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“Flow”

Stuart Alexander Rockefeller
Current Anthropology
Vol. 52, No. 4 (August 2011), pp. 557-578
DOI: 10.1086/660912
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/660912
Page Count: 22
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“Flow”
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Abstract

“Flow” is a term that is frequently employed in anthropological discussions of globalization, although little attention has been paid to the word or the presuppositions and history it carries with it. The rise of this keyword has been surprisingly inconspicuous. In this article, I show some of the ways “flow” is employed in anthropological and other social science writing today, tracing its development through the works of Deleuze and Guattari and ultimately to the writings of the philosopher Henri Bergson. I then raise two important concerns regarding the use of “flow” to talk about globalization. First, I argue that as it is employed today, the term lends itself all too easily to a metaphysical dualism that can only impede our understanding of the dynamic nature of locality and global interconnections. Second, I argue that the term encodes what I call a “managerial perspective” that sees agency only in large-scale social patterns and institutions and that is largely unable to recognize individual agency or the significance of small-scale organization and phenomena.

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