Martin Shaw

Globality as a revolutionary transformation 

Chapter 11 of Politics and Globalisation, London: Routledge, 1999. Contents:

This chapter argues that we must see global change as constituted by deep transformations of state relations and forms, and that we therefore must be concerned first with its political meaning rather than with the political consequences of technological, economic or cultural processes. I argue further that the global transformation can be seen as revolutionary in a serious political sense. In order to develop these arguments, I first examine the meaning of ‘global’ change and the adequacy of the concepts and explanations current in the debate, and second ask what happens to our understanding of ‘global’ processes if we try to bring a historical understanding of war and revolution systematically into the argument.

The meaning of global change

Many contributors to this book follow the broad consensus that globalisation concerns, as Anthony Giddens (1990) puts it, ‘the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.’ However, if globalisation is identified such an intensification of the long-established tendencies towards worldwide linkages in social relations, it is not implausible to argue (as Nicholson does in his chapter) that although important, it does not involve a fundamental change.

According to other contributors, however, notably Jan Aart Scholte, the consequences of globalisation are far more substantial shifts in world realities. In this chapter I agree with him that ‘global’ changes are fundamental, but I analyse them in terms which make ‘globalisation’ rather more problematic. If it involves wide-ranging and deep-seated changes, then it is important to ask what ‘global’ means. It is surprising how little attention is given to the concept. Even in academic circles, the term is often used loosely, as interchangeable not only with ‘world’ but even with ‘international’ -- hence the often unremarked slippage between ‘international’ and ‘global’ political economy.

In this book, as in most globalisation literature, the word global has been used more precisely: in clear distinction to international, with the complexity of relations between global and international recognised as a central issue. But even here the meaning of global is confined, including by some contributors, to something like ‘worldwide’. Global has a therefore a primarily spatial reference, to the world as a whole and social processes which intensify worldwide linkages.

Although the term globalisation has only been used for about three decades, the word global has a long usage in this kind of sense. It is of course an extension of the oldest reference, which lies at the root of the word, meaning connected to the physical sphere of the Earth. This has gained enhanced meaning and currency in environmental discourse, in which global means belonging to the world as a whole in the sense of its common natural environment. Global in this sense is sometimes equivalent to ‘planetary’: global concern, for example, may aim to ‘protect’ nature even in opposition to social needs.

The planetary, like the worldwide and supraterritorial aspects, is clearly an intrinsic part of the meaning of global at the beginning of the twenty-first century. However its meaning is being -- and should be -- extended still further in contemporary discourse. What these extant meanings indicate are the worldwide spatial dimensions and physical context of contemporary human society. The spatial meaning of global was refined in Scholte’s chapter to refer to ‘supraterritorial’ as opposed to territorially-based spatial relations: thus globality refers to a transformation of the spatial content of social relations. I contend, however, that the emergent meaning of the global goes beyond this, to concern the social meaning of these spatially-transformed relations. Global now refers, maximally, to the self-consciously common framework of human society worldwide. In this sense, global has a fully social as well as spatial and environmental meaning.

This idea of global as referring to the commonality of worldwide human society is not entirely new. It has long been anticipated by the universalist claims of both religious and secular world-views. It is also implicit, to some degree, in both the planetary concept of the global as the common natural environment of humankind, and in the idea of intensified relations through worldwide spatial connectedness. In my 1994 book I argued that the latter was creating the factual basis or ‘system integration’ of a ‘global society’. I now put this more strongly: there is, in addition to such integration, a strongly emerging practical consciousness of worldwide human commonality. Within the proliferating particularist ideologies of our time there is also a powerful recognition of a common framework of values and the need for institutions which embody this.

