The concept of globalization is essential to understand the patterns of economic, political and cultural change in the contemporary world.
Globalization is known as the name of the social, economic and political processes taking place in our world. During the last years, globalization has become an important subject for various popular and academic debates. Today the concept of globalization is implemented to describe different aspects of contemporary life. It includes such aspects as complexity of contemporary capitalism, the difficulties of the nation-state system and the increasing quantity of transnational corporations and organizations as well as essential competitiveness between global culture to local cultures, the rise of the communications revolution due to introducing of new technologies in the world (Szeman 2001). In other words, globalization is a concept that has both positive and negative sides of the contemporary existence. This paper discusses the concept of globalization and its perspective on the changing patterns of the economic, political and cultural life in the contemporary world. Additionally, it focuses special attention on the discourse of fordism, post fordism, post modernity and postcolonial theory as well as the development of the networked society in the time of globalization.
The concept of globalization and its development
The concept of globalization appeared at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century (1850 –1914) (Rourke and Williamson 1999, p. 5).
At that time, the concept of globalization paid its main attention to the money aspect mainly characterized by the rise of international trade and the increasing flow of migrants. People have been migrating and travelling having different aims. For example, European migrants went the New World – America – in the hope to become rich, while Asian migrants showed their negative relation to America negatively as a colonial country. In addition, the intensive development of industry and the global industrial division of labour in America resulted in large female migration. (Sassen 1998, pp. 41-45)
Today many social theorists are stating that modern world characterized by rising globalization with the dominant economic system of world capitalism. It gives priority for transnational corporations and organizations in contrast to the nations, and destroys local traditions and cultures developing a global culture.
There is a great diversity of theorists’ views on the concept of globalization. Some of them believe that globalization may cause the Westernization of the world (Latouche 1996), but others (Ferguson 1992) consider that it entails the ascendancy of capitalism (Kellner). Some theorists state that globalization increases homogeneity, while others believe that it produces heterogeneity and diversity because of increased hybridization. For many theorists globalization and modernity are similar (e.g. Giddens 1990; Beck 1992), but others state that the “global age” and “modern age” are different (Albrow 1996) (Kellner).
In contrast, postmodernists support diversity, the local, difference, and heterogeneity, and sometimes they note that globalization itself produces multiplicity and hybridity. They argue that with the help of global culture special appropriations and developments are possible in the entire world. Globalization will create new types of hybrid syntheses of the global and the local, helping to widespread heterogeneity and difference. Postmodernists also argue that, “every local context involves its own appropriation and reworking of global products and signifiers, thus producing more variety and diversity” (Kellner).
In turn, Axtmann suggests that global citizenship and accordingly the impact of globalization could lead to a real acceptance of heterogeneity, diversity, and otherness contrasting with globalization that just promotes sameness and homogeneity (Kellner).
Globalization is able to produce new forms of imperialist domination in accordance with globality and universality. There is a danger that globalization just disguises a indefatigable Westernization, or Americanization, of the world. However, restoration of ethno-nationalism, tradition, religious fundamentalisms, and other types of resistance to globalization are active to certain degree by a deviation of the homogenization and probably Westernization connected with some globalization forms.
Coming back to Westernization, it is worth to note that globalization is frequently characterized by the rising dominance of western or American forms of economic, political, and cultural life (“westernization” or “Americanization”) (Westernisation). Westernization had a great and a pervasive influence on the world during the past decades. The collapse of imperialism and colonialism over the decades was noticed by the two World Wars of the 20th century, after which many smaller countries, which were created by former colonial authorities (primarily European), obtained independence and involved different aspects and features of Western culture and tradition. After a downfall of the former Soviet Union at the end of the 20th century, many of its component states became the subject for Westernization. It also included privatization of hitherto state-controlled industry.
Special attention must paid to the fordism and post fordism movement. Fordism is known as the system of mass production and consumption characteristic of highly developed economies and it existed in the 1940s-1960s. According to Fordism theory, the combination of mass consumption with mass production is necessary to achieve material advancement and economic growth. The period of 1970s-1990s is characterized by slower growth and rising inequality of income. At that time, the system of production and consumption organization has transformed. That was a second transformation – post fordism – which led to the second rise of economic growth. This new system is called the “flexible system of production” (FSP) or the “Japanese management system.” On the production side, the main features of FSP are high reductions in information expenditures and overheads, Total Quality Management (TQM), leaderless work groups and just-in-time inventory control (Fordism, Post-Fordism and the flexible system of production). On the consumption side, the main features of FSP are the globalization of consumer goods markets, quicker product life cycles, and far bigger product/market differentiation and segmentation (Fordism, Post-Fordism and the flexible system of production).
