Globalization: Ideological Construction or Evident Reality

Globalization: Ideological Construction or Evident RealityIs globalization actually happening? No sooner has academician and local commentators seem to argue that globalization was changing everything in today’s world, that it became fashionable to proclaim the ‘end of globalization’ or the ’death of globalization’ post 9/11. However, this debate about globalization remains quite unfathomable and hence above questions unanswered.

Globalization, as argued, is a slippery and dangerous yet most important buzzword of our times. It is slippery because it can have multiple meanings and can be used in multiple ways. It is dangerous because often it is used to justify the endless expansion of capitalist relations in every part of our life in every corner of the globe.

In the words of Devid Held, globalization has been variously conceived as an action from a distance, accompanied by time and space compression, accelerating independence and leading to the generation of a global consciousness among people at large. As Held and Mcgrew put forth globalization attempts to disrupt the established paradigms and political orthodoxies and therefore attains significant role in the discipline of international relations. The debate of globalization has been in the forefront for quite some years, that is, with the collapse of soviet empire and consolidation of capitalism, however it traces its origin in the works of the 18th and 19th century intellectuals, such as Karl Marx and Saint Simon.

In today’s world the debate however, it seems to have arisen out of the soil of passionate awakening as categorized by David Held some being very radical, other profoundly skeptical (skeptics) and still others quite ambivalent (transformationalist).

Is globalization a reality or myth?

While acknowledging the wide and powerful discourse about globalization, the skeptics question the very ontology of globalization: What is global? According to the skeptics, the global lacks specificity and has no spatial referents therefore it becomes impossible to distinguish the global from international, transnational or for that matter the concept of globalization from internationalization. They argue that a more valid conceptualization of the current trends can be better captured by the terms internationalization rather than globalization.

According to them, globalization is an ‘ideological construction’ ideology as gramsci and marx would argue represents a certain form of hegemony. Gilpin in his hegemony-stability theory talks about the existence of a hegemon which is required to police a liberal system. However, in a system in which states are in a constant struggle to establish their predominance, the power of the hegemonic state is rather short-lived. Thus, the skeptics refute the argument of interdependence by globalist arguing that in this system the international interdependence is ultimately a temporary and contingent condition. Thus, they argue globalization to be a “convenient myth” necessary to exist so as to rationalize on the global neo-liberal project that is the creation of a global free market and the establishment of an anglo-american capitalism in the global economic regions.

The globalist on the other hand, vehemently oppose to the argument of non-existence of globalization as vouched by the skeptics. They urge us to look towards the real structural changes in scale of modern social organization as a testimony to rapid globalization. Service industries such as finance, telecommunication has begun to equal and even sometime outstrip the conventional manufacturers in terms of their world trade. Globalists such as Peter Dickens, Ulf Hannerz, Manuel Castells argue that globalization has not only reshaped industry and transformed every national economy but also led to a profound change in the fabric of daily life-often in most surprising and complex ways.

In response to the skeptics ontological questioning, the globalists take up the socio-historical modes of analysis. They stress upon recognizing the kind of continuities and discontinuities that a region has seen in order to make sense of the global. Thus, globalization is just not limited to being a prominent discourse but has its impact is very well perceived in the economy, socio-cultural and symbolic grounds, proving it as a fact. Different places however experience varied degrees of globalization.

Peter Dickens, lays down the key difference between internationalization and globalization in response to the skeptics arguing for internationalization being an adequate term to lay bare the reality. He states,internationalization to be a more quantitative process which involves simple extension of economic activites across borders, while globalization is a more qualitative process which involves a functional integration of those internationally discrete activities. The globalists are keenly interested on the power reconfiguration, impact and distribution. The globalists clearly refuting the claim of skeptics as globalization being a myth concede that, the most distinct impact of globalization is the change in the traditional conception of the state-from a authoritarian head to a facilitator.

The skeptics in response to this argue that the emergence of multinational forms of international cooperation and coordination in international organization such as the UN, and the new regulatory mechanisms has crystallized the position of the modern nation state as a liberal and democratic body holding sole power and legitimacy to use force and judicial regulation. The ‘weak’ as well as ‘strong state’ do not seem to compromise on their sovereignty.

On the other hand, the phenomenal rise in the number of international and transnational organizations and collectivities, as puts forth by the globalists are impeaching upon the sovereignty of the nation-state forcing them to reconfigure and thus breaking down the extensive link between the territory and political power giving rise to multiple levels of governance i.e local,national,regional and global. Subjects from national security to issues relating to drug smugglers,activites of paedophiles,terrorism has all turned into the ambit of global governance. In the words of Thomas Friedman, globalization is a ‘gloden traigth jacket’ which benefits all those who voluntarily give up some amount of their sovereignty while moving to a sphere of less war and more cooperation.

Achin Vanaik, however has a very different take on this, he argues that transnationalization of local relation and consolidation of nation-state are the principle form of collective political community that is intrinsic to the historically emerging capitalism and therefore an acceleration in the activities of the same doesn’t threaten the sovereignty of the state.

Robert Gilpin states that globalization is largely determined by political actors not vice versa-hegemonic stability theory.

