Nature of globalization – widening and deepening of interconnectedness and interdependence;

economic globalization (neoliberalism; interlocking financial markets and transnational capital flows; increase in world trade, etc);

cultural globalization (cultural homogeneity; information and communications revolution; time/space compression);

political globalization (emergence of global-governance system), etc.

Impact of globalization

Debates about extent of impact (‘hyperglobalizers’ vs globalization and sceptics vs ‘transformationalists’);

Implications for the state and sovereignty (tyranny of global markets? post-sovereign states?);

The rise of non-state actors (TNCs, NGOs, terrorist groups, social movements etc);

The growth of complex interdependence (competition through trade, not war);

The growing importance of international bodies (global problems need global solutions, regional and global cooperation);

The rise of cosmopolitan sensibilities (human rights; development ethics; global civil society, etc); impact of global economic crisis) etc.

For and against globalization

The pro-globalization arguments: worldwide prosperity and growth; interdependence and dispersal of global power; democratisation; widening ‘zones of peace’, etc.

Anti-globalization arguments: risk and uncertainty (crisis tendencies in the economy etc); globalization as Americanization/westernization (biases within global capitalism); tyranny of TNCs (threat to democracy); deepening inequality and poverty; environmental degradation, etc.

Globalisation Notes

  • This is a rather difficult, vague and imprecise concept.
  • At its core it holds that the defining factors of nationhood, national identity and sovereignty such as territory, language, culture, political formations and institutions, economic activities are subject to global forces of change such that these defining characteristics wane and the world becomes more uniform.
  • According to Evans and Newham (1998), the term is difficult to pin down but nevertheless they attempt a definition of globalisation as :

‘…the process whereby state centric agencies and terms of reference are dissolved in favour of a structure whereby different actors operate in a context which is truly global rather than merely international…’

  • The impetus towards globalisation can be detected in the following forms:
  • TECHNOLOGICAL: New Media and other Technologies are shrinking time and space. The Internet and the expansion of satellite communications have brought the world closer together.
  • ECONOMIC: The growth of supranational economic activity, through the removal of barriers to trade in goods and services but not yet people.
  • POLITICAL: The ‘triumph’ of liberal democracy and the end of history – Francis Fukuyama, 1992.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL: A truly global issue requiring co-operation and intervention on a global scale. The selfishness of individual nation states is thrown into sharp relief by attempts at curbing greenhouse gases and resolution attempts at other important environmental issues.
  • CULTURAL: This is partly driven by the New Media Technologies and very strongly connected with certain forms of economic activity. The Hollywood film industry and US TV dominates the global film and television industries. In addition the truly global scale of corporations such as Gap, Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s has delivered an era of cultural and economic imperialism or what has sometimes been termed coca-colonisation (Mazrui, 1977)
  • Two arguments flow from these evident trends:

The first is that the pace and direction of globalisation is difficult to determine. There remain vast differences between nation states and geo-political regions.

Secondly there are those who argue that the processes outlined are inevitable and that this is either a desirable or negative process.

FOR: (Fukuyama, Huntington, Bell, Touraine, and Smith)

AGAINST: (Ballard, Schiller, Chomsky, Foucalt)

The arguments in favour of globalisation is that it opens up and spreads markets and wealth, that it spreads democracy and that all nations are involved in a fair and free exchange of ideas and culture

The arguments against globalisation is that it is likely to exacerbate existing divisions between the rich North and the poor South and that it is a tool of US/ Western dominance and exploitation. This is achieved through IGOs (Intergovernmental Organisations) such as The World Bank, The G7/G8, The IMF and The World Trade Organisation)

Globalisation and Sovereignty

Economic Globalisation


Short Answer Questions

Distinguish between economic globalisation and political globalisation. (15 Marks)

Economic globalisation refers to the process whereby all national economies have, to a greater or lesser extent, been absorbed into an interlocking global economy, meaning that no national economy is now an island.

In this global economy, production is internationalised and financial capital flows freely and instantly between countries.

However, economic globalisation should be distinguished from internationalisation.

