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HOME | RUNAWAY WORLD PROFESSOR ANTHONY GIDDENS
 
THE DEBATE ON THIS SITE IS NOW CLOSED

The 1999 BBC Reith Lectures web site and debate are now closed, but you can visit the personal pages of Anthony Giddens at the London School of Economics and Political Science where the lectures and debate have been transferred. Thank you to all who have contributed to the debate. Anthony Giddens regrets he has been unable to respond to everyone. He hopes to make as much use of your comments and anecdotes in future discussions and publications about globalisation.


Your contributions:
It seems to me that the current Reith Lecture series provides a microcosm of the 'globalisation' dichotomy. Masquerading as some form of 'accessible' 'progress' it in fact changes the nature of our relationship with a perfectly acceptable institution. The rot set in last year when John Keegan gave the lectures to a series of invited audiences. As people can imagine such a situation is completely different from an intimate radio talk which is effectively on a one-to-one basis. One only has to listen to Alistair Cooke to appreciate the difference.

This year the error has been compounded by the whole 'show ' being swaned around the world complete with celebrity audience and phone-in. It may have escaped the notice of the powers-that-be but there already was a BBC World Service, how 'global' do you need to be?

Since the demise of The Listener access to the text of the lectures has become difficult, but now I am offered the Internet by the powers-that-'e'. The web is not actually a democratic medium but rather one favoured by academics and others who get their phone bills paid for by others. It is the 'hard copy' text permitting study and reflection, preferably on long train journeys, which encourages discourse.

So in the end what the BBC has done is to take a perfectly sound product, applied a veneer of 'progress' and sold it to us as globalisation. May I remind you that Camus pointed out that progress was a form of conservatism, the future being the only thing the master willingly concedes to the slaves.

My question is why Anthony Giddens has colluded in such a 'con'?
Ernie Grice, England

Having lived for 5 years in California and returned to the UK recently I am grateful for your exposition of the term family values. It seems that to huge swathes of America the term family values means what I regard as reactionary even right wing so called Christian values representative of the blinkered 50s family that you describe.

I like your use of the term emotional democracy. It would seem to me that just as a free press is central to a true democracy, the popularity of introspection, (evidenced as the growth in the number of people exploring their inner self in one therapy session or encounter group or another), enabled also by the leisure to indulge that desire, are essential to an emotional democracy.

But this would seem to require an economic state of leisure and money to indulge these yearnings, that would exclude 95% of the world's population. So where does that lead us? And how shall we provide the chance for a larger proportion of the world's population to experience emotional democracy without the precursor of economic equivalence with the West?
Dr Charles R Gamble, UK

It all depends on who gets overall control, as to what the final outcome will be. Rupert Murdoch, Gates, and others are already getting a firm hold.

But in the past it has always been the rougher and tougher more primitive cultures that have destroyed the progress. Is this the natural end?
Colin Rich, Australia

In his Reith Lecture, Professor Giddens has advocated sexual equality and stated that modern societies are beyond nature. The latter is definitely false. We are of nature and in nature and depend on nature however unnatural our societies may be. In view of this, would Giddens reconsider his attitude to nature, noting well that for tens of millions of years she has produced mammals will substantially different males and females and that for tens of centuries cultures have respected this by harnessing men and women differently?
GCA Talbot, England

I am interested in particular in what you have to say about the family. I have raised a very cautionary voice in a small way coming as I do from a Freudo-Lacanian point of view. Your account of "emotional intelligence" breaks down in practice because of the irrepressibility of the drives.

To put it another way: there always comes a point of failure of representation. The excess (of drive over representation) leads to conflict, guilt and violence. Traditional societies used repression to "mop this up", and now without this repression common to all non-modern societies, what is there left, but as Lacan says, "only the other of another race".

This is not to say that we shouldn't try to agree! These observations are central to Freud and his insistence on the Oedipus complex. I have outlined this in a number of papers and two books: Cultural Collapse (Free Association Books, 1994), The Sovereignty of Death (Rebus Press 1998)
Rob Weatherill, Republic of Ireland

It seems to me that your argument comprises two basic strands:

1) That the process of globalisation cannot be prevented and therefore must be embraced. Indeed, that it has many elements in it that one might wish to be embrace as well as others which are potentially very destructive.
2) That the process of globalisation can and must be shaped by humane values.

My question is this: 'By what process are we to arrive at these values?' Does not the process have to be global in itself. And what structures are capable of mediating the debate or could be made capable. There seems to be very little time to develop them.
Revd Stephen Winter, United Kingdom

I have found your lectures an excellent overview of the concerns we all need to reflect upon in our time. I wonder what your thoughts on our relation to history. It seems to me that our relation to the past in also part of globalisation. I do not mean "revisioning" the past according to political correctness, but understand the past as a part of where we understand ourselves to dwell.
Joseph Nilne, UK

I have a question: What are the financial benefits of cloning? Not just now, but later, when the science is more developed even.
Whitney Zollner, USA

I very much enjoyed your lecture on Family - your recognition of the extent to which gays and lesbians have created alternative notions of family, relationships, caring and social support, within hostile homophobic environments, was very welcome. However, the debate around gay and lesbian 'marriage' is far more complex than your comment about rights to marriage acknowledges.

The gay and lesbian movement is itself very divided on this issue, and both gay liberationists and queer theorists question the extent to which we want to readily adopt an institution which emulates heterosexual marital arrangements, when for so long we have been the very source of questioning the oppressive social institution of marriage.

Why not encourage alternative forms of care and support and intimacy such as those lived every day by those of us who see heterosexual marriage as enforcing women's subjection (who cooks, washes, cleans still?) and why not look at alternative forms of parenting, conception, etc adopted by many lesbians and gays.

The AIDS experience demonstrated our capacity to provide care for our own community despite the prejudicial rejection of biological families, and the future will demonstrate our capacity to care for old people in the same way. These are the issues that need to be explored in relation to intimacy, not whether we are allowed to 'marry'.
Jo Harrison, Australia

Thank you for your support of the role of women in the world. Thank Goodness someone is speaking out against the 'traditional family' in the Third World and the way women are oppressed in such societies. At the heart of free speech is the right not to be tolerant of oppression.
Sarah, England

Do you think that it is in the western world's interest to espouse democracy for Third World countries that are currently ruled by dictatorial regimes (e.g. countries of the middle east)?

If the answer is yes then why is it that western countries often turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by these dictatorial regimes (e.g. Saudi Arabia)?
Hassan Abdulrazzak, Iraq

As you have rightly emphasised Prof. Giddens throughout your five lectures, what we need at the global level is more long-term democratic planning. But does our current electoral system at the national level work against such long-term thinking? And if so how might we refom democracy at the local level to deal with global issues?
David Doyle, Ireland

Lecture 4 - It is difficult for anyone to avoid the undertow of subjectivity when writing about the family. Much of this underplays the importance of creating a social and emotional environment in which children can grow to become stable adults. The word responsibility does not occur in the lecture. Parental responsibility underpins successful socialisation. We have an increasingly globalised society in which the drive towards individual freedom seems to have replaced responsibilty. However we treated children in the past (and who dare generalise) families with fathers and mothers and grandparents and (surrogate) aunts and uncles were at the heart of the process of child development. Democracy is a very poor substitute for care.
Dr DJ.Siddle, England

How would you address this: The problem of democracy is that the people might be wrong?
Philip Newton, UK

Reading your lecture on the family, I wonder about your description of marriage. While most of what you say about its being replaced by non-marriage based relationships may be statistically true, is it not surely still the case that most people aspire to a concept of monogamy in line with what marriage represents?

And, this being so, is not the act of marriage - standing up in front of your friends and promising to stay together - still a powerful force within the language of modern relationships? There are many attempts to replace it which are really just re-inventions of the wheel.
Sarah Johnson, UK

You suggest in your final lecture that young people today are not the "Generation-Xers" labelled by the media. As a 22-year-old, female, undergraduate at university, I am disheartened at having to disagree. You say that we are cynical of political posturing and no longer believe their lies. But we don't seem to believe in anything. I have friends in many circles, from wealthy elites to working-class backgrounds. Ask any of them their political beliefs and motivations and they'll give you a puzzled expression.

Partly to do with collapse of an opponent to capitalism, partly with the "dumbing-down" of culture and the media, and I'm sure a hundred other reasons, nothing as yet has come to replace this feeling of apathy. I strongly believe in the "democratisation" of the world but am scared that we aren't nurturing the right environment for this to develop.
Zeynep Meric, UK

Thank you very much for your most interesting series of lectures. And may I take the opportunity to say how much I have appreciated your writings. May I also thank the BBC for their excellent service to the world.

Professor, you invited listeners to write of our experience of the world in this time. I offer you this brief story of my own experience.

At the age of 36 years (I am now 47), after my university studies in the early 1970's had set me off on a long intellectual and spiritual search, I was granted a specific Revelation of the Divine by the Western-Born Spiritual Teacher, Avatar Adi Da Samraj (previously known as Da Free John). My life was changed as a consequence. For the last 11 years my life has been formed by meditation, study, self-discipline and service. I live at the Adidam Ashram in Auckland.

My primary work for many years has been as an adult educator and I attempt to communicate about the religion of Adidam as a learning process (from deep within that learning process) and to dialogue with other religious and secular traditions. The religious and yogic process offered by Avatar Adi Da involves me in a devotional practice of moment to moment Contemplation of the Divine and, thus, of progressively being guided beyond, and eventually liberated from, all points of view.

Such a practice leads us to understand conventional science as a means for examining (and changing) reality from the particular point of view that is the body-mind. It is impossible for such a point of view to grant us fundamental or comprehensive understanding of reality, for such understanding is inherently beyond (or prior to) any single point of view (including that of the body-mind).

Amongst Avatar Adi Da Samraj's Vast Spoken and Written Teaching of the last 27 years can be found The Basket of Tolerance in which He offers us a comprehensive consideration of all conventional and sacred points of view. Adi Da's Calling and Gift to the world is for all to begin to live according to a new understanding.

Professor Giddens, I offer this letter in the spirit of informing others of a particular possibility available in the late twentieth century.
Dean Nugent, New Zealand

I have really enjoyed your lecture! But, we do not agree on everything, nor should we even expect to.

You begin one lecture: "If anything, it's been a largely invisible overthrow of the old order." Largely invisible and painless I think is a gross understatement. The pain is enormous, the blood, although invisible, flows freely.

By the time we notice it, it will be very late and instead of the weak being empowered, the strong just get stronger. What has eroded, is the value of work. What will take time for the market and the poor workers in this new age market to understand is that the world is now much more competitive.

How do we expect most people to compete when they have no education or understanding of the need to?

Even as the very concept of fast change accelerates, we fail to educate people about information processing. Globalisation is just a part of information flow. It is a worry. Culture takes a back seat and fundamentalism can increase as a direct reaction to it all.

In the end, are we better off?

I wonder.

And I enjoy the opportunity and luxury to think such thoughts.

Once again, many thanks. An excellent lecture.
Budd Margolis, UK

Let's get our justice system back on track. We need to straighten up our own country before it's too late. Let's get the hell out of these foreign countries. They hate us.
Camille Fontenot, USA

As a believer in democracy and free speech, I decided last year to come to the LSE and study mass media and communications - to follow footsteps of great Karl Popper and to hear contemporary philosophers like you... Your visions expressed in this year's Director's lectures and Reith lectures are the intellectual framework for a better world that we all need and believe in.

However, the recent unhappy events in my home country of Yugoslavia have proved that the democracy, basic human rights and freedoms are in danger - not from primitive and brutish thugs like Slobodan Milosevic, but from leaders of the so called democratic world, who are in position to wield enormous and uncontrolled power to achieve their own personal agendas and goals that are not people's.

