Globalization: Societal Implications
This article provides an overview of the process of globalization. It describes the rise and spread of globalization as well as its future and explores the implications of globalization and how it can affect many facets of a society. In particular, the impact of globalization on technology, culture, and politics is discussed. In addition, the relationship between globalization and economics is examined; globalization has been affected by changing economics, and economies around the globe have been affected by globalization. This article explores such issues as free trade, international investment, and the expansion of the marketplace to the global context. Finally, this article discusses some of the applications of globalization to facets of modern life, including human rights, immigration, and the environment.
Keywords Capitalism; Culture; Economic Integration; Globalization; Human Rights; International Monetary Fund; Technology; United Nations; World Bank; World Trade Organization
Societies: Globalization: Societal Implications
Globalization is a process of increasing contact and assimilation between the cultures, business enterprises, economies, and governing bodies of countries throughout the world. This process is fueled by both international trade and information technology and has profound and lasting effects on the autonomy of unique societies, economies, principles of government, and human rights protections of all nations ("What Is Globalization?," 2008). Globalization facilitates the gradual economic integration of many formerly separate national economies into one global economy through free trade, the movement of capital and investments by multinational companies, and the migration of peoples from one nation to another. This process creates increasing interdependence among governments and corporations.
Globalization is seen as both a benefit and a liability. On the one hand, this interconnectedness results in the possibility of greater profits due to marketplace expansion while promoting greater transparency in government and enforcement of universal rights. On the other hand, it can result in the homogenization of once-unique cultures, with dominant economies influencing the tastes and interests of other cultures. While proponents of globalization argue that the process of integration enables poor nations to enter into international commerce, thus increasing the standard of living of their citizens and encouraging multiculturalism across the globe, critics argue that globalization has enabled dominant, and particularly Western, governments and multinational corporations to exercise undue global influence at the expense of local trade and distinctive cultures and traditions.
The praise and condemnation of globalization has occurred at many levels, from villages to international governmental bodies. This article describes the many facets of the globalization process and the implications of the convergence of economics, culture, and politics that is occurring in our world today.
Introduction to Globalization
Globalization has profound effects on the financial, physical, cultural, and environmental resources of societies around the world. Although globalization is often considered a recent phenomenon, the development of trade routes and agreements, political and economic integration, and cultural migration date back hundreds of years. However, the rise of technological advancements in recent years has greatly facilitated the speed and scope of this process. The following sections explain the rise and spread of globalization as well as the future of this complex process.
Rise of Globalization
The human population has increased dramatically in the past several decades, greatly augmenting the rate at which economies, cultures, and governments have become integrated. However, globalization is rooted in centuries of human development. Early forms of globalization were evident during ancient eras of political and economic dominance. For instance, the rise of the silk trade promoted the integration of ancient civilizations. International trade throughout Europe expanded further in the 16th and 17th centuries with the discovery and settlement of the Americas. The exploration of new lands and the high seas led to the development of commercial trade routes, which enabled the increased flow of products to markets throughout the world.
In the 17th century, international commerce became increasingly widespread as the first multinational corporations took root. The Dutch East India Company, which is generally considered the first multinational corporation, was chartered during this time by the States-General of the Netherlands to expand trade and maintain close ties to its colonial enterprises in Asia. It also became the first company in the world to issue shares of stock. The rise in risk allocation through public investment in shares of stock fueled the expansion of global commerce.
The 19th century was characterized by increased economic integration and investment among the ruling European monarchs, the United States, and their trading partners around the world. As governments began to expand their empires around the globe, business and private enterprises also increasingly shifted from regional markets to global markets. This process of globalization was hampered somewhat by world wars, the separation of developed and developing nations, and the economic depressions of the early 1900s. Thus, while globalization has slowly spread across the globe over many centuries, the process was uneven at times, as economic, political, and cultural unrest hindered the integration of governments and corporations.
Spread of Globalization
Globalization has spread rapidly as technology has eased international trade and communication. In addition, political leaders, special interest groups, and economic advisers urged an end to protectionist measures that impeded the progress of global assimilation. As the ravages of the world wars were seen and condemned by peoples and nations throughout the world, leaders of the world's most powerful nations met to discuss ways to repair the damages of the wars and usher in a new era of global cooperation and prosperity.
Several international institutions were founded from these meetings, and they were tasked with facilitating the spread of globalization, promoting economic growth, and managing the changing tides of political and financial influences. These institutions include the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The World Bank was founded at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944 to promote the development of the world's poorest nations through loans and technical assistance. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), also established at the Bretton Woods Conference, was created as a global financial institution comprising 184 member countries as part of the United Nations system. The IMF was established to synchronize international monetary markets, support economic growth, and provide various forms of financial assistance to poor and debtor nations.
The spread of globalization was also facilitated through international trade agreements. The end of World War II led to decreased barriers to international trade through formalized agreements, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). These agreements enabled greater international economic integration through policies that promoted free trade, reduced or eliminated tariffs, created free trade zones, reduced transportation costs, and instituted common intellectual property protections among member nations.
Future of Globalization
Globalization means a historical transformation, with profound implications for power relations and the ability of local communities to compete in larger economies. Globalization is, in a sense, a coin with two sides. On the one side, the processes of globalization promote advancements in productivity, technology, the availability of consumer products, and the exchange of valuable information that can lead to political opposition to oppressive governmental regimes. On the other side, these same forces can result in a loss of economic, political, and cultural autonomy, especially in the developing world (Mittelman, 2000).
These conflicting sides of globalization have caused many theorists to grapple with the question of whether globalization is indefinitely sustainable. Today, globalization has ranks of advocates and critics alike. In addition, still others call for a modified form of globalization, in which the relationships among the market, governments, and societies are redrawn in ways that allow for continued economic integration while retaining political autonomy.
At the core of autonomy is the principle of self-determination, which derives from the ability of unique communities and nations to establish governing principles that reflect their core values. However, the ideals of self-determination can be threatened through the process of globalization by the encroaching presence of other cultures and economies. While consumers may desire the increased resources and cheaper products that are hallmarks of globalization, governments and corporations may push back against economic, cultural, or political pressures that threaten to undermine their power. Thus, the future of globalization is marked by both increasing opportunity and focused resistance (Mittelman, 2000).
Impact of Globalization
Globalization has impacted virtually every aspect of society in every nation. The importing and exporting of ideas, political tenets, and economic theories along with products from remote regions of the world have enabled diverse people to explore new exotic goods as well as challenge constraining beliefs and political systems. The following sections describe the impact of globalization on technology, culture, and politics.
Technology has been a principal driver in the spread of globalization. As technological advancements in computer hardware and software have made rapid gains, almost all sectors of the global economy experienced corresponding growth. In addition, information technology, which creates a communication platform that enables the exchange of goods, communication, and resources regardless of geographic proximity, greatly increased the international flow of commerce and ideas. These increased technological capabilities began uniting individuals, communities, and nations in ways that crossed political and economic boundaries.
Developments in information technology have also provided enhanced resources by which individual consumers as well as businesses and investors can determine the most profitable means to compete more efficiently in the global economy. For instance, technology can be used to extract information about developing economic opportunities and emerging markets and help small businesses grow efficiently while also enabling larger businesses to streamline operations in order to cut costs or focus on increasing the availability of their most popular products ("Technology," 2008).
Globalization has been most frequently criticized for being a force that erodes the unifying ties of culture and tradition in local communities. Cheap goods produced abroad may be imported and sold in local markets for less than products made by native merchants, thus undermining the self-sufficiency of...
(The entire section is 5060 words.)