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The Great Globalization Debate. PS 314 Spring 2006. General Points:. The concept is not new: but the term is (first used in the 1970’s) Debate intensified by two events: (a) collapse of communism and (b) technological revolution

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general points
General Points:

The concept is not new: but the term is (first used in the 1970’s)

Debate intensified by two events: (a) collapse of communism and (b) technological revolution

No one ideological "orthodoxy" (both positive and negative views are shared across conservatism, liberalism and socialism)

It is hard to find one generally shared definition of globalization

However, uses of the term encompass things like "interconnectedness" and "enmeshed societies".

A major part of the debate (even among those who believe that it is one of the principal features of modern society; is it a useful concept for understanding the world around us?

lines of the debate
Lines of the debate


Impacts of




Utility of



key areas of debate
Key areas of debate
  • The definition of globalization (what distinguishes modern globalization from other eras?)
  • The role of nations (states) in today’s world (are they becoming less relevant?)
  • The dynamics of inequality
the skeptics
The Skeptics

The Camp:

Skeptics are often either Marxists or "realists" (power theorists).

Definitional problems:

What is the "global" in globalization? It is not spatial, cannot be taken literally. And if not, then is it useful? What is the difference between the "global" and the international or the transnational?

the skeptics and nations
The Skeptics and Nations

Sovereignty (political power):

Skeptics argue that the traditional concept of sovereignty still explains and predicts


National cultures persist (and, indeed, for some they have actually become more, not less, salient)


National economies and markets are still the fundamental building blocks of the global marketplace

the skeptics and inequality
The Skeptics and Inequality

Why has inequality risen over the claimed period of globalization?

One line of reasoning posits that inequalities in the global marketplace are a result of traditional capitalism, not globalization. This argument has a long lineage in Marxist analysis, but has been modified by non-Marxists in the form of dependency theory.

Others would argue that these inequalities stem from the traditional allocation of power in the international state system. Again, this line of thought has a pretty long lineage (we might trace it back to Adam Smith, for example), but we would associate it today with neo-realism (and even more recently with neo-Conservatism).


The Camp:

The camp is rather politically and ideologically diverse

The Manifestation of Globalization:

Contemporary globalization is spatially and historically distinct

In addition, it reflects real political, economic, and cultural changes that have given rise to new forms of organization and new institutions

It is not just technological, but has a very real social dimension

globalists and nations
Globalists and Nations

Political Power:

Argue that sovereignty is not the central explanatory concept in the new globalization era; the sovereignty of the state has been challenged by a multitude of actors and institutions.

National Culture:

National Culture is breaking down, and being replaced by regional and global ‘superidentities’

The traditional phenomenon of "economic sovereignty" is disappearing.

the globalists and inequality
The Globalists and Inequality

The Pessimists:

Some see globalization as a prime creator of new kinds of global inequality – quantitative and qualitative - between and across nations (the “race to the bottom”)

The Optimists:

Optimists argue that globalization is economically successful; some suggest that it needs to be accompanied by "political globalization" (world government?) if we are to eradicate inequalities (the “rising tide lifts all boats”)