Do you think that democracy in general is in danger and has to be carefully re-constructed in order to suit the new era of spin doctoring and sound biting political practices, which render traditional means and mechanisms of political accountability and control useless in this age of mediated realities?
Srdjan Stojanovic, Yugoslavia

The one feature that Prof Giddens hardly mentioned but which seems to be the culmination of, at least terrestrial, democracy is World Government. Does he see this as the inevitable inheritance of a democratic world majority or as the outcome of democratised national states in one vast federation? Or neither?
Robert Hartford, UK

What is your opinion of trans-national pollution and the effect that it is having on the less developed countries of the world that will accept these dirty industries into their borders purely as a result of the desperate need for income?

An income generally needed to assist with payment of debts to the developed North. I am concerned that 'globalisation' is a very unequal process, and that we in the North are getting ahead at the cost of the developing world.

Please let me have your comments.
Rob Crosby, England

Good to hear someone talking sense.

As I see it, one of the problems with democracy in practice is that it requires a higher level of commitment to 'society' than people are generally educated into (in England, at least). Currently there is less commitment to the traditional ideas of marriage and family life but we haven't yet replaced them with a viable alternative.

In the light of the recent racist/homophobic nail-bomb attacks in England, how can we ensure that the majority of people are educated to hold tolerant views? Is this at all possible when so many feel themselves to be excluded from society through poverty or unemployment?

I'm fortunate enough to be sufficiently well-educated to be able to find positive outlets for my energy and the frustration of not having permanent work. Is it any wonder that so many people can only vent their fury through anti-social behaviour?

I would love to be able to contribute to the creation of a more truly democratic world but, without meaningful work, I often feel "surplus to requirements".

Who has the power to change the world? I'm afraid that the biggest changes are being made by multi-national companies who care more for profit than for the impact of their choices on individuals.
Loretta, England

Totally agree with all you have said so far.

The family is the cornerstone of civilisation and anything which undermines the traditional family, undermines civilisation.

However, while the initial sex attraction is the sole arbitor of choosing a mate, divorce and while marriage is so easy to get into, it must be as easy to get out of. There is something to be said for arranged marriages, most of which are successful, when compatibility of ideals and personality are the yardsticks

Papers 82 to 85 of the Urantia book deal with this subject extremely well and it is available online.

Business must do more than pay lip service to the family and accommodate the family if the family is to survive.

While men in particular spend so much time in the paid work environment - working from 7am to 9pm, how can the family hope to survive.

Let's hope that the traditional nation is under threat.

Nationhood is the barrier to a global government, and although strong nations have served us well in the evolution of a strong civilisation, globalisation is the key to our future.

Communicating with our fellow man is the key to building good relationships and with the recent advances in communication globally, nationalism will become more irrelevant (except for administrative purposes).

There will never be lasting peace, while one nation is at odds with another. Rather than, as in Yugoslavia, bombing the population, make the leaders accountable for their bad decisions and inability to reconcile their differences in a peaceful fashion.
Susan Hemmingsen, New Zealand

Kia ora Professor Giddens, it is Sunday afternoon 2 May and while cleaning the autumn rubbish from the garden, have listened to your lecture on the democratisation of emotions delivered a week ago in Washington. Bravo - you have hit the nail on the head - that social justice can only be achieved through a personal commitment to fairness in our dealings with each other in our everyday lives.

But more specifically, someone asked you the question that how do we maintain close social relations with our families if we are spread all over the globe. I thought your answer regarding your own situation a little glib, because your's is an exceptional case and you and your family can afford to fly here and there to be together.

For most families, this is out of the question, yet the dilemma remains significant and real. Again, a slightly different take on the same issue of maintaining cohesion within families - the problem is not just geographical. For example, it is all well and fine to celebrate close family networks and observing obligations to one another. But what does that mean.

For instance, in my own case, unlike the woman questioner from Greece, I work full-time and have two young children, but have had to do it with little support from my mother or mother-in-law or any other family members for that matter. In the case of the grandparents, they feel their years spent raising their own children were sufficient for them and they do not wish to have to do any more, even though they may love their grandchildren. They want to be free to live their own, absorbing and busy lives. Who would deny them that, having devoted much of their adult lives to serving the family, to now demand freedom from responsibility.

Yet I might feel the need for that support. So while the notions of fairness and being responsible to one another is fine in principle, it seems that the matter is not so clear in its application.

Who gets to define the nature of those responsibilities, and what do we do about ensuring they are met. Is it fair for us busy middle-aged parents to expect our parents to stay involved in the daily responsibilities of raising children. And then again, with regard to teenagers, how much can one expect of them in terms of staying close to their families as they move into adult lives.

I don't necessarily expect you to have answers for these conundrums. But I have read your book The Third Way and, having weighed it up and initially been sceptical that it is just a model for compromise, I have come to the conclusion that it does indeed contain the possibilities for a new way of talking and thinking about how we might operate as a society, so that we may create the conditions for everyone to flourish. But how to make the transition from the abstract principles to applying it in our daily lives is the overwhelming challenge facing us as we move into the new millennium.

Lastly, thank-you for your wonderful contribution to sustaining the discipline of sociology as a relevant and useful knowledge basket for humans in the 21st Century.
Pahmi Winter, New Zealand

I couldn't agree more about fundamentalism. An example of the basic premise that spirit without mind leads to fanaticism and mind without spirit leads to materialism.

The fundamentalists are not generally very forward thinking and prefer to stay with what is familiar. Particularly in the role women play in their culture as you pointed out several times.

Civilisation will not progress until women are equal partners in the decision making and the rewards.

Religious fundamentalism is particularly odious, and it is no accident that religion is not usually chosen, but inherited.

That's why this global communication is so exciting. Those with a searching mind can find other more progressive answers in the "privacy of their own computers", and so broaden their perspective.
Susan Hemmingsen, New Zealand

There is no paradox, it is confusion between democracy and freedom.

The ultimate expression of democracy is a society where debate is always used to resolve differences for the benefit of all, the result of freedom is instability and anarchy.

The free market and capitalism are spreading rapidly at the expense of democracy. Most western governments have seized on the idea that competition will improve economic performance, thus enabling a more equitable social policy. If there is a paradox it is that the maintenance of competition is itself causing a decline in relative living standards. History tells us that more competition will not produce a better economy, it will polarise those disadvantaged to reject it.

What exists now is an artificial competitive market sustained by exploitation of Third World economies by multi-national companies, condoned by western governments in the name of competition, that put back far less than they take. History tells us the eventual outcome if this continues the only question is when.
Robert Walter, New Zealand

Listening to your lectures (great) I was wondering if like in a J Brunner novel, marriage would become like a short-term contract called shiggies more for company and mutual gratification than long-term relationships. Do you think this is a possibility given that everything is transient.
Leigh Ballaam, Australia

I listened your lectures on globalisation on ABC radio. However, your views on globalisation sounds to me limited to very few countries in the so-called industrialised world. Why I say so is that I am from Somalia and since 1991 Somalia has had no central government. It has been left with blood-thristy warlords.

This part on the world we are living (as African) all the people are under threat of war, disease, and hunger. Women and children usually get two-fold. In some African countries, particularly Somalia, 95% of girls are subjected to female genital mutilation.

Do we talk the reality in some parts of the world. When does globalisation and democracy come to Africa, and free all her population, especially the girl child?
AF Gas, Australia

I welcome the comments about marriage and the family. As a marital psychotherapist I would make two comments.

The problems I meet fall into two main categories. The first is to do with difficulties of the traditional marriage and family patterns. Partners are in conflict over old and new values. Men find it difficult to adapt. The second and of most important is couples' difficulty with intimacy. As Prof Giddens says, this is very recent and we are only just beginning to understand the workings and sources of an intimate relationship.

My second comment is that it is not co-incidental that this happens in the same century in which Freud started the articulation and mapping of our emotional life. The further development of this map in the form of psychoanalytic marital (I prefer 'couple') therapy gives us an important tool both to further this understanding, and help couples as they struggle to discover intimacy.
Oliver Howell, England

As I was scrolling through the e-mail contributions yesterday it struck me that the fact that many of the contributors chose to describe themselves as from England and not the UK or Great Britain may, in itself, be an interesting comment on the globalisation debate
Ben Willis, UK

Thank you for the thought-provoking and enjoyable lectures.

Retirement for many people in the UK is increasingly becoming a time for adventure and self-fulfilment. They have spent their working life building up to this time of financial independence and now they have the means to enjoy life without the pressure of work. This is creating a major change to the way their own grandparents used to think and act, and as a consequence they are not around to be the extended family support to their own children who have to cope with the pressures of modern living and bringing up their young family.

How do you see this new dynamic in retired people being reconciled with the need you identified in you lecture on the impact of globalisation on the family, that we must find a way to provide extended family support?
Emilios Theodosiou, UK

With reference to Lecture 4 on the Family

I share a comment already made after an earlier lecture about sweeping generalisations which undermine what would otherwise be a more fruitful debate. I would suggest that both the "traditional family" and modern "coupledom" are actually far more varied, dare I say, pluralistic phenemona than is given credit in Professor Giddens's lecture. I say this on the basis of my contact with very many families in 13 years of teaching!

My own "way in" to discussing some of the issues which Professor Giddens is raising has been through looking at the nature of difference in society and the possible responses to that difference. One response is to treat difference as if it is of no account. I think that Professor Giddens's generalisations do this. This response establishes a new monolithicity of the "modern" (though it is expressed in the form of "tolerance") to replace a perceived monolithicity of the "traditional".

A second approach is to allow difference a legitimate expression in society - genuine pluralism. In this approach, much of what is labelled as "fundamentalism" (more accurately, perceptions of public life which allow that religious belief should not be unfairly marginalised) is capable of legitimate expression in society. Clearly, the manner of the expression as well as its content must remain respectful of the views of others who differ - and hence the exclusion of violence etc as possible forms of expression.

The real challenge is then one of how differences, fairly expressed, can live alongside each other - a challenge to "build society" in a way which respects difference rather than suppressing it.

My request to Professor Giddens would be: please allow a genuine pluralistic expression, instead of hiding it behind a rhetoric of tolerance which in fact simply establishes a new monolithicity expressive of a New Left social agenda.
Joseph Sowerby, United Kingdom

A notorious Regius Professor of History at Oxford once started his series of Reith Lectures by saying that in that series he was going to ignore Africa because it has no history. I am sure that Professor Giddens does not share those views but he comes close to it -- along with the BBC -- by failing to give any significant attention to Africa.

Could one of the sittings of the lectures not have taken place in Africa? In fact Africa would probably be more cataclysmically than the other continents because they are in a much better position to understand the process and to cushion themselves against its worst manifestations and to take full advantage of it in a proactive and creative manner.

If it is not too late, Professor Giddens and the BBC should make partial reparation - it can only be partial reparation -- for this blatant omission in the last programme
Prof Mohamd Hyder, Kenya

If multi-national companies are allowed to continue making new laws and using existing laws in ways they were never intended, in order to create and fortify a "right" to exploit the world and everyone in it, then democracy cannot survive. I am thinking of GATT, MAI, WTO, the patenting of genes, environmental measures becoming "illegal" where they conflict with trade etc.

Where a legal system sets itself against the interests of the majority, it has become an instrument of tyranny like South African apartheid. In these cases democracy does not exist and civil unrest will inevitably seek to restore democracy and eventually to form just laws.

To our shame, "law" is one of the tactics which the developed world uses to keep the dispossessed from having a fair share of the world's resources. At present there is no democracy in international affairs. Until there is, we are playing a dangerous game and playing it with other people's lives and with our own children's future.
Nigel White, England

I happened to catch your third talk, when I was driving for several hours last Sunday. I was very impressed, especially with your definitions of Globalisation, and Fundamentalism. Your talk validated what I have been thinking about these issues for some time. Thank you, and the BBC, for making these ideas available to a wider audience!
John Titchener, New Zealand

Thank you for you very interesting lectures, of which I missed the first two before finding out about them. Is it possible to obtain a manuscript somewhere?

