The term of globalization

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

What is Globalization? Discuss with reference to the European Union

During the 1980s and 1900s sociologist became extremely interested in globalizations effect on society. Since sociologist fascination in this process has only increased. As Anthony Gidden's says 'thirty years ago, the term globalization was relatively unknown, but today it seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue' (2009: 127). This is because globalization is seen as a huge social phenomenon which affects all aspects of human life. One of the main occurrences or responses of globalization could be seen to be the emergence of the European Union in 1973. The creation of this association led Europe to become a 'Europe without frontiers'. This was done through the creation of a single market, where goods, services, people and money could be moved between European nations freely. Most argue that the creation of the European Union has had a great effect on the dynamics of nations within Europe while others are of the view that it is nothing more than an international body, like the United Nations. This essay will examine the term of globalization and its effects upon Europe. Additionally it will discuss whether Europe was simply a passive recipient of globalization. Research by sociologists like Anthony Giddens, Ronald Robertson and Patrick Le Galès will assist in answering these questions.

Anthony Giddens defined Globalization as 'the fact that we are all increasingly live in one world, so that individuals, groups and nations become ever more interdependent' (2009:126). This is a definition that most would agree on. The process of Globalization means that we are now living in a smaller and better connected world due to the creation of things like the internet and mass production. Beck further defines the term globalization by saying 'Globalization means that borders become markedly less relevant to everyday behaviour in the various dimensions of economics, information, ecology, technology, cross-cultural conflict and civil society. It points something not understood and hard to understand yet at the same time familiar, which is changing everyday life with considerable force and compelling everyone to adapt and respond in various ways' (2005:20). Here he is highlighting that globalization effects all areas of society. Robertson takes a slightly different stance on defining the term globalization and argues that it 'refers not to the compression of the world and the intensification of the consciousness of the world as a whole' (Robertson 1992:8). Robertson talks about the concept of 'unicity' in relation to globalization to explain what he means. He states that due to Globalization the world in now one singular place. In this 'unicity' he argues that all nations are 'orientated to the global' and that each one has a 'particular account of the global order' (Kiely and Marfleet 1998:189).

Ronald Robertson further argues in his book entitled Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, that there were five key stages to Globalization in Europe. He entitled the first phase the 'germinal' phase. He said that this ran from the mid-15th century when ideas about national communities first began to emerge. The next stage was the 'incipient' phase in the late 19th century where these ideas from the 'germinal phase' became reality and international relations began. The 'take-off' phase ran from the 1870s till 1920s and was according to Robertson the most important phase. This was when the contemporary world was fully created and there was a growth of many international links. Events such as the Second World War and creation of the atomic bomb which occurred from 1920 to 1965 were classed under the 'struggle for hegemony' phase. The final stage that Robertson labelled was that of the 'uncertainty' phase which began in the 1960s. During this phase capitalism prevailed as the single form of Globalization process. (Robertson, 1992:58-59)

There is a keen debate among sociologist as to whether globalization has had a positive or negative effect upon societies. Held et al divided these sociologists into three main opinion groups, 'hyperglobalizers', 'sceptics' and 'transformationalist'. 'Hyperglobalizers' like Albrow view capitalism as being the main driving force of Globalization and predicted that globalization would cause the end of the nation-state. 'Sceptics' oppose this view and instead see governments and markets as the driving force behind globalization. Additionally they see the world as being a lot less of an independent place than the 1890s. 'Transformationalists' such as Rosenau think that the main cause of globalization was the collective forces of modernity. Additionally they argue that globalization is transforming world politics. (Held et al. 1999:10)

Globalization has affected the European Union in many ways and across a large scope. Globalization can be seen to affect everything from the products that a European Citizen can purchase in their local supermarket right up to the political running of entire nations. However there is an on-going argument as to whether Europe has been a passive recipient of Globalization or whether it has shaped the process of Globalization. Rumford argues that globalization has provided Europe with the opportunities it has needed to expand. He looks to the economy and says, 'Globalization presents the EU and its member states with both the motive and the opportunity to enhance competitiveness' (Rumford 2002:19-20). This is an example of Europe shaping the process of globalization to benefit itself.