How far this actually creates the possibility of worldwide ‘social integration’ (for the distinction of system and social integration: Shaw, 1994, chapter 1) is another question. Societies are not the harmonious, value-unified ‘social systems’ dreamed up by functionalist sociologists. The emergent global society is highly segmented, stratified and conflict-ridden, its cohesion manifestly weak -- in a different order from tensions in the vastly more restricted national and other ‘societies’ which it contains. Extending global social cohesion depends on the practical relations between global values and institutions and the interests and organisation of particular social groups. But despite the very powerful limitations on global cohesion, the growing consciousness of worldwide human commonality relativises all particularist nationalisms and other ideologies. Even Islam, often seen as the ultimate obstacle to Western-centred globality, exists in tension with this framework.

In this sense, we can understand that the global involves far more than most analyses of globalisation suggest. Indeed the discussion of global change in terms of globalisation can itself be regarded as too restrictive. The term globalisation carries with it the connotations of the inexorable, mechanical spread of market relations. What it does not convey is the role of conscious global-oriented action, even in the very spread of the market, let alone in all the other manifestations of global change.

Because of these limitations of the idea of globalisation, there has been discussion instead of ‘globality’ (Albrow, 1996). While this could be taken as implying that there is a ‘finished’ global world, it is more helpfully understood as referring to the emergent and contradictory condition of global-ness. The point is not the degree of completeness but the distinct quality of a global world. Globality depends on the more mechanical interconnectedness indicated by globalisation analysis, but is far more than this. The relation between the two can be specified thus: globalisation is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for globality.

The fuller meaning of global and globality suggests that we understand the process of global change as involving more than globalisation, as this is generally understood. We need to ask whether there is indeed a deep change, of major historic significance, in our time? Is the current transition no more than the rapid extension of the process of commodification, as some Marxist and radical critics of globalisation contend? If there is something more, in what does that consist? Of what is the emergence of globality the development? To what kinds of historical processes does it respond?

The answer proposed here (developed more fully in Shaw, forthcoming), is that the historical process which globality represents is centred not economic or cultural but in political changes. It follows that we should be concerned not so much with the political consequences as with the core political meaning of global change. In the remainder of this chapter I attempt to put some historical flesh on my argument.

Globality in the perspective of a century of war and revolution

To the historically-minded scholar it must seem curious that global change should be seen as primarily economic and cultural, with the political and military as reactive or epiphenomenal. We might find a precedent for globalisation in the industrial revolution -- a change of technical, economic and social organisation so fundamental as to be called ‘revolutionary’. But while technical and economic change in the modern era involves, just as Marx and Engels (1998) argued in a much earlier period, the constant ‘revolutionisation’ of the means and social relations of production, the idea of revolution has retained its most precise meaning in the idea of social and political upheaval.

Indeed fundamental economic and social change has always had its concomitant in social and political revolution. The period of industrial ‘revolution’ in the West was framed by the French revolutions of 1789 and the Russian of 1917, with the ‘age of revolution’ (Hobsbawm, 1968) intervening. If globalisation is a fundamental change, then it seems plausible that there will be correspondingly important political events to which it is related -- as both cause and effect. A major part of our problems in grasping globality are to do with the shallowness of the historical understanding employed.

This lack of historical depth is evident in many of the concepts of contemporary change which have dominated the social sciences in recent decades. The idea of postmodernity crystallised a diffuse sense of movement beyond the classic categories of modern social life. This idea was influential first in literary and cultural fields: it was generally unrooted in a coherent, broad-based historical conception. Indeed a central point of postmodern writing was often the very impossibility of such a conception. (Although Anderson, 1998, argues that the idea of postmodernity was most coherently elaborated by Frederic Jameson -- in work which was situated in the Marxist tradition -- this has not been the context of most self-consciously postmodernist writing.) These ideas became most influential in the 1980s, the decade during which a decisive world political change was maturing -- but had not yet taken shape. Postmodernism can thus be seen as a broad cultural intimation of historic change, rather than an understanding of it.

When the moment of decisive political change arrived, in the crisis and dissolution of the Soviet bloc in 1989-91 and its many ramifications, a new discourse of a ‘post-Cold War’ world emerged. Widely developed in the early 1990s, this concept identified a little more precisely what was being transcended -- the Cold War involved quite a tangible set of relations -- but the ‘post-’ tag gave away its relative incoherence. Although there was agreement about some of the specific trends involved (e.g. growing international cooperation on the one hand, state-fragmentation on the other), there was little consensus on the overall meaning of what was replacing the Cold War world order -- the idea of a simple triumph of Western liberalism was widely contested.

