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The forces of change and continuity are creating unprecedented complexity in world affairs and new challenges to global order. Describing the accelerating pace of change across many dimensions of international affairs, this essay surveys the major diverging trends and underlying dynamics of globalization — in an interdependent world — that are altering the very texture of history and are simultaneously producing integration and disintegration, cooperation and conflict, order and disorder. Placing 'globalization' into the contemporary context in order to assess the probable impact that this phenomenon will make, across its multiple dimensions, for the prospects for discord or collaboration in twenty?first century international politics, the essay focuses especially on the potential for strengthened global institutions to manage the major problems on the global agenda, such as the continuing danger of the diffusion of violence across borders in a borderless globalized environment. Held is Professor of Politics and Sociology at the Open University in the United Kingdom, and McGrew holds the position of Senior Lecturer in Government there; Goldblatt is Lecturer in Social Sciences at the Open University, and Perraton is Lecturer in Economics at Sheffield University. The authors have published together a comprehensive analysis about globalization in their recent book, Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture (1999).

Global Finance in the 21st Century

Although everybody talks about globalization, few people have a clear understanding of it. The 'big idea' of the late twentieth century is in danger of turning into the cliche of our times. Can we give it precise meaning and content, or would globalization be consigned to the dustbin of history? The reason there is so much talk about globalization is that everyone knows that something extraordinary is happening to our world. We can send e-mail across the planet in seconds; we hear that our jobs depend on economic decisions in far-off places; we enjoy films, food, and fashion from all over the world; we worry about an influx of drugs and how we can save the ozone layer. These growing global connections affect all aspects of our lives - but it is still not clear what globalization really means.

There has been a heated debate about whether globalization is occurring at all. The debate rages between those who claim that globalization marks the end of the nation-state and the death of politics and those who dismiss the globalization hype and say that we have seen it all before. This debate has continued for over a decade, leading to ever more confusion. It is not that these positions are wholly mistaken. In fact, both capture elements of a complex reality. But it is the wrong debate to have when there is no common ground about what globalization is. Until we know what globalization actually means, we will not be able to understand how it affects our lives, our identities and our politics. In this essay, we try to go beyond the rhetoric of entrenched positions and produce a richer account of what globalization is, how the world is changing, and what we can do about it. So what does globalization mean? We show that globalization is made up of the accumulation of links across the world's major regions and across many domains of activity. It is not a single process but involves four distinct types of change:

o It stretches social, political, and economic activities across political frontiers, regions, and continents.

o It intensifies our dependence on each other, as flows of trade, investment, finance, migration, and culture increase.

o It speeds up the world. New systems of transport and communication mean that ideas, goods, information, capital, and people move more quickly.

o It means that distant events have a deeper impact on our lives. Even the host local developments may come to have enormous global consequences. The boundaries between domestic matters and global affairs can become increasingly blurred. In short, globalization is about the connections between different regions of the world - from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the environmental and the ways in which they change and increase overtime.

We show that globalization, in this sense, has been going on for centuries. But we also show that globalization today is genuinely different both in scale and in nature. It does not signal the end of the nation-state or the death of politics. But it does mean that politics is no longer, and can no longer be, based simply on nation -states. We cannot predict the future or know what the final outcome of globalization will be. But we can now define the central challenge of the global age- rethinking our values, institutions, and identities so that politics can remain an effective vehicle for human aspirations and needs. First, we need to understand what is distinctive about globalization today. We can do this only by studying the forms it has taken throughout history in all areas of activity : the environment, the economy, politics, and culture. The thread that ties these things together is people, and so it is with the movements of people that we must start.


Globalization began with people traveling. For millennia, human beings have migrated settling new lands, building empires or searching for work. Most migrations in history have not been global. But from the sixteenth century onwards, Europeans traveled the world, conquering the Americas and Oceania before making colonial incursions into Africa and Asia. The first great wave of modern migration was the transatlantic slave trade. Nine to twelve million people were shipped as slaves from Africa to the Americas by the mid-nineteenth century. But this was dwarfed by the extraordinary outpouring of Europe's poor to the New World from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. More than thirty million people moved in this way between 1880 and World War I.

Levels of global migration have fluctuated dramatically with political and economic conditions. During World War I, international migration plummeted. European migration stopped, beyond a few forced migrations like that of Armenians and Greeks from Turkey. North America closed its borders and created the first systematic immigration legislation in the modern era. But the bitter struggles and ethnic violence of World War II led to unprecedented levels of forced migrations, refugees, and asylum movements. Ethnic Germans fled the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Jews headed for Israel. Pakistan and India exchanged millions of people. And Koreans flooded south.

In the 1950s and 1960s, millions of people poured into Europe, attracted by the rebirth of Western European economies. After the oil shocks of the 1970s, politicians closed many of these migration programs. But they couldn't stop the foreign population and ethnic mix from continuing to grow. A combination of family reunions, unpoliceable borders, and sheer demand for labor have continued to drive migration from the European peripheries of Turkey and North Africa and from the distant outposts of old European empires in Asia and Africa. There has also been a takeoff in legal and illegal migration to the United States and Australasia, enormous flows to the oil-rich and labor-scarce Middle East, and new patterns of regional migration throughout the world.

Today, we are living with the consequences of centuries of migration and conquest. There is more ethnic diversity than ever before in states of the organization for Economic and Community Development (OECD), especially in trope. The process can never be reversed, particularly when in countries like Sweden more than 10 percent of its population are foreign born. Moreover, the sited States is experiencing levels of migration that are comparable to the great transatlantic push of the late nineteenth century. In the mid-1990s, this involved more than a million immigrants per year, mainly from Asia, Latin America, and Central America. And it is not just economic migration. There has also been an astronomical rise in asylum seeking, displaced persons, and refugees from wars s states are created and collapse in the developing world. More than half a mil on applicants for asylum were received per annum by OECD countries in the 1990s.


The West Against the Rest?

When people move, they take their cultures with them. So, the globalization has a long history. The great world religions showed how ideas and beliefs can cross the continents and transform societies. No less important were the great pre-modern empires that, in the absence of direct military and political control, held their domains together through a common culture of the ruling classes. For long periods of human history, there have been only these global cultures and a vast array of fragmented local cultures. Little stood between the court and the village until the invention of nation-states in the eighteenth century created a powerful new cultural identity that lay between these two extremes.

This rise of nation-states and nationalist projects truncated the process of cultural globalization. Nation-states sought to control education, language, and systems of communication, like the post and the telephone. But as European empires became entrenched in the nineteenth century, new forms of cultural globalization emerged with innovations in transport and communications, notably regularized mechanical transport and the telegraph. These technological advances helped the West to expand and enabled the new ideas that emerged - especially science, liberalism, and socialism - to travel and transform the ruling cultures of almost every society on the planet.

Contemporary popular cultures have certainly not yet had a social impact to match this, but the sheer scale, intensity, speed, and volume of global cultural communications today is unsurpassed. The accelerating diffusion of radio, television, the Internet, and satellite and digital technologies has made instant communication possible. Many national controls over information have become ineffective. Through radio, film, television, and the Internet, people everywhere are exposed to the values of other cultures as never before. Nothing, not even the fact that we all speak different languages, can stop the flow of ideas and cultures. The English language is becoming so dominant that it provides a linguistic infrastructure as powerful as any technological system for transmitting ideas and cultures.

Beyond its scale, what is striking about today's cultural globalization is that it is driven by companies, not countries. Corporations have replaced states and theocracies as the central producers and distributors of cultural globalization. Private international institutions are not new but their mass impact is. News agencies and publishing houses in previous eras had a much more limited impact on local and national cultures than the consumer goods and cultural products of global corporations today.

Although the vast majority of these cultural products come from the United States, this is not a simple case of 'cultural imperialism.' One of the surprising features of our global age is how robust national and local cultures have proved to be. National institutions remain central to public life and national audiences constantly reinterpret foreign products in novel ways.

