No Exit: A voice for Globelics? Reflections on research on global governance
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This paper addresses the issue of global governance. At first sight this is a topic which appears to fall beyond the “village borders” of the Globelics initiative. The analytical focus for the Globelics network proposed last year (Lundvall and Soete, 2002) was upon national innovation and competence building systems, paying in particular attention to international comparative analyses with respect to the “south”. The geographical emphasis on low(er) income countries appeared justified by the impression of an increasing tendency towards research diversion in this area in favor of international, high income countries’, comparative analyses, providing policy advice and support to various countries’ attempts at becoming the most competitive or knowledge intensive regions in the world. At the same time, the definition of innovation system was kept broad: “rooted in the production and human resource development system” to quote Lundvall (2002) rather than just limited to the R&D system. There were several reasons which justified such an approach. Thus as Lundvall noted: “Several OECD-countries that are characterised by a low-tech specialisation in production and exports are among the countries in the world with the highest GNP per capita. To focus on the rather small part of the economy engaged in formal R&D-activities would give very limited insights regarding the growth potential for these countries and the same would be true for low income countries. A second reason has to do with the fact that empirical studies only partially support the original hypothesis in Lundvall (1985) about innovations systems as primarily constituted by inter-firm, user-producer relationships. It is an obvious alternative to broaden the perspective on regional and national systems and to see them as constituted also by a common knowledge base embedded in local institutions and embodied in people living and working in the region. The final and perhaps the most important reason for taking the broader view has to do with the developments toward a ‘learning economy’. This hypothesis points to the need to give stronger emphasis to the analysis of the development of human and organisational capabilities. In the national education systems people learn specific ways to learn. In labour markets they experience nation specific incentive systems and norms will have an impact on how and what they learn.” (Lundvall, 2002). But such insights will of course also have to fit the rather radically changing external, international environment. As we already indicated last year, we side on this issue with Ulrich Beck: “a fundamental change is occurring in the nature of the social and political – an erosion of anthropological certitudes which compels the social sciences to modify their theoretical tools… the crucial question is how, beyond the mere assertion of an epochal break, sociology can strengthen its theoretical, methodological and organizational foundations by making them more concrete or focused and in this was ultimately renew its claim to another enlightenment. The keyword in this international controversy is globalisation. The consequences of this for society (and sociology) have been spelt out most clearly in the English-speaking countries… where it has been forcefully argued that conventional social and political science remains caught up in a national-territorial concept of society. Critics of ‘methodological nationalism’ processes and that the national framework is still the one best suited to measure and analyse major social, economic and political changes. The social sciences are thus found guilty of ‘embedded statism’ and thought is given to a reorganization of the interdisciplinary field…”(Beck, 2002) The focus on “national” systems of innovations is from this perspective invaluable in bringing to the forefront the importance of such “state” institutions in inducing or hindering processes of national competence building in a variety of different countries. The attempts at comparative learning through such detailed studies have actually formed the basis for the hype of innovation policy benchmarking exercises carried out within the EU and across the EU, the US and Japan. Following Beck though, there is in our view, here too a need to broaden this framework in line with the rapid rise in globalisation pressures and the existing lack of global governance. It is to the latter issue that this paper hopes to make a small contribution. After all, our network is named Globelics.