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Globalisation

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Does the term ‘globalisation’ deserve the significance it has acquired in recent years?

Introduction

Globalisation conjures a myriad of ideas in the mind of individuals due to the varying experiences it has presented over the years. It has become very significant in the 21st century with a deep rooted historical background dating as far back as the 19th century. It is possible to assert that globalisation has transformed our world giving rise to many opportunities although there are numerous risks. However, globalisation has much significance as it affects all our lives. It has benefited many as barriers have been lowered and it has fostered the increased integration of economies. According to Allen and Thomas (2000) ‘Globalisation is a ‘process which embodies a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and transactions- assessed in terms of their extensity, intensity, velocity and impact-generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity, interaction, and exercise of power’(Allen and Thomas,2000, p.348). This essay will argue that the term globalisation does deserve the significance it has acquired in recent years, by exploring four themes through the lens of technological advancement, capitalism, the economic dimensions and the impact on the British economy.
Globalisation as a concept is not particularly new but it has a historical background which predates 1870 and can be traced even further to earlier periods. Contemporary globalisation is more advanced with the growth of technology and governing institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and the European Union. There is a more prevalent interconnectedness of world economies, which has its positive and negative drawbacks. However, Allen and Thomas (2000) states that ‘globalisation involves much more than simply interconnectedness or a shrinking world, for it captures a sense that world-wide connectivity is very much a permanent or ‘institutionalized’ feature of modern existence’ (Allen and Thomas, 2000, p.347).
It has been stated that globalisation has occurred in three phases which is possible to trace. The first phase was the age of exploration and discovery between (1450- 1850) and this give rise to the European expansion and conquest. Later on there was the rise of the Empires between (1850- 1945). And the third phase, from the 1960’s onwards, saw the acceleration of technology in communication and advancement in international trade and industry, which is sometimes referred to as contemporary globalisation. (Baylis and Owens, 2008, p. 22).
Definitions of the term globalisation have varied amongst various sectors of society since its inception, and the coining of the word during the 1980’s. It has created many opportunities for both developed and developing countries; thus raising fundamental questions on both sides, in a world marked by powerful forces of the world’s economic, political and cultural interconnectedness; often times having minimal direct political control. Moreover, some sceptics argue that as far as they are concerned globalisation is a ‘myth’ which is a continuation of the integration of national economies that has been happening for the last 200 years. (Baker, 2011, p.63).
Fundamentally important to globalisation is the influence of capitalism, during the close of the 20th century, triumphing over the fall of communism in Europe and its effect on China (Bhagwati, 2007, p.13). However, capitalism has been blamed for its inequality and its exploitative feature which causes an imbalance in society, which some critics continue to protest against. Castells (1996) has emphasized comprehensively that a new economy has surfaced which he recognised as a new form of capitalism having three key characteristics which are, competition and productivity, the organisation of territories and firms and their core activities are global. (Castells, 2001: p. 52)
Capitalism however, can take different shapes and while it creates prosperity for a considerable amount of people, many disparities still exist having devastating effects especially on the poor and vulnerable in society. There is growing concern that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer as capitalism continues to exploit the vulnerable in society. Moreover, Landes (1999: xx) highlighted the disparity in income per head between the wealthiest country at the time, Switzerland, and Mozambique’s non-industrial society being the poorest nation in which he stated was approximately 400 to 1.
Those who support globalisation argue that due to the spread of capitalism there are fewer dictators and more democratic governments compared to 30 years ago. In contrast, some critics see globalisation as a new brand of capitalism fearing a world ruled by profit-seeking global corporations and elites. However, it is possible to say that capitalism is the most dynamic and important force behind many economic and political global changes. The UK economy has shifted substantially towards a neo-classical type of capitalism and has been a very open recipient of globalization. Within recent times, contemporary Britain has drastically moved towards privatisation of services, but not without controversy. In addition, Britain has had to cope with the rising power of multinational corporations and the new tiger economies of the Far East, and is also proving a major challenge to many European economies (Schifferes, 2007). It is possible to say that the dominance once enjoyed by England’s producers of manufactures, because of their competitive advantage in industrialization, has been diffused greatly due to international rivalry and competition from large multinationals.
