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4/6/2016 8TheoriesofGlobalizationExplained!




All theories of globalization have been put hereunder in eight categories: liberalism,
political realism, Marxism, constructivism, postmodernism, feminism , Trans-
formationalism and eclecticism. Each one of them carries several variations.

Liberalism sees the process of globalisation as market-led extension of
modernisation. At the most elementary level, it is a result of natural human desires
for economic welfare and political liberty. As such, transplanetary connectivity is
derived from human drives to maximise material well-being and to exercise basic
freedoms. These forces eventually interlink humanity across the planet.

They fructify in the form of:

(a) Technological advances, particularly in the areas of transport, communications

and information processing, and,

(b) Suitable legal and institutional arrangement to enable markets and liberal
democracy to spread on a trans world scale.

Such explanations come mostly from Business Studies, Economics, International

Political Economy, Law and Politics. Liberalists stress the necessity of constructing
institutional infrastructure to support globalisation. All this has led to technical
standardisation, administrative harmonisation, translation arrangement between 1/10
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languages, laws of contract, and guarantees of property rights.

But its supporters neglect the social forces that lie behind the creation of
technological and institutional underpinnings. It is not satisfying to attribute these
developments to natural human drives for economic growth and political liberty.
They are culture blind and tend to overlook historically situated life-worlds and
knowledge structures which have promoted their emergence.

All people cannot be assumed to be equally amenable to and desirous of increased

globality in their lives. Similarly, they overlook the phenomenon of power. There are
structural power inequalities in promoting globalisation and shaping its course.
Often they do not care for the entrenched power hierarchies between states, classes,
cultures, sexes, races and resources.

Advocates of this theory are interested in questions of state power, the pursuit of
national interest, and conflict between states. According to them states are
inherently acquisitive and self-serving, and heading for inevitable competition of
power. Some of the scholars stand for a balance of power, where any attempt by
one state to achieve world dominance is countered by collective resistance from
other states.

Another group suggests that a dominant state can bring stability to world order. The
hegemon state (presently the US or G7/8) maintains and defines international rules
and institutions that both advance its own interests and at the same time contain
conflicts between other states. Globalisation has also been explained as a strategy in
the contest for power between several major states in contemporary world politics.

They concentrate on the activities of Great Britain, China, France, Japan, the USA and
some other large states. Thus, the political realists highlight the issues of power and
power struggles and the role of states in generating global relations.

At some levels, globalisation is considered as antithetical to territorial states. States,

they say, are not equal in globalisation, some being dominant and others
subordinate in the process. But they fail to understand that everything in
globalisation does not come down to the acquisition, distribution and exercise of
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Globalisation has also cultural, ecological, economic and psychological dimensions

that are not reducible to power politics. It is also about the production and
consumption of resources, about the discovery and affirmation of identity, about the
construction and communication of meaning, and about humanity shaping and
being shaped by nature. Most of these are apolitical.

Power theorists also neglect the importance and role of other actors in generating
globalisation. These are sub-state authorities, macro-regional institutions, global
agencies, and private-sector bodies. Additional types of power-relations on lines of
class, culture and gender also affect the course of globalisation. Some other
structural inequalities cannot be adequately explained as an outcome of interstate
competition. After all, class inequality, cultural hierarchy, and patriarchy predate the
modern states.

Marxism is principally concerned with modes of production, social exploitation
through unjust distribution, and social emancipation through the transcendence of
capitalism. Marx himself anticipated the growth of globality that capital by its nature
drives beyond every spatial barrier to conquer the whole earth for its market.
Accordingly, to Marxists, globalisation happens because trans-world connectivity
enhances opportunities of profit-making and surplus accumulation.

Marxists reject both liberalist and political realist explanations of globalisation. It is

the outcome of historically specific impulses of capitalist development. Its legal and
institutional infrastructures serve the logic of surplus accumulation of a global scale.
Liberal talk of freedom and democracy make up a legitimating ideology for
exploitative global capitalist class relations.

The neo-Marxists in dependency and world-system theories examine capitalist

accumulation on a global scale on lines of core and peripheral countries. Neo-
Gramscians highlight the significance of underclass struggles to resist globalising
capitalism not only by traditional labour unions, but also by new social movements
of consumer advocates, environmentalists, peace activists, peasants, and women.
However, Marxists give an overly restricted account of power.

There are other relations of dominance and subordination which relate to state,
culture, gender, race, sex, and more. Presence of US hegemony, the West-centric
cultural domination, masculinism, racism etc. are not reducible to class dynamics 3/10
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within capitalism. Class is a key axis of power in globalisation, but it is not the only
one. It is too simplistic to see globalisation solely as a result of drives for surplus

It also seeks to explore identities and investigate meanings. People develop global
weapons and pursue global military campaigns not only for capitalist ends, but also
due to interstate competition and militarist culture that predate emergence of
capitalism. Ideational aspects of social relations also are not outcome of the modes
of production. They have, like nationalism, their autonomy.