Whether Europe was a passive recipient of globalization or not, it is still clear that globalization has had a great effect on the continent. Economic, social, political and cultural changes have occurred as a result of Europeanization.

Amin and Thrift note that effects of globalization on the European economy can be dated back to the early 1970s. They go on to argue that seven key changes have occurred within the economy due to globalization. Firstly, they argue that there has been a huge centralisation of the financial structure of Europe. The introduction of the Euro currency on the 1st January 2002 by fifteen member states of the European Union is a clear representation of this. Secondly they declare that knowledge had become an increasing driving force of the economy. They point out that collectively European nations were viewing education as increasingly important in the financial world and that knowledge was increasingly being shared among nations. The transnationalization of technology was another change that they noted. Technology allowed nations to communicate much more easily. Fourthly, they said that there was a rise in 'global oligopolies' (1995:4). Companies were having to go global in very early stages of business to keep up. Economic decisions also have changed due to globalization. Governments and businesses are now bargaining with one another globally. The fifth change to the economy was to do with culture. They argue that the globalized economy has lead to the homogenization of many nations through the products that are available. Lastly they saw how the economy lead to the breakdown of borders within Europe. This has mainly been done through the creation of a free market, where goods, services and people can be freely circulated among nations.

Some sociologists argue that Europe actively used globalization to benefit its economy.

Held et al saw the bonding of multiply economies as an active attempt by Europe to fight dominance from huge economies such as the USA and Japan. Castell further said that Europe had made the decision to created 'a legitimizing identity' (1997:8) within the global economy.

The introduction of the multi-national Euro currency is seen in a negative light by many. They worry that countries will lose a vital part of their national identity. Mark Pittaway uses the example of the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 where there was a referendum on the creation of a single-currency, to illustrate this hesitance by many over an inter-national currency.

Europeanization has also caused increasing anxiety within the labour market. The collapse of borders has meant that many countries are suffering from a great influx of cheaper, immigrant workers. Micklethwait and Woodbridge observed that 'for an increasing number of workers... it means the possibility that somebody who lives half the world away will dump you on the dole' (1999: 440). So while the globalization of the Economy in Europe may have benefit individuals in less developed countries, it has taken away opportunities for those in the more developed ones.

Globalization in Europe has un-doubtable had an effect on the role of the nation-states within it. However sociologists cannot agree on whether Globalization in Europe has weakened them or made them stronger. Albrow is of the view that the nation-state has not been totally wiped out by globalization. Instead he argues it still holds a very powerful position within global networks. Held et al on the other hand see a great link between the demise of the nation-state and globalization. Patrick Le Galès in his essay A New Phase of the State Story in Europe outlines seven ways in which globalization has weakened the nation-state within Europe. Firstly he says that nation-states legal powers have been weakened. This he argues can be seen through the increasing use of international agreements as sources of law. Taxation according to Le Galès is key to the nation-state and the reduction of its ability to demand taxes has decreased its spending powers greatly. Additionally globalization has caused a change in the running of the state. Globalization has caused the state to become fragmented as everything has to be negotiated with the European Union and there are no longer direct decisions. Many argue that nation-states have completely lost their military independence. While this may create a more stable Europe, many resent the loss of national military independence. Globalization has also caused the collapse of frontiers surrounding nation-states. Le Galès gave the Schengen zone agreement as an example. This agreement was signed by ten European states in 1985 and allowed the free circulation of individuals within them. This has had obvious effects on the cultural identity of nation-states, due to the sudden influx of immigrants. Finally Le Galès looked at how the globalized economy weakened the nation-state. He said that over the past thirty years the idea of a national economy had been undermined with the introduction of multi-national currencies like the euro.