These new communication technologies threaten states that pursue rigid closed-door policies on information and culture. For example, China sought to restrict access to the Internet but found this extremely difficult to achieve. In addition, it is likely that the conduct of economic life everywhere will be transformed by the new technologies. The central question is the future impact of cultural flows on our sense of personal identity and national identity. Two competing forces are in evidence: the growth of multicultural politics almost everywhere and, in part as a reaction to this, the assertion of fundamentalist identities (religious, nationalist, and ethnic). Although the balance between these two forces remains highly uncertain, it is clear that only a more open, cosmopolitan outlook can ultimately accommodate itself to a more global era.


One thousand years ago, a modern political map of the world would have been incomprehensible. It is not just that much of the world was still to be 'discovered.' People simply did not think of political power as something divided by clear-cut boundaries and unambiguous color patches. But our contemporary maps do not just misrepresent the past. By suggesting that territorial areas contain indivisible, illimitable, and exclusive sovereign states, they may also prove a poor metaphor for the shape of the politics of the future.

Modern politics emerged with and was shaped by the development of political communities tied to a piece of land, the nation-state. This saw political power within Europe centralized, state structures created, and the emergence of a sense of order between states. Forms of democracy were developed within certain states, while at the same time the creation of empires saw this accountability denied to others.

Today, we are living through another political transformation, which could be as important as the creation of the nation-state; the exclusive link between geography and political power has now been broken. Our new era has seen layers of governance spread within and across political boundaries. New institutions have both linked sovereign states together and pooled sovereignty beyond the nation-state. We have developed a body of regional and international law that underpins an emerging system of global governance, both formal and informal, with many layers.

Our policymakers experience a seemingly endless merry-go-round of international summits. Two or three congresses a year convened one hundred fifty years ago. Today more than 4,000 convene each year. They include summits of the U.N., the Group of Seven, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the European Union (EU), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation bloc, the regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Mercado Comun del Sur (MERCOSUR). These summits and many other official and unofficial meetings lock governments into global, regional, and multilayered systems of governance that they can barely monitor, let alone control.

Attention has tended to focus on the failure of global institutions to live up to the vast hopes that their birth created. But they have significant achievements to their credit. Although the U.N. remains a creature of the interstate system with well documented shortcomings, it does deliver significant international public goods. These range from air traffic control and the management of telecommunications to the control of contagious diseases, humanitarian relief for refugees, and measures to protect our oceans and atmosphere.

However, it is regional institutions that have done most to transform the global political landscape. The EU has transformed Europe from postwar disarray to a s situation where member states can pool sovereignty to tackle common problems. Despite the fact that many people still debate its very right to exist, the view from 1945 would be of astonishment at how far the EU has come so quickly. Although regionalism elsewhere is very different from the European model, its acceleration in the Americas, Asia Pacific, and (somewhat less) in Africa has had significant consequences for political power. Despite fears of Fortress Europe and protectionist blocs, regionalism has been a midwife to political globalization rather than a barrier to it. In fact, many global standards have resulted from negotiations involving regional groupings.

Another feature of the new era is the strengthening and broadening of international law. States no longer have the right to treat their citizens as they think it. An emerging framework of 'cosmopolitan law' — governing war, crimes against humanity, environmental issues, and human rights — has made major inroads into state sovereignty. Even the many states that violate these standards in practice accept general duties to protect their citizens, to provide a basic standard of living, and to respect human rights. These international standards are monitored and vociferously lobbied for by i growing number of international agencies. In 1996, there were nearly 260intergovernmental organizations and nearly 5,500 international nongovernmental organizations. In 1909, the former numbered just thirty-seven and the latter a mere 176. There has also been a vast increase in the number of international treaties and regimes, such as the nuclear nonproliferation regime. The momentum for international cooperation shows no sign of slowing, despite the many vociferous complaints often heard about it. The stuff of global politics already goes far beyond traditional geopolitical concerns and will increase whenever effective action requires international cooperation. Drug smugglers, capital flows, acid rain, and the activities of pedophiles, terrorists, and illegal immigrants do not recognize borders; neither can the policies for their effective resolution.

This transformation of international politics does not mean that the nation-state is dead. The multilateral revolution, rather than replacing the familiar world of nation-states, overlays and complicates it. Many familiar political distinctions and assumptions have been called into question. The context of national politics has been transformed by the diffusion of political authority and the growth of multilayered governance (which we discuss further in the section on governing globalization). But it is not entirely clear which factors will determine how far old institutions can adapt and whether new institutions can be invested with legitimacy.


