Praise of the grasshopper

What is globalization? A simple agnostic definition on wiktionary suggests very briefly that it is

The process of becoming a more interconnected world.

Following that, a second, more political definition is provided in which globalisation becomes a byproduct of capitalism.

If this was true (we’ll get there), it would be easy for a westerner to nihilistically dismiss our culture and values as a mere race to obtain more money and goods, and just as nihilistically dismiss the globalisation and the expansion of capitalism as something inherently negative, but is it that simple?

Let’s start with our assumption: why did we say today’s globalisation is a byproduct of capitalism?
This is explained with a rather widely accepted theory called “the falling rate of profit”, in a nutshell that will suffice for our discussion here:

  1. a brand can only stay competitive over time by investing and keeping the cost of production competitive with other brands and therefore his margins.
  2. These investments can (and cyclically do) lead to overproduction.
  3. Overproduction creates the need to position the newly overproduced goods on the market.
  4. This can happen in a number of ways, one of which is expanding capitalism to new territories.

As territories become “part of the family” they don’t just get to be our customers of course, but they also become part of the production system. If we look at the world of today, those that we call “developing countries” are more often a pool of workers who will produce our goods, rather than consumers who buy the goods we produce.

What may seem less obvious is that a third aspect is also part of the package: cultural assimilation.

Is our culture really just a mere and constant race for gaining more money and buying more goods? I’ll spend a minute to show how this overly simplistic view can be easily dismissed:

For example: we value our own human life wildly over money.
Many anti-economical laws for tightening H&S in our work places, in traffic and vehicles for example cannot be explained otherwise… it would be far cheaper to accept some incidents and casualties every now and then, if really we were merely into maximising financial profits at all cost.

Another example: our disdain for laziness…
We cannot overlook the fact that working, producing, and generating value is our way for contributing to the society we live in, and far from being just a race for making more money: we criticise someone for being overly lazy, it is something that instinctively annoys us as a society, a cause for prejudice, but the implied reasoning is embedded in our code of values: capitalism arose from the need to survive winters and famine, and it is by no accident that northern areas of the world are culturally more fit for capitalism: if you lived in a sunny island in a warm place, you likely had fish all year round and vegetables for the most part.
You would still incur into occasional epidemics, but that is not a constant yearly reminder from mother nature that your only way to survive is to accrue a capital that you can consume during winter.

So when we globalize and convince new people to adhere to our set of values and join their forces into our production system, and as we do so, we don’t even realise that our story of The Ant and the Grasshopper, can only resonate with those who shares our history, the specific geographical challenges of our civilisation and the set of values that are unique to a capitalist society.

Seeing the grasshopper as a negative role model can only make sense in our set of values,: it only makes sense in a world where if we don’t behave like ants, we will not survive the winter, and we need all the help we can get from all of our colony (or society) in order to do so and survive as a group.

One question remains: if our globalization is a byproduct of capitalism, and if a post-capitalistic work may be nearing in the coming decades as I argued in this post, what will post-globalization or de-globalization look like?

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