Globalisation has also arisen because of the way that people have mentally
constructed the social world with particular symbols, language, images and
interpretation. It is the result of particular forms and dynamics of consciousness.
Patterns of production and governance are second-order structures that derive from
deeper cultural and socio-psychological forces. Such accounts of globalisation have
come from the fields of Anthropology, Humanities, Media of Studies and Sociology.

Constructivists concentrate on the ways that social actors construct their world:
both within their own minds and through inter-subjective communication with
others. Conversation and symbolic exchanges lead people to construct ideas of the
world, the rules for social interaction, and ways of being and belonging in that world.
Social geography is a mental experience as well as a physical fact. They form in or
out as well as us and they groups.

They conceive of themselves as inhabitants of a particular global world. National,

class, religious and other identities respond in part to material conditions but they
also depend on inter-subjective construction and communication of shared self-
understanding. However, when they go too far, they present a case of social-
psychological reductionism ignoring the significance of economic and ecological
forces in shaping mental experience. This theory neglects issues of structural
inequalities and power hierarchies in social relations. It has a built-in apolitical

Some other ideational perspectives of globalisation highlight the significance of
structural power in the construction of identities, norms and knowledge. They all are 4/10
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grouped under the label of postmodernism. They too, as Michel Foucault does strive
to understand society in terms of knowledge power: power structures shape
knowledge. Certain knowledge structures support certain power hierarchies.

The reigning structures of understanding determine what can and cannot be known
in a given socio-historical context. This dominant structure of knowledge in modern
society is rationalism. It puts emphasis on the empirical world, the subordination of
nature to human control, objectivist science, and instrumentalist efficiency. Modern
rationalism produces a society overwhelmed with economic growth, technological
control, bureaucratic organisation, and disciplining desires.

This mode of knowledge has authoritarian and expansionary logic that leads to a
kind of cultural imperialism subordinating all other epistemologies. It does not focus
on the problem of globalisation per se. In this way, western rationalism overawes
indigenous cultures and other non-modem life-worlds.

Postmodernism, like Marxism, helps to go beyond the relatively superficial accounts

of liberalist and political realist theories and expose social conditions that have
favoured globalisation. Obviously, postmodernism suffers from its own
methodological idealism. All material forces, though come under impact of ideas,
cannot be reduced to modes of consciousness. For a valid explanation,
interconnection between ideational and material forces is not enough.

It puts emphasis on social construction of masculinity and femininity. All other
theories have identified the dynamics behind the rise of trans-planetary and supra-
territorial connectivity in technology, state, capital, identity and the like.

Biological sex is held to mould the overall social order and shape significantly the
course of history, presently globality. Their main concern lies behind the status of
women, particularly their structural subordination to men. Women have tended to
be marginalised, silenced and violated in global communication.

This theory has been expounded by David Held and his colleagues. Accordingly, the
term globalisation reflects increased interconnectedness in political, economic and
cultural matters across the world creating a shared social space. Given this
interconnectedness, globalisation may be defined as a process (or set of processes) 5/10
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which embodies a transformation in the spatial organisation of social relations and

transactions, expressed in transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of
activity, interaction and power.

While there are many definitions of globalisation, such a definition seeks to bring
together the many and seemingly contradictory theories of globalisation into a
rigorous analytical framework and proffer a coherent historical narrative. Held
and McGrews analytical framework is constructed by developing a three part
typology of theories of globalisation consisting of hyper-globalist, sceptic, and
transformationalist categories.

The Hyperglobalists purportedly argue that contemporary globalisation defines a

new era in which people everywhere are increasingly subject to the disciplines of the
global marketplace. Given the importance of the global marketplace, multi-national
enterprises (MNEs) and intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) which regulate their
activity are key political actors. Sceptics, such as Hirst and Thompson (1996)
ostensibly argue that globalisation is a myth which conceals the reality of an
international economy increasingly segmented into three major regional blocs in
which national governments remain very powerful. Finally, transformationalists
such as Rosenau (1997) or Giddens (1990) argue that globalisation occurs as states
and societies across the globe are experiencing a process of profound change as
they try to adapt to a more interconnected but highly uncertain world.

Developing the transformationalist category of globalisation theories. Held and

McGrew present a rather complicated typology of globalisation based on
globalizations spread, depth, speed, and impact, as well as its impacts on
infrastructure, institutions, hierarchical structures and the unevenness of

They imply that the politics of globalisation have been transformed (using their
word from the definition of globalisation) along all of these dimensions because of
the emergence of a new system of political globalisation. They define political
globalisation as the shifting reach of political power, authority and forms of rule
based on new organisational interests which are transnational and multi-layered.

