Coping with Globalisation

By Shuja, Sharif M. | Contemporary Review, November 2001 | Go to article overview

Coping with Globalisation

Shuja, Sharif M., Contemporary Review

THE world was undergoing tremendous change even before the horrors of 11 September. Both democracy and the market economy have proliferated globally since the collapse of communism, and revolutionary developments in communication and information technology have helped trigger an increasing interdependence between countries at an unprecedented pace. Further, the end of the Cold War signalled the displacement of ideological obstinacy in favour of a heated pursuit towards economic advancement and competition for resources and technology. Economic statecraft, whereby nations use trade, loans, grants and investment to influence the action of other states, is now becoming more important.

Globalisation and the triumph of the market are the economic consequences of the victory of democracy. The global market will give economic freedom to billions of consumers and producers in the same way that political freedom has given millions of individuals new rights. And it is tempting to see nationalism, ethnicity, fragmentation, and now terrorism as obstacles to that bright global future.

The dynamic transfer of people, information, capital and goods is progressing on a worldwide scale. Globalisation and an expansion of information technology have given rise to a new wave of changes in international relations. In this global era, people from numerous countries and civilizations will be blessed with the opportunity to work together.

Globalisation thus offers opportunities for international and competitive economies, but also brings challenges for political and economic management. It has profound implications for trade and economic policy. It blurs the division between foreign and domestic policy, increases competitive pressures in markets, and makes globally-based trade rules and disciplines even more important.

On the one hand the impact of globalisation is forcing vulnerable states to become more 'transparent' in their political and economic habits, hence potentially relieving the stresses of 'crony capitalism' and undemocratic practices; on the other, individual efforts are also required to maintain an ethical universe. Greater cooperation between nation states, multi-national corporations, the international institutions, the global business community and the NGOs are now needed to maintain the world order values, such as peace, economic equity, ecological balances, democratic participation, utilization of knowledge etc. More then ever, world problems require careful thinking, creative research, fresh ideas, and practical approaches, if they are to be solved.

Globalisation and Americanisation

The global economy can work only if the world is a predictable place in which individuals and corporations know their rights and can enforce them. In other words, the apolitical world of globalisation can prosper only under the aegis of a political entity, its guarantor, the United States. That is why globalisation is increasingly understood to be a synonym of Americanisation. The attack on the World Trade Center was an attack on what was a symbol of that globalisation.

This identification between globalisation and Americanisation deserves further analysis because it is a source of ambiguities, misunderstandings, and resentment. What is globalisation, and is it really 'global'? Does it mean that globalisation is an instrument of U.S. power, a new ideology that supports an imperial design, just as communism supported Soviet ambitions?

In developing countries, as well as in a rich country like France, many people harbour this suspicion, and they resent what they see as a U.S. imperialism that threatens the identity of existing communities. The Americanisation of the world often seems to result from a reaction to external events or a spillover of domestic forces rather than a projection of power and political will.

It is important to discover that the American 'empire' depends upon the support of its citizens, and that support, when it is forthcoming, is given for very domestic reasons, because the United States, having become an empire unknowingly, does not see itself as an empire. …

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