For my history final, I have to write a paper about globalisation, and it ended up being an incredibly enjoyable experience to write it out tonight. I just hope that I’ll be able to remember all of it for this morning’s final (it is 2.30 in the morning, after all) since it has to be hand-written in class. Anyway, enjoy.
Globalisation has become a semi-ambiguous catch-phrase of our modern age, used by politicians, media monsters, and political bloggers. It’s a word that we now throw around in a game of catch, similarly to words such as “socialism” and “green”. Yes, we use these words in our everyday speech, but that does not signify that we understand a single part of what we’re saying. So, what is globalisation? What does it really mean, and what processes have been at work for centuries in order to establish globalisation? In my final, I plan to not only inform you about the ins and outs of globalisation, but to also stress the importance of controlling globalisation in order to keep a peaceful Earth.
So, what exactly is globalisation? Well, globalisation is the term used to define the erasing of political and geographic boundaries on Earth caused by the spread of a global culture. This means that the idea of a global culture acts as a bond between nations which can easily spread through technological innovations. These innovations allow for single nations and kingdoms to influence not only their own geographic area but other areas. These connections between countries increase the collectiveness of the human race, allowing for a unifying culture to spread and replace older ways of life. This unifying culture impacts not only the way people live, but the politics, economy, and societies of those nations which fall under globalisation.
That’s a mouthful and overly technical, so globalisation can best be summed up like this: When one country’s actions affect other countries and when you see older cultures adopting a new culture, you’re seeing globalisation at work.
Of course, globalisation has its pluses and minuses, even at its beginnings. It’s how globalisation is kept in check that determines whether it will have the negative or positive effects as portrayed in history. At its start, globalisation was an idea. This idea became a snowball of technology, innovation, and science—giving it the appropriate name of The Scientific Revolution. During the 15th and 16th centuries, new sciences developed, greatly helping the fields of medicine, astronomy, math, and most importantly for globalisation, sailing. New sailing tools, discoveries of trade winds, and better ships encouraged European kingdoms to explore the oceans that had once been major boundaries. Without these boundaries between land masses, the Earth could see its first major form of globalisation, as geographic boundaries no longer held the same importance that they once had.
With the increase in sailing came the establishment of colonies, triangular trade, and imperialism. This imperialism, fuelled by the highway of oceans, was influential in the spread of culture from European nations to those of South American, Latin American, North American, African, and Asian areas. Soon, native peoples would be expected to speak European languages and become citizens of conquering nations. This produced a loss of native culture and brought a unifying one, which can be seen as a loss for native history and ways of life or as an encouraging view of progress. Either way, boundaries were broken and cultures spread, causing the beginning of globalisation.
Globalisation was further spread by the increased trade and influence of super-powers brought about by the Industrial Revolution. At this point, the actions of nations began to affect those around it. When one nation fought a war, others followed suit. When one nation adopted a political ideology, other nations picked up on a similar idea. No longer could a nation stay isolated, but all nations were expected to contribute to the global economy, political movements, and culture.
There are several examples in history that helped build globalisation and were in turn built by the globalisation that it had created. From the scientific revolution to innovations in sailing and from the building of colonies to trade, the starts had heavy influences on the world. The founding of new colonies increased trade, increasing globalisation, but globalisation’s effect of spreading a culture helped spread trade, as more cultures blended together, increasing the need for goods from around the world to be taken to colonies. This can be viewed in the triangular trade, as the colonies were suddenly in need of slave labour. Meanwhile, the slaves brought to South America grew sugar, which was then trades to Europe. Europe then traded its textiles to Africa, completing the triangle. Though this originally fuelled globalisation with trade, globalisation itself then encouraged the trade and expanded it to China, India, and Middle Eastern kingdoms.
With increasing trade and imperialism came political and national revolution. In 1776, the United States of America became the first European colony to declare independence, causing a global backlash. Suddenly, revolution became a norm. France declared its revolution in 1789, overthrowing its monarchy and declaring popular sovereignty. This encouraged Haiti to declare its independence, along with other South American colonies. But, even though these colonies became free to build their own, independent nations, their European masters had left a very strong seed embedded in their cultures. The native peoples were now speaking French and Spanish and English. They now dressed in European styles and had lost their original ways of life. Yes, they were more modern, but at the loss of their personal identities.
Revolutions increased throughout the 19th century, and the most significant of revolutions was brought about through the trade and innovations of globalisation, and this revolution would further spread globalisation past all imagination. The Industrial Revolution occurred during this time and became the ultimate increase in technology, which would ultimately set Europe apart from the rest of the world yet worked to unite it. Suddenly, steam engines allowed for ships and trains to decrease travel time between geographic areas, increasing the spread of European culture and technologies. London’s Glass Palace was a fine example of the spread of global culture and technologies, as it exhibited the top inventions of the time, influencing other nations to increase their technological innovations.
New weapons were developed during the time of Industrial Revolution, such as machine guns, and were used to increase territorial claims in Africa by European nations, as viewed in the Battle of Omdurman. With these new colonies in Africa came the spread of European culture that had previously been blended with other cultures of the world, and it was further blended with those cultures of Africa, leading to another facet of global culture. The colonies were once again erasing the boundary lines of European nations, further increasing globalisation.
One of the most striking examples of globalisation’s workings were those of the World Wars. With World War 1, globalisation was able to bring the entire world into a war using alliances, pre-conceived war plans, and the hate fuelled by imperialism and political differences. World War 2 brought a similar view of globalisation, bringing even more of the world into war. With the wars came the further influence of global politics, as each nation’s decisions then directly affected other nations. This was evident by how Germany’s invasion of Poland or the Pearl Harbour attacks could lead to massive war or how the UN and NAFTA could be created to control all nations politically. No longer did an area of land mean anything when it came to fighting a war. There were no lines to end conflict, and the globe’s connectedness became its weakness during world war.
Later, technological advances would nearly end all cultural difference between many nations and peoples, which was spread by internet, telephones, aeroplanes, and easier forms of communication. Ideas could spread quickly, goods could be shipped and traded in days or hours, government actions could be viewed in multiple lights through blogs and different news outlets. Suddenly, we were all connected to each other through electrical lines and Facebook, sharing similar pictures, copying the same fashions from London to New York to Hong Kong. Globalisation has come into full light in our modern world as it has blurred what makes us individuals and what makes us another dot on the technological grid that we are so desperate to be on.
So, is globalisation good or bad? I believe that it is both a good and bad thing, as no positive impact can remain without its shadow of negativity. Besides, without the evils of a subject, how can we recognise a good? I’ll admit, globalisation definitely has its upsides. I won’t deny that I enjoy my internet, French music, imported teas, and Japanese art. My life would be drastically different without globalisation; I wouldn’t live in America, I’d be in the middle ages of Germany, fending for my life. Globalisation has made our world modern and thus more comfortable, but I think that there are many negatives to globalisation that must be highlighted.
For starters, globalisation is responsible for a total loss of individual cultures throughout the world. Europeans decimated much of South American and Latin American cultures and almost completely decimated the Native American cultures of North America. Asian cultures are now becoming more European and American, causing a loss in their own religions and practises with the spread of communism in China or fast food in Japan. Every culture is suddenly another version of America, and I feel that it is a great loss to those interested in preserving cultural differences and older ways of life.
I also attribute globalisation to an increase in war and hatred amongst peoples. Globalisation cut boundaries and mixes cultures, which seems as though it would unite all peoples, but when other nations expand their influence, they subordinate other cultures, viewing them as an out-group. For instance, the Middle East is in turmoil, and much of it could have been avoided if European nations hadn’t tried to take stakes in other lands. Great Britain tried to keep Iraq as a colony, but when it was released, everything fell to pieces. Three opposing peoples were kept in the same country, dictators were allowed to take over, and the people felt completely isolated against the ideas of the West that had tried to rule it. This has caused hatred amongst peoples of the region and rest of the world and has fuelled wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. If you’d like, you may blame globalisation for much of the global suffering we see today.
But the decision on its positives and negatives is purely situational and up to interpretation by each person. I simply hope that, after reading this, the term “globalisation” now makes more sense through examples and identification. I also hope that my view of the concept can be understood and acknowledged, because, maybe understanding is the last piece of globalisation needed to truly unite people and relieve the troubles that our world has seen.