globalization

First investigated by Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan in 1964 and then further explored since the 1970s, globalization is the process through which world populations become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, both culturally and economically. The process is often perceived by its critics as creating a sense of standardization throughout the globe and reinforcing economic inequalities between developed and underdeveloped countries. Advanced capitalism, enhanced by technological developments such as the Internet and electronic business transactions, is seen as stretching social, political, and economic activities across the borders of communities, nations, and continents. Global connections and the circulation of goods, ideas, capital, and people have deepened the impact of distant events on everyday life. Thus globalization entails two related phenomena: the development of a global economy and the rise of a global culture. The major transnational financial, political, and commercial institutions that are instrumental to globalization are the G8, the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.

Samuel Huntington coined the expression Davos
Culture in his book The Clash of Civilizations (1996) to define such universal civilization. The phrase Davos Culture takes its name from Davos, the Swiss town that had hosted a preponderance of World Economic Forum meetings since 1971. The members of Davos Culture share the same visions of democracy and individualism, obviously favoring capitalism and the free market. The appeal of Davos Culture reaches across the political spectrum, often leading liberals and conservatives to share the same table. It has been noted that the 2005 meeting at Davos included not only a large contingent of the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Party but also a considerable representation of the Democratic Party, led by former president Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore.

The rise of a new global economy involves a discrepancy between a huge decentralization of production processes, often to developing countries where manpower is cheaper and unions are weaker, and a simultaneous centralization of command and control processes in rich economies. Corporations, whose level of accountability to the general public has increasingly been questioned, are perceived to have replaced governments in economic and social control. Corporations involved in this massive exposure of exploitative labor practices have included Gap, Wal-Mart, Guess, Nike, Mattel, and Disney. Antiglobal organizations are also investigating the links between transnational corporations and totalitarian regimes in developing countries.

Parallel to economic globalization is the phenomenon of cultural globalization. Its supporters claim that the rise of a global culture entails multiculturalism and a hybridization of national cultures. The creation of a global culture will also build a more peaceful world, based on shared cultural values. Critics of cultural globalization point out its darker side, claiming that cultural globalism destroys all local traditions and regional distinctions, creating a homogenized world culture. Local cultures are replaced by a uniform and single culture, dictated by the same powerful corporations that control the global economy. In addition, globalization through economic commoditization—the spreading of Western values and lifestyles through the selling of Western goods throughout the world—is not such a simple and straightforward process.

In regard to economic globalization, cultural globalization has given rise to movements for resistance. Antiglobal theorists stress how corporations have hijacked culture and education through their aggressive marketing practices. The antiglobalization movement was thrown from the fringes to the center of political debates thanks to the protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization in November 1999. Since then, major financial and commercial summits of the G8, the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum, and the World Bank were disrupted by mass demonstrations in the streets of Washington, D.C.; Genoa; and Prague. After January 2001 annual counter-meetings were held at the World Social Forum in Pôrto Alegre, Brazil, under the slogan “Another World Is Possible.” Alternative media and communication networks such as Indymedia have been established to turn the Internet, one of the tools that makes globalization feasible, into a powerful anti-global weapon. In reaction to power centralization typical of the corporate world, antiglobal activists argue for fragmentation and radical power dispersal.

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