Globalization is the process that has brought markets, societies, and cultures around the world closer together and connected them. The covid-19 crisis is a clear example: a virus that appeared in China gave way to a global pandemic because the world is interconnected. The term was coined by the American economist Theodore Levitt in 1983, but the origin of the phenomenon is unclear. Most believe that globalization began after World War II and that it has developed mainly since 1980. However, some believe that it began in the late 19th century, and even with the first overseas empires, between the 15th and 16th centuries.
In any case, globalization has intensified since the 1980s due to advances in transportation and technology that have facilitated the movement of goods, services, capital, information, and people around the world. The development of commercial aviation, the standardization of shipping containers, and the invention of the internet-connected countries even further. Meanwhile, the neoliberal policies of the late 20th century caused national markets to lower barriers to trade and open up to the outside world. For this reason, globalization is primarily economic, although it also has political, cultural, and technological aspects. Hence, its agents are not only multinational companies and large financial organizations, but also states, cities, and even individuals.
The faces of globalization
Of the four types of globalization - economic, political, cultural, and technological - the most advanced is the first, thanks to liberalized and increasingly international trade. Countries have eliminated barriers such as tariffs and signed trade agreements to integrate economically. At the same time, multinationals are relocating their activities to other countries to save costs, a phenomenon known as offshoring. Economic globalization has been followed by political globalization, with new global organizations and standards, such as the UN, the WHO, and international agreements on the use of nuclear energy.
Cultural globalization, on the other hand, has consisted of increased exchange of values and traditions between countries. For example, the international success of the African song Jerusalema in 2020 or international fashion shows, such as Paris Fashion Week, are the result of cultural globalization. Finally, technological globalization has been added in recent years. More and more countries are using the same technology, and societies are connected through the Internet and social networks. Facebook, for example, has 2.74 billion users, 35% of the world's population.
The world is now one
One of the main consequences of globalization has been the increase in global GDP. Today there is more wealth in the world and, in turn, the extreme poverty rate has fallen by 84% since 1980. This is mainly explained by the rise of emerging economies such as China, whose growth has lifted millions of people out of extreme poverty. However, the increase in world GDP has not translated into greater equality between countries, quite the contrary: globalization also generates inequality. According to a study by the NGO Oxfam Intermón, since the beginning of the century, only 1% of the world's new wealth has gone to the poorest half of the population, while 50% of this new wealth has gone to the richest 1%.
Another consequence of globalization is that the world's economic and geopolitical center is shifting from the West to Asia, and China, along with other countries such as India, is emerging as a counterweight to the hegemony of the United States. As a result, the international community no longer has a single pole of power, but several.
Criticism and controversy
Globalization, however, also arouses criticism. For the middle and lower classes in developed countries, it is tantamount to losing their jobs in the face of competition from products manufactured in countries with lower wages. This discontent has contributed to the proliferation of anti-establishment parties and movements such as the French National Front or Brexit, a reaction to the negative consequences of globalization.
On the other hand, there is a movement that criticizes the neoliberal character of globalization, considering it an instrument of the United States to export its socioeconomic model and thus preserve its hegemony. Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and WWF also denounce its environmental impact. According to them, the economic growth it generates also leads to deforestation, unsustainable extraction of natural resources, and increased consumption of fossil fuels, which aggravates global warming.
Source: El Orden Mundial. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND.