Struggles of identity in the age of globalisation: Searching for anchors that hold

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3.5 The global level
Various analysts point out that the globalisation of capital and labour markets, production and consumption, communication, information, technological and cultural flows are posing problems that cannot be resolved within the borders of individual nation states or by means of interstate treaties . Whereas partisans of globalisation advocate unconditional subordination of the state and other power blocks to the imperatives of the global market, the sociologist Richard Münch (in Habermas 1999) points out that there are good reasons to fear that the world can be faced by the depletion of non-renewable resources, cultural alienation on a mass scale, and social explosions unless we succeed in implementing some form of political control over global market forces.
These problems are furthermore aggravated by the decline in the powers of the nation state and the struggle of supranational units like the European Union in finding appropriate forms for political and cultural integration. The possibility of one or other form of global political unit and/or cosmopolitan government are consequently suggested more and more as a possible solutions for the problems associated with globalisation (Bauman 1998; Habermas 1999; McCarthy 1999). However, Habermas (1999) voices the opinion that - similar to supranational units - a global political integration requires a political culture shared by all world citizens in order to act effectively in the new global environment. An important question is consequently whether global nationhood or a world identity is at all possible (McCarthy 1999).
There are many reasons to predict that the notions of a common world identity and globe wide cultural integration are not at all farfetched. The forces associated with globalisation - among others the global production and marketing of consumption goods; international information flows disseminated through liberalised media and telecommunication networks; the spread of "global English" - have already resulted in far-reaching global changes within the social, cultural and political spheres.
The social sphere is characterised by the emergence of a global society - the so-called "global village" (McLuhan 1964) - characterised by place-less, distance-less and border-less interactions that unfold in the world as a single space. The consequence is that both individuals and societies conceptualise themselves to a large extent as part of a world system or a world community. Globalisation is consequently more than mere cosmopolitanism as it implies a capacity for global self-reflection and thus for identification with world citizenship and/or total mankind (Frederick 1993; Waters 1995).
The cultural terrain, on the other hand, is characterised by homogenisation, that is cultural convergence. The growth of consumer capitalism has brought about a convergence in cultural habits and the spread of hegemonic ideas, lifestyles, popular symbols and other mass cultural products which are marketed by means of superior technology, thus creating a demand for them across the globe. Terms such as “cultural imperialism”, “Americanisation” and/or “Coca-Colanisation” are used to refer to the spread of a hegemonic American-Western consumer culture that is believed by many to gradually supplant and even obliterate local cultures (Tehranian 1999).
However, Fukuyama (in Economic globalization and culture ....[sa]) challenges the view that the cultural flows of globalisation are leading to cultural homogeneity. He holds that the cultural changes associated with globalisation is mostly superfluous. Conclusions about increasing cultural homogenisation is often made on the worldwide appeal of particular consumer goods that Fukuyama regards as a superficial aspect of culture. The deeper cultural levels of cultural and ethnic identities such as language, religion and race are much more important and change at a much slower rate. In fact, these elements of culture are not easily abandoned.
