The term globalisation describes the process of becoming worldwide in scope or application, and the increasing interdependency of nation-sates. At least - that gives us one loose definition for globalisation, but as Scholte (2000) realises, globalisation is a thoroughly contested subject, with arguments extend across the issue of definition as well as measurement, chronology, explanation and normative judgement. In fact, Scholte identifies five contrasting definitions for the word 'globalisation' as used by a number of the subject's commentators and critics - internationalisation, liberalisation, universalisation, western/modernisation and deterrioralisation are (2000: 13).
In choosing a definition of globalisation, one is also selecting how they wish to interpret it, and what points they wish to convey. For example, the choice of western/modernisation leads to a view that globlisation sees the economically and politically powerful west globalising the rest of the world, whilst universalisation leads to a more neutral stance, taking it's root from the dictionary definition of the word 'gloalise', meaning to universalise.
To judge whether or not globalisation is a myth or fact therefore requires the full understanding of what the term means to it's critics and advocates, and in which ways they believe it to be myth of fact. Giddens simplifies the debate into two main schools - the sceptics and the radicals. A radical himself, he writes that "According to the sceptics, all the talk about globalisation is only that - just talk" whilst "The radicals argue that not only is globalisation very real, but that its consequences can be seen everywhere" . Sceptics are seen by Giddens to hold a politicially left view, with their argument that globlaisation is "put about by free-marketeers who wish to dismantle welfare systems and cut back on state expenditure" (1999: 7-8). Key to his own argument, Giddens realises that globlisation is not just economic, but also political, technological and cultural.
It appears that some sceptics of globalisation take their definition of the word not as a verb but as the resulting noun, 'globalised'. The argument is that globalisation does not exist because we're not living in a fully globalised world. For example, economists may argue that we are not living in a total global economy and use this as proof that globalisation is a myth. All these ambiguities surrounding the context and use of the word leads to great confusion, highlighted by Rosenberg's (2000) muddled critical analysis of Giddens' works from which little conclusion can be drawn.
Through the development of new technologies, transport and communications have brought about the feeling of a smaller world as it becomes quicker and cheaper for people, data and goods to get from one point in the world to another. There is a changing concept of space and time (Cohen & Kennedy, 2000) - because distance and time are often used interchangeably, the fact that time taken for journeys has decreased means that our concepts of distance have also changed. Today it's possible to travel half way around the globe in a day, whilst before the invention of the steam ship or airplane, such a journey would have been unheard of. Similarly, email enables messages and data to be sent across the globe in milliseconds, whilst before it's advent postal services would have taken several days.
The use of the word globalisation has only been with us, we are told, since about 1960 (Waters, 1995: 2), yet the development of transport and communications is not a new phenomenom. Perhaps it is that in contemporary times there has been an accelearation in the advances made which has brought the conecept of globalisation to our attention, and hence given us reason to add it to our vocabularies. However globalisation is not whether or not the world is globalised, but whether it is globalising - so clearly the movement towards the compression of space and time is...
Cohen & Kennedy (2000) Global Sociology, MacMillan: Basingstoke
Germain, R (2000) Globalisation and its Critics, MacMillan: Basingstoke
Giddens (1999) Runaway World, Profile Books: London
Helt et al (1999) Global Transformations, Polity Press: Cambridge
Rosenberg (2000) The Follies of Globalisation Theory, Verso: London
Schulte (2000) Globalisation: a Critical Introduction, MacMillan: Basingstoke
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