These organisational interests combine actors identified under the hyper-globalist

category (namely IGOs and MNEs) with those of the sceptics (trading blocs and
powerful states) into a new system where each of these actors exercises their
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Thus, the politics of globalisation is equivalent to political globalisation for Held

and McGrew. However, Biyane Michael criticises them. He deconstructs their
argument, if a is defined as globalisation (as defined above), b as the organisational
interests such as MNEs, IGOs, trading blocs, and powerful states, and c as political
globalisation (also as defined above), then their argument reduces to a. b. c. In this
way, their discussion of globalisation is trivial.

Held and others present a definition of globalisation, and then simply restates
various elements of the definition. Their definition, globalisation can be conceived
as a process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial
organisation of social relations allows every change to be an impact of globalisation.
Thus, by their own definition, all the theorists they critique would be considered as
transformationalists. Held and McGrew also fail to show how globalisation affects
organisational interests.

Each one of the above six ideal-type of social theories of globalisation highlights
certain forces that contribute to its growth. They put emphasis on technology and
institution building, national interest and inter-state competition, capital
accumulation and class struggle, identity and knowledge construction, rationalism
and cultural imperialism, and masculinize and subordination of women. Jan Art
Scholte synthesises them as forces of production, governance, identity, and

Accordingly, capitalists attempt to amass ever-greater resources in excess of their

survival needs: accumulation of surplus. The capitalist economy is thoroughly
monetised. Money facilitates accumulation. It offers abundant opportunities to
transfer surplus, especially from the weak to the powerful. This mode of production
involves perpetual and pervasive contests over the distribution of surplus. Such
competition occurs both between individual, firms, etc. and along structural lines of
class, gender, race etc.

Their contests can be overt or latent. Surplus accumulation has had transpired in
one way or another for many centuries, but capitalism is a comparatively recent
phenomenon. It has turned into a structural power, and is accepted as a natural
circumstance, with no alternative mode of production. It has spurred globalisation in
four ways: market expansion, accounting practices, asset mobility and enlarged
arenas of commodification. Its technological innovation appears in communication, 7/10
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transport and data processing as well as in global organisation and management. It

concentrates profits at points of low taxation. Information, communication, finance
and consumer sectors offer vast potentials to capital making it hyper-capitalism.

Any mode of production cannot operate in the absence of an enabling regulatory

apparatus. There are some kind of governance mechanisms. Governance relates
processes whereby people formulate, implement, enforce and review rules to guide
their common affairs. It entails more than government. It can extend beyond state
and sub-state institutions including supra-state regimes as well. It covers the full
scope of societal regulation.

In the growth of contemporary globalisation, besides political and economic forces,

there are material and ideational elements. In expanding social relations, people
explore their class, their gender, their nationality, their race, their religious faith and
other aspects of their being. Constructions of identity provide collective solidarity
against oppression. Identity provides frameworks for community, democracy,
citizenship and resistance. It also leads from nationalism to greater pluralism and

Earlier nationalism promoted territorialism, capitalism, and statism, now these plural
identities are feeding more and more globality, hyper-capitalism and polycentrism.
These identities have many international qualities visualised in global diasporas and
other group affiliations based on age, class, gender, race, religious faith and sexual
orientations. Many forms of supra-territorial solidarities are appearing through

In the area of knowledge, the way that the people know their world has significant
implications for the concrete circumstances of that world. Powerful patterns of
social consciousness cause globalisation. Knowledge frameworks cannot be reduced
to forces of production, governance or identity.

Mindsets encourage or discourage the rise of globality. Modern rationalism is a

general configuration of knowledge. It is secular as it defines reality in terms of the
tangible world of experience. It understands reality primarily in terms of human
interests, activities and conditions. It holds that phenomena can be understood in
terms of single incontrovertible truths that are discoverable by rigorous application
of objective research methods.

Rationalism is instrumentalist. It assigns greatest value to insights that enable people 8/10
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efficiently to solve immediate problems. It subordinates all other ways of

understanding and acting upon the world. Its knowledge could then be applied to
harness natural and social forces for human purposes. It enables people to conquer
disease, hunger, poverty, war, etc., and maximise the potentials of human life. It
looks like a secular faith, a knowledge framework for capitalist production and a cult
of economic efficiency. Scientism and instrumentalism of rationalism is conducive to
globalisation. Scientific knowledge is non-territorial.

The truths revealed by objective method are valid for anyone, anywhere, and
anytime on earth. Certain production processes, regulations, technologies and art
forms are applicable across the planet. Martin Albrow rightly says that reason knows
no territorial limits. The growth of globalisation is unlikely to reverse in the
foreseeable future.

However, Scholte is aware of insecurity, inequality and marginalisation caused by the

present process of globalisation. Others reject secularist character of the theory, its
manifestation of the imperialism of westernist-modernist-rationalist knowledge.
Anarchists challenge the oppressive nature of states and other bureaucratic
governance frameworks. Globalisation neglects environmental degradation and
equitable gender relations.

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