Indonesia Bike, Jonathan McIntosh, CC 2.0

Indonesia Bike, Jonathan McIntosh, CC 2.0


When discussing international relations, it is very difficult to do so without a thorough and thoughtful discussion about globalization, the definition of globalization, the history of globalization, the ways globalization exists in the world, as well as the pros and cons of globalization. Today, it seems that the world is becoming more and more “globalized”. But what does that mean to be globalized, or to see an increase in globalization? And how can understanding ‘what is globalization’ help us to better know about various aspects of international relations? As we shall see, quickly increasing globalization is forcing us to re-examine our prior understandings about the role of the state, the non-state actors such as non-governmental organizations (which also includes but is not limited to multinational corporations), as well as individuals), along with themes such as international political economy, economic global trade, development, human rights, and so on. This page will go through the main questions surrounding globalization, as well as cite references to globalization articles, and provide links to books on globalization for those with an interest in reading more on the topic of globalization.

What is Globalization?

Scholars set out to understand globalization have offered a plethora of definitions about ‘what is globalization’? The globalization definition is far from crystallized and agreed upon. Having said that, there are many ways to explain what exactly is globalization.

Richard J. Payne, in his book Global Issues, says that “Globalization refers to shrinking distances among its continents, a wider geographical sense of vulnerability, and a worldwide interconnectedness of important aspects of human life, including religion, migration, war, finance, trade, diseases, drugs, and music. Globalization implies a significant and obvious blurring of distinctions between the internal and external affairs of countries and the weakening of differences among countries” (9-10).

Giddens (1990: 21, in McGrew, 2008: 17) says that globalization is the “intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.”

Smallman & Brown (2011: 23), cite Manfred Stegar, who in his book Globalization: A Very Short Introduction, says about globalization, that it is a “multidimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch, and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and the distant.”

Others have suggested that in the globalization definition are different types or periods of globalization. For example, Henry R. Nau, in his bookPerspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas,” points to three periods of globalization, which are:

* “Globalization 1.0: early period of globalization, from 1492-1800, driven by mercantilism and colonialism.”

* “Globalization 2.0: later period of globalization, from 1800 to 1950, driven by global market institutions such as multinational trading and manufacturing corporations.”

* “Globalization 3.0: latest period of globalization, starting in the second half of the twentieth century, driven by the flattening of the global playing field and the knowledge economy rather than by imperialism or manufacturing conglomerates.” (G-4).

The breakdown of various types of globalization, at a minimum, reminds us that while the periods, sorts, and arguably the speed of globalization has varied, globalization seems to have always existed in some form.

History of Globalization

Globalization, while showing itself in new ways, has been a part of the human history. With regards to the history of globalization, globalization first took form during the time of initial migration by humans out of the African continent and into other lands. As human history continued, due to local conditions, humans lacking access to hunting and finding food had to move for new resources. Then, as they continued to spread throughout the earth and establish additional communities, they then started to produce more advanced tools, and then, in time, began trading with other communities. Thus, as we see, although this might not be “globalization” as we understand it today, societies throughout human history have continued to increase in terms of globalization (Serneau, 2012: 2). Payne (2013: 11) cites a table by Michael Pettis (2001) in his Foreign Policy article Will Globalization Go Bankrupt, which documents the various recent periods of globalization. I have cited the information from the table, which is below:

Periods of Monetary Expansion and Globalization:

Period                  New Technologies and Commercial Applications

1807-1844             Extensive canal building, railway boom, steam power used in manufacturing, improved machine tool     design, invention of McCormick’s reaper, commercial gas-lighting, and development of the telegraph.

1851-1873              Advances in mining, railways and shipping, and rapid growth of corporations.

1881-1914              Increased productivity in Europe and the United States, improvements in steel production and heavy    chemical manufacturing, first power station, spread of electricity, development of the internal combustion engine, and developments in canning and refrigeration.

1922-1930             Commercialization of automobiles and aircraft, spread of artificial fibers and plastics, new electrical appliances invented, and telephone ownership grows.

1960-1973             Development and application of transistor technology, advances in commercial flying and shipping, and the spread of telecommunications and software.

1985-Present        Rapid growth in computer memory and information processing, advances in biotechnology and medical technologies, and commercial use of the internet.”

What seems to be different about these more recent periods of globalization is not only the fast improvements in technology, but related to this, the effects of this growth on the cost of communication across borders (Shangquan, 2000). People can communicate with one another at speeds never seen in the history of humankind; telephones and internet access allow us to send messages across the globe in less than a second. In addition to being able to send messages, either via email, sending video, or live chatting through programs such as Skype, the ability to travel thousands of miles within a day has allowed us to become further connected to our fellow human beings. As Shangquan (2000: 1) explains, it is much cheaper to communicate, as well as to ship products and goods around the world.

