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An Analysis of Globalization: Constructivism, Commercial Liberalism and Marxism

Globalization is perhaps the most defining characteristic of the 21st century. The American push for free market ideals, facilitated by the advent of the Internet and other communication technologies, has led to the increased interaction and interrelatedness of people. Therefore, globalization also raises interesting implications for the field of international relations. How can this monumental event be analyzed? Globalization and its consequences can be interpreted and dissected through three major schools of thought: constructivism, commercial liberalism, and Marxism.

A modified Marxist view can explain the starting causes of globalization but not modern day causes, international liberalism can explain the resulting global “macropeace”, and constructivism can explain counter-reactive “microwars” prevalent in the international system.

To begin, Marxism is based on a critique of capitalism and normative commitment to communism. Marxism has various strains, but Marxism-Leninism and neo-Marxism deliver the most cogent analysis of globalization.

Robert Gilpin, in his article “The Political Economy of International Relations” identifies four components of Marxism-Leninism; Marx conceived three of the points, and the final is Lenin’s own modification.

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First is the law of disproportionality which attacks the idea of supply and demand. Since capitalists can produce goods easier than consumers can purchase them, free market economies will always over-produce certain goods. Next is the law of capital concentration. Since competition forces capitalists to produce efficiently or face extinction, capital eventually accumulates in the hands of a select few.

This disparity will ultimately fuel the anger of the proletariat and lead to social revolution. Third is the law of falling profit rate.

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Marx predicted a complex chain reaction, where labor-saving devices would fuel under-consumption, overproduction, and mass unemployment. However, when the social revolution did not occur in the post-World War I era, Lenin revamped Marx’s communist ideology with his fourth law, the law of uneven development. Lenin asserts that the revolution failed to occur, because capitalists had used imperialism as a metaphorical release valve. Developed nations had managed to dump their goods and capital in colonies

and simultaneously acquire cheap raw materials. This outlet and source of inputs relieved the pressure on capitalism, allowing it to continue for the time being. The second variation of Marxism pertinent to globalization is neo-Marxism, specifically Wallerstein’s piece, “Core and Periphery. ” Core states occupy power positions in the international system and can perpetuate a system where they remain in power over the periphery. Core states have two defining characteristics: “strong state machinery, coupled with a national culture…” The periphery states are characteristically weak, and could even exist as merely a colony.

They lack unity through a national cultural and have very weak state mechanisms: either a corrupt and bloated bureaucracy or a virtually non-existent one. Wallerstein alleges that the current international system is one of core states exploiting periphery states. In the article, “Globalization and the Trade in Human Body Parts,” Harrison attributes the causes of globalization to a massive crisis of both “capital accumulation and of state legitimacy” in the 1970s.

According to him, capitalist states of the West faced an inability to produce the correct quantity and distribution of goods, consistent with Marxism. Furthermore, the push for efficiency led to advent of labor-saving devices and the accumulation of capital in the hands of the few. All of these occurrences caused the high unemployment and inflation characteristic of the mid-1970s. As goods and capital piled up with high levels of joblessness, “compromises that had underpinned the post-welfare state gave way once more to conflict between labor and capital.

” This conflict embodies the final death rattle of capitalism before a revolution topples it. However, globalization utilized the Leninist “release valve” and stabilized the developed countries’ free market system. According to Harrison, cheap inputs and vast new markets for consumption allowed Western nations to resolve its crises of capitalism and legitimacy. He defines globalization as “the establishment of world-wide exchanges in labour, trade, technology, and capital between nations possessing different economic, military, and political powers.

” Since globalization has an inherent pro-liberal, capitalist bias, it creates unfair exchanges. Harrison argues that the market for human body parts follows this pattern and mimics other unequal exchanges between developed and developing countries. In this particular market, the organ donors tend to originate from developing nations like India, Argentina, and China. The recipients tend to live in developed nations, with the most transplants performed in the US with Europe closely behind. Harrison defines this flow of organs and transplants as exploitation.