The latter results in ‘shallow integration’, in that increased cross-border transactions lead to intensified interdependence between national economies, while the former marks a qualitative shift towards ‘deep integration’ as territorial borders are transcended through the construction of a consolidated global marketplace for production, distribution and consumption.

Political globalisation, by contrast, is associated with the shift of decision-making from states to international organisations.

Such organisations may have regional jurisdiction (such as the EU) or global jurisdiction (such as the UN).

Most international organisations are modelled on the principle of intergovernmentalism rather than supranationalism, in that states take collective action without sacrificing national sovereignty.

Political globalization is often seen as a means of managing or regulating economic globalisation. However, political globalisation could legitimately be understood to refer to the global spread of political ideas (such as human rights) or of political structures (such as liberal democracy).

What is cultural globalisation, and why has it been criticised? (15 Marks)

Cultural globalisation is the process whereby information, commodities and images that have been produced in one part of the world enter into a global flow that tends to ‘flatten out’ cultural differences between nations, regions and individuals.

Cultural globalisation has been criticised for a number of reasons, including the following:

It has been viewed as a form of cultural imperialism, bringing about a process of global homogenisation that weakens indigenous cultures, values and ways of life.

Cultural globalisation has been seen to serve the interests of economic globalisation, thereby advancing the interests of transnational corporations.

Cultural globalisation has been associated with political extremism, as perceived western domination has stimulated the growth of forms of religious fundamentalism and ethnic nationalism.

Essay Questions

To what extent is globalisation merely another name for US imperialism? (45 Marks)

Globalization is the ‘widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness’. Some argue that this process is reducing the power and influence of the nation-state.

The spread of economic liberalism has meant that states are losing authority to supranational institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO and EU, and to multinational firms which can promise foreign direct investment, but at a price.

Critics of globalization argue that it is actually spreading US domination around the globe. They claim that states are being coerced into accepting neo-classical economic policies such as free trade, reduced government spending, higher taxes yet lower subsidies, in order to reduce their international debt to Western banks and institutions such as The World Bank and the IMF, which themselves are US- dominated.

US imperialism, they argue, has arisen from the drive for economic growth, for US Dollars. It is not traditional colonialism whereby a powerful state would invade another state and impose its own citizens as rulers. Instead, the US is able to persuade a state’s own government to adopt US-favoured policies. It is imperialism without military force.

Candidates should also explain that although globalization is occurring it need not mean that the world is being colonized by the US. As the world becomes more interdependent and interconnected, the ability of governments to dictate behaviour inside their state will be changed.  The CNN culture is here to stay, but it is being joined by Sky, the BBC and by Al Jazeera. Nevertheless, the narrowness of the political debate amongst the major parties has much to do with the demise of communism.

Globalization speeded up the process of economic liberalism but it has not had the biggest effect on national politics. The most important impact of all was the ending of the Cold War and its effect on the political left.

The demise of socialism has combined with globalization to promote market democracies and trade. This is not the same as US imperialism, even if the leading market democracy is the US.

To what extent has globalisation reshaped international politics? (45 marks)

Globalisation refers to the emergence of a complex web of interconnectedness that means that our lives are increasingly shaped by decisions that are made a great distance away.

Distinctions are commonly drawn between economic, cultural and political forms of globalisation.

The impact of globalisation on politics has been the subject of considerable debate, however.

Liberals tend to argue that globalisation has had dramatic and far- reaching impact on international politics, while realists and others claim that the international system remains substantially unchanged.

Liberals and especially so-called ‘hyperglobalisers’ portray globalisation as a profound, even revolutionary, shifts in international politics that have intensified since the 1980s.

The impact of globalisation has been greatest on the state and on sovereignty.

Traditionally, international politics operated through a system of sovereign and autonomous states. However, the interconnectedness that globalisation has fostered makes state borders increasingly ‘porous’, meaning that states are penetrated by external influences to a much greater extent than previously occurred.

This can certainly be seen in the case of global capital markets and an increasingly interlocking global capitalist system (‘borderless world’). Modern state are thus ‘post-sovereign’ states.

This has been particularly evident in economic affairs through the impact of global capital markets and the creation of an interlocking capitalist economy, sometimes seen as creating a ‘borderless world’.

