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Globalization

An Overview of Globalization and Its Positive and Negative Aspects

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Globalization
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Updated July 07, 2008
If you look at the tag on your shirt, chances are you would see that it was made in a country other than the one in which you sit right now. What's more, before it reached your wardrobe, this shirt could have very well been made with Chinese cotton sewed by Thai hands, shipped across the Pacific on a French freighter crewed by Spaniards to a Los Angeles harbor. This international exchange is just one example of globalization, a process that has everything to do with geography.

Globalization and Its Characteristics

Globalization is the process of increased interconnectedness among countries most notably in the areas of economics, politics, and culture. McDonalds in Japan, French films being played in Minneapolis, and the United Nations, are all representations of globalization.

The idea of globalization may be simplified by identifying several key characteristics:

Improved Technology in Transportation and Telecommunications

What makes the rest of this list possible is the ever-increasing capacity for and efficiency of how people and things move and communicate. In years past, people across the globe did not have the ability to communicate and could not interact without difficulty. Nowadays, a phone, instant message, fax, or video conference call can easily be used to connect people. Additionally, anyone with the funds can book a plane flight and show up half way across the world in a matter of hours. In short, the "friction of distance" is lessened, and the world begins to metaphorically shrink.

Movement of People and Capital

A general increase in awareness, opportunity, and transportation technology has allowed for people to move about the world in search of a new home, a new job, or to flee a place of danger. Most migration takes place within or between developing countries, possibly because lower standards of living and lower wages push individuals to places with a greater chance for economic success.

Additionally, capital (money) is being moved globally with the ease of electronic transference and a rise in perceived investment opportunities. Developing countries are a popular place for investors to place their capital because of the enormous room for growth.

Diffusion of Knowledge

The word 'diffusion' simply means to spread out, and that is exactly what any new found knowledge does. When a new invention or way of doing something pops up, it does not stay secret for long. A good example of this is the appearance of automotive farming machines in Southeast Asia, an area long home to manual agricultural labor.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Multinational Corporations

As global awareness of certain issues has risen, so too has the number of organizations that aim to deal with them. So called non-governmental organizations bring together people unaffiliated with the government and can be nationally or globally focused. Many international NGOs deal with issues that do not pay attention to borders (such as global climate change, energy use, or child labor regulations). Examples of NGOs include Amnesty International or Doctors without Borders.

As countries are connected to the rest of the world (through increased communication and transportation) they immediately form what a business would call a market. What this means is that a particular population represents more people to buy a particular product or service. As more and more markets are opening up, business people from around the globe are coming together to form multinational corporations in order to access these new markets. Another reason that businesses are going global is that some jobs can be done by foreign workers for a much cheaper cost than domestic workers; this is called outsourcing.

At its core globalization is an easing of borders, making them less important as countries become dependent on each other to thrive. Some scholars claim that governments are becoming less influential in the face of an increasingly economic world. Others contest this, insisting that governments are becoming more important because of the need for regulation and order in such a complex world system.

Is Globalization a Good Thing?

There is a heated debate about the true effects of globalization and if it really is such a good thing. Good or bad, though, there isn't much argument as to whether or not it is happening. Let's look at the positives and negatives of globalization, and you can decide for yourself whether or not it is the best thing for our world.

Positive Aspects of Globalization

  • As more money is poured in to developing countries, there is a greater chance for the people in those countries to economically succeed and increase their standard of living.
  • Global competition encourages creativity and innovation and keeps prices for commodities/services in check.
  • Developing countries are able to reap the benefits of current technology without undergoing many of the growing pains associated with development of these technologies.
  • Governments are able to better work together towards common goals now that there is an advantage in cooperation, an improved ability to interact and coordinate, and a global awareness of issues.
  • There is a greater access to foreign culture in the form of movies, music, food, clothing, and more. In short, the world has more choices.

Negative Aspects of Globalization

  • Outsourcing, while it provides jobs to a population in one country, takes away those jobs from another country, leaving many without opportunities.
  • Although different cultures from around the world are able to interact, they begin to meld, and the contours and individuality of each begin to fade.
  • There may be a greater chance of disease spreading worldwide, as well as invasive species that could prove devastating in non-native ecosystems.
  • There is little international regulation, an unfortunate fact that could have dire consequences for the safety of people and the environment.
  • Large Western-driven organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank make it easy for a developing country to obtain a loan. However, a Western-focus is often applied to a non-Western situation, resulting in failed progress.
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