|Photo Credit: Richard Jacquot for Mercy Corps.|
"Arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity" (Kofi Annan, Fmr. United Nations Secretary General). What does this mean? First we must understand that globalization defined is: the increasing interconnectedness of people and places as a result of advances in transport, communication, and information technologies that causes political, economical, and cultural convergence (www.dictionary.com). Another definition crucial to understanding this quote is the law of Gravity as defined by Sir Isaac Newton in his book, The Principia, which states that "every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the particles…" (Newton, The Principia, 1687). These two definitions exhibit that the correlation between these two terms can be summed up as: globalization is similar to the law of gravity in that both are dependent upon the mass of the objects involved and the acceleration which is dependent upon the mass.
The first true emergence of globalization occurred in the nineteenth century primarily resultant from the rapid growth of international trade between European imperial powers, their colonies and the United States.
Second, we know that the laws of gravity are irrefutable and inevitable as defined by Newton. Based on the similarities between gravity and globalization we can assume that the most basic and simple meaning of this quote is that globalization, while still a rather infantile concept, is in itself, irrefutable and inevitable. Let us take a closer look. The first true emergence of globalization occurred in the nineteenth century primarily resultant from the rapid growth of international trade between European imperial powers, their colonies and the United States. Though it is viewed as a centuries-long process, the advancement of science in the industries of transport, communication, and information technology catapulted globalization on a fast-track to the level of internationalization seen throughout the world today. In fact, as globalization increased in mass it became more like the Law of Gravity in that it continued to attract more people and countries and grew at an unforeseen exponential rate. Now let us look at a few different interpretations of the subject quote.
Kofi Annan's quote can be interpreted in three different ways. First, is this quote meant to be positive or negative? Positively speaking, globalization would lead the differing countries of the world to form one community where all people are safe and social issues such as war, poverty and genocide do not exist. Furthermore, globalization would encourage the global community to produce advancements in technology that would reduce carbon dioxide (CO²) emissions, thus combating global warming. Secondly, on the negative point, not all countries would necessarily be capable of maintaining the pace required of advancing and accelerating globalization. Those countries would be left behind, unable to catch up, and the world economy would have a significant division between two social classes: poverty and affluence.
Globalization seems to be a pendulum that swings throughout time and history and we, as a global community, have no control over it, not unlike the laws of gravity.
Another way this quote could be interpreted is by comparing it with the most basic law of gravity which is: what goes up must come down. With that in mind, is this the way globalization will predictably conclude? Revisiting facts already stated; the surge of globalization during the nineteenth century possibly caused the extreme recession and consequent depression of the United States in the early twentieth century as the economy was not able to handle the aggressive bounds being taken by globalization. This destabilization of the United States economy over a twenty-year span thus affected the global economy, sending globalization into a short remission in preparation for resurgence in the late twentieth century. Some might question this theory. To those who doubt, I direct their attention to the examples of past globalization afforded us by the Roman Empire, Mongolian Empire, Arab Empire and the Islamic Golden Age, all of which experienced similar problems and which are no longer in existence today due to significant economical breakdowns.
As someone who is concerned with world news and current events, I prefer to support the aforementioned theory that Kofi Annan's quote was intended to point out considerable problems with globalization. Globalization seems to be a pendulum that swings throughout time and history and we, as a global community, have no control over it, not unlike the laws of gravity. Both appear to be powered by an incomprehensible force as yet undiscovered by man. In effect, I believe this crucial sentence was intended to warn the global community that though we are on the upswing of globalization, there will be an equal and opposite downswing and that it may occur sooner rather than later.
In conclusion, globalization and the law of gravity are similar in meaning and can be analyzed in the same way. Both concepts are dependent upon certain factors: mass and acceleration. Though there are several benefits to globalization there are also disadvantages and without moderation and significant study, these disadvantages might lead our global economy in a direction most unfavorable. These are the inferences that we may make from the meaning of Kofi Annan's quote. While Kofi Annan employs an unconventional association between two seemingly unrelated topics to convey his meaning, he communicates what is necessary to ensure that his message is understood worldwide.
Contributed by Amanda M. Osborne of Missouri. Amanda will be attending University of Missouri-Kansas City this fall.
To read the Global Envision essays that received an honorable mention, see the contribution from Bethney Ross of New Westminster, British Columbia. To read the first place essay for Fall 2007, see William Bruns' contribution from Seattle Central Community College.
Return to top