptualizations of global governance.



My thanks to Doug Stewart for collecting media coverage of events in Seattle, to Will Bain and Cara Stewart for lengthy conversations on the topics in this paper, and to the UBC Institute of International Relations for a convivial institutional locale in which to write it. Support for writing this paper comes from a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Grant for research on "Community, Identity and Environmental Threat."



Geopolitics is a term now commonly used to refer to great power rivalries and the geographical dimensions of global political power. Sometimes used as a synonym for political geography it supposedly captures the importance of context and scale in considerations of politics, but links this to an awareness of the weighty matters of international politics (Parker, 1998). Indeed the utility of geopolitical reasoning in the speeches and pronouncements of politicians and pundits is often precisely in its apparent simultaneous invocation of intellectual gravitas and political acumen. Geopolitics is a matter of serious consideration in the halls of power, in the institutes for studying foreign policy as well as in political speeches that invoke geographical languages to specify the world in particular ways that have political effect. "The world is actively 'spatialized,' divided up, labeled, sorted out into a hierarchy of places of greater or lesser 'importance' by political geographers, other academics and political leaders. This process provides the geographical framing within which political elites and mass publics act in the world in pursuit of their own identities and interests" (Agnew, 1998: 2). But in doing so geopolitical reasoning frequently simplifies and obscures the subtleties and local circumstances of political struggle, war and, more recently, of globalization. Through the 1990s a number of geographers used the term critical geopolitics to encompass a diverse range of academic challenges to the conventional ways in which political space was written, read and practiced (Ó Tuathail and Dalby, 1998). Rather than a single analytical or methodological endeavor, critical geopolitics encompasses various ways of unpacking the geographical assumptions in politics, asking how the cartographic imagination of here and there, inside and outside, them and us, states, blocs, zones, regions or other geographical specifications, work to both facilitate some political possibilities and actions and exclude and silence others. These writings all challenge common sense and "modern" assumptions that national identities and the states that govern populations are the necessary starting point for both policy discussion and scholarly analysis.

More important is to understand both how such assumptions have come to be taken for granted and what political possibilities are silenced by this modern geopolitical imagination (Heffernan, 1998). The challenge is also to the practices of knowledge production, whether in terms of the 'formal geopolitics' of scholarly texts, the more 'practical geopolitics' of policy makers and practitioners of statecraft, the 'popular geopolitics' in media representations of contemporary events and in popular entertainment genres, or in the resistance to conventional designations in "anti-geopolitical" protests. These concerns are increasingly melding with larger current concerns in the geographical discipline that explain how spaces are anything but natural phenomena (Lewis and Wigen, 1997). This thinking shows that the geographical constructions of everything from large scale maps that define property boundaries, to the small scale maps of states and empires, are modes of reasoning with powerful political effect. This challenge suggests that geopolitical categories are much more deeply problematic than earlier dismissals of geopolitical reasoning on simple ideological grounds understood (Ó Tuathail, 1996).

Such considerations focus attention on how important spatial assumptions are to modern discussions of administration, whether at state or other "levels." Territory is basic to conventional political, legal and social science definitions of states. Jurisdiction is first and foremost a territorial matter in the modern world. At the largest of scales the taken for granted political constructions of North and South, developed and developing, zones of peace and zones of turmoil, failed states, and so on structure how governance is usually considered. As even writers in The Economist magazine (1999) now understand, when discussions of global problems appear in policy deliberations and scholarly texts these geopolitical categories shape the discussion by providing the ontological categories, that literally "geo-graph," or "write the earth."

The conceptual inadequacies of these ontological schemes are often immensely politically productive. The ability to specify the world in simple geographic terms has political utility when these terms are accepted as the common sense parameters for political reasoning. In terms of American foreign policy in the 1990s the basic distinction between democratic and non-democratic states structured many of the discussions. Coded in terms of zones of peace and zones of turmoil, danger could be specified as external; its origins somewhere out there beyond "our" borders. Categories of rogue states defined particular places as in need of military containment. Such cartographic practices suggest a separateness to them, and their place, that operates politically to remove obligation and responsibility across these borders (Campbell, 1993). The specification of states in terms of these categories shapes the policies that are deemed appropriate by the rich and powerful who make state foreign policy, and by most other people who use these categories.



