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Impact of Globalisation on Social Identity and Conflict

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Published: Thu, 19 Jul 2018

Explore the ‘local’ consequences of globalization in relation to social identity, social conflict and social policy.

 

Globalization is more than a term or a word describing a certain condition with regard to the international community of countries, it is an active living thing that is consistently changing, mostly for the better, each day. It is the expansive interaction between a widening sphere of countries not only regarding the conduct of business, but the day-to-day business of living as well. Globalization is a conglomeration of commerce, different clothes, vehicles, pharmaceutical products, foods, travel, the Internet, movies, television, music, languages, customs, laws, and McDonald’s. It represents how differing countries are increasing affecting and being affected by other countries as a result of technology and commerce. Least we forget technology is not just business related, it represents the developments such as the giant sized Airbus A380[1] which can carry a record 840 passengers[2] to its destination, and McDonald’s whose golden arches can been seen in 122 countries[3]. These are prime examples of how globalization is in direct touch with individuals, therefore it (globalization) cannot be defined in strictly business or people terms, it is synonymous with both.

The preceding then defines globalization as a blend of commerce and the public interacting as needs and circumstances arise to conduct their affairs. This can range from the need to arrive in Paris for business, or obtain service on one’s Mercedes in Los Angeles. The preceding calls for items and/or people to cross borders and thus the differing customs, cultures, politics and identities of these interacting countries comes into play. From this perspective it can logically be said that forms of globalization have been a part of the human race for basically as long as our tenure here. Alexander the Great’s invasion of Persia with just 40,000 men[4], and Marco Polo’s contact with China are limited scale examples globalization in its infancy.

As man’s ability to negotiate the seas then air, as well as communicate via telegraph wire, telephone and the Internet all decreased the time it took for people and goods to reach their destination, the intensity of globalization increased. The cultural, social, legal and other nuances that accompany contact between differing countries on whatever scale it takes, be it an invasion, a bank transfer, or a new automotive plant the parties on both sides must make adjustments. And it is these adjustments that mark ‘globalization’, as cultures that developed separately are now engaged in some form of interaction. It is from this context that the subject matter “…the ‘local’ consequences of globalization in relation to social identity, social conflict and social policy shall be explored.

The meeting of differing cultures, regardless of the plane of contact (commerce, war, language, the Internet), specially in today’s terms, is the actualization of globalization. From this perspective one can see the linage of this reality to the dawn of human time. The context of separately developing cultures coming into contact represents a change, no matter how great the initial impact (war), or benign (a letter) and it causes an accommodation by both sides. Thus, depending upon the degree of influence with respect to said action(s), areas such as social identity, conflict and policy are impacted. It must be remembered that not necessarily all three aspects are present in each instance(s). As the scale, meaning number of people, increases this affects the manner in which said impact acts upon the three main categories, ‘social identity – conflict – policy’.

These areas are not obscure concepts, they are integral parts of a country’s culture, language, customs, and traditions as well as laws and sociological composition. And there are times, based either on circumstances, such as war, or the natural progression of activity in a particular sphere, such as the acceptance of a product, goods or services, where the growth of such activity begins to change a country’s innate characteristics. The preceding refers to the context of ‘social’ identity, conflict and policy, whereby the impact of said outside influence tends to exert changes in how the present and future generations will see things in terms of a change in perspective from preceding generations. The impact of the first Model T in America is such an example. It allowed an ever increasing segment of the population to travel further from their original locale that ever before. Today the interstate highway system as well as those roads that traverse bordering countries permits people to make these journeys without so much as a thought with regards to globalization. While the foregoing does represent a sweeping statement, it does convey the idea which can thus be applied to other instances (hamburgers, television shows dubbed in languages, oil tankers, etc.). The preceding view is postulated by Agdal (2004)[5] in his discussion of pre and post colonialism where he stated that the European city model from its earliest days has been transmitted throughout the world as a result of exploration and conquest. He continues that the historical, social and cultural circumstances vary, but the foundations of the political and socio-economic constructs basically is the same through the world.