Other analysts point out that global influences do not follow the "hypodermic needle" model. Rather than supressing local cultures from the top down, they give rise to a complex and ongoing interaction between foreign and local cultural elements in which foreign goods might be taken over in toto, but might also be translated into the local idiom (a process typified as localisation), mutate, or mix with local elements (also called hybridisation or creolisation) (Tehranian 1999). Giddens (1991) speaks in this regard of a global-local dialectic, while the term "interpenetrated globalisation" is used by Braman (1996).
On the other hand, Fukuyama (in Economic globalization and culture ....[sa]) agrees that people are becoming more homogeneous in terms of large economic and political institutions and value systems. Tehranian (1999) also mentions that globalisation has led to world-scale convergence of legal and ethical principles, the universalisation of the discourse on human rights and the spread of democracy as a dominant form of political organisation. The emergence of a global civil society in the form of various groups that mobilise on the basis of so-called "global issues" such as nature conservation (eg the Greenpeace movement), human rights, feminism and consumer issues. Global mobilisation with the aid of technology are based on the belief that these issues concern all inhabitants of the world and should thus be addressed on a global level. Urry (2000) furthermore mentions that, similar to the role that national media and public broadcasters have played in the forging of the "imagined" communities of nations states, the global media flow - and especially global television - are also propagating globalism. The signs are consequently everywhere that the principles of a world society and a global identity could already have taken root.
In contrast to these globalising trends, the worldwide spread of information and communication technologies appears to strengthen ethnic, cultural and other local identities. It has already been mentioned that these technologies are empowering local communities and ethnic groups in mobilising against the constraints of the governments of nation states. The revitilisation of ethnic and other local identities is illustrated by emerging tendencies in the contents of the very symbol of global media, the Internet. Against general expectations, the contents of the Internet is becoming more and more diverse. Although English language contents still dominates the web, this is rapidly changing. Hunter (2000) quotes predictions that by 2003 non-English material will account for more that half of the contents of the web. It is furthermore believed that users based in the USA will account for less than one third of the wordwide population of internet users in 2003. In fact, the web is on its way to become the most lingually diverse medium in history.
Technology, and particularly the Internet, has furthermore opened various other alternatives for identity formation (Suler 1999, 2000). On the individual level, cyberspace becomes for many individuals a type of a global extension of their intra psychic world and a transitional space between themselves and others. This space opens the door for all kinds of fantasies. People can use this space for the exploration of their own identities. They can furthermore assume a variety of identities by changing their age, history, personality, physical appearance and even their gender.
The Internet also offers individuals the opportunity to join virtual communities that transcend time and spatial constraints and enables both individuals and groups to interact and mobilise worldwide on the basis of common interests and life experiences (Suler 2000). Most virtual collectivities furthermore fulfil the requirements for personal freedom of liberal individualism (Bauman 2001a). Individuals can keep their options open. They have a choice about how much, if any, personal information they want to reveal. Sometimes groups encourage or even require that members assume an imaginary persona. There are normally no strings attached to these groups. People can join and leave at will. Membership is mostly completely subordinate to the whims and needs of the individual. However, the instrumental nature of virtual communities does not allow for continuity and secure identity development. Virtual identities could, in the end, heighten the fear and anxiety of individuals in an ever-changing world.

