The term global village is one popularized by Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan to refer to the ability of electronic communications technologies to collapse notions of geography and disrupt the conventional wisdom by which society appraises time-space relations.
At the heart of the concept of the global village is the idea that because electronic communications technology are exponentially increasing their ability to abnegate space and time limitations, they enable individuals, societies and institutions to operate on a larger scale than before – phone calls can be made across greater distances at reduced costs, e-mails allow instantaneous transmission of readable content and cellular technology increases the mobility of telephony.
Whereas the domain we used to operate on was on the village-scale, it is now global: a global village. McLuhan effectively celebrated the development of the global village because he believed that it would expand our social consciousness. Not necessarily make us more socially conscious, but at the very least increase the scale by which we already think.
Where we used to think primarily in terms of local affairs and developments that are mostly proximate to our surroundings, the ability to transmit developments instantaneously means that citizens can now think on an enlarged scale. More enthusiastic neo-McLuhanists maintain that the global village will eradicate all barriers to cultures, nations and political institutions. However, there is some concern that this is not entirely a good thing. For example, some have worried that expanding the individual consciousness to meet the scale of the global village comes at a cost.
In effect, by thinking on the global scale, individuals may find themselves effectively disengaged from local concerns and proximate issues and at the very worse actively following developments in communities they have no power to affect, and disengaged from local developments that they could realistically make a difference in. Castells (1997) contends, however, that the globalizing effects of Internet and other similar networking technologies will not necessarily eradicate political boundaries. Rather the side effect of the Information Age is that many of the things that have come to define the nation state will be effectively downsized.
Sovereignty will no longer figure in the absolute sense that we have understood it before, but rather, nation-states will exist solely due to the network of alliances, commitments, responsibilities and subordinations that are more than just existent for the benefit of the state, but are necessary to its existence, and this becomes possible due to the ability to instantiate relationships through networking technologies. It is this component of Castell’s understanding of globalizing effects which hold some consonance with the views of Ulrich Beck.
Beck maintains that much of the failure to really take measure of the effects of globalization is derived from a limited understanding of it. Beck contends that globalization is not something that is limited to economic relationships and complex trade relations, but something that occurs in the most internalized sense, such as the ways by which we navigate culture and social relationships in an expanded transnational view that is the result of a national sense sublimated by globalizing technologies, cultural exchanges and international relationships.
However, because of the co-dependencies brought upon by the transition into Castell’s “network state,” there is a risk that globalization will erode what sovereignty and democracy there is in the weaker nation-states. In other words, rather than acting as a force for solidarity, globalization could erode democratic controls and constitute a political and economic injustice to the nation-state. This is possible when a nation-state is unable to negotiate for the betterment of its community (whether through incompetence and corruption from the weaker country, or exploitation and deception from the stronger one.
) Globalization cannot end democracy per se, but it risks compromising it to the point of rendering it ineffective. REFERENCES Castells, M 1997, The End of the Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. 3. Blackwell, Cambridge, Massachussetts. Beck, U 2000, What is Globalization? Polity Press, Cambridge. McLuhan, M 1986, The Global Village, Oxford University Press: New York.