Fortress-dwellers to global players? Globalisation and New Zealand: description, discourse and action
The simplistic use of broad concepts or metaphors results in 'grooved thinking'. My thesis is that globalisation and its related concepts have become accepted amongst influential opinion-shapers in New Zealand as an unproblematic description of contemporary reality. Through repeated invocation, the term globalisation has become reified, naturalised and internalised, and has in the process acquired its own agency through its widespread acceptance as a super-human external force determining New Zealand's options. The thesis rests upon an analytical distinction between the use of the term globalisation as a description of contemporary reality; and the use of the term as a concept, through an analysis of the discourses of globalisation. As a description of New Zealand's contemporary circumstances, globalisation is misleading because of its inherent inference of novelty. Historical analysis of annual company reports and government documents, including budget statements, economic surveys and trade agreements, demonstrate that in New Zealand at any rate, many of the trends now labelled globalisation have a long history. Regardless of the persistence of past parallels, the term globalisation is widely used. It is consequently also fruitful to examine globalisation at a conceptual level as a set of discourses, hegemonic amongst which, in the context of New Zealand policy-making, is the discourse of hyperglobalism. This emerges in interviews conducted with a range of influential decision-makers in the public and private sectors in New Zealand. This dominant discourse privileges the global, the novel and the generic at the expense of the local, the enduring and the specific; and this conditions the context within which decisions are made. In this way, the discourse of hyper globalism has a constitutive effect, bringing into being the very conditions that globalisation appears to describe. My thesis is explicated through an analysis of the notion and implications of the 'Knowledge Economy', as construed in the New Zealand's Government's 2002 Innovation Strategy, in which many of these themes are apparent. The Knowledge Economy has been embraced by the Labour Government, as a vision for the future (New Zealand as a high-wage 'Knowledge Society'), and as a strategy for achieving it (through 'adding value', 'lifting New Zealand out of the commodity basket' and encouraging 'high-tech development'). It is also, however, a powerful representation and constitutive discourse. The rhetoric of the knowledge economy has thus helped to establish a frame of action and expectation dependent upon a "vision of what was outside it" (Thrift, 2001): 'Fortress New Zealand', insular, isolationist, unsustainable and inefficient. This brings into being material outcomes through the apportionment of funding to some areas and not others, and through the subjugation of alternatives that do not fit the Knowledge Economy discourse. This risks undermining the value of New Zealand's specific attributes: cleanness, greenness, safety and remoteness are devalued relative to high-tech novelty. With the past comprehensively damned and local recipes indicted, solutions are sought externally, despite the fact that external advisors frequently have little understanding of New Zealand's specific circumstances. The notion of the Knowledge Economy fits neatly within the rubric of globalisation, and reflects many of the same tendencies and assumptions, emphasising novelty at the expense of continuity. My thesis calls for a critical appraisal of issues, options and outcomes. The research establishes that globalisation is neither a fetter nor a crutch nor an inexorable force, but a complex of concepts that must be distinguished to be understood, and understood to be brought under control and used effectively in decision-making. This leads me to call for a reappraisal of the way in which decision-making happens, and the need to recognise and provide for the narrowing effect of dominant policy discourses.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsqualitative methods; New Zealand history; Fortress New Zealand; New Zealand culture; New Zealand economy; New Zealand; hyperglobalism; discourse; globalisation
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