Globalisation discourse, which probably attained its maximum influence in the mid-1990s, appeared -- unlike these various ‘post-’ ideas -- to have positive content, and to indicate a definite direction of change. It had a seemingly more coherent centre, the ‘global’ -- but as we have seen there was no clear content to this notion. Globalisation ideas came into their own in the middle of the decade, as the dust appeared to be settling from the upheavals of 1989-91. In proclaiming increasingly supraterritorial, technologically-led worldwide economic and cultural integration, globalisation discourse often nodded in passing to the end of the Cold War. It did not come, however, with a coherent historical understanding of the links between the economic and cultural changes which it highlighted and the military and political upheavals of our times.

At the end of the 1990s, as the linked financial and political crises of Asia and Russia threatened global recession, the limits of all three narratives of the contemporary historical transition have become increasingly clear. The transition involved major political and military changes -- to which the idea of the end of the Cold War hardly did justice -- which were closely bound up with economic and cultural change. An overall historical perspective which linked these changes and explained the development of globality in the broader sense was badly needed.

Inevitably, achieving such a perspective involves tying the changes of the final quarter of the twentieth century back into an understanding of the century, and modern history, as a whole. We need to do this, however, not in the spirit of global-sceptics, trying to show how much old categories still apply, but in order to define precisely which important features of the modern world have been changing, how far and why. In an essay of this kind, it is possible to do no more than indicate the broad thrust of an alternative account of global transformation. However I propose that globality is in a serious sense a revolutionary change, centred on fundamental political transformations.

Few really doubt that the defining moments of change in modern history have been wars and revolutions. Although the narratives of contemporary change which I have discussed have begun to suggest more recent turning points, 1945 remains the benchmark of what is still called the ‘post-war’ era. As a glance at popular culture as much as political debate will tell us, we are still settling the accounts of the war of 1939-45 -- not to mention the Great War and the Revolution of 1917. It seems curious not to ask how contemporary global change relates to these kinds of upheaval.

The argument here is that war has been the fulcrum of the emerging global consciousness (in the sense of commonality which I have defined) of the twentieth century. It is often suggested, of course, that nations have a special hold on collective versions of memory, which larger communities lack; certainly wars have been profoundly national experiences. But it is also clear that the world wars of the twentieth century have been common experiences -- however much their effects have differed among nations and groups -- and the naming of them as ‘world’ wars recognises their fundamental role in human history as well as their geographically worldwide scope.

The recognition of worldwide human commonality is rooted in the disastrous effects of human division in the world wars. While the most profoundly shocking of these effects belong partly to particular communities -- so that the Holocaust can be seen as a Jewish experience and even be appropriated by Israeli nationalism -- they are also widely recognised as symbols of our common experience of human cruelty, and the hope that survival and resistance generate are common inspirations for humankind.

So in fundamental cultural senses, a common experience of war is a foundation of globality. This is arguably a far more powerful and durable foundation than those lowest common denominators of globalisation -- the dross of worldwide commerce such as Coca Cola and MacDonalds -- which have been emphasised by too many commentators. But the growing commonality of human history, in which the world wars are key events, is not simply a cultural acquisition. World wars have been levers for powerful changes in the social relations surrounding state power, leading to immense political upheavals. Globality is more than a matter of culture in general or even political culture: it is a matter of practice, institutions and changing structures of social power.

Global change was not a mechanical result of war, but the outcome of changed consciousness and practice at many levels in the changed relations of power which war produced. Among political elites, a key foundation for contemporary globality was the recognition across Western Europe and Japan, especially in defeated states but also among semi-bankrupt victors, that autonomous nationalism of the kind which had brought states to total war was no longer viable. ‘National’ states and identities were revived after 1945, but no longer based in really independent centres of power with the potential for war against each other. They were no longer classic monopolists of violence in Max Weber’s sense, but junior partners of an emerging American hegemon. In the foundation of the United Nations, there was an aspiration among elites -- reflecting a powerful sense among the people -- for the worldwide peaceful cooperation of states.