But the theme of separateness was challenged in the 1990s by numerous political claims that it was the decade of globalization (Held, McGrew, Goldblatt and Perraton, 1999). State foreign policy makers and administrators are now involved in international negotiations and administering agreements on all manner of things. Near and far are not what they once were. The invocation of the globe in advertising specifically, business discourse in general, as well as in numerous political discourses suggested that we now live in a borderless world (McHaffie, 1997). Flows, interconnections and global reach is now both the reality and the desideratum of the globally savvy business operator. International trade is increasing at a faster rate than economic growth. In the financial markets of the world huge amounts of electronic, if not paper, money are in motion between notional sovereign entities. The radical acceleration of electronic communication in the last few years, and the emergence of the internet as a means of communication to supplement the impacts of global satellite TV, has repeatedly challenged the sense of national community in broadcasting. In cultural matters there is often a sense that homogenization, whether through music, television or movies in the global marketplace of cultural identities seems to be reducing diversity on one hand but on the other incorporating many new themes into global patterns. Crucial here however is the point that these media facilitate processes wherein people claim to be modern. Globalization has ironically accelerated processes of identity construction and personal aspiration in terms of the modern. And being modern is still usually understood as being both a citizen of a "modern" nation state and a consumer of the commodities produced by international corporations (Appadurai, 1996). Television coverage of sporting events in particular usually emphasizes how "our team" is doing while broadcasting "global" competitions interspersed with advertisements for the products of corporations whose reach is transnational.

Globalization has also spawned a variety of oppositions, or at least extended the scope of many political organizations contesting dominant political arrangements. The reduction of government environmental oversight is especially worrying to many activists in light of the general reduction of regulatory state functions as part of the neo-liberal agenda of contemporary (Strange, 1996). The effective privatization of some of the rules of corporate environmental behavior by the ISO also concerns those who value public accountability and transparency (Clapp, 1998). Preserving rare and endangered species is a prudent strategy although preserving their habitat, the most important part of the process often needs international cooperation precisely when international trading agreements are eliminating national controls over environmental matters by claiming that they are trade impediments. It now seems clear to many social, environment and poverty activists that state governments, international trading arrangements and large corporations are not a reliable set of institutions with which to run a small planet if any claim to justice or sustainability matters (Karliner, 1997).

But very frequently activists invoke state sovereignty, local laws and protectionist arguments in the face of "global" threats. Cultural nationalists bemoan the imports of American culture. Labor activists argue against the downward pressures on standards and wages fostered by the global production systems of major corporations. Impoverishment in one part of the world is very obviously related to enrichment in others (Falk, 1999). While electronic communications has accelerated interconnections and facilitated the connections between activists it has most certainly done the same for corporations leading some commentators to suggest that the internet is in the process of exacerbating inequalities and dividing the world into the wired "haves" and the unconnected "havenots" (Everard, 2000).

In its more extreme renditions globalization has suggested to some authors that geography no longer matters. Kenichi Ohmae (1995) has announced the end of the nation state, the end of the importance of national boundaries and the emergence of a global market place structured more in terms of transnational regions than states. Ohmae argues that this borderless economy has rendered the old vocabularies of national states outdated and that policy makers have to rethink how they operate. The assumptions of global corporations and the apparent need for global regulations suggest that states are less important. Regional trading blocs such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement may take over state functions.

But one powerful counter argument to the end of geography thesis has incorporated economic themes into the more traditional cartographic practices of geopolitical reasoning. The specification of the world in terms of geoeconomics, and the reworking of geopolitical rivalries into a discourse of geoeconomic competition, perpetuates similar cartographic specifications of the terms of political and policy discussion. In Edward Luttwak's (1990) terms, economic competition has partly overtaken military rivalry as a preoccupation of state bureaucracies. Instead of competing in terms of arms races and military superiority, now, Luttwak argues, the rivalry has been displaced into economics. The importance of states has not declined but rather they have shifted into new arenas of competition.

Empirical evidence in favor of Luttwak's contention is apparently clear in some of the arguments in international trade negotiations where special corporate interests are argued by state delegations. International NGOs now act as advisors to many state delegations in international meetings. Ronen Palan (forthcoming) suggests that many small states and a few larger ones are using financial and tax legislation as a means of economic competition. Tax havens and other "offshore" financial services are apparently increasingly important in a world where flows of funds can easily be arranged so that they are fictionally resident in financial institutions "off shore." Indeed a substantial amount of the flows of funds are international flows precisely for these reasons.

