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Open Access Early economic encounters in the Pacific or, proto-globalization in Tonga

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Early economic encounters in the Pacific or, proto-globalization in Tonga

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This article aims to demonstrate the degree and nature of local autonomy in long term processes of globalization in Tonga. Tonga is exceptional in that it has never been officially colonized and in the continuity of its political (paramount chiefly) system. Also, but this is less exceptional, it has never had a pure modernistic, capitalist economy. Globalization is a specific, contemporary configuration in the relationship between capital and the nation-state or, in the words of William Greider (1997), it is like ‘a runaway horse without a rider’. Global capital is characterized by strategies of predatory mobility. However, the global and the national are not necessarily exclusive but are interacting and overlapping. Social scientists work with the nation-state as a container which would represent a unit in time and space, a ‘unified spatiotemporality’ according to the sociologist Saskia Sassen (2000). She adds that much history failed to confirm the latter hypothesis. The author may add from his part that anthropologists, although alike ‘social scientists’, rather work with the notions of culture and society which, in the case of more recent Tongan history, overlap with that of the nation-state. Although the notion of globalization is a rather recent invention with an exclusive contemporary application, we may discern the roots of its practice already in the early trading contacts between Europeans and Tongans.

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