Globalisation or internationalization, whatever you call it, is just a different perspective of the apparent 21st century changes. It is argued that there have been major technological advances since the 1980’s giving rise to increased international communications and access to information. There is also said to be a rise in international trade, finance and multinational corporations and changes in the roles of national governments. There are three main theories or view points of these changes which I will be discussing, these are the globalists, both positive and pessimistic, the transformationalists and inter-nationalists.
Within each theoretical position there are found to be potential winners and losers, these can be divided into people, states and organisations. It is this which I will be discussing first, followed by an outline of the arguments put forward by the three theories. Using the arguments of other positions I plan to identify the possible strengths and weaknesses and the extent to which there is evidence to support or contradict a particular view. The main winners are said to be the consumers, they now have more choice than ever with increasing competition on the market.
There is instant access to world wide goods via the internet, there is no longer a need to travel to far and wide places to communicate or trade. This free market which the economic liberals see as a positive trend is also good news for drug and people traffickers whose profits are perceived to exceed that of some of the multi national corporations. However, here we see one of the down sides to the increasing efficiency of the market such as the 13yr old Glaswegian schoolboy Allan Harper who died of a heroin overdose.
Computer producers and service providers such as Microsoft play a key role in constantly working to improve information technology, enabling multinational corporations such as Sony and Mc Donalds to co-ordinate their operations across international borders. There are also companies such as Jensen and Raleigh who closed down their production plants in Britain and opened them in other less developed countries such as South Africa and East Asia.
These winners also create some of the potential losers as seen from a Socialist and Marxist framework where global capitalism exploits the workers in the poorer countries and those in weaker positions such as immigrants, unskilled workers and women. The Feminist writer Saskia Sassen refers to the women in the South who work in poor paid assembly-line work as ‘offshore proletariat’, an ‘invisible and disempowered class of workers for whom work is simply a dead end drudgery’. (Kelly and Prokhovnik et al. 2004, pg. 101). It is mainly the positive globalists who see globalisation as a good thing with stretched social relations which can benefit us all with an improved quality of life. This liberal attitude considers new opportunities for the rich and the poor as positive whilst the pessimistic globalists see multinational corporations swamping the minority cultures. As the globalist view holds the opinion that globalisation is inevitable, it proposes that we have little or no control over this.
The inter-nationalists see globalisation as a debate, that not much has changed in comparison to previous years in the consistency of development, take Samuel Morse’s invention of the telegraph in Victorian times for example. Then there are the transformationalists who see a diverse and complex process, and although there are possible losers, we will all benefit from a democratic system. Positive globalists see that people are no longer constrained by where they are or where they live in terms of communication.
That a diversity of voices will be heard, creating a global village increasing cultural relations furthering their development. We are free from state control to express and exchange ideas and information enabling social processes to occur on a global level, reducing state sovereignty and autonomy. This is evident in the vast increase of cross border telephone traffic and the number of connections to the internet. In terms of economy, there is an increase in international trade because of the competition and lower trade barriers created by the increase in communication via the internet and media.
Globalists see the integration of national economies as the emergence of a single worldwide economy. This means that decisions made in one region may impact other regions as seen in the 1997/98 East Asian financial crisis. One of the key ideas of the pessimistic globalists is cultural imperialism which appears to make the western world, especially the US with multinational corporations such as Disney, Coca Cola, Mc Donalds and Levi more powerful by reducing diversity.
These structures use mass advertising campaigns all over the world taking away the feel of their culture. Although we can physically see that this is happening, there is little evidence that the internet is likely to aid these corporations to develop further by giving them dominance in the market as they already are dominant and were dominant long before the internet arrived. It could be argued that the recent technological advances give as much opportunity to the diverse market as they do to the MNC’s.
Inter-nationalists, coming from a conservative stand point do not agree that globalisation is taking place, seeing changes as more local or regional. They argue with the economic evidence of the globalists which only takes into account the last four or five decades. The ratio of merchandise trade to gross domestic product as calculated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2002 suggest that the degree of trade openness was about the same in 1913 as it was in 2000. (in Kelly and Prokhovnik et al. , 2004, pg. 114).
There is also evidence which suggests that we do have control over economic globalisation such as President George Bush placing levies on imported steel and France placing restrictions on the amount of US films being imported. This shows the self interest of states and that they are prepared to act in ways to protect themselves economically. Inter-nationalists also see the widely used term multinational corporations as used by the globalists, in need of criticism. Although these corporations have subsidiaries in many countries, they clearly operate from one national base under their economy’s regulation.
It is the transnational corporations who are not a part of any national base and there are far fewer of these corporations than there are MNC’s. They argue that the groups such as the G8 are in control of international economies. Transformationalists also disagree the view that globalisation is inevitable saying that states and cultural communities have agency to take on board these changes or reject them. They focus on a more agency driven attitude and see the outcome of globalisation as uncertain.
Globalisation means the development of new forms of global stratification in which some individuals, communities, countries or regions become integrated into global networks of power and prosperity, while others are excluded and marginalised. In conclusion it appears all people, organisations and states stand to benefit according to the positive globalists, however, we have discussed evidence and views of other theories which contradict this. There seems to be the continuing divide between the rich and the poor, and now the information rich and the information poor.
Even though the developed countries are able to provide less developed countries with some of their excesses in information technology, this is a fast moving industry and it is unlikely that they will catch up and have the same opportunities. Organisations such as multinational corporations will obviously benefit from increased international trade and it seems that smaller organisations will find it possible to benefit from the free market which is now available. Although it is argued that multinational corporations may swamp the minority, there is some control over this in each national economy.
One of the major problems is that of the drug industry, there seems to be a lack of global governance concerning these issues putting international drug traffickers in a strong position as it is not regulated leaving many victims in its path such as the previously mentioned teenager who died of a heroin overdose. Overall, it appears that globalisation or internationalisation has two sides, there is the evident possibility that a benefit to one person, state or organisation can be a detriment to another, and what might appear to be a detriment to one, may not seem to be a detriment to another.
I agree that the term ‘globalisation is now widely used and it is easy to see the major advances in technology in the last five decades, more so than in the last eight as suggested by the inter-nationalists. I do think that with these advances it may be harder for those in positions of hardship to catch up, but I do think this could be seen as relative. So called globalisation is moving so quickly, there are those that are going to move along quickly with it and those that are going to be left behind.
With all the international trading, it could be seen as a problem having no global governance to regulate this, and there are the apparent problems with the nation state being too small to control the big things like drug trafficking but too big to deal with the smaller things. There is also the huge problem of pollution which affects us all that has been linked to the ‘shrinking of the world’. All in all, it seems that those who will benefit, will benefit greatly, and those who don’t will still have to move forward in some way. In evidence, the future cannot be determined, only estimated.