BOOK REVIEWS:

THE FUTURE OF ETHNICITY, RACE, & NATIONALITY
by
Walter L. Wallace

ONE WORLD EMERGING?
by
Alex Inkeles

FUTURECASTS online magazine
www.futurecasts.com
Vol. 3, No. 5, 5/1/01.

Homepage

Global "melting pot" phenomena:

  FUTURECASTS was interested in these books because they examine the "melting pot" potential for the world as a whole that FUTURECASTS expects will keep vigorously functioning within the United States. The affects will be broad and deep - with implications ranging widely over such diverse fields as foreign policy, business planning, and the lifestyle possibilities for increasingly mobile individuals. An understanding of the extent and limitations of this process is obviously of great practical use.
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Inkeles provides clearer indications of the unevenness and limitations of the process, while Wallace provides a better sense of the general forces driving convergence tendencies.

  Broadly similar conclusions are drawn by both authors, although they attack the problem from opposite angles.

  • Walter L. Wallace, of Princeton Univ., is more theoretical and takes a general "broad brush" approach, with an unlimited timeline that could extend centuries and millennia into the future.

  • Alex Inkeles, of the Hoover Institution, takes a much more focused approach, examining the evidence of convergence and divergence from the last half of the 20th century for a variety of particular factors in particular industrial and industrializing nations to determine the probabilities for the immediate future - between 50 and 100 years out. (This also happens to be the timeline of FUTURECASTS forecasts.)
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    Inkeles concentrates on the trees, while Wallace examines the  forest as a whole. There are, of course, both strengths and weaknesses to each of these two approaches. The former gives clearer indications of the unevenness and limitations of the process, while the latter provides a better sense of the general  forces that over time will ultimately force at least some convergent tendencies even in some factors that at present seem resistant to convergence or that currently remain stubbornly divergent.
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      Taking the two books together thus strengthens them both. Both slip up on different points of economics - but not in ways that undermine their overall analyses.
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      Both books convincingly portray general and powerful worldwide convergence tendencies - usefully illuminate the forces at work and the processes by which this is occurring - and indicate some of the currently evident  limitations to those processes.

"The Future of Ethnicity, Race, and Nationality"

Global "melting pot" tendencies:

  Wallace analyses ethnicity, race and nationality relationships, to determine "where we are, how we got here, and whither we are tending." He purposely - wisely - avoids the morass of judgmental evaluation of the frequently and variously deplorable status of past and present relationships. He does, however, firmly conclude that - morality aside - convergence (melting pot) tendencies are broadly beneficial and "will dramatically improve our species chances of survival."

 

Candidly recognizing the absence of certainties, Wallace instead deals in substantial probabilities.

  Over the long haul, "the melting pot is working (albeit in fits and starts, with occasional backward steps as well as mainly forward ones - - - and always painfully) and - - - it has been working, worldwide, for the better part of ten thousand years."

  Wallace concentrates on long term trends. He focuses on all of humanity - over the centuries - not the tendencies of recent decades and individual groups or geographical locations. He thus seeks to provide a perspective that is different from the usual run of studies, and one that hopefully adds broader analytical dimensions to the study of the subject.  He is by no means oblivious to the many sometimes "murderously parasitical trends" that accompany current globalization trends. The trades in illicit drugs and women's bodies are obvious examples. Nor does he deny counter trends manifested in ethnocentrism, and in racist and nationalist  movements - nor the threats from environmental degradation, nuclear war, or natural catastrophes like the big rock falling from the sky. Candidly recognizing the absence of certainties, he instead deals in substantial probabilities. (This, too, happens to be the approach of FUTURECASTS forecasts.)

A "Grand Cycle" of human development:

    A broad "Grand Cycle" of human development over the last approximately 100,000 years is traced by the book.
  • First came slow dispersion out of eastern Africa;

  • then, slow socio-cultural, ethnic, and racial differentiation of relatively isolated populations;

  • then, a gradual increase of contact between isolated populations starting with the development of agriculture about 10,000 years ago;

  • until, "first local, then regional, and now a growing global consolidation of these in-contact, vigorously competing, often warring, but (believe it or not) increasingly cooperative populations;" and,

  • ultimately, dispersion again across the vast distances involved in travel through space.

Wallace pursues an objective, Darwinian method of analysis. Eschewing questions of morality, he judges the process by whether it enhances the survivability of the species.

  Dispersion is driven by geographic and socio-cultural variances - which ultimately develop through inbreeding into ethnically distinct traits - that if continued long enough and in sufficient isolation, amounts to broader "racial" distinctions - that, if permitted to persist into the hundreds of thousands of years, would result in sufficient genetic differentiation for the development of separate species.
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  Pursuing an objective, Darwinian view of the process,
Wallace points out that dispersion was highly beneficial for humanity. It reduced the likelihood of extinction due to some calamity, and increased the diversity of socio-cultural, ethnic, and genetic traits that humanity has to draw upon for  its confrontation with the uncertain future. Of course, dispersion also resulted in numerous conflicts as differing groups expanded and competed for dominance and scarce resources. However, brutal "civil wars" - conflicts among brothers - are also common, and are also concerned with dominance and control of scarce resources.

  The inherent subjectivity of ethnic and even racial distinctions is noted by Wallace. Census data in the U.S. in 1970 showed that almost 24% of "whites" had some modern African ancestry, and about 80% of African-Americans had some non-African ancestry.

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Coalition building:

  With contact, coalition building at all levels tends to undermine dispersion. Of especial importance is the coalition processes that form "nations." Wallace points out that coalition building is in fact the result of natural selection - it is an imperative of species survival. However, there are wheels within wheels - status and other differentiations are created and maintained within coalitions.
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War serves to bind groups together within a national coalition.

