A great force for good

Is globalization "a great force for good" that brings the world together, or rather, a destructive force that serves the interests of powerful states and capitalist elites?

Arguably the most influential phenomenon in the international political economy today, globalisation is associated with speeding up of the processes by which the world moves towards increasing interconnectedness[1]. The process of globalisation is characterised by the accelerating pace, intensity and scope of economic integration in terms of the flow of capital and trade between nations, social connectivity between people across the world, and political integration between states[2]. Probably the most controversial debate surrounding the issue of globalisation is whether it is a great force for good, bringing the world closer together or rather a destructive force that serves the interests of powerful states and capitalist elites. This essay will examine both sides of this controversial debate, evaluating both the positive consequences as well as the destructive effects of globalisation.

Globalisation is considered by many to be a positive force that has brought the world closer together, improving welfare of people across the world. One of the positive aspects brought about by the increase in the processes associated with globalisation is increased economic integration and trade. There has been great debate about whether free markets should extend across boundaries and states, supporters taking the liberal view that increased global trade is one of the great forces of good that globalisation has caused. Globalisation has meant that trade barriers have been decreased or removed all together, allowing Adam Smith's "invisible hand", described in his book "the Wealth of Nations" in 1776, to regulate markets and competition in a global market place[3].

Before the spread of globalisation, poor nations were almost exclusively exporters of raw materials and importers of manufactures, leading to overdependence on agriculture and often deep poverty cycles. Though this is still true in several parts of the world, the effects of economic integration have greatly improved conditions in these areas. Lower tariff barriers, improved telecommunications, and cheaper air transport, among other factors, lower the costs of producing in developed nations[4]. This allows for the transfer of technology from high-wage to low-wage countries, making it possible for these nations to enter world markets via labour intensive exports. Thus due to the spread of technology provided by globalisation, nations previously reliant on agriculture have moved towards manufacturing. Today, there are products designed in the US, produced in China with components from various other nations[5]. Incorporation of developing nations in world markets generates growth, improving living standards and welfare.

Increased living standards have also been brought about by another controversial effect of globalisation; the advent of foreign direct investment through the spread of multinational corporations. Advocates of globalisation claim that the spread of foreign industry to developing nations brings in capital, creates jobs and thereby generates wealth. Therefore, one reason to claim that globalisation is a force for good is that by bringing developing nations into the world market, richer nations are spreading wealth to poorer ones, decreasing poverty.

Globalisation is often thought of as a process that brings the world closer together. There has been vast improvement in the speed of communication allowing for faster spread of goods, information and technology, bringing greater economic efficiency and an increase in the range of available products[6]. These developments make it possible for employers in Europe, for example, to hire workers in India, providing around the clock service for their customers and jobs in low-wage nations[7].

Another positive outcome associated with the process of globalisation is greater social interrelation. Events in one region of the world have consequences all over the world, developing consciousness of the world as a shared social space, thus bringing the world closer together[8]. Social mobility has vastly improved, as today labour can move across borders and people have freedom to work almost anywhere. With increased mobility, values, ideas and information spread from one area to another. This forms changes in people's attitudes towards different cultures and advocates of globalisation argue that this increases adoption of universal human rights[9]. Therefore, there are several reasons to suggest that globalisation has been a great force for good.

However, there are some who deny the positive effects of globalisation and believe that it is in fact a destructive force that merely serves the interest of powerful states and capitalist elites. Critics of globalisation claim that social mobility and interdependence are not forces for good but in fact a form of western imperialism. It is often argued that the spread of values and cultures across borders is merely a way for powerful states to impose their own beliefs and values on weaker nations and has simply led to the obliteration of indigenous cultures[10]. In this sense, the process is not "globalisation" but a self-interested "westernisation" whereby powerful western nations enforce their ideals upon others, creating tension and war[11].

Additionally, critics disagree with the claim that trade spreads wealth from rich nations to the poor, believing that integration creates uneven development where rich nations profit at the expense of the poor, by extracting cheap goods, cheap labour and thereby wealth via trade[12]. The removal of trade barriers can in some cases harm third-world farmers by leading to prices that are too low to support agriculture, thus accentuating poverty. Therefore, globalisation increases economic inequality in the world rather than decreasing it. Furthermore, due to the nature of globalisation as a means for capitalist elites to seek their own self-interest, the spread of technology has been fragmented and new technology has only moved to areas in which elite nations have an economic interest. Africa in particular has been largely untouched by the effects of globalisation and still suffers from deepening poverty cycles[13].

The growth of foreign direct investment has also been slated as a method for capitalist elites to strengthen their own economies. Though multinational corporations create jobs, they offer low wages and poor working conditions, and many view these standards as unacceptable as they are at a level far below those expected in wealthier nations[14]. Furthermore, the spread of multinational corporations is viewed as a destructive force as it is often done at the expense of the environment, as businesses are able to exploit the lack of regulations in poor nations when setting up factories, leading to ecological degradation, arguably lowering living standards in the long run[15]. Also, most profits are repatriated to the country of origin, meaning developed nations do not benefit, leading to the claim that foreign investment does more harm than good[16]. Another aspect to consider is the fact that many nations have become reliant upon richer nations due to loans and currencies pegged to the dollar, leading to depleted self-sufficiency. Therefore, there is a clear argument supporting the view that globalisation is merely a way for capitalist elites to serve their own interests.

