Globalisation: it’s a word that means so many different things to so many different people. On the one side we have people who tell me, a grave look on their faces, about how globalisation means everything is becoming what they call ‘Americanised’; i.e ‘Mcdonalised’. There’s been a huge surge in the people I know visiting Cuba now.
“We want to get there before we start seeing Coca-Cola and McDonalds everywhere”.
If we’re going to look at globalisation from an objective perspective, without considering whether it’s a good or bad thing, no doubt what you might think of when you hear the term being used is the fact of life that many of the material things we use are outsourced from elsewhere- this could be Italy, China, Germany or any number of countries (or even more than one!). Even many of the foods you eat on a daily basis may come from abroad, and we’re not only talking Cheese and Mochi 😉
What globalisation means, in a more positive, less “McDonalds is coming! 😱😭” doom-viewpoint is really that we are connected to nations and people even thousands of miles away. It’s strange when you wonder what person in what country knitted that jumper you’re wearing, but it’s true! It’s because of globalisation that the distance between people and nations seems to have shortened. I’m wearing a cape made in Czech Republic, shoes from Italy and a bag from Paris- all completely different places, and that’s only 3 out of countless different countries your clothes might be from!
Moreover, technology has meant that suddenly the modern world seems so much smaller than it was before. You don’t even need to travel by plane or trains to see family anymore- there they are, on your phone, talking and waving as if right in front of you!
Looking at globalisation in the cultural sense as opposed to the economic sense of course beings on the controversial topic of ‘Americanisation’. Basically this means the spread of Western diets to other nations. While many can probably agree that being able to eat Lucky Charms cereal in Germany and England, along with Jell-o and other sweets has its benefits 😉 for others the problem lies in the fact that in many cases traditional diets are being replaced by a commercial diet (in this case referring to high consumption of ‘junk’ or ‘fast’ food), leading to malnutrition and cultural loss.
The rise in Supermarkets has meant convinience for some, but for local farmers, butchers, cheesemongers, bakeries and other businesses, a much harder time. All have told me about the difficulties of competing with supermarkets both because of prices and convinience (having everything in one place). In many cases I’ve even started hearing about people signing petitions to prevent supermarkets opening in their local areas for the sake of small businesses and shops/traders (glocalisation).
In the political sense globalisation means that the thinking of people in different countries is becoming more similar. Traditionally, when people talked about society it was normally concieved of in the ‘nation-state’ perspective- i.e. a way of thinking and the individual as being attributed and belonging to a single nation. With globalisation though, there has been the rise of a world-view, that we are all connected, reading news from papers anywhere in the world and also through communication. Online we can connect more easily with people from all around the world than ever. Only yesterday on Instagram I was thanking a Russian Instagrammer for their kind words on one of my photos- in Russian.
Let me get this out in the open- I can’t read Russian. At all. I can understand what the letters mean, but beyond that, I’m a blank space. There my reply is, though, in Russian! I answered them by clicking the little ‘translate’ button on the bottom of the page, which showed me what they had written about my picture. This isn’t even the first or last interaction I’ll have with someone from a completely different country who does not even share a mutual language with me. Not long ago this would have been unimaginable, but not in today’s globalised world.
On a bigger scale, you might recall the EU- of nations from many parts of the world all coming together. Whether or not you believe that this is the road to a ‘global government’, it’s certainly true that gradually nations have been giving away some of their power to tackle issues together. Only a few weeks ago I was reading about the calls of some political figures to establish a ‘European Army’.
On the other hand, this aspect of globalisation isn’t completely new; if you’ve studied history you might recall this in Empires of the past, like the Habsburg or British Empire, and this has led to some, whether rightly or wrongly, arguing that globalisation is a ‘form of imperialism’ in the cultural sense.
Going back to the ecomomic side of globalisation (and I won’t blame you if you’re wondering how it is I keep irritatingly moving from one aspect to the other), economic globalisation does not have to equate to neoliberalism, but they are often seen as being connected because of the neoliberalist desire to attain greater economic globalisation, i.e free trade deals and less business regulation on a world-wide scale (worth mentioning here is the controversial proposed TTIP deal, which you may well have heard about. If not, I’d urge you to read up on it!).
The issue as to whether globalisation is a good or bad thing is one I don’t think I’d be able to satisfactorily answer in this article though, because there are much more than one single good and bad aspect to it, and it’s difficult to decide- is one point more important than the other?
Environmentalists, I know, will be concerned about how globalisation has increased emissions- how much more can the world handle? With companies spreading and growing on a global scale it’s an issue that grows more and more significant with every passing day.
On the other hand, I can hear my grandmother talking about how wonderful it is that she can reconnect and stay in touch with lost friends from all around the world with a simple Facetime call, and many readers out there might have a similar experience.
What do you think? Is globalisation a good thing? Because for as many people as I know will be devastated at the thought of how the next KFC opening in some country in the world will affect the local culture and local businesses, I know others will be rejoicing that they can finally try fried chicken Western style.