The road to global consciousness among state elites, opened in 1945, has hardly been an easy one. The Cold War quickly subsumed old national rivalries into a new worldwide ideological contest, in which larger hopes for the United Nations were stillborn. An overarching military rivalry threatened not only the populations of the rival alliances but the survival of humanity, maybe even of the planet. The threat of nuclear war was, however, another major stimulus to emerging global consciousness and the containment of military rivalries between major powers. As it became virtually inconceivable that a nuclear war could be fought successfully, superpower rivalry also spawned latent cooperation. Eventually, in the dissolution of the Cold War, the elites of of the two former blocs recognised that their states would no longer fight each other.

From 1945 onwards, moreover, the growing infrastructure of globality was not simply an elite matter, but a result of popular movements and struggles. The most manifestly ‘revolutionary’ movements of the world war and post-war period were the militarised Communist-led national movements in China, Vietnam, Korea, Yugoslavia and elsewhere. Although these movements were all successful in gaining power, in the longer term the state institutions they established -- most of which became opposed not only to the dominant West but also to the Soviet bloc -- were failures. The most nationalist of all routes from 1945 was a historic dead-end.

More important transformative movements, with more lasting legacies, were actually the democratic reform trends within the West itself, the anti-colonial movements in what became known as the Third World and of course the democratic revolutions against the Soviet bloc. The convergence of these worldwide popular trends - contradicting the ideological construction of First, Second and Third worlds - was manifest in the student-coordinated movements of 1968, which although now mostly neglected were actually the harbinger of many democratic, anti-Cold War impulses in the period leading to 1989.

All these broad kinds of movement were more congruent with the dominant Western state-bloc than its Soviet rival, but they also came up against its limitations: the limited, formal character of democracy even in the most parliamentary States; the West’s readiness to sacrifice democracy to anti-Communism, notably in its support for authoritarian regimes worldwide; and its inability to offer real support to democratic movements within the Soviet bloc. Popular movements were of crucial importance in consolidating democracy as the most legitimate political model not only throughout the West -- where it was far from universal -- but in some at least of the post-colonial world, and among large sections of the population in the Soviet bloc itself. The alternatives -- the one-party regimes which flourished in many African states as well as in the Soviet-controlled region, the authoritarianism and military dictatorship which the West widely supported -- all lost legitimacy because of courageous democratic movements.

Taken together, these elite and popular movements contributed to a fundamental transition in political power which can be seen in retrospect as pre-global, laying some of the foundations for contemporary globality. A fundamental structural transformation was accomplished in the changes of the 1940s. The abolition of war between the major centres of the expanded West -- it was quite a new conception of the West which included Japan as well as Western Europe and North America -- went a long way towards removing the core function of the nation-state. Long before globalisation was thought of, Western states were no longer nation-states in the classic sense. Interdependence was the result first of war, not commerce, although the latter reinforced it.

Within the West, therefore, national units were subsumed in an increasingly integrated Western conglomerate of state power. The paradox of this conglomerate was that while core state functions -- war-making, law, economic management -- were effectively shared in various but generally increasing degrees, political authority remained organised primarily in national, and only secondarily in international terms. National forms remained dominant even while the content of autonomous national power drained away. The consolidation of democracy as the common political form of the West was the consolidation of national democracies. American hegemony raised, moreover, a single nation-state to a unique position within the international framework of Western power.

The global significance of these changes was limited, of course, by more than national and international forms within which they were cast. Indeed the 1940s transition remained decidedly pre-global because it resulted in the state-bloc as the new form of state and the bloc-system as the dominant set of power relations, not merely between states but also between state and society. The bloc system was doubly asymmetric, in the balance of power between blocs (the West was always much stronger in most senses than the Soviet bloc) and also in their internal structures (in the West, unlike the East, these involved genuinely cooperative elements of both inter-state and state-society relations). For both these reasons, the Western bloc proved the foundation for the new global order, while the Soviet bloc disintegrated both internationally and socially in its terminal crisis of the late 1980s.

