PIONEERS OF GLOBALISATION
Three is a randomly chosen number. It could have been four. Or seven. But I have chosen three lives that exemplify for me the positive potential of globalisation, of fluid boundaries, of creative and transformative experience in art, in business, and in the formation of political and cultural relationships. I find the reflection on and from these three lives very inspirational and helpful in illuminating the darker corners of our contemporary world.
The three lives I have chosen burned brightly in a period of enormous globalisation, a period of globalisation in some ways more rapid and manic than what we experience today. I see these lives through three prisms: social and political thought; business and economics; and art and aesthetic thought.
The three pioneers of globalisation share in common life experiences occasioned by taking advantage of freedom of travel, the fusion of horizons facilitated by working in a multitude of languages, the enhanced life chances made possible by commercial enterprise, the deepened experiences of being that are enabled by art, and the relationships of freedom made possible by liberalism. Each emerged to consciousness in a context of national marginalisation in two Eurasian empires (Russian and Ottoman) and managed to escape and to create a unique personal identity in the wider cosmopolis.
The number of the lives is chosen at random, but the lives themselves are not. I’ve dedicated this section of my website to their stories, in order to introduce others to the possibilities of creativity and freedom that they realised in their lives.
ISAIAH BERLIN (1909-1997) was born in Riga, Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire, and moved westward, settling in Britain. As a professor at Oxford, he revived the understanding of positive and negative freedom articulated earlier by Benjamin Constant and radically reformulated it by infusing it with his own theory of pluralism. Berlin dedicated many of his works to the history of Russian thought, in particular, the emergence of the Russian intelligentsia.
CALOUSTE GULBENKIAN (1869-1955) was born in the city of Scutari in the Ottoman Empire and educated at King’s College, London, where he studied petroleum engineering, knowledge that he used to pioneer the oil industry. He worked throughout much of Eurasia to create cooperative wealth-creating networks among people of many nationalities, religions, and languages. He dedicated much of that wealth to the support of contemporary art.
NAUM GABO (1890-1977) was born in the Russian province of Briansk and worked as an artist after the Bolshevik coup d’état with such figures as Kandinsky, Tatlin and Rodchenko. He then moved westward, spending time in numerous European cities (more then a decade in London) and then in the United States of America, where he revolutionised the plastic arts and art criticism. World’s leading art collections contain numerous works of Gabo; his statue in Rotterdam is the key design element of this website.