  Coalition building processes at the national level are different from those at lower levels (family, kinship, ethnic, and racial) in that they are not backwards looking - towards common ancestors - but forward looking - towards a common and interdependent destiny. This is the essence of "the national myth." (Of course, from the Darwinian aspect that Wallace emphasizes, even the lower level coalition building can be viewed as forward looking - towards the destiny of common gene pools.)
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  Wars, whether won or lost, play an important role by binding all groups together within a national coalition - whatever their different status. With worldwide population growth, defeated peoples often had no place to go, and so had to stay and accept subjugation. Since ancient times, hindered by poor transportation and communications, imperial conglomerations have repeatedly risen and fallen - a process that continued until the end of the great European colonial empires during the 20th century.
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  Coalition building has also been taken to another level, as nations began voluntarily seeking various kinds of coalitions with each other - a process that has accelerated during modern times.
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Because of modern "globalization" of world commerce, the territorial constraints on social and cultural arrangements are beginning to recede and may become irrelevant as societies in poorly endowed regions acquire modern capabilities.

  Agriculture permitted population growth, settled communities, specialization, and technological advances in metallurgy, transportation and communications. Dispersed populations expanded until they began to rub up against each other - or initiated communication to trade with each other.
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  Since these activities developed at differing times in different regions - influenced substantially by geographic characteristics ("the luck of the territorial draw") - consolidating influences also appeared at different times and strengths from one region to another. Even today, Wallace points out, the geographic obstacles to consolidation in sub-Saharan Africa are sufficient to leave that region fragmented into thousands of  separate "societies" speaking as many as a thousand separate languages.
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  Generally, it was in the more well endowed geographic regions that empires developed and expanded, eventually spreading control over less well endowed regions. However, because of the modern "globalization" of world commerce, the territorial constraints on social and cultural arrangements are beginning to recede and may become irrelevant as societies in poorly endowed regions acquire modern capabilities - a process that will take decades and perhaps much longer to run its course.
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Convergence tendencies are increasingly global.

  The American melting pot has become a primary example of the functioning and potential of the forces of convergence in the modern world. The United Nations and current developments in international law that purport to place all nations and all individuals on an equal legal footing - and that recognize basic individual human rights that exist above sovereign rights - are viewed as a current high water mark of modern convergence. Of course, Wallace is well aware that the world is still divided into spheres of influence wherein world and regional powers exercise dominant authority.

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The forces of convergence:

  The forces of convergence are separated into four general categories for purposes of analysis. These are economic, political, knowledge, and religious or fraternal forces.
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Economic trade:

 

 

 

 

 

Wallace provides a gross overstatement of the extent to which economic forces have achieved convergence - not just in the 19th century but also today - and understates the potential for the survival of some existing divergent tendencies and the creation of others.

 

Extensive national and regional differences remain in governance and societal conditions and relationships with important economic, political, and individual consequences for all the various classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    Trade has been a force for convergence of disparate groups both within and without territorial boundaries even among hunter-gatherer societies before the rise of agriculture. Modern globalization, Wallace asserts,  has now created worldwide bourgeois classes sharing the same interests without national distinctions, worldwide working classes sharing the same conditions without national distinctions, and has "destroyed the peculiar individuality of the various nationalities."

  One of Wallace's cites for this assertion is Marx and Engels. This, of course,  raises questions about Wallace's scholarly judgment in relying on these preeminent advocacy scholars - whose propaganda myths have befuddled the credulous since the middle of the 19th century. Wallace readily recognizes such "propagandistic" generalities in other group conflict contexts, but appears unaware of the overstated generalities - the partial truths - and the obvious fallacies of the Marxian propaganda myth.
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    It is thus not surprising that Wallace provides a gross overstatement of the extent to which economic forces have achieved convergence - not just in the 19th century but also today - and understates the potential for the survival of some existing divergent tendencies and the creation of others. Inkeles, as we shall see, erred on the other side. He repeatedly fails to acknowledge the power and necessity of market economics and the future impact of market forces on pertinent factors that in some places remained divergent or resistant to convergence well into the last half of the 20th century.
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  As demonstrated by Backman in "Asian Eclipse" - reviewed in last month's issue of FUTURECASTS online magazine - extensive national and regional differences remain in governance and societal conditions and relationships with important economic, political, and individual consequences for all the various classes. Convergence may indeed be progressing under the forces of industrialization and globalization - and also under the innate desire of peoples to live free of the arbitrary exercise of power. These are prominent forces highlighted in FUTURECASTS' international forecasts.
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  However, convergence of economic factors and their societal impacts are still nowhere near the absolute levels asserted by Marx and Engels more than a century ago, and the extent to which differentiation will continue under the influence of governance and societal differences remains substantially in doubt. Good governance practices are required for substantial capitalist economic progress, but very fortunately need not reach optimum levels for capitalist commerce to thrive. Indeed,  they nowhere exist at optimum levels - even in the United States or Singapore. Significant divergent tendencies may be kept in place or may be newly created even as the economic, political and societal forces of convergence run their expected course.

Political consolidation:

  Political consolidation into nationality groups has constituted the pinnacle of modern convergence. It has frequently proceeded through the use of force to maintain internal cohesion, fend off outside threats, or  conquer and take in outside groups. However, Wallace points out that the next step can already be ascertained in the slow increase in the number, scope and authority of international regional and global coalitions and institutions.

So far, both the expansion of international and global governance - and devolution of government tasks to local authorities and private entities - have proceeded within pragmatic limits - with no indication of an inclination at the national level to surrender the real essence of national sovereignty.