Although many of the issues put forth against globalisation are intriguing, I personally find the positive effects more convincing. Firstly, even though working conditions in manufacturing factories in the third world are poor and wages are low, there has still been unmistakeable improvement in living conditions, as the growing industry must offer wages and conditions higher than workers could receive elsewhere in order to attract labour. Furthermore, throughout the 1990's, unemployment has decreased significantly as poorer nations moved away from agriculture to manufacturing, and export led growth has been successful, especially in Asia[17]. The successes have by no means been purely economic, as with an ever globalising world, there is increased pressure to improve human rights across the globe, while increased travel and technology unites nations in worldwide aid distribution. Overall, economic, social and political connections have made global transactions and communication simpler and more effective.

Additionally, the claim that merely capitalist elites benefit is contentious, as there is evidence to suggest that increased competition from developing nations due to their increased export volumes has actually harmed domestic industry in powerful states, decreasing inequality[18]. Therefore, there seems to be more evidence supporting the claim that globalisation is a force for good that has brought the world together making it difficult to envisage the end of globalisation.

The processes of increased interconnectedness brought about by globalisation have led to great debate over whether they are a force for good uniting the world or a destructive force allowing capitalist elites to serve their own interests. Advocates of globalisation argue that by opening boundaries and allowing increased social mobility and trade, not only is prosperity extended to developing regions, but the world is brought closer together through the consciousness of shared global space. Critics claim that globalisation damages the environment, undermines diverse cultures and sovereignty, and is a means for the rich to exploit poor nations and increase their own wealth. Ultimately, however, it is difficult to deny the great gains in openness, technology, and communication the era of globalisation has brought about, and although development has been relatively fragmented, it is likely that in the long-run as the world becomes even more interconnected more regions will begin to see its benefits.

Word Count: 1497

Bibliography:

Baylis, J. Smith, S. and Owens, P. (eds), The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 4th Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Krugman, P. (2008), The Return of Depression Economics, and the Crisis of 2008, (Penguin Books)

Held, D. and McGrew, A. (eds.) (2002) The Global Transformations Reader (Cambridge: Polity Press)

Clark, I. (1998) Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the Twentieth Century, (Oxford University Press)

Scholte, J.A, (2000), Globalization: A Critical Introduction, (Macmillan Press)

Milanovic, B. (2003), The Two Faces of Globalization: Against Globalization as We Know It, (World Bank, Washington)

Krugman, P. and Venables, A. (1995), 'Globalization and the Inequality of Nations', The Quarterly Journal of Economics (the MIT Press), 110(4): 857-880

Kentor, J. (2001), 'The Long Term Effects of Globalization on Income Inequality, Population Growth, and Economic Development', Social Problems, Issue on Globalization and Social Problems, 48(4): 435-455

Keohane, R. and Nye, J. (2000), 'Globalization: What's New? What's Not? (And So What?)', Foreign Policy, 118(1): 104-119

[1] Held, D. and McGrew, A. (eds.) (2002) The Global Transformations Reader (Cambridge: Polity Press) p. 2

[2] Baylis, J. Smith, S. and Owens, P. (eds), The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 4th Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press) p.18

[3] Baylis, J. Smith, S. and Owens, P. (eds), The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 4th Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press) p.249

[4] Krugman, P. (2008), The Return of Depression Economics, and the Crisis of 2008, (Penguin Books) p. 25

[5] Baylis, J. Smith, S. and Owens, P. (eds), The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 4th Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press) p.19

[6] Scholte, J.A, (2000), Globalization: A Critical Introduction, (Macmillan Press) p.9

[7] Held, D. and McGrew, A. (eds.) (2002) The Global Transformations Reader (Cambridge: Polity Press) p. 2

[8] Keohane, R. and Nye, J. (2000), 'Globalization: What's New? What's Not? (And So What?)', Foreign Policy, 118(1): 104-119, p.106

[9] Keohane, R. and Nye, J. (2000), 'Globalization: What's New? What's Not? (And So What?)', Foreign Policy, 118(1): 104-119, p.107

[10] Milanovic, B. (2003), The Two Faces of Globalization: Against Globalization as We Know It, (World Bank, Washington) p.3

[11] Clark, I. (1998) Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the Twentieth Century, (Oxford University Press) p. 197

[12] Krugman, P. and Venables, A. (1995), 'Globalization and the Inequality of Nations', The Quarterly Journal of Economics (the MIT Press), 110(4): 857-880, p.858

[13] Krugman, P. (2008), The Return of Depression Economics, and the Crisis of 2008, (Penguin Books) p.29

[14] Krugman, P. (2008), The Return of Depression Economics, and the Crisis of 2008, (Penguin Books) p.28

[15] Scholte, J.A, (2000), Globalization: A Critical Introduction, (Macmillan Press) p.9

[16] Kentor, J. (2001), 'The Long Term Effects of Globalization on Income Inequality, Population Growth, and Economic Development', Social Problems, Issue on Globalization and Social Problems, 48(4): 435-455, p. 437

[17] Krugman, P. (2008), The Return of Depression Economics, and the Crisis of 2008, (Penguin Books) p.28

[18] Krugman, P. and Venables, A. (1995), 'Globalization and the Inequality of Nations', The Quarterly Journal of Economics (the MIT Press), 110(4): 857-880, p.859

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!