Today’s Globalness of Opinion: the view of Jean Pierre Beaudoin

As we have done once before, because we very much value the opinions of one of France’s most senior and thoughtful professionals, we offer you, from his agency’s newletter (I&E), his most recent opinion…

Globalisation is among the few topics which polarises opinions the world over, whether for or against. Globalisation is a global theme, just as climate change or human rights. There is, thus, a « globalness » of globalisation. In the same manner as there is a « globalness » of health matters (AIDS, SARS, bird flu), a « globalness » of conflicts (Iraq, Palestine), or a « globalness » of certain events (the Olympic Games, 9/11).

We might then ask ourselves what is “globalness” from a communications perspective, as a global topic for opinion that might just be taking over that of globalisation on the global arena of public debate? The status of a « globalness of opinion » may be in fact more relevant to decypher than the actual globalisation process leading to that status. Much has already been said on the topic of globalisation, one that has often been blamed for so many woes that there may hardly be anything to add.

Globalness, if we were to make an attempt at a definition, is the state of whatever is decompartmentalised. The state of whatever best lends itself to the circulation of values across the broadest possible span of territories, geographic or mental. The state of any topic on which there exists, in all parts of the world and from a communications point of view, a formed opinion, i.e. a recognition of the topic as such and a polarisation of the population across borders. In essence, global topics that give way to the mobilisation of values of all kinds: cultural values (the basis of nations), ethical values (the basis of societies), economic values (the basis of markets).

If we have a look at the few global topics of the day and how they have evolved since they reached that state of globalness, it appears that the circulation of the related values has resulted in the growth of these values. The confrontation of opinions on the public arena, whatever the geography of this arena, produces longstanding value. When the public space becomes global, thus allowing opinions which are based on cultures, ethics and economies to confront, the multiplication of values becomes all the greater, provided of course that the confrontation of opinions, however lively it may be, does not result in violence.

A confrontation resulting in violence is, in fact, the very evidence that a topic has not reached a state of « globalness ». The opposite to this, the antagonist of globalness is seclusion, the withdrawing into oneself, the attempt to keep one’s own values separate from any other set of values, the rejection of differences. Seclusion results in a destruction of value, for lack of a different perspective and for lack of borrowing from others what might just contribute to increasing one’s own values.

Whilst breaking barriers (globalisation, in that sense) lifts horizons towards globalness, seclusion draws them down. Globalness works around value systems, whatever the category, that set the highest possible ambition as the standard to achieve. Because it is in the nature of public opinion, whatever its scope, to maybe temporarily cope with frustrations, but to constantly seek out the optimum identified good, wherever it is seen.

In a globalised world, where everything is visible to everyone, one and all can at all times identify the optimum possible good on any topic, and then forge an opinion about that topic. The highest standard will therefore be required all round, in ethics, in matters of cultural development, or indeed in standards of living. But it is striking that the more opinion reaches a globalised state on a topic, the more the demands on standards of living are globalised, and the more opinions will demand to have their own way and say, locally. The more global the living standards, the more different the ways of life we see. In a globalised opinion, the world of cultures takes over from the world of territories, the world of opinions
opinions takes over from the world of States.

Some observers have been identifying such trends for more than a decade now. These trends have become facts today. Players of society, of the State and of markets cannot but play by the rules which opinion sets for them, those of globalness much more so than those of globalisation.

Companies today have more affinity with these rules than other types of institutions, because it’s about flexibility. Some companies are even promoters of such rules of globalness, as are the big militant organisations which, in a globalised world, constantly remind the corporate world that society wants to lead over economics in shaping the future of the world. That said, such militant organisations also share the same reality of the globalness of opinions, although one that’s in opposition with the globalness of markets.

Communication sets the scene for the creation or destruction of value by opinion. Whatever its scope or scale, any company is now a part of the globalness of opinion which fixes the rules of the game. A game which is never a zero-sum game.

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