I have three remarks.

In discussing globalisation and internationalisation it seems to me that there are different concepts in people's mind depending on weather you talk with an American or someone from the rest of the world.

For most people, these terms associate people from different countries getting together and finding mutually satisfying ways of interacting. For Americans, these terms associate the export of the American ways of doing things: American culture, American ways of doing politics, American moral standards (and the lack of it in certain areas), and American ways of organising an economy (free market with minimal protection for the weak ones).

The power in both the economic and the political sphere give American businesses and politicians profound influence on everyone's life. Hence, should we all get the right to vote in the next American presidential election?

Two specific questions:

In your definition of fundamentalism, which you talked about in Delhi, would you include academic economists, specially but not only the 'Chicago school'?

On your discussion of family in Washington you mention Denmark as a progressive example. For me high divorce rates are not progressive. Many people here (not just recent immigrants) suffer from isolation. If we have modern concepts of the family along the lines you suggested, we also need other mechanisms of social interaction and integration.
Klaus Meyer, Denmark

This is to draw your attention to the fact that the text published as that of lecture no 4 'The family' is, in fact, the text of the preceding instalment 'Tradition'.
Jan Mets, The Netherlands

As a member of a class designed around these lectures, I would like to say that there is cause for a lot of pondering when I head home, and often during the week I think of something else to respond to from our discussion. My biggest disagreement with you is that globalisation is not westernisation or Americanisation. I have only left this area I live in twice for a distance of more than 400 miles. I lead a glass existence in that sense, but in that I find that I know nothing about other people and cultures unless I look for it myself. Even on a campus loaded with foreign students, I do not feel a cross-cultural connection at all. But many children in remote villages all around the world know plenty about my culture and lifestyle, and they have never travelled further from home than I. It is true that the world is becoming a melting pot, but much of the contributing cultures are already partly Americanised and they are putting that influence back in.
Amy O'Connor, USA

As a child of the 1970s I'm coping just fine with the lightening pace of change, thank you. In fact, it seems perfectly normal to me.

With regard to tradition, personally I feel that it is an essential element of and companion to progress. One needs to have a grasp on where one has come from in order to go forward. As an Australian with Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-Celtic ancestry, for me it is very important to have an understanding of this ancestry along with a well-rounded knowledge of the particular form of western culture which has shaped my world view (whether for good or bad). Only armed with these things can I have some hope of realistically engaging with globalisation, cultures different to my own, other perceptions of the world, etc..

The push and pull of tradition and progress seem very similar to the push and pull of globalisation and localisation. I believe individuals can intelligently utilise and comprehend both ends of these spectrums - and in fact must do so if they are to make sense of (and stay sane in) the ever-changing world.

Thank you for your lectures - they have been most useful.
Simone Walsh, Australia

I am finding these lectures are challenging and thought provoking. One of the thoughts that has been provoked is the idea that we are hearing the perspective of a winner with regard to Globalisation. Not enough emphasis is being placed on the outcomes that will be generated by massive increases in inequality and social dislocation. These outcomes, I hypothesise, will become organising and defining forces, that will be just as powerful as the information technology that has spawned Globalisation.
Stephen Macintosh, Australia

All over the world, the family is the fundamental unit for bringing up children, who represent the future of humanity, within whatever form of marriage that exists. The breakdown of the family is not a matter of 'nostalgia' for the children of any relationship and their position in all this is considerably more than coldly 'interesting.' This is a tragedy on a Runaway World scale.

You appear to be painfully devoid of the experience of parental love for children which transcends legal obligation or 'ritual commitment' and far too keen to try and justify the sexuality with 'no content' of the gay agenda.

Children develop best in a world where they can rely absolutely on their parent's love and commitment, which imparts life long security. The family is not a 'shell institution.' It is a moral commitment the future of the human race, which to parents world-wide is surely 'something worth dying for.' It is sad that your own life experiences have for me flawed an otherwise brilliant series of lectures. But it is a privilege to able to participate in such a debate.
Geoffrey Bowman, UK

This reply is to the title as I have not yet had time to read the text so is rather arrogant but perhaps I may be forgiven as the word 'Family' is so filled with meaning for me.

Having been illegitimate at a time that held little tolerance for the condition I value the concept of an ideal environment for the care and development of children.

Within the family are learned human value and values, effective behaviour patterns and power systems. A healthy family structure can deal with a great deal of adversity from within and without and young people can learn about maturity from stable and loyal parents.

The world we have in the west follows the family model and vice versa. Nowhere do children learn stability or a morality which informs relationships and interactions in general.

Women have joined men in the workplace because neither partners nor society showed any real appreciation of the complex, demanding, skilled and responsible work involved in running a home and family.

In the process the community has been diminished along with the people in it and businesses run with the same lack of commitment to the participants and the locality have removed from many of us a sense of identity or self-worth.

As I write this, news comes of a bomb in London as a result of thoughts and feelings that have been around as long as there have been human settlements and it is high time we considered what we are doing to ourselves and our world and how little progress we are making except for gadgets.

A globalisation that helped to share resources and effort as a good family should could bring about a result as near Utopia as could be imagined. A globalisation which regards people as units in the production process will produce horrors we cannot imagine in the darkest recesses of our minds.
Elsie Townley, UK

Runaway World suggests a diffusion of power and influence through globalisation whereas the US led corporate buy in to the Asian economies and US led NATO and UN global policing both suggest concentration of power. It is, I think, globalisation that is the shell institution being used to divert attention from US imperialism. A global dialogue, like participation in the workplace is meaningless unless it addresses power relationships.
Peter Smith, UK

In his Reith Lectures, Professor Giddens has advocated sexual equality and stated that modern societies are beyond nature. The latter is definitely false. We are of nature and in nature and depend on nature however unnatural our societies may be! In view of this, would Giddens reconsider his attitude to nature noting well that for tens of millions of years she has produced mammals with substantially different males and females and that for tens of centuries cultures have respected this by harnessing men and women differently?
G. C. A. Talbot, UK

The impact of the internet on "representative" democracy.

Until now, we have had to accept that we had to select people every so often to take decisions on our behalf in parliament. We are close to a situation, technologically, where we could in fact do away with this filter. The people could vote direct. But should they? Are they informed enough to do so? Where does this leave the role of government in leading opinion on issues such as capital punishment, age of consent etc? And what if the people demanded the right to decide whether or not to be taxed? Doesn't this mean that a new legitimacy is required both of the government of the day and of those we elect?
Peter Bloxham, UK

Moving from the UK to Belgium - to represent a region (Wales) to the institutions of the EU can be regarded as a very 'local' affair in the context of globalisation. Yet in work and living it requires considerable practical and mental adjustments.

The series, or its follow-up, would benefit from examining various corporate or personal nodes at which the flows, trends and cross-currents can be examined in their practical impact and lessons on how response to globalisation can be managed.

Most academic paradigms and analytical systems are ethno-centric, as many critics point out. I think we might find wisdom and potential in thought systems like Patrick Geddes. It was applied at the beginning of the century to the shape and operation of communities. (Alas though father of town planning, the profession concentrated too much on shape and not on operation).

The entities of the global community need similar visions ('Without Vision the people will perish') and analysis.
Prof Jim Hughes, Belgium

I identify with your assertion that fundamentalism is dangerous. Through listening to the BBC World Service (programmes such as 'Agenda') I am aware of a generalised perception that the 'West' is anti-Muslim. I feel that it is fundamentalism, wherever it is found, with its inevitable lack of tolerance, which is the real issue. I have heard "fundamentalist" used on radio as the ultimate caustic rebuke; its negative connotations are now to be found in everyday speech.
John Lynam, England

A lot of the comment since you invited contributions to this site has been of a progressivist, "One world" nature, holding that 'globalisation' was a process which would lead inevitably to greater peace, prosperity, choice etc. Has this not been overtaken by events in Kosovo?

Even if we assume that "good" and "evil" are susceptible of ready determination in any political situation - which would be a difficult assumption to defend - is it not the case that we will never be able to assure these until we are prepared to fight and die on foreign soil in conflicts which defeat popular comprehension, and then to have our children fight and die in their turn?

Western leaders posture about the moral basis for their intervention in Kosovo, but it is clear enough that they do not place that morality ahead of ensuring that the lives of western servicemen are not endangered and that their own poll ratings are not threatened by the difficult realities of war.
Keith Stewart, UK

Does the concept of globalistaion include a global selectively "moral" police force that NATO is assuming?

The current conflict by NATO against Serbia is a distinctly global intervention, using rhetoric as its propaganda tool.
John O'Mara, England

Since globalisation, multinationals are able to exploit globally for profit in under-developed countries. Brand name goods are being produced by children in Asia, ie. Reebok, Adidas, Nike etc. Perhaps some thought of this exploitation would merit a mention in your discourse.
R Williams, England

1. What place do you think proportional representation has in a globalised society? Personally, I believe that the makeup of the government should reflect the makeup of the society it represents, because although this may allow minority factions, whose beliefs may be regarded as horrible, reprehensible, and dangerous, the other possibility is that we risk majority rule at the expense of the minority. Also, surely we should not condone a system which encourages tactical voting 2. Regarding your comments on the disillusionment of the British (and other democratic) public with their government: perhaps this is complacency rather than disinterest. Strong political feeling and extremist groups seem to flourish in hard times - perhaps the fact that we seem to be devoid of political opinion demonstrates that our country is by and large a healthy one. 3. I am not feeling articulate today. My apologies.
Sarah Lewis, UK

I welcome the idea of globalisation - given my family background I have, perhaps, no other choice. My father, who is British, was born in India, my mother was born in Vienna, my brother in Tanzania, my sister and I in the UK. As a child I lived in Nigeria and Tanzania. My husband is Chinese, as is my brother's wife. My sister's ex-husband is Dutch. I e-mail friends and family in Cape Town, Beijing, Shanghai, California and Iowa. Sometimes it feels as if I have a closer dialogue with them than I do with those around me. I enjoy a wonderful diversity of place, language, and culture. At the same time I am uncertain about my place in the world, literally as well as metaphorically. Who am I?
Elisabeth Hallett, UK

Sir, will globalisation lead to a) world government or b) tradewars ?.
Richard Williams, England

What interests me most is the debate surrounding the emergence of a Global Civil Society as well as other supranational structures i.e. the International State/Political system.

Would you agree that we are witnessing the beginning of an "accidental" single world system of government and commerce based on the extension of modernity on a global scale.
Chris Newman, UK

I listened with great interest to your lecture from Delhi tonight. Whilst I cannot disagree with any of your comments, I have to accuse you of dishonesty, because the message you sent was loud and clear - tradition, along with nationalism and religion, are atavisms which the modern world would do better without, since they are a major source of conflict.

I can only suppose that in speaking to a predominately Hindu audience, you did not wish to give offence, but I would have welcomed your challenging some of the traditions which that religion nurtures.

Can you please be more outspoken in future lectures.
Brian West, England

I believe that we can never truly 'go global'. Countries, nations, peoples are not prepared to give up their traditions, beliefs, customs, life styles to become part of a global family. A classic example of this is the European Community. Nations such as Germany and France may be prepared to give up their currencies in favour of the euro, but Britain is not. We are not a united Europe, we are not prepared to go all out to become a single European nation, how are we to become to become global?

TNCs are the big boys in the global market place but they are only making core regions global, what about the periphery, the people that are working in the sweatshops to produce the goods which we as consumers buy, increasing the wealth of the TNCs? They will never have the chance to become global unless we work together to globally help these deprived regions.

We will remain international unless we strive to create a society that recognises all of its members rich and poor, and works together to be a united global nation.

I am 'for' globalisation, as long as it benefits not only the rich but also the poor, who help to make globalisation possible.
Geography undergraduate, England

Our abilities to co-operate materially have outrun our psychological capabilities. We need some of the simplicity lent by tradition.
Charles Brown, USA

I am a mature student studying MA managing change at Bradford. I presently work in social care. I am finding the subject of globalisation so interesting. I am able to understand the reasons behind the recent 'banana' trade war with the USA. I could understand the implications, as I also have connections in the textile industry. I find myself a little concerned where the world will be in the next decade. I am so enjoying Prof Reith lectures, Wednesdays won't be the same without him.
Sheila Hamilton, Great Britain

I would first like to say that I enjoyed Prof Giddens's lecture and agree broadly with his explanation of tradition and modernity (though I am still undecided about how that really manifest in identity - so enjoyed his idea of addiction). I also think that electronic media is important but I am much more cautious and cynical than he when it comes to trans-national corporations and globalised trade. It does not take much time on the Web to uncover a mountain of info concerning groups fighting to hold on to some kind of control concerning their livelihoods, culture or basic rights.

As far as I can see globalisation has just become a mechanism for the expansion of markets at the detriment of the environment and the majority of world citizens. The only reassurance I can find is the possibility that the side effect of this process - increased access to communications - can be harnessed by those who do not wish to see the perpetuation of the greatest tradition - the dominance of the rich over the poor.

Prof Giddens was right - there are many people out there with burning passion - a new earnestness for a changing world. The gravest threat to democracy within the advanced industrialised world comes from the greater and greater distance between the major economic decisions (taken within the World Bank, IMF, WTO, etc) and the electorate. This is combined with the every increasing economic dangers they face from economic disruption originating from (to them) remote areas of the world. This powerlessness, this government by "growth economics" has and will increasingly contribute to a growing apathy within Western democracies. Ideals and real political battles will increasingly be waged through interest groups and direct action groups confronting the Corporations as much as the State - increasingly seeing the two as a combined force.
Robert Godden, UK

I was intrigued by your critique of fundamentalism in tonight's lecture. Especially the comment that it is normal for adherents to deny that they are fundamentalists at all. In the Christian community this is true. For example a respected writer Prof James (he'd rather be known as Jim) Packer wrote a well-known book in the early 70s called 'Fundamentalism and the Word of God' where he described all the tenets of Christian fundamentalism while rigorously denying that the label applied to him. His book was (and may still be) very influential in conservative evangelical circles, especially student Christian unions.

Your campaign for openness and tolerance is spot on. Please keep it up.
Nick Taylor, UK

We are paying the price of "technophilia", self-love, and loss of potential for the highest order of moral development. Wherever the simple, deeply examined, and charitable life no longer has currency, the world becomes more and more benighted.
Bishop Sergius, USA

I have followed your Reith lectures with great interest, particularly the second one on "Risk".

You traced the etymology of the word "risk" to the Spanish or Portuguese term, to dare. I believe its true root is in the Arabic word "Rizq", and it crossed into Hispanic usage from the 800-year Islamic presence in the Iberian peninsula. There is though, a civilisation gulf between the meaning of the two terms ascribed to risk/rizq by the two world views, only one of which, the apparently dominant, is reflected in your lecture.

The Arabic/Islamic rizq means, literally, "sustenance", or the favour that is granted man by a higher authority. To seek one's rizq means to seek one's livelihood, and that may include to tear one's self from what is near and dear into even uncharted waters. But the proviso is clear to any seeker - that is the only genuine way in which rizq can be obtained is if it is kept within the bounds of what is permissible and with the recognition that whatever may result in terms of "reward" are as a result of the action and favour of Providence and not man.

Actions of man must therefore be subject to these twin tests of ethical correctness and recognition of man's ultimate dependency. There is an explicit rejection, therefore, that the future is made by man's actions. Man must act correctly in the present and now, but events and their course are not determined by him. This of course runs counter to both the liberal/capitalist/pragmatic/empirical orthodoxy as well as the sentimentalised yearnings of new agers. It has nothing to do with anti-science sentiments but everything to do with anti-scientism. It was only with the ascendancy of unbridled acquisitiveness that rizq mutated into risk, with all the attendant consequences to perception and knowledge.

Rather than seeking what is permissible and ultimately moral, man accepted his own rules of the game. The point is that material growth could have easily and more positively occurred within an ordered and ethical environment rather than the horrors inflicted on both man and nature by greed that is unconstrained by nothing except the shifting grounds of self-interest. The equation of material progress with the jettisoning of an apparently static world view is a product of the worst kind of ex post rationalistaion.

Risk as a concept by which the future may be quantified and managed is, by your own definition, an impossibility. What you seem to be saying is that chasing the impossible is a perfectly acceptable and enlightened way of managing societies. In the same breath you tell us that the poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer, and somehow this is the way the world ought to be. The underlying cause for all these tragedies is the belief that man, with sceptical science in tow, is in the ascendancy. All else is unacceptable and is regressive, particularly traditions and religions.

The point is to imbue our actions with meanings and not to manage the inherently unmanageable.
Ali A Allawi, UK

It seems to me that the future of our planet will strongly depend on the dialogue between Islamic and anti-Islamic nations. Do you think we should learn, explore and find out what Islam is? Many of my Christian friends have converted to Islam, confessing it as a spiritual tranquillity. Sorry I haven't given answers to your questions. I think resolving all of those problems stated by you may be found in Islam.
Ibrohim A Namirov, US

I am a Master's Candidate in Political Science here at the University of North Texas. One topic in particular that is discussed at great length in my field of Peace Studies is the so-called "democratic peace" theory - the notion that democracies do not fight one another. Some argue that this is due to constraints on the leadership of the democratic nation that keep the executive "in check" so-to-speak. Others argue that it is due to some inherent cultural aspect of participatory democracy.

I was wondering how you feel about this dialogue. Is democratic peace enough in this world when many of the key areas of contention in the contemporary world are not democracies? Research as proven that democracies do not have problems in warring with non-democracies. Is foisting democracy upon the rest of the world the only action?
Patrick M McLeod, USA

A global economy is like a forest without firebreaks. If you grow trees in the firebreaks, you not only have the risk of fire breaking out in your own area, but of fire spreading from elsewhere. Likewise, if you promote international trade and capital flow, the risk of experiencing financial disaster is increased because disaster in one part of the world can spread to another.
Dave Womersley, England

Who is determining the narrative of the 'global debate' and thus whose interests are being served by undertaking such rhetoric? Is the global debate about a sudden enlightenment by the current hegemonic powers of the world who have somehow discovered their place in the world and are willing to share their new knowledge and understanding with the rest of the globe in a celebration of shared values and wealth - or is it entrenched in the economic, political and social interests which have been gradually built over the past 500 years but have found their purest expression yet in the new world order?

Come be part of our global utopia! But when faced with the realities of what true globalism means are we really ready for it? Does globalisation only exist when it suits the interest of the rich and powerful - has history not shown us that when facing the harder questions - like freeing up barriers to population movement in the world and more equitable distribution of wealth we scurry back into our parochial shells. Is 'our' world truly a runaway, or is it simply the spoilt child trying to attract attention, with no real intention of running anywhere.
Alopi Latukefu, Australia

It seems to me that the relationships between huge international communities need to mirror the "pure" personal relationship you outline in lecture four. A relationship that "...depends upon processes of active trust - opening oneself up to the other ... (where) each person has respect for and wants the best for the other." The problem of course comes in that area of trust. Human nature is selfish and consequently when such trust is extended, it will inevitably be abused to one or other party's advantage. And yet there's the rub - the advantages to be gained from abuse of trust are all short term. Or conversely the full advantages offered by mutual trust might only be realised in the long term.

So, how to persuade the world to think long term?
Mark Chitty, UK

Twenty years ago the UNICEF and member states of WHO set themselves the task of achieving Health for All by the year 2000. As the end of this time frame is approaching, it is evident that we are far from reaching this goal. Rather, the world is currently facing a global health crisis, characterised by growing inequities and polarisation. Despite medical advances and increasing average life expectancy, there is disturbing evidence of increasing disparities in health status among people world-wide.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic and related problems are leading to reversals of previous health gains and increases in mortality rates in many areas. This is associated with widening gaps in income and access to social services between countries and among groups within them, as well as persistent regional and gender imbalances. Reduced access to health care, which itself aggravates poverty, has become widespread in many countries in both the North and the South. From many countries in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe there are reports of growing morbidity and mortality rates among vulnerable sections of the population, including indigenous peoples. Traditional systems of knowledge and health are under threat.

This is the result of the distorted structure of the world economy that has been aggravated by globalisation, including structural adjustment, new iniquitous world trade arrangements and uncontrolled financial speculation. In many countries this problem is compounded by the lack of co-ordination and expensive duplication among bilateral and multilateral agencies.

However, many experienced people working with communities, governments and non-government organisations have the collective vision that health for all is still possible. To achieve this will require equitable development as well as new people-driven and state supported health systems. A broad, inclusive initiative to involve as many people as possible around the world to formulate their own health agenda is therefore urgently needed. People's long and rich experiences must be presented, discussed and eventually translated into clear, practical and democratic policy guidelines. Alternative analyses of the root causes of the global health crisis must be stimulated and given sufficient space in the public debate. Governments, international financial institutions and UN agencies must be held accountable for people's health.

In light of the above, a People's Health Assembly (virtual and actual) is being organised for the year 2000 by a group of concerned civil society organisations and networks.
Dr Ken Harvey, Australia

A glance around the North East of England shows areas which have been devastated by the changes in industry during the last 30 years. How is it possible to rescue such areas when the very surroundings seem to militate against local power. Even with increased local democracy it is difficult to visualise improvement given the continued consolidation of power in ever larger companies and their reluctance to contribute as much as may be necessary to maintain humanising services and a sense of our shared destiny? Unless some changes take place fairly quickly civil disorder on an international scale without any resultant improvement seems a strong possibility.
Elsie Townley, UK

One of the most striking aspects of the globalisation debate concerns the ubiquitous species the Multinational Enterprise. While not strictly new, in the sense that "international companies" have been around since society mastered the art of large-scale organisation, their powerful reach over economic space is daunting especially as their managerial decisions are basically undemocratic.

Perhaps "share-holders" have some moderating influence. Consequently, economic decisions affecting some 60 to 75% of global economic activities are sub-optimal with optimisation being effected only when the damage has been done. How to make the species globally accountable remains perhaps the greatest challenge of the next few years. One only has to think of the bio-tech multinationals.
Frank L Bartels, Singapore

Thank you for your first talk which I enjoyed, although I would have liked more "ordinary" people in the audience. My comment/question: how do you think globalising forces are changing the lives of the broad mass of individual working (class) people in this country? How can individuals best ensure their own economic and cultural security in the face of these often overwhelming forces?
Laurence Nasskau, UK

This particular debate interests me a great deal. Particularly the idea of global rights and the newly-established International Court of Justice. I agree that globalisation is a fact and that its effects are far-reaching. What concerns me is the idea of human rights within this new world. I would really appreciate your insights into this question.

Are we in the West really in a position to impose our perception of human rights on the rest of the world? (which is so easy now with regard to globalisation.) Are we over stepping into other people's territories and imposing our ideals without their permission? Are they ready for this imposition and if not should we impose our ideals regardlessly? My central point really is that we have come to our own conclusions about issues related to human rights. I am concerned that we in the West are trying to bring the rest of the world 'up' to our level of 'civilisation' before there time, if indeed there will ever be a time. Can we impose our idea of human rights on the rest of the world? Are less developed countries ready for this dramatic change?

The quote David Rieff used in the Prospect debate summarises this point. "It may be 1999 by the calendar everywhere, but it is not the same 1999 in the forests of the eastern Congo as it is on the Flanders fields". Please help me to come to some sort of conclusion in this very grey area. Do you believe that there is a world community and if so is the International Criminal Court the answer for 'protecting' it? I look forward to hearing from you with any comments you may have as soon as you get the chance. Thanks for listening.
Caroline Watts, UK

With the lecture on uncertainty and consequent risks in mind, I would like to put the following question to Prof Giddens. We live in a world where technological development and capitalism appear as two mutually supporting processes until recently, largely under the political direction, if not control, of national governments. Even so it has proven difficult to foresee and prevent the adverse ecological consequences which accompany many such developments, and in this I am thinking of personal transport and the pollution problems it presents, and in developing countries of the problems with 'Green Revolution' technologies.

