|Colin Spurway/Mercy Corps.|
Far too often discussions of globalization are marred by two flawed notions: the first being that somehow globalization is a trait unique to the modern world and the second that globalization can be brought to a halt. The former of these misconceptions creates the illusion that the latter is possible; for, while the word "globalization" itself is a relatively new invention, the process of cultures exchanging goods and ideas has existed since the genesis of human history. Globalization is a vision that mankind has been working towards, knowingly or otherwise, with every fresh cultural exchange. Even violent cultural exchanges seemingly at odds with a unified global vision are in essence globalizing endeavors as they tend to at least disseminate cultural practices during foreign occupations (for proof of war's ability to globalize one need look no farther than WWI and WWII, two of the most far-reaching globalizing events of the twentieth century). Although the word "globalization" in one sense merely describes the age-old process of cultural exchange, more importantly it has recently entered the public lexicon as a way to describe the record high level of such exchange in the present day.
Globalization is a vision that mankind has been working towards, knowingly or otherwise, with every fresh cultural exchange.
Owing to recent advances in international communications and the integration of developing nations into the global marketplace, at no other time in human history has there been such a strong reliance on global cooperation. No longer can international decisions be made without the global community taking note; no longer are most countries constrained by the shackles of slow foreign communications and unprotected trade routes; no longer does it take weeks or even days for a business representative to cross an ocean. Unsurprisingly, with every loosening of these former logistical and technological barriers we find ourselves increasingly confronted with a new international identity foreign to the largely isolated economic and political systems of the past. This brings us to the question at hand: "Is arguing against globalization a process as futile as arguing against the laws of gravity?" The answer is, quite simply, yes. Globalization is the logical evolution of a process that has been ongoing since the advent of human culture. Even if one is unwilling to accept globalization as an inevitable progression, there is certainly no denying globalization is occurring and we are reliant on the global village more so today than at any time prior. It would be accurate to say that to abandon globalization in this day and age would require the complete reorganization of almost all society as we know it. In fact, to imagine living a day without a product or even an idea originating from another culture is hardly fathomable to all but the most removed denizens of Earth. As a resident of the United States I can state with certainty that most of the clothes I wear, many of the electronics I utilize, and even much of the food I eat originates from outside the United States. One need not focus on whether globalization is a stoppable force, for it is not. What needs to be the focus in discussions regarding globalization is how this process can be manifested in a manner least detrimental to the earth's environment and most beneficial to the earth's population.
In fact, to imagine living a day without a product or even an idea originating from another culture is hardly fathomable to all but the most removed denizens of Earth.
Globalization is not a process that is inherently "bad" or "good". Globalization is a process capable of both positive and negative outcomes, dependent entirely on how policies are guided and implemented. As a relatively new cultural phenomenon, rapid and widespread globalization has shown both positive and negative results. For the succinctness of this essay it is convenient to divide these results into the categories of cultural impact and economic impact although, admittedly, this does not address the huge environmental concerns of globalization.
As a cultural force globalization has proven itself to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, the average citizen of Earth stands to know more about other cultures than at any previous time in history. On the other, though, one must consider the implications of this new global laissez-faire sort of marketplace for cultural transmission. For instance, is it potentially dangerous to allow a single culture to dominate these new markets of cultural transmission? Likewise, should cultural entertainment industries and cultural food franchises be allowed free dissemination throughout the world at the potential cost of local culture? To even begin to address these questions would require a much lengthier essay. I merely raise them to show the type of question that should be addressed when considering globalization's effects on local culture, the type of question whose answer will eventually determine whether globalization is a positive cultural force or a negative one.
China proved that implementation and guidance of a winning policy makes or breaks the results of globalization.
An even more pressing concern regarding globalization is its economic consequences. Sadly, thus far globalization appears to have mostly economically benefited heavily industrialized countries and had largely adverse consequences for developing nations, with some notable exceptions. Numerous national economies have collapsed under the forced introduction of global market economics through conditional loans granted by the International Monetary Fund, the primary lender of money to developing countries. Some developing countries, like non-IMF backed China, however, have been able to afford a more gradual approach to introducing market economics and have shown notable success in claiming a stake on the potential profits of globalization. During the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, while IMF-backed countries in Asia struggled to remain afloat economically, China's own currency showed relatively few signs of weakness. Following its own non-IMF dictated path towards a market economy, China proved that implementation and guidance of a winning policy makes or breaks the results of globalization.
Globalization is an unstoppable force on which we are now reliant. This does not mean, however, that we should idly allow it to evolve unguided, or even behind closed doors. Globalization is, after all, a worldwide human movement of importance to everyone and should be dictated by human choices representative of the global community, not an elite few. We must advance with this notion firmly planted in our heads or else be wary of potentially disastrous results.
Contributed by William Bruns of Seattle Central Community College. William's essay submission was the winning entry for our Fall 2007 essay contest.
To read the Global Envision essays that received an honorable mention, see the contribution from Amanda Osborne of the University of Missouri-Kansas or Bethney Ross of the Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and the Canadian Tourism College in Surrey, British Columbia.
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