Accepted Paper:

Discourses of globalization and crisis in South Korea: the democratic transformation of a dictatorship  


George Baca (Dong-A University )

Paper short abstract:

This paper criticizes theories of globalization. I will focus on the way the Korean state used the idea of globalization to create a sense of crisis during the 1990s in order to transform the state following the upheavals of the democracy movement.

Paper long abstract:

The twin concepts of neoliberalism and globalization have mesmerized anthropologists. With the help of these concepts, many scholars have discovered a new confidence to walk out from under the hesitancy of postmodernism and wade confidently into the tumultuous waters of contemporary capitalism. With a sense of novelty they proclaims a "new' world of rupture and crisis signaled by the demise of the welfare states. Unfortunately these concepts resonate with the narratives the Korean state produced during the 1990s. Korean state agencies and its allies in business used ideas of globalization to create a sense of crisis -- an imperative that demanded action -- and reorganized society-state relations accordingly. This paper will describe and analyze the way powerful classes in Korea used this sense of crisis to radically transform state structures of dictatorship into a democracy based on liberalization of markets. With the victories of the democracy movement, the large industrial firms known as chaebol -- often credited with the economic miracle -- had become targets of popular anger. The chaebol classes became viewed as villains in an unfolding story of Korean democracy. Indeed the chaebol not only opposed the democracy movement but it feared its own, and therefore the nation's, survival. State agents and Korean capital fashioned a sense crisis, inherent in a new age defined by globalization, whereby it forged a new nationalist narrative and forged new alliances with the middle-classes and small businesses that bristled under the dictatorship.

Panel P022
Reconsidering anthropologies of neoliberalism and globalization: historical conjuncture and narratives of rupture (Commission on Global Transformations and Marxian Anthropology)