I thought this post might be of use as a starting point for anyone who wants an intro to the topic of Globalisation – I recommend reading the New Internationalist No Nonsense Guide to Globalisation for further info.
The term is used in many different ways but at the most basic level, globalisation is about the increasing connectedness between societies across the globe.
It’s useful to think of there being two key features of the ‘lived experience’ of globalisation – Firstly Time- Space Distanciation, in which our relationships are increasingly between ‘absent’ others, locationally distant from any given situation of face-to-face interaction, so that our social relations are disembedded from local contexts of interaction and rearranged across indefinite spans of time and space.
Secondly, there is Time-Space Compression which is where the world appears to have shrunk because technology allows us to get information from across the globe more quickly and also to travel to remote places with greater speed and ease. Cochrane, Pain and Steven (2000) argue that globalisation involves the emergence of a global and economic and cultural system which is incorporating the people of the world into one society.
While there are many different ways of looking at globalisation – its useful as a starting point to think of there as being three dimensions of Globalisation
1. Economic Globalisation – Key features here include
- The rapid increase in world trade
- The spread of Transnational Corporations,
- The increasingly international division of labour
- The increasing importance of international economic institutions such as the World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund.
2. Cultural Globalisation – Key features include
- The spread of similar goods and services (everything from Mcdonalds to Tourism) across the world leading to increasingly similar patterns of consumption
- Modern communications technology has led to instananeeous global news and information;
- Centuries of migration have led to diverse cultures and ‘diasporas’ (people who permanently live away from their country of origin but still maintain links with that country) and,
- Some commentators even point to the emergence of a global culture where more people across the world share similar values and ideals
3. The Declining power of the Nation State -Key evidence here includes
- The rise in power of Corporations.
- The existence of the United Nations and International human rights limiting state power.
- International Social Movements (like the Green Movement)
- Increasingly international problems such as the Environmental crisis, and the threat of nuclear destruction all mean that the power of any one national government to control global events is declining.
There are, of course, also those who suggest that the Nation State is not in significant decline!
Theories of Globalisation
There are a number of different views of the nature of Globalisation – Most text books divide them up as follows –
Hyper globalists or ‘Global Optimists’ Believe that globalisation is a fact and that Nation States and local cultures are being eroded and they see this as good thing.
These see globalisation as the worldwide extension of Capitalism, or the free market. They believe this will lead to economic growth, the eradication of poverty and the spread of democracy. A new world order is being promoted that will ensure peace and prosperity. They point to the examples of China and India which are now being brought into this new world system and to the emergence of global political institutions such as the United Nations as evidence for this positive view of globalisation.
Pessimist Globalists – This is basically the Marxist view of Globalisation as these believe that this is a negative process involving Western, mainly American Imperialism.
Pessimists see globalisation as a process in which Western institutions and ideas are imposed on the rest of the world. Transnational Corporations are the backbone of this new global order and these are the institutions that benefit from especially economic globalisation.
Transformationalists – See globalisation as a complex process involving a number of different exchanges between global institutions and local cultures, resulting in some parts of the world being truly part of a global system, others left outside and everything in between.
Finally ‘traditionalists’ believe that the extent of globalisation has been radically exaggerated and believe that Nation States and local communities still have the power to resist it.
Students should keep an eye out for evidence of events that suggest support for or refutations of these different theories of the nature of economic and cultural globalisation and the decline of the Nation State.