Being in an age of high globalization clearly shaped culture, finances, and of course politics, international studies, and international relations. The question by some is “how much globalization is there?” Or, “what are the Effects of Globalization?”

The Universal Language, Bryan Allison, CC 2.0

The Universal Language, Bryan Allison, CC 2.0

Effects of Globalization

Scholars, policymakers, and activists have debated the effects of globalization, and continue to do so. And similar to many questions in international relations, the effects of globalization depend on who you are asking; individuals, depending on their theoretical viewpoints, as well as beliefs about international relations, may have varying position about the true effects of globalization. Scholars have categorized the positions regarding the “effects of globalization” into three groups: “The hyperglobalizers and transformalists”, “the skeptics”, and the “weak globalizers” (Payne, 2013: 18; McGrew, 2008, in Baylis, Smith, and Owens: 2008) (a more recent version of the book The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations can be found here).

  •  Hyperglobalizers and Transformalists: Hyperglobalizers and Transformalists argue that globalization is essentially changing everything around us, which includes the amount of political power that states have had. To Hyperglobalizers, the state’s power is being altered by non-state actors (McGrew, 2008). Supporters of this view might point to the increase in technology, and related to this, personal cell phones and recording devices, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as evidence of the decline of the state. By having access to cameras that can text, store pictures, and record information have left states with less power over the individual. In addition, there are many examples of how social media has challenged state power. One of the more recent examples is the 2010-2011 Arab Uprisings or the “Arab Spring.” Here, citizens in the Middle East and North Africa took to the streets to protest the authoritarian regimes in power of their respective states. And while many of the leaders such as Zine el-Abedine of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt attempted to crackdown on citizens, as well as disrupted political protests, internet and technologically savvy protesters were often able to stay a step ahead of the governments by organizing the revolution with technology, and more specifically publicizing rights abuses through social media sites. It is no wonder that those within the hyperglobalizer and tranformalist camp would point to such events to show the weakening of the state in the context of globalization.
  • Skeptics, on the other hand, skeptics argue that despite the idea that globalization is increasing, the power of the state in its domestic and foreign affairs has not diminished. As Payne (2013) explains, there are those in this camp say “that globalization is largely a myth that disguises the reality of the existence of powerful sovereign states and major economic divisions in the world. National governments remain in control of their domestic economies as well as the regulation of international economic activities.” This position says that regardless of how it seems that the state is weakening, they continue to have great holds on domestic power, as well as in terms of their interactions with other powerful states. However, they argue that much of the financial power is with the economically developed states, whereas economically developing states are not as interconnected as some might think (Hirst and Thompson, 1999, 2003; Hay 2000; Hoogvelt, 2001; Gilpin, 2002, in McGrew, 2008). Furthermore, while some hyperglobalizers suggest that cultures are becoming more interconnected, skeptics argue that cultures continue to actually be distant and people are more “suspicious of each other” (Spiro, 2000, in Payne, 2013:20).
  • The weak globalizers, or the transformalists, take a middle position in the globalization debate. They recognize that while the state is not going anywhere anytime soon, politics are indeed becoming more “global” (McGrew, 2008). Thus, there clearly is change and globalization is happening, but historical political power structures such as the state continue to be dominant actors in the international system. In addition, while we are becoming more interconnected, there is still the desire for continued individual identity, and this can show itself in a variety of forms.

As I shall now discuss, globalization has many manifestations, with all of them having effects on the political and international relations landscape. Let us address the different types of globalization that exist.

Types of Globalization

There are many types of globalization. The four that we shall primarily focus on are: Economic Globalization, Military Globalization, Cultural Globalization, and Political Globalization.

Economic Globalization

Economic Globalization has been defined by Gao Shangquan as “the increasing interdependence of world economies as a result of the growing scale of cross-border trade of commodities and services, flow of international capital and wide and rapid spread of technologies. It reflects the continuing expansion and mutual integration of market frontiers…”. Historically, economic globalization was barely different from other forms of globalization; often economic, political, and cultural globalization were interconnected. As we see, economic globalization is happening all around us. Technologies are advancing at a rapid rate, which shapes how we do business. Transactions can be made with the click of a button, and markets can be monitored around the clock. In addition, companies can set up shop in any part of the world, as well as having a very established internet presence with extensive online activity.

And with economic globalization is also the issue of how states and non-state actors can help address challenges such as economic development. Here, we see international organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations actively trying to help states in terms of building infrastructure, increasing jobs, as well as introducing capital (Smallman & Brown, 2011). But as we shall see, it is debated as to whether some of these developments are always positive; some worry that with globalization, powerful states and multinational corporations have used the system to further their own power and influence at the expense of other weaker actors.

