Globalization is a term that signifies the extent to which the larger public stands out internationally as a means of defining contemporary societies. However, when people are asked to be specific in explaining how they identify with globalization, the replies are mostly inconsistent and vague. Also, most of the debates on globalization are imbued in generalizations, overstatements, and wishful thoughts. Despite the huge amount of research that has been done on the topic, studies on globalization continue to be steeped in approximation as they do not use any empirical basis. Also, such studies tend to be historically incorrect and culturally uninformed.
Even though globalization is largely accepted as being a very important issue, most people are not aware of the specific issues that are related to it. People are not aware of how individuals and societies should react to the different circumstances that arise because of the constant changes taking place due to globalization.
According to Steger, globalization cannot be said to be a new occurrence but must be viewed as a gradual change process that has been taking place during the last 10,000 years (27). He asserts that globalization implies the birth of new ideas in a given part of the world; such as the invention of electricity, the wheel and writing scripts, which were gradually imbibed by other societies in becoming widely used by larger sections of the global population.
Nevertheless, the adoption of new inventions and cultural changes may not have necessarily been global because some remote areas may have been left out. It is in this context that historians such as Aart Scholte have asserted that it is not appropriate to fix any starting date for the beginning of globalization; at most, it can be said to be arbitrarily fixed. This paper concurs with the viewpoint of Aart Scholte and attempts to corroborate his contention by tracing the historical development of globalization in the context of the social, economic, political and environmental changes that have taken place in the world during different periods.
According to The World Bank, globalization is “the growing economic interdependence of countries worldwide through increasing volume and variety of cross-border transactions in goods and services, free international capital flows, and more rapid and widespread diffusion of technology” (Chatterjee 1). Different people have provided different definitions of globalization.
However, globalization can be generally understood as the increasing economic dependency of nations on one another by way of cross border trading in goods and services and by way of transfer of technology and unhindered international flows of capital. According to Scholte, globalization in the current economic, political and social context resembles the international economic environment that is strongly impacted by supranational activities in trading and banking, which are not necessarily required to be accounted for before respective national governments (37).
At the same time, the author has asserted that an understanding of globalization cannot be achieved without referring to the historical transformations that occurred in terms of changes in culture and capitalistic structures. The varied definitions of globalization have led to a strong debate about how individuals, businesses, and governments are involved in enhancing social welfare. The idea is to pay more attention to ensuring that changes take place in keeping with acceptable standards of globalization.
It is known that globalization is a constant process that has occurred across history in impacting the technological, cultural, and economic circumstances and standards of different regions and nations. At the same time, there are costs associated with globalization, which have generated a strong debate in the context of social incentives and improvement in the quality of life for the public at large.
Arriving at concrete conclusions about globalization becomes difficult because of differences of opinion regarding its specific definition, the chronology of trends and accounting processes in the context of its causal perspectives. Some scholars tend to relate global relations with international relations, while some focus on the disparities amongst the two perceptions.
Concerning policy aspects, some authors have adopted neo-liberalist ideas while others have preferred to use reformist and rejectionist viewpoints in asserting their understanding of globalization. Global and territorial concepts have coexisted and are interrelated in multifaceted ways. If globalization is recognized as the stretching of supra-territorial and trans-planetary relationships, it can be said that most trends in this regard have spread in the last five decades. However, events and factors that heralded globalization can be traced back to a few centuries, although supra-nationality primarily emerged during the 1950s.
The arguments made by Scholte about his assertion that it is very difficult to determine the starting date of globalization are strengthened by the fact that exaggerated claims have been made in framing academic theses on globalization (64). Authors are known to highlight the advantages accruing from the current liberalized economic environment in most parts of the world, particularly after the emergence of developing countries such as India, China, Brazil and Argentina as the fastest growing economies of the world.
The fast pace of economic growth achieved by these countries is primarily on account of reducing tariffs and opening up their respective economies to free trade. Scholte has done well in highlighting that a liberalized environment cannot be said to result in enhanced globalization (96). He has also criticized the claims made by nationalist elements in some countries about the current patterns of globalization being the outcomes of past colonial and imperial practices of major powers.
He brands such tendencies as giving vent to the anti-globalization movement and also holds that the main characteristic of globalization is the supranational elements in international trade, which no longer give priority to the nation-state. Instead, the current global trading activities are more in resemblance with attempts to realize global spaces. It is known from history that globalization is not a single event but an occurrence of multiple events that are only a segment of the overall field of economic assimilation and amalgamation.
The author holds that globalization has been a continuous process across history and cannot be stopped in any way because of the inherent tendencies in human beings to intermingle culturally and to take part in international activities to boost their financial rewards and to get higher satisfaction from their efforts. At the same time, although globalization cannot be stopped, efforts can be made to positively influence the emerging trends regarding governance, productivity, learning and establishment of identity, which is best done by placing greater focus on finding solutions to issues such as inequality.
The viewpoints put forth by Scholte are strengthened through the reasoning given by Steger in the context of his arguments about globalization being a constant process during the last thousands of years (139). He holds that globalization is now considered by many to be a new phenomenon in the modern world on account of the fast pace with which developments have occurred in the fields of technology, communication, and Information technology.
He holds that majority of current views about globalization are flawed because the present phase of rapid economic development has resulted on account of an increasingly inter-connected world, which is the latest addition in the historical process of globalization. Steger has substantiated his claims in this regard by explaining the different kinds of globalization that are happening in the contemporary world (125).
For example, he has analyzed the occurrence of market globalization, which relates to economic necessities that make all entities to be actively involved in creating a social environment in which a culture of consumerism is created. This environment entails that goods manufactured by producers in the developed world can be offloaded in developing nations in meeting the aspirations of people in these countries to imbibe western cultural values.
The author also uses the term ‘justice globalization’ which relates to creating an image of globalization based on democratic models, which require that goods and services should be available to all human beings in keeping with the spirit of distributive justice as outlined by the United Nations Declaration of Human rights.
It is perhaps because of such developments that many developing nations have witnessed the birth of nationalist movements directed at supporting the continued existence of the concept of the nation-state. Historically, such a strong impact has never been felt from globalization as nationalist elements have now started fearing that the very security of nations is at risk because globalization is all set to sweep away cultural identities by establishing new ideas of common global value systems and supranational legal systems.
Ampuja has held that globalization theory is quite complex because there is an immense difference of opinion amongst scholars about how it should be conceived. Scholars have repeatedly been making the point that globalization is a multidimensional practice involving analysis from the social, organizational, economic, environmental, technological, and communications perspectives (1).
All these aspects have to be analyzed separately in determining the extent to which the different factors are interdependent in a given environment and situation. Nevertheless, Ampuja holds that the overall nature of the research on globalization is very different from what the public at large perceives (1). Although public debates on the issue have focused on economic aspects of globalization, research in the field has concluded that there is no limit to the extent to which economic and social environments can be linked with globalization.
Given that globalization is a subject that is researched in political science and social and cultural studies, research in the field of natural sciences and humanities has been reoriented in examining the historical basis through which globalization can be said to have impacted societies thousands of years ago. It is in this context that Scholte argues that a great deal still needs to be done in strengthening the evidence, methodologies, and concepts that can be used in identifying and measuring globalization (30).
He also holds that the current literature is not clear in making meaningful assessments about the reasons and impacts of globalization. Under the circumstances, concepts of globalization have proved to become highly loose, varied, and broad, thus making them indefinable. This allows researchers to arrive at any conclusion in keeping with their needs and convenience.
It cannot be denied that factors such as migration, capital flows, and trading activities are the main economic aspects of globalization, particularly because globalization in the current context implies that people now have greater access to wider varieties of goods and services as compared to the past. Even from this perspective, the enhancement of supra-nationality and trans-planetary connections in the current economic environment has resulted from a combination of several factors such as regulations, capitalist development, and transformation in methods of identity construction and growth of rationalism.
However, it is difficult to arrive at concrete conclusions about globalization because of differences of opinion regarding its specific definition, a chronology of trends and accounting processes relative to its causal aspects. Many researchers have tended to relate global relations with international relations, and some have focused on the disparities amongst the two paradigms.
Concerning policy aspects, some authors have adopted neo-liberalist ideas while others have preferred to use reformist and rejectionist viewpoints in highlighting their understanding of globalization. Global and territorial concepts have coexisted in being interrelated in varied ways. If globalization is recognized as the stretching of supra-territorial and trans-planetary relationships, it can be said that trends in this regard have spread in the last five decades. However, it is true that events and factors that led to globalization can be traced back to a few centuries, although supra-nationality primarily emerged during the 1950s.
Ampuja, Marco. The Media and the Academic Globalization Debate: Theoretical Analysis and Critique. 2010.
Chatterjee, Sayantani. What is Globalization? 2013.
Scholte, Jan Aart. Globalization: A Critical Introduction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Print.
Scholte, J. A. “Defining Globalization.”, Clm.economía, 10, (2007) : 15-63. Print
Steger, Manfred. Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. London: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.