Saskia Sassen-Interview

Maider Zilbeti —The understanding of globalization has been changing as new dynamics and subjects are part of it. How can we currently understand globalization?

Saskia Sassen —The most common defi nition of globalization emphasizes the growing interdependence of the world and the formation of global institutions. One key assumption in this type of definition is that the global and the national are two mutually exclusive conditions. This easily leads to the notion that what the global gains, the national loses, and vice versa. And it implies a correspondence of national territory with the national: that is to say, if a process or condition is located in a national institution or in national territory, it must be national.

This type of understanding of globalization is inadequate. The global —whether an institution, a process, a discursive practice, or an imaginary— can partly inhabit national territories and institutions. It is not only about that which transcends the nationstate and is self-evidently global.

Conceiving of globalization not simply in terms of interdependence and global institutions, but also as inhabiting the national, opens up a vast agenda for research and politics that remains largely unaddressed. Research on globalization needs to include detailed studies, including ethnographies, of multiple national conditions and dynamics that are likely to be engaged by the global and often are the global, but are so inside the national. Examples are global cities, but also particular state institutions. This does not mean that everything about these cities or those state institutions is global; it might be simply that they house or enable particular global dynamics and conditions. And as for politics, it opens up a series of political options centered in the possibility of national actors (legislators, courts, citizens, local NGOs, etc.) doing global politics from inside the national; it also suggests that the immobile, those who do not or cannot cross borders, may nonetheless participate in global politics.

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