Globalization is a process that encompasses the causes, course, and consequences of transnational and transcultural integration of human and non-human activities.” (Al Rodhan, 2006, p. 5)
It is vital to have a broad perspective while developing a definition of globalization in order for it to be as concise yet thorough as possible. Globalization is not something that should be debated and then disregarded. It is, rather, a process, a current that has had a long-term impact on communities, cultures, and economies. It is the result of global, transnational, and transcultural exchanges that have occurred throughout human history.
This intermingling has transpired through activities that are both human and non-human in nature. Human activities encompass the linguistic, cultural, economic, and political aspects of human life (along with many others) that are a part of the human and social sphere. It is also important to include non-human activities, which incorporate, but are not limited to, the spread of bacteria and non-human diseases such as bird flu, as well as natural disasters such as tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes. As all of these issues impact human and global security, experts suggest a truly comprehensive definition must address them (Al Rodhan, 2006, pp. 5–6).
Furthermore, it is critical to acknowledge that globalization is not a force that must be stopped; rather, it is a process that impacts each of us in a variety of ways, both to our advantage and to our harm.
Nevertheless, globalization brings with it certain merits and demerits; some countries benefit greatly from the fruits of globalization while others have severe repercussions on their economies and communities.
One can highlight several advantages and disadvantages brought about by globalization. The advent of the Internet can be seen as one of the major contributors to bringing people closer, therefore spurring a network of communication across nations, territorial and geographic borders. Furthermore, globalization has made access to markets more viable and efficient. In economic terms, globalization gives firms a competitive edge by allowing them to have access to raw resources in low-cost regions. Organizations may also take advantage of cheaper labor costs in developing nations while using the technological skills and experience of more developed economies around the world. In the course of this, consumers gain as well. Globalization, in general, lowers the cost of production. This means that businesses may provide commodities to customers at a lower price. The average cost of an item is an important factor that leads to rising living standards. In this way, consumers have the option of gaining access to a broader range of goods. The productivity of workers has increased, resulting in massive output being produced every year.
On the contrary, there are some demerits that globalization has brought with it. Capitalism, a facet of globalization, has made some of the nation’s people richer and others poorer. This has exacerbated widespread inequality, as most of the resources are now in the hands of the wealthier class. Eventually, poor communities are hurt at the expense of rich people accumulating most of the world’s wealth. Targeting cheap labor in countries like Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan helps a capitalist to generate extra amounts of surplus while exploiting labor across developing regions. Given the imperfect nature of global markets, the scales tip economic and even political influence in favor of the rich.
Beyond the sets of government policies that generate inequalities, there is something going on in the capitalist system itself, as Karl Marx (1867) analyzed in Das Kapital. Simply put, capitalists own the means of producing wealth and therefore appropriate profits from as much of the wealth as possible that society collectively produces. Capitalism produces social inequalities as a consequence of its own internal workings”(Robinson, 2017, 241).
Henceforth, this trait of accumulating massive amounts of capital needs to be checked and regulated by policymakers. Robinson does argue for a policy of a “global tax on capital”, where individuals are taxed according to their income. Financial institutions play a much greater role in distributing income equally by following a stable tax regime. The likelihood of the rich gaining massive amounts of capital is reduced, if the wealth is regulated properly through a fair taxation regime.
Although Robinson mentions taxing foundations and financial institutions, “a global tax on capital” (Robinson 2017, 256)
The notion that global capitalism is a leveling force that homogenizes and Westernizes the entire world is connected to the argument that capitalism destroys cultural identity. Finally, while capitalism does transform, and even destroy, aspects of traditional cultural life, I would argue that the most destructive global forces of cultural transformation, particularly in the developing world, come from Western secular organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the NGO industry, and the governments of the United States and Europe. These strong institutions use “soft” and “hard” power to impose a reductionist worldview on millions of the world’s poor people.