Military Globalization

Some have also created a separate category for what the see as military globalization, which can differ from technological globalization. While weapons of course are part technological advancements, they can be seen as a separate aspect of globalization. Payne (2013) says that “[m]ilitary globalization is characterized by extensive as well as intensive networks of military force. This includes both the actual use  of force and threats to use violence. The most obvious example of military globalization is the nuclear age and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” (15). However, this of course is not a new; military globalization, like other forms of globalization, have continued to exist for centuries, whether it was the origin of weapons, rise of advancements in rifles, the introduction of  handguns, or even the introduction of security regimes such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization amongst other organizations (Payne, 2013: 15).

Political Globalization

Political advancements are another important aspect of globalization. If we look at the political makeup of the international system, there have been a number of new institutions and organizations. We don’t have to go that that far back to see new developments such as international alliance institutions (e.g. the League of Nations, or more recently, the United Nations, which has been a cornerstone of international human rights law, as well as environmental law). In addition, the rise of non-state actors have brought a new dimension to international politics, one that is quite new from a centuries long system of state power (Smallman & Brown, 2011). NGOs continue to work on political and social causes as they relate to international relations.

Cultural Globalization

Along with economic, military, and political globalization has been the importance of cultural globalization. With the rise of technology, information is increasing. As alluded to, this can be related to political information, sharing of knowledge on science, or, in this case, the interexchange of ideas. As we see, we can hear music from anywhere in the world, follow the latest fashions, and watch television programs in multiple languages. The ability to share our respective cultures is quite feasible with the internet. But even without the computer, we are now able to move from city to city, state to state, or country to country easier than ever before. And with travel and migration (Smallman & Brown, 2011) comes addition points of consideration: namely, what happens when people move? How can we understand cultural exchange in this context? And how does cultural globalization relate to political or other subcategories of globalization?


Globalization Pros and Cons

Advantages of Globalization

To many, there are numerous advantages of globalization. As alluded to earlier, through globalization, individuals are able to communicate with others throughout the world at much easier speeds. This has allowed the sharing of information with people that in years past would have taken much longer, or cost much more. In addition, with mobile video services, communication quality has also increased. Furthermore, with a globalizing world market, the ability to network in regards to new ideas and business opportunities has never been easier. The positive effects of this can be seen in many cases: information has led to better decisions in fields such as health and education. More effective medicines are being produced, which in turn can be shared more quickly around the globe. Moreover, if there is a concern regarding a global health issue, a political issue, or a natural disaster, we can now relay information to others immediately so that they can better protect themselves.

As discussed above, the sharing of information has also allowed people to challenge human rights abuses that exist in society. Now, it is easier to record a military crackdown, or government rights violation. In addition, it has now become easier to organize protest movements against regimes, which has led some to suggest a decline of the state. This was not possible even decades ago.

Concerns and Criticisms of Globalization

While there are many excellent benefits to globalization, not everyone has been excited about the effects of globalization. Some of them see the “advantages of globalization” as actually being “disadvantages of globalization,” whereas others find that while there globalization has brought about a number of life improvements, for some, there are also negative consequences of increased technological advancements when discussing globalization.

For example, looking at the case of France, many French citizens have not embraced political and cultural globalization. As Payne (2013) argues, some of this is because of a want to maintain domestic sovereignty, and within this, ideas of maintaining “French” culture. With the increase in immigration to France, particularly from Muslim states in the Middle East and from North African states such as Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco (Payne, 2013), many in France have been hesitant to endorse globalization. Ideas of what it means to be “French” are ever-shifting, and this does not sit well with some in the country.

However, they are not the only ones expressing this opinion; evidence of the rise of right wing parties in Europe (many of which speak out against immigration) suggests that they do not like the idea that globalization means increased influence of different cultures and political beliefs.

In the United States, there is also a push-back to globalization. While there are some similarities to what was discussed in the context of France, United States citizens have expressed other concerns resulting from economic globalization. For example, arguably the height of concern by some in the United States regarding globalization is how increased communications between states, and technological advances throughout the world are affecting the political and economic situations domestically, and particularly in the context of US jobs. This concern is often within this context of the idea of outsourcing. According to Diana Mutz & Edward D. Mansfield (2013),

Americans have heard a great deal about outsourcing over the past fifteen years, both in media reports and in each of the past four presidential elections. Moreover, it is clear that people are not happy about this phenomenon. Based on a number of surveys that we have conducted, only 2 percent of American workers view offshore outsourcing favorably, whereas over 78 percent of workers are hostile to this phenomenon and another 20 percent have mixed views. Americans have a more favorable view of international trade than offshore outsourcing, but they are nonetheless ambivalent, with more workers opposed to trade liberalization than favoring it, about a quarter having mixed views.”

