Thursday, 1 January 2015

Globalization, a world of difference?

Comment on the cartoon: Globalisation is shown as an oversized, dangerous-looking boxer (“BIZ” means “big business”). Localism is represented as a small, weak, surprised-looking boxer. Localism” concerns small-scale economy and participatory democracy (i.e. it is the opposite of globalization). The referee is warning the "localism" boxer (!) that he, the referee, wants a fair fight (i.e. no cheating). Ebert is being ironic since the smaller boxer has no chance of victory; the fight (between the forces of globalisation and localism), in other words, is rigged in favour of big business. The cartoonist in fact considers that the real threat comes from globalization, not from people who oppose it. He is mocking those (i.e. the powerful) who cannot stand any criticism of globalization... The figure of the referee can be seen as embodying the various organizations that promote free trade in the world (the World Trade Organization and its GATT, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Union, etc.); the cartoonist is saying that this "referee" is promoting globalisation at the expense of localism (the referee is corrupt).

Cf. page 70 of your textbook (Terminale, Classes Européennes, History Geography, Hatier).

"Globalization, a world of difference?" This is a great chapter title, rich in meaning! Let’s analyse it (i.e. what does this title mean and what questions does it inspire?).

We need to define the terms of the title, namely: “globalization”, “world”, and “difference”. Then we need to understand how the expression “a world of difference” is used.

First term: “globalization”. Here is a simple definition (learn it by heart!):

Globalization is the intensification of movement of people, goods, money, and information on a world scale (“intensification” means more, and more quickly). Globalization has intensified especially since the 1980s. This process has created an unprecedented world-wide economic, political and cultural space (that is far from being unified however!). It is the extension of the free-market (aka liberal or neoliberal or "laissez-faire") economic model to the whole planet. Globalization includes everybody (but, so far, to various degrees), everywhere on the planet, all the time.

The neo-liberal economic model means: competitive, profit-oriented business based on private ownership of the means of production, with minimal State intervention and the suppression of trade barriers.

Then: what is meant by “world”? That’s easy: the whole planet (its various human populations and how they interact plus the resources and ecosystems on which we depend).

Then: what is meant by “difference”? It means, simply: “not the same” (as others, as before), and it also means “significant change” (from a previous situation).

So, “a world of difference”, if read positively, implies that the situation in the world has undergone significant change for the better thanks to globalization. In other words: globalization has made “a world of difference” (from the common expression: "Oh, that makes a world of difference!"), i.e. it is a positive, constructive process which aims to improve the world (through wealth-creation for all). This is the neoliberal discourse or justification, for the process of globalization. Globalization makes a positive difference to the world...

However, “a world of difference” can also be read rather negatively: does globalization only exist because of differences in the world? I mean: do multinational companies not depend on the exploitation of poor countries to make profits (using the cheap labour in those countries and exploiting their resources)? The “difference” of the title is the difference between rich and poor regions of the world. Globalization depends on differences in the world...

Maybe world-wide capitalism even creates differences (literally creating a “world of differences”), in which case globalization is less about intensifying exchange in order to unify the world (in a common economic, political and socio-cultural system) but more about increasing the profits of the companies based in the wealthy and powerful countries at the expense of the poor... This is a world of disparities, of unfair differences, i.e. the rich and powerful against the poor and powerless. This is the anti-globalisation discourse against the globalisation process. Globalization creates differences in the world...

When trying to understand globalization, we need to find answers to the following questions:

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