Geoffrey Vickers and a systemic approach to globalization



Geoffrey Vickers' insights, more than a quarter of a century ago, into key dynamics of globalization derive from his application of systems thinking to social and political systems, and in particular his appreciation of the systemic nature of human history. Vickers, an isolated voice at the time, was among a small number of scholars insisting on the importance of culture, as a major factor in human experience, domestic stability and conflict. Following the end of the Cold War, the potential for cultural conflict within and between countries has become obvious. Before the term globalization was in current usage, Vickers identified one of its central dynamics, the tension between homogenization and localization. A stable future depended, he argued, on sustaining a pattern of different cultures: richer, small and varied, yet complementary enough to make possible their symbiosis on a crowded planet. The nation state, which like all systems needed to have sufficient coherence to enable it to act effectively in its environment, continued to be of key importance. Vickers argued that stability within and between states, and between states and their natural environment, would require much increased levels of regulation at both national and international levels. Thus, increasing constraints on individual autonomy were needed if impending threats to human survival were to be avoided. Vickers' insights and powers of prediction are important, not just as a historical curiosity, but as a distinguished illustration of the value of systems thinking for the understanding of global affairs. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.