This conception of global transition is therefore the opposite of the conventional view that economic, technological and cultural changes undermined the nation-state. On the contrary, state relations and forms had already moved beyond the classic national framework after the Second World War. The world order based on competing blocs, centred on a dominant Western bloc, was the political structure which made possible all the economic, technological and cultural changes which are now held to constitute globalisation. Of course these other changes also contributed in many ways to the global transition of our times (and none of this polemic should be read as denying their significance). But the key to the end-of-the-twentieth-century global change is precisely a new set of political changes which have moved us on still further. These, I contend, are both sufficiently radical in structural terms and consciously based in large-scale social upheavals as to constitute a global revolution.

Character and elements of the unfinished global revolution

The global revolution, in the sense used here, is not therefore a fundamental transformation of socio-economic relations -- the overwhelmingly capitalist character of which has been confirmed and even in some ways intensified by it. It is not a social revolution as such, although like any deep political change it has manifold social causes, effects and significance (and these are not as simply or uniformly negative as many radical critics believe). The global revolution is above all, however, a fundamental transformation of political relations and forms, which extends and in some ways completes the ‘pre-global’ revolution of the 1940s. The new upheaval is itself profoundly incomplete, however, at the turn of the twenty-first century and for this reason I prefer to describe it as the unfinished global revolution.

Since this concept of global change is radically different from most others, including those of other writers in this book, I will list the most important components of the revolutionary global change of our times:

1 The abolition of war between the major centres of state power. The end of the Cold War between the Western and Soviet blocs has completed the process begun in the results of the Second World War. Where that war abolished war among the major North American and West European states and Japan, the outcome of the Cold War has largely removed any possibility of war between the West and Russia and the other successor states of the Soviet bloc.

Certainly, this abolition of war between major states remains fundamentally incomple. This is not only because political instability in Russia makes it impossible to exclude the emergence of an aggressive nationalist regime there. More broadly it is because even more than Russia, other major states (China, India and Pakistan) as well as smaller ones (Iran and Iraq) remain weakly integrated with the dominant Western system of power. However the potential for war is probably less between these states and the West than among themselves, and very considerably less than the potential for war between smaller non-Western states and between such states and groups within society. All this suggests a process in which war is squeezed out of central inter-state relations, although it remains a fundamental problem of state and society in many non-Western zones.

2 The emergence of a single, more or less legitimate world centre of state power, the basis for a ‘global state’. With the end of the Soviet bloc, the Western state conglomerate of has become the undisputed although not unchallenged centre of power, which it increasingly exercises worldwide. This broadly legitimate conglomerate of state power with worldwide ramifications has come to function as what I have called a ‘global state’ (Shaw, 1997). This Western, increasingly global state represents far more than United States power, even if it remains strongly centred on it.

The dominant conglomerate exercises power within a framework of legitimate international institutions, centred on the United Nations and the other global organisations linked to it, but also including a wide range of less inclusive institutions developed from those of the Cold War West. Some like the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation have worldwide remits; others including the still-crucial military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, have regional scope (although this is sometimes called pan-regional because of a mistaken essentialism in which regions are assumed to be based on ‘natural’ geographical continents). However the legitimacy of many international institutions remains weak even among state elites, let alone in society at large, and they are notoriously ineffective.

This ‘global’ state depends very much on the inherited infrastructure of national-and-international forms (so that as Scholte argues, global supra-territoriality coexists with transformations of territorial relations). However one particular development, that of the European Community -- now Union -- clearly involves a deep as well as extensive modification of traditional political forms, to produce what is juridically as well as in practice a novel composite form of national-cum-regional polity in western, central and southern Europe. The European Union is a special case, but a case nonetheless of the growing integration of state forms as well as of power relations within the West and worldwide. There are many less clear-cut ways in which this integration is developing across a wider range of states, including the growing harmonisation of law in all sorts of areas from commerce, transportation and communications to medicine (Wiener, 1999), and the developing structures of cooperation between courts and police forces. In these ways, the key law and law-enforcement functions of states are being globalised.