  Devolution of an ever widening array of governance tasks to lower levels of government and private institutions is another widespread trend - but one that Wallace ignores. Devolution is induced by the spreading recognition that local differences must be taken into account and can only be adequately dealt with at local levels for a wide array of government activities.
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  So far, these opposite tendencies have proceeded within pragmatic limits, with no indication of an inclination at the national level to surrender the real essence of national sovereignty - the powers to tax, enter and break treaties, apply military force, establish domestic legal frameworks, and insist on popular allegiance. The unavoidable bumbling inefficiencies of global bureaucracies - and the popular aversion to distant and unresponsive governance - are also likely to limit the extent of global governance.
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  Political dispersion into new proliferating little nation states also continues as larger national and imperial entities fail to hold disparate ethnic population segments. This, too, is a trend that Wallace fails to adequately deal with.

Technological development:

 

Mass transportation and communications break down barriers and tend to tie disparate groups together.

    Knowledge and technology have had observable convergence impacts. Large scale irrigation projects knit disparate local communities together thousands of years ago, as did war, but writing helped administer larger political entities and hold them together against the forces of dispersion.
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    In modern times, advances in transportation have facilitated migration. The average distance within which a man would find a wife expanded from hundreds of yards in the 19th century to well over a thousand yards with the invention of the bicycle, and is undoubtedly measured in many miles today. Mass transportation and communications further break down barriers and tend to tie disparate groups together.
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Religion:

  Religious institutions, on the other hand, have been a force for maintaining divergence among disparate religious groups, even when they live amongst each other. However, even religion has been a force for convergence in its proselytizing activities and when providing an added rationale and moral support for warfare and conquest. Although well aware that fundamentalist forces within modern religions are still influential and serve to differentiate "true believers" from "others," Wallace points out that, today, "universalist" religions are forces for convergence irrespective of national boundaries.

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Immigration:

  Wallace analyzes the various forms of modern contact - especially with respect to migration flows that constantly expand with the increasing availability of efficient and inexpensive transportation, the attractiveness of economic opportunity, and favorable political and immigration law developments. He reviews the various political, economic, intellectual, and ethnic factors involved in determining the character of particular immigrant flows.

Strategies for Darwinian advantage:

  Then, he summarizes the interactions - the "strategies" - of disparate groups that are in intimate contact with each other. Groups maneuver constantly to gain or maintain advantages over others. He rightly cautions that these strategies form a complex web of many characteristics with ranges of variations constantly adjusting over time, rather than any neat picture of the discreet characteristics presented by analyses of the subject.
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All groups have access to versions of standard strategies.

  He also stresses that versions of these strategies are available to both dominant and subordinate groups, and both host and migrant groups. Segregation, he points out, can be used both by a dominant group to maintain its dominant position, and by minority groups as a means of preserving their cultural characteristics and political cohesion. Both sides during conflict may demonize the other.
  Competition strategies are divided into three groups by Wallace for purposes of analysis.
  • Cultural structural strategies are designed to influence thoughts and feelings of both group members and others.

  • Social structural strategies are designed to influence conduct of both group members and others.

  • Coalition strategies are designed to form, refuse, or break up cultural structural or social structural alliances.

Cultural structural strategies:

  Cultural structural strategies include "stereotypes," "prejudices," and "discriminatory tendencies" used for the purposes of "defining" other groups in terms of perceived characteristics and thus influencing behavior within groups and between members of disparate groups. Racist and nationalist tendencies to exalt one's own nationality or race over others is universal, Wallace concludes.
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Less accurate "propagandistic" generalities suffice for contests that are unequal, but accurate "informational" knowledge is sought for closer contests.

  Some of the fiercest competition and conflicts, Wallace recognizes, occur among individuals and factions of the same group. For these conflicts, the parties generally look for accurate "informational" knowledge about each other. For interactions with clearly subordinate or superior groups, less accurate "propagandistic" generalities suffice because the contest is so unequal. However, as disparate groups acknowledge more of the nuances in "informational" knowledge about each other, the possibilities for coalition building and convergence increase.

  "The extent to which normative descriptions, valuations, and behavior dispositions change toward becoming less extremely stereotypic, prejudiced, and discriminatory between groups is therefore a good indicator of the extent to which the groups in question are consolidating into a single group."

  Wallace emphasizes that prejudicial attitudes need not coincide with discriminatory behavior - but they do create predispositions for discriminatory behavior. He also points out the current moral restraints on the use of violence by dominant nations that frequently dictate restraint even when subjected to violence by weaker adversaries. (Of course, this is hardly a universal tendency as yet, as repressive efforts in Chechnya and Tibet amply demonstrate.)

Social structural strategies:

  Social structural strategies include efforts at total or partial exclusion - barring subgroups from entry into territory or into desirable positions and activities within that territory.
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The propagandistic "exploitation" generalities of Marx obviously fail the test of Darwinian objectivity.

  Wallace extends this view to economic inequality - apparently accepting the old Marxist "exploitation" propaganda myths. He includes income inequality among the partial exclusion strategies and lumps it together with other exclusion strategies under the heading of "oppression."

  Wallace thus provides justification for egalitarian economic policy recommendations and even for violent efforts to remove such "oppression." He even provides a basis for viewing crime as a justifiable response to such repressive inequality.
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  By now it is almost trite to point out that economic exploitation is a three cornered procedure - with workers "exploiting" capital and management - managers "exploiting" labor and capital - and capital "exploiting" labor and management. Of the three general categories, it is obviously management that is the critical factor in economic productivity - especially in modern times when management is complicated by the threats and opportunities of constant and accelerating technological change. Capital and labor will always seek to serve and thus "exploit" the best management they can find - because that's where they themselves fare best - and they thus wisely do not begrudge successful managers even hugely unequally large rates of compensation.
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  Of course, capitalism is not an utopian concept and can never provide utopian results. Inequality is an inherent feature of capitalism - and there is increasingly no substitute for the economic freedom, dynamism and flexibility of capitalism.

