Example Geography Essay
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To what extent are we living in a globalised world?
The terms ‘globalised’ and ‘globalisation’ are in common usage in both academia and the media to an extent that they are taken as a given, rather than questioned. Here the extent to which we are living in a ‘globalised’ world is challenged. In most simple terms to globalise is ‘to make global or worldwide in scope or application’ (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/globalised accessed 10/03/09). Taking this basic definition the essay proceeds to show how the world we live in is far from globalised. In substantiating this argument it draws upon the imbalance in wealth between the developed and the lesser developed world, arguing that far from being globalised the world is stratified. It also considered the Western dominance of international affairs and the clash of cultures as aspects of the world we live in that indicate it is far from being a globalised one.
Globalisation and the concept of a globalised world generally refers to an increased interconnectivity between peoples and places in the world, through increased ease of travel and of passage of information through development of travel and information communications technologies and primarily through the advent of the internet and the homogenisation of cultures and ideas, of society, yet the world we live in today is far from homogenised. In the so called global village we live in where cultures have converged, visible through the existed of McDonalds, Starbucks or Coca Cola on every corner of every city one may travel to. It is this that has prompted speculation that the world in which we are living in is globalised. This could not be further from the truth. While unscrupulous multi-national corporations have taken advantage of poorer economies, placing production sites where prices are lower and have used increased ease of transportation to ship all over the world, this does not amount to a global society.
Best outlines that there are three aspects to globalisation economic, cultural and political. (2001: 167) Economic through the transnational corporations who invest in countries other than those of origin and ship products globally; cultural through the ‘homogenisation’ of cultures, convergence of cultures and awareness of cultural difference through the increased information about different cultures. There is also the argument of ‘McDonaldisation’. Politically there is the United Nations, the IMF and summits such as the G8 in terms of global governance. However all of these have been Western in concept and in origin, arguably a Western imperialism in another guise. While we may all live on the same planet, where we live on the planet determines our experience and options. In a globalised world this would not be the case.
One of the clearest ways to see just how the world we live in is not globalised is the vast disparity of wealth between the nations of the world. In terms of wealth the disparity between rich and poor nations of the world, of the global village we supposedly live in, has only grown. The map of the world below, from the United Nations Development Programme based on the Gini coefficient clearly shows the preponderance of wealth and the inequality that exists. ‘The Gini coefficient is a measure of income inequality that ranges between 0, indicating perfect equality, and 1, indicating complete inequality.’ (UNDP, 2003: 39)
The report continues to note that the ‘richest 5% of the world’s people receive 114 times the income of the poorest 5%. The richest 1% receive as much as the poorest 57%.’ (UNDP, 2003: 39) Cleary economically the world we are living in is not globalised, it is unjust. To return to the basic definition of what it is to globalise wealth has not been made worldwide in scope or application, this is not the case with the distribution of wealth.
Another frequently cited aspect of globalisation and the idea that we are more than ever living in a global village is increase in information communications technologies and in particular the advent of the internet. While it is not questioned the there has been growth in this area as the chart below taken from the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report (UNDP, 2001: 32) clearly shows.
However the use of the internet is by no means a global phenomenon, at least not on an equitable level. The chart below clearly shows the use of new information communications technologies is primarily in the Western developed world. Therefore in this sense the Western world maybe more connected, but in terms of a global village, this is clearly not the case.
In terms of society and cultural homogenisation, the later part of the twentieth century and the start of the twenty-first century conflict upon ethnic lines has been rife (see Booth and Dunne, 2002) as Huntingdon famously prophesised in a ‘Clash of Civilisations’. (1992) The ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel, intra-state conflict of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and parts of Africa are symptomatic of the clashes of cultural difference. However it was the attacks of September 11th that remain marked as defining of the start of the twenty-first century and symbolic of Huntingdon’s thesis. The subsequent ‘threat’ of terror perpetuated and felt in the Western world shows both how media can be used to communicate fear and to segregate and divide, and thus how divided the world really is. (See Halliday, 2002) The recent ‘terrorist threat’ can be seen as a response to the hegemony of Western cultural imperialism. The attack of 9/11 was on America and symbolically on the World Trade Centre – the name of the building itself betrays a grandiose view of self-importance, that the US is the head of World Trade and for the injustices that exist in monetary terms and in trading agreements across the world. The differences between cultures only heighten through the media and the ease of communications.
This essay has highlighted through the stark contrast in wealth how in economic terms the world we live in is far from globalised, in terms of society the clash of cultures, of difference and intolerance indicate we are far removed from a global society and in terms of politics there is no overall global governance, although institutions such as the United Nations and the IMF are in part fulfilling the role at present, they too however can be seen as forms of Western dominance. The view of the world as a global village seems one that is very far from the current reality. In the Western developed world we live in there is increased connectivity in terms of travel, communications and business, metaphorically speaking the world has become a much smaller place. Yet in terms of equality, of wealth, opportunity and health of the world as one, the world in which we live is far from being globalised, rather it is stratified, as Marx set forth, between those who have and those who do not.
Best, S., (2001) Introduction to Politics and Society, Sage: London
Booth, K. & Dunne, T., (2002) Worlds in Collision; Terror and Future of the Global Order, Palgrave: London
Castells, M., (1996) The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Giddens, A. (2006) ‘Globalisation and the Changing World’ in Giddens, A., Sociology, Polity: London
Halliday, F., (2002) Two Hours that Shook the World: September11, 2001: Causes and Consequences, Saqi Books: London
Huntington, S. P., (1993) ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’ Foreign Affairs, vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 22-49
Sutcliffe, B., (2001) 100 Ways of Seeing an Unequal World, Zed Books: PLACE
UNDP (2001) Human Development Report 2001: Making New Technologies Work for Human Development, http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/completenew1.pdf
UNDP (2003) Human Development Report 2003: Millennium Development Goals: A Compact Among Nations to End Human Poverty, http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/hdr03_complete.pdf
Internet World Statistics