All in all, the causes of globalization rest in capitalism’s desperate bid for viability. However, Harrison’s proposed causes for the start of globalization do not completely make sense. His explanation through the Marxist paradigm correctly pinpoints economic incentive as the overarching objective for globalization. Developed nations, full of goods and capital, perpetually search for outlets for their goods and for natural resource sources. This assumption fundamentally underlies the theory of the free market.

However, Harrison looks to the 1970s, to the start of visible globalization, and links a crisis of capital accumulation to the economic turbulence of the 1970s. But, from the perspective presented in Kirshner’s article “Keynes, Legacies and Inquiries,” the problems instead stem from supply-shocks, creating cost-push inflation and recession. A supply shock results in inadequate levels of aggregate supply to meet aggregate demand. The OPEC oil embargo of the mid-1970s, starting in 1973, delivered this effect and caused the intense stagflation of the time.

Therefore, macroeconomics is partially in conflict with the Marxist view of globalization. Developed nations did not face “a crisis of capital accumulation;” instead, they faced a crisis of productive capabilities. Due to the lack of crude oil, producers could not create enough goods to meet the demand. Therefore it makes more sense that developed nations pushed for a global economy to secure cheap natural resources, rather than look for more sources of demand. The idea of capital accumulation crisis must be abandoned, along with the ominous predictions of violent revolution.

After such considerations, a theory of macroeconomic Marxism succinctly locates the starting origins of globalization. However, this explanation delivers an increasingly poor explanation for modern day globalization and its progression past initial causes. The economies of developing nations have gone through a tertiarization process, defined as the transition of an economy into predominantly service-oriented jobs. This change has led to decreased manufacturing and decreased American exports. Marxism offered a convincing argument in the 1970s and early 1980s, when America had a large trade surplus and a minor trade deficit.

However, America’s trade deficit has ballooned to astronomical proportions as the shift away from manufacturing has become more pronounced. Therefore, the idea of developed nations, or core states, exploiting and preying upon developing nations, or periphery states, for markets no longer makes sense. What can explain globalization in the 1990s through the modern day? With the rise of East Asian NICs, as Steven Haggard’s article names them, and developing nations like India and China, wealthy nations have grown increasingly dependent on their cheap goods.

As these poorer manufacturing-based powers rise, they hold much more power on the world stage. Huntington supports this assertion in his article, “The Clash of Civilizations,” stating that “non-Western civilizations no longer remain the objects of history…but join the West as the movers and shapers of history. ” This non-Western empowerment deeply contradicts all strains of Marxism, which contain some rich-poor exploitative element. Neo-Marxism and Harrison’s fundamental argument places globalization in the context of wealthy nations using capitalism and unequal exchanges to take advantage of poorer nations.

However, core states of economic power no longer completely dictate the rules of the game, and use periphery states as dumping grounds for goods. Instead, the opposite has occurred; rising periphery states have begun to rapidly manufacture goods and export them to the core. This inversion of Marxism explains the continued push of globalization, now fueled by the flow of goods from developing to developed nations. This interaction can even be exploitative in the opposite direction. For example, America has accumulated an enormous trade deficit with China.

This burgeoning trade deficit is very advantageous to China, strengthening the value of its currency. However, Kishner describes the deleterious effects of this occurrence in his article, stating that it “forces the burden of international adjustments on deficit countries…” The disproportion also weakens the dollar and erodes confidence in its ability to store value. Gilpin also alludes to the positive and negative effects of a trade surplus in “Politics of Transnational Economic Relations,” mentioning how America tolerated the 1. 5 billion trade surplus that Japan enjoyed in the 1970s.

America has tried to use rhetoric and diplomacy to resolve this issue but does not dare to use any stronger tools due to its dependency on China as a trading partner. In this example, China gains economic power at the expense of the American dollar. Developing countries sometimes occupy the throne of power on key issues; this reversal deeply contradicts Marxism. Finally, commercial liberalism can be used to understand the effects of globalization. According to commercial liberalist Richard Rosecrance’s article “The Rise of the Trading State,” trade, capitalism, and free markets are forces of peace.