An egalitarian propaganda myth:

  These strategies may apply between nations as well as between people and groups within nations as nations and groups and individuals maneuver to give their own economic and cultural prospects various advantages over others. Wallace describes the less successful impoverished nations as having "unequal access to resources," thus implying an obligation on wealthy nations to strive to equalize results. He notes the benefits to wealthy people and wealthy nations of having poor people and nations willing to do low-skilled work.
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Invariably, good governance that facilitates profit driven market directed commerce brings wealth - and poor governance that does not facilitate commerce - or anarchic situations and civil strife that block commerce - brings impoverishment.

 

  It is not surprising that the people of India are able to flourish all around the world - except in India.

   The obvious benefits to poor people and poor nations of having wealthy people as employers and wealthy nations as potential markets are somehow omitted by Wallace.

  Here, Wallace misses the opportunity to make his strongest egalitarian point. The opening of wealthy nation markets to the exports of third world nations would do far more good than even a doubling or tripling of aid budgets.
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  However, it is obviously not the fault of wealthy nations - or of the "luck of the territorial draw" - that today keeps impoverished nations poor. Invariably, good governance that facilitates profit driven market directed commerce brings wealth - and poor governance that does not facilitate commerce - or anarchic situations and civil strife that block commerce - bring impoverishment. Failure to take account of this simple and obvious fact mars both of these books in several places - as will also be pointed out below with respect to Inkeles..
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  Wallace lists the problem groups, nations and regions as of 1996 - Sub-Saharan Africa, African communities in advanced nations, the nations of the Indian Subcontinent and Central Asia, and states now or until recently subject to communist governance. What is characteristic of every nation on the list is the lack of good governance - the lack of governance structures that facilitate commerce - and often the presence of anarchy and conflict. Conflicts, lawlessness, lack of security for persons or property, lack of enforceable property and commercial rights, etc., afflict them all - none of which is the primary responsibility of the developed world.
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  Of course, the developed world should open  markets to exports from underdeveloped nations, and encourage peace and good governance within them. However, to send aid into any such area except to relieve acute situations is to dump resources down a black hole. Thus, tens of billions of aid dollars disappeared into Russia during the 1990s without visible impact due to bad governance in Russia.
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  For example, the wealthy nations of the world cannot possibly appreciably raise the standard of living of the billion impoverished people in the nations on the Indian subcontinent, but those peoples themselves can easily do that  by the establishment of the sort of governance that facilitates profit driven market directed commerce. Indeed, only they can do that, since the time is long past when outsiders could force governance structures on other major nations. Indeed, the majestic forces of the United Nations couldn't even bring good governance to the blighted little city of Mogadishu. The NATO nations face a decades long struggle to encourage good governance structures in the Balkans.
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  It is not surprising that the people of India are able to flourish all around the world - except in India.
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  As for "disadvantaged" subgroups within advanced nations, there certainly remain the many real obstacles that always exist in the real world. However, the ladder of upwards mobility has never been more accessible.
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  What is needed is functional school systems - designed for the benefit of the students rather than for the benefit of the teachers and administrators and the purposes of various influential ideological subgroups - and effective and fair enforcement of commercial and criminal laws to provide security for persons and property and to facilitate commerce within the "disadvantaged" communities.

Coalition building is basic at all levels - from individuals to great international alliances of nations.

  The absolute need for allies provides the basis for coalition strategies. This is a powerful and obvious force for consolidation. Coalition building is basic at all levels, from individuals to great international alliances of nations. These coalitions are in constant flux, involving various efforts to build and maintain friendly coalitions where needed,  and efforts to disrupt unfriendly coalitions. There is a constant battle for loyalty between all levels - family, kinship, ethnic, racial, and national.
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Competitive forces tend over time to "ratchet" upwards the levels of cooperation to meet widening demands and the broader alliances of competitors.

  Nations use various strategies to attract predominant loyalty to themselves. Wallace describes

  • "cooptation"  - the inclusion of groups within state activities,

  • "demobilization" - making people predominantly dependent on the nation rather than on racial or ethnic or other groups, and

  • "individualism" - the ideology which lessens the normal desire for inclusion in subgroups.

  Wallace asserts  that success at  coalition building is enhanced by such factors as the equality or near equality of the coalition partners, and the prospects for success. "Competition leads to cooperative coalitions among the competitors," Wallace points out. (Since Adam Smith, this is a factor that has been recognized as a natural threat to capitalist markets.) Moreover, competitive forces tend over time to "ratchet" upwards the levels of cooperation to meet widening demands and the broader alliances of competitors.
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  An essential ingredient in successful alliances is the willingness of more powerful members to refrain from taking undue advantage of weaker members - of assuring that all members continue to see advantages within the coalition. In providing such advantages, Wallace points out, coalitions tend to "equalize" members with respect to cultural and social status.
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  The spread of democratic systems of government, public education, and concepts of human rights are cited as both proof of the existence and the positive attributes of this tendency. However, the rapid spread of economic inequality is viewed as a troubling counter trend.

