History of Globalization

Globalization is not a new phenomenon. Its impact can be seen in everything from the food on our table to the ideas in our heads. You may find these articles on history of globalization available on the excellent YaleGlobal website to be very interesting. William Mougayar’s presentation on the globalization of the television supply chain is especially informative and captures what I was talking about in class last week.

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11 Responses to “History of Globalization”


  1. 1 Lam Ho Tai James 23/09/2009 at 1:19 pm

    On globalization, I would really like to share a documentary titled “Food Inc.” which I have recently brought and watched. Food Inc concerns that our food supplies (at least in US) are mostly controlled by a few multinational corporations/ conglomerates. Indeed, our food might not be produced as what we may perceive, but rather employing unethical means, like genetic modifications and more relevant to our recent topic of discussion, employing migrant labour (mostly from Mexico in the US case), while these migrant labour are poorly treated, working in an extremely unplesant condition, very lowly paid and subject to the time to time risk of prosecution from the Immigration Authorities.

    This documentary might broaden our definition to “forced Labour” and not subject it to a narrow technical sense, but to include those who are poorly paid, not adequately protected, and subject to a poor working enviroment but to a certain extent, ‘forced’ to continue their work because they are illegal in their working place and could have no alternative but to stick to their own jobs or mgiht be exposed and be asked to leave.

    Moreover, this documentary reflects the phenomenon of globalisation, in which our basic needs, in this example: food, are more and more provided by a few multi-national conglomerates. One of the messages of the film is to reveal that the varieties of products we perceive might be illusionary, but the sources of these vast varieties of products cna be traced to a very few origins. (Produced by the few groups of Multi-national corporations, employing almost the same ingridients, e.g. corn extracts/ GMO raw materials)

    The final message of the film is whether adequate checks and balances are imposed against these MNCs, in which, to a certain extent, our world, are more and more controlled , the ‘life and death’ influence, being rested on these MNCs. Food Inc reveals that the MNCs, through massive lobbying efforts and vast legal resources, significantly undermine competitions and even, to a certain extent, imposed very harsh laws on those people (e.g. farmers) who dare not to cooperate with them/ placing doubts on their products. They significantly banned the GMO label requirement in the US legislature. The possible confilcts of interests rested in the “revolving-door” of US officials, judiciary personnel and the Executives/ Attorneys of these MNCs are worth for further study and prevention.

  2. 2 James Philip Jee 28/09/2009 at 10:30 pm

    Even earlier than the first link appears to show, we can trace globalization. Anthopologically speaking, one criterion for calling a group of people a “civilization” is long-distance trade, which, while rudimentary, is ultimately exerting influence over other parts of the world, hence globalization.

    While the word “civilization” itself is a relatively modern construction, it shows that we consider ourselves relatively civilized largely based on contact with the outside world. On this note, we have been heading toward globalization since we first became civilized.

    • 3 Choukhmane Taha 20/10/2009 at 1:46 am

      ” Anthopologically speaking, one criterion for calling a group of people a “civilization” is long-distance trade ”

      Antropologically speaking the concept of civilisation, as far as I am concerned, doesn`t make sense. There`s no accepted definition for this concept, which is as you said new (often attributed to french intelectual Turgot in the mid-eighteen century). The plural form of this concept only emerged around 1819, and stay linked to an historisict vision of development : civilisations (plural) in a hierarchical scale. That`s why most of anthropologists, starting from Marcel Mauss and followed by Claude Levi Strauss, deny the use of this concept and prefer the term culture.

      However, the idea of emergence of long-distance trade as a starting point of globalization is interesting. To me, emergence of long-distance trade is not the criterion for calling a group of people civilisation, but the criterion for calling an ecnomy capitalistic. Fernand Braudel in The dynamic of capitalism, call indeed for a distinction between capitalism and market economy. Capitalism is, in his understanding, specifically the dematerialized long distance trade that emerged slowly since the XIV century among italian merchants.

  3. 4 Yeung Wing Sze, Connie 29/09/2009 at 10:43 pm

    Globalization is usually presented to us as a homogenization of the world that while local practices and identities are disappearing, there are equality and liberty achieved in this global village. Also, the above website of the television supply chain implies a concept that “the world is flat” under globalization. However, to me, the above ideas are just myths and what appears as globalization for some, means localization for others in the world.