Many writers are concerned that Globalization in Europe has taken away individual's nation's sense of cultural identity. This is through changes like the relaxation of border controls and the introduction of the Euro as a multi-national currency. Albrow argued that Europeanization was causing the collapse of locality; he said 'what used to be connected is often disconnected. People are separated by highways where once there were fields and village streets. Neighbours no longer come from the same class or even country. One generation fails to understand another's music. Night is divided from day by danger on the street. This is daily experience of living in a locality' (Albrow 1996:110). He argued that globalization had changed the role of locality due to people being able to join various groups and communities which have no connection to their locality. He called this detachment of identities from groups the "relativization of identity".

But other writers such as Robertson argue the opposite and say that globalization in Europe has actually benefitted local communities and their identities, just in a different way. He makes claim that there is a new global-local relationship occurring, which he calls the process of 'glocalisation'. He says that the local is now globally produced, 'much of the promotion of locality is in fact done from above or outside' (1995). A high profile example of this global-local relationship is that of the restaurant chain McDonalds. Despite being a high-profile global company, their menus vary in different locations to suit their customer's cultural needs. For example in India their chains do not serve beef or pork out of religious respect. This example highlights how despite being in an age of globalization, local customs and traditions are still important.

Castell further adds to the argument that globalization has created stronger local identities within Europe by pointing out that there has been a rise in nationalist movements in many European nations. 'Thus, confronted with a decline in democracy and citizen participation, at a time of globalization of the economy and Europeanization of politics, citizens retrench in their countries, and increasingly affirm their nations' (Castells 2000b: 359). An example of this increased nationalism would be the rise in popularity of the British National Party in recent years. This rise in popularity can mainly be seen as a response to factors like the increase of unemployment among British citizens due to European immigrants taking the work.

Beck in What is Globalization? puts forward the view that Europe is in fact not as integrated as we think and that nation states are still very individually distinguishable. An example he gives is that there is 'no real European newspaper'. He further says that the single-market that is in existence in Europe has in fact promoted 'petty and provincial' (2005:157). Beck is saying that Europeanization has not created as such an integrated union as people like to believe.

To summarize globalization has clearly had a major effect on the world and its effects can be especially seen in the European Union. These effects vary from economic ones to effects on the national identity of countries. In conclusion it appears as though Europeanization has had overall a positive effect on Europe. Aspects such as the opening up of markets has benefitted many through providing more opportunities and creating better cultural understanding among different nations. However there are undeniable some negative aspect to globalization in Europe. Mass unemployment in some European countries due to an influx of much cheaper immigrant workers would be an example. Where or not globalization is having a positive effect on Europe, it is unarguably continuing to shape it.


  • Albrow, M. (1996) The Global Age: State & Society Beyond Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Amin, A & Thrift, N. ( 1994) Globalization, Institutions, and Regional Development in Europe, Oxford University Press
  • Beck, U. (2005) What is Globalization, Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Castells, M. (1997) The Power of Identity, Oxford: Blackwell
  • (2000) End of Millennium: Volume III, Oxford: Blackwell
  • Giddens. A (2009) Sociology, Polity Press
  • Held, D et al. (1999) Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Janoski, T. (2005) The Handbook of Political Sociology, Cambridge University Press
  • Kiely, R & Marfleet, P (1998) Globalization and the Third World, Routledge
  • Lechner, F. (2001) Accessed on 26/10/09. Available at
  • Nash, K. & Scott, A (2004) The Blackwell companion to political sociology, Blackwell
  • Pittaway, M. (2003) Globalization and Europe, The Open University
  • Robertson, R. (1992) Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, London: SAGE
  • (1995) 'Glocalization: Time-Space and Homogeneity- Hetregeneity' in M. Featherstone, S. Lash and R. Robertson (eds), Global Modernities, London: SAGE
  • Rumford, C. (2002) The European Union: a political sociology, Blackwell Publishing