Interestingly, those who are often the ones most vocal about the concerns of outsourcing are those that have the least to worry about regarding job security (Mutz & Mansfield, 2013: 3). And if this is the case, then why the intense backlash against globalization and outsourcing in the United States? It has been argued that for some, the disagreement with globalization is related to ideas of superiority of US goods to foreign products. And some politicians, worried about their constituencies, and local voting blocks, may be more willing to make such arguments in order to protect their electoral support, even if the reality is far from what the citizens believe regarding the economy and globalization (Mutz & Mansfield, 2013). In addition to this idea of “superior” US product quality, a relationship between isolationism and globalization may also exist as a reason for disapproval of globalization (Mutz & Mansfield, 2013). As Payne (2103) explains, “Americans are increasingly embracing a view of sovereignty that rejects participation in a number of international regimes” (18), and thus, there could be a relationship between these political views and their position on globalization. And one final point is that there may also be elements of ethnocentrism existing by Americans towards those from other countries (Mutz & Mansfield, 2013: 4); some of this seems to parallel some of the attitudes in Europe. This may also be a reason for the anti-globalization attitudes that we are seeing.

Globalization and Economic Exploitation

Along with the concerns discussed in Western states such as the United States and France, there is also an anti-globalization movement throughout the world that bases much of their protest on the relationship between globalization and capitalism. Critics, and particularly those espousing the international relations theory of Marxism or economic dependence have argued that globalization is another way that capital rich countries exploit economically developing countries. They argue that under the guise of globalization, economically rich states and multinational corporations (MNCs) can and often do use developing countries through conditional loan and aid packages, as well as economic and free trade agreements that benefit the rich states much more so than the economically poor states, or at least the citizens of the economically developing states.

Human rights activists argue that globalization affects the rights of citizens, as they are often abuses and or neglected while working. There are many cases of MNCs taking advantage of workers by providing horrendous working conditions. In addition, with globalization has been a rise in human trafficking, as criminal organizations, through communications with other crime syndicates, are coordinating criminal opportunities. This can be seen in the multi-billion dollar yearly drug trade, or with modern day slavery. In addition, activists argue that increased globalization has led to a disregard of environmental issues (Payne, 2013) such as deforestation, oil spills, climate change, and lack of concern for the protection of clean water, etc…

Globalization and Cultural Exploitation

Somewhat related to this what some argue as the is the cultural exploitation of globalization. While some suggest that globalization allows for the free exchange of ideas, Payne (2013: 20) points out that others suggest that with the increase in “cultural homogenization,” globalization actually “imposes Western values on others and destroys their traditions, religious beliefs, identities, and sense of community and belonging.”

For more information on globalization, see the links below. There are excellent books on the subject, and we urge you to continue reading on the subject.

Books on Globalization

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work

Manfred Steger, Globalization: A Very Short Introduction

Lester Rowntree, Martin Lewis, and Marie Price, and William Wyckoff, Globalization and Diversity: Geography of a Changing World (4th Edition).

Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World

Matthew Sparke, Introduction Globalization: Ties, Tensions, and Uneven Integration

Globalization References

Hay, C. (2000). Contemporary Capitalism, Globalisation, Regionalisation, and the Persistence of National Variation. Review of International Studies, Vol. 26, No. 4, October 2000.

Hirst, T. & Thompson, G. (1999). Globalizatio in Question, Second Edition, Cambridge, England. Cambridge University Press.

Hirst, T. & Thompson, G. (2003). The Future of Globalization, Cooperation and Conflict: Journal of the Nordic International Studies Association, Vol. 37, No. 3, pages 247-265.

Hookvelt, A. (2001). Globalization and the Postcolonial World: The New Economy of Development. Baltimore, Maryland. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Gilpin, R. (2001). Global Political Economy, Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton University Press.

Mutz, D. & Mansfield, E.D. (2013). Policy Understanding of Economic Globalization, Issues in Governance Studies, Number 56, January 2013. Executive Summary. Available Online:

McGrew, A. (2008) Chapter 1: Globalization and World Politics, pages 16-33. In Baylis, J. & Smith, S. & Owens, P (eds.). Globalization and World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press.

Nau, H.R. (2014). Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas. Fourth Edition. Sage Publishing.

Payne, R. J. (2012). Global Issues, Pearson.

Pettis, M. (2001). Will Globalization Go Bankrupt? Foreign Policy, No. 126 (September-October 2001), 56-57.

Sernau, S. (2012). Global Problems: The Search for Equity, Peace, and Sustainability. Third Edition. New York, New York. Pearson.

Shangquan, G. (2000). Economic Globalization: Trends, Risks, and Risk Prevention. CDP Background Paper No. 1, ST/ESA/2000/CDP/1. Available Online:

Smallman, S. & Brown, K. (2011). Introduction to International and Global Studies. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. University of North Carolina Press.

Spiro, P.J. (2000). The New Sovereigntists, Foreign Affairs, 79, No. 6 (November/December 2000), 9.

Stegar, M. (2013). Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, England. Oxford University Press.


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