Central to the integration of state power worldwide is the regulation of what is increasingly recognised as a global economy. At the same time as individual nation-states become consciously ‘competition’ states (Cerny, 1990), promoting national economies within world markets, they are also forced to develop new ways of collectively managing these markets, and the world economy, so as to avoid worldwide recession and slump. Institutions like the Group of 7 major Western states, developed during the Cold War, are increasingly pressured to adapt not only their membership (now G8, including Russia), but their role, to respond to worldwide threats of economic instability, although it remains very unclear how effectively they will be able to achieve this.

3 The worldwide extension of democracy as a normal model of political development, together with a fundamental deepening and broadening of democratic concepts. The earlier period saw the spread of democracy within or on the immediate margins of the West (e.g. southern Europe), as well as in parts of the post-colonial world (e.g. India). Democratisation in the current transition has by no means been confined to the former Soviet bloc. On the contrary, the new trend was widely evident in Latin America in the 1980s and spread in the 1990s to large parts of Asia and Africa, as well as east-central Europe, Russia and other Soviet successor states. Democratisation has hardly been unproblematic or unchallenged, but even ex-Communist and other authoritarian-inclined elites increasingly find it necessary to clothe themselves in democratic forms. The scope of many freedoms has been substantially extended even if they are still heavily restricted by would-be democratic as well as openly authoritarian states.

The limitations of formal democracy (confined to electoral processes and representative institutions) and the importance of embedding democracy in a wide range of practices (international law, human rights) are increasingly widely understood, together with a recognition of the importance of non-state institutions (increasingly understood as involving a distinct sphere of civil society which also needs to be developed worldwide).

4 The increasing consolidation of a more or less universally accepted framework of global norms and institutions. The United Nations has become much more than it could ever be during the Cold War a globally accepted framework of authority. The values on which the United Nations system is based, although sometimes derided as purely ‘Western’ values, in fact have a deep resonance in society across the world, and are appealed to by individuals and social groups of many kinds. Both the values themselves and the idea of global institutions have become increasingly embedded in social consciousness and practice, even if the actual institutions are often seen as highly compromised and ineffective.

Thus the dominant Western states, despite continuing opposition in powerful quarters in the United States, generally accept the need for United Nations legitimation for their actions. Their reluctant partners among the other major states (Russia, China, etc.) may see international organisation as a framework for constraining Western power, but they also pay at least lip service to the global democratic norms which it increasingly represents. Even oppositional, ‘rogue’ states like Iraq accept United Nations authority in principle, as much as they may try to subvert it. Non-governmental organisations, social movements, oppressed minorities and victims of injustice worldwide, all look to the United Nations framework of legitimate institutions for support and action. Of course, the United Nations remains weakly funded and supported by states, often denied the necessary means to function effectively, and internally often semi-paralysed. It often fails to deliver, and year-on-year its failures often seem more substantial than its successes.

The significance of global norms and institutions since 1989 has also been reflected in the growing importance of international law. Symbolically important developments include the creation of war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which have extended the principle (established at the Nuremberg trials) that state leaders can be held liable in international law for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The creation of a permanent International Criminal Court, although weakened by American opposition to its having real powers, will consolidate this development. International agreements between states mean that national law, too, may be used to apprehend those who have committed crimes against humanity across the world -- the 1998 arrest of the former Chilean dictator, Augosto Pinochet, in London at the behest of a Spanish court, provided a glimpse of what may develop.

Taking these four sets of developments together, I believe that we are in the middle of a major transformation of political order on a world scale. In conventional terms, this includes transformations both of international order and relations between states and societies. In reality it is even more than this: it is a recasting of the very categories of ‘international system’, ‘state’ and ‘society’. An international system in the core of which war has been more or less abolished is hardly an international system in the sense that this has been known and understood for the last three hundred years. National states which are parts of a Western conglomerate and global order are hardly classic nation-states. Societies are hardly national in the classically discrete sense when not only are they as integrated and cross-cutting in all sorts of ways (as Scholte shows), but they are also defined within global norms and structures of authority. Some still dispute the significance of the changes: for realists, state-blocs are still comprised of states; for Marxists, super-imperialism is still imperialism. For fundamentalists in both schools, if the American nation-state is still ‘hegemonic’ among other such entities, then plus ça change c’est la même chose. Others might acknowledge some of the changes but dispute the idea that overall they can be considered ‘revolutionary’.

Revolutionary agency in global transformation

Certainly the idea of revolution is problematic. Classically, revolutions were social and political upheavals which took place, even if in international waves of revolution (1789, 1848, 1917, 1944-45, 1968), within nation-states. Even those who have stressed the international context (e.g. Skocpol, 1979) have accepted the framework of international system, nation-state and social forces. However, the concept of revolution in this classic context is no longer viable, just as these categories themselves have been transformed. And yet the changes which are overthrowing these very categories are surely quite as, indeed more profound than any changes within them. The four major changes which we have defined, if they overcome the nation-state and international system as we have known them, are surely prima facie revolutionary.

However revolution has classically meant not just deep structural transformation, but popular self-activity as the agent of change. Some sceptics, while accepting that important changes in states and international systems are taking place, deny a major popular role -- let alone a progressive one -- in these changes. For Halliday (1999), for example, the ‘revolutions’ of 1989 were not revolutions, since they moved state and society from socialist forms, however deformed, back into the dominant world order of liberal-democratic capitalism. For Robinson (1996), democratisation is not so much a popular movement as the outcome of the ‘promotion of polyarchy’ from above, especially in United States foreign policy.

There are, of course, important elements of truth in these positions. The global revolution, as I argued above, far from overcoming capitalism, partially reinforces it. But there are gains as well as losses for society in the transition from the Soviet system -- not only in political freedom, or in consumer choice (so far mainly for some elites, and in some countries much more than others), but also in the possibilities of self-organisation by workers and other subordinate social groups which democratisation opens up. Similarly it is clearly correct to emphasise how Western elites -- especially the United States -- have shifted from backing authoritarian anti-Communist regimes in the non-Western world, to supporting formally democratic regimes which produce pro-Western leaders. According to the concept of American manipulation of democratisation -- ironically popular among those influenced by Marxism -- the changes of our time are the product of elite policy adjustments.

But this argument begs the question of what has caused Western policies to change -- are Western policy shifts really the principal, independent cause of democratisation? This view ignores the long and often heroic history of democratic revolution since 1945. Communism and the Soviet bloc did not collapse simply because of their economic failures, their defeat by Reagan in the Second Cold War or Gorbachev’s reform movement. After the Red Army brought Soviet rule to eastern and central Europe after 1945, popular uprisings challenged it continuously, from East Germany in 1953 to Hungary and Poland in 1956, the Czechoslovak reform movement of 1968 and the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1989-81, not to mention many lesser or more localised events. The constant pressure and threat of such movements denied the Soviet-bloc order legitimacy and put elites permanently on the defensive against their citizens.

The democratic transitions of 1989-91 in the Communist states were centred on popular uprisings. The 1989 revolutions in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania were not simply street theatre accompanying inevitable elite changes. Without these movements, and less dramatic but still important popular pressure elsewhere, the Soviet bloc might have been reformed rather than overthrown. Democratic change might have been far less complete, as indeed it has been in Russia itself where the popular democratic movement was weaker and more sidelined by conflicts between various elements of the old elites. The defeat of democratic movements might have consolidated, like the Tiananmen Square events in China, a market-oriented continuation of Communist authoritarianism, rather than its removal.

