Technology and Human Reproduction FAQ’s

Globalisation is an emergent feature in explanations of our social life today. It relates to the increasing interdependence and internationalisation of both formal institutions (businesses, nation-states, media, the Internet) and dimensions of personal identity (such as ethnic affiliation). At first glance, the rhetoric of globalisation seems to suggest that nation-states are in the process of powerful, irreversible social changes. Yet there are also indications to the contrary: the resurgence of cultural, national and ethnic forces; poststructuralist literature that problematises such notions; the interactive relationships between nation-states, global cities, and the regional and global organisations supported by those same nation-states [15].

The emergence of representations of the world as a single place brought about by global homogenisation tends to imply either an ahistorical account of the present or one that regards the history of globalisation in social evolutionary terms. This is problematic insofar as contemporary globalisation is seen as emerging out of earlier developments as the only possible present and the only conceivable future[16]. In some sense, of course, the world has been ‘global’ for 500 years or more; and in an ecological, sense the world has always been global. Yet contemporary trends seem to indicate that something qualitatively different is occurring today.

Sassons[17] interrogates the relationship between the nation-state and the global economy under three components of what she terms ‘a new geography of power’. The first component concerns the territorial exclusivity of sovereign states and their importance in the international system. The second component concerns the ascendancy of a new legal regime for governing cross-border transactions. The third component is the problem of electronic space overriding all existing territorial jurisdictions which may contribute to a crisis of control that transcends the governing capacities of both the state and institutional apparatus of the economy. An illustrative case is the attempt to address these sorts of issues is the legislation[18] enacted by the New Zealand Government as a result of its recent signing of the Hague Convention which is an international agreement to regulate inter-country adoption according to rules negotiated under a variety of discourses.

An almost instantaneous flow and exchange of information, and capital and cultural communication now characterise the global economy[19]. These flows organise and shape both consumption and production, including education. The networks within which the flows occur reflect and constitute distinctive cultures. Both they and the information they distribute are largely outside regulation by the nation-state. The growth of a global economy in conjunction with the new telecommunications and computer networks that span the world has also profoundly reconfigured institutions fundamental to processes of governance and accountability in the modern state. State sovereignty, nation–based citizenship, and the institutional apparatus in charge of regulating the economy, such as central banks and monetary policies – all these institutions are being destabilised and even transformed as a result of globalisation and new technologies. As the idea of national borders becomes problematic, so too does knowledge based on them.

Knowledge its economics and productivity has become important as the basis for national competition within the international marketplace. In a report on a recent conference held in New Zealand, Bowen[20] writes that “globalisation is allowing successful business models to enter new geographies (and that) the explosion of information available from the Internet and electronic commerce will reshape the way businesses function”. Thurow[21] suggests that a technological shift to an era dominated by man-made brainpower industries is one of five economic tectonic plates that constitute a new game with new rules: today knowledge and skills stand alone as the only source of comparative advantage.

They have become the key ingredients in late twentieth-century economic activity. The redefinition of knowledge as an informational commodity is underpinned by a rationality that is different from traditional liberal definitions of knowledge. A glance at any modern western university calendar shows that a study of knowledge in the liberal tradition includes such topics as scepticism; foundational, coherence and externalist theories of knowledge; apriori and empirical knowledge; idealism and realism; truth; and relativism. These topics clearly do not figure in the discourse of globalisation where information, by contrast, merely finds its utility in the market. With information then, there is something very different from what has traditionally been understood as knowledge.

The new global economy is not just the universalisation of capitalism after the collapse of communism; it also involves the rise of finance capitalism, supported by the emergence of new information and communications technologies, and a series of agreements concerning the liberalisation of world trade. The neoliberal paradigm for economic restructuring dominated the policy agendas of most Western countries during the decade of the 1980s with the abolition of subsidies and tariffs, floating of the exchange rate, privatisation of state assets, encouragement of foreign direct investment, and downsizing and commercialisation of public sectors. The dominant philosophy of neoliberalism “has contributed to the formation of transnational legal regimes that are centred in Western economic concepts”[22] that themselves embody the micro-move towards contractualism.

The deregulation of domestic financial markets, the liberalization of international capital flows, computer networks and telecommunications have all contributed to the growth of financial markets. It has been estimated that by the year 2000, the value of capital in financial markets will have risen to 83 trillion dollars, three times the aggregate GDP of the OECD (the 27 most wealthy countries). Financial markets, rather than investments in production, now drive economies. This effect of international finance is not new but there are three major differences from the past: the instantaneous transmission and interconnectivity of information technologies; the concentration of market power in institutions; and financial innovations that increase the supply of financial instruments for trading.

The rise of electronic cash reduces the central banks’ control over the money supply because electronic money moves through computer networks, bypassing the information-gathering systems. This leads to a disciplining function on national governments and pressures them to become accountable to the logic of the market. Not-for-profit entities like AMAT are no exception.