    It’s all about power relations in terms of mobility. In the consumer of society, everyone is forced to live in the same mode, but not everyone can be a consumer. Consumer society is not a “flat world” to everybody. Those who can travel freely are the winners; those who cannot move are the losers. The freedom to move (fast) has become a scarce and unequally distributed commodity, so the whole thing becomes the stratifying factor in this globalized world.

    Therefore, I would say globalization magnifies the scale of economic exploitation and social stratification. The high-up is the mobile elite, whereas the low-down is locally-tied, they can’t move according to their wills and are bound to accept all possible changes on the locality like the slaves and the poor around the world.

    The unequal condition is so radical in this postmodern world that people on the Earth should not ignore it. After taking a few lectures in this course, I am moved, motivated and think that we, as the next generation to the society, should take certain social responsibility to react and respond to these unequal condition, as Kevin Bales suggests joining related organization, like Free the Slaves, or in my opinion, at least we can be a storyteller to alert people around us. I believe every single step can make crucial progression to stop inequalities in the world.

    • 5 Choukhmane Taha 20/10/2009 at 2:34 am

      I can`t also agree with this assumption that : ” The freedom to move (fast) has become a scarce and unequally distributed commodity”. Never in the history of humanity human movement have been such important. In 2009 we recorded almost 1 billion tourist around the world, and around 3% of world population is made of international migrants. This may seem marginal but we should keep in mind that for example till the late 18 century in France (that was considered at that time as an advanced econmy) most of peasant used to spend their whole life within a perimeter of 25km ! Moreover, in the same time that mobility of people and products increases, the globalization also impact on the mobility of ideas and information, what Serge Latouche call a “globalization of imagineries”. And that`s really important, when you`re african no need to go to europe to know what`s going there and try to copy it.

      However the idea of introduction social distinction as a criteria seems pretty interesting. As argued by Samuel Huntington, homogenization (in sens of a global westernization) may affect more the masses than the elites of developing countries. Social elites that seems to be increasingly in a process of dewesternization and indigenization.

  4. 6 Cheung Yan Victoria 29/09/2009 at 11:32 pm

    I didn’t realize globalization is not a new phenomenon – whenever I see the word, the first thing that I think of is usually technological advancement like the Internet and cell phones – and I honestly did not know that spices created a global economic network back in the Middle Ages until I visited the first website.

    When I think of it now, while modern technologies brought about a great leap in globalization, the greater global interdependence does have deep historical roots. Manfred Steger in his brilliant book ‘Globalization: a Very Short Introduction’ intelligently argues that whether globalization is indeed a new phenomenon turns on how far we are willing to extend the chain of causation that resulted in recent technological advancement. Indeed, without the foundation of earlier innovations, iPhones or Touch Diamonds would have never been created! Even the Silk Road in ancient China had a role to play by linking the then Chinese empire with the Roman Empires. Perhaps like what James has said above that we are heading toward globalization since civilization, globalization is really as old as humanity itself.

  5. 7 Genevieve Antono 04/10/2009 at 12:04 pm

    IMO, another really good “intro to globalization” would be the first few pages of the Lexus and the Olive Tree by Tom Friedman. In “Opening scene: the World is Ten Years Old” he does a pretty good job highlighting how, in the mid 1800s to late 1920s, the world actually experienced an era of globalization similar to what we’re going through today, before contrasting the two eras. He’s a little too optimistic about globalization, perhaps, but writes in a very vivid, descriptive way. Worth a look at.

  6. 8 Cheong Man Lei, Lillian 05/10/2009 at 11:44 am

    Truly, it is highly possible that globalization appears with civilization, and that globalization may be as old as humanity. Indeed, Globalization refers to the process by which globalism becomes increasingly thick. As what defined by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, “Globalism is a state of the world involving networks of interdependence and multicontinental distances”. Globalization in this case refers to the increase of globalism by which we can see the more extensive and intensive global links in different dimensions such as flow of capital and goods, people and force, information and ideas, etc. It is why there gives rise to the idea of “homogenization of the world” as mentioned above.

    Yet, rather than the world being homogenized, it on the other hand becomes more heterogenitized . Though local practices and to a certain extent, local identity may be faded, “The effect of globalism on the nation-state does vary with the size, power, and domestic political culture of the states involved”. Instead of arguing globalism makes states obsolete, state power, according to Keohane and Nye, will remain crucially important , for geographical dispersal of (mainly) economic activities makes more complex and strategic its central functions in managing, coordinating, servicing etc. Central authorities are performing such a macro-central function by providing an institutional framework such as law enforcement to facilitate further cross-boundary exchange.