Immigration in Britain has rapidly come to the forefront of the political agenda because of the growing concern related to the escalating number of people entering the UK. This issue has highlighted and challenged issues of identity and integration within communities; as migration continues to impact cultural diversity and social cohesion. However, the future of migration seems uncertain as the British government continues to seek a solution to the increasing numbers entering the United Kingdom.
Economic progression has contributed to the rapid acceleration of the world economy which occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Thus, the view that there is nothing new about globalisation is highly debatable given the evidence. In more recent times as seen with the economic crisis of 2008, there is a greater sense of vulnerability and economic insecurity today as compared to earlier periods. Correlated with this, is the sense that in today’s globalised world is notion that government’s power to control socio-economical events is reduced. Thus the financial crisis of 2008 propelled a crushing domino effect, which sent shockwaves of economic devastation from one economy to the next, causing collateral damage and a recession not experienced since the 1930’s. Unfortunately, this is just one example of the vulnerability that globalisation has created due to the growing unification of nations worldwide into the global economy. There are however, positive economic developments experienced by many nations with the removal of trade barriers which has contributed to the greatest and most rapid decline of poverty. Furthermore, the export led economic growth which helped reduce poverty in developing countries has also raised wages and incomes thus increasing the standard of living for many individuals.
What is significant about globalisation is the pace of its acceleration and the momentum and power of the change, driven by market forces and increased technological innovation. The technological revolution of transportation by railways and sea has brought about much change rapidly reducing cost in both sectors through the nineteenth century. Moreover, technological innovation has allowed multinationals to tap into more diverse and larger markets and take advantage of the economic opportunities in the open market.
Today’s globalising world has had a profound impact on culture, largely due to the diverse digital age and the power to transmit messages that affect culture and behaviour on a global scale. The way we understand geography and localness has changed, which has opened new prospects in how we communicate with other cultures as the barriers of distance has been removed through such innovations as Facebook and MySpace. Moreover, Giddens (1990) confirms my point as he highlighted globalisation’s power to intensify social cohesion and the ability to link distant localities in that local events can be shaped by events taking place in distant lands. (Giddens, 1990, p.64).
Although this process of social connection has been positive in many ways, by eroding prejudices and enhancing people perceptions of distant cultures; it has been said that advances in technology and communication is undermining identities, cyber crimes are on the rise, high levels of pornography persist and the threat of ‘westernization’ exist. However, it is possible to say that the advancement in digital technology and communication, have opened new markets and a revolutionised the ability to produce high -tech products. The internet has transformed communication making information easily accessible which has impacted business, education, culture and many more.
Conclusion
In summary it is possible to say that globalisation has been a very significant process and does deserve its place as one of the most debateable subjects in the 21st century. It is fundamentally important to recognise that it is not a new phenomenon but has evolved over the years transforming people’s lives. It has transformed cultures, political regimes, economies, global migration and most importantly the advancement in technology. The advancement in technology has contributed much to the dynamics of how information is accessed and received, thus transforming the way in which we interact within the international economy. The rise and growth of multinational corporations and their business activities has challenged governments and the nation-state. The influence of capitalism although criticised for it exploitative feature, in contrast allowed a move away from communism towards the embracing of democracy in some societies. Having considered the risks which cannot be ignored there are many positive features to globalisation that gives it such significance in our world.

References

Allen, T. and Thomas, A. (2000) Poverty and Development into the 21st Century, Oxford UniversityPress, Oxford.

Barker, B. (20011) World Development: an essential text, New Internationalist, Oxford.

Baylis, J., Smith, S. and Owens, P. (2008) The Globalizaion of World Politics, 4thedn., Oxford University Press Inc., New York.

Bhagwati, J. (2007) In Defense of Globalization, Oxford University Press, New York.

Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Networked Society, Oxford: Blackwell.

Castells, M. (2001) 'Information technology and global capitalism' in W. Hutton and A. Giddens. (eds.) On The Edge. Living with global capitalism, London: Vintage.

Giddens, A. (1990) The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Landes, D. (1999) The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Why some are so rich and some are so poor, London: Abacus. Beck, U. (1999) What is Globalization?, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Schifferes, S. (2007) ‘Globalisation shakes the world’,BBC News,21st January [Online]. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6279679.stm (Accessed: 1 March 2012).

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