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Assimilation:

  The global melting pot - although not as vigorous as in the United States - is thus quite evident. Wallace points out that various groups that previously held together for centuries are today responding to the opening of greater opportunities in the wider society by assimilating. Intermarriage rates are increasing rapidly, especially in the United States and Western Europe. Ethnic intermarriage rates have shot up in Asia, too.
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All groups must seek the many advantages of interdependence with other groups and thus open themselves to eventual consolidation.

  However, population homogenization is not the likely result. Consolidation will still leave wide cultural and personality differences. Wallace points out that efforts at forced consolidation under fascism, communism, and imperialism, all failed during the 20th century. Now, it is the less dramatic but more durable forces of voluntary consolidation that are at work.
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  Against these forces are still arrayed the forces that seek to maintain distinct ethnic, religious, and national groups. These are especially strong among peoples who have just emerged from subjugation and retain resentments for past treatment. However, with the exception of suicidal sects, all groups must seek the many advantages of interdependence with other groups and thus open themselves to eventual consolidation.

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Global consolidation:

  Wallace does not make any predictions, but instead ventures some suggestions about the requirements for successful fulfillment of the promise of convergence - the achievement of high levels of global consolidation..
  • The eventual development of safe, clean, inexhaustible and cheap forms of energy along with robotized and customized production will make wealth abundant and make possible an end to economic inequality. (Wouldst that it were just a matter of technology. Those nations that adopt and maintain governance that facilitates profit driven market directed commerce will do well - those that don't won't.)

  • Population growth is a threat to any view of the future, and must be ended. There are encouraging signs that this is happening.

  • War is another threat that must be dealt with. The efforts by advanced nations - and especially the "great powers" - to avoid major military conflicts has been accompanied by broadening recognition of the burdens and wastefulness of armaments. Arms budgets have declined sharply since the end of the Cold War. This is a major accomplishment, even given the sharp increase in civil wars within third world nations. (Wallace omits mention of the continuing essential ingredient for this positive trend - the overwhelming military superiority coupled with the unthreatening military posture of the U.S.)

  • The widespread communication and diffusion of scientific and technological knowledge to enable all peoples to join in the great technological adventure. (Knowledge and technology is already readily available to all nations whose governments permit access to it and facilitate commerce and the spread of adequate communications.)

  • Continued economic globalization  and technological advance. (Wallace gives credence to the utopian version of the "automation fallacy" that envisions technology providing utopian economic outcomes. Technology will certainly continue to improve probable outcomes. However, good management, governance that facilitates commerce, the creative but inherently messy freedom of capitalism, and hard work will remain economic essentials for the foreseeable future. It should not be surprising to anyone that the averages for hours worked per year in the U.S. have increased marginally during the last two decades of rapid technological advance.)

  • Continued proliferation of voluntary associations that easily cross national, ethnic, racial, and religious boundaries for cultural or social activist purposes.

  • Migratory flows that continuously mix together peoples from all around the world.

  • The limitation of multiculturalism policies to a short transitory period.

  • The development of world government, democratically elected, with the power to impose its own taxes. (The practical development of various international governance institutions to meet particular needs will undoubtedly continue and deepen, but  worldwide democratic elections and the ceding of sovereign powers to a world government is simply not in the cards. Popular allegiance to a remote, inherently unresponsive and inefficient world government is not even a remote prospect.)

  • An ecumenical theology that at least respects all humane religious beliefs. Wallace views the passing of fundamental and antagonistic religious certainties as the most difficult hurdle for global consolidation.

Convergence towards democratic and capitalist systems:

  Wallace correctly concludes that both democracy and capitalism (political and economic freedom) are spreading massively in the modern world in response to broad convergence forces. These thrive on "open markets" for ideas and products, and constitute irresistible forces for mixing and consolidating groups at all levels. He accurately recognizes that there will always be a flux of subgroups -  coalitions of convenience - for purposes of economic, political, and social differentiation and competition.
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Good governance is the essential ingredient and remains a local and national responsibility.

  However, Wallace goes astray when he assumes that it is the developed world that is responsible for excluding the underdeveloped world "from wealth, power, knowledge, and honor," and thus full participation in the benefits of consolidation. He asserts that it is up to the developed world to include the underdeveloped world "on an entirely equal basis with itself, and apply the universalistic norms that support such inclusion" to assure the realization of the promise of consolidation.

    Disconcerting egalitarian proclivities keep popping up at various points in this book, undermining Wallace's efforts to present it as an objective scientific application of Darwinian principles. As explained above, he shows poor scholarly judgment in his citation of Marx and the credence he extends to various Marxian concepts. One of the primary purposes of references is to enhance the credibility of scholarly analysis - but citations from the work of the preeminent advocacy scholar of modern times can only arouse skepticism.
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  Skepticism having been duly aroused, however, the bulk of Wallace's analysis remains convincing, perceptive, and informative. Continuing and even accelerating progress in the various aspects of global convergence can confidently be expected as a "substantially probable outcome" of the forces examined by Wallace.
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  However, while Wallace provides a better sense of the power and scope of this process, its irregular nature and limits - the texture of global consolidation - can more accurately be sensed with the examination of the wide array of particular factors - the trees rather than the forest - provided by Inkeles.

"One World Emerging?"

Factors of convergence and divergence:

  Objective indicators of convergence and divergence in industrial societies - in institutional structures and popular attitudes and values - has been a lifelong study for Inkeles. This book is a compilation of his many studies. This has the strength of providing views that reflect conditions as far back as the 1960s - but it also carries the risk of being dated by the obvious massive changes in pertinent conditions towards the end of the 20th century.
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Convergence is a "process," not a "result." It can occur with respect to certain factors and in certain places while remaining wholly absent from others.