The decline of the state is also reflected in the greater importance of non-state actors, including transnational corporations, NGOs, terrorist organisations, transnational criminal organisations and so forth.

Furthermore, the interconnectedness and interdependence that globalisation has spawned has changed relations between and amongst states, creating stronger pressure towards co-operation and integration.

Growing interdependence has shifted the focus of global politics away from a concern with issues of war and peace, and forced other issues onto the foreign-policy agenda, notably the environment, poverty and development, and human rights.

It has also led to a shift in policy-making responsibility from states to international or intergovernmental bodies. The trend towards regional integration and to the strengthening of global governance can therefore be seen as a clear consequence of globalisation.

However, globalisation sceptics, who include realists and some on the traditional or ‘old’ left, argue that the impact of globalisation has been greatly exaggerated.

Sceptics point out, for example, that the overwhelming bulk of economic activity still takes place within, not across, national boundaries. National economies, in other words, are not as irrelevant as globalisation theorists usually suggest.

States therefore remain the principal actors on the world stage. Only a tiny proportion of states (‘weak’ or ‘failed’ states) are unable to control what happens within their borders.

Furthermore, the trend towards regional and global governance does not spell the demise of the nation-state. In the first place, intergovernmental institutions may have grown in number but they remain weak and usually ineffective because control continues to reside with individual states.

Second, the growth of regional and international organisations does not necessary imply the decline of state power, as these tend to be instruments through which states, and especially prominent states, seek to achieve their interests.

To what extent is globalisation simply ‘Americanisation in disguise’?

The USA remains the world’s largest economy and so is deeply implicated in economic globalisation.

The period of accelerated globalisation that commenced in the 1980s was linked to a significant improvement in the USA’s economic position relative to key rivals, notably Japan and Germany.

Globalisation and free trade advance the interests of powerful states, and the USA in particular, by forcing other states to open up their market.

Globalisation has been structured by ideological forces that have their origin in the USA.

This is reflected in the extent to which the institutions of global economic governance support neoliberalism as dictated by the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’.

Cultural globalisation is closely linked to the spread of ‘Americanisation’, in that a large proportion of global goods, films, television programmes and global celebrities are American in origin.

Cultural homogenisation therefore facilitates the spread of US ideas, images and institutions.

However, globalisation is not just an ‘American game’. This applies for a number of reasons, including the following:

Globalisation can be seen to benefit all states that participate in it, not just economically powerful ones such as the USA.

This is reflected in the progress made in recent decades by newly industrial states and emerging powers.

The US version of globalisation has been revealed as unsustainable by the global financial crisis of 2007-08, badly damaging, for example, the status of the dollar and the relative strength of the US economy.

If accelerated globalisation benefited the USA in its early decades, since the 1990s it has increasingly benefited China, which is projected to overtake the USA in economic terms, perhaps by 2025.

Globalisation can therefore no longer be viewed as simply Americanisation in disguise.

Further Exam Advice (Thanks to Michael Wilkinson)

What i would say is that for this subject area it is important to have some categories to employ in order to provide structure to an answer. It’s vital that you think hard about how these categories may be employed to answer questions about globalisation prior to the exam.So, for instance, the question from a couple of years ago, something like, ‘has globalisation transformed international politics?’ is asking you to consider differences of opinion amongst academics – broadly speaking there are the (hyper)globalisers and the sceptics, with the transformationalists (p10-13) as some kind of halfway position. i’ll add some notes on this.Whereas a question such as ‘is globalisation a good thing?’ demands use of different categories. David Held (one of the foremost authorities on globalisation theory) splits stances up into 1) neoliberal 2) reformist 3) rejectionist 4) radical. The type of globalisation that has taken place so far has been neoliberal – they (neoliberals) think that this model of globalisation has been broadly positive. Reformists think that globalisation can be pushed in a positive direction, but the neoliberal model has too many downsides. Rejectionists want to ‘de-globalise’ – they are the real anti-globalisation critics. They feel that all forms of globalisation are bad. Radicals (although they are often referred to as anti-globalisation activists) are not rejectionists, but they tend to be very critical of global capitalism (much more than the reformists…radicals are anti-capitalist…see criticisms of ie Naomi Klein). They want a ‘bottom up’ globalisation, not a ‘top down’ version controlled by global corporations and powerful states ie USA.Scholte comes up with some other categories which attempt to deal with key areas of dispute between neoliberals, reformists etc. So he asks whether globalisation produces i) (In)equality 2) (In)security 3) (Un) democracy. So critics such as radicals think that globalisation so far has created more inequality, more insecurity and has been fundamentally undemocratic. Neoliberals disagree etcSo there are the categories of different aspects of globalisation (economic, cultural, political). They want you to recognise that globalisation is not a single thing. There are the globaliser/sceptic debates. There are different schools/approaches (neoliberal; reformist etc) for considering whether globalisation has been a good thing or not. The tools for deciding this are the categories – has it been democratic, has it produced inequality etc

