Globalization as a symbolic form: Ernst cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic form as the basis for a theory of globalization

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The aim of this paper is to investigate and problematize the present statusof theories of globalization. Because of the actual diversity of these theories, a philosophical definition must be able to include this diversity without becomingmeaningless. This paper claims that Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy of culture—especially his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1923-1929)—is particularly suitablefor providing a uniform access. The first part therefore examines an understandingof such symbolic forms; it shows on the one hand the problems of classicaltheories, and on the other hand the advantage of a functional access of culturalproduction, provided through the concept of Cassirer’s elaboration of the conditionsof possibility of culture and meaning. The paper then identifies the differentaspects of globalization as a symbolic form, including the way it became apicture of the world, changed the understandings of space and time, is an interpretiveparadigm and myth, and finally has consequences for the construction ofsubjectivity and identity. In a summarizing section, the paper highlights the paradoxicalstructure of globalization as its constituent moment. With the conceptof symbolic forms, this awareness of contingency can be understood as a specificway of comprehending, related to our time and its cultural processing and managingstrategies. In conclusion, there is much to suggest that the concept of globalizationshould be treated as a world image. Only then can one understand whyglobalization has become a symbol of our time: on the one hand, it occupies itselfwith universalistic claims; on the other, it is permeated by particular anxieties.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy of Globalization
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
Number of pages16
ISBN (electronic)9783110492415
ISBN (print)9783110544671
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

External IDs

Scopus 85059196064
ORCID /0000-0003-2598-6745/work/142250590