Fear of Small Numbers is Arjun Appadurai’s answer to that question. A leading theorist of globalization, Appadurai turns his attention to the complex dynamics fueling large-scale, culturally motivated violence, from the genocides that racked Eastern Europe, Rwanda, and India in the early 1990s to the contemporary “war on terror.” Providing a conceptually innovative framework for understanding sources of global violence, he describes how the nation-state has grown ambivalent about minorities at the same time that minorities, because of global communication technologies and migration flows, increasingly see themselves as parts of powerful global majorities. By exacerbating the inequalities produced by globalization, the volatile, slippery relationship between majorities and minorities foments the desire to eradicate cultural difference.
Appadurai analyzes the darker side of globalization: suicide bombings; anti-Americanism; the surplus of rage manifest in televised beheadings; the clash of global ideologies; and the difficulties that flexible, cellular organizations such as Al-Qaeda present to centralized, “vertebrate” structures such as national governments. Powerful, provocative, and timely, Fear of Small Numbers is a thoughtful invitation to rethink what violence is in an age of globalization.
Arjun Appadurai is the John Dewey Professor in the Social Sciences at The New School, where he is also Senior Advisor for Global Initiatives. His books include Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization and the collection Globalization, also published by Duke University Press. He is a cofounder of the journal Public Culture, founder of the nonprofit PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action, and Research) in Mumbai, cofounder and codirector of ING (Interdisciplinary Network on Globalization), and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as a consultant or advisor to a wide range of public and private organizations, including the Ford, Rockefeller, and MacArthur foundations; UNESCO; the World Bank; and the National Science Foundation.
He argues that the neglect of economics by both cultural studies and social theory has weakened the ability to develop viable alternatives to present day capitalist globalization. With deep awareness of, and reference to, current events and contemporary trends, the author presents a detailed critique of:
- cultural studies, in particular Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy;
- Giddens' theory of 'risk society';
- Scott Lash and John Urry's 'economies of signs and space';
- Manuel Castells' theory of 'network society'.
The final chapters make a unique argument that the solution to the problems of globalization lies in more globalization rather than adopting an anti-globalization or 'localization' position. Don Robotham proposes more effective centralized institutions for governing the world economy, in other words - world government.
From the macro- to the micro-level, from the collective to the individual, and the real to the constructed, then to the imagined and back to the real; from ideology to utopia, isolation to integration, and from “belonging” to “possessing”, the book discusses the role of shared spatialities in the forging of commonalities, and the multiple aspects that influence the formation of identity and the legitimation of cultural practices, as well as introducing conceptual tools like “dialogue zones” and “homely landscapes”.
Moving between the United States and Europe, Norton provides a fresh perspective on iconic controversies, from the Danish cartoon of Muhammad to the murder of Theo van Gogh. She examines the arguments of a wide range of thinkers--from John Rawls to Slavoj Žižek. And she describes vivid everyday examples of ordinary Muslims and non-Muslims who have accepted each other and built a common life together. Ultimately, Norton provides a new vision of a richer and more diverse democratic life in the West, one that makes room for Muslims rather than scapegoating them for the West's own anxieties.