In its first section, this essay discusses the ideas of three theorists identified as 'key thinkers' (Jones, 2010) in the debate surrounding the concept of globalisation. This discussion begins with Immanuel Wallerstein's systemic method, which is read as a forerunner to more recent strands of thought: namely, David Held and Anthony McGrew's processual or transformational model, and finally, the similar but more geographically oriented approach taken by Peter Dicken. The second section turns to the drawings of Mark Lombardi, comparing the manner in which he represents global social networks with the methods of social scientists who have contributed to the literature on globalisation. It is argued that the visual language Lombardi employs when representing actors completely disembedded from geographical spaces and to varying degrees wrested from nations states – enmeshed instead in spaces of flows of capital and power – is analogous to the globalisation theories discussed, particularity those of Peter Dicken.

Theories of Globalisation

From the 1970s onward, social historian Immanuel Wallerstein has contributed to a field of study known as world-systems analysis. The hyphenation of 'world-systems' is intended to communicate that the objects of study are not so much systems of the world but systems that are worlds. It has been more recently observed that some of Wallerstien's work constituted a proto-globalisation theory (Jones 2010, pp. 28-29). Wallerstein's approach is interdisciplinary. He decries a tendency he has observed in social theory to look at phenomena through narrow disciplinary lenses such as 'politics, economics, the social structure, culture' in that in so doing, the possibility of a more holistic understanding of the world is obstructed (Wallerstein 2004, p. x). The main objects of study in world-systems analysis are historical systems. There are three such systems: world-economies, world-empires and minisystems. (Wallerstein, 2004, p. 16) Minisystems are defined as rare self-contained groupings of economic exchange with completely local divisions of labour, such as isolated hunter-gatherer societies. Due to their locality, minisystems are fundamentally different to the two types of world-systems: world-empires and world-economies. World-empires are precursors to world-economies, where goods and wealth tend to be directed from the periphery of an empire, nation or state, to its centre. World-economies are modern capitalist economies, where trade is practised for the sake of endless capital accumulation and not the advancement of an empire or state (Schiranto and Webb, 2003, pp. 28-29).

According to Wallerstein (2004, p. 23), the modern world-system of which we are currently part, is a capitalist world-economy that has persisted since the 1500s. Given his assertion that this type of system is centuries old, it is no surprise that he dismisses the term 'globalisation' as not contributing anything novel (Robinson, 2011, p. 4). Wallerstein states that one major 'feature of the world-economy is that it is not bounded by a unitary political structure. Rather, there are many political units inside the world economy, loosely tied together in our modern world-system in an interstate system.' (ibid. p. 23) Another of Wallerstein's key concepts is the axial division of labour: the division of economic production into more profitable core-like production and less profitable peripheral production. The core-periphery relationship is asymmetrical, in that producers of core-like products acquire surplus value from producers of peripheral products, through a process called uneven exchange. Core-like products are predominant is a few states while in many others peripheral products are in far greater abundance. In addition, there are a handful of states that play host to a close-to-even mix. Based on the above observations, Wallerstein proposes a tripartite taxonomy whereby states are divided into the core, the periphery and the semiperiphery. (ibid. p. 28)

True to the Marxian roots of his thought (Schirato and Webb, 2003, p. 28) Wallerstein argues that the modern world-system is inevitably heading toward a major future crisis (ibid. p. 77). Additionally, while he acknowledges the heterogeneity of his subject-matter he argues that economic factors ultimately determine the shape of society:

[The] world economy contains many cultures and groups – speaking many different languages, differing in everyday patterns. This does not mean that they do not evolve some common cultural patterns […] It doesn’t mean that neither political nor cultural homogeneity is to be expected or found in the world-economy. What unifies the structure most is the division of labour that is constituted within it. (ibid. p. 23)

The epistemological assumptions behind an all-encompassing theory such as world-systems analysis, and Wallerstein's crude division of a very complex world into two types of production and three main territorial blocs are open to criticism (Jones, 2010: 31). Anything with as ambitious a scope as a theory of globalisation is open to charges of being a totalising meta-narrative. However, the remaining two theorists, Dicken in particular, go to much greater lengths to avoid over-simplifying their multifarious subject matter.

