Digitalizing the Global Text

Digitalizing the Global Text

Philosophy, Literature, and Culture

Paul Allen Miller


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A few years ago globalism seemed to be both a known and inexorable phenomenon. With the end of the Cold War, the opening of the Chinese economy, and the ascendancy of digital technology, the prospect of a unified flow of goods and services and of people and ideas seemed unstoppable. Political theorists such as Francis Fukuyama proclaimed that we had reached "the end of history." Yes, there were pockets of resistance and reaction, but these, we were told, would be swept away in a relentless tide of free markets and global integration that would bring Hollywood, digital finance, and fast food to all. Religious fundamentalism, nationalism, and traditional sexual identities would melt away before the forces of "modernity" and empire. A relentless, technocratic rationality would sweep all in its wake, bringing a neoliberal utopia of free markets, free speech, and increasing productivity.

Nonetheless, as we have begun to experience the backlash against a global world founded on digital fungibility, the perils of appeals to nationalism, identity, and authenticity have become only too apparent. The collapse of Soviet Communism left an ideological vacuum that offered no recognized place from which to oppose global capitalism. What is the alternative? The anxieties and resentments produced by this new world order among those left behind are often manifested in assertions of xenophobia and particularity. This is what it supposedly means to be really American, truly Muslim, properly Chinese. The "other" is coming to take what is ours, and we must "defend" ourselves.

Digitalizing the Global Text is a collection of essays by an international group of scholars situated squarely at this nexus of forces. Together these writers examine how literature, culture, and philosophy in the global and digital age both enable the creation of these simultaneously utopian and dystopian worlds and offer a resistance to them.