 

 

 

  Examining individual factors in individual industrial and industrializing nations for evidence of the existence and extent of convergence, Inkeles is far more cautious in his conclusions than is Wallace. However, his examinations of evidence for convergence and resistance to convergence at the national level and at the level of social institutions within nations - of the identifiable processes at work - and of the popular responses to those processes - leads him to similar if far less inclusive conclusions.
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  His conclusions are not expressed in terms of absolutes, but in terms of degree. Convergence is a "process," not a "result." It can occur with respect to certain factors while remaining wholly absent from others, and within certain geographic areas for particular factors while being absent from others.

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  International interconnectedness:

  International interconnectedness has been multiplying dramatically. Inkeles refers to such indicators as the extent of world trade, international capital flows, students studying abroad, international mail and telephonic communications, tourism, and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations. For the foreseeable future (50 years), he sees this as likely to continue.
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International interdependence:

  While "interdependence" is not necessarily implied by interconnectedness, that is not the case with world trade. All nations are economically interdependent in the sense that only through world trade can they achieve optimal levels of economic productivity and attain and maintain modern high standards of living and high levels of economic strength. Science and the arts are increasingly interdependent - drawing inspiration and using advances from around the world. Less developed nations that do not participate in the accelerating rate of global advance are being left further behind.
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International political integration:

  International political integration is observable in the proliferation and acceptance of regional and global governance institutions such as the European Economic Community and the World Trade Organization and various standards setting and technical organizations and United Nations organizations. However, the number of separate nation states continues to proliferate, and NONE of the essential characteristics of sovereignty - such as the power to tax, make war or make or break treaties, or establish domestic legal frameworks - have been surrendered. 

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Analysis of individual factors:

  Economics, governance, societal patterns, and cultural attitudes and behavior are examined by Inkeles to determine the extent that convergence is occurring, and whether it is just partial or moving at varying pace or even is displaced by divergent trends.
  • The economic sphere shows the most unmistakable signs of  convergence, as all societies strive to move in the same direction, albeit with varying degrees of success and intensity.

  • The governance sphere shows proliferating administrative complexity in institutional forms and processes as a universal result of economic and technological progress. Specialist agencies sprout profusely at about the same pace as nations advance economically.

  • Some elements of cultural systems are being visibly driven on convergent courses by economic and institutional trends. Family patterns converge "on a norm common to urban-industrial societies." Stratification systems are also visibly converging within advancing nations, and similar leisure-time activities are appearing. But some cultural elements remain resistant to change. He, too, recognizes that it is religion that often provides the most stubbornly divergent factors.

  • Certain modern attitudes and values increasingly exhibit the same range of differentiation - based on differences in education, wealth, occupation or status - among all peoples in substantial contact with modern institutions.

Variances and limitations to convergence:

  However, convergence is a tendency, the author cautions, not an absolute. It has not - and may not in the foreseeable future - reach absolute levels. Also, a variety of value and attitude norms having to do with political or religious or social status - those not affected by the industrial organizational complex - may remain unaffected. 
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It is the broader forces stressed by Wallace that explain continued progress towards economic and political freedom - even in surprising places and under surprising circumstances. However, such forces also dictate increasing economic inequality - something that Wallace misses.

  National political institutions show little tendency towards convergence for the foreseeable future (100 years), Inkeles points out.

  However, such unlikely nations as Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, Korea, Serbia and Taiwan have recently conducted reasonably fair elections that brought about peaceful changes of political power - sometimes in response to the sort of economic crises that in the past frequently brought a turn towards despotism. Even in Communist China, the first tentative efforts to establish the governance framework for "best corporate practices" is beginning to be ardently pursued by a handful of enlightened officials. This is all very tentative as yet (How do you explain "fiduciary duty" in China?), but the "tendency" is definitely there, and the broad forces driving it are precisely those emphasized by Wallace.
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  However, there is no likelihood that political convergence will progress to the point of consolidation under some world government. There is no tendency towards the development of broad popular loyalties for international political institutions.

  Inkeles sees NO equality. Industrial and industrializing nations continue to advance at varying rates. Industrial and industrializing nations will thus continue to diverge with respect to many elements impacted by economics even as they head in the same direction, and nations that do not participate in the industrializing process will simply fall further behind.
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  Some of his other conclusions about industrial societies:

  • Industrial societies are converging on a common social structure at an accelerating pace.

  • Convergence is "highly differentiated, proceeding at very variable rates in different realms."

  • Industrial nations are increasingly subject to common forces, and share common social structures and common problems - such as marital instability, juvenile delinquency, "redundancy" of university graduates, and inner city decay.

  • The process of convergence follows similar patterns - for example, change initiated in the economic system causes changes in demographic patterns, relationships, popular attitudes and values - in discernable but not in a linear or constant manner.

  • Important changes have occurred over time in this process, so that it is different for nations beginning industrialization today as compared to those that began one or two centuries ago.

  • Causal sequences are found upon examination to be generally independent of specific national context. For example, Soviet ideology did not prevent the creation of class distinctions based on occupation, education, or even family background - or prevent the spread of consumer desires.

  • Even where sequences vary, they ultimately head towards similar results.

  • A mix of forces is at work, rendering somewhat ambiguous their relative importance or precedence. Changing values, technical change, scientific knowledge and continuous technical innovation are all powerful interactive forces.

  • Globalization of economic, regulatory, political, ideological and social organizations increasingly breaks down the limitations of national boundaries.

  • Governments are increasingly enmeshed in the management problems of an increasing array of regulatory and service tasks required by modern economic systems and popular demand.

  • Foreign relations, too, is increasingly preoccupied with such regulatory and managerial concerns.