The globalising world has also given rise to a new type of individual identity, namely that of the “cosmopolitan” (Bauman 2001b). Cosmopolitans are usually members of the business and professional elite that travel extensively all over the world in the course of their work. They are truely world citizens, often with no permanent address except for the e-mail and the mobile telephone number. They are not defined by any locality; they are fully exterritorial. National boundaries and societal ties are increasingly becoming irrelevant to them. Wherever their travels lead them, they prefer to interact with other globalisers. They live in a socio-cultural bubble which insulates them from the harsher realities of the communities in the countries where they reside. Their lifestyle celebrates one of the distinguishing features of globalisation, namely the irrelevance of place.

The conclusion can be drawn that identity struggles on the global level is largely a reflection of and complexly interrelated with those on the other levels. As globalisation change the power relationships on various levels, it also has farreaching consequences for identity formation on both individual and collective levels.
With the advent of a new political dispensation in 1994 - the most important political development of the 1990s - South Africa was once again accepted into world society and thus became part of the globalising world marked by the paradoxical tendencies and impulses discussed in the previous sections.
On the one hand, the country stands before the challenge to deal with the demands of increasing globalisation and to compete within the global capitalistic system (Le Pere & Lambrects 1999). The new government is consequently forced to form new modes of allegiance to and identification with the abstracted international community and to negotiate its national identity in the light of its international relations. In order to be able to compete effectively in the global economy and with other international power blocks, Southern African and African countries are also forced to form power blocks such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU). In doing so, the South African government is also succumbing at least part of its authority and legitimacy - as well as the commitment of its citizens - to these power blocks. The fact that a Black government came into power and the formation of the SADC and African Union has furthermore reaffirmed political, social and psychological ties with Africa. Thus many South Africans are increasingly perceiving themselves as an integral part of the African continent and hence see Africanism and/or Pan-Africanism as an important component of their identity. Identification with Africa has also given rise to the notion of an African Renaissance that envisions the social, political and economic reformation of Africa on the basis of African values and culture (Mbeki 1997). Iniatives of the South African government and the South African Broadcasting Company (SABC) with radio stations such as Channel Africa and Africa-2-Africa and the television channel SABC Africa that broadcast to Africa can also be regarded as attempts to create an African-wide public and/or discursive sphere. However, as in the case of the European Union the the nature of an African identity is still a contested terrain and many questions remain: Who are Africans and who are not? What are the key elements of an African culture? Can Whites of European descent also be regarded as Africans? And what about groups such as Indians, Coloureds and migrants from other parts of the world?
Witnin the borders of the newly constituted nation state, new images are being advanced that emphasise the market, democracy, individual rights and liberties, technocratic rationality in public policy and universal values. However, South Africa is also a deeply divided and heterogeneous society characterised by wideranging racial, linguistic, cultural, religious and socio-economic differences (De la Rey 1991; Horowitz 1991; Van den Berghe 1990). Colonialisation and apartheid has furthermore left South Africa even more divided than inherent differences as it accentuated racial, ethnic and class differences and set groups against other groups; not only Black against White, but also Black against Black, Coloured against Indian, and so forth (Coetzee & Wood 1993). The introduction of a new political dispensation has brought the negotiation and reconciliation of heterogeneity and citizenship - that is loyalty to the state versus loyalty to ethnic, cultural and religious groups - to a head resulting in the invention of the "new South Africa" (Le Pere & Lambrects 1999). Furthermore, nation-building has become a governmental preoccupation. Not only are a common South Africanness propagated in new national symbols and the notion of the "rainbow nation". Nation-building has also become a key principle in policy-making on all levels and thus also in policies concerning the media and information and communication technologies.
However, in becoming part of the international world, South Africa is also exposed to the world-wide centripetal tendencies associated with the revival of ethnic and other local identities. Moreover, on a grass-roots level these groups probably continue in fulfilling in important emotional and social needs of their members. In the new non-hierarchical society, people may even experience a greater need to identify themselves by contrast, to emphasise social borders and to confirm their ethnic and/or racial identity (Horowitz 1991). Indeed, the results of research since the early 1990s indicates that - despite the government's emphasis on unity - ethnic, cultural, language, religious groups have remained important components of the identity structures of most South Africans (Bornman1995; Bornman & Olivier 2001; Mattes, 1994, 1997). It appears that language in particular remains one of the most important denominators of sub-national identities in South Africa. Identity formation is furthermore complicated by the establishment of new forms of provincial and local government that create new opportunities for sub-national identification. Class or worker identities as those represented by Cosatu and Solidariteit are also making a claim on the identities of South Africans. What is of particular significance is the way that these subnational groups make use of the Internet to foster identification and to mobilise groups.
Thus, similarly to other nation states in the current age, the new South African state have also become the site of struggles of identity on various levels. These struggles will without question also have a wide-ranging influence on all media and information and communication technologies. Nation-building is already a priority in policies within the communication sector. However, if cognisance is not also given to impact of the multiple processes of globalisation and the concomitant identity struggles and the identity needs of all sectors of the South African public, the South African media and communication sector run the risk of failing the communication needs of their clientele.
The contemplation of struggles for identity within the age of globalisation brings Bauman (2001a) to the conclusion that the term "identity" should be replaced by "identification". Identification implies a never-ending, open-ended activity that are always incomplete and never finished. Man's frantic search for identity in the current age cannot be regarded as a residue of pre-modern and preglobalisation times. It is a side-effect and by-product of the combination of globalising, localising and individualising forces themselves and their concomitant tensions. They are legitimate offsprings and natural companions of the multiple and often contradictory processes associated with globalisation. They are in reality the oil that lubricates the wheels of globalisation.
South Africa and the South African media and communications sector cannot escape either the effects of globalisation or the struggles of identity associated with these effects. In the years to come the identity needs of South Africans will have to be seriously considered if the South African the institutions associated with the media and communications are serious about developing people-centred policies that address the needs of the people in addition to those of the govenrment of the day.

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1The idea for this article originated at a multidiscplinary workshop attended by various South African scholars involved in the study of globalisation, identity and democratisation. This workshop formed part of a project funded by the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation in the USA.

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