Understanding Globalization

Globalization is a complex concept, its ambiguity and contradictions make it difficult to comprehend. Some people support it as beneficial, a new way to generate wealth, to bring opportunities to those how have been left behind, a way to increase democracy, to expand cultures to other borders opening a new and exciting world. Others oppose it as harmful, a way to increase control by the rich over the poor, a way to bring a bigger gap between those that have and those that do not have, a way for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.
Globalization can be defined as the process of international network formation, the relation and flows of people, capital, information, goods and services (Brady et al. 2007). Kellner defines it as a “product of technological revolution and the global restructuring of capitalism in which economic, technological, political and cultural features are intertwined” (Kellner 2002, p286). Following similar lines, Guillen (2001) defines globalization as a process that leads to interdependence and awareness among economic, political and social units in the world and its actors. We can understand that globalization is not a stage but a process, that it combines technology, economic and culture. Globalization cannot be understood as an evolution of the current economy, or of the development of technology. Globalization creates a loop between economic development, technological development and culture.
Scholars that try to understand globalization have to be careful that they don’t fall on the track of analyzing globalization neither as technological determinism or economic determinism. If they take the economic determinism approach then they fail to understand the concept of capitalism, which embraces the development in science, technology and society. If they fall under the technological deterministic approach then they believe on the autonomy of technology and economy but fail to understand that technology and economy are not creating new society or economic break by themselves (Kellner 2002). Those who follow either approach neglect the struggle that occurs on both sides of globalization.
Globalization can be contradictory, as it creates friends, it also creates enemy; as it creates wealth, it also creates poverty; as it helps the northern country have more control and power, it also empowers the southern countries to break from their dependence and act more freely. Hardt & Negri see globalization as “a regime of the production of identity and difference, or really of homogenization and heterogenization” (Hardt & Negri 2001, p45). Giddens (1990) see globalization as a mixture of different development that fragments and coordinates at the same time. Globalization can create a homogenized world where everything is the same but at the same time permits a unique appropriation everywhere which creates difference and heterogeneity.
The birth of globalization
In the colonial era, European saw the need to pass their development tools to the poor areas they had conquered. They passed the tools and made a profit out of trying to develop those areas; of course the Europeans didn’t see it as a way of harming but of improving the quality of life of those people by introducing the way Europeans lived. During this time the Europeans wanted to integrate the world economy and control it based on the achievements they had obtain by organizing production.
It was not until 1945 that this started to change, movements in Asia and Africa with anti-colonial sentiment started to rise. In Latin America the movements had a sense of nationalism, believing that they could do it by themselves. With this, a shift occurred and the mentality that developed countries where needed to develop disappeared and the new mentality was that they could develop by themselves (Wallerstein 2005); of course not all countries in Latin America thought or acted on this.
The resistance
Globalization created its own tools and institutions that permitted the spread of it. Institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and The World Trade Organization are all seen as institutions created by globalization to control the southern (underdeveloped) nations. But resistance to these institutions not only came from the southern nations, but also from organizations inside the northern (developed) nations.
Just as globalization is contradictory, same is its resistance. The movements that resist globalization utilize the same tools that have been provided by globalization. In the 1999 protest against the WTO in Seattle, the protester not only used the internet to coordinate protesters from all over the United States but they also used the Internet to coordinate with protest that where being carried in other parts of the world (Kahn and Kellner 2007), creating a global protest. This resistance toward institutions that represent globalization where empowered by the same tools that permit the oppression that they were fighting against. It is not difficult to imagine that technologies that are created for one purpose can be used for another; technology can be used and adapted by the needs of each person.
Even if globalization is portrait as a destroyer of society, its resistance can also portrait negative aspects that can cause greater harm to society at large. Extremist movements that support race or religious supremacy fight against globalization because it introduces the race, religion or customs of others in their surroundings. The Taliban has resisted the western cultural influence and has fought to prevent this influence to be part of their surroundings, but it has gone to an extreme that can exemplify the negative aspects of anti-globalizations movements. These negative portraits of resistance have also use the tools of globalization to fight their caused..
The tools of globalization
The advancement on information and communication technologies has provided great tools to support globalization (Zembylas & Vrasidas 2005). Manuel Castells (1996) explains that one of the feature that make globalization possible and which affects education, political and cultural terms is how easier communication has made the flow of commodities, capital, technology, ideas, form of culture and people across national boundaries. Kellner (2002) agrees that the internet has created the technological infrastructure needed by globalization that has allowed the restructuring of capital and the flow of information between borders.
The tools of globalization have created a facility to access information; it has allowed information to cross borders in a fast and reliable way permitting access to information to those that traditionally have not been able to access them. It permits people to know what is happening in one part of the world in real time. These tools allow the travel of information; permit society to understand how changes have transformed other locations and how they can accommodate them into their society (Wallerstein 2005). The freedom of information that this tools allow have eliminated the segregation of people based on gender or race, but it has created a new type of segregation based on education and class (Kellner 2002)
The same tools that create such a freedom for information, create a disadvantage to those how cannot appreciate the knowledge that globalization brings. Without the use of this tools societies can be isolated meaning that these same tools can create marginalization and colonization. This free flow of information create homogeneity and blur the differences that make each culture to be unique, by erasing the uniqueness of their culture, their language or their religion is like bringing a new form of colonization. (Zembylas & Vrasidas 2005).
To prevent the isolation (that ICT can caused if not used) and at the same time prevent the colonization (that ICT can cause if used) Zembylas & Vrasidas (2005) use the metaphor of the nomad. In their view the nomad is someone that lives in uncertainty and in constant change but learns how to live like that. Being a nomad in the digital world means that the individual needs to know how he was taught to see and think. The nomad should act on the knowledge that not only the information provided is created to be understood through the eyes of a particular person, but that at the same time he is taught to think and react in a particular way. This view of nomadic can only be introduced in a society through education. This will enable the citizens to create a new version of them with the information that is provided to them. Educations should encourage them to think in moments of discomfort and to restrain themself from collective thinking. With this view of nomadic there will always be a mixture of emancipation and oppressiveness.
Without the proper education of its citizens underdeveloped nation have difficulty on taking the advantages of the benefits of the positive externalities. This lack impedes them from learning by doing, knowledge spillovers, R&D leapfrogging as well as technological leapfrogging.
Not only underdeveloped countries can’t take advantages of the positive externalities but they also ignore their citizens and pay higher value to satisfy the needs of the developed nations. The developed nations are the controllers of the globalizations through the institutions that are support to help the developing and underdeveloped countries. But the developed nations select the tools of globalizations that suit them, for example they promote free trade but they limit labor mobility.
Ambiguity of globalization
A positive view of globalization would permit the concept that the world is integrating and that there is a sense of homogenization. That the world consumption is homogenous and that locality is being supplanted by globality. This assertion is not true, there is allegiance to locality (Jackson 2004) and globalization has to be sensitive on location and identity, in a way, reintroducing its importance (Watts 1996).
When foreign companies want to do business in China they have to adapt their business to the local context. Businesses have to focus their strategies in the local context and if they don’t then they might face resistance from the consumers (Jackson 2004). Hannerz characterizes the world as “an intense, continuous, comprehensive interplay between the indigenous and the imported” (Hannerz 1996, p5). Guillen (2001) argues that even there is a sense of homogenization through the world; each consumer perceives the final product different. Globalization standardized but at the same time permits differences, then consumer perceive and react to products in different way. In the words of Giddens we can fully appreciate the ambiguity of globalization portrait through consumption when he says “globalization homogenizes without destroying the local and the particularistic” (Giddens 1990, p246)
Consumption is not the only portrait of ambiguity of globalization, the struggle of power is another. Globalization has created dependency to the underdeveloped nations. The lack of technology development in the southern nations has made them rely on foreign technology, mostly from developed nations. Globalization has expanded the market of the developed countries but for those that are underdeveloped the situation is different. Not only developed nations are being dependent form developed nation by they are also creating dependence to multinational corporation (Bair 2007).
Some under developed nations have fought against this dependence and have created their own mechanism to break free. Utilizing the tools of globalization, doing reverse engineering, creating policies that create agreements that provide benefits to both the developed nations and the underdeveloped ones (Wallerstein 2005).
Final thoughts on globalization
Following Wallestein (2005) argument the world is at the moment of transition and that this is the time for the countries of the south to apply pressure to the north so that they can develop. He argues that their development won’t be like that of Denmark but it will improve the quality of life of its citizens. To achieve this, underdeveloped nations have to focus on creating products or services where value is added in their locality.
At the moment globalization is viewed in a polarized way of good or bad, this has to stop and a proper framework must exist. The framework should incorporate not only the global and local but also the domination and the resistance as forces and events (Kahn & Kellner 2007). The way that globalizations should be viewed, should be as the fight of opposing forces that use the institutions, technologies, media and forms of globalization for their own purpose. It can also be seen as the struggle between the forces from the north to impose over the south and the resistance that comes from below (Kellner 2002).

Reference
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