Globalization as most of the globalists infer has not only transformed the economic mechanism of the nation-state but has made profound changes in the political and cultural space, thus leading to a ‘borderless world’ in the words of Kenichi Ohmae.

Economy: Static or Changeable?

The growth of multinational corporations has been the front-runner in the change that globalization has accompanied. Now the MNC account for 20% of world population, 11% of the GDP and 70% of world trade. Financial integration also had a contagion effect in that economic crisis in one region as the east- asian crisis 1997-98 rapidly captures global ramification.

Hirst and Thompsons however, contradicts the globalists and moves on to argue that the period of 1890 to 1914 saw higher flow of investment as well as higher level of transnational immigration as compared to today’s economy. They also contest the notion of “footloose capital” stating even the MNCs are predominantly the captives of national or regional markets. OECD countries indeed are the benefactors with the three regions controlling the economy-Europe,Asia Pacific and the America. Further,evidence of this growing regionalization are APEC,NAFTA and EU. Thus, globalization is no less than just a myth. In other words of R.J Barry globalization is a “constructed Maneuvre”.

On the other hand, the globalists urge that globalization has benefited all OECD countries as they are now are de-industrializing. While the developing countries having transformed into producer of finished goods from manufacture of raw materials. Jagdish Bhagwati arguing on this line,puts forth the figures of rise in trade from 12% to 30% as stated by the UNDP reports in several of these developing nations.

However, the rise of east-asian tigers comes as a significant instance of power not being centralized, post-hegemonic order. Migration too is centralized and the openness of the economy benefits pariah states as well. On this context-Manuel Castells finds relevance to talk of the emergence of a “global network of states”.

Contrastingly, the skeptics blame the international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank to be perpetuating further inequalities in the developing countries-they function as ‘global riot control’, further consolidating their power and intensifying their economic benefits to a new level. In a big way, they tend to discipline the economies of the third world, to dictate the line of action for these so-called developing countries while their goals stands to be mutually exclusive to that of the state’s development.

Even the globalist do recognize such deeply penetrating inequalities and put the onus of such act on economic globalization and urge towards emerging with a “global ethic”-duty of care which runs across border and would therefore encourage a better future for all.

The Skeptics put forth a strong argument in favor of the existence of a national culture sustained due to a shared history,culture,language. However, the globalists argue that the “national culture” itself is a construct, promoted by the state to claim legitimacy over its action. In Gramsci’s concept of hegemony this is an efficient method of sustenance of hegemony. Globalists emerge out with the concept of “global market outlook” which would lead us to a sustainable future. Hybrid identities-bridging of boundary lines between different identities has been an important feature of this era which moves past the national identity and often threatens it. The emergence of universal human rights also comes as a breach of national lines of control and tends to establish a strong dictum of human rights.

Globalization – A problematic Approach

While both skeptics and globalists view globalization from one way or other, the transformationalists focus on a third way. They stress on globalization having the capacity to transform the role of the state from a strong authoritarian state to the one which hinges upon the values of human rights and brings up other rights and duties into the forum. Creation of new identities,multicultural ethics are some of the dominant features of this globalized era. However,they lack certainty and clarity about their arguments.

As a cosmopolitan globalist concludes, there exists no such definitive way of looking towards globalization. As a phenomenon enduring huge scale economic,social,political changes,it has assumed as omnibus status. Globalization unleashes at a level a conflict between capitalism and democracy and its restructuring process which created new openings of struggle,resistance and democratic formation.For instance, Waterman talks about computer mediated activism.

To find a definitive answer is to be deafened to the multiple facets of globalization which helps and forces us to redefine our sense of “reality”,”naturalness” and other “universal truths”.It has been well argued that in the school of international politics, globalization has played a very significant role in conveying various otherwise shrouded features and characteristics of global political arena. Therefore, it is not the ‘end of globalization’but to put it in the words of Stanley Hoffman “Clash of Globalization”.

About the Author-

The author is a columnist, freelance writer, social-activist, professional dancer. She is associated with the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, India. She has been associated with the editorial-team of the international news and featured magazine-Jasodhara (news Bureaus in 13 countries and powered by over 200 acclaimed media minds and photographers worldwide).She has been on the forefront in the peace building exercise at the national and international level, holding several dance performances at the international summits including the SAARC summit. She had a constant engagement with conflict transformation and peace building through her engagement in the process of policy analysis, formulation and implementation. She has been the frontrunner in the establishment of the internet magazine-Daily Jasodhara. As a columnist she has contributed to the Indianeconomist, OpenDemocracy, Times Of India and several other international magazines. She was also associated with the National Human Rights Commission, National Commission For Women in India. She is the campaign-head of Nirbhaya-a nation wide campaign to stop violence against women in India. She also acts as the National-Convenor of Honour For Women Campaign and is a founder member of OYSS Women-a non-profit governmental organization working towards the empowerment of women socially, economically and politically, since the last 25 years. She has been widely acclaimed as a social-activist who has been associated with several organizations such as Kirti, One Billion Rising, Global Zero Movement. Currently, she is working on her upcoming book ”India-2014: The 8 big challenges”.


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Baisali Mohanty

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