The dialectics between popular movements and local elites can be seen in a variety of forms in worldwide democratisation. Clearly in some cases elites have managed change so as to largely exclude popular action. But in many of the more radical local transformations, from South Africa to South Korea as well as in central Europe, mass democratic movements played key roles. And where such movements have been defeated in struggle, in Serbia and Burma for example, market-oriented reform -- if it has occurred at all -- has taken profoundly undemocratic forms. Western policy elites have been significant actors in all these conflicts, but they have hardly been decisive in whether, how or by whom fundamental local reforms have been achieved.

The condescension of some Western social scientists as well as policy elites, who dismiss popular democratic movements and downplay their successes, thus also ignores these very real costs where movements are defeated. The global counter-revolution -- of authoritarian nationalist regimes and movements opposed to democratic change -- has involved the appalling violence of ‘new wars’ (Kaldor and Vashee, 1997) directed against civilian populations. The gains in the development of international law-enforcement, referred to above, have been responses to some of the worst, genocidal episodes among many crimes against humanity, in which millions have suffered. A global human-rights-based democratic order is not something simply, or mainly, promoted by Western elites and imposed on the non-Western world. On the contrary it is a response to the demands of movements of the oppressed, from Kurdistan to Bosnia to Rwanda, however little or indirectly their voices are allowed to be expressed in global media (Shaw, 1996).

It is not unrealistic therefore to see the global transition as one of an unfinished global revolution. It is a movement away from a fragmented state system based on war, and towards a common, worldwide democratic order with flourishing global institutions. It encounters fierce resistance from local elites and other social groups whose power and/or identity is threatened. There is thus a worldwide power struggle between global-democratic revolution and nationalist-authoritarian counter-revolution, which in many regions outside the West often erupts in war and genocide. Increasingly globalised Western state power plays a balancing role in these struggles: sharing some core assumptions with the democratic forces, it nevertheless fails to advance both decisive victories for local democratic forces or principled extensions of global order.

The argument of this chapter is, therefore, that the dynamics of world political change do not originate simply with Western policy-makers, but with the actions of millions in many different kinds of collective action worldwide. Western elites find themselves in the midst of conflicting processes which they can hardly control in many specific locations, let alone in their entirety, because of the hugely varied sources of political power and mobilisation -- both elite and popular -- and to which they have only moderate interest in giving clear or distinctive direction.

Varied pressures push Western policy-makers towards some forms of global integration, but they have also to be seen in the context of the continuing primacy of national sources of political legitimation. Here is a major paradox of the global transition, which argues against any simple equation of globality with supra-terrritoriality. While states -- especially in the West -- are increasingly integrated, pooling monopolies of violence, harmonising law and extending cooperation, direct sovereignty remains largely (with the major partial exception of the European Union) national in form, and direct political authority derives almost exclusively (with the so far relatively minor exception of the European Parliament) from national electorates. Global institutions remain international in form, deriving legitimacy indirectly from national states with their parliamentary and democratic bases. The end of the Cold War leaves Western elites fumbling towards global rhetoric, but dependent on mainly national constituencies. This is one source of their contradictory and often uncertain roles.

Indeed the global revolution itself has been made up of national revolutionary or democratic movements, in the various states of the former Communist and Third worlds. In virtually every case the manifest demands of the movements have concerned national-democratic goals, but they have had equally conscious connections with regional and worldwide international changes. Thus the movements in east-central Europe depended on Gorbachev’s reform movement and the new East-West détente of the late 1980s. Their success manifestly derived from, but also deepened, the end of the Cold War. Similarly, the worldwide democratic movements of the 1990s, such as the Indonesian upheaval of 1998, have depended as much as the Latin American democratisations of the 1980s on the knowledge of the shift in American and Western policies which is pulling the rug from under old authoritarian regimes.

Although in some cases the consolidation of national democracy has led to the rise of new national-authoritarianisms which have come into conflict with global change, in general national democracy and internationalism have been complementary to, and necessary ingredients of, global political change. Globality is not the simple negation of nationality and internationality: although it transcends their classical conflictual forms, it relies on producing new forms of both. Democratic nationality and cooperative internationality become parts of the infrastructure of a global world.