Escobar (2000)[6] draws a correlation between the rise of globalization and the demise of “…real socialism…”[7] citing that the equation arises from the state control of socialism, versus the fluidity of the free market system. As the majority of the world’s nations are engaged in a free market economy they are able to expand their markets and thus derive increased revenues which spur growth. The foundation of a free market system is communication and negotiation, thus the socialist model which constrained these essentials was doomed to a self imposed isolationism in a static sized market (meaning number of countries under control). In contrast, the free market countries could constantly enter new areas, thereby increasing commerce. This occurrence is a direct illustration of how interaction with other countries, cultures, traditions, social systems and legal systems forces consistently ongoing accommodations. In a socialist system the view is that provided by the state. However this view can not be imposed in trade, tariff and other international commerce regulations where the interactions with people and their cultural, traditional and other views come into play, no matter how slightly. These outside influences slowly eat away at the established socialist fabric causing change. The introduction of McDonald’s in Russia provides such an example. Citizens at the local level experienced the menu and as the familiarity as well as number of outlets increased, so did the impact of this outside influence. The following will explore this phenomenon concerning globalization’s impact on social identity – conflict and policy.

The Big and Small Picture

Given the extensive nature of the scope of globalization’s reach as well as the multitude of influencing forces as work, understanding its consequences at a local level concerning social identity, conflict and policy requires understanding that the local aspect was /is initiated within the broader context. Without utilizing any specific examples in exploring the foregoing it should suffice to say while certain analogies might not be germane to certain conditions (meaning countries) the broader idea of the commonality of human interests, needs, wants and desires is relevant across all borders, abet in differing degrees of development based upon same. This refers to examples such as France and Myanmar. Formerly known as Burma the demographic profile of the populace proves a classical example of how at one level a country’s society can be used to and enjoy a vehicle, internet access, travel and other items as their daily necessities, while another segment might have to devote almost all of their daily attention on ensuring that they will have enough to eat.

The difference in interests, needs, wants and desires would be extremely similar if the entire country lived at the same standard. One group might see themselves in terms of social identity, as comfortable with the way things are progressing which would bear a similarity to their demographic counterparts in France. This could entail the industrialization of a region or zone as part of a national plan to generate more hydro electric power or industrial capacity, as well as what, how and why they feel the way they do about varied social issues (conflict and policy). Whereas another social group might see the construction of said power station or plants as intrusions on their way of life as a result of the removal of either forest, farming, grazing or land they have come to accept as their way of live, such as the Amazon Indians. This example has no peer group in France, however the lack of same does not mean that their views would not similar if such a group did exist. The tendency to compartmentalize countries, and thus their inhabitants ignores the fact that depending upon the demographic, educational and other factors involved, peoples needs, wants, desires and interests remain relatively constant when things are basically the same.

Social Identity

In examining the levels of impact that globalization has on various aspects of society, which includes commerce, it must be remembered that as it is with all things, the core revolves around individuals. Therefore the following examinations of ‘identity, conflict and policy’ will be rooted in this understanding. The theory of ‘social identity’ was understood by Henri Tajfel and John Turner (1979)[8] who conceptualized that it consists of three ideas. Referred to as the “CIC Theory” it consists of:

Categorization

The almost overwhelming complexity of today’s world basically forces us as individuals to cluster things, ideas and other areas into manageable groups (categories) in order to understand them.[9] And this also applies to the fact that we tend to and do categorize people with such words such as policeman, Spaniard, race driver, Protestant, and teacher as it helps us as well as others when communicating to understand. And this of course applies to areas outside of one’s profession, religion, nationality and avocation. And whilst we are categorizing others we, by our preferences, ideas, beliefs and other facets are categorizing ourselves as well. In some quarters individuals define what they consider to be the norms of behavior they prefer in terms of associates, friends, acquaintances and thus the group(s) we ourselves belong to.

The intense movement of ideas, products as well as people across national borders that is globalization brings into peoples lives various degrees of external impact that subtly changes the way they perceive things as well as ourselves. The era of globalization is quickly stripping certain levels of society of their historical identity in favor of a much broader context. Demographic groups staring at the upper middle class of almost all societies represent groups that are exposed on a consistent basis with the blending effects of this phenomenon. Blending, in the sense that the customs, traditions and cultural nuances that define differing countries, has become blurred within this group[10].

The degree of impact (in this instance blurring) many vary within these groups say between the United Kingdom and Russia, but it does occur. Thinking in terms of a foreign vehicle as being more preferable than one made domestically, or the selection of attire, appliances and other purchases, selections or preferences demonstrates this. The tremendous success of Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Disney in Russia are examples of how globalization impacts upon social identity at the local level. The consequences of such success by foreign companies, as well as ideas, is that they slowly erode traditional forms of drink, eating habits and customs as a result of the exposure. This distances segments of the population from certain aspects of their tradition, culture, customs and other unique aspects that define their heritage.