So they’ve asked about whether globalisation is Americanisation in disguise…rejectionists, radicals and to some extent reformists would tend to agree with this….then you might deal with the economic dimension, then the cultural dimension, then the political etc. What are the critics really objecting to? US cultural hegemony? US economic power (ie structural power employed in various ways) etc etc.

Finally some very detailed notes on globalisation theory – let us try to digest some of the main points here.
The sceptics account:

Essentially, sceptics such as Hirst and Thompson argue that globalization scholarship exaggerates its historical and theoretical significance, since the world remains principally one of discrete and competitive nation-states. States have increasingly claimed a monopoly on legitimate use of force (the right to discipline subjects/citizens via police, judicial systems, prisons etc.  In times past rulers did not necessarily have control of their territory…they were constantly battling for that control), established permanent military forces as a symbol of statehood, sought to systematize a national language, created a national schooling system, and elaborate welfare institutions.

According to sceptics, national political traditions are still vibrant – when people are asked about politics these are the terms in which people think (in the UK about our political parties, about Westminster generally etc). Overall, the bounded nation-state is the main political unit for most people.

They may point out also that global or regional institutions such as the UN or the EU are still dominated by power struggles between nation-states. The ideal of supranational, global government is always subverted by struggles between particular needs and interests of states – see the US dominance in such bodies (UN, IMF, World Bank etc)

Sceptics are often wary that talk of ‘globalization’ is an ideological mechanism to force populations into accepting a particular version of ‘reality’ for the benefit of global elites;

‘There was a repeated refrain about the inevitability of globalisation. Tony Blair declared that “these forces of change driving the future don’t stop at national boundaries. Don’t respect tradition. They wait for no one and no nation. They are universal.” Blair had made globalisation into an uncontrollable phenomenon, like a tsunami; we voters were being bullied by a political establishment.’ (Madeleine Bunting).

Blair perhaps wouldn’t present himself as a representative of global elites (although maybe he is/was), rather the accusation is that he is not recognising his version of globalization as exactly that, one version among others. Furthermore this version is one that looks like it is tending to benefit those at the top much more than anyone else – hence the indirect support for global elites.

What are voters being bullied into? The argument of sceptics is often that the state still has power to intervene (industrial policy, welfare) whereas the neo-liberals would rather it didn’t. They suggest that the state is still far more powerful than those who favour global capital, free markets, privatisation etc claim.

Sceptics would also note that we have been here before with globalization. They suggest that the period 1880-1914 was, in many ways, a more intense phase of globalization than that occurring today. This was followed by a long period throughout the 20th century when the nation-state reasserted itself. Thus, they seek to attack the stance that some globalists take that the current ‘phase’ is entrenched – the argument being that technological developments (internet, jet travel etc) mean that there is no going back. Sceptics could argue that many of the changes leading to the current trends were political and that they can be reversed ie decision of China to open up and transform its economy, fall of communism and the eastern bloc, liberalisation/deregulation of markets in 1980’s (Thatcher and Reagan) etc. Rejectionists certainly want to see a retrenchment, a reassertion of the local and national.