Preserving our environment

Environmental change has always been with us. What is new today is that some of e greatest threats are global, and any effective response will have to be global. For most of human history, the main way in which environmental impacts circulated around the earth was through the unintentional transport of flora, fauna, d microbes. The great plagues showed how devastating the effects could be. The European colonization of the New World within a generation wiped out a substantial proportion of the indigenous populations of the Caribbean, Mexico, and parts of Latin America. Over the following centuries, these societies saw their ecosystem ms, landscapes, and agricultural systems transformed. Early colonialism also damaged the environment in new ways. The Sumatran and Indian forests were destroyed to meet consumer demand in Europe and America. Seals were over-hunted to dangerously low levels. And some species of whale were hunted to extinction.

But most forms of environmental degradation were largely local until the middle of the twentieth century. Since then, the globalization of environmental degradation has accelerated. Fifty years of resource-intensive and high-pollution growth in the OECD and the even dirtier industrialization of Russia, Eastern Europe, and the ex-Soviet states have taken their toll on the environment. The [Global] South is now industrializing at breakneck speed, driven by exponential growth of global population. We also know much more about the dangers and the damage that we have caused.

Humankind is increasingly aware that it faces an unprecedented array of truly global and regional environmental problems, which no national community or single generation can tackle alone. We have reacted to global warming; to ozone depletion; to destruction of global rainforests and loss of biodiversity; to toxic waste; to the pollution of oceans and rivers; and to nuclear risks with a flurry of global and regional initiatives, institutions, regimes, networks, and treaties. Transnational environmental movements are also more politically visible than ever. But there has simply not been the political power, domestic support, or international authority so far on a scale that can do any more than limit the very worst excesses of these global environmental threats.


Contemporary globalization represents the beginning of a new epoch in human affairs. In transforming societies and world order it is having as profound an impact as the Industrial Revolution and the global empires of the nineteenth century. We have seen that globalization is transforming our world, but in complex, multifaceted and uneven ways. Although globalization has a long history, it is today genuinely different both in scale and in form from what has gone before. Every new epoch creates new winners and losers. This one will be no different. Globalization to date has already both widened the gap between the richest and poorest countries and further increased divisions within and across societies. It has inevitably become increasingly contested and politicized.

National governments, sandwiched between global forces and local demands, must now reconsider their roles and functions. But to say simply that states have lost power distorts what is happening as does any suggestion that nothing much has changed. The real picture is much more complex. States today are at least as powerful, if not more so, than their predecessors on many fundamental measures of power, from the capacity to raise taxes to the ability to hurl force at enemies. But the demands on states have grown very rapidly as well. They must often work together to pursue the public good — to prevent recession or to protect the environment. And transnational agreements, for example dealing with acid rain, will often force national governments to adopt major changes in domestic policy.

So state power and political authority are shifting. States now deploy their sovereignty and autonomy as bargaining chips in multilateral and transnational negotiations, as they collaborate and coordinate actions in shifting regional and global networks. The right of most states to rule within circumscribed territories— their sovereignty — is not on the edge of collapse, although the practical nature of this entitlement — the actual capacity of states to rule — is changing its shape. The emerging shape of governance means that we need to stop thinking of state power as something that is indivisible and territorially exclusive. It makes more sense to speak about the transformation of state power than the end of the state; the range of government strategies stimulated by globalization are, in many fundamental respects, producing the potential for a more activist state.

But the exercise of political and economic power now frequently escapes effective mechanisms of democratic control. And it will continue to do so while democracy remains rooted in a fixed and bounded territorial conception of political community. Globalization has disrupted the neat correspondence between national territory, sovereignty, political space, and the democratic political community. It allows power to flow across, around, and over territorial boundaries. And so the challenge of globalization today is ultimately political. Just as the Industrial Revolution created new types of class politics, globalization demands that we reform our existing territorially defined democratic institutions and practices so that politics can continue to address human aspirations and needs.

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