In Singapore Here, Foucault’s play of signs’ (1991: 217) is quite explicit, presenting evidence of globally-interconnected systems with one nation highly dependent on another for fiscal stability. The global times have changed since the 1990s. Then, globalization was heralded by the orthodoxy as a kind of free-market nirvana, a new, heady and inevitable force, holding promises of new and better times for the networked cultures of the world. The neoconservative views of Francis Fukuyama, for example, predicted the end of divisive ideologies with the universalism of western, liberal, humanist democracies as a final form of global, human governance. This, he called the end of history as an evolutionary process (Fukuyama 1992). However, looking beyond such idealized, neo-liberal, promises of progress, these past decades give evidence of globalization as a space of forced mobility producing economic exiles: increasing numbers of people rendered homeless, jobless, voiceless and powerless in the global flows of conglomerate power bases. In a range of ways in this globalized world a fast rate of urbanization is having negative effects on the environment.
Today, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, Foucault’s play of signs’ presents a globalized world characterized by the ubiquitous spread of the English language, fast-growing cities particularly in Asia, fluid capital and instantaneous transactions in a hyper-information world of digital transfer and knowledge exchange, with interconnected capital and communication systems governed by a non-territorial centre that financier, philanthropist and writer, George Soros (1998) had called an abstract Empire’.5 In 2009 Soros advocated reform of this global empire, which he predicted was inherently unstable, into an economic system based on multilateral agreements. Warning that the global economy will crash under the present lottery of unregulated markets’ (Grierson 2006: 71), Soros organized a Bretton Woods-style conference in 2011 to bring together policy makers, academics and business leaders.6 Leading economists were invited to speak on the global economic system, including Nobel laureate, economist, Joseph Stiglitz.7
Stiglitz, amongst others, is highly critical of the management of the eurozone. In 2006, Stiglitz argued that the abject poverty and human terror in much of the world should not be seen as an inevitable consequence of globalization and that economic globalization could work better. To reinforce this proposition, he pointed out that the advanced industrial countries actually created a global trade that helped their special corporate and financial interests, and hurt the poorest countries of the world’ (Stiglitz 2006, cited in Grierson 2006: 69). Five years later, Stiglitz writes:
Even if those from Europe’s northern countries are right in claiming that the euro would work if effective discipline could be imposed on others (I think they are wrong), they are deluding themselves with a morality play. It is fine to blame their southern compatriots for fiscal profligacy, or, in the case of Spain and Ireland, for letting free markets have free reign, without seeing where that would lead. But that doesn’t address today’s problem: huge debts, whether a result of private or public miscalculations, must be managed within the euro framework. Public-sector cutbacks today do not solve the problem of yesterday’s profligacy; they simply push economies into deeper recessions. Europe’s leaders know this.