Such technologies can be conceptualised as co-evolving with society (Ref. Norgard) in unforeseen ways, and with their own momentum and terminal logic. Now we appear to be entering a new phase in which the process of technological development occurs across the boundaries of nation states and their institutions. This seems to lead to an "auctioning" of sovereignty by national governments who are torn between maintaining international economic competitiveness and the protection of their societies from such ecological risks.

Here in the UK you will have noted the debate on genetically-modified crops, and the term "Frankenstein foods" seems to encapsulate the uncertainty, risks and lack of control people now feel with regard to internationally-based technological developments. Human cloning and military arms sales would appear to be other such technology areas. Do you perceive a need for society to create institutions capable of exerting some semblance of political and democratic control over technological development, such that technology and economies serve the needs of peoples, and not vice versa? If so what form should these institutions take: should they be internationally agreed, to create a 'level playing field' (ie. by a top down approach), or should they be locally defined and uneven to create and permit! diversity (ie. bottom up approaches), or a mixture of both?

Thanks for your patience in reading this rather long question. I look forward to your comments.
Gerald Rosenberg, UK

Tony-Thanks for the stimulating lecture.

In the global context, of course, there is no such thing as the traditional family. Nevertheless, the Western traditional family does have a bright future - in co-existence with, many other "traditional" and non-traditional family structures. Individual nations are clearly under threat, particularly those whose existence arises from the results of the varying balances of power existent in Western Europe over the past millennium and/or whose boundaries depend on the whims of colonial cartographers.

The "New World" and most of Asia are probably safe. The Africa of 2020 will bear little of no resemblance to what we know of it today. Europe will continue to struggle to reconcile centrifugal and centripetal forces for change. Marriage is not a shell institution and has-at the edge--already been reinterpreted as much as it is likely to be. Children are not and never have been a "feel good" totem for their parents. "Tradition" is not a dogma devised by opponents of progress.

It is central to the human condition and an essentiality for true "progress." I'm coping as well as anybody to "this lightning pace of change" which means, to me, hardly at all. Anyone who feels otherwise is either oblivious or delusional. Richard Goodale, Scotland

Culture and tradition are obviously a big part of people's identity around the globe but Christmas is probably the most universal festival that occurs during the year's calendar. Regardless of religion, region and background, Christmas is celebrated in different ways and to varying degrees. Christmas is the global party but what extent do you think this spread of Christmas is down to globalisation and does its spread endanger people's cultural identity.
Andrew Mcfarlane, England

Hello, I have had a particular interest in social causality and change since 1973, over 25 years.

I would prefer the concept of globalisation to be broken up into separate phenomena. Changes in communication, in transport, and in migration. Voluntary taking-ups, and forced changes. A particularly hideous example of the latter: cyclists in China being banned for the convenience of big business, following on from similar brute force appropriation of our own streets by motorists.

By far the most important effects of globalisation are various negative ones. Others will tell you about the great harm done by excessive facilitation of transport and mobility, in their impact on environment and the destruction of local jobs and of genuine cultural and human-genetic diversity. But there is an even more serious consequence of excessive transport and migration.

Excessive transport and migration inevitably lead to collapse of society, because they provide an environment that promotes crime and anti-sociality. The evidence on this point is thoroughly unambiguous, and it is consequently imperative that we reverse the proliferation of cars, roads and airways.

Related to this is the evidence of Arnold Toynbee from previous civilisations. I think you are greatly mistaken in considering that we now have something fundamentally different. There are several striking parallels between our present globalisation and the universal states described by Toynbee. The only difference is the trivial (and bad) one that the present system embraces the whole globe. Similarities include an objectively demonstrable dumbing-down mass culture, replacement of a charming elite by a domineering elite, integration of an external proletariat, and aping of lower-class dress by leaders. And that massive network of Euro-routes 2000 years ago.

And all these civilisations collapsed due to their breakdown of social capital, trustworthiness, etc.

Our present system will collapse a lot faster, and with nukes. The future absolutely hangs on getting rid of those roads and cars and planes!
Robin P Clarke, UK

Firstly, I question your statement that "there has never been a society, so far as we know from historical record, in which women have been even approximately equal to men." On the contrary, there is increasing evidence that more than 2,000 years ago there existed a matrifocal, egalitarian Minoan culture-based around Crete. Such blanket statements as your's are unhelpful and surprising in the context of an otherwise strong debate.

But they raise my second point: although you acknowledge the potential negative effects on local cultures of increasing economic and political globalisation, at no stage do you mention the Catch 22 in which indigenous cultures find themselves. The theory of globalisation as a positive force could, indeed, enable small, currently endangered, indigenous ethnic groups in areas such as the Amazon basin and the south-east Asian rainforest zones of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, to reach out into the global community, establish the importance of their existence and thus protect themselves.

However, I believe that a more likely scenario is that these peoples will be wiped out by "top-down" economic and political globalisation (the exploitation of their indigenous habitats by transnationals, the destruction of their unique social/political structures by governments desperate for foreign investment or unable to protect them due to sovereign dissolution, etc) before these peoples can have a "bottom-up" impact on global culture.

"Global pillage" is already happening and is well on its way to at least diminishing the current diversity of the world's ethnic populations, if not creating a single, homogeneous culture.
Clare Cochrane, Hong Kong

The world, until very recently, was a very big place, and each entity within the world was controlled by very few.

As I believe this is the beginning of the Information age, and with that the ability for an individual to express there opinion to others without having to go through theses few controlling leaders. People are somewhat afraid of what this might entail in the future, putting more influence onto the bad side of this than the potential for success.

As I work in the IT sector I can instantly find or announce information ascertaining to my desired subject with the minimum of effort but the maximum result.

Once people stop trying to control something that exists because of the lack of control it encounters, people will start to reap the benefits of a very dynamic era.
James Naylor, Netherlands

Quite by chance the western way of economics has hit on a highly profitable mix of labour, capital and material flows that appears to achieve miracles. Is it just a freak of the world's chaotic economic structures, soon to be swept away in another lurch?
Philip Thorns, UK

From reading the short introduction into the second lecture, it seems to me that Anthony conceptualises risk as somewhat a "deliberate" activity, ie. conscious decision.

Couldn't it be that a lot of the risk we carry on our shoulders these days is simply unpredictable and unexpected?

Fast-paced technological change and rapidly developing markets force us to use and sometimes even be swamped by the novelties around us, the full consequences of which we may not immediately realise.
Andrej Machacek, UK

In a world that is, in many ways, becoming more globalised and uniform with the continuing march of Coca-Cola-ization across the globe, it is perhaps little wonder that the individual nation-state is declining in importance on the world stage. In the world economy, as it stands, individual states have relatively little influence, instead being subject to global trends and as a result multi-national institutions have evolved, such as the EU, that do have the required economic muscle.

These institutions are, almost be definition, centralised, propagating political and economic uniformity across a wide variety of societies and cultures. However, although the states themselves may suffer from a relative loss of sovereignty, the constituent nations are not subject to the same influences. A nation is not a political entity. It is an agglomeration of like-minded peoples with a common cultural and linguistic inheritance. Therefore, globalisation is in some ways fostering the growth of nations as within multi-national institutions, nations can survive in cultural terms whereas in political terms they would be non-viable.

The increase in national identity can be seen within the UK itself, with the Scottish and Welsh devolution movements; in Europe, in the form of the Basques, Catalans, Bretons, North Italians and Kosovars; and on the global stage, in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Whilst nationalism is not always a constructive force it nevertheless remains powerful as a global force. Increasing uniformity in political and economic fields may well lead to a greater emphasis being placed on the nation instead of the state as people seek new ways in which to define themselves. A small step along this road can be seen at present in the UK as the English nation seeks to redefine its identity due to the limited detachment of other parts of the UK. English national identity has long been confused with that of the state of Great Britain and, with the beginnings of the break-up of that state, questions are being asked of the nature of the English nation; questions which in many cases have no definite answers.

Trends of this sort may well become more common as minority ethnic groups within states begin to exercise more power with the decline of the importance of the state itself. However, although the break-up of nation states is far from imminent or even inevitable, we would be wise to be sensitive to the concerns of the 'national' groups within such nations. Although for a long time nationality has been suppressed in favour of allegiance to the state, the call of the nation is a far more emotive political force.
Ben Willis, UK

You describe in Beyond Left And Right how a welfare system needs to respond to the problems of risk. How should a national education system respond to the problems of risk under modernisation ?
Phil Limbert, UK

How does globalisation differ from international rationalisation?
Avril J Evitts, England

Genetic companies design plants to stand more pesticides not less. The Threat, not the risk, to the world is US patents controlling plant growth which will lead to a US monopoly controlling who grows what where. Ask Indians about the intention to prohibit farm-saved seed as now in the UK.
Syd Hambly, UK

If the person needs to be co-ordinated and self-disciplined for optimum performance then this is a good model for marriage; autonomous, responsible, flexible, loyal. If this works outwards to the work, locality, region, country etc. to extend to the Earth we might then begin to consider ourselves to be maturing.

The sense that only "out there" is there an answer or a common enemy to create an ad hoc unity belongs to the kindergarten where immature youngsters have not learned self-control and possible outcomes, however vague cannot be visualised.

At present, corporations, the nearest model we have to world organisation, appear to drop people to economise while sparing no expense in board rooms. While on a personal level, money is washing around the Lottery in one form of public spending and personal instant fortunes while schools and other public services appear to be scratching around for funds.

We all appear to be divorced from reality and a sense of cause and effect. This may be all we can expect without a swift return to some form of community resembling that of the post war years but with some responsibility to more than work and the material.
Elsie Townley, UK

When talking to webmasters of large corporations I am struck by their apparent lack of interest in measuring the risk of their escalating e-commerce investments.

This is usually justified by the impossibility of measuring the risk of something that has no precedent, and the assumption that transacting business on the Internet is too distinct from other business transactions for them to make intelligent comparisons.

Could, however, an unwillingness to incorporate risk assessment into investment decisions in this area limit the overall development of e-commerce? Or will it merely hamper those who don't?
Rohan Freeman, UK

The family will always have a future as it is the only place most of us feel completely comfortable and unquestionably loved.

The individual nation is not under threat as the chance of the whole world to be one should not be seen as a threat but be welcomed. There will always be diverse cultures, even if we loose the borders.

Marriage should be an agreement between two people with parameters which suit them.

Parents have always lived through their children but that doesn't make them commodities. It could even be an instinctive response to encourage people to reproduce. But parents should always respect the wishes and dreams of their children.

Tradition is not a dogma devised by opponents of progress. It makes us feel comfortable to be surrounded by things which are familiar. Celebrating Christmas does not hold back progress. In fact traditions are created all the time which shows an acceptance of the new.

Some things are not changing fast enough such as medical science in areas like cures for Aids and Cancer. It is too expensive to keep up with advancements in computer technology. I only hope people will continue to enjoy the real world and not a virtual one.
Richard Wilson, UK

The concept of the global village is one for which I remain somewhat sceptical. There are more people globally, without telephones, than there are with. So the term "global" in this respect isn't an inclusive one.
Junior Grant, England

I would like to take issue with your statement that modern society needs to learn to forget, which you made in your lecture on risk. I am a professional archaeologist with a PhD that examined the relationship between state-managed archaeology and the maintenance of individual identities within biographical narratives of the nation state. I made extensive use of your work.