  • These convergent tendencies provide a precondition for political integration - but not in themselves a sufficient one.

  The variability of this process is properly emphasized. Even where convergence is visibly proceeding towards similar results, it proceeds at varying speeds and from varying starting points and even with some variation in ultimate results achieved and the exact paths taken. Indeed, where speeds vary sufficiently, there may be "non-convergent parallel change" that permits gaps to widen between the faster and slower movers.

Convergence proceeds at varying speeds and from varying starting points and even with some variation in ultimate results achieved and the exact paths taken.

  • Factors limiting the convergence process are properly emphasized. One party or military rule - traditional religious beliefs - clan, tribal or local loyalties - frequently impose limits on the extent of economic modernization.

  • Today, even among industrial and industrializing nations, the adoption of technology varies widely, leading to widespread economic divergence.

  • Convergence processes can continue to such a variable extent that convergence can become divergence. Thus, impoverished nations experienced modern population growth rates that achieved the population densities of industrialized nations, but then continued until they exceeded them at increasingly greater levels.

  • There is "hidden divergence." Gross statistics that indicate convergent trends may hide divergent details. For example, all European nations are spending more on education, but there is substantial divergence in allocations between primary, secondary and college education. The same can be said for many broad budget categories. Allocations for environment, welfare, and various forms of social services vary widely. "Rule of law" advances broadly, but many nations advance along different paths with respect to details. (The devil is in the details.)

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Soviet - U.S. convergence theory:

  The old "convergence" controversy with respect to the Soviet Union and the United States is revisited by Inkeles to demonstrate the limitations of convergence. Unfortunately, he draws mainly on analytical work that he did in the 1960s. He recognized some convergence with respect to social classes and education, but properly noted no convergent tendencies at that time with respect to political or economic factors, and that  the divergent factors far outweighed the convergent factors.

  Here, we find a weakness - clearly demonstrated by the course of events - inherent in reliance on examination of the trees to explain the forest. Indeed, as predictable by broader convergence theory, the effort of the Soviet government to proceed down an autocratic, centralized path was overwhelmed by pervasive economic forces that dictate economic freedom, responsiveness to market signals, and decentralization. In the end, it was the Soviet government that had to give way - just as the Chinese government increasingly retreats from  controlling "command economy" positions.
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  Efforts by advocacy scholars like Profs. John Kenneth Galbraith and Lester C. Thurow to argue that it was the capitalist United States that would be forced to converge on the command economy model were always grossly stupid and could be given credence only by those with no understanding of economic markets.
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  The Soviet government could not successfully mold people, politics, and economics to their will. The old European satellite nations now move on a clearly convergent course with the West, while Russia and the old Caucasus and Asian satellites remain autocratic but essentially floundering without as yet any coherent direction. This will continue until they, too, find ways to adopt modern good governance structures.

Weaknesses of centralized decision making:

  Many paths will simply fail to achieve modernity, Inkeles points out. However, based on analytical work done in the 1980s, he assumed that autocratic or command economy systems - such as in Communist Russia and China - have an easier task of advancing than inherently messy and apparently incoherent free systems. He presented the choices between proceeding under communist, socialist, capitalist, or mixed systems as if there was doubt as to which were more likely to achieve success. He - like many others - was enthusiastic about the command economy policies of Japan.

Inkeles failed to understand the impossibility of economic success without economic freedom and profit driven market directed management.

  A lack of appreciation for the strengths of messy free political and economic systems - and the inherent weaknesses of orderly command economy systems and rigid authoritarian political systems - is typical of certain academic and intellectual circles. Inkeles - as we shall see below - repeatedly demonstrated a lack of appreciation for the obvious weaknesses of command economy systems, and the impossibility of economic success without the economic freedom, dynamism and flexibility of profit driven market directed management.
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  Since the end of the 1980s, Japan's reluctance to surrender its command economy systems has driven it ever further towards a financial morass despite its immense economic and financial strengths.
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  Yes, freedom is messy  and full of obvious inefficiencies. However - in economics as in biology - there is an essential and almost magical creative ferment within that profligate messiness.

Requirements for modernity:

  Defining the essentials of a successful path to modernity, Inkeles correctly notes the preeminent importance of such factors as a "rule of law" legal system, political pluralism, good transportation and communication infrastructure, education, industrialization, efficient utilization of energy resources, utilization of science and technology, social welfare services, public health services, social and physical mobility and other lifestyle characteristics, and the importance of leisure time and commercialized entertainment. He notes the importance of rationality and technical competence and efficiency, and flexible innovation, in making economic decisions. He recognizes the need to minimize political interference.
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Without the incentives and guidance of markets, profit and loss statements, and meaningful sales charts, managers cannot possibly manage modern economic systems.

 

 

  However, for nations like India that have so far failed to achieve modernity, he confesses: "I do not have the answer" why India is so inefficient at producing steel and other products. He needs a "study" of this problem, and of the "causes" of the problem. Scholarly study should be designed to "anticipate the needs, to identify the range of meaningful alternative solutions for meeting them, to clarify the social consequences of adopting different alternatives, and to track the extent and quality" of government and institutional abilities to meet the "functional imperatives" of society.
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  Yet, he recognizes that the difference between China and Taiwan at that time (1980s) was the difference between a command economy (communism) and economic freedom (capitalism)  - between single party despotism and political pluralism. He noted that the Chinese people flourished everywhere in the world except China. (The same can be said for the people of India.) 