Commercial liberalists believe in the use of trade to forge communication and connections with other nations. Eventually, a net of economic interdependence will form, which discourages war. War in this environment destroys trade opportunities, and therefore, increases the political consequence of declaring war. These strains of thinkers in turn consider imperialist interests to be in utter conflict with trading interests. A country either chooses to embrace free markets and trade or impose heavy mercantilist restrictions.

According to this theory, peace occurs when a country trades autonomy and the quest of national power for more extensive access to resources of the world. Markets further facilitate peace by allowing the spread of culture and understanding. This trading and cultural exchange eventually leads to a peaceful world of trading states, rather than various imperialist nations competing for hegemony. In “Jihad vs. McWorld,” Barber identifies two occurrences closely linked to globalization that ironically oppose and engender each other simultaneously. First is the argument of a global “macropeace,” facilitated by global trade.

Barber makes the argument that no nation is truly independent, connected by everything from the environment to pandemics. Barber further postulates that “positive economic forces that have globalism as their conscious object” act to bind nations together. These forces have also deeply eroded national sovereignty as multinational corporations and international banking systems lack any national identity and do not reflect any particular nationhood. These global economic devices do not exist under the jurisdiction of any individual nation, which according to Barber, has renewed efforts for international peace through an international economy.

Concurrently, this system has also turned “religion, culture, and ethnic identity” into “marginal elements of a working identity. ” This erosion of differences facilitates a peace throughout the world, with the pursuit of wealth undermining any war like tendencies. Furthermore, Barber talks about the mingling of culture as well as trade, describing this concept as “a product of pop culture driven by expansionist commerce. ” The idea of globalization also refers to the cultural imperialism of the West.

More youth around the world idoloize American pop culture figures, like Michael Jackson or Lady Gaga. Foreign children drink Coco-Cola and salivate over Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Cadillac cars. American culture has permeated the entire world from pop icons to the golden arches of McDonalds; this fact is undeniable. This intermingling of culture again facilitates cooperation and understanding between nations, decreasing the chance of war. Barber’s argument is a convincing argument of commercial liberalism. The essence of this paradigm’s argument is the idea of commerce breeding interdependence.

This fact could not be clearer now, during the most devastating economic collapse in over eighty years. As Eurozone nations flounder, the American stock markets dip and rise, based on news of their actions. This certainly smacks of a deep, systemic structure in which consequences for one nation affect many other nations as well. In such a system, a broad scale war would be most disadvantageous, as damage to one nations’ economy would impact the whole. Furthermore, cultural exchanges between nations certainly seem to have brought people closer, as the world becomes an increasingly smaller place.

This two-pronged event has created a world where all-out war between states is now politically unattractive and economically unfathomable. Barber’s analysis explains both the market independence and the increased level of cultural mixing in the world; it also explains why wars between two nations have grown rare in the post-Cold War era. Nevertheless, a significant counterargument can be made through to this idea. Many argue that although much of the conflict is not between states, war does still exist.

The whole world has not entered Barber’s “future in shimmery pastels, a busy portrait…with fast music, fast computers, and fast food…” Even more would argue that much of the world abhors the cultural influence of the US, citing it as immoral or hedonistic. Huntington mentions a return-to-roots sensation among non-Western states, with states starting to turn in and focus on their own regional identities. With many nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran still practicing religious law passionately and pockets of ethnic warfare still existing in Africa, it sometimes seems counterintuitive to talk of a global peace.

However, the identification of a counter-reaction to the globalization can explain all these seeming contradictions. Barber identifies this point through the use of constructivism. Constructivism makes the argument that knowledge of the event does matter in truly understanding an international occurrence. In Henry Nau’s article, “Why We Fight over Foreign Policy,” he strongly focuses on the political, economic, social identity of a state or states when defining constructivism, emphasizing “the ideas, norms, and values…that shape their discourse and identity.