My challenge to your emphasis on forgetting is threefold (at least):

First, risk is an approach to managing change, which presupposes a past as well as a future. Arguably, systematic and critical remembering (in the form of historical sciences) has been the key to conceiving of futures susceptible to human agency, hence good history stands in opposition to tradition and the uncritical, inaccurate and cosy remembering (nostalgia) which is such a severe brake on innovative thinking.

Second, the past provides a glimpse of alternatives in a world where cultural difference is being progressively eroded by homogenisation. Beyond written history, there are traces of societies so different to any that we know in our own era that we have to recognise that ours is not the only way. This is not to advocate a return to any particular form of social organisation, simply to show that alternatives are conceivable. I think this is especially valid in considering the multiple layering of cultural and political identities.

Third, the past (both recent and more distant) has a material presence in our present environment which is important to identity formation through practical consciousness. Our time-rich locales serve as important sea anchors which can keep our head to the wind without halting our progress through changing currents. Many thanks for you attention.
Antony Firth, UK

How do people feel about Nanuvat (nothern province recently created in Canada)? Something that needed to be done in order to right past wrongs (whatever that means)? or apartheid?
Jason, Canada

"Who are the enemies of Britain, or France, or Japan? Nations today face risks and dangers rather than enemies, a massive shift in their very nature". Do you feel the same today in view of the events of Kosovo? Is globalisation the root of what is happening there?
Helen Buckley, France

Did you get my email or are you censoring those whom you believe to be "radical" economists? Because it certainly doesn't appear that you are publishing too many comments that are both well informed and justifiably dismissive of your conservative "family values" approach to the global inequality crisis. I can easily document and expand my thoughts on international governance; even if you're incapable of debating the issue empirically, some of your readers might not be.

As I mentioned earlier, any perceived "complacency" with democracy is due to a) managed ignorance or b) lack of choice in the Third Way, Washington consensus monopoly on leadership. However, I would argue that a fundamental problem of globalisation is that in addition to our national politicians, being bought and paid for by Multinational Corporations, our systems of international governance are dangerously imbalanced to the point where neo-liberal financial institutions such as the IMF are the central banker, fiscal policy maker, and increasingly social regulators of 75 of the world's nations on a permanent basis and of many other nations in periods of crisis such as the current "Asian" crisis, (see mainstream Harvard economist, Jeffrey Sachs), while the world social institutions such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are powerless to enforce their standards.

This leads to human rights violations for economic gain including the virtual enslavement of millions of teenage girls in the world's manufacturing export processing zones for the benefit of the MNCs, and precludes any chance of traditional domestic wage led growth for the Third World.

If you're interested solely in the fuzzy sociology of communications and family structures, imagine your own 15-year-old daughter at a sewing machine for 80 hours a week at 10p an hour living in a bunker away from her family and consider the societal implications of that.

The world government institutions that promote this madness, (never mind the corporations) are bureaucratic, unaccountable, and lack transparency. Before you refuse to accept any criticism naming names, perhaps you should ask your readers if they even know who Sir Leon Brittan is?
Justine Moore, USA

It seems to me that globalisation (as Blair & Brown conceive it - and possibly you yourself) means there's nothing we can actually do to stop, say, financial pressures occurring at the global level from having local consequences (on UK businesses, for example).

Given that privatisation and free market economic policies in the 1980s actually paved the way for global economic practices in the 1990s, this suggests that we might actually be able to legislate to intervene in the (global) economic sphere and thus protect people from kids wearing braces who simply push financial buttons & don't think/care of the consequences (beyond getting their fat salaries).

Is it possible that a revised form of "globalisation-related welfare state" is needed to help protect people from the worst excesses of what is after all a damaging and harmful capitalist world economic system?

I hope all this makes some sense. My main point is what can we reasonably expect from our governments in face of a risky set of economic circumstances that government has helped to bring about in the first place?
Simon Cross, UK

I really enjoyed your last two lectures and here are some of my views:

Globalisation is not just driven by practical needs and desires. If we are to understand the evolution of it we can not just sit and look at the past history, we must also look at the psychology of its practitioners. We must go beyond past and explore emotional forces impacting on the global community.

At present most cultures/traditions articulate their existence on the world map through religion or mythology. The clear understanding of one's culture/tradition is surely a basic human need; most indispensable. Indeed, knowledge of a global community is essential for psychological integrity within the different communities. Without such understanding an individual becomes in a profound way, an outsider.

As long as our culture/ tradition continue to retract reality through the lens of humanity there is an obligation to make the basic needs accessible to everyone. But we are still (being an Indian) lacking this, where "success" of the space programme or nuclear tests have not shown any compensation to our greatest failure of not providing clean water, food and little shelter to ordinary Indian people. Culture/ tradition has forced them not to see toward a wonderful future. Whom to blame? Tradition? Politicians? Don't know.
Preeti Vinayakray, Australia

I should wait until your third lecture before commenting, but I wanted to take you up on your juxtaposition between the concepts of 'tradition' and 'modern'. It seems to me that these distinctions are becoming profoundly blurred in the contemporary era.

I am not convinced that tradition is in 'decline. Claims of tradition occupy globalised late-modern spaces (whether this is via CNN or in the cosmopolitan reforms of the UN or EU). Perhaps the resurgence or revival of ethnic identity is better understood as profoundly 'postmodern' phenomenon rather than a historical regression?

Moreover, if the distinguishing characteristics of tradition are 'ritual and repetition' and an ability to define 'a kind of truth', we might consider 'modernity' itself as a particular form of tradition; one that emerged out of a specific cultural context and imposed a universal (and ethnocentric) epistemology on the world.

I agree that fundamentalism, of all sorts, can be very dangerous. Can 'cosmopolitan' worldviews be fundamentalist?

Thanks for your lectures. I am also enjoying reading the debates.
Gavin Mount, Australia

A thought on Lecture Four

You suggest the rise of the couple as the central social unit in Western society. Perhaps the Western fascination with individualism has been another factor in this rise?

My musings are brief... but, if I perceive myself primarily as an individual with my own identity that is disassociated from groups, I have a choice of where my affections may lie. Without loyalty to a family or tradition the relationships that I choose to give value become the social units within my experience. If I choose a partner/lover as the most important relationship to me... that couple becomes my central social unit (outside of myself, a lonely lonely role). Just thinking anyway...

I will be very interested to hear about your idea of the "pure relationship" and whether indeed it will lead to the "emergence of a democracy of the emotions in everyday life." If indeed each person has respect for and wants the best for the other, if we can detach ourselves from self-interest in acknowledgement or belief that our well-being lies in the happiness of another, then perhaps individualism will eat itself and the West can exercise a communal side to human nature that I have always suspected it has suppressed.
Nick Harris, New Zealand

I have enjoyed your first two lectures. As an ordinary, middle class person who lives in an Australian city, it is difficult to grasp the breadth of the effect of globalisation world-wide. Of course I am familiar with the effect of the decline of manufacturing and unskilled work on parts of the Australian population. There is a dearth of unskilled jobs, and many people are leaving school without the necessary skills to obtain further training or employment.

However, there are other factors which have had an impact on peole in other countries - such as colonisation, the rise and fall of different forms of government and the consequent re-shuffling of national borders. The World Bank has been criticiesd for its role in lending money to some of these regimes. Now there is a move to release poorer countries from their debts to the World Bank (Jubilee 2000). How does this strategy relate to your theme of globalisation and do you think that this is a sensible approach? Are there some inherent assumptions that are misguided by this approach?
Prue Brown, Australia

Dear Prof, If democracy is defined as the government of the people by the people and for the people, Who are the people?
Felix Adepoju, England

The average person is under threat, especially those in the so-called democracies. This is so much true in the United States. Are we, American citizens of the United States, really in control of our nation? I agree that there is more to globalisation than economics, but I think that the economic aspect of it is the most important, and, as such, has a domino effect.

Multinational corporations have little concern on the individual citizens of nations, and they are quietly going about the business of taking control of most aspects of society. In the United States they go a long way in controlling with monetary contributions to pacs and other special interests. There is a consolidation of business through mergers, that put more control of a lot of things into fewer and fewer hands. And with so few conglomerations controlling so much of the mainstream media, at least in the United States, and probably around the world, were is the diversity of news and information. I'm especially referring to information and news that these conglomerations and corporations do not want to see print or air? They can and do control what can be dispersed to the public, put new spins on negative news, and just plain censor the dispensing of news and information that gets out. Globalisation is more than seen in economic terms, but control the economic aspect and the rest follows.
Fred Jakobcic, United States

Globalisation is a myth for two reasons.

  • 1. The earth is not isotropic. Locale will always influence people and their way of life.
  • 2. Major social "firewalls" exist between Islam, Christendom etc which have profound influences on culture.
Peter Vincent, UK

With reference to your absorbing lecture on risk, I would like to emphasise the crucial distinction between risk and uncertainty.

Most risks are undertaken to reduce uncertainties in future economic and social spheres. Innovations which entail heavy risk, are undertaken to reduce or mitigate the effect of unpredictable volatility or fluctuations in economic and social behaviour, thereby acting as an insurance or support against uncertainty.

While the dynamism of any economy can only be sustained by consistent experimentation involving risks, its focus is towards eliminating uncertainty. A society that learns to minimise uncertainty even while maximising risks will continuously move up the path of progression and cohesion.
Chandra Shekhar Dogra, India

Anthony Giddens's second lecture appeared unbalanced as he gave the impression there was a void between the Roman times to 14th Century. Has he read the book "Orientalism" by Edward Said? Commerce was developed in the East and was passed on to Europe in the Renaissance period. It is inconceivable that risk and bookkeeping were invented in Europe because the easterners were employing risk and sophisticated accounting in India and the Islamic world well before the 14th Century. Can he please confirm this item as it is bound to impact his assumptions for the remaining of his lectures.
Jaffer Manek, London, UK

When looking at units of increasing size, we find that in a family, the parent lays down the law, which the children must obey - or get punished. In a tribe there is tribal law that must be obeyed. In a country, there are laws, courts, police and jails to deal with the offenders. But when we come to countries, there is no higher authority and there are no laws.

The UN and the International Court in the Hague are a step in the right direction, but there is no international law-book, and there are no means to deal with offending countries.

Will globalisation ever reach the true meaning of its name?
Dr Peter I Somlo, Australia

Very interesting, though I thought you could have credited Ulrich Beck with the observation about the point when society began to be concerned with manufactured rather than "natural" risk.

What puzzles me though is that you don't really criticise the patent failure of formal politics - notably, but not only, in the UK - to grapple with risk. What I mean is that politicians persist in trying to treat risk as an actuarial or technical exercise, or deal with it only when it causes disputes between "interests" eg Shell and Greenpeace over the Brent Spar. Instead they could and for the good of civic life should, create risk-politics, for example putting proposals to the electorate about the creation and distribution, and redistribution (etc) of risk, just like they do on wealth.

Given that you advise Tony Blair and he patently fails to address this, I am surprised you did not mention it.

Congrats to you and the BBC for the way you've done this Website.
Chris Rose, UK

How will the education process / "university tradition" change as a result of globalisation?

How will these changes change overtime (as globalisation spreads)?

Using the LSE as an example, what should organisations and students, alike, do to embrace globalisation?
Second year LSE student, UK

"...the image of Nelson Mandela is maybe more familiar to us than the face of our next door neighbour", Perhaps true, but a chilling sentence.

For, what kind of society exists for us out there in the "real world" beyond the telly and the Internet? I am prepared to believe what you write about the decline of the nation state. It wouldn't bother me to be honest, if the nation state, the United Kingdom, the pound Sterling etc go down the plug-hole of history in my lifetime.

Perhaps the nation state has outlived its role. The nation state and the nation were always after all "imagined communities" 99% of the people in which we didn't know and never would. The local identities, whose rise you mention are also "imagined communities", equally likely to be undermined by the "runaway world".

