Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Defining "Globalization"

Someone on a social networking site recently asked me to define "Globalization". I thought I'd re-post my answer here in order to promote discussion:

Globalization is the sum of the collective processes and/or phenomena (which may be called globalizations) responsible for the ongoing breakdown or dilution of legal, commercial, cultural, traditional and/or linguistic barriers between nations, countries and regions. It is primarily driven by and/or enabled by revolutions in transport and communications technology.

On the surface, it sounds very positive. Who could be against breaking down barriers between nations, countries and regions? But the devil, as ever, is in the
details. The key question in examining how globalization is currently being managed is the one posed by the late British political economist Susan Strange: 'Qui
"Who benefits?"

The breaking down of barriers between nations, countries and regions hasn't been accompanied by a breaking down of barriers between people. Or at least not most
people. Indeed, quite the opposite is occuring. Goods and services may flow more freely and cheaply across international borders and around the globe but much of the world's population is more restricted than ever before in terms of freedom of movement. More and more, it is a world of haves and have nots. Of businessmen, tourists and untouchables.

Example: less than 30 years ago, an unskilled foreign labourer could come to the UK and get a permit to live and work in Britain. Now, that is no longer possible without an EU passport or marriage to a British subject. Other countries are also imposing new legal or even physical restrictions (e.g., the new wall across the Rio Grande) against the freedom of movement for human beings. In many instances, a washing machine or a stuffed toy has more of a legal right to cross frontiers than does a migrant worker.

Again, the relevant question is: 'Qui bono?' "Who

And is it any wonder that there should be a cultural backlash against this amongst various groups of people in various parts of the globe?

Thoughts, brickbats, etc. to the usual address.


Blogger Steve said...

I suppose I should have referred to integration and networking at some point and maybe touched on the whole thing about capital market liberalization, but it was a lot to think about before 10 a.m.

13 December, 2006 17:56  

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