Along with process engineering, the second transformation is making transformations not only how we produce things, but also how we live and what we consume accordingly. It illustrates the decreasing essentiality of scale and scope and is made with the help of costs reductions in logistics, communications, and information processing – these reductions occur in result of the computers’ introduction and rising ability of people to use them. (Reschenthaler and Thompson 1996, pp. 125-144).
So, globalization must be illustrated as a difficult and multidimensional phenomenon that includes various levels, flows, and conflicts as well as its possible future.
A critical theory of globalization deals with the reality of globalization, its authority and influence. However, it also studies different forces of resistance and fight that try to resist to the most destructive sides of globalization or global forces.
For example, the constant issue of local and political fight with complex causes is race, ethnicity, class and nationalist problem. It is well-known that the period from the end of 1980s to the present time is characterized by a rise of traditionalism, nationalism, and religious fundamentalism along with increasing globalization.
It is also worth to admit that the resurgence of regional, cultural, and religious differences in the former USSR and Yugoslavia along with intensive tribal conflicts in Africa and in other places allows us to make a suggestion that globalization and homogenization were not so much connected and deep as it was considered by its supporters and critics. In result, culture has become a new source of conflict and an essential indicator of fight between the local and the global. National cultures caused many conflicts between Muslims, Serbs, and Croats, Azarbaijanis and Armenians, Mohawk First Nation peoples and Quebecois. In South Africa, these are the fight between the Umkatha tribe and the African National Congress.
The other important reason of resistance and struggle is the gender inequality and difference. At the level of policy, the influence of globalization on women and gender relations is still ignored on the national and international levels.
Due to gender inequalities and discrimination in many countries worldwide, globalization processes may render their negative influence on women in greater degree than on men.
Nevertheless, many advocates of women admit that globalization influences various groups of women differently. It even creates new treatment standards for women, and assists some groups of women to mobilize. Thus, the role of globalization for many women is still in debate and it is evidently different.
Consequently, globalization is very complex concept and it stimulates to occurrence of different theories, economical, political and cultural studies. There are a lot of reasons due to which globalization has been perceived as mainly an economic phenomenon that additionally has had an evident impact on political, social, and cultural life. Economic globalization means, that it is a long-run upward tendency. Thus, it will be useful to measure globalization. There is a lot of various indicators of economic globalization and they may or may not illustrate familiar patterns in regards to change over time. Trade globalization can be distinguished as the certain share of the production all over the world. Investment globalization would be the share of all world capital invested that belongs to non-nationals capital in the world that belongs to non-nationals (i.e. “foreigners”) (Chase-Dunn, Kawano and Nikitin). Also it is possible to investigate the degree of economic integration of countries by defining the extent to which national economic growth rates correspond to each other in the world countries.
From the economic point of view, globalization is connected with the transnationalization and deterritorialization of industry and capital, which has permitted companies to cross national borders and to travel over the world to succeed from cheaper labor and to open, develop and promote new markets for different services and goods. In addition, economic globalization has been connected with the occurrence of international free trade agreements as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT), and the foundation of an around-the-clock global financial market (Szeman 2001, p. 212).
Contemporary patterns of economic globalization have been much connected with a new development of the relationship between markets and states.
Together with financial integration, the operations of multinational corporations also played the important role. They integrated national and local economies into global and regional production networks. Due to such conditions, national economies are no longer autonomous systems of wealth creation since national boundaries no longer function as essential barriers to the organization of economic activity and its conduct (Held and McGrew).
As it was above-mentioned, the multinational corporation (further – MNCs) was significant to the establishment of a new global capitalist order. In 1999 their number accounted for more than 60,000 MNCs worldwide with 500,000 foreign subsidiaries, selling $9.5 trillion of services and goods globally (Held and McGrew). Modern transnational production essentially exceeds the level of global exports and has become the main means for exporting services and goods. According to some estimates, multinational corporations now make for at least 20 per cent of world production and 70 per cent of world trade (Held and McGrew).
Economic globalization has also been characterized by an evident internationalization of political power connected with a relevant globalization of political activity. Thus, it is worth to deal with the political meaning of globalization.
A special attention has been paid to the threats caused by globalization in regards of the sovereignty and power of nation-states and accordingly, on the occurrence of new sites of transnational politics placed in global cities, international organizations (such as NGOs and the United Nations) and transnational corporations (Szeman 2001, pp. 209-217).
