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Will political globalization inevitably follow economic globalization?
“And the LORD said: ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withheld from them, which they purpose to do. Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
In a metaphorical sense, the Babel Tower is a symbol of the fragmentation of the human world. God went down and confounded their speech so that they could not understand each other, and scattered them all over the face of the earth.
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Interestingly enough, the sum of all the parts of a cultural diversity adds to a much richer and prosperous global vision of what Humanity is. Yes, we, as a whole, go through convulsions and drawbacks but, in the long run, we -and as in almost every dynamic system- tend to come out as a better version. History (as well as the ability of you, the reader, to read this computer written file), is a proof of that.
So, the question that flows naturally is: what is the limit? Or, as Martin Luther King Jr final book title addresses: as we tend to evolution, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” (1967).
–Where do we stand now?
What is the starting point? From where we stand now, what do we see? Well, we see economic globalization at a level never seen before. Free markets are even seen as the bridge for the widespread of democracy because “Democracy is the characteristic political form of capitalism” (Rueschemeyer, Stephens, Stephens, 2000, p.23). Frontier barriers have become small and easy to jump: goods move (almost freely amongst) all countries, aided by a rapidly improving communications system and a constant drop of shipping costs.
This global widespread also promoted a “tandem drafting” (a NASCAR popularized term) of culture. Where goods from abroad enter, closely behind arrives the culture associated with them. Tastes are more aligned to a “westernalized” view, but the eastern culture is now also being more appreciated, in a boomerang effect (see Many Globalizations:Cultural-Diversity-in-the-Contemporary-World by Peter L. Berger,Samuel P. Huntington). Blend is being mixed in the globalization cauldron and let´s face it: we like it. Let ourselves dwell on it, (or fall in, as Obelix did as a child), and we will come out stronger and enlightened.
So, it appears we are moving towards a unified culture, as in an “United Tastes of Globalization”, right? Well, not quite. Countries still retain language, cultural identities and different historical background, which brings forth very strong and unique identities. Do we really believe that a Southern European citizen will think like or become a Northern European, and vice versa? Temperaments do matter; even temperature matters (don´t we just love the sunnier southern hemisphere mood?).
If a comparison between two regions that are (more or less) integrated in a European Union leads us to a difficult thought experiment, imagine comparing the disparity of multicultural regions around the globe. And let us not forget, some of them are “melting pots”, blending the heritage and traditions of distinct ethnic groups. Yes, there are pots cooking interesting recipes but others are just mixing the components of a bomb, ready to explode. The escalating tension in the Ukrainian region, the prolonged crisis in Greece, or the ever-growing extremist views inside countries like France (see Right-wing- in-Europe-could-bring-turmoil), encompasses the continued battles of individual political units even within stabilized unions. The risk for a break-up seems continuously present. Even for serious war conflicts.
It seems that countries are open to a free market and all that good juice that comes from having those better oranges imported from the neighboring country. The problem lies in that most countries are reluctant to give away their sovereignty. When and if that happens (even in small quantities), internal political dispute arises. In terms of culture or political systems, globalization is like mercantilism: countries do like to export their identity, but are not so eager to import/embrace the internalization of those novelties. It really is an identity problem. Boundaries exist for a long time and will prevail in the near future.
—Globalization is not quite what it seems
If anything else, history has shown us that “internationalization never turned into globalization” (Thakur, 2010, p.142). Will it be different now? The nearest example we now have is the European Union (NAFTA is much more economically centered), and how is that holding up? It is in times of trouble that we see if the ties that bind us together are strong. The recent economic crisis has probably showed us that the European Union decision processes are not as democratic as policy makers believed. Those ties need better knots because tensions persist and are not likely to go away.
Let us assume that this is a process, an evolving system that will turn into a better form. If we extrapolate the European Union example to a broader scope, we can see that countries are depositing real hopes in a World Governance. Political Globalization can be defined as the “power of human associations which influence or govern the world as a whole” (Held at al. 1999; p.53). Is this really happening? If so, to what extent and is it for the right reasons?
These institutions or actors of global governance –like the United Nations or the IMF to name probably the best known-, although in general created with the best purposes, are not quite representative of the world as we know it. If we look at the IMF, what in fact it represents is the possible view of what would be this governance, but based on a financial view. Therefore, it is the world seen through the glasses of a monetized/economical perspective of what the world should be.