This essay now turns to the ideas that Held et al. put forward in their 1999 book Global Transformations. As as the time of publication the, term globalisation was already in wide use, this was written with the advantage of some hindsight. They split existing thinking on globalisation into three camps: hyperglobalizers, sceptics and transformationalists. (Held et al., 1999, p. 2) In the hyperglobalist corner, the uniting claim is that in the late 20th century, there has been an unprecedented increase in the autonomy and power of a global economic market and a weakening in the economic involvement and regulatory grip of nation-states. This seismic shift is decried by neo-Marxist and radical hyperglobalizers and celebrated by neoliberals. (ibid. p. 3-4) The sceptical position represents a refutation of the supposed unprecedented openness of international markets, for example, pointing out historical evidence of an international economy at the beginning of the twentieth century. Sceptics also highlight the concentration of activities of so-called multinational corporations in a handful of wealthy states (Hirst and Thompston, 1999, pp. 68-69) and the agency exercised by states when influencing international trade through their economic policy. The transformationalist school of thought holds that globalisation, rather than being a state of affairs, is a process driving rapid changes throughout contemporary society.

Held et al. present the transformationalist thesis as free of some of the drawbacks of the previous two, making

no claims about the future trajectory of globalisation [nor seeking] to evaluate the present in relation to some single, fixed-type “globalized world” […] Rather, transformationalist accounts emphasise globalisation as a long-term historical project which is inscribed with contradictions and which is significantly shaped by conjunctural factors. (ibid. p. 7)

They claim that the transformationalist model avoids the eschatological trap of those that compare global phenomena to an idealised 'end state' of globalisation. (ibid: 11) Another key point made by transformationalists is that relations between institutions and individuals are being reconfigured by the process of globalisation, so that causes in some parts of the world are yielding effects in new places irrespective of distance and the territorial boundaries of states. (ibid. pp. 8-9) Furthermore, rather than viewing people either exclusively as cosmopolites or as strongly defined by national identity, transformationalism seeks to encompass both alternatives. presenting us as splintered and intermeshed across borders. (ibid. p. 10)

Transfromationalism is put forward as a more nuanced middle ground, and Held et al. attempt to formulate a revised version of it. (Jones: 2010, p. 79) To this end, they provide the following definition of globalisation:

[A] process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial organisation of social relations and transactions – assessed in terms of their extensity, intensity velocity and impact – generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity and the exercise of power. (Held et al. 1999, p. 16)

In summary: extensity refers to the reach and range of networks, intensity to the volume of activity within a network, velocity to the speed of interchanges and impact to the effect of all the former on a given community. In order to clarify the fourth concept, Held et al. devised a second tetrad, of different types of impact: first, decisional, meaning the extent to which globalisation affects the pros and cons of the choices available to agents; second: institutional, referring to globalisation's effect on the range of choices available to an agent; third, distributive: meaning how the distribution of wealth and power between actors is affected by globalisation; finally, structural: denoting globalisation's effect on the overarching social order (ibid. pp. 18-19).

The convoluted exposition of impact can be simultaneously read as evidence of a commendable and concerted effort to get to grips with the complexities of global reality and as a conceptual weakness, in that impact does not seem congruent with the other three concepts and renders their model lopsided and unwieldy. (Jones, 2010. p. 89) Much as impact is unrelated to the ideas of flows and networks that define extensity, intensity and velocity in the first tetrad, structure seems incompatible with the notions of agency and power relations deployed in the explanation of decisional, institutional and distributive effects in the second. Structure, is almost as broad a concept as effect, which leads one to suspect that Held et al. could easily have subdivided it, producing a third set of terms, in order to adequately address their subject matter. This is by no means a failing. Attempts to represent the vast complexity and variety of the world in a coherent conceptual model have a tendency to unfold, expand and multiply. This essay now turns to how Peter Dicken attempts a similar task, using spacial models of networks and strata.