Identification

It is this preceding self-awareness of whom and what we believe we are that leads to our identification of the groups that we ourselves believe we belong to. Within this concept reside two important components, ‘social identity’ and ‘personal identity’. Our historical perceptions as well as our acquired preferences, social circle, peers, family and friends help to define the “… in-groups…”[11] we identify with and helps to clarify the “…out groups…”[12] which we do not identify with. These differences are present in every society and have been so since the dawn of civilization. Outbreaks between tribes are the first examples of identification and the we versus them, I versus he (or them). Globalization has and does intrude upon as well as influence and shape social identity by virtue of the fact that the commerce, communications and movement of people brings cultures into increasing contact with each other. The degree or intensity of these instances is not really important as the fact is whatever the degree and or intensity is, it is sure to increase with the passage of time.

The influence and impact of globalization on social identity increases as the age of the subject group decreases. This is primarily due to older adults having established and set views, principles, beliefs and value system that were honed over the years. And while elements of globalization are present within these areas, its influence is based upon the degrees of exposure that were considerably reduced in comparison to present levels of activity. The outside influence exerted upon successive younger generations is multiplied by the globalization influences on prior generations. This compound effect serves to erode established customs, traditions, and modify legal, as well as social systems.

Comparison

Our views, opinions and interactions with other individuals begin from the amalgam of our traditions, culture, upbringing and personal experiences. These aid in the formation of values and belief systems as well as other important physiological aspects.[13] In a healthy connotation the preceding enables us to feel good about ourselves and thus be able to “…deal effectively with the world…”[14] This “…self esteem…”[15] helps to underpin:

Positive and Negative Distinctiveness

In the positive context people view their own group as better than similar groups that they see as slightly, or more inferior. The other side of the coin is when we minimize differences of other groups so that the group we identify with is perceived favorably.

Social Creativity

This concept within ‘comparison’ is where those groups that see themselves as having high status based upon “…particular dimensions…”[16] utilize these aspects as their comparative base. Individuals from a lower status rationalize their group by placing emphasis on those values they see or believe are superior as justification for their way(s) of seeing and believing in what they think.[17]

The aforementioned examination of ‘Social Identity’ serves to provide an understanding of individual perceptions as well as interpretations which globalization influences and impacts upon. The preceding is extremely important in that it impacts individuals on many personal belief levels both subtly as well as dramatically, influencing and impacting upon them personally (at a local level).

Social Conflict

This basic human condition has its roots in the first individuals living in caves. They banded together as a result of family and social bonds forming a protective group for survival and physiological comfort. As these groups grew in numbers, they tested their ways of living and thinking (identification), with other groups and where the differences (in language communication, territory, hunting, etc.) were sufficient, conflict erupted. This forms the basis for this concept in that those groups as well as individuals with control and power over various “…materials as well as non-material resources…[18]” tend to exploit those with the lesser of these components. The preceding is actualized either through the utilization of “…brute force…”[19] and/or economics. Karl Marx (1848)[20] stated that the process of social revolution is a result of class conflict with the powerful and rich exploiting the weak and poor. And this, when applied to globalization, explains how the influence and impact of more successful societies (in terms of commerce, social systems, philosophies, etc.) is stronger and thus changes those societies. The reverse of this process, meaning the weak and poor influence and impact upon the powerful and rich has less impact, therefore change at the lower level is in their favor.

Social Policy

A society needs order in which to operate and this is manifested by rules of acceptable behavior enacted into laws. These laws are control agents that can be either “…fair or unfair…”[21] as well as “…good or bad…” and are consistently under scrutiny by members of society to have them changed or amended to fit the interest of their group identification thereby providing them with more power. And globalization adds to this as the net effects of commerce serve to enrich those in power who influence and enact the laws through their views to the public. The more progressive the society, the more the public helps to mold and shape the rules (laws) as the system under which the government operates has been molded to respond to public influences. This principle underscores advanced democratic societies. The clamor for public recognition has been provided by scores of internal revolutions. Fidel Castro’s accent to power was a result of public dissatisfaction with the old regime. And history has shown that in this instance that the lack of sufficient outside contact (globalization), has caused the populace economic repercussions. And the effects of globalization upon those who have left the borders of Cuba has been and is providing impetus to the population still there as these former citizens have seen and experienced a broader concept of life.