The globalist account:

Globalists generally contest the above account. They would argue that the traditional conception of the state proposed by sceptics/realists is flawed. Globalists would suggest that the state is not a homogenous unit (it is not a single thing) but rather a set of institutions with multiple roles. The growth of international and transnational organisations, from the United Nations to international pressure groups and social movements, has altered the form of the state. It has become, globalists suggest, a fragmented policy-making arena, permeated by transnational networks (think for example of how the UK state is integrated with governing mechanisms of the EU). There has been an expansion of global networks within which the state is enmeshed. The idea of global politics thus challenges the traditional distinctions between domestic/international, inside/outside.

Overall, the present era of global politics marks a shift towards a system of multilayered regional and global governance. This can be illustrated by the rapid emergence of multilateral agencies. At the beginning of the 20th Century there were just 36 intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) and 176 international non-government organisations (INGOs), while in 2000 there were 7,350 IGOs and 51,509 INGOs. Similarly, the number of international treaties has also mushroomed. There is also the extensive political interconnectedness taking place through the UN, G7/8 (Group of leading industrialised countries), IMF, WTO, EU, MERCOSUR etc.

National government is increasingly locked into an array of global, regional and multilayered systems of governance. Foreign policy and domestic policy have become completely intermeshed.

There has also been a change in the scope and content of international law. Twentieth century forms of international law – from the law governing war, to that concerning crimes against humanity, environmental issues and human rights have created an emerging framework of ‘cosmopolitan law’. That is, law which limits the political power of individual states.

Along with these changes are changes in the world military order. Few states, except perhaps the USA or China, can now contemplate unilateralism. Global and regional security institutions have become more important – eg although NATO may be struggling to find a role, states still want to included in membership. Globalists feel that states no longer have a monopoly of force, as the growth of transnational terrorism demonstrate. Private military groups (militia’s) and the private provision of security also play a significant role in conflicts throughout the world.

Individual states are now constrained by transnational forces beyond their control. The best example is the increased mobility of capital, particularly finance capital. Global financial markets, and the ability of traders to move currency, shares (equities) etc out of a country in an instant puts pressure on states to adopt market friendly policies such as lower levels of direct taxation, or privatization and labour market deregulation. Thus, the policy problems facing the state cannot, according to globalists, be resolved without cooperating with other states and non-state actors.

In terms of governance, globalists may point to the example of Spain. It is fragmented among different, relatively autonomous regions (Catalan, Basque etc), which have a large measure of self-governance. Spain is also a member of the EU and of the euro. How much control of its economic policy does it have? Not a huge amount. So to what extent is Spain a state as sceptics and realists imagine the state to be – that is, how sovereign is it?

All this suggests that while nobody is saying that the state is finished as a key entity in the global order, globalists are arguing that the nature of the state is changing.

Finally, and crucially, it may be that politics is moving away (at least to some extent) from just an intra and inter state issue. Globalization may weave together the fate of households, communities and peoples in distant regions of the world. For example, in a world in which global warming connects the fate of many Pacific islands to the actions of millions of private motorists across the globe, or where a nuclear disaster in the Ukraine (Chernobyl) affects the lives of countless people across a multitude of countries, the conventional territorial conception of political community (a geographically bounded state) appears rather inadequate.

Economic globalization?

The sceptics account:

For sceptics, proponents of economic globalization underestimate the extent to which capital (multinational organisations for example) still tends to be closely attached to individual nation-states ie Japanese car manufacturers, although they have production sites abroad, still have distinct Japanese characteristics, and show no signs of becoming truly transnational – their headquarters will remain tied to their particular geographical location. The notion of ‘footloose’ global capital is, from this point of view, a myth. Companies are much less mobile than has been suggested by the globalists.

Sceptics also suggest that each nation-state has their own distinct model of capitalism (the Anglo-American model is quite different from the German model, or the Chinese model, for example). Despite the seeming dominance of the neo-liberal global capitalist model it is not hard to see that there has been little convergence in the ways of managing capitalism.

The sceptics will tend to emphasise the growth of regionalisation as opposed to globalization. That is, trading relations still tend to be relatively localised – most of UK trade is with the rest of the EU for example (the UK trade with Ireland is much greater than that with China). Trading blocs are also regional – European Union, MERCOSUR – the South American regional bloc, ASEAN – in South East Asia etc. Thus, rather than being globalised, the world economy is segmented and regionalised.