In the introduction to the sixth edition of Global Shift, Peter Dicken puts forward a similar taxonomy of globalisation theorists to that posited by Held et al. Again, one encounters the hyperglobalists, who span the political spectrum and see global capital as having, in recent decades, become unfettered by nation-states. One is reacquainted with the sceptics who view internationalism as an adequate concept and globalisation as an empirically unsupported step-too-far. Finally, one is reminded that globalisation comprises processes, rather than a set of phenomena resembling an "ideal state" or an "end state" to which the world is accelerating. (Dicken, 2010, pp. 4-8) What differentiates Dicken is his emphasis on an economic geography in a perpetual state of 'becoming':

Old geographies of production, distribution and consumption are continuously being disrupted and new geographies are continuously being created. The new does not totally obliterate the old. On the contrary, there are complex processes of path dependency at work; what already exists constitutes the preconditions on which the new develops. (ibid. p. 14)

Dicken makes some use of a core-periphery concept similar to Wallerstein's when explaining recent economic history: in the core-periphery relationship, Western Europe, and later, North America came to occupy core positions, as the process of industrialisation took hold over the nineteenth century. During and soon after this time, some countries experienced a shift from core to periphery and vice versa. After World War Two, there emerged a marked East-West economic disparity (ibid. p. 14).

Dicken identifies three key indicators of global economic interconnectedness: trade has grown faster than output, 'in the second half of the Twentieth Century, world merchandise trade has increased almost twentyfold, while world merchandise production increased just over sixfold'; Foreign direct investment – investment by one firm, in a foreign firm, in order to gain a degree of control over that firm (ibid. p. 20) – has grown faster than trade; There are structural imbalances in the world economy as 'some countries have huge trade and current account deficits while others have huge surpluses.' (ibid. p. 22) There is convincing evidence that economic activity frequently crosses borders, but analysing this activity is difficult because 'virtually all statistical data on production, trade, FDI and the like are aggregated into national “boxes”.' (ibid. p. 52)

Despite these restrictions, Dicken wants to devise a method of analysing the 'tangled webs of production circuits and networks that cut through, and across, all geographical scales, including the bounded territory of the state' (ibid.) that make up the world economy. Dicken demonstrates how one might analyse these networks, through a diagram of three mutually embedded strata: 'macro-structures of (Institutions, conventions etc) of [the] capitalist market system', 'Circuits and networks of interaction, mediated through differential power relationships in global production networks and through transnational social networks' and 'Uneven geographical distribution of “goods” and “bads”; “winners” and “losers”'. He cautions the reader that this is 'an idealized representation of a world that is, in reality, infinitely more complex.' (ibid. pp. 52-3) For Dicken the networked perspective permits one to conceive of scale as a continuum rather than as being composed of discreet steps such as global, national and local. It also allows one to figure territory in a topological or relational manner rather than divided by precise borders. He does not, however, wish to present the topological and territorial ways of looking at scale as sharply distinct: 'a topological perspective is not, in itself, in conflict with the fact that, in terms of jurisdictional and regulatory practices, territorial scales of governance remain fundamental to the organisation and operation of the global political economy and its constituent parts.' (ibid. p. 54)

Dicken's method is empirical where possible and tentative when constructing generalized models of reality. This may be a result of his epistemological outlook having been influenced by the late 20th century post-structuralist turn in the social sciences, 'in contrast to the rather “structuralist” conception of process encountered in the thinking of Wallerstein[, …] Held and McGrew.' (Jones, 2010: 116) Dicken's thesis is a logical one to end on, as it synthesises and expands upon both the interdisciplinary processual approach of Held et al. and Wallerstein's mapping of economic processes onto geographies.

Lombardi's Drawing Practice

In the introduction to Global Transformations, Held et al (1999, p. 2) write 'globalisation may be thought of [...] as the widening, deepening and speeding up of contemporary social life, from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual.' By this definition, Inner Sanctum: The Pope and His Bankers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi by Mark Lombardi (Figs 1 and 2) is emblematic – in both actors and actions represented – of globalisation. This is not to say that the Lombardi's subject-matter is merely evidence of the processes of globalisation, but rather that as will be argued later, his drawings deploy, through their visual language, his particular way of theorising globalisation.

