What is meant by globalisation

Many people would argue that globalisation is the concept of the 1990s, “a key idea by which we understand the transition of human society into the third millennium”1. Before looking at arguments about globalisation it will help to define the key words which are globalisation and nation-state. Globalisation according to Montserrat Guibernau means “the intensification of world wide social relations which link distinct localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring miles away and vise versa”2.

Furthermore, for Barrie Axford globalisation is “the process by which the world is being made into a single place not just politically but economically and cultural too”3. The nation-state is “a modern phenomenon, characterised by the formation of a kind of state which has the monopoly of what it claims to be the legitimate use of force within a demarcated territory and seeks to unite the people subjected to its rule by means of homogenisation, creating a common culture, symbols, values reviving traditions and myths of origin”4.

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The globalisation process, which dominates the end of this century, is a complex phenomenon, which owns its spreading mainly to mass media, especially television and the Internet. Through the use of various electronic media a vast range of information travels around the world almost instantaneously. The networks of global communication based on air travel, telephones, satellites, radio, television and computers have fundamentally transformed the way that distinct parts of the world are interlinked.

The world is becoming a border less world through the use of computers linked to the Internet, the largest world-wide network of linked computer networks. The Internet has contributed to the end of the state control of information, because individuals can read and publish information on internationally accessible computer networks from any country of the world. Internet is becoming part of our everyday life, more and more people have access to the World Wide Web. It provides all the kinds of information, entertains and can replace all the other media, television, radio and newspapers. As a reporter for the New York Times pointed out in June 1995, the point is not that the Internet cannot be censored because it is technically unfeasible but rather that no country can afford to exclude itself from the potential benefits of free access”. Much of the discussion of globalisation takes place in terms of its adverse effects upon the sovereignty and autonomy of the nation-state. Despite this the nation-state is still the principle actor in world politics but its centrality appears much more fragile than in the recent past.

Globalisation has entered our everyday life in many ways. There are hardly any aspects of life in modern societies that are not touched by globalisation. Indian, Chinese and other Asian restaurants proliferate in the cities of western countries. USA’s television soap operas have prime times on Europe’s television channels and popular music has become an international industry with a world-wide audience. However, the main impact of globalisation upon the nation-state is in the areas of politics and international relations, economics and culture.

The principal political effect of globalisation is clear. In all the states of the world, the power of government is being overshadowed by global forces beyond its control. The competencies of the government’s are restricted, because the modern nation-state is facing problems that can not be solved without global action. “International terrorism and drugs, which are the new threats to national and international security, are taking the place of the old threats of nuclear warfare and large-scale conventional war”5.

In addition, there is a growing range of global problems like those of political refugees, labour, migration, global warming or AIDS which expose us to risk regardless of who we are and where we live. Such kind of problems it is obvious that can not be solved only from one government because they are beyond the control of individual states. The most typical example of a global problem that the world faced, and mainly Europe, is the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the then Soviet Union in 1989 which had effects far beyond than Soviet’s Union borders.

Within weeks and for months afterwards, Europe’s agricultural products were affected by the fallout of wind-blown radiation from Chernobyl. “Because sovereign national governments appear impotent in the face of such global problems, which do not respect borders, it is said that traditional models of politics are becoming increasingly redundant”. The pursuit of collective solutions to global problems through international co-operation has encouraged the growth of supranational organisations such as the United Nations or the European Union with an increasing range of decision-making powers binding on member states.

However, it must be said that organisations like the United Nations are not an overall authority. “The power of the state upon its citizens is exerted in several ways. One of these is by its capacity to impose and collect taxes, which is one of the primary and more central features of the state and something that affects the day to day life of the citizens”6. The twentieth-century nation-state was built, at least in part on the ability to tax and spend a large proportion of national income, for the most part on defence and on welfare. Developments in communications technology by the year 2025 will”, says Rees-Mogg, “make it much more difficult for states to raise tax revenues, because many taxable transactions will have been shifted into the cyberspace, and thus become virtually, beyond regulation. The modern nation-state will starve to death as its tax revenues decline. “7 Most people when they think about globalisation they have in mind a world with no borders, just one global state.

However this is far away from reality, “local and regional identities seem to be growing in political strength. More autonomous regions and more independent nation-states are being created”8. Belgium is an example with state structures not only modelled on the French but also operating in French which has recently divided itself into two largely autonomous entities, Flanders and Wallonia. The governments of these areas run practically all their own internal affairs. The second field where globalisation is having a great impact is the economic field. The collapse of state socialism seems to herald the completion of a truly world-wide capitalist economy, although the speed with which countries like Poland, Russia, Mongolia or Cuba will be fully integrated into a system founded on market economics is still open to question. “9 What most people mean when they use the term global economy is a world of economic blocs with the pattern of global economic relationships linking three main centres. Europe dominated by Germany, France and the UK, East Asia dominated by Japan and North America dominated by the USA. These five countries are dominating the world economy.