The contrast between the end of geography thesis and the geoeconomic rivalry argument is at the heart of many contemporary discussions about the shape and trajectory of political and economic change (Sparke, 1998). The implications for how one thinks about governance are profound too. If globalization is in fact breaking down the barriers between states and eroding sovereignty, then governance can easily be argued to be about much more than states' actions. On the other hand if states are in the business of economic rivalry then in turn governance is apparently still a state matter, although the terms of the rivalry are a matter of complex international negotiations where technical expertise in government delegations comes from corporations or specialist international non-governmental organizations. But regardless of which version of the argument is accepted, whether the declining importance of states or the reinvention of state roles, in both cases continuing economic change is having an effect on the conduct of state activities and raising questions of appropriate modes of governance.



These themes were much discussed in the 1990s, stimulated in part by a literature reacting to some of Foucault's briefly sketched ideas about security, population and governmentality (Burchell, Gordon and Miller, 1991). This discussion points both to the changing objects of government and shifting objects of attention by states, and also to the sense that governance is much more than the formal practices of state administration and the formal structures elections and democratic participation. Governance then is a much broader conceptualization of social practices and modes of knowledge that stretch into most aspects of social life. It historically relates to matters of the household and economy as well as to states. Questions of civil society and numerous social arrangements are included in this more general understanding. Governance is much more than just what states do.

At the largest of scales, and in the context of rising international protest over such things as proposals for a Multilateral Agreement on Investments or the activities of the World Trade Organization (WTO), governance is also about questions both of international society and the importance of international agreements, as well as "civil society" in challenging the corporate technocratic and administrative approach to international trade and related matters. In the words of the Commission on Global Governance (1995: 2):

Governance is the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action may be taken. It includes formal institutions and regimes empowered to enforce compliance, as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions either have agreed to or perceive to be in their interest.
While this formulation is very broad, and easily conflated with classical understandings of politics, it does encompass this all inclusive sense of the processes of human cooperation and deliberation as well as more traditional administrative and organizational matters. Above all this definition makes clear that governance is about much more than states and the official actions of state agencies. In so far as it removes "the state" from the foreground of debate about political matters it allows more useful discussion of current difficulties. It also allows discussion of the broader actions of what increasingly is now called global civil society. To a substantial extent what such considerations do is contrast a rigid spatial state administrative structure with a more amorphous network of practices, aspirations and communications. The advocates of various causes in global civil society take encouragment from these often inchoate tendencies.

But whether it is understood to be declining, in transition, competing, or even being transcended, the territorial state remains the overarching theme in the modern conception of politics, society, identity and hence governance (Walker, 1993). In so far as people look to institutions to control their fate the territorial administration of the state still dominates peoples understandings of political possibilities. The misnamed United Nations is a collection of state elites who are members of the organization precisely because they all accept the basic territorial assumptions of contemporary world politics.


Geopolitical Violence

Geopolitics is partly about matters of surveillance over fixed spaces and supposedly permanent boundaries. It is a mode of knowledge that often acts to fix the contingencies of history and society in a discourse of aspiration to permanence, whether of the nation or the state. But this securitized vision of boxes and boundaries, impermeable spaces and external threats is part of a larger modern subjectivity of detached knowledgeable omniscience (Scott, 1998). The geopolitical gaze of modernity is also the gaze of the detached rational actor, the individual human with impermeable boundaries, protected by a knowledge that assumes an intact stable interior space as the ontologically sovereign subject given of existence which is endangered by numerous external threats. This securitized subject parallels the geopolitical assumptions of the modern state as the knowledgeable surveillance system policing the untroubled territory within its boundaries to keep external threats at bay. It follows by logical extension that such orderliness should be extended in the international arena too under the guise of global governance and various surveillance systems linked to the United Nations and other international liberal agencies (Debrix, 1999).

But as many of the texts in the international relations discipline have suggested in the last few years, these geopolitical practices are often violent activities in and of themselves (Shapiro, 1997). If either ecology or society is understood as interconnection and change, as processes rather than stable spaces, the violence of trying to fix stable entities in a shifting system is not so surprising. Whether it's the attempt to turn complex ecologies in agricultural fields, or control the patterns of human migration by regulating the borders of post-colonial states, the imposition of simple spatial grids onto complex landscapes, and the simultaneous assertion of singular national identities onto multicultural societies, is a violent activity that disrupts mobile processes of change as well as traditional social patterns (Krishna, 1999). The colonial impulse is to simplification, stabilization and surveillance to control both people and nature. The modern aesthetic of orderliness, that Scott (1998) emphasizes in his critique of state vision, can easily be extended to the larger practices of geopolitics in which modern identities are secured against the contingencies of both nature and social change.