Fig 1: Lombardi, Mark  (1998) Drawing 1: Inner Sanctum: The Pope and His Bankers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi (5th Version), (Hobbs, 2003, p. 64)

In a 1996 statement accompanying Inner Sanctum: The Pope and His Bankers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, Lombardi states:

Over the years the Vatican bank invested well over $10 billion in major Italian, European and American Companies. Any profits realized were theoretically to be used to finance special church projects the world over. But besides its official, charitable face the Vatican bank had another, subterranean aspect as well. Many well-placed friends of the Church, including some of Italy's top financiers and industrialists, used the bank (for a fee or around 5%) to evade taxes and illegally export tens of millions of dollars from Italy to Switzerland and beyond. (in Hobbs, 2003, pp. 60-1)

A major node in this graph is Michele Sindona, who can be seen in Fig 1 connected by curves with arrows on either end, indicating relationships of mutual influence with Richard Nixon, David Kennedy, and others. The only one-way flow of influence to Sindona comes from Pope Paul IV, for whom he worked through the Vatican bank. Nixon's law firm represented Sindona in the US and Kennedy's Continental Illinois Bank was involved in some of Sindona's American Investments. (ibid. p. 61) The only events explicitly described are indicated by red lines: 'fines levied, indictments, incarceration, death or other “restraints (Lombardi's Term)”' (Lin, 2003, p. 146) In Sindona's case, in red we have: '1979-82: convicted in Italy & US of murder, fraud & conspiracy; 1984: found dead in Italian Prison: cyanide poisoning.' Details of relationships are not included on the chart, though given the sheer scale of this cat's cradle of power relations, capital flows, time-lines and so forth, reams of such information must exist. The bulk of these data are likely recorded on some of 'thousands of three-by-five inch index cards' (ibid. p. 16) in Lombardi's personal archive.

Lombardi began work on his oeuvre of drawings, delineating the complex intrigues of international political and financial scandals which, he came to call 'narrative structures' in 1994. (Lombardi, 2001) Prior to this he took a BA in art history at Syracuse University. After graduation he worked as, amongst other things, a museum director, curatorial assistant and arts librarian. (Richard, 2001, p. 7) His working procedure for narrative structures as outlined by those who knew him, took the following form: he would gather as much information as he could on a given event (culling this from published sources), (Lombardi, 2001) arranging it spatially and perhaps carrying out some preliminary sketches. Versions one and two of his drawings would be constructed in this early stage. Version three would include the majority of the information, in its final configuration. The fourth version onwards would be the polished drawing, with the addition of 'final results', in red. At this point the drawing could be submitted for exhibition, along with a short text describing the event in question. (Richard, 2011, p. 7)

Though only represented as having been involved through the receipt of money, Bill Clinton, the Lippo Group, and China Ocean Shipping Co. a.k.a COSCO, Little Rock-Jakarta-Hong Kong ca. 1990s enmeshes Clinton in a network of incriminating flows of influence, linking him to arms dealing and possible campaign-funding corruption. Hobbs suggests that Clinton is 'less an actor than a figure being acted on' by the overarching forces delineated by Lombardi's 'structuralist overview'. (Hobbs, 2003, p. 111). Lombardi's work is said to be influenced by 'globalism' (ibid.) While this Americanism is not entirely synonymous with globalisation, both approaches take as their object of attention the entire world. Bearing this in mind, along with Hobbs' claim that there are parallels between the 'enlarged vision' evident in Wallerstein's world-systems analysis and an unpublished manuscript written by Lombardi in the late 1980s called Panorama: The Atlas of Modern Art. (ibid: 21-23) one can begin to look at Lombardi as both an artist and globalisation theorist.

Indeed, Lombardi himself has said '[t]here is a sociological aspect to my work. I am interested in the structure, mechanisms, uses and abuses of power in the global political economy.' (ibid. p. 19) Figure 2 depicts a situation where Chinese business entities affect American politics, crossing both territorial and institutional boundaries. His subject matter: the interaction of corporations, banks, political figures, often across national borders, is the bread and butter of globalisation theorists. Despite these marked similarities, he does not construct theoretical generalisations, of the written kind anyway. His written content comprises facts, but it is situated in the structure of a graphical language which, far from having the empirical transparency of, say, a seismograph reading, organizes information according to certain assumptions.

