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Some Notes on Globalisation

Some Notes on Globalisation

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Published by mestrum
Some Reflections on Globalisation by Justin Frewen
Some Reflections on Globalisation by Justin Frewen

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Published by: mestrum on Jan 20, 2010
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05/25/2013

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Some Notes on GlobalisationJustin Frewen(edited version of piece first published byIrish Left Review)
Global Social Justice
One would have to lead the existence of an unrepentant hermit, allergic to our allpervasive media, to have avoided coming into contact with the much discussed andapparently novel new phenomenon of globalisation. Though, of course, globalisation canbe traced back several centuries, at least, for political leaders around the globe it hasover the past couple of decades become a favourite if not all embracing mantra.However, despite its frequent use and even more frequent misuse or abuse, globalisationnot only suffers from a lack of clear definition but its meaning is also heavily contested.It is difficult, indeed, to think of any concept that has seen as much hot air expended asthat of ‘globalisation’. Politicians such as Bill Clinton informed us that we are ‘powerlessto resist’ as the search for policy options was a pointless one while Tony Blair, echoingMargaret Thatcher’s “there is no alternative” (TINA) dictum with respect to the pursuit of liberalist economic policies, informed us its “irresistible and irreversible trend.” Academics too have fallen victim to its’ seemingly irreversible and remorseless logicpushing us to ever greater conformity in terms of ‘End of History’ liberal democratic freemarket utopias. For Giddens, globalisation is the outcome of unparalleled technologicaladvances accompanied by liberal economic structures that have thrown us headlong intoa ‘runaway world’ characterised by a “global order that no one fully understands, butwhich is making its effects felt upon all of us.” (Giddens, 2002: 6)Provocative though such an analytical denotation of globalisation might be, it is hard tosee how such a conclusion really contributes to our understanding of the economic and
 
political forces and structures shaping the current global arena. In an effort to rigorouslyanalyse the range of globalisation theories and also provide their definition as to whatglobalisation truly entails perhaps the most ambitious attempt can be seen in the work of Held
et a
. In
Global Transformations
, they divide the current agglomeration of globalisation theories under three main headings namely “hyperglobalists”, who maintainthat the ascent of the worldwide economy, together with “the emergence of institutionsof global governance, and the global diffusion and hybridization of cultures” are evidenceof a “radically new world order” (Held
et al 
, 1999: 4); “sceptics”, who hold that thecurrent phase of globalisation is in fact not historically unique; (Ibid: 6-7) and; finallytransformationalists, with which Held
et al 
generally agree, who argue that although it isthe “central driving force behind the rapid social, political and economic changesreshaping modern societies and world order”, who exactly will be the main beneficiariesof globalisation is still an issue that needs to be resolved. (Ibid: 7)For Held
et al 
, the transformationalist approach to understanding globalisation is themost appropriate one. As Callinicos writes Held
et al 
 
...argue that globalization should be seen as a complex, multi-dimensional processrather than a primarily economic phenomenon. They suggest that it should beconceptualized as ‘a process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation inthe spatial organization of social relations and transactions – assessed in terms of their extensity, intensity, velocity and impact – generating transcontinental or interregional glows and networks of activity, interaction, and exercise of power’.
(2001: 18)However, while the work of Held
et al 
is undoubtedly a highly impressive one inacademic terms, comprising a great deal of serious and rigorous research and analysis,questions have been raised as to whether their definition of globalisation reallycontributes to a ‘deeperunderstanding of this phenomenon and in particular, whyglobalisation has manifested itself in the manner it has. Apart from negating the political
 
perspectives of the various theorists, assimilated under the neutral(ising) categories of Hyperglobalists, Sceptics and Transformationalists, arguably the most devastating criticof Held
et al’s
definition of globalisation is provided by Rosenberg, who claims it falls intothe trap of ‘empty circularity’ as while
... no-one denies that ‘worldwide social relations’ do indeed exist today in ways and to adegree that they never did before, there can be no objection to calls for a theory of globalisation, if that means an explanation of how and why these have come about. But such an explanation, if it is to avoid empty circularity, must fall back on some morebasic social theory which could explain why the phenomena denoted by the term havebecome such a distinctive and salient feature of the contemporary world.” 
(2000: 2)In short, the
explanandum
, which should deal with understanding the fact thatglobalisation is the evolving outcome of a particular historical process has ended upbeing “progressively transformedinto the
explanans
where globalisation is now beingapplied to give meaning to the “changing character of the modern world” of which it isitself a prime component. Given this conceptual circularity and lack of investigation intothe driving forces generating globalisation it is debatable as to how much such theoriesreally add to the simplistic formulae of the politicians referred to above.The social theorists Petras and Veltmeyey tackle this particular issue head on when theyemphasise the need not only to undertake theoretical analyses that attempt to describewhat globalisation is but also examine the prescriptive aspects of globalisation.
 As a prescription, “globalization” involves the liberalization of national and global markets in the belief that free flows of trade, capital, and information will produce thebest outcome for growth and human welfare. When the term globalization is used... it isusually presented with an air of inevitability and overwhelming conviction, betraying itsideological roots.
(2001: 11)

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