And while this example does not provide much in terms of their ability to change or modify existing rules, Fidel Castro does make mild concessions in the understanding that holding onto power does require giving some (in this case small amounts and grudgingly) back. Globalization influences social policy in both directions as the powerful and rich, with their advantages of information access as well as involvement in commerce and the upper echelons of society are able to have their views and ideas reviewed as possible amendments to the law. And those at the lower rungs also seek the enactment of laws that benefit them. The effects of globalization influence both instances in that it impacts upon the way individuals see things as a result of new ideas, products, information and communication.

As occupants on a sphere hurdling around a sun at 1,000 miles per hour the perception of countries, in terms of the human species, is an arcane concept. And globalization is proving this to be true. It is responsible for the demise of the former Soviet Union as that closed society had limited commerce options and this hampered their ability to complete with the financial resources of the free market system in financing its military debt. The slow build up of this debt financing pressure caused food lines and product shortages which the system (Soviet), in and of itself could not supply to its populace in sufficient quantities.

And, it was the affects of globalization which contributed to the preceding. The education and exposure of the populace of a country means that the systems which govern that populace must also progress, change and modify itself in order to be representative of the human beings under its auspices. Failure to adhere to this basic tenet was the cause of the failure of Alexander’s conquests, as his succeeding generals where not able to effectively control what had been won. And this also spelled the end of the Roman Empire, Genghis Chan, as well as colonialism. The factor in all these equations is people and if their needs, wants and desires are not being met, they will eventually seek ways in which to acquire them, be it through a democratic process, or conflict. As governments have found that the unrest created by internal as well as external conflict usually weakens their hold on power, they have, or are coming to understand that they must accept change as an inevitable part of the process and either be responsive to it, or precede it.

The broad scale of the preceding analysis does in fact apply to the localization of the consequences of globalization upon social identity, conflict and policy as governments preside over people and as history has shown, when the citizenry changes, so must the system which is supposed to be there to reflect their needs, wants and desires.

Bibliography

Agdal, Mohammed. 2004. Globalization, Identity Politics, and Social Conflict: Contemporary Texts and Discourses. Mohammed V University, Rabat.

Escobar, Arturo. 2005. Notes on Networks and Anti-Globalization Social Movements. Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina.

howstuffworks.com.2005. How the Airbus A380 Works. http://travel.howstuffworks.com/a380.htm/printable

Khaleej Times Online.2005. Giant Airbus among planes on display at Paris Air Show. http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/theworld/2005/June/theworld_June254.xml&section=theworld

The Australian National University.2005. Social Identity. http://www.anu.edu.au/psychology/groups/categorisation/socialidentity.php

Wikipedia.com. 2005. Alexander the Great. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great

Wikipedia.com. 2005. McDonald’s Corporation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonald’s

Wikipedia.com. 2005. Social Identity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_identity

1


[1] Khaleej Times Online.2005. Giant Airbus among planes on display at Paris Air Show. http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/theworld/2005/June/theworld_June254.xml&section=theworld

[2] howstuffworks.com.2005. How the Airbus A380 Works. http://travel.howstuffworks.com/a380.htm/printable

[3] Wikipedia.com. 2005. McDonald’s Corporation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonald’s

[4] Wikipedia.com. 2005. Alexander the Great. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great

[5] Agdal, Mohammed. 2004. Globalization, Identity Politics, and Social Conflict: Contemporary Texts and Discourses. Mohammed V University, Rabat.

[6] Escobar, Arturo. 2005. Notes on Networks and Anti-Globalization Social Movements. Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina.

[7] Ibid

[8] Wikipedia.com. 2005. Social Identity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_identity

[9] Ibid

[10] The Australian National University.2005. Social Identity. http://www.anu.edu.au/psychology/groups/categorisation/socialidentity.php

[11] Ibid

[12] The Australian National University.2005. Social Identity. http://www.anu.edu.au/psychology/groups/categorisation/socialidentity.php

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] The Australian National University.2005. Social Identity. http://www.anu.edu.au/psychology/groups/categorisation/socialidentity.php

[17] Ibid

[18] Wikipedia.co. 2005. Social-conflict theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social-conflict_theory

[19] Wikipedia.co. 2005. Social-conflict theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social-conflict_theory

[20] Marxist.com. 2005. 90 Years of the Communist Manifesto. http://www.marxist.com/150years/trotskyintro.html

[21] www.pitt.edu. 2005. Basic Concepts and Definitions. http://www.pitt.edu/~heinisch/basic.html


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