The term “globalization” was first coined in the 1980s, but the concept stretches back decades, even centuries, if you count the trading empires built by Spain, Portugal, Britain, and Holland.

Some would say the world was as globalised 100 years ago as it is today, with international trade and migration.

But the 1930s depression put a hold on that. Nation states drew back into their shells on realizing that international markets could deliver untold misery in the form of poverty and unemployment.

The resolve of Western states to build and strengthen international ties in the aftermath of World War II laid the groundwork for today’s globalization.

It has brought diminishing national borders and the fusing of individual national markets. The fall of protectionist barriers has stimulated free movement of capital and paved the way for companies to set up several bases around the world.
The rise of the Internet and recent advances in telecommunications have boosted the already surging train.

For consumers and avowed capitalists, this is largely a good thing. Vigorous trade has made for more choice, greater spending, rising living standards and a growth in international travel.

It has also led to a greater understanding of other cultures and allowed democracy to triumph over autocracy. But as the street protests against the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle proved, there is a growing opposition to the forces of globalization.

Critics say the West’s gain has been at the expense of developing countries. The already meager share of the global income of the poorest people in the world has dropped from 2.3% to 1.4% in the last decade.

But even in the developed world, not everyone has been a winner. The freedoms granted by globalization are leading to increased insecurity in the workplace.
Manual workers in particular are under threat as companies shift their production lines overseas to low-wage economies.

National cultures and identities are also under threat thanks to the spread of satellite TV, international media networks and increased personal travel. In French cinemas, around 70% of filmgoers watch Hollywood movies.

At the heart of their concerns is the fact that huge trans-national companies are becoming more powerful and influential than democratically-elected governments, putting shareholder interests above those of communities and even customers.

Ecological campaigners say corporations are disregarding the environment in the stampede for mega-profits and marketplace supremacy. Human rights groups say corporate power is restricting individual freedom.

Even business folk behind small firms have sympathy for the movement, afraid as they are that global economies of scale will put them out of work.

But the mere fact the debate can take place simultaneously across countries and continents may well show that the global village is already here.

See also…

International Law Forum

Globalization, From Wikipedia