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Politics and Economics as Catalysts of Globalization

The base idea of globalization is interconnected economies; however, interconnectedness does not come without conflicts.

By Matthew Zwicker

The idea of togetherness and identity are common themes throughout nature. Animals of all groups seek to remain within a ‘tribe’; birds flock together; fish group into pods; farm animals and wild animals alike contribute to the bio-sociological terms of ‘herd mentality’ and ‘pack mentality’. Whether roaming the wilderness as hunters and gatherers or roaming the jungles of skyscrapers in cities, humans have also developed forms of togetherness through tribalism and mob mentality. In keeping with the status quo of survival, nation states and markets also build upon this idea of interconnectedness through a phenomena called globalization. Although globalization (as a phenomenon) has existed in various forms throughout human history, the term is relatively young; being used as early as 1930. The two international relations theorists John Baylis and Steve Smith describe globalization from a wide perspective:

A globalized world is one in which political, economic, cultural and social events become more and more interconnected, and also one in which they have more impact… These events can conveniently be divided into three types: social, economic and political.”.(1)

These three types of events are arguably the products of two primary catalytic causes: political factors and economic factors. The use of the term catalyst is not to imply that globalization is a singular event or phenomena that reoccurs through situations, but is rather used to illustrate the compounding effects political and economic factors have on the phenomena of globalization. The primary focus of this article is to justify politics and economics as the principal causes of globalization, thus sociological and cultural theories and events will be avoided. Although sociology and cultural factors affect politics and economics, this article focuses on how politics and economics generate political, economic, social and cultural events. Lastly, technology is not included as a cause of globalization since it is a medium that drives politics and, more notably, economics.

Political Theories as a Catalyst of Globalization

If globalization is, in simplistic terms, the interconnection of economies in different places, then political theories of globalization cover a variety of ideologies spanning the entirety of human history. An old example of political influences on globalization is intertribalism where Indigenous tribes negotiated peace terms for land access, established alliances and systems of trade; ensuring survival through togetherness(2). The idea of intertribal relations translates in modern terms to international relations and world politics. Stephen Walt, in his paper on foreign policy(3), identifies three competing paradigms of international relations: realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Baylis and Smith also recognize these three paradigms within their four theories of world politics, adding the Marxist theory to the discussion(4).

Realism is identified as the power relations between nation states, which contributes to national (and economic) preservation, conservative ideologies and traditional values. Realism recognizes that states act independently of each other, and that states’ sovereignty is effectively sacred. Liberalism notes a wider set of interactions between states and non-state actors in that a concern for power is overridden by economic and political considerations.(5)(6) Constructivism, as it is more identified with individuals and elites, identifies globalization as an external force acting on states, providing opportunities to develop cross-national social movements, social structures aided by modern technological forms of communication(7)(8).

Lastly, the Marxist theory(9) criticizes globalization as a means for states to create a world economy within the premises of capitalistic principles, through political agendas. With this view of globalization, Marxist theorists may view the world capitalist economy as a western ideal deeply embedded in neoliberalism(10)(11), which may be a result of western imperialism in “eastern” states(12). In light of the different theories behind world politics, international conflicts can occur when the political ideologies or interests of one nation or group of nations clash with the ideologies and political interests of another.

Political Conflicts as a Catalyst of Globalization

Political conflicts(13) and approaches to solutions also cause globalization. It is important to note that dissensions between differing political ideologies(14) can largely contribute to these conflicts(15)(16)(17). Gayatri Spivak emphasizes the role of imperialism in the creation of the Third World, stating that imperialism is a process of cultural production and domination she calls ‘worlding of the West as world’, in which Western interests are projected as the World’s interests and become naturalized in the rest of world(18)(19).

Examples of expansionism(20) which lead to political conflicts are present throughout history: Ancient Egyptian expansion across Northern Africa and the Middle East (16th-11th century BC); the Roman Empire’s expansion across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe (~500 BC to ~476 AD); the Mongol Empire’s expansion (13th century AD); Great Britain’s imperialism, the colonization of southern territories by European powers (16th century onwards), and the imperialism of western nations pre- and during World War Two(21). In light of the conflicts which often stem from expansionism, globalized solutions toward conflict management are created.

World Systems as Conflict Solutions within Globalization

In an effort to promote the interconnectedness of systems and nations in such a globalized world, intergovernmental organizations (world systems) and economic systems (global trade systems) are established for various reasons as a result of political conflicts. After World War One, western nations developed one of the first modern attempts to establish a trans-political accountability system for nation-states, called the League of Nations. This world system(22) and the Treaty of Versailles (1919) are argued to have contributed to the Second World War due to the sentiments of economic abuse toward Post-First World War Germany. Immanuel Wallerstein’s world systems analysis(23) argues “that the economic processes of the global economic system would keep the global South”(24) in a state of “dependent underdevelopment” to the provision of the economic stability of other countries(25).

