Globalization: The International Relations Theories


In the current times, due to globalization and the growth of technology, many diverse people from different parts of the world have been able to mingle over the centuries sharing their ideas, beliefs, and customs, even resulting in assimilation. This has led to forming a diverse culture that has borrowed from different groups over the years. This scenario is especially very prevalent in the US, resulting in diversity in almost all areas of life, including ethnicity, beliefs and religion. Globalization itself is a subject of many disciplines, including international relations. Three main international relations theories describe and define globalization. All of the theories have their own proponents and critics. Hence, the paper identifies the pros and cons of each theory to prove that the dependency theory represents globalization the most accurately.

Globalization Theories in International Relations

World-Systems Theory

According to the world-systems theory, the world functions as a unit, where individual countries are not as important. Therefore, the countries are categorized by their economic and political development level. Countries in Western Europe, as well as Australia and North American countries, belong to the group of core countries. They are characterized by a strong central government and rely on a complex taxation system that supports it. Due to industrialization, their economies are diversified, making them independent of external factors.

On the contrary, periphery countries in most of Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe tend to have relatively weaker governments. Their economies are reliant on the type of economic activity, mostly resource extraction, which makes them dependent on the world market trends. Socially, periphery countries have higher rates of poverty and lower rates of education. Core countries, as well as transnational corporations, are highly influential in this category.

Finally, the theory identifies semi-periphery, which includes countries such as India and Brazil. Their influence on the global trade market is not as big as in core countries. However, they have a relatively diversified and sustainable economy, which makes them more stable than periphery countries. Hence, they are mostly formed in cases where periphery countries become more industrialized, or core countries decline. In general, the world-systems theory is a fluid theory, but it is often criticized for not mentioning each country’s cultural aspects of class struggles. Instead, it is focused on the economic and political development of dominant international players that belong to core countries.

Modernization Theory

The modernization theory states that there is a common path of development for all countries. It implies that each society evolves from being traditional to becoming more modern. Hence, less-developed countries can become highly industrialized in the same way that developed countries did. The evidence for such claims is found in the internal social dynamics that are imposed by technological advancements. There are numerous state programs and non-state agents such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) that contribute to the sustainable development of the world (Brown, 2019). The cooperative efforts of such agents and individual countries can be seen in a way that the quality of life in Eastern European countries increases after they are accepted to the European Union.

Dependency Theory

However, as a response to the modernization theory, the dependency theory was developed. It utilizes the categories from the world-systems theory to state that the inequalities between countries are permanent, as core countries benefit from it. Periphery countries that rely on exporting resources to richer countries are integrated into the world system as undeveloped ones. The economic dependency deepens the cultural and political factors that hinder the development of such countries; therefore, the theory claims that periphery countries will not develop further.

The Evaluation of Globalization Theories

Hyperglobalist Perspective

According to the hyperglobalist perspective, globalization is viewed as an inevitable stage of human history. With the development of trade and technologies, the economies of individual countries become interdependent. This process decreases the value of states, which are integrated into the whole global society. Yet, there is no agreement on whether globalization is a positive or negative thing as it has its own flaws and benefits.

Skeptical Perspective

The skeptical perspective, on the contrary, is more determined in its approach to globalization. According to it, the international processes of the present day are not global but regional. Borders remain to be relevant and important, as poorer countries are not accepted into unions of core countries (Baylis, 2020). In addition, periphery countries do not enjoy the same amount of benefits from the global economy as first world countries. Hence, this supports the notion expressed in the dependency theory. Core countries dominate global markets and, therefore, can dictate how resource-dependent countries function.


Globalization is a process that encompasses many aspects of international relations. However, it is mostly reliant on economic and political factors, as stated by all three theories. Industrialized countries with diverse economies and strong governmental structures enjoy prosperity and stability; hence they act as main players in international trade. Periphery countries, on the contrary, rely on one type of economy, which makes them dependent. Economic underdevelopment hinders progress in other social aspects such as health and education. As a result, such periphery countries cannot contribute to globalization as much as industrialized ones. Hence, the dependent theory represents the limitations that the globalization process has.


Baylis, J. (2020). The globalization of world politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford University Press, USA.

Brown, C. (2019). Understanding international relations. Macmillan International Higher Education.

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DemoEssays. "Globalization: The International Relations Theories." September 21, 2023.