In June 2014 I wrote a post on this blog suggesting that a new political landscape was emerging in which the primary cleavage was between ‘cosmopolitans’ and ‘locals’. These were the terms coined in the context of organizational sociology by Alvin Gouldner. Adapted to the wider context cosmopolitans are educated and skilled, comfortable with different cultures, relaxed about immigration and liberal about sexuality and gender, travel widely and have a global frame of reference. Locals are poorly educated, uncomfortable with cultural difference, hostile to immigration and illiberal about sexuality and gender, travel little and have a national frame of reference. There is also often an overlay of age and regional distinctions, with cosmopolitans likely to be younger and more urban, and locals older and more rural or provincial.
successful predictions are rare in social science I want to take some credit
for that one, especially as it has now become almost a cliché, albeit usually
expressed in terms of ‘establishment and populists’, ‘globalists and nativists’
or ‘open and closed’ distinctions. At all events, in the three years since I
wrote that post there have been many examples – most obviously the Trump
election and the Brexit vote – but also in Turkey,
The point is not, though, that localism is triumphant; it is that the
global-local axis is what defines the terms of contestation. In other cases –
the Dutch and Austrian
elections, for example, or, as I
have written about before, the Rumanian anti-corruption protests - it has
been the cosmopolitans who have held sway.
France right now we see the most stark face-off between cosmopolitans and
locals, which is perhaps fitting given that it was in France that the old right-left
axis had its origins (supposedly in the seating in the 1789 National Assembly,
with supporters of the King on the right side and those of the revolution on
the left). So the
second round of the presidential election will pit Marine Le Pen, the
epitome of localism, against Emmanuel Macron, an equally paradigmatic
cosmopolitan. And here another boast of prediction: I have been saying since
last October that Macron would win the presidency, which now seems highly
likely to be proved true. That said, I suspect that there is something else in
play apart from cosmopolitanism and localism. Perhaps because of the boredom
and search for novelty engendered by social media there is a premium placed on
new faces. From that point of view Le Pen has just been around for too long to
be able to play the ‘outsider’ card.
aside, I have been thinking a lot recently about what this new politics means
for critical management studies (CMS), especially in the UK. On the one hand,
much has been oppositional to globalization. On the other hand, it aligns on
most criteria with cosmopolitanism. In that sense it is on the same side as not
just mainstream management studies but also with big business and finance.
Perhaps, just as British CMS grew out of the market-managerialist politics of
the 1990s and early 2000s, it will be swept away by the localist populism of
today. Those localists typically lump together the corporate elite and the
liberal intellectual elite, within which CMS undoubtedly sits. Perhaps they are
right to do so.