It is evident that in the world’s 500 largest industrial corporations by country of origin these five countries have 397 (See Appendix 1). Furthermore they occupy 59% of world’s total GDP( (See Appendix 1). This data reinforces the suggestion that the so-called global economy is in fact a western or northern dominated network of international economic relationships, which bypasses large parts of the world. Although these five countries come from three different continents they can not be considered to represent the whole world. It would be nai?? ve if anyone believed that a global world is an equal world.

Large-scale companies were the first that took advantage of the opportunities of globalisation. The world’s largest companies have expanded far beyond their original national markets. Some have become multinational companies, still strongly based in one country but operating in many others. These companies gained so much power that one government can not control them, they are above the law. A striking example is the Australian-born Rupert Murdoch controller of the giant News International Corporation. “His company has holdings in cable and satellite television in the USA, Latin America, the UK, Germany, Australia and Asia.

The company owns a number of satellite channels transmitted by BskyB in Europe, satellite companies in Australia and Twentieth-Century Fox Cable Corporation in he USA. In addition to this, there is his huge newspaper empire with major titles in Britain and Australia. Murdoch managed to get around foreign ownership restrictions in the USA by becoming a US citizen, which allowed him to obtain major stakes in television. “10 Other companies have evolved beyond this stage to become trans-national companies, which have no strong allegiance to any state and treat the whole world as a single marketplace.

Trans-national companies shift their capital investment and production sites around the world to wherever labour is cheap. For example most of the top brands of sport shoes are now manufactured in East Asian countries like Taiwan and Korea. “The trend towards globalisation can be seen in the rising volume of imports and exports the world over. Imports and exports formed an ever-increasing part of national economies. In all countries international trade and the national balance of payments are increasingly important factors in economic developments.

No country in reality ever had exclusive control over its economic affairs but the consequences of globalisation appear to be particularly great for smaller economies and for the central and eastern European countries, especially as they try to integrate themselves into the world system. “11 The third aspect of influence is in the culture of the nation-state. A crucial question when dealing with the impact of globalisation upon culture is whether we are moving towards a unitary global culture or on the contrary whether globalisation will strength the power and favour the blossoming of particular cultures.

A unitary global culture is difficult to be established. First, because “real cultures are those which bind people to particular places. National cultures are ‘real’ in this sense, full of imaginary, symbolism and meaning for people, because of the myths of origin, the flags, which provide them with a context for knowing who they are. Global cultures, are none of these things, arising out of the general availability of global products and the pervasiveness of images carried by advertising and by the increasingly global entertainment industries. 12 Second, a global culture requires a common language. Till now no language has been established as global language. Although English, Spanish, French and Chinese may claim to be spoken by millions of people there is no globally shared language. Globalisation seems to strength the power and favour the blossoming of particular cultures, rather than imposing a unitary global culture. The American culture is the one that is imposed, in a way, through television series and movies. Young people of the advanced countries are becoming increasingly nationality less and more like Californians.

The American culture is invading people’s life and they adopt it, most of the times without realising it. The Americanisation has also entered countries like Russia. McDonalds’s operate brunches in Moscow. Russia was the last country that was retaining its tradition and was resisting any foreign cultures. Russia was able to resist to German’s attack in the World War and to Napoleon before, but could not resist to the American culture, which tends to be the global culture. However the impact of globalisation depends to a significant extent on the size and the power that each country has.

All the cultures are affected and adopt some aspects of other cultures but to a different extent. Countries like UK or France are not likely to be influenced in a great extent. On the other hand, some countries in order to protect their culture they ban everything that they consider it to be a threat to their culture. A typical example is Iran, which banned an American television series (Baywatch). A global culture in the way that most people understand the term is impossible to be established but a culture that influence the world already exists, the American.

The governments of the nation-states have three options in order to deal with globalisation. Their first option is to resist forces, second ‘to go with the flow’ and third to organise to control. Countries with no political power most of the times simply ‘go with the flow’, while the Islamic countries, mainly, try to resist. On the other hand most of the European countries are organising a unite defence towards globalisation which seems to be the best solution. Globalisation requires a bigger authority, which will intervene wherever there is a problem. Unfortunately the world does not seem to be ready for such a big change.

The benefits of globalisation are a lot, but the notion of a global world has to be accepted by everyone and then put into effect. The future of the nation-state looks rather fragile in the increasingly interconnected world. But states remain important actors in world politics, with the myth of sovereignty still a powerful constraint on how the international system functions. It is highly unlikely that nation-states will disappear in the foreseeable future, but the meaning of territoriality and the state centred nature of world politics is almost certain to be further eroded by transnational forces and institutions.