The goal of economic globalization was to create unbridled economic opportunities through international trade, and to effectively eliminate the chances of future wars fought over resources. However, the global view of the invisible hand of the market has had negative consequences across the world, which serves to reinforce that globalization is similar to the old adage: the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Globalization has led to the ongoing violation of civil liberties represented by sweatshops across the world, where children toil for pennies so that first world nations can benefit from cheaper shoes.
The economic interdependence created by globalization also meant that the collapse of America’s subprime mortgage market has led to recession on a global level. Finally, the encouragement of global trade and global markets has led to the inevitable fostering of global black markets, in which the substances that would have once been limited to a single country or a single continent are spread throughout the world as an international disease.
Put simply: globalization does not and has never represented global equality or global opportunity for all nations. Rather, it has allowed first world nations to prey on their economic inferiors on a global stage. The means to do these things were elaborated on by two writes centuries apart: Karl Marx and Naomi Klein. Marx saw one of the essential evils of capitalism unleashed as the de facto institution of a class system in which one group envies the other for their acquisitions.
Klein completed the circle, pointing out that the bridge between these two groups is always built of disaster: Marx’s bourgeois manipulate (or create) terrible events in order to create scenarios that benefit themselves, while Marx’s proletariat is convinced that these actions are being done for their benefit. Far from inciting the proletariat uprising that Marx called for, Klein’s theory showed how the proletariat are constantly kept in control of the bourgeois by being reminded (via disasters) that none of them are truly in control of their own lives.
Marx was quick to point out the effect that modern developments had on industrialized nations, which highlighted the false dream of globalization: “in countries where modern civilization has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeois and ever renewing itself as a supplementary part of bourgeois society” (79). Marx could see that unbridled capitalism (which is truly the nature of globalization—capitalism off of its leash) served only to drive a wedge in society between those with much and those with little.
On two levels, this illustrates the folly of capitalism: for a society that achieves the economic greatness that it desires, they will always desire more…there is no satiating the urge for more money, and the power that comes with it. And as it is on the micro level, so it is on the macro level. Globalization is situated in the power of profit motive to avert wars and unite nations.
However, the blunt truth is that it creates the division between those with much and those with little on a global scale. Rather than foster global unity, it fosters an “us vs. them” attitude between nations that increases economic tensions, rather than allay them. Klein’s so-called “shock doctrine” also illustrates the unfortunate relation between economic globalization and global conflict. According to Klein, “this fundamentalist form of capitalism has always needed disasters to advance” (11).
The reasoning for this is simple: as globalization is based on the free market, which itself is based on motivated self-interest, Klein postulates that major social changes and political upheavals are often pushed through in the wake of tragedies either caused externally (such as the 9/11 attack) or internally (the Tienamen Square incident). Klein’s theory illustrates one of the dark ironies of globalization—despite the fact that it is supposed to foster global unity, its inevitable focus on profit makes individuals amenable to policies that they assume will merely affect other people, and not themselves.
This can clearly be seen in the public support for everything from “simple” racial profiling all the way to support for the Patriot Act in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Unfortunately, this helps illuminate that one of the primary goals of globalization—reducing the chances for future wars, particularly on a global stage—is useless: citizens have traded the previous blatant model of economic stimulus through war (such as the prosperity of America following World War II) for an ostensibly more subtle model of capitalizing on any opportunities presented by disaster.
In a way, this follows the bourgeois/proletariat binary postulated by Marx: the proletariat, in this case, react to changes in the wake of the disaster in a relatively positive way: they see the government enacting these changes as positive, and believe that the changes will ultimately be of long-term benefit to them. The bourgeois, in this scenario, are the ones enacting the profitable changes in policy (and, in certain governments, creating the catastrophes which create the profitable changes).
To illustrate: it is the proletariat that is content with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a response to the 9/11 attacks that is designed to keep American citizens safe. It is the bourgeois that see these tragedies as platforms for greater opportunity (such as the bevy of no-compete contracts in the Middle East, or the utility of an amoral mercenary agency such as Blackwater). There are, of course, positive possibilities associated with globalization. As Emory’s Frank Lechner points out,
new heterogeneity…results from globalization: interaction is likely to lead to new mixtures of cultures and integration is likely to provoke a defense of tradition; global norms or practices are necessarily interpreted differently according to local tradition, and one such norm stresses the value of cultural difference itself; cultural flows now originate in many places; and America has no hegemonic grasp on a world that must passively accept whatever it has to sell.
It is hard to argue that globalization is not responsible for bringing many nations (including America) out of their isolationist shell and into the theater of global trade and interaction. Accordingly, cultural norms are reevaluated; Japan, perhaps, is a prime example of a country utterly demonized during war time, yet embraced by the average American due to enhanced trade relations as a result of globalization. However, Lechner’s final point is where much debate centers—that globalization frees the world from monolithic entities effectively controlling the market for a variety of goods.
As elaborated on above, the global spread of a free market system has led to a system of exploitation through venues such as sweatshops. The American hegemony, then, switches from a system whereby it can exploit the globe regarding the products it sells to one where it can exploit the globe regarding products it buys: sneakers assembled by child laborers who are paid pennies per hour are bought by American companies for a few scant dollars and then sold to American citizens for a hundred dollars.
Viewing this model, it is difficult to say that the world is objectively better by being freed of America foisting its products on it; arguably, large parts of the world are actually worse, as they sacrifice certain individuals to institutions such as sweatshops so their employers can get richer as a product of globalization. This has always been the blunt truth of the free market: the pursuit of profit and the pursuit of human liberties rarely share the same road. And the road to profit for the happy few has always been paved by the bones of the multitudinous poor.
All globalization has effectively done regarding human suffering is to extend those bloody roads across the oceans. The modern debate regarding globalization is very similar to the discussions regarding imperialism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In that work, Conrad explores the vast divide between the theoretical idea of imperialism (an institution that is able to spread education and opportunities across the globe) and the reality of imperialism (an institution that exploits and kills natives in order to better strip mine their lands of various resources).
Globalization is similar because, on paper, it really does represent opportunities on a variety of micro and macro scales: even a poor individual can benefit from cheap products that cost so little because of a global market helping prevent monopolies and inflation. However, the hidden human cost of these low prices is too horrible too ignore, and too vast to allow: America has recently discovered the folly of relying on credit on a massive scale, and the entire world is suffering from this object lesson.
What individuals need to grasp is that the dark side of globalization is, fundamentally, no different from an overreliance on credit. Wealthy nations are effectively buying products for less than they should cost because the burden can and will be borne by a poorer nation. Poverty continues to be passed along; rich nations get richer as a product of globalization, and poor nations stay poor. As an “ends justify the means” debate, globalization is patently wrong, because more solid harm has been done to the world through its economic independency by America’s credit blowout than ephemeral good (such as cultural exchanges) has been done.
Klein writes of individuals and nations taking advantage of shocks in order to further controversial agendas. For all intents and purposes, globalization is an ongoing shock: when the smoke clears, there is merely those who have ascended higher and those under the rubble, propping the first group up. Works Cited Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Toronto: Random House of Canada Limited, 2007 Lechner, Frank. “Globalization Debates. ” Emory University. n. pag 2001. Web. 30 May 2010 Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party. New York: Cosimo, Inc. , 2009