Are there now any meaningful concepts of "imaginary community" that will fit around the Runaway World without being eaten up by it? Or are we to live in a world stripped of identity, driven only ever accelerating engines of the global market, global culture, supranational institutions and technology. I wish you would offer answers, however tentative, not just questions.
Sean Hanley, Czech Republic

You have raised the issue of the nation state becoming irrelevant in the context of a globalising economy. I believe that a horizontal cleavage is beginning to appear in the structure of the nation state in the context of the globalised world; modern world.

The domain of the state is being repeatedly transgressed at the higher levels of big business commerce and finance, with some businessmen beginning to develop an anchorage mentality, to conduct business at international centres like Hong Kong at convenient air distances from their cities of residence. But the role of state is more visibly pronounced at the lower levels where gains from international trade may be used towards creation of rural infrastructure and social services.

The realisation that states must provide a basic social and economic net to their citizens, and the affirmation of the welfare objective as a legitimate concern of governance, is magnifying the role and relevance of the state at the lower levels.

The state is not becoming irrelevant, but its domain is being transgressed at the higher levels and becoming more pronounced at the lower levels. The need for a modern society is to strike an intelligent balance between the tendencies of risk taking and risk aversion. The dynamism of a modern economy rests upon the willingness to undertake risks, based upon a predictable and calculated assessment of outcomes. However a successful enterprenuership also distinguishes itself by risk aversion, avoiding unpredictability and hazard in imprudent economic situations.

A productive, growing economy, will be dynamically based on risky innovations but also the ability to forecast and avoid unpredictable risks. The trick is to find the correct balance between these seemingly contradictory but compatible concerns.
Chandra Shekhar Dogra, India

Isn't it loading the issue to pose the question as "is tradition a dogma devised by opponents of progress"? One could as easily ask "is progress a dogma devised by centres of power as an idea to devalue memory and history and local communities, ad to supplant them by agendas devised by others for other needs"?
KJ Khoo, Malaysia

I believe that the globalisation process in education promotes the "general good". It is absolutely essential for mitigating manufactured risks of political and economic decisions. External degree programmes, degree courses which provide for two diplomas, a local and an international, promote "globalisation in the systems of values", global culture, global science. May it not allow us to reduce risks and consequences of some political decisions? I hope so.

Also in response to the comment from Andrew Orange, England. The Internet and more information may make a difference, but even now people in Russia do not want the country to get involved in the war. Many believe that the US government has made an awful mistake, deplore the bombing, think that the Russian government should not escalate the process by getting involved in any other than diplomatic way.

Again, information is certainly a major factor, but a structured process of education appropriate to and facilitating the emergence of new global culture is even more important. I am involved in two projects: one, creating an international college (economics and finance); the other presidential managers' training initiative (training 5,000 managers annually in Russia and abroad). Both are only about two years old, but good examples of trying to keep the pace with the runaway world.
Marina Larionova, Russia

I am really enjoying "globalisation". I like news and international affairs. I buy my books from Amazon.com. I can read your lectures from the BBC. I access Medline to evaluate further my health issues. I use an online broker to get instant stock prices. I read company web pages instead of being sent out annual reports. I can get into current contents and get the abstract of any journal paper I wish. And I can do all this from my desk in my study at home. Before this latest wave of globalisation, I had to get my information second hand from journalists or else obtain very expensive journals. I feel I have more control of my life, my health, my wealth, and my time. I especially like the feedback facility. It makes me feel important.
Linda Manning, Australia

Democratising an "anarchic and haphazard" global disorder / new -order; driven by factors certainly beyond the control of the individual or the nation-state or any trans-national organisation will be impossible unless an international / global political will demands it. Unlikely, I feel.
Phil Howe, UK

Yes, I feel the speed of change of life is causing stress within it. For example, the life of younger children is interfered with by mechanisation - the wheel - no free play scheming schemes, the explosion of cars, lorries, agricultural machinery has taken over that play area. This play time is further reduced for this age group by the TV. Perhaps, were society to adopt a TV-free day a week, it would help.

I am personally delighted but a victim of the lightning pace of life. I have on a number of occasions found I wanted to listen to a radio programme, yet, anxious to see the main evening news on TV, I have felt ridiculous. I need to be informed on better use of this lightning pace.
P T K Costello, Ireland

Despite advances in communication technology, it appears that the international news agenda still remains centrally determined.

The war in Kosovo has overshadowed all other international developments - some of which must surely be of equal impact, if not to Europeans, then to other parts of the world.

If, as citizens, we have any say over the nature of news-media, does this lack of plurality suggest the idea of a "global citizen" is less of a reality than suggested?
Guy Watson, UK

I am very interested to have more news about globalisation. It seems that it is going to offer the best solution to our world problem. I want to see the world as one - one people, with no territory, therefore no fighting.
Behailu Shiferaw, The Netherlands

As an Argentinean living in New Jersey, USA, my father is a great example of what has been termed 'glocalisation.' That is, the revolution in information technology allows him now to read Argentinean newspapers and magazines, to send off messages to friends and family members and to be totally engaged in Argentinean affairs as never before. Could you please comment on this contradictory aspect of globalisation?
Fabian Biancardi, England

There appears to be an inevitability about globalisation, but on the other hand there are also some obviously deadly problems brought because of it. Namely:

  • 1. Our fear of autonomy (best demonstrated by the rise of religious fundamentalism).
  • 2. Within globalisation there is little room for our innate desire for a religious or spiritual experience or expression.
  • 3. Our obvious inability to value things correctly. Supply / demand curves are too simplistic a-way.
We are not objective machines, we are subjective animals, and for globalisation to work to any extent at all, at least these three hurdles have to be reconciled, there may be more.
Heseltine, England

You comment: "Our pervasive communications technology will allow us to navel-gaze to oblivion". Because of the work I do, (researcher) I believe that countries with different histories and cultures are still unable to communicate to each other or rather each cultural group, defines things in different ways.

For example, within the European Union, there is almost a frenzy to harmonise, but the nation states cannot agree on simple definitions such as "homicide" or "theft". So gathering statistics, say on vehicle theft, are utterly meaningless, because each country has a different definition, So we cannot compare.

I suspect that historical legal codes and practices have created a perception in each country or cultural group which means that while we communicate with each other with the most sophisticated technology, the perception of the message has a totally different meaning to the receiver.
Elaine Hardy, UK

It is an extremely recent phenomenon, it seems to me, that in the developed, mature democracies, educated people are starting to feel they have a right to own their lives. That is, there is a gradual, nascent expectation that we should be able to control what happens in our lives. Of course, the extent to which this happens in practice is very limited, but a number of different social phenomena suggest that this is a concern, whether it is naked ambition, the "right" for anyone to have control over what happens to their bodies or their environment, the right to choose to "downshift", etc.

The extent to which we are able to control our environments, our working conditions, our standard of living is to a large extent dependent on advanced technology. But simultaneously, there is a concern that technology may "own us", and that there are too many changes, too fast, for anyone to be able to make sensible choices. So we are uneasy. We do not wish to lose the comforts, the advantages, the control that the developing technology affords, but we also do not wish to be subject to its demands.

Further, we are aware that the exponential growth in technology means that the gap (in GDP, at least) between the rich third of the world and the poor third of the world is increasing, and we don't know what to do about this.
David Brunskill, UK

Reith Lecture No2 - Risk

Inplicit, but never explicitly referenced, was the concept of feedback.

Using the given example of early seafarers, were the ship to be lost at sea, there would be a knock-on effect back home due to the financial losses, or the insurers would have to pay out. But there would be no direct consequence of the ship going down at some remote location, we probably would not even know what had occurred. This is a simple linear system.

In today's complex world we no longer live in a simple linear world, we have complex, usually little-understood, non-linear, feedback systems, but politicians and big business still behave as though we are living in a simple linear world.

The examples given, Chernoble, BSE, genetic engineering, are examples of the complex nature of today's world.

The analysis of genetic engineering was woolly, and the conclusion drawn wrong. Some of the risks were highlighted, but there are many more. The consequences of a genetic meltdown are enormous and make a nuclear incident trivial by comparison. As hinted, we little understand what we are doing but in our arrogance go ahead. No one can say with any degree of certainty why nature has erected a species barrier. There are many risks, but no benefits.

It was correct to highlight the many risks of intensive farming, but wrong to say either genetic engineering would give a better future or we could not grow crops by reversion to more traditional methods.

The assumption made was that traditional societies are either driven by random forces or fate. Neither is true. Yes, traditional societies are controlled by myth, but what we dismiss as myth, is the distilled wisdom of that society presented in an easily digested form. It enables that society to behave in a way that is benevolent to its surroundings and does not bring down on that society hostile feedback forces.

It is naive in the extreme to pretend as in this and the first lecture that we can control the global flow of money. In any control system the controller has to react at least an order, preferably two orders, of magnitude faster than the system under control.

What we should be doing is moving to smaller units, regional, local units. Such units would have a tendency to self-regulation - ie the regulation is built in, a natural consequence of the smaller unit. Where goods and services are supplied, and controlled, locally, there would be less need for global, short term, capital flows. We should attack the root cause of the problem, not attempt to regulate its symptoms.

The lady in Hong Kong made an excellent point re the hand-over to China. The UK made the calculation, whereas the people of Hong Kong took the risk. The people of Tibet can testify to the brutality of the Chinese, the slave labour in the workshops to the "benefits" of a global economy.
Keith Parkins, England

In your first lecture you highlighted the need for new international institutions to regulate the globalised economy. Using the same argument, could we not also make a case for the development of new welfare institutions to foster social protection within the new profile of risks we face globally. Would you be in favour of the establishment of a "World Welfare Organisation" designed to address these new needs.
Peter Davis, UK

Why do you use the title "A Runaway World" which was used by then Anthropologist Edmund Leach in his Reith Lectures?
Jonathan Skinner, UK

What kind of constraints and possibilities do you see to implement the Third Way approach in developing countries?
Carlos Crespo, UK

Thank you and appreciate it, as a broadcaster I am curious to see the amount of convergence of views which can be related to common aspirations on these topics.
John Herriott, Ireland

It's about time the debate got down to fundamentals and you have opened it up very nicely.

As an academic applied economist and Gooners fan, I worry about the dangers of neo-classical and mathematical abstraction as a constant and prevailing deregulative motif that in some way offers an explanation for the economic dynamic that drives globalisation. I think Bourdieu has got it right when he recently identified the enormous contradiction between the high level of individualistic abstraction contained in the neo-classical model, which is equated with liberalism with a small "l" and the reality of the highly centralised, unilateral and bureaucratic push behind such initiatives as the OECD's Multilateral Agreement on Investment, and the IMF's drive for the total liberalisation of capital account rules by WTO member states. There appears to be no cognisance taken of the fact that the free market ideology and the macro policy processes seem to be uncoupled and rolling in different directions.
Alan Williams, New Zealand

The speed of change, brought about by communications and measured in any "currency" from economics to politics is exponential. Our traditional thinking based on research of the past is now too slow. We have very little time in which to make life-changing decisions and yet not to make a decision is potentially more dangerous. We have been conditioned by society to behave in a way that least threatens that society. However all societies now see each other and the stability mechanisms are breaking down.

We have become too successful. There are no real frontiers to discover on earth so we shall become increasingly introspective. Our pervasive communications technology will allow us to navel-gaze to oblivion, becoming increasingly sophisticated in the most perverse sense of the word.

Our future must lie in the stars. We need external challenges that will call upon our genes to make further progress in the species. Earth has been conquered, there are no major secrets left, we need to look outward to that infinite journey that will save us from stagnation.
Bob Wallum, Scotland

Please pardon this being sort of off topic. The point is that I am amazed that you are asking for the views of everyone/anyone on the web.

Academics in most fields are resolute that only their own subject specialists are worthy to contribute. This authoritarian bureaucratic professional arrogance is taken to an extreme by the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, which will not even *consider* commentaries from those not judged to be "qualified professionals".