  7. 9 Cheung King Tsun Gavin 08/10/2009 at 7:50 pm

    From my view, globalization is a stage when viewed the world evolution history as a whole. It’s not new, but evolved from very very begining.

    It’s like we have Arab Agricultural Revolution from 8th to 13th centuries; Industrialization in the north-west and Midlands of England in 18th century and spreading outside in 20th, Modernization in both social and political terms. It’s now the stage of Globalization.

    Arab Agricultural Revolution is a wider economy set up across the medieval Arab world, a kind of exchanging and spreading farming techniques between limited regions.

    Industrialization is something similar, there’s some innovation in manufacturing starting in England and spreading to Europe and North America foucsed on industrial revolution.

    While modernizaiton is a kind of evolution in terms of social and political, a state evolving into a modern one in changing of culture, economy, politics and society. It is spread.

    The above mentioned, to my understanding, consisted the element or early idea of globalization.

    Globalizaiton, a new stage, refers to the states act, react, and thus interact within aspects like economic, social, cultural, as well as political. The previous stages are regional limited but what globalization is spreading the regional idea in large scale.
    It is a process of intergration and interaction, cultrues affects cultures and evolves into a new one.

    If nations are segments, then the segments are now keep combining some elements and form the future world.

  8. 10 Lai Hoi Ho Jackson 09/10/2009 at 3:34 am

    As Connie said, globalization is usually presented to us as a homogenization of the world. Actually, the concept of “homogenization” is quite vague and it cannot reflect a full picture of globalization. Instead of understanding the meaning of homogenization, I want to express my views on how globalization associates with homogenization.

    There should be some relationship between globalization and deterritorialization, which means that geographical location becomes less material to social and economic activities. With the advancement of telecommunication and information technology, the traditional idea of territory can hardly explain the idea of social space which is composed of both visible and invisible areas in which human activities take place. Because advanced technology can make a global event easier to occur anywhere simultaneously, I quite agree with Victoria that modern technology brings about a great leap in globalization. Perhaps more precisely, advanced technology makes geographical constraints less significant.

    Of course, an exclusive focus on deterritorialization is not an appropriate approach when we try to understand globalization because we cannot deny the importance of geographical position for some undertakings like farming for local residents. Therefore, globalization is also linked to the social-economic connections beyond geographical boundaries. British political theorist David Held argued that globalization refers to the process of change which facilitates transformation of an organization dealing with human affairs through linking human activities together beyond geographical boundaries. In this light, this kind of connections can be regarded as a means to make a world both homogeneous (the linkage) and heterogeneous (retaining the properties within geographical boundaries).

    Deterritorialization tells us that the geographical boundaries become less significant, which probably gives us an impression that the world is becoming more homogeneous. But in fact, it may not always be the case when this kind of homogenization is attributed to social-economic connections which may not affect the properties of a particular place.

  9. 11 Lai Hoi Ho Jackson 09/10/2009 at 4:19 am

    I agree to Connie’s observation that globalization is usually presented to us as a homogenization of the world. Actually, the concept of “homogenization” is quite vague and it cannot reflect a full picture of globalization. Instead of understanding the meaning of homogenization, I want to express my views on how globalization associates with homogenization.

    There should be some relationship between globalization and deterritorialization, which means that geographical location becomes less material to social and economic activities. With the advancement of telecommunication and information technology, the traditional idea of territory can hardly explain the idea of social space which is composed of both visible and invisible areas in which human activities take place. Because advanced technology can make a global event easier to occur anywhere simultaneously, I quite agree with Victoria that modern technology brings about a great leap in globalization. Perhaps more precisely, advanced technology makes geographical constraints less significant.

    Of course, an exclusive focus on deterritorialization is not an appropriate approach when we try to understand globalization because we cannot deny the importance of geographical position for some undertakings like farming for local residents. Therefore, globalization is also linked to the social-economic connections beyond geographical boundaries. British political theorist David Held argued that globalization refers to the process of change which facilitates transformation of an organization dealing with human affairs through linking human activities together beyond geographical boundaries. In this light, this kind of connections can be regarded as a means to make a world both homogeneous (the linkage) and heterogeneous (retaining the properties within geographical boundaries).

    Deterritorialization tells us that the geographical boundaries become less significant, which probably gives us an impression that the world is becoming more homogeneous. But in fact, it may not always be the case when this kind of homogenization is attributed to social-economic connections which may not affect the properties of a particular place.


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