There is a complicated connection between capitalism and culture. Competitive free-market economies have contributed to the preservation of liberty and lifted more people out of poverty than any other alternative. With that advancement has come unmistakable turbulence and hastened societal transformation. However, blaming capitalism is far simpler than addressing the underlying, but more difficult-to-identify, causes of cultural disintegration.
Capitalism has enormous cultural impacts, and it is a fallacy to believe that the market economy is neutral or that markets left to their own devices will always work out for the best. It is equally incorrect to blame capitalism for cultural degradation.
To highlight this further, globalization has made some cultures more dominant than others. For example, the supremacy of white culture over black and Asian culture. This could also be due to the fact that the whites have been colonizers for centuries and have exploited poorer nations in terms of their natural resources and labor. In the context of labor, there has been a phenomenon known as a “brain drain,” where the developed world has attracted the brightest minds from the developing world, which has resulted in the emigration of talented young individuals and robbed the poorer nations of their working class. In the case of Pakistan, an example would be international exchange programs after which students do not return back home.
The factors explaining the process of globalization can range from being economic, social, political, technological, or financial. With respect to the economic aspect, globalization is related to free markets and how they can lead to unfair distributions of wealth.
The economic side stresses the functioning of free markets, while the political side of globalization focuses on promoting democracy. In addition to this, the social side suggests ethnic violence and hatred.
The interconnectedness between conflict and globalization can be expressed in a multiple of ways. “Many view globalization as a source of, or contributing factor to, conflict and there are numerous case studies of the destabilizing impact of economic and cultural forces, radiating from the West, on local politics and culture in such places as Iran, Sierra Leone, or Indonesia (among others)”(Tidwell and Lerche 2004,47).
Globalization can influence conflict expression in a variety of ways, including disrupting local events, offering new resources to compete with, and threatening firmly held values or symbols, to mention a few.
The tale of “conflict diamonds,” in which diamonds are used to finance military activities, provides one particularly troubling example of how globalization and violence combine. Diamonds have long been regarded as precious metals. About $7.25 billion worth of rough, unpolished diamonds were traded in 1999. The market has truly become globalized.
“Polished diamonds are then exported for sale largely in Japan or the U.S. (Goreux, 2001). It is estimated that the trade in ‘conflict diamonds’ amounts to some $250 million. While only 3.5% of the total trade in diamonds, it represents a significant source of income for warring parties.In Angola and Sierra Leone, the failure of the central government, insurgency campaigns, and the lack of external funding sources have combined with the access to diamond mining regions to create a disaster. In Angola, UNITA (the rebel force led by the late Jonas Savimbi, seeking to oust the current government in Luanda) lost financial support from the U.S. government, after the end of the Cold War. To replace this funding UNITA first stockpiled diamonds and then used diamond sales to fund weapons purchases, in order to continue its war”, (Tidwell and Lerche 2004,50)
“A second example of the interplay between globalization and conflict is found in Ambon in Maluku province, Indonesia, which has been the site of sectarian violence since 1999”.(Tidwell and Lerche 2004,51).
In contrast to Sierra Leone and Angola, there is no substantial separatist movement in the country. Separatist movements are active in other parts of Indonesia, such as Aceh and Irian Jaya. Instead, the Maluku conflict reflects communal tensions between Muslims and Christians. Maluku, formerly known as the Moluccas or Spice Islands, has a sizable Christian and Muslim population. Internal migration has increased the Muslim population in recent years. In the past, colonial masters treated Christians favorably, putting them in command of the local bureaucracy and economy.
“Conflict erupted in 1999, tapping into undercurrents and led to riots, leaving hundreds dead. Since then some 5000 have died in the ensuing violence”.(Tidwell and Lerche 2004,51)
The interplay of globalization and conflict is visible to the viewer, albeit it is less spectacular than in the case of “conflict diamonds.
Human massacres have occurred in a number of African war zones, including Rwanda, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to mention a few. Friendships are shattered overnight; neighbors kill each other with machetes; and families are separated along ethnic lines. In Rwanda alone, about a million people were slaughtered – a volume of killings that is nearly unprecedented in global history.