A contributing factor could be that social science is *the* most difficult intellectual challenge, even above brain science, and yet has an image of commonplaceness, whereas the brain scientist can be a show-off boffin with lots of fancy words. Which perhaps encourages less arrogance in some of the social-science scholars?
Robin P Clarke, UK

I can't agree with you that nation states no longer have enemies. I do agree, however, that the role of nation states may be anachronistic - both too big and too small, as you said. As long as these states exist, each pursuing their own ends, no doubt they will have friends and enemies. Just look at Kosovo. Nation states, however liberal or good, don't seem to square with globalisation. Regional institutions perhaps have more to offer?
Robin Hammerton, UK

You say the world is running away from us - have we in essence created the Digital Frankenstein or is what is transpiring (globalistion) the construction of a "global crust" (Quote Joe Rogaly/Weekend FT) and as such merely the continuation of capitalism's evolution?
Patrick Dawson, Germany

"Is tradition a dogma devised by opponents of progress?" Two very important words you don't use: fashion and authoritarianism.

The key fact is that it is biologically disadvantageous to do all one's thinking and learning for oneself from scratch rather than picking others' brains. So to greater or lesser extent we all use the authoritarian trick of believing others who we perceive as authoritative. This is why authoritarianism exists.

Among the criteria we use to judge others' ideas and practices are longstandingness and recency. On the one hand something that has been around for centuries, such as sticking seeds in the ground to grow food, thereby has the credibility of a track-record. It is proven because people have survived that way. That's tradition.

On the other hand, a recent idea may embody the best of all accumulated wisdom, so it may properly trump an older one. That's fashion.

In a very changing environment, there's a tendency to assume that the latest is best. True perhaps of Pentiums, but the sort of mindset encouraged by authoritarian education bureaucracies tends to not know where to get off, and becomes blinded by fashionableness to the exclusion of a genuine heritage of older information.

This is the sort of mindset that peddles a historical revisionism according to which the word "chairman" has supposedly always been a sexist male-only term.
Robin P Clarke, UK

I think that talk about globalisation and increased communication is particularly relevant in the light of the current situation in Kosovo. Do you believe that as globalisation continues, and nations have more and more contact with one another, that governments and citizens of richer countries will feel more compelled to help those in other countries where great atrocities are taking place? Do you think that in the future, when wars happen between others living far away, that we will be motivated to take great steps to help them - at expense to us as individuals - because we see them as being our personal responsibility? I believe that at present, we don't feel such a responsibility.
Becca Greeves, England

Thanks. Can globalisation really be seen as a culture or is it just a larger place in which culture is lived out. My questions (at the moment) relate to the creation of personal culture: to what extent does a global cultural environment lead to the attenuation of "the ties that bind"? How can we actively develop culture if the predominant part of our interaction is played out in a "not space" - or is not only constantly on the move, but seems to have no home base?

Where will those real human ties, the daily interaction, the commonplace exchanges between ourselves and our friends and families occur? What does globalisation do to intimacy? And what are the implications for child rearing? No answers - but what is the likely interaction between such extended cultural domains and practices and personal psychology? Fascinating!

PS. I was interested to read that some consider "reflexivity" a philosophy! I thought that it was a process.
Katherine Kenny, Australia

I have written a paper which I delivered at a recent conference on environmental ethics. Its title is: "Self-Interested Principles of Justice in Distribution and the Law of Peoples". Selected papers in Environmental Justice: Melbourne Conference (The University of Melbourne,1998).Published on the Internet.

In this paper I argue that for various reasons - some of which are not so obvious - the interlinkage of many communities in the world, by way of various mechanisms, is creating a situation where these communities will need to think and act, in their own self interest, about international justice in distribution in a quite different way - compared to what has been the case in the past.

This interlinkage, of course, has its foundations with globalisation in its various forms: communications, climatic change and so on.
Alan Martina, Australia

I think that talk of the Internet and other such technologies making the world a better place and eradicating wars is fanciful and Utopian. The fact is that back in the 19th Century, we laid a cable between America and Britain to transmit telegraph messages. It was heralded as a new dawn. Mankind would no longer fight, they said, as they can understand each other.

It didn't happen then and it won't happen now. Technology is not a way of changing human spirit, merely channelling it to different places. There is no such thing as a global community - merely lots of little communities who know what the other ones are up to.
Andy Kelk, UK

How do you think globalising forces are changing the lives of the broad mass of individual working (class) people in this country? How can individuals best ensure their own economic and cultural security in the face of these often overwhelming forces?
Laurence Nasskau, UK

"Local nationalisms spring up as a response to globalising tendencies, as the hold of older nation-states weakens." This suggests a problem of logic, if either increasing cultural homogeneity or increasing cultural heterogeneity can be used as evidence for the same thing. The problem with most discussions of globalization is that the term is loosely defined. Is Giddens prepared to put forward more clearly falsifiable propositions?

Giddens might engage Krugman's data-driven critiques, and consider Zevin's work which shows the relative antiquity of several commonly-used indicators of openness.

Turnover on foreign exchange markets is an indicator mainly of the institutional structure of this dealer market in which a single underlying transaction can generate many fx trades; moreover a lot of fx activity happens because transacting is so cheap. Talking about great stacks of money sounds like an effort to snow the ill-informed.
Colin Danby, USA

One of the most striking aspects of the globalisation debate concerns the ubiquitous species the Multi-national Enterprise. Economic decisions affecting some 60 to 75% of global economic activities are sub-optimal with optimisation being effected only when the damage has been done. How to make the species globally accountable remains perhaps the greatest challenge of the next few years. One only has to think of the bio-tech Multi-nationals.
Frank L. Bartels, Singapore

Global communications, using the Internet has some wonderful implications and outcomes. But the danger lies with global communications that we become too engrossed with the Internet. What about human social contact? Will we see the demise of this as we are experiencing the demise of the family or marriage? As for Globalisation, who does end up running the world. Who will be the dominant winner, after all wasn't it Aristotle who said "all relationships are power relationships".
Daphne Berkovi, England

The phenomenon called globalisation is made possible through technological communication. All this could not be afforded by the Western type nations who are promulgating it, if it were not for the extremely low paid workers of the third world who have been exploited to produce it through Western devised mass production techniques. These poor slaves of the Western world are the ones who will not benefit from globalisation but will continue to be kept poor, since if they had the same standard of living as the Westerners then globalisation could not be afforded.
Alan Wenham-Prosser, UK

A glance around the North East of England shows areas which have been devastated by the changes in industry during the last 30 years. How is it possible to rescue such areas when the very surroundings seem to militate against local power. Even with increased local democracy it is difficult to visualise improvement given the continued power in ever larger companies and their reluctance to contribute as much as may be necessary to maintain humanising services and a sense of our shared destiny? Unless some changes take place fairly quickly civil disorder on an international scale without any resultant improvement seems a strong possibility.
Elsie Townley, UK

I think of globalisation mainly in the sense of the developments in communications creating a global community of ideas. Such a community has always existed among the elites of the world, but it is increasingly possible for such a community to include more and more people.
Christopher Hobe Morrison, USA

It seems to me that the relationships between huge international communities need to mirror the 'pure' personal relationship you outline in lecture 4. The problem of course comes in that area of trust. Human nature is selfish and consequently when such trust is extended, it will inevitably be abused to one or other party's advantage. And yet there's the rub - the advantages to be gained from abuse of trust are all short term. Or conversely the full advantages offered by mutual trust might only be realised in the long term. So, how to persuade the world to think long term?
Mark Chitty, UK

Twenty years ago the Unicef and member states of WHO set themselves the task of achieving Health for All by the year 2000. As the end of this time frame is approaching, it is evident that we are far from reaching this goal. Rather, the world is currently facing a global health crisis, characterised by growing inequities and polarisation. Traditional systems of knowledge and health are under threat.

This is the result of the distorted structure of the world economy that has been aggravated by globalisation, including structural adjustment, new iniquitous world trade arrangements and uncontrolled financial speculation. In many countries this problem is compounded by the lack of coordination and expensive duplication among bilateral and multilateral agencies. However, many experienced people working with communities, governments and non-government organisations have the collective vision that health for all is still possible.

In light of the above, a People's Health Assembly (virtual and actual) is being organised for the year 2000 by a group of concerned civil society organisations and networks.
Dr. Ken Harvey, Australia

I really really, really don't know where to begin... The summaries on this site may have misled me, but your basic approach seems incredibly shallow, stunningly Euro-centric, riddled with elitist delusions of how the world works, and devoid of any historical or sociological perspective that explains or even illuminates the geopolitical struggles we're presently witnessing.

Sorry, Tony, but capital accumulation is the engine of history. The creation of the state was crucial to that accumulation. The ideologies that support, defend and justify a state's expansion and acts of imperialism have changed over time but the aim is still the same.

Yes, consumer capitalism has changed social relationships. Yes, technology has changed paid labour. Yes, kinship patterns have changed in the face of employment needs. Yes, modes of communication have altered.

But your glib and uncritical use of terms such as "tradition", "progress", "democracy", "fundamentalism" really does make you seem like a propagandist for the American military/industrial view of the planet.

Sorry to be so harsh, but the last thing we need right now is myopic optimism.
Hoppy, UK

I'm an engineer concerned that "doing the right thing" in a globalising world is no longer a straightforward proposition. In the past we could build bridges or purify water and be pretty confident the world was a better place for us having done so. Now the environmental burden of much of our industry is so great as to cause unknown effects locally and globally. Not just that, but communication technologies are helping to accelerate the diversification of individuals' values, so that one persons' essential manufacturing plant is another's toxic fountain.

How am I to know whether a particular action makes me a saint or a villain? It's easier to just get on with whatever I think is right, and try not to think about the unintended consequences of, or alternative perspectives on, my actions.

I'm struck by your idea of Utopian realism: that debate about possible "desirable" aspects of the future may alter individuals' current actions so as to make those "positive" outcomes more likely to come about than others. In effect, this could have the same influence on society as Orwell's "1984", but in a proactive sense, with debate moving society towards something positive (sustainability?) rather than away from something negative (in Orwell's case, the big-brother state). By limiting possible future outcomes in this way, we can slow down or direct the Runaway World to some degree.

The implication of this kind of debate for democracy in a globalised world is the key thing. At the moment, global corporations act only to further their own short-term interests; they can hardly do otherwise without being paternalistic, because no-one knows what most people want from the future. With widespread public debate about what the global public actually aspires to, corporations (like the rest of us) could begin to gain some clue as to what "doing the right thing" might involve.
Graham Long, UK

Much of the development of mankind has evolved from a fairly bizarre philosophy - reflexivity; the notion that by reflecting on the past, the future may be predicted, or at least second-guessed.

Unfortunately, for the global future, that reflection on the recent past will coincide with the immediate future. The challenge for future mankind will be to find ways of separating notions of "past" from those of "future"; apparent truth from deliberate falsehood; intentions from actions; identifying the grey from the black and white. This will be evident in all our social facts as we know them, or come to know them; political, economic, technological, ecological.
Stewart Parkinson, United Kingdom

I am ashamed of my country and its aggression. Bill Clinton is a liar and a cheat, who only cares about his legacy, and has Tony Blair as his puppet. Forgive us Belgrade!
Janika, USA

It would be interesting - particularly at this time - to look at the positive implications of globalisation on propaganda and its prevention. Do you accept that most wars through history have been triggered by (and bolstered up through) misunderstandings about the other side? If so, the Internet and other communications channels should change this. It is possible for people to get the truth, wherever they are in the world.

Serbs and ordinary Chinese and Russian people are all currently subject to the most appalling propaganda from their governments on Kosovo and they may support their governments because they do not know the truth. But in 50 years' time when everybody has the Internet? If ordinary Serbs in Belgrade understood the dreadful racial persecution that was going on right now, wouldn't they take to the streets in protest to immediately? Or this too naive?
Andrew Orange, England

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