” Constructivists believe that ideas and ideology drive nations to act in certain ways, often creating positive relationships with similar countries and harboring hostility toward those different. Constructivism does have one major disadvantage: it cannot make a policy prescription for a problem. However, it does often prove poignant in analysis of current events and in prediction of future events. This perspective is immensely effective in understanding Barber’s argument and refuting the aforementioned criticism.

His argument is bipartite; after identifying the macropeace, he identifies a phenomenon that he nicknames “jihad,” referring to any violence motivated by “dogmatic and violent particularism. ” This form of conflict relates to the construction of one’s identity, whether by ethnicity, language, religion, etc. According to Barber, violence stems from people of differing identities resisting the homogenizing influence of globalization. It can be seen as a reactionary event to the growing uniformity of the world to Western cultural norms and ideas, facilitated by the unification of national markets.

This return-to-roots search for identity eventually takes a violent form against those who have differing identities. This causes the various “microwars,” defined as most regional conflicts between two groups, rather than states. Barber cites examples of many people, fighting identity-based war on the pretext of self-determination, including Jews, Kurds, Arabs, and Ossetians. These conflicts are the essence of constructivism, isolating identity-based differences as a major source of international conflict. However, Barber’s constructivist theory is not without detractors.

Samuel Huntington, author of the “Clash of Civilizations,” has a different idea of the world. He describes vast swaths of land as individual civilizations and describes conflict on two levels: the micro-level where small groups in different civilizations struggle and the macro-level where states from different civilizations for hegemony. He does not define terrorism as a reaction to American globalization and the erosion of Islamic identity, but instead as conflict between Islamic and Western civilizations.

Barber contrastingly defines conflict as intracivilizational, rather than transcivilizational, between people “without countries inhabiting nations that they just cannot call their own. ” Huntington also predicts that future conflict will grow bloodier, due to increasing awareness of civilizational divides and these conflicts “will occur along the cultural fault lines separating civilizations. ” In opposition, Barber portends a future in which the macropeace will ultimately win out; although, “jihad” will continue to be seen spontaneously.

Despite the intuitive nature of Huntington’s theory and predictions, it is simply too reductionist and parsimonious to adequately explain the complex world of international relations. He omits whole continents in his argument and completely assumes homogeneity within civilizations. These criticisms are eloquently expressed in Katzenstein’s article “A World of Plural and Pluralistic Civilizations. ” He voices the same fundamental disagreement as Barber, that civilizations are not internally uniform. He describes them, not as simply larger nations, but as “loosely coupled” and “internally differentiated.

” This idea of differentiation supports Barber’s assertions, agreeing with the idea of major clashes occurring within civilizations, rather than between civilizations. Katzenstein also references that this fact has been proven with both qualitative and statistical means. In this regard, Huntington seems rather flippant, disregarding empiricism for an intuitive, simple theory. Despite a smooth and logical premise, Huntington’s opinions about the world can be quickly refuted. Huntington’s predictions about the future also seem less accurate than Barber’s, because Huntington neglects an important facet of the world.

Huntington does not mention economic interdependence at all in his piece, despite its overwhelming influence in every facet of life. Utilizing Rosecrane’s theory of trading states, economic self-interest will cause the macropeace to win out, consistent with Barber. Globalization is unavoidable. Its methods and consequences are ubiquitous, from the food one eats to the job prospects one faces. It has had both negative and positive effects on the world, facilitating both economic prosperity and global terrorism.

The initial causes of globalization can be analyzed with a modified Marxist viewpoint. However, as the phenomenon has progressed, Marxism no longer provides a convincing argument. The intricate economic web connecting the nations of the world through globalization can be understood through commercial liberalism. The contrasting sectarian violence also resulting from globalization can be understood through constructivism. As globalization changes and as America’s role on the world stage grows, these analyses will mostly likely grow and develop as well.

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An Analysis of Globalization: Constructivism, Commercial Liberalism and Marxism. (2016, Jul 03). Retrieved from

An Analysis of