After the political conflict of the Second World War, the globalization of war reparations and international approaches to future conflict solutions was in dire need of being actualized. As a result of the need for international interconnectedness, many world systems(26) were enacted for different political and economic reasons, and many are still functioning today. In 1945, the United Nations came into existence as an international peacekeeping organization(27). The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established in 1949 for western nations to counter the threat of the Soviet Union. The 1993 inauguration of the European Union (EU), which stemmed from the member states of the European Coal and Steel Community (1951), unified more European nations under one political and economic entity. The EU(28) contributed to the growing tendency towards transborderness(29) with the Schengen Agreement in 1985. Although these world systems were established as political responses to conflicts, many of these systems were put in place for international economic purposes as well.


Global Trade Systems as Conflict Solutions within Globalization

Global trade systems were also established as an economic means of conflict prevention. After the Second World War, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the predecessor of the EEC and the EU, was founded on supranationalism to regulate coal and steel production. The ECSC’s purpose was

to contribute… to economic expansion, growth of employment and a rising standard of living in the Member States. …while safeguarding continuity of employment and taking care not to provoke fundamental and persistent disturbances in the economies of Member States.”(30)

The International Monetary Fund was established in 1944 to “secure international monetary cooperation, to stabilize currency exchange rates, and to expand international liquidity(31)(32) The 1944 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development(33) established as a global conflict solution for paying war reparations, paved the road for global solutions to solve extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity across nations(34). One more example is 1947’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade(35) which was the first worldwide multilateral free trade agreement to ensure global economic health, promoting international trade(36). These world systems and global trade systems are prime globalization examples of the realization of a Marxist political theory in that they were designed and function to promote economic principles through political agendas(37)(38).

Ecopolitical Events and Economics as a Catalyst of Globalization

Another cause of globalization is the ecopolitical effects on international competition, which are often driven by political agendas, fueled by the hope of economic advancement of certain nations. In his book, The Causes of Globalization, Geoffrey Garrett defines globalization “as the international integration of markets in goods, services and capital”(39). This economic-specific definition accounts for ecopolitics, which is simply politics concerned with the economy. To best understand how international ecopolitical competition causes globalization, ecopolitics should be viewed through four distinct facets of economics: resource, commodity, knowledge and technology economy.

First, in a traditional economic system based on resources, intertribal relations involved the trading of resources and materials in order to survive and function. In traditional Hawaiian economics, each Hawaiian island was split into pie-slice districts where families on the coast would trade fish and salt in exchange for stone tools and mountainous vegetation from the inland families. Similar to a resource economy, a commodity economy is best understood as a market economic system where peoples and nations seek trade in order to attain a commodity, luxury or good. An example of commodity economy influencing ecopolitics is seen in the European race to the East in finding an alternate Silk road via sailing west. Nations such as England, Spain, France and Portugal competed to be the first state to discover a transatlantic economic access to the East. This ecopolitical competition led to Spain’s support of Christopher Columbus’ expedition in 1492, thus the European ‘discovery’ of the Americas.

Knowledge economy refers to the acquisition of knowledge as a source of political standing. This was clearly demonstrated in Alexander’s desire to show superior political influence in the acquisition of global knowledge to create the Great Library of Alexandria. This library sought the employment of scholars to record every document in existence. This led to the employment of 500 Jewish scholars to translate the Hebrew Torah into Koine Greek. This inadvertently globalized Judaism in that non-Hebrew speakers could study Hebrew literature in the international language at the time (Koine Greek). Lastly, technology economy has a great influence on international ecopolitical events in nations competing for new technology(40). Examples of this include the secret race to develop atomic weapons during World War Two; the 20th century Space Race between the US-USSR; and this year’s race to develop 5G technology and infrastructure between the US-China. International competition invokes a need for immediate access to current foreign events, thus inspiring more efficient means of information technology, thus stimulating innovation, thus stimulating the economy.


It is our responsibility to seek interconnectedness

Although culture and sociology contribute to globalization, the main catalysts of globalization are politics and economics. Diverse political theories on international relations contribute to international political conflicts. Through these conflicts, however, international efforts are deployed in finding solutions to conflicts via the establishment of world systems and global trade systems. These systems set the parameters within which international economics take place, thus leading to ecopolitical events in the form of international competition through resources, commodities, knowledge and technology economies. The base idea of globalization is interconnected economies; however, interconnectedness does not come without conflicts. It is the responsibility of both independent nations and the actors within to seek the interconnectedness of all areas of human interactions (political, social, cultural, economic) through a unified world, a global unity.

