Globalization and implications international politics?

Globalization and implications international politics?

What is globalization and what implications might it have for international politics?

The world as we see it today is to a large extent a by-product of globalization, a term that is being discussed, researched and witnessed by people from all walks of life. But what exactly is globalization which seems to have gripped the world? Further what are its implications ? This essay looks into these questions briefly, from the debate as to the extent and existence of globalization to how it has affected the international political arena. It starts with what globalization is and moves further to its characteristics. It continues with the views hyper-globalists, transformationalists and sceptics have on globalization. Lastly, it will discuss the different implications globalization has had on international politics such as the diminishing role of the state, increased participation by women in politics and how it has led to overdependence.

What is globalization-

Globalization is a multi-dimensional process that is transforming the national and global activities and communications at a sharp rate and in a profound way. The changes embraced by globalization have far-reaching implications on all aspects of life?

As two thoughtful Australian legal scholars recently observed-

‘'This process of globalization is part of a ever more interdependent world where political, economic, social, and cultural relationships are not restricted to territorial boundaries or to state actors and no state or entity is unaffected by activities outside its direct control. Developments in technology and communications, the creation of intricate international organizations and transnational corporations... and the changes to international relations and international law since the end of the Cold War have profoundly affected the context within which each person and community lives, as well as the role of the state.''

Characteristics of Globalization-

The pace, extent, and nature of globalization differ among economic, political, and social dimensions. While there is no single agreed-upon definition of globalization, it is generally understood to be a process in which barriers to the international flow of goods, services, capital, money, and information are being increasingly diminished or eliminated. Indeed, Foreign Direct

Investment (FDI) inflows constituted about 8% of world gross-fixed capital formation in 1997, up from 5% in 1990 and about 2% in 1980

Whether globalization will affect for good or ill the lives of individuals throughout the world is a cliché commonly accepted by scholars. David Rothkopf, a Columbia University Professor, writes that "it is the first time in history that virtually every individual at every level of society can sense the impact of international changes. They can see it and hear it in their media, taste it in their food, and sense it in the products they buy." He predicts that during the next decade nearly two billion workers from emerging markets will have to be absorbed into the global labour pool. "You are either someone who is threatened by this change or someone who will profit from it, but it is almost impossible to conceive of a significant group that will remain untouched by it."

Views of Globalization-

There is a controversial debate over the extent of globalization and whether it is a temporary or permanent trend. Some have argued that globalization represents a shift in capitalism (Marxists) that has already been achieved or is inevitable. Others have argued that the extent of globalization is exaggerated (sceptics). In fact, they claim that globalization is not a new phenomenon but it is merely an acceleration within the process of internationalization of capitalism and the market. They view the current international processes as ‘regionalization,' rather than globalization. The sceptics argue that that the current level of globalization is different from that which prevailed in international trade and capital flows between the last decade of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. In contrast, there are those who distinguish today's globalization as a second wave globalization (transformationalists), which is unparalleled both in character and the number of countries involved in the global economy. Additionally, some point out that instantaneous availability of news and information on a global scale has essentially created the so-called “global village,” (hyper globalists).

Implications of Globalization-

The advancement of globalization is inevitable. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has gone so far as to exclaim, "Globalization is in the saddle and rides mankind.”

The question is has globalization diminished the role of the state in the world economy? As the process of globalization is ever intensifying, the balance of power is shifting away from governments toward multilateral institutions and a small number of multinational corporations and financial institutions. Policy options available to the nation-state are increasingly restricted and dictated by globalization. Large, transnational corporations are becoming increasingly powerful. Naturally profits being the most important objective, detrimental consequences can arise, such as violation of human rights, environmental exploitation, child labour and so on. These large corporations argue that their involvement in foreign countries is actually a good thing as it can promote human rights in non-

democratic nations. However, it seems more of a convenient excuse to continue exploitative practices. The following quotation sums up nicely:

“It is all very well for Bill Gates to charitably donate $750m to pay for immunization programmes for certain diseases, as he recently announced he would do, and for James Wolfensohn to urge transnational companies setting up in poor countries to contribute financially directly to local education services. Societies which depend on such largess to meet their basic health and education needs are neither sustainable, democratic nor equitable—yet new dimensions of power are ceded to large companies.''

Through globalization, there has been increased participation by women in the political field especially in developing countries. Examples include Benazir Bhutto being the first female prime minister of a Muslim country and Sheikh Hasina the current prime minister of Bangladesh. Greater participation by women in the political and social process has helped to raise their awareness. This is reflected in the growth of women's groups, community organizations run by women and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) support for women's initiatives within developing countries. Either way the outcome to these events is the response to the impact of globalization. The following chart shows the Elected Women Chairperson to the Union Parishad (local government) of Bangladesh(1973-2003)-


Union Parishad


Elected female



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With economies around the world having been integrated, international trade and capital flows increasing at an unprecedented level, various institutions, such as WTO, IMF and UN, have been formed to regulate and monitor the flow of such activities. The aim of these institutions is to provide a level-playing platform for member countries to conduct trade, economic activities and so on. Unfortunately, despite many attempts and policies being implemented, problems such as, child labour, human trafficking, business malpractice and many more, still exist. Inequality still persists and the depth of it is unimaginable. The richest 20% of the world's population controls 75% of the world's income! These international institutions will manage globalization but in the interests of their most powerful members. Institutions will only accommodate the needs and interests of weaker states where in so doing they do not diminish the dominant position of powerful states.

It should however be noted that the role of state has not eroded completely and that multinationals cannot have things their way. The nation state is still the principal organizational unit upon which the ‘global,' economy is founded. Multinational corporations are still tied primarily to their home states or regions. Also there is no evidence to suggest that MNCs relocate investment to areas where there are lower wages and taxes. In fact, research into actual patterns of MNCs investment shows that in today's knowledge-driven world, factors such as the availability of skilled and semi-skilled labour, quality infrastructure and proximity to markets are important factors when deciding on a location. To the contrary, states and governments still have a very vital role to play in a successful economy. Additionally, the notion that MNCs have become so powerful than the state is not entirely true. When South Africa wanted to try and produce cheaper AIDS drugs to help its own people, the big pharmaceutical corporations such as, Pfizer and Glaxo-Wellcome, lobbied the US government to impose sanctions on them! But however, strong and influential by Act Up-New York, James Love, Ralph Nader's Consumer Project on Technology and others made the US government realize what it had done was simply incorrect and in September 1999 announced that it would no longer pressurize and threaten South Africa in its attempts to manufacture essential life-saving medicines for its people.

If we continue further, globalization has led to overdependence. The speed at which events in one country can spread to the world is unimaginable. The current world economic crisis is one good example. It started in America and has now spread to all four corners of the globe. Millions of workers have become unemployed, commodity prices have sky-rocketed to levels never seen in history and much more. To some extent it can be argued that globalization brings with it a lot of problems for political leaders and policy makers. Events such as these have serious repercussions around the world and make it difficult for a country as to how to solve them.


‘Globalization is here to stay,' claims American President Barack Obama. Kofi Annan has gone further and says, ‘It has been said that arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity.'

The essay looks into the viewpoints of the different type of observers of globalization such as, hyper-globalists, sceptics and transformationalists. Some claim it to be a new phenomenon while some say it is nothing new. It also discusses the positive and negative implications globalization has had on international politics ranging from greater participation in the political arena by women to the speed at which events in one country can spread to others within a span of few seconds.

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