At that time global cities were the spaces where labor, capital, infrastructure, and information are concentrated (Irvine 1999). From this point of view, globalization is considered to be a networked urbanization, a reconcentration of production, capital, and labor in cities as “the nodes of the networked economy” (Irvine 1999). It means that global cities are the nodes of cyberspace, the space of flows including the simultaneous concentration and decentralization of people, economic activity, communications, technical infrastructure, and information (Irvine 1999). From the point of the diffusion of cultural productions on the Net, cultural globalization follows the logic of urban concentration in the global information economy. In turn, cyberpace is a segmented and segregated space that is similar to global cities where IT infrastructure, firms, capital, labor, and services are concentrated, as it was already above mentioned.
Research of the politics of globalization consists of estimation of the growing militarization of global relations, the occurrence of new nationalisms and ethnic confrontations, and the intensive migrations of peoples across regions or even across the world. This process concerns essential problems on notions of cultural belonging and citizenship in almost all countries in the West (Szeman 2001).
The concept of globalization has also been researched in regards of the development of new communication technologies that are significant in destroying our world spatially. With the help of these global communication technologies, it has become possible to perceive our globe as a single space shared by all human beings. It does not only mean that with the help of computer and communication technologies we can instantaneously transmit and transfer information each other all over the world. It mainly means that by circulating of information, images and ideas, people (and especially global elites) around the globe can find similar cultural referents. The emergence of a “global culture,” has been possible only due to the invention of new technologies. Today people in different countries can see the same news events or TV-show programs. Now it is evidently clear for all interesting hybrid cultural forms of global culture that the global distribution of cultural forms and ideas hardly equal. Many cultural critics in globalization has focused their special interest on the influence of the global distribution of a capitalist culture “anchored in the United States” and on its evident threat to the continued existence of local traditions and cultures (Szeman 2001). Probably, it is just here the study of globalization and postcolonial studies is most clearly imposed.
The relationship between globalization and the specific issues of postcolonial studies is too difficult and complex. This can be partially explained by distinctions in emphasis and that these two concepts have the disciplinary origins. In usual, globalization is still a term used mainly in the social sciences, where it is employed to depict contemporary Western experience, but postcolonial studies are introduced in the humanities and pay their main attention on the practices and experiences of non-Western countries, especially in the case if they are related to Western economic, cultural and political priority.
The primary issues of postcolonial studies have been determined in accordance with the complex consequences of 19th and 20th-centuries – imperialism and colonialism. Along with the fact that globalization is originated from the European ideas of colonialism and imperialism, it defines some contemporary transformations that have directly changed some of the strong concepts of postcolonial studies, such as identity, place, the nation, and ways of the resistance connected to these concepts.
In the 20th-century, the current implementation of the term globalization is used according to Marshall McLuhan’s vision of a “global village” made by the world-wide spread of communication technologies, and in “world-systems theory” of Immanuel Wallerstein (Szeman 2001). The central point of Wallerstein’s theory, as first developed in The Modern World System (1974) is that the world economic system has been only capitalist one from its first occurrence in the 16th century.
The postcolonial studies revealed a big insistence on the cultural changes of colonialism and imperialism. Postcolonial criticism has asserted that must be noticed as a basis to creation, production and maintenance of colonial relationship.
From this vision, and particularly due to the diffusion of a global mass culture, globalization may be perceived as “the continuation and strengthening of Western imperialist relations in the period after decolonization and postcolonial nationalist movements” (Szeman 2001).
A critical theory of globalization determines the interdependencies and interconnections between various levels such as the political, economic, psychological and cultural as well as between various flows of people, products, ideas, information and technology. The speed of globalization development with its space-time compression, its instant financial transactions, its simultaneous forms of mass communication, and a highly incorporated world market is certainly a novelty in our world. New technologies make significant changes in the nature of work and create new leisure forms. The hyperreality of cyberspace, new virtual realities, and new information and entertainment modes are the other main characteristic features of globalization.
Present-day globalization explains the matrix of global and local forces as well as of forces of resistance and domination, of a condition of quick change and a “great transformation” caused by the global restructuring of capital and multivariate effects of new technologies. Therefore, globalization is evidently a force of homogenization. The influence of globalization much depends from a position of country in global political, economic and military hierarchies as well as from its domestic political and economic structures, the institutional pattern of inner politics of the state, certain government and societal strategies for contesting, ameliorating and managing imperatives of globalization (Held and McGrew). The future will show what visions, perspectives and concepts best characterize globalization in present.