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December 25, 2008


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I know so little about this topic, so I don't have anything particularly interesting to add. Still, it's very intriguing!

I wonder if modern claims about globalization would lead to a reinvention of the silk road? The claim, in any effect, seems to be that economics reaches further than the nation-state, and so globalization causes a withdrawal (inevitably) of barriers to trade. This sounds to me like a reversion to the time when, as you note, economic forces were organized around communities smaller than countries.

A stray thought: is the extension of MFN status to China an example of an attempt to bring about change by the silk road as opposed to the great game? I can't help but to think that the days of the Great Game are numbered.

On Sam's post: the subject of his post, and your discussion of it, always leads me to wonder about the connection (or lack of one) between profit and virtue (in Mencius or Confucius or whoever). Sam's post seems to imply a kind of incompatibility between the two. I sensed a similar suggestion in Alan's post on the sex trade -- that attraction to sex was antithetical to virtue (both seeming to rest of what is petty or corresponding to personal advantage).

I am unconvinced by both. My feeling here is that Confucianism is not against either. A person who lives virtuously should do pretty well in life, in all of these ways. Focus on profit (or sex) isn't a bad thing. It's the way that one can focus on these things in a vicious way that is concerning. Sex, profit, and virtue are compatible, but can easily come into conflict -- hence the need to be very attentive to one's way of engaging with them.

But I'm digressing here, as this is off your point!

Chris, thank you so much for responding to this post as it has been something that has been on my mind for months. Is globalization bringing about a situation whereby trade preceeds diplomacy? Or does strategy and universalist practices define contemporary trade (I am sorry how could I resist that, really?)

What is the significance of Sam's discussion of financialization?

Regarding Confucian virtue versus sex and profit... well, I know what the existentialist would say(!!)

Bell too talks about the civilizing practices of the sex culture of east Asia...

I'm not sure...

Hello Peony!
Sorry I have not yet jumped into the discussion on Bell. Between the end of the semester and the holidays I have been fairly overwhelmed.
There's a lot in this post for me. (Ask me some time about the time when I was a callow first year grad student in Madison giving my first conference paper and Frank, as discussant, torn me to shreds...). Frank is a really interesting figure, in that he moved intellectually over his lifetime, from a rather rigid "dependency theory" to a more open-ended historicity. We should all be so flexible.
As to the historical contrasts that you raise at the very end of the post, I think a key difference between the contemporary moment and the (dare I say) pre-modern Silk Road experience, is the emergence and hardening of state institutions. States jealously control territory and borders, and state managers manipulate nationalist narratives to maintain state power. And they have greater capacity to do so now. All of this creates more potential for obstruction of cosmopolitanism, trade, and international relations. There are some theorists of globalization who thought that, since the 1970s, the growth of financial capital had overwhelmed the state, that the state was largely kaput. If the current crisis has shown us anything, it is just how central state institutions are to the management of global capital.
So, maybe all roads run back to Oxiana, but you have to have a visa...

Hi Sam,

Just arrived back in Japan after a long haul across the ocean... Thank you so much for your comment here and to your longer comments at your blog regarding Bell. After I unpack I wanted to respond. For now, just a a quick thank you! And I would love to hear about your meeting Frank...The more I learn about his life and scholarship, the more intrigued I become. You are right, we all should be so flexible...

You might like Frank's book, ReOrient.

I'll try to find it! Thank you-- and you probably noticed I just left a comment over at your place. Also, I hope it's ok, but I wanted to email you about Frank later as I found your comment above to be so interesting and wanted to ask you about it. One of Frank's sons-- a very, very charming man who has inherited his father's intelligence as well, reads here and he might enjoy hearing your anacdote about his father in Madison-- only if you have time, of course :)

I bet it is freezing in Madison now-- do you ever go back. I never have been back-- though I'd like very much to see the lakes there again someday.

I haven't been back to Madison since 1986! I should go some time.

I recount my time with Frank over at my blog (it is a bit long).

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