Teachers may want to have the students read this introduction before they read the essays on "Globalization" to provide a basic understanding of the concepts included therein.
"Globalization" is a term that came into popular usage in the 1980's to describe the increased movement of people, knowledge and ideas, and goods and money across national borders that has led to increased interconnectedness among the world's populations, economically, politically, socially and culturally. Although globalization is often thought of in economic terms (i.e., "the global marketplace"), this process has many social and political implications as well. Many in local communities associate globalization with modernization (i.e., the transformation of "traditional" societies into "Western" industrialized ones). At the global level, globalization is thought of in terms of the challenges it poses to the role of governments in international affairs and the global economy.
There are heated debates about globalization and its positive and negative effects. While globalization is thought of by many as having the potential to make societies richer through trade and to bring knowledge and information to people around the world, there are many others who perceive globalization as contributing to the exploitation of the poor by the rich, and as a threat to traditional cultures as the process of modernization changes societies. There are some who link the negative aspects of globalization to terrorism. To put a complicated discussion in simple terms, they argue that exploitative or declining conditions contribute to the lure of informal "extremist" networks that commit criminal or terrorist acts internationally. And thanks to today's technology and integrated societies, these networks span throughout the world. It is in this sense that terrorism, too, is "globalized." The essays in this section address some of the complex questions associated with globalization in light of September 11. Before moving to these essays, consider the discussion below about some of the economic, political, social and cultural manifestations of globalization.
Economic manifestations of globalization
Increasingly over the past two centuries, economic activity has become more globally oriented and integrated. Some economists argue that it is no longer meaningful to think in terms of national economies; international trade has become central to most local and domestic economies around the world.
Among the major industrial economies, sometimes referred to as the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, 65 percent of the total economic production, or GDP, is associated with international trade. Economists project that, in the U.S., more than 50 percent of the new jobs created in this decade will be directly linked to the global economy.
The recent focus on the international integration of economies is based on the desirability of a free global market with as few trade barriers as possible, allowing for true competition across borders.
International economic institutions, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), facilitate this increasingly barrier-free flow of goods, services, and money (capital) internationally. Regionally, too, organizations like the North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA), the European Union (EU), and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) work towards economic integration within their respective geographical regions.
Many economists assess economic globalization as having a positive impact, linking increased economic transactions across national borders to increased world GDP, and opportunities for economic development. Still, the process is not without its critics, who consider that many of the economies of the industrial North (i.e., North America, Europe, East Asia) have benefited from globalization, while in the past two decades many semi- and non-industrial countries of the geo-political South (i.e., Africa, parts of Asia, and Central and South America) have faced economic downturns rather than the growth promised by economic integration. Critics assert that these conditions are to a significant extent the consequence of global restructuring which has benefited Northern economies while disadvantaging Southern economies. Others voice concern that globalization adversely affects workers and the environment in many countries around the world.
Discontent with the perceived disastrous economic and social manifestations of globalization has led to large and growing demonstrations at recent intergovernmental meetings, including meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrial countries.
Political manifestations of globalization
Globalization has impacts in the political arena, but there is not a consensus among social scientists about the nature and degree of its impact on national and international politics. Some political scientists argue that globalization is weakening nation-states and that global institutions gradually will take over the functions and power of nation-states. Other social scientists believe that while increased global inter-connectivity will result in dramatic changes in world politics, particularly in international relations (i.e., the way states relate to each other), the nation-state will remain at the center of international political activity.
Political theorists and historians often link the rise of the modern nation-state (in Europe and North America in the nineteenth century and in Asia and Africa in the twentieth century) with industrialization and the development of modern capitalist and socialist economies. These scholars also assert that the administrative structures and institutions of the modern nation-state were in part responsible for the conditions that led to industrial expansion. Moreover, industrial development brought with it social dislocations that necessitated state intervention in the form of public education and social "safety nets" for health care, housing, and other social services. Consequently, the development of the contemporary nation-state, nationalism, inter-state alliances, colonization, and the great wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were in part political manifestations of changes in the structure of economic production.
It follows from this argument that in the era of globalization, with its significant changes in global economic relations, the nineteenth and twentieth century model of the nation-state may become obsolete. The economic orientation of the modern nation-state has been centered on national economic interests, which may often conflict with the global trend towards the free and rapid movement of goods, services, finance, and labor. These processes give rise to the question of whether the modern nation-state can survive in its present form in the new global age. Is it adaptable, or will it gradually be replaced by emerging multinational or regional political entities?