Globalization and It's Impact over Social Politics and Policy

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IntroductionThis paper critically examines the debate on the relationship between "globalization", social politics and social policy. Globalization, by some accounts, represents a paradigmatic shift in the dynamics of welfare state development. Global capital and international institutions possess an unprecedented amount of political power and are instrumental in eroding national policy autonomy and shaping, even determining, the content of national social policies. The prospects for welfare states and for social and economic justice are said to be bleak, and a restricted range of strategically possible policy options, the retrenchment, residualization and marketization of welfare states and the lowering of social standards are forecast.

Is Global Capital against National States?Globalization is a highly contested term whose frequent usage has obscured a lack of consensus with regard to what it entails, explanations of how it operates and the direction(s) in which it is heading (Gordon 1987; Mittelman 1996; Amin 1997). It is often used inconsistently, at times to describe trends, at other times to explain them. It also contains normative overtones, being at once "a set of beliefs about how the world is and how it should be developing" (Wilding 1997: 411). In fact, it could be argued that even to ask whether "globalization" corresponds with a social reality at all, let alone analyse its implications for social policy, is possibly to participate in sustaining a myth. As Wilding has argued, "it may … not matter very much whether anything is actually happening or not, so long as key people believe it is happening or can convince other people that it is happening" (1997: 411). Despite these reservations, it is important to engage with "globalization" in order to comprehend and challenge the way it has been ideologically invoked to shape the political parameters of what is both socially and economically possible and desirable.

Broadly, globalization signifies qualitative changes in economic and political structures, trends and processes on a transnational and international scale. Economic globalization refers to changes in capital flows, production systems, markets and trade in goods and services. Commonly used indicators of these changes are trends in international trade (imports and exports), foreign direct investment (FDI), international finance, and corporate alliances and networks. While the significance of these trends is disputable (Hirst and Thompson 1996), it is clear that with the exception of Cuba and North Korea, all economies are now a variety of market economy. Related to the "victory" of the market economy globally is the growth and spread of Western cultural forms, values and products that accompany it and which are spread by it. The global extension of Western culture results in some form of global cultural uniformity through the removal of indigenous ways of life and their replacement by Western products and Western methods of production. This is most obviously manifested in the spread of Western architecture, packaging, clothing (jeans), beverages (Coke), music and leisure, and Western consumerist values of individual acquisition, consumption and competition.

Political globalization refers to the changing global context of political awareness, political processes and political activity (Holton 1998: 109). Bretherton defines it as "a growing tendency for issues to be perceived as global in scope, and hence requiring global solutions; and to the development of international organizations and global institutions which attempt to address such issues" (1996: 8). Globalism refers to the growing awareness that social, economic and environmental issues are transnational and global in their nature and that they therefore require concerted action by states at the "collective" level of supranational and international institutions, organizations and agencies. Political globalization is also evident in the...
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