Nowadays, joining the IMF three letters together is almost forbidden by decree in some countries (a warm welcome from here to Greece!) and seen as a “Financial Monster” when those black suited men arrive at the airport. Soon upon leaving the country, what is left if not frustration and a resistance to the return of those financial ways for a big part of those suffering citizens in the future (at least until they remember it)? Besides, are these institutions democratic or is this the democracy of the strongest? Implementing the ideology that “You are wrong, so it is our way or the highway” sounds a little… un-democratic and, when and if, the intervention fails, who is to blame?
Basically, even if we do not like to admit it, political globalization through those institutions is merely happening as a safeguard for the general purpose of the wealthier and powerful countries. The interest for equity or equitability is residual or non-existent if it goes against the best interest of the ones “in charge” (see Kyoto-Protocol- not-dead – China-India-USA-wont-ratify-Kyoto-treaty). When equity is an issue, it is the very own foundation of those institutions that is at stake (see France-gets-two-more-years-to-correct-its-government-deficit).
Are changes to that global governance issues already happening? Only reforms, some serious reforms, will lead to a more democratic and representative political globalization. Unfortunately, we all know politics; slight changes will arise but not the ones that would turn tables around. The truth is: if you can imagine the almighty and powerful United States of America altruistically giving away all the power of decision that it nowadays has, well good for you (good imagination). I would bet my chips differently. Otherwise, you will be in for a rough awakening (with an emptier pocket, also).
—-The spectrum of World Government
Even if political globalization is a shy projection of what it should and could be, nevertheless it is somewhat happening at the level of those transnational organizations. What will this cocoon turn into? It is implicit that globalization in its complete metamorphosis would eliminate sovereignty or even nation states. Are we in for world domination by a supranational union? And if that happens, would it be voluntary or compulsory? Are countries ready to give it away? Not now for sure, but in the future, is it feasible? These are not mere academic questions, rather are questions that are constantly, even if only at a subconscious level, in the minds of the policy leaders.
History throughout the centuries showed us that the urge for world dominance is latent in some cultural mindsets. Alexander the Great or the Roman Empire have shaped but are no longer shaping us (for the better or the worse), but Hitler and Nazism remembrance is still present and ongoing shaping us. The fear of a World government lurks as the shadow of the political globalization. Could it be the final stage of the integration evolution? Supposing political globalization might evolve to be more integrative, there is a common fear that there will be the attempt to create a globalizing “modern life”.
Would this hypothetical world government respect diversity or would containerize it, displacing the poorest and the most powerless societies to make way for the powerful and the rich? Sometimes, reality out shades fiction, but we already have a small glimpse of it in the “Hunger Games” world. (Suzanne Collins trilogy books). In it, civilization is divided into thirteen districts working for the wealthier and powerful one. As the potential for economic disaster, civil unrest and lack of equity rose in many districts, well… let just say it did not end well for them. Will it end well for us?
Although the starting point is a good one, where economic globalization is rendering the elevation of standards at a level never seen and internationalization is the uplift for the necessary reforms of the transnational Institutions that are holding the power to be the bearers of a better and more inclusive political globalization, in the end, countries are just countries. Being formed by the collective view of centuries of history, thus giving birth to a culture, a law, a social mindset, they are a “living evolving organism” with something unique: their identity. And you cannot take that away.
One acknowledges that political systems are not perfect. They still need to constantly evolve for everyone’s benefits. The best way for our political systems to continuously and relatively quickly evolve is if we have many different and independent political systems in competition.
Also, one can also imagine that Political Globalization by the work of Man can evolve to more democratic organizations, more inclusive, even more representative of a world view of how it should be, but in the end, men are just men. Imperfect as we all are, believing that we can agree in so many things that will always differentiate us from one another (be it individually or at a country level), is believing that certain groups do not think that they have the innate right to conquer and dominate other groups.
World government is not new. This idea was first brought to civilization by the Biblical figure of King Nimrod. His Tower of Babel was meant to symbolize dominance over all civilization. It is a watershed of human history, and a warning to all. Luckily, there is no evidence of that. Political globalization, if it is as it is right now, is not able to evolve. Sovereignty is a strong barrier against globalizing forces. USA sets the example, interfering with trade for what it sees as good political reasons, but what is really doing is just safeguarding its power as the center of decision.
We are a world of individuals seeking empires, even a world of people wanting to dominate others. Mankind diversity is our biggest triumph. If, against all odds, one of us accomplishes to attain and establish a world government, certainly it will also try to build its very own Babel Tower.
Friedman, T.L., 1999, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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International Relations, War and Peace in a Globalised World
France gets two more years to correct government deficit
Kyoto Protocol not Dead
The Tower of Babel and Paganism
Time ticking on France’s deficit
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