The analytical concept of glocalization can be used as a scientific research tool in social science research and humanities, aiming to better illustrate, understand and even explain paradigms shifts and changing ways of political decision making. This concept can show how decision-making and implementing decisions have changed, and whether or not this is only the case when governments fail to deliver, or whether this is a more permanent shift in the way things will be governed in the future.
Implementing the UN FCCC decision on carbon reduction and combating global warming, for example, can best work on local levels when city councils take actions in cooperation with local energy providers, fossil fuel plants, automobile and local mobility policies and others. Reducing global warming is a local and joint—and hence glocal—endeavor to realize global goals. How are cities and communities responding to it? How do different industrial sectors, the health sector and civil society, respond to and participate in decision making? Are citizen-dialogues, the idea of sanctuary cities or other forms of direct consultation and democracy alternative models to glocal governance? Who is excluded, and who is included and at what stage in the MSA, fluid, glocal and transscalar decision-making process?
There is a plethora of research questions to be answered in the context of glocality and glocalization, and social science research is still at the beginning of it. To investigate how decisions are made, implemented and enforced can best be done on community and national levels and by using quantitative process tracing methods over a longer period of time, decades ideally. Using social and critical theories as well as governance theories gives guidance of direction to triangulate the method. Process tracing and triangulation, hence mixed methods, are a way to assess and measure changes, differences and similarities among manners of governance on local, domestic and international levels.
To see whether glocal governance takes place, who are the actors, when did they get engaged or excluded, ignored or involved? In order to assess or evaluate institutions and mechanism that are used by the different stakeholders and actors to take a decision and respond to citizens’ needs, a researcher needs to compare various forms and units of glocal governance, for example, in cities and villages, among faith-based communities, private sector or on federal-state levels. Key stakeholders are those who deliver the basic needs of people: income, health, education and security.
The question is to what extent trans-national, local, virtual and global movements, and the exchange of ideas and values, norms and standards have changed the way societies and communities live today. One observation commonly shared is that global norms, such as human rights and fundamental freedoms, have diffused into our day-to-day thinking, attitudes and behavior and hence mark the way we make decisions. Because norms such as freedom of conscience and movement, right to health, to be entitled to choose your work and education and to be free from want and slavery, are easy to identify with for everyone. At the same time, a growing mode of anti-Western sentiments is rising around the world, often targeting exactly the norms that are identified as “western and global norms” and not only in the OSCE region. One of the consequences is that “freedom” and human rights are seen as a danger to stability and safety and not as a solution to threats and instability. In some way this rapidly anti-Westernization contradicts Fukuyama’s assumption of the intriguing power that freedom and human rights and self-determination have for people globally, no matter their faith or ideology (1992). I would argue, that the strife for more security, safety and predictability in today’s rapidly changing world is understandable and does not automatically contradict our desire for freedom.
Furthermore, one could argue, that the difference of opinions towards the same universal values, such as friendship, justice, peace, love or trust and dignity, have always existed and so have their multitudes of ways of interpretation and articulation. People may share the same value of freedom and dignity but live them differently in their communities. They also choose, elect or determine their leaders differently, leaders who use the same values to govern in very different manners (Morlino 2004). Hence, another open question remains, in what manner of glocal leadership, and hence governance, are people currently drifting? And is this fundamentally different from what we have seen over the history of mankind (North et al 2009)?
A region that provides an excellent ground for research is the countries, societies, political regimes, and hence member states of the OSCE. The 57-member states together face similar challenges such as climate change, migration and Internet security. Among the members states are those that range from some of the most democratic countries, like Norway, Finland or Canada, to some of the most autocratic ones such as Tajikistan or Turkmenistan, and conflict torn regions such as Kosovo and Chechnya and the Fergana Valley in Central Asia; and therefore, pose one of the most intriguing laboratories of research for glocal governance. The OSCE states show different stages of development and economic regimes, some are highly industrial and capitalistic countries, and some are resource-dependent, subsidiary and agricultural economies. But all state governments adhere to a set of universal and UN principles and standards such as human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as OSCE standards in terms of good governance principles, rule of law, human rights, elections and security.
Many OSCE countries including Ukraine, France, Estonia, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Armenia and the USA have experienced the dramatic rise and shifts that civil society can pose. CSOs and private enterprises have often become the new “bosses in town,” as have capitalistic industry and enterprises, and autocratic and populist leaders strike back. But in order to solve common problems, these actors and stakeholders often form alliances and comply with international norms and standards, including UN environmental and health standards, EU standards for trade and logistics, and OSCE standards of anti-corruption, participation, and rule of law.
Exchange of ideas, values, norms, products, fashion, beauty styles, pop art and our understanding of violence, harm and wrongdoings are truly globally and instant. We may agree on the big notions of these values and norms, but often have differing views on how to implement them in our day-to-day lives, which leads us again to the question how glocalization is materialized?
Thanks to ICTs everyone can be a reporter today on domestic violence and child abuse, on forced evictions and suffering patients in hospitals; and thanks to open borders and cheap airline carriers, global mobility allows us to share our experience directly. As a consequences the nation-state has become a hollow ground, providing a power gap that is filled with populist-nationalist and organized crime leaders who call upon imaginary—and often never existing—traditions and values for those who feel lost in this rapidly and dramatically changing globalized and mobile world. On the other hand, city mayors and community leaders, including religious ones, have filled governance gaps on local levels, providing minimal standards of social security, income, education and health. They govern with much success, often using coercion, intimidation and keeping the population ignorant to a certain degree, but in the end, they enjoy more trust by citizens than state authorities or foreign aid workers.
The call for glocal solutions to universally shared challenges and problems and effective responses to our basic human needs, such as security, health, education/empowerment and decent income in order to live a dignified life, is what is the motor for glocal governance. Immanuel Wallerstein (2004), in his World System Analysis, described the modern democratic state as one that has to deliver three services that frame basic needs, since antiquity, namely (1) public education, (2) access to health and a (3) guarantee of livelong solid income (Wallerstein 2004, p. 94). They compose, today, what we describe as the public sector.
Anyone who provides these deliverables, no matter whether this is a warlord or a human rights defender, an oligarch or democratically elected parliamentarian, can for some time or longer establish a stable governance regime. Most of the time, those leaders, not legitimized by democratic elections as they are members of organized crime and warlords or autocrats, will fail to keep the regime running without the need to use force, intimidation or coercion over a longer period of time. Nevertheless, they ought to be taken into consideration when we aim to understand how glocal governance works. Generally speaking, we need to look at who delivers to the needs, and what methods are used to do it? Parliamentarian and liberal democracies generally speaking are the most successful in delivering over longer timeframes but have also often failed in parts and sectors that have been dysfunctionality and corrupt (Morlino 2004). Good Governance (GG) principle hence adds to the assessment scheme when investigating how glocal governance works. GG today often replaces the big wording of democracy but means the same, namely to make public decisions and elections transparent, hold stakeholders accountable and allow for private and public participation of citizens and enterprises. Those stakeholders who deliver the three basic needs according to GG principles have a good chance to replace corrupt state authorities—if basic liberal freedoms are guaranteed. Often that is not the case where organized crime groups and mafia-style regimes have infiltrated governments and turned the state into a farce. But what does this glocal paradigm shift mean for governance?