Why Globalization is not a one-way-street

Schuman Michael’s article, published in the TIME in 2013, begins like a fairy tale: “Once upon a time, globalization simply meant the export of Western culture to the rest of the world. Now the world is turning the tables.” It means globalization is not a “one way street” as he concludes: “globalization is becoming more inclusive and more balanced between different parts of the planet.” The continuous innovation, renovation and expansion of the agents of globalization affects different parts of the world. One thing is certain that the journey of “local” and “global” go together in two-way street. Even if global seeks its dominance, there are other actors to reconnect it with local.

However, the term “globalization” was first used in the 1970s, its concept is not new. Unlike western discourse on globalization claim, the process started with the process of global colonization of planet by humans. Let us not ponder on how and where humans emerged as a species and how and why they moved across the earth’s landscape to occupy all environments found on this planet since it goes back to earlier prehistory. Even though second half of the twentieth century was a significant period of globalization, it has its root in the African prehistory from where human mobility was expanded across the planet. Latest advancement in communication technologies and transportation are another series of the process.

Globalization is different thing for different people. The lack of one generally shared definition of globalization shows its ideological “orthodoxy”. In their book, Global Transformations, authors David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton describe three different perspectives on globalization based on the way the processes of globalization have operated in different historic periods in respect to political organization, military globalization, trade, finance, corporate productivity, migration, culture, and the environment. The four perspectives they describe are hyperglobalist, skeptical and transformationalist.

The hyperglobalist perspective sees globalization as economic and geographical borderlessness. This views globalization as “the new epoch in human history.” This view supports globalization by pointing out that since the 1980s, the nations open to trade, tend to be much more prosperous than nations with closed economies. For example Murphy notes, “the increased wages spawned by globalization correlate with reduced poverty and improved living conditions for all.” However, the orientation of debate is neo-liberal versus neo-Marxist.

The Neo-liberal view is widely criticized by neo-Marxist thinkers. Neo-Marxist see globalization as the western expansionism and cultural imperialism as Vogel and Vogel see it as neoliberal globalization and defines as “the highest stage of capitalism”. According to these thinkers, the key to combating globalization lies in the contest between the reign of capitalism, which is based on privilege, and domination versus socialist democracy based on the principles of liberty, unity, and social justice. Most of the neo-liberals advocate in favor of globalization since nearly all countries have a comparative advantage in one way or another within the global economy. However, neo-Marxist scholars are suspicious towards neo-liberal optimism, as they believe this new form of capitalism creates inequalities within and between countries. Similarly, this perspective believes in the demise of the Nation-States. The main point of this view is that with increasing economic globalization, transnational governance organizations will become increasingly important. The result is that national governments will lose influence and be forced to operate increasingly according to rules they do not create.

Skeptical perspective views the time of globalization has already gone. According to this perspective, the end of the 19th century was the golden age of globalization. In addition, now this is the age of occurred regionalization. The growth of multinational corporations, according to skeptical perspective, does not mean that nation-states are no longer relevant. Moreover, it rejects the notion of global culture or global governance structure. Transformationalist perspective focuses on the cause and effects of globalization. According to this perspective, there is no single cause behind globalization and the outcome of processes of globalization is not determined. Finally, authors argue that the historical process of globalization must be understood for an alternative perspective to view globalization.

The above discussion whether globalization is similar to free flow of capitalism, whether  regionalism is a threat on globalization and the uncertainty of globalization’s causes and effects shows both ideological “orthodoxy” and the persistent conflicts within of discourse of globalization.

To sum up above discussion, I will provide three balanced views. First, Roland Robertson defines globalization as “a relatively autonomous process” in his article “Globalization as a Problem”.  He says, “Its central dynamic involves the twofold process of the particularization of the universal and the universalization of particular.” He points out four major focal points of the dominant globalization process: nationally constituted societies, the international systems of societies, individuals and humankind. His thesis “particularization of the universal and the universalization of particular” clearly shows the interdependence and relatively autonomy of of these four focal points with globalization.

Second, Theodore C. Bestor in article entitled “How Sushi Went Global” argues that the process of globalization neither homogenize cultural differences, nor erase them. He says, “Globalization doesn’t necessarily homogenize cultural differences nor erase the salience of cultural labels.” Third, Amartya Sen, in “How to Judge Globalism”, expresses balanced view towards the process of globalization. He advocates for the equal sharing of the benefits of globalization and its acceptance instead of resisting. He argues, however, that “the inequality in the overall balance of institutional arrangements” produces very unequal sharing of the benefits.” To solve the problem, he calls for the extensive institutional reform and reform in the globalization itself. Institution reform indicates rearranging economic, social and political institution such as public policies in education, epidemiology, land reform, microcredit facilities, and appropriate legal protections etc. Sen’s idea is that globalization is neither a monoester nor a magic. It is human creation and every human has capacity to grasp the fruit.

Thus, globalization is not synonymous with capitalism and free flow. It is true that the political barriers is more flexible for the free flow of goods, services, capital and idea, national borders are significant. In addition, states themselves are the major actors in the global economy as they have institutions, cultures and regulations. Moreover, states are the competitors and collaborators with other states, international institutions and regional economic organizations. Thus, the power of state boundaries is major discontinuities to the “borderless world”.

Finally, globalization is a double-edged sword with both opportunities and challenges, advantages and disadvantages. However, this depends on how nations, regional organizations and global organizations formulate policies and strategies. If the policies are correct, the global reform of globalization is possible. The changing pattern of human life and their culture has no definite end; it is never ending process. Thus, no culture, technology, civilization or idea can get absolute control. Instead, conflict and compromise between local, regional and global determines the process of globalization.


Goucher, Candice Lee., and Linda A. Walton. World History: Journeys from Past to Present. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Held, David, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, and Jonathan Perraton. Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1999. Print.

Lechner, Frank J., and John Boli. The Globalization Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000. Print.

Murphy, Robert P. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2007. Print.

Schuman, Michael. “Globalization Isn’t Dead, It’s Only Just Beginning | TIME.com.” World Globalization Isnt Dead Its Only Just Beginning Comments. 19 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2016. <http://world.time.com/2013/11/19/globalization-isnt-dead-its-only-just-beginning/>.

Vogel, Richard D., and Idell E. Vogel. “Neoliberal Globalization: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.”The Socialist Alternative. US Forum on Combating Globalization, 2009. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://combatingglobalization.com/articles/the_socialist_alternative.html>.

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