Rather than a global economy, the sceptics interpret current trends as evidence of a significant, but not historically unprecedented, internationalization of economic activity. That is, an intensification of linkages between separate national economies.

Sceptics would also argue that global economic governance mechanisms are dominated by the most powerful states. It is the preferences and interests of the economically most powerful states (those in the G7 – France, Germany, Italy, Japan, USA, UK, Canada…Russia made it the G8 in 1997) that dominate. For sceptics on the left all talk of global governance, as with talk of globalization, conceals the reassertion of geopolitics (state centred politics focusing on power) and the new imperialism.

The globalist account:

The globalists argue that patterns of trade have altered significantly over the last four decades, and particularly in the last few years. A new global division of labour is emerging which reflects the changing location of manufacturing production as East Asia and other newly industrializing countries (NIEs) take on a new role as the world’s factories. At the same time, most Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries (wealthier countries in the global north) have experienced a significant rise in their trade in services. The key drivers for the expansion of trade, and the resulting global division of labour have been;

1)    Falling costs of transportation (‘containerisation’ – huge container ships etc),

2)    The communications revolution,

3)    Trade liberalization,

4)    Growth of transnational corporations

Thus, in 2003, 40 percent of manufactured imports into the OECD economies were produced in developing economies, compared with 12 percent in 1973. Increasing competitive pressures lead to outsourcing of production (ie Western companies such as Gap transferring production to Indonesia, Bangladesh etc).

Perhaps the globalist argument regarding the deepening of economic globalization is strongest when studying the expansion of global finance. Capital controls – legal restrictions on the flow of capital (shares in companies, currencies, bonds etc) – have declined significantly since the 1970’s. This, added to the development of technologies which allow trading to take place with unprecedented rapidity, and which also encourage the development of complex systems (some of the rapid falls in stock markets in recent years have been the ‘decision’ of particular computer trading models). The current crisis could be seen as an example of economic globalization – complex interconnectedness of multiple markets;

The current crisis and globalization:

The origins of the current crisis are complex, but the suggestion has been that its origins have been both in the global financial system, and in the profound connections between different economies around the world. To put it very crudely, the savings of the Chinese (and Japanese, German, Saudi’s and other gulf states) are being recycled to consumers in, particularly, the USA (also UK, Spain and a few others). This has led to an explosion of debt in the latter countries as that money is lent to its residents. More and more people are targeted for loans, even those with limited ability to pay those loans off. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times cites economists Rogoff and Reinhartt;

‘a “large chunk of money (from the surplus countries) has effectively been recycled to a developing economy that exists within the United States’ own borders”, they point out. “Over a trillion dollars was channelled into the subprime mortgage market, which is comprised of the poorest and least creditworthy borrowers within the US”.’

In the attempt to find a home for this mountain of cash financial institutions in the USA hit upon the idea of lending it to some of the poorest of their own citizens, often in the form of mortgages. In turn these mortgage liabilities were divided, parcelled up with other types of financial products and sold on to financial institutions around the world (this is called ‘securitization’). The combination of lots of people defaulting on their mortgages (they were tempted in on low interest rates at first, which then rose at the end of a fixed period ie a year, or two, which tipped many people over the edge – they couldn’t afford the payments), and house prices beginning to fall (previously when people defaulted the bank would just sell on the house, perhaps at a profit – when prices fell they started making big losses) meant that the system went into reverse. Within financial institutions nobody really knew who was liable because the debts of those with subprime mortgages were ‘owned’ by a multitude of organisations around the world (many banks in the City of London ie RBS had been wheeling and dealing in these ‘mortgage backed securities’ – even the boss, Fred Goodwin, said prior to the crisis that he didn’t fully understand it all).

Ironically, perhaps, those people in the States who defaulted were those whose job prospects had been severely dented by the offshoring/outsourcing of production to East Asia, whose workers were now effectively lending them money. Many of the communities most badly hit (ie Cleveland, Ohio) were former manufacturing hubs  which have lost a lot of jobs in the last twenty years or so. This is interconnectedness in a bad way….globalization is a game of winners and losers!