Footnotes

1. Baylis, J, & S Smith. 1997. The Globalization of World Politics: an Introduction to International Relations (3rd ed.). Cambridge, Oxford University Press., page 8

2. Jones, A. (2010). Globalization: Key Thinkers (1st ed.). Cambridge, Polity Press.

3. Walt, S. M. (1998, Spring). International Relations: One World, Many Theories. Foreign Policy, 110(1), 29–46. DOI:10.2307/1149275

4. Baylis, J, & S Smith. 1997. The Globalization of World Politics: an Introduction to International Relations (3rd ed.). Cambridge, Oxford University Press.

5. Desire for prosperity, commitment to liberal values e.g. promotion of democracy

6. Walt, S. M. (1998, Spring). International Relations: One World, Many Theories. Foreign Policy, 110(1), 29–46. DOI:10.2307/1149275

7. Baylis, J, & S Smith. 1997. The Globalization of World Politics: an Introduction to International Relations (3rd ed.). Cambridge, Oxford University Press.

8. Walt, S. M. (1998, Spring). International Relations: One World, Many Theories. Foreign Policy, 110(1), 29–46. DOI:10.2307/1149275

9. What I relate to with structuralism and world-system theory.

10. Pieterse, J. N. 2008. Globalization the next round: Sociological perspectives. Futures: Emerging Futures, 40(8), 707-720. DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2008.02.005

11. Baylis, J, & S Smith. 1997. The Globalization of World Politics: an Introduction to International Relations (3rd ed.). Cambridge, Oxford University Press.

12. Andreotti, V. 2007. An Ethical Engagement with the Other: Spivak’s ideas on Education. Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, 1(1), 69-79.

13. i.e. wars and sanctions, etc.

14. Neoliberalism, territorial acquisition and expansionism, deterritorialization, etc

15. Intertribal, international, internal, etc.

16. Jones, A. (2010). Globalization: Key Thinkers (1st ed.). Cambridge, Polity Press

17. Pieterse, J. N. 2008. Globalization the next round: Sociological perspectives. Futures: Emerging Futures, 40(8), 707-720. DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2008.02.005

18. Andreotti, V. 2007. An Ethical Engagement with the Other: Spivak’s ideas on Education. Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, 1(1), 69-79.

19. Spivak, 1990, p. 69

20. Imperialism, colonialism, etc.

21. It is interesting that the globalized usage of chronological terms AD/BC are residual elements of Roman and British expansionism

22. Jones, A. (2010). Globalization: Key Thinkers (1st ed.). Cambridge, Polity Press.

23. Ibid. 21.

24. In this case, post-World War One Germany

25. Jones, A. (2010). Globalization: Key Thinkers (1st ed.). Cambridge, Polity Press

26. Robertson, R. & Lechner, F. (1985). Modernization, Globalization and the Problem of Culture in World-Systems Theory. Theory, Culture and Society: Explorations in Critical Social Science, 2(3), 103-117. DOI: 10.1177/0263276485002003009

27. Ruggie, J. G. (2003). The United Nations and Globalization: Patterns and Limits of Institutional Adaptation. Global Governance, 9(1), 301-321. DOI: 10.2307/27800485

28. Then the “European Economic Community” (EEC)

29. Jones, A. (2010). Globalization: Key Thinkers (1st ed.). Cambridge, Polity Press

30. Treaty. (1951) Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community.

31. Access to hard currencies

32. McQuillan, L. (2019). International Monetary Fund. Encyclopædia Britannica online.

33. The predecessor of today’s World Bank

34. World Bank Goals. (n.d.).

35. The predecessor of today’s World Trade Organization

36. Amadeo, K. (2019, January 28). GATT, Its Purpose, History, with Pros and Cons: How GATT Saved the World.

37. Baylis, J, & S Smith. 1997. The Globalization of World Politics: an Introduction to International Relations (3rd ed.). Cambridge, Oxford University Press.

38. Pieterse, J. N. 2008. Globalization the next round: Sociological perspectives. Futures: Emerging Futures, 40(8), 707-720. DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2008.02.005

39. Garrett, 2000, p. 1-2

40. Similar to knowledge-based economy

Photography by Jurel Bakker


About the Author

Matthew Zwicker is Master Student of Education and Globalization at the University of Oulu. He has worked with students from ages two to twenty-two for over a decade, and he believes that: “… the educating, motivating and training of the next generation is the dire importance to cultivate and maintain healthy societies”.

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