Social media is a significant facet of globalization. The present focus of technological globalization is the connections formed by social media networks. Social media is a fantastic tool that everyone with access to it can readily use. Social networking is becoming increasingly prevalent as this technology spreads throughout the world. The capacity to use social media facilitates the formation of worldwide connections. Because of these global links, countries now have the ability to voice their new and old concerns to everybody.
A person in Mumbai may communicate in real time with a person in Arizona using forums such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or even FaceTime, and view their faces and environment. They may even open other windows at the same time, watch a film together, send papers, and so on. One hundred years ago, no one would have believed this was feasible.
As mentioned earlier, globalization has brought immense benefits to the world. On the contrary, it has created gaps in the form of religious and ethnic conflicts that one cannot ignore and which require a comprehensive strategy in order to fill out some discrepancies occurring due to globalization. Religion is an important force in this globalized world. For some, religion has been used as a tool for decades, leading to massive violence and sectarian conflicts. It has also provided social capital for those who have developed their networks worldwide. It can be clearly seen that religion has been growing in the US and in Middle Eastern countries. Likewise, it has become a force of redistribution. However, globalization will affect religion in multiple ways.
“The major world religions are all taking advantage of the opportunities provided by globalization to transform their messages and reach a new global audience.” (Thomas, 2010)
“Globalization and its impact on religious trends will undoubtedly affect domestic conditions as well. From Indonesia to Nigeria, religiously divided populations have clashed in recent years, and fresh Muslim-Christian conflicts are erupting in Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya ” (Thomas 2010, 11).
By accommodating religious and cultural factors, the definition of globalization can be broadened to a much greater extent. It is important to note that both religion and globalization have developed coherent identities in the process. There might be some actors benefiting from the mutually established bond, while others are marginalized in some way or another. Globalization, in general, refers to the greater interdependence of the world’s economies, as evidenced by the cross-border movement of information, money, people, and things. It has recently resulted in the dominance of the global market by a small number of transnational businesses. However, different countries have been linked to one another since time immemorial through the geographical spread of ideas, social standards, and trading commodities. This pre-modern period of globalization is referred to as archaic globalization. Silk Road is one example. To further highlight this, the Silk Road was an epitome of trade in goods and services. Various faiths and religions took advantage of the globalizing effects of the Silk Road to spread their fundamental beliefs. As a result, the Silk Road presented religious communities from all over the world in the most efficient and credible way possible. In terms of economic interdependence, nations are now dependent on each other with respect to trade, labor, 2and the movement of capital.
Therefore, Globalization has the ability to aid development by increasing prospects for greater wages and improved living standards through increased cross-border economic engagement. However, globalization will not automatically distribute the benefits of this interaction equitably. As a result, developed countries, over time, have been benefiting more from such interaction, and this has caused a gap in development between developed and developing countries. The continued inequity in this relationship has caused this gap to widen. To overcome this situation, cross border economic interaction, spurred on by globalization, requires regulation to overcome the inequity and narrow the development gap.In order to give fair possibilities in international trade, particularly for emerging nations, multilateral cooperation is necessary to eliminate inequality across nations. The World Trade Organization’s open, transparent, and predictable multilateral trade system should be protected, and any reform process should be kept inclusive and egalitarian.
About the Author
Fareeha Adnan is currently a student in the MPhil Program of Public Policy at CPPG. Her research interests include Education, Human Development, Agriculture and Environment Policy, Governance and Globalization.
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Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (New York: Doubleday, 2003)
- William I. Robinson, “Capitalism in the 21st Century: Global Inequality,
Piketty and the Transnational Capitalist Class”. pp 240-257
- Scott M. Thomas, “A Globalized God: Religion’s Growing Influence in
International Politics” Foreign Affairs, Vol, 89, No 6, November/December
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7.Tidwell.A. and Lerche.C, “Globalization and Conflict Resolution”International Journal of Peace Studies, Volume 9,No.1, Spring/Summer 2004.pp 47-49.