Fig 2: Lombardi, Mark (1999) Bill Clinton, the Lippo Group, and China Ocean Shipping Co. a.k.a COSCO, Little Rock-Jakarta-Hong Kong ca. 1990s (5th Version) (Hobbs, 2003: 112)

Assuming Lombardi's visual presentation of information constitutes something like a thesis, it could be argued that this would be incompatible with a model in which geography played a significant role. Lombardi's graphs are organised sometimes according to linear time, mostly in accordance with flows of power and capital but not obviously in relation to the actors' geographical situations. Abstraction of human activity from geographical locales is identified to by some theorists as a key part of the process of globalisation and called 'disembedding'. (Eriksen, 2007, pp. 16-7) It is questionable how reasonable it would be to read disembedding into Lombardi's drawings, especially as they are presented in an art context and are not bound by an expected function, such as attempting to accurately model geographic space. Nonetheless, the absence of reference to territory precludes parallels with Wallerstein and Dicken as they both geographically map the world economy. In the case of Dicken, the disjunction is far from total, as his deployment of networks is comparable with the web structures of Lombardi's graphs. Also of relvance is Manuel Castells, a contributor of ideas relevant to the globalisation debate (Jones 2010), who developed the idea of a space of flows, which corresponds very well to the spaces defined by Lombardi:

The space of flows is the material organisation of time-sharing social practices that work through flows. By flows, I understand purposeful, repetitive, programmable sequences of exchange and interaction between physically disjointed positions held by actors in the economic, political and symbolic structures of society. (2000, p. 442)

Lonbardi's picture plane is not conventionally cartographic; if it maps anything, it is Castells' 'economic, political and symbolic structures'. It is in these structures, that Lombardi's actors are situated, rather than those of geography and nationality.

BCCI, ICIC and FAB (Figures 3 and 4) is the last large scale drawing Lombardi made before his death. It depicts a banking operation which for decades sprawled across the globe. The Bank of Commerce and Credit:

[A] mainly Arab owned concern founded in 1972 with financial backing from The Bank of America […] controlled from Abu Dhabi, incorporated in Luxembourg and operated from London, Ganeva and the Caymen islands; involved in joint ventures with local banks in Iran, Oman, France and Switzerland; assets grew from $5 million in 1973 to $23 billion by 1991; by mid 1980s has opened offices in 78 countries to serve the needs of nearly one million depositors and borrowers (Lombardi, in Hobbs, 2003, p. 97)

BCCI appeared to be the epitome of footloose, multinational capital. However, it also laundered money from various criminal sources. According to Lombardi, its directors mainly came from diplomatic corps and the intelligence community because 'it was created to serve geopolitical rather than commercial ends: to further the regional political and national security ambitions of a handful of conservative Gulf Arab states allied to the U.S and Britain' (ibid. p. 98) In 1991, the bank was seized in a multinational raid by officials.

Fig 3: Lombardi, Mark (1996-2000) BCCI, ICIC and FAB, 1972-91 (Hobbs, 2003, p. 96)


The subject matter of BCCI, ICIC and FAB is of key relevance to the globalisation debate, involving the worldwide intermeshing of major commercial institutions with nation-states across the globe. It bespeaks a 'transnational interconnectedness weav[ing] complex networks of relation between communities, states, international institutions, non-government organisations and multinational corporations which make up the global order' (Held et al. 1999, p. 27) That this drawing acknowledges the agency of nation-states in the global banking operation depicted somewhat distances Lombardi from the hyperglobalizers and their claims of a radically autonomous global economy. However, the drawing is in perfect concord with the transformationalist theories of Held et al. and Dicken, for which the process of globalisation would necessarily affect and involve nation states.

Fig 4: Lombardi, Mark (1996-2000) BCCI, ICIC and FAB, 1972-91

The visual language through which Lombardi communicates his evidence of the processes of globalisation is like that of 'computer system engineers, designers, urban planners,' not to mention the social network diagrams of the field of social network analysis. (Richard, 2001:16). Lombardi's graph-making practice removes actors from their various territories to reveal a criss-crossing of relationships that envelop the world. He circumvents the national 'boxes' that Dicken complains confine many economic statistics – representing the economic, social and political in two dimensions, wrested from geography; he emphasises the flows of social and economic interactions at the expense of their national contexts. Neither in form nor content, are these the drawings of a globalisation sceptic.

To reiterate the less problematic parts of Held et Al's processual definition of globalisation:

[A] process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial organisation of social relations and transactions [...] generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity and the exercise of power.

Lombardi documents these flows – these products of the process of globalisation – in a single picture plane. He preserves flows of activity produced over many years, in what one might call two-dimensional fossil records of globalisation. Lombardi comes as close as his temporally static medium allows him to represent globalization as a process.



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Other online

'Mark Lombardi CV', Pierogi Gallery website,, 23rd May 2012