Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Unequal Voices

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Unequal Voices

Article excerpt

Globalization of markets and exchanges is creating new disparities between nations and may lead to a two-speed communication system as well as a two-speed economy.

Communication (not only through the media, but also in the sense of exchanges and the free movement of persons, goods and messages of all kinds) has become a form of world organization. Confronted with the bankruptcy of the old ideology of continuous, linear progress, communication has now taken over. It has become the yardstick by which the evolution of humankind is judged at a time when people have lost their bearings and are searching desperately for the meaning of their future.

The English term "globalization" is often used to describe this phase in the international growth of exchanges through the development of communications. Globalization has already become a reality: increasingly, our societies are linked up by information and communication networks whose logic consists in operating in a universal mode. But it is also an over-simplifying notion - a ready-made ideological approach which conceals, instead of revealing, the complexity of this new world order.

Although the idea of the "global village" was first mooted in the late 1960s by the Canadian university professor Marshall McLuhan(1), this view of our planet did not gain a firm foothold until the 1980s, which witnessed the globalization of markets, financial circuits, companies and all kinds of intangible exchanges. This trend was made possible by a wave of deregulation and privatization which turned the market into the regulating factor of society. This in turn resulted firstly in the weakening of social forces, the decline of the welfare state and of the public service philosophy and, secondly, in the growing power of the corporation, its values and private interests.

In the wake of this change, which encouraged the deployment of technological networks and big multimedia groups, the nature and status of communication itself changed: it became increasingly professional and its areas of responsibility and activities proliferated. As to its methods, which were presented as models for the management of social relations, they finished up by penetrating the whole of society. Today, state institutions, intergovernmental organizations, local and regional authorities, and even such varied humanitarian associations as Medecins Sans Frontieres, Greenpeace and Amnesty International have no hesitation in using public relations expertise to establish closer links with the general public.

From globalization to glocalization

The idea of globalization is therefore the stock-in-trade of marketing and management experts. In a sense it is the key to their world-view and the foundation of the incipient new world order. They see in it the demise of early-twentieth-century scientific management techniques because the hierarchy of authority and the specialization of tasks created by those techniques corresponded to a structure of the world that no longer exists. In those days the local, national and international levels were seen as a succession of compartments which were impervious to each other. The new view of businesses and the world in which they function as a "network" establishes an association between these three different levels. Any business strategy on the globalized market must be at one and the same time international and local; Japanese managers use the English neologism "glocalize" to denote this phenomenon. This new corporate logic is governed by the keyword of integration: integration of geographical scales, but also of design, production and marketing or even of spheres of activity which were previously separate. This word does of course evoke a holistic or perhaps cybernetic vision of the organization of the world into great economic units.

The widespread acceptance of the concept of globalization in the strategic thinking of entrepreneurs has changed the rules of the international game, to say nothing of the course of negotiations embarked upon in the sphere of communication networks. …

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