The point of all this is to note how interlinked the global financial system, and the global economic system in totality, has become. For globalists this is a key element of globalization.

A sceptics response to the crisis:

It could be argued that states have been at the centre of the processes of economic globalization. They have encouraged the global division of labour…offshoring etc. According to David Harvey (a left wing commentator on globalization) this was at least in part a deliberate strategy of right wing governments in the 1980’s in order to weaken the power of organised labour and the unions. From this perspective, national actors gained control of particular states (eg USA – Reagan, UK – Thatcher), employed neo-liberal methods, resulting in a form of ‘globalization’ which resulted in the disciplining of labour (crushing union power).

The processes of specialisation and ‘global division of labour’ could also be seen as a political decision that could well be reversed. For example, the UK has been heavily criticised for ‘specialising’ in banking, insurance, accounting services while allowing at least some of its manufacturing base to decline. Critics of development strategies in poorer countries have also been extremely critical of attempts (by ideologically driven institutions such as the IMF) to get them to specialise (ie tourism rather than agriculture in Haiti example).

The opening up (deregulation) of financial markets was also a political decision, made by some states and not others. Still today, states such as China do not allow the free flow of capital in and out of the country (we are back here with the earlier point, made by sceptics, about different forms of capitalism). Arguably they are in a stronger position because of it (although it has to be said that they are quite happy to benefit from the open markets of the west when it suits them).

This all suggests that supposedly ‘natural’ processes of globalization were often the result of a number of decisions, made for political reasons (free trade was always a political project, which had to be forced through, then presented as being ‘natural’). The important question would be to what extent these decisions can be reversed.

Final word:

To the extent that national financial systems are increasingly integrated with global capital markets, the consequences of financial developments or volatility abroad are magnified. Whether this will all lead (as liberals imagine), to greater cooperation, as collectively we realise our interconnectedness, or to increased competition and battles  for control and ownership between nation-states (as realists/sceptics might think), is open to debate. This all has an effect on one’s reaction to globalization. It is not hard to envisage the rise of ‘rejectionism’ as the downsides of neo-liberal globalism become apparent (particularly the increased volatility).

Or perhaps the disadvantages of rejectionism will become apparent also – the global drive for competitive advantage does push down the price of goods for consumers (your Ipod would cost a fortune if manufactured solely in the USA). But this is no good if you’ve lost your well enough paid job in manufacturing (outsourced to Asia) and are reduced to low grade, poorly paid, service sector work eg in retail, call centre etc. Much of the ‘rust belt’ of the US, and the depressed former industrial centres of Europe face this future. In these circumstances you are likely to vote for tariffs on foreign imports, and in retaliation, other countries may vote for tariffs on goods etc etc.

One important lesson we may take from this is that globalization is not necessarily an inevitable process, moving inexorably in any one particular direction. It probably can’t be controlled fully, but there is a lot of scope to manage it in one way rather than another.

Cultural globalization?

The sceptic account:

Sceptics tend to focus on the residual power of local, and particularly national identities when confronted with the suggestion that cultural globalization is now a dominant force.

The rise of nationalism:

States are complex webs of institutions, laws and practices, which have been imposed over particular territories, often with great difficulty (see contemporary ‘failed states’ for how problematic it can be to do this). Nations on the other hand are cross-class collectivities which share a sense of identity and collective political fate.

Nationalism is the force which links states to nations: it describes both the complex cultural and psychological allegiance of individuals to particular national identities and communities, and the project of establishing a state in which a given nation is dominant. Thus, while a nation is a type of group identity and a state is a type of governance apparatus, nationalism is the attempt to join the two. Nationalists want their group identity to be represented in the form of a ‘governance apparatus’, in state form. For them this (hopefully) secures and legitimates the national entity….nations without states often tend to be insecure and uncertain of their future because there is always the presence of other nations attempting to establish themselves in exactly the same way (ie Israel/Palestine….think of other examples).

The struggle for national identity and nationhood has been so extensive that the sceptics doubt the latter can be eroded by transnational statehood and, in particular, by the development of a so-called global mass culture.

National sentiments:

Sceptics will point out the way that national identities have actually been reinforced by the coming into contact with other forms of cultural life. There is active resistance, for example, to the spread of cultural elements from places with powerful culture industries ie the USA and Hollywood.

When individuals come into contact with others from different parts of the world, particularly through migration, there is an awakening to their own forms of life which perhaps had previously been taken for granted. This can lead to a reassertion of national sentiment ie a rediscovery of all things British, and quite possibly a resentment of those who carry other cultures with them (see rise of nationalist parties in Europe).

As we will see below the emergence of new electronic networks of communication and information technology are employed by globalists to suggest that new forms of community, beyond the nation-state, may be forming. Sceptics could suggest that, on the contrary, such networks actually ‘make possible a denser, more intense interaction between members of communities who (already) share cultural characteristics’ , and this provides renewed impetus to the re-emergence of ‘ethnic communities and their nationalisms’ (Anthony Smith).

Thus, according to sceptics all the evidence suggests that national (and local) cultures remain robust; national television and radio continue to enjoy large audiences; the organisation of the press and news coverage retains strong national roots; and foreign cultural products are (re)interpreted in novel ways by national audiences (they make them their own). Despite the vast flows of information, imagery and people around the world there are few signs of a universal or global culture in the making, and no signs of a decline in the political importance of nationalism.

Globalist account

Globalists stress the relative novelty of nationalism (less than 200 years old in most cases – although this is debated among academic specialists). If it has arrived relatively recently, perhaps it could gradually fade also?

Globalists recognise the points made by the sceptics but note that the spread of satellite TV, mobile phone technology, and the cultural products of other countries (film, music etc) exposes people to new ideas, images and symbols. They argue that the constant exposure to values of other cultures must have some effect in weakening nation based identities.

Globalists would also argue that today’s patterns of cultural globalization noted above are driven by companies, not countries. Corporations, argue the globalists, to at least some extent have replaced states as the central producers and distributers of cultural globalization.

Thus, while everyone has a local life, people now make sense of the world using ideas and values from many diverse settings. This creates what are called hybrid identities ie combinations of different forms of life (is your identity a hybrid?). According to globalists we are much more embedded in cultural products from different parts of the world than we were in the past. For example, high streets in the UK are full of pizza restaurants, Indian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Kebab shops etc. Hollywood and US cultural products generally, infuse cultures throughout the world. Journalistic products are available immediately, from all parts of the world via online news, blogs, podcasts etc. There are literally thousands of examples.

(Remember, sceptics suggest that these products are appropriated by national audiences and given a particular national flavour. Globalists are happy to accept that the products are ‘translated’ by local audiences, but they would claim that the cultural products being used transform those local audiences as well as the products. That is, we change as well as the food, tv programmes etc)

Identities beyond the nation can also be shaped by transnational allegiances. Religious communities often extend beyond nation-state boundaries – Christianity, Islam etc. Class based identities are quite often internationalist (socialists pride themselves on their commitment/allegiance to a global working class community) – the reassertion of nationalism in the 1st World War was a major blow for many on the left.


Overall, globalists believe that there are a number of ‘deep drivers’ which underpin the nature and pace of contemporary globalization. Among these drivers are,

i)               the changing infrastructure of communications linked to IT revolutions;

ii)             the expansionary logic of capitalism (it has to expand to keep going);

iii)            development of global markets in goods and services (integrated production processes – each manufactured good has components made in a number of places);

iv)            new global division of labour driven by multinational corporations;

v)             end of the Cold War and the diffusion of democratic and consumer values across much of the world;

vi)            growth of migration and the movement of peoples

Much depends on whether these are so ‘deep’ that they cannot be reversed, or slowed down in any way. The globalists and sceptics cannot avoid having beliefs about whether this is generally a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ process. This inevitably shapes their judgements on what they may want to present as description of ‘facts’ about the trends in question. The point here is that values inevitably mingle with any analysis (this is a very complex and controversial issue within all the social science – the degree to which ‘objective knowledge’ is possible or desirable).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s