  For Communist China, Inkeles emphasized particular factors converging on the Western model in response to "common pressures [that] drive modern nations to common solutions." Social forms may be borrowed across national boundaries, he points out, especially from nations perceived as leading in power and prestige. True to his style, he concentrates on the individual trees - the individual factors of culture and philosophy, legal and religious systems, demographics, education, social welfare programs, marriage and divorce - for signs of convergence and divergence, while omitting a dominant characteristic of the forest - the imperative of capitalist profit driven, market directed systems.

  Here, again, Inkeles demonstrates a blindness towards the essential role of market signals, disciplines and incentives in achieving all the economic characteristics of modernity and providing the resources for all the social characteristics of modernity. Incredibly - as late as 1989 - he could say that he didn't understand why India failed to progress.
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  He describes the economic "modern organization" without including the absolutely essential feature that it be  profit driven and market directed. He recognizes the need for meritocracy, constant "self-monitoring" and "self-testing" unconstrained by politics or ideology, without mentioning that these are all characteristics guided by market disciplines and impossible without them. All that is required for flexibility and innovation, in his view, is an "innovative business class," a "comparably imaginative science and engineering community," and some civil servants who are "broad of  vision."
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  However, without the guidance of markets - profit and loss statements - meaningful sales charts - and transparent accounting systems and reports -  management cannot possibly know what to envision or the proper direction and methods for economic innovation.

  Population segments capable of "modern" thoughts and actions - and of improving such "modern" capabilities in response to education and media dissemination of information - exist in all nations, Inkeles properly points out. He thus recommends an "enriched environment" to speed up individual improvement. 

  However, he again neglects to mention that profit driven market directed economic freedom - and, probably, political freedom, too - are essential  for modern industrial development. Instead, as of 1980 - as an exception to the convergence theory - he could assert that "nations are not assumed to move increasingly toward either dictatorship or democracy, capitalism or socialism, as they develop industrially." 

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General forces of convergence:

    Inkeles views at the end of the 1990s showed a deeper appreciation for the general forces at work and a willingness to draw broader conclusions based on those forces, but without neglecting the inherent limitations of broad conclusions and the inevitable existence of particular exceptions. The inherent limitations of sociological data - especially of past practices - is constantly kept in mind.
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Convergence on common structures and practices is "pervasive and deep" - driven by such powerful forces as economic imperatives, political imperatives, urbanization, education, modern communications, and diffusion of the standard model of advanced nations - although many particular instances of divergence are nevertheless clearly evident.

  Individual factors studied extensively by Inkeles include educational and political systems, family patterns and dynamics, demographics, social stratification, communications, due process legal systems, constitutional government, and the patterns of social response to industrialization.
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  Convergence on common structures and practices is "pervasive and deep" - driven by such powerful forces as economic imperatives, political imperatives, urbanization, education, modern communications, and diffusion of the standard model of advanced nations - although many particular instances of divergence are nevertheless clearly evident.
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  Among the disparate factors that sometimes remain "remarkably stable" and resistant to change in different nations and societies are the age of marriage, the proportion of women in the wage labor force, access to "due process" and effective legal systems, religion, political and economic systems, constitutional rights, and many traditional values.

  Although Inkeles is undoubtedly correct in describing the slow response of such characteristics, progress over longer periods of time may ultimately justify Wallace's view of ultimate convergence for many of them. FUTURECASTS expects that rule of law characteristics, political pluralism, and even individual liberty will all within this century increasingly converge at high levels as a result of common economic and political forces - and that capitalist economic structures will continue their spread across the globe.

Due process rights:

Even if not enforced - constitutional rights provisions serve a purpose in the process that leads to the practical expansion of citizen rights.

  The fact that the average extent of due process rights granted in constitutions has risen only marginally is deplored by Inkeles. After applying a variety of analytical methods, he concludes that national constitutions display divergent attitudes towards the granting of constitutional due process rights.
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  Indeed, this would appear much greater if the author were less sanguine about the degree to which various judicial systems are "independent" enough to reliably enforce such rights. He believes that - even if not enforced - constitutional rights provisions serve a purpose in the process that leads to the practical expansion of citizen rights.

The extent to which civil rights are enforced in practice is far more important than their mere provision in statutes and constitutions.

  An obviously fragile tendency towards the peaceful change of power pursuant to multiparty elections - even during periods of severe economic distress - has become encouragingly widespread since 1993, when Inkeles wrote this segment. Unfortunately, the same has not been true for due process rights, which remain largely unenforceable in many Asian nations and broad segments of the third world. The extent to which civil rights are enforced in practice is far more important than their mere provision in statutes and constitutions.
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  FUTURECASTS does indeed share the author's confidence that enforcement of legal rights will in fact improve throughout this century, and agrees that their emplacement in constitutions - even when not enforced - may still be useful to this process. However, this is not useful when analyzing current evidence of convergence and diffusion of constitutional rights. Lumping together both those constitutional provisions that are effectively enforceable and those that are not, Inkeles here spends considerable ink comparing apples and oranges.

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The global melting pot:

 

There still remains considerable doubt whether the convergence process will reach the "melting pot" levels typical of the United States.

  However, none of the few weaknesses criticized above - even the one that appears repetitively - undermine the validity of this work.
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  Inkeles mass of data on divergence and convergence for individual factors in individual nations provides a richly textured picture sufficient to display many of the variances that remain among converging factors - and to indicate the types of factors that may remain divergent even as the broader forces of globalization and convergence run their course.
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  Inkeles is undoubtedly correct in his basic conclusion. We undoubtedly will become increasingly alike all around the modernizing world in an increasing number of ways. However, there still remains considerable doubt whether that process will reach the "melting pot" levels typical within the United States - and there is no evidence of either "world government" levels of political consolidation or global egalitarian outcomes.

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Copyright 2001 Daniel Blatt