But the ironic dilemma of modernity is of course that it is premised on change, progress and the ever enlarging impact of its economic system within a finite ecosystem. Precisely the attempts to fix boundaries are challenged by the processes of economic change and the migrations set in motion by these changes. In part these processes are driving the attempts by the political and economic elites of the world to construct ever more comprehensive systems of trade regulation that reduce the diversity of state arrangements. Globalization is about the politics of the ISO and the WTO as much as it is about cultural convergence or the appropriation of the globe by corporate advertising agencies. It is precisely this attempt to introduce uniform practices across many diverse spaces that activists, in what is now called civil society, see as a challenge to everything from the possibilities for decent living wages, nationally enforced safety standards in the workplace, human rights in many places, preventing global climate change, the survival of migratory species, to environmental protection for unique habitats.


The Battle Of Seattle

The pervasiveness of the geopolitical impulse to secure spaces is of course also visible in many of the anti-geopolitical discourses of resistance that civil society activists use. Whether it is the protection of national safety standards, culture or environment the rhetoric of insides in need of protection from external threats in the form of international organization is pervasive. Of course now it is a matter of multiple insides threatened in many places by the agents of global corporations and their international organizations (Dalby, 1999). The same rhetoric of secure spaces is again the logic of the Seattle police forces and National Guard called in to remove protestors, and everyone else, from the streets of Seattle in December 1999 during the meeting of the WTO. The pervasiveness of this political tactic is testament to the efficacy of territorial strategies of power. In so far as control is effectively exercised in uncertain circumstances the simplicity of territorial demarcation, expression and enforcement, and its adaptability make it a preferred police tactic (Herbert, 1997). The simplicity of geographical specifications of spaces as ours and theirs frequently makes the temptation to this geopolitical language irresistible. Indeed the "Battle of Seattle" in December 1999 provides a very appropriate episode to examine what is at stake in terms of contemporary geopolitical assumptions about governance. The clashing voices of arrested protestors, riot squad members and international trade negotiators show the geopolitical assumptions in contemporary discussions of politics. Thinking in terms of the geographical presuppositions of politics in the various scripts both allows the multiple narratives to be contrasted, but more importantly, it also allows us to understand that the struggle to get a particular understanding accepted is in part a struggle over appropriate geographical presuppositions. Obviously its about more than this, but in so far as geographical language is tied into the ontological claims of the various discourses, geography is unavoidably political, governance is unavoidably geographical.

First is the tension between the arguments that globalization is inevitable and unavoidable and the geoeconomic struggles waged by state delegations to ensure that the rules that the WTO is negotiating are favorable to the corporations operating within their territory. The old pattern of supporting measures that bring benefits and blocking those that don't is in operation here. But there is also a complex process happening within which delegates try to work out shared procedures and learn in the process of negotiation. Corporate experts appear on delegations for many states, the WTO is indeed about the rules of corporate behavior as much as about state agendas. But whether this is specified as a world of innovative trade arrangements, or an organization designed to prevent states operating to protect local concerns, matters politically. As statements from the opponents of the WTO at the Seattle protests make clear, they understand the WTO as a mechanism for reducing local autonomy and see it as an elite organization designed to entrench injustices and corporate capabilities at a global scale.

More precisely the crucial question is one of whether the negotiation process is to be understood as one of state rivalries, or as one in which elite collusion occurs where negotiators construct a trading regime that provides a system of rules that can then be used against domestic opposition. The argument that "we" have to comply with international rules or face all sorts of unpleasant consequences, becomes a powerful weapon in the hands of state elites anxious to extend the neo-liberal agenda. In Neil Smith's (2000) trenchant prose: " has never been more vital, then, that we penetrate the combined liberal moralism and spatial fetishism that still implicitly treats Asian and African leaders as representatives of the victimized poor. Rather they are the poorer relations of the global capitalist class, and not always poorer either, if usually less powerful."

Second is the related tension between the arguments that these matters are ones of trade and hence of universal rules, and those of opposition based on specific contingencies. The opposition is one frequently based on geographical particularity; our standard of living is not going to be sacrificed by allowing "their" products based on low wages undercut "our" jobs. We have to resist any arrangements that allow secret arbitration panel decisions to undercut "our" environmental standards. The apparent ability of corporations to use WTO rulings to force governments to weaken environmental legislation alarms many activists. A ruling that struck down American restrictions on the importation of shrimp, caught by methods that trapped and killed turtles in "shrimp" nets, led to the creation of the turtle costumes that many activists wore in the Seattle protests. Specifically this issue is a matter of recognizing that general rules have particular, frequently deleterious, consequences in particular places and to particular environments. Here the rights of sovereignty and the applicability of national laws are reasserted to try to protect species elsewhere in the face of global institutions suggesting that such actions are trade discrimination.

The environmental dimensions of global governance, captured graphically by protesting plastic "turtles" on the streets in Seattle, throw the dilemmas of governance into especially sharp relief. The arguments that pit environment against trade replay parallel debates about environment or jobs and environment or economic growth. The argument made by some media commentators critical of the WTO protestors, who suggested that trade wasn't the issue and that protestors ought to campaign for a powerful international environmental organization is interesting, because it implies that trade and environment are somehow separate. But it was precisely because secretive WTO "trade" rulings had dramatic implications for environmental standards within particular states that many protestors were focusing on the WTO. Global governance does not fit into neat categories separating trade from environment any more than it fits into nineteenth century "modern" models of territorial nation states.

But the national exclusionary desires are nonetheless part of the larger international campaigns to introduce ecologically sensitive harvesting techniques. Global civil society may be an inadequate term to cover the multiplicity of local concerns that globalization affects, but it has the utility of pointing to the growing sense of common cause among non-governmental organizations who see the combination of specific effects of globalization as unacceptable tout court, even if their political strategies are often stuck in the logic of state regulations. Nonetheless the longevity of a political coalition that links turtles and teamsters is also questionable. Referring to protesting steel workers locked out of their jobs in aluminum plants in the US, one participant in the protests noted that "There are deep, inescapable issues that will inevitably, pit steelworkers, fighting for their jobs in an ever-tightening economy, against greens, defending dwindling species of sockeye salmon that are being killed off by the hydrodams that power aluminum plants" (StClair, 1999: 93). The difficulties of formulating alternative governance institutions are very considerable; the possibilities of drastically rethinking economic systems likewise. Third is the question of democracy and the importance of understanding that the protestors in Seattle are neither convinced of the supposed benefits of global trade arrangements, that accelerate the pace of resource appropriation, frequently suppress wages and the rights of workers to organize into unions, while apparently further reducing the capabilities of states to affect the local conditions of globalization. The assumption here is that international organizations are even less susceptible to democratic oversight and even less the subject of scrutiny than domestic political arrangements. Given the release in 1999 of the movie "the Insider" telling the story of a corporate whistleblower's attempt to tell the world how tobacco corporations had systematically lied to the public and to governments for decades about the health hazards of smoking, corporations were at least somewhat suspect late in 1999.

Beyond that is the refusal to accept the argument that democratic states actually make up the majority of voting delegates in the WTO. Hence the argument that the organization is democratic because it is made up of states that are democratically elected is also rejected on various grounds, not least that such reasoning avoids the questions of procedural transparency and direct public accountability. Nonetheless it is worth noting that for the first time in such negotiations representatives of non-governmental organizations were invited to attend at least some of the sessions of the WTO meetings in Seattle, although to many critics of the WTO this only makes matters worse because the opposition to global corporate capitalism is thus even further coopted (StClair, 1999).

Fourth is the matter of Seattle and the politics of protest. The peaceful blockade of the convention center quickly became overshadowed by the media obsession with conflict and rioting, although police misbehavior and violence colored the coverage. The immediate securitization of the political protest into one of public order replays a long pattern of shifting discussion from substantive political issues to the questions of public order. In the process the spatial surveillance of the city becomes the hegemonic script. Once again protest and discussions of appropriate governance structures are eclipsed in the moment of practical confrontation by the imperatives of government and the violent reassertion of state control of supposedly public spaces. The fact that this might have been much more effectively accomplished in the first place by a low key police presence avoiding obvious confrontation and riot tactics is also worth noting. So too is to emphasize the spatial strategy of the non-violent protestors to blockade the convention center to disrupt proceedings by preventing delegates getting to their meetings.


Democratic Spaces?

But at least some of the activists were able to make the connection between the lack of democracy that they objected to at the WTO, and the suspension of civil rights caused by the invocation of the state of emergency in the city. Media images of "robocops" using violence against demonstrators suggested a militarized new world order as the violent face of the WTO and reminded those who may have forgotten that the contemporary liberal economic order was built on the basis of military power (Latham, 1997). Enforcement of its mandate apparently required the violent removal of human obstacles to its agenda. Once again people in the way of globalization have to be forcefully removed. Television pictures of bus loads of arrested people who were refusing to cooperate with the police in allowing themselves to be processed through the arrest procedure suggested both the limits of carceral strategies, and the importance of such forms of resistance in contemporary struggles. While surveillance is effective in monitoring street behavior, the territorial strategies of control require other legal and administrative procedures to be completely effective. This suggests once again the limits of the preferred territorial strategies of police power (Herbert, 1997).

The connections between surveillance and power go further in the arguments about the geography of neoconservatism and the importance of private security firms whose surveillance is an increasingly pervasive part of "public" life (Klein, 1998). Whether in the gated communities of Southern California, or the public signs announcing that areas are under surveillance by "CCTV" on the streets of Glasgow in Scotland, the surveillance is predominantly done by corporations and used as a geographical strategy to control "privatized" spaces. Neither gated communities nor private compounds are a new phenomenon, but the privatization of community and security runs directly counter to most liberal democratic assumptions about public safety and the equality of citizens. It also runs counter to the supposed rationale of states as the providers of security. Corporate governance is thus an arrangement anathema to a liberal democratic ethos precisely as it apparently supports a liberal economy.

The rigid geographical differentiation of communities coupled to surveillance technology and police power has also been the stuff of movies recently in "The Siege" and in "Enemy of the State." Los Angeles and the gated community phenomenon is worthy of note in so far as it inscribes a geography of affluence and poverty directly onto the physical landscape (Davis, 1999). Manila residents will be familiar with the situation where it is sometimes said by the wealthy in that city that the best property investment in the city is a twelve foot concrete wall surrounding a domestic compound to protect the private space within from all manner of threats outside. The affluence inside and the squalor outside mirrors the growing disparities between the rich and the poor at a global scale; precisely the injustices that so many Seattle protestors suggested was one of the most profound failures of global governance encapsulated in the WTO.

Such disparities of wealth are what the last few decades of neo-liberal policies and globalization appear to have produced (Falk, 1999). But the defense of the global economic system, that has in part produced these disparities, now involves the national guard and a military model of crowd control in one very specific locale. Such considerations elsewhere have suggested to a number of writers the appropriateness of analogizing the current world order with that of apartheid South Africa. Where capital is internationally mobile, but labor is much less so, the geography of the international political economy has to be worked into the discussion. In South Africa the injustices between the rich and the poor were given explicit geographical expression in the strategies of segregated homelands and urban townships (Dalby, 1998). The violent police presence in the townships and the ostensible equality between the Bantustans mirrors nicely the contrasts both between poor states and rich ones, and between the convention center affluence in Seattle and the violent crowd control on the streets outside.

Thus, from the smallest scale of the territorial strategies of crowd control to the construction of a corporate organized planet, the geopolitical gaze can be seen in the surveillance of populations and the control of space. Ironically of course, the globalization of business and resistance also transcends such boundaries so that a geographical understanding of these matters has to encompass how surveillance spaces divide and control in the name of processes that transcend. People all over the world with access to the internet can check whether their photograph is on the Seattle police webpage of wanted "vandals" of Starbucks. In reading matters in this way the assumptions about governance are cut through in an unconventional manner, but a manner that suggests that globalization does more than challenge a supposedly relatively stable geopolitical model of territorial states providing spatial expression of discrete polities.

Thus the point is that opposition to the WTO is caught in the same geographical dilemmas of governance and political action. In part this is of course a simple matter of the practical necessity of using existing fora and institutions to resist the changing consequences of global capitalism. Local autonomy is claimed against global processes. Local employment is pitted against imports; local environmental preferences against foreign practices. But ironically the importance of a politics of connections is emphasized in the campaigns against the WTO. Precisely the ability of activists to connect and communicate through the internet and email facilitated their campaigns to oppose aspects of globalization. As struggles over the Zapatista resistance in Mexico have demonstrated repeatedly (Routledge, 1998), global coordination of local opposition is what resistance in particular sites such as Seattle is often about.

What is at stake here may be governance in the largest sense, but this irony makes clear that a more sophisticated geographical imagination is needed to encompass contemporary politics than one based, whether consciously on the part of conservatives, or unconsciously on the part of "progressive" activists, on the old Aristotelian assumption that politics is what happens in autonomous relatively small geographical communities. The authors of "Our Global Neighbourhood" directly pose this struggle with the appropriate geographical metaphors in the title of their report. The metaphor of the neighbourhood neatly invokes locality while the specification of the global simultaneously renders it impossible. Globalization has the advantage of making a politics of little boxes, to use Walker's (1995: 324) ever apt phrasing, increasingly untenable as a mode of both political and scholarly discourse.


Autonomy, Identity, Community

None of this is to deny the undoubted damage done in particular places by the disruptions of modernity, whether explicitly a matter of trans-boundary globalization, or of more obviously indigenous appropriations of modernization. Modernization is all about change – social, economic, political and inevitably environmental. It is also about urbanization and consequently it is also about increasing the demand for resources and agricultural commodities that inevitably change rural economies and threaten traditional land holding arrangements and resource allocations. Modernization is also about migration and movement in a world of territorial boundaries. Contemporary discussions of global governance are about questions of how to accommodate these changes, ameliorating the worst excesses and facilitating the spread of the benefits in a fixed series of boundaries that seem antithetical to the movements that are crucial to the expansion of the global economy. Even most environmental movements operate on the assumption that change is inevitable. Their arguments are about what kind of change, how fast it occurs in specific places and, above all, who controls it.

While the assumption that "grassroots" resistance can be understood solely in terms of a separate community "in here" being assailed by threats from "out there" is to oversimplify the geographies of resistance (Esteva and Prakesh, 1998), nonetheless contemporary claims to cultural and political autonomy without claims to territory are extremely difficult to maintain in the face of territorial modes of rule. This applies especially in the case of contemporary warfare which has also become globalized in important ways (Kaldor, 1999). Particularist identities remain a powerful political temptation, but one that is frequently mobilized by the warlords and chauvinist nationalists of the post-cold war world. Global surveillance and high-technology weapons is the superpower geopolitical response on the one hand, but the spatial claims to locality and autonomy are widely invoked to justify numerous crimes and much violence. Diasporic communities fund the ambitions of warlords in the zones of violence that are the epicenters of the new regional war economies. The desire to be modern is frequently articulated in terms of claims to a territorial state, sovereign recognition being the ultimate claim to legitimize a national identity.

Contemporary violent military claims to autonomy are ironically partly funded by international sales of valuable commodities, be they diamonds, oil or in some cases timber. Internet communications and cell phones are the tools of communication used by local military leaders. New wars are globalized crucially in the sense that they depend on open economic processes, the autarchic states and blocs of earlier periods are no longer useful categories for understanding contemporary patterns of violence (Kaldor, 1999). The persistence of the assumption of political settlements being necessarily based on exclusivist identities linked to discrete territories, remains a legacy of past thinking and a problem for imagining both cosmopolitan governance in general, and the practical possibilities for specific humanitarian "interventions." Universal aspiration is still administered by local territorial agencies, and is likely to remain so long as the cultural assumptions of individualism and the modern ontologies of autonomy maintain their dominant hold on the geopolitical imagination (Dalby, 2000).

The central and inescapable irony to such arguments is that the difficulties of particularist identities and territorial states are often aggravated precisely because independent states within fixed stable boundaries were what was assumed to be the answer to then contemporary matters of global governance in the middle of the twentieth century. The formation of the United Nations in the 1940s, and much subsequent international regime building, has been premised on the permanent settlement of territorial boundaries. Given the violence involved in boundary change and the powerful political logic invoked in claims to the restitution of past territorial grievances, the United Nations system relies on non-interference in the internal affairs of states on the one hand and on the stability of borders on the other. As a partial solution to war making between established states this arrangement has considerable utility, but as a model for solving other political matters, it may be less than helpful.

The end of territorial aggrandizement is the trade off for the establishment of the permanent administrative arrangements of the contemporary state system. Despite the fact that these boundaries frequently may make little practical sense on the ground, especially in "post-colonial" Africa, this "territorial covenant" is now widely accepted (Jackson and Zacher, 1997). The assumption that territorial ambition is such a powerful causus belli has permeated international understanding to such an extent that by the beginning of the twenty first century it is widely accepted that, even when secessionist states are recognized, they will be established within the territorial boundaries of prior non-sovereign administrative units. While these entities present numerous problems of governance, and might often be better understood as pseudo-states (Kolossov and O'Loughlin, 1998), their creation only emphasizes the importance of this international norm, even as it appears increasingly archaic in the face of many "global" problems at the beginning of the twenty-first century.


Governance For a Small Planet

The big questions of governance remain caught in the dilemmas of particular territorial claims on the one hand and universal dangers or opportunities on the other. The global interconnections of local decisions are more clearly understood than they perhaps were during the cold war, but the model of liberal democratic states that assumes internal political communities regulating an ever increasing wealth generated by local economic activity, is less convincing now than it was, even in the imperial age when Europeans first widely embraced such ideologies. And yet the geopolitical premises of politics as a matter of boundaries and geographical identities remains very hard to avoid (Everard, 2000). Indeed the crucial point seems to be that many opposition movements find themselves trapped in modern spatial language:

This incapacity of many deterritorialized groups to think their way out of the imaginary of the nation state is itself the cause of much global violence because many movements of emancipation and identity are forced, in their struggles against existing nation states, to embrace the very imaginary that they seek to escape. Postnational or nonnational movements are forced by the very logic of actually existing nation-states to become antinational or antistate and thus to inspire the very state power that forces them to respond in the language of counternationalism. This vicious circle can only be escaped when a language is found to capture complex, nonterritorial, postnational forms of allegiance (Appadurai, 1996: 166).
The global environmental concerns in particular ought to provide a powerful series of arguments for rethinking the territorial basis of rule, and in at least some ways, suggest post-national modes of language.

But the claims to global governance will need a more sophisticated geographical understanding of the planet than is so far usually present in political discourses. To be effective these geographies will have to be sensitive to the dramatic differences in the impact of various economic systems on the very diverse natural systems of the planet. They also need to incorporate an understanding of the world economy that emphasizes the importance of links between major trading centres, and the world cities as key centres for the appropriation of wealth from the hinterlands of their own states, the ex-socialist states and the poorer regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, rather than as one that is understood in terms of national economies (Agnew, 1998: 120). Perhaps it is time to link such a geographical understanding to a revived version of Johan Galtung's (1971) structural theory of imperialism, which emphasizes the common interests of elites in many places who can pit the poor of many states against each other. This has the advantage of slightly more geographical specificity than Richard Falk's (1999) formulations of such things in terms of "globalization" from above. While perhaps not the best geographical descriptions, such alternatives challenge the spatial vocabulary of governance in a way that emphasizes the importance of getting beyond what Neil Smith (2000) calls the "spatial fetishism" of state based geographical assumptions.

Geography also matters because states are not equally endowed with either resources or legacies of environmental destruction. Simple assumptions of equality on a highly variegated natural topography are not likely to be a practical guide to effective governance (Wallace and Knight, 1996). Neither are assumptions that the models of prosperity pursued by Europeans and North Americans can be followed in other parts of the world given their overall environmental impact. The most innovative practical proposals for green governance are precisely those that focus on the interconnected impacts of consumption in the rich parts of the world on environments in the poor parts, and try to devise ways to reduce the impact of Northern consumption while opening up opportunities for poverty alleviation in the South (Sachs, Loske and Lind, 1998).

But the campaigns by civil society against such corporations as Nike and Shell now also directly target corporate activity in a language and tactics of boycotts, legal challenges, public relations embarrassment, social tariffs and the requirements of corporate social responsibility. In Wapner's (1996) terms, environmental organizations now ensure that states are not the only actors in the international system when it comes to environmental matters. A similar argument can also be made about many other facets of contemporary political life. Governance is also a matter of intense technical controversy (Beck, 1992), and as the campaign against genetically modified foods has shown most recently, one that escapes the confines of liberal democracy within particular states. But it is worth remembering that while these forms of politics frequently escape the boundaries of single states, nonetheless the routine administrative tasks of government remain the task of states, even when the rules they administer are forged in the networks of "global" civil society or in international trade talks. There are exceptions, but policy aspiration repeatedly runs into the spatial limits of practical administration.

Theories of governance, just as much as practical suggestions for alternative modes of collective rule, have to recognize both that the territorial assumptions of practical geopolitical reasoning are in many ways profoundly dangerous to the aspirations to humane global governance, and that thinking about the future must deal with the legacy of these modes of reasoning in attempting to formulate new arrangements to govern an endangered planet. The spatial imaginaries of geopolitics continue to structure most considerations of governmentality and identity. The term governance itself, by distinguishing a collection of more general social practices from "government," has the advantage of calling into question at least some of the taken for granted assumptions of politics. But tackling the implicit geopolitical reasoning of modern political thinking is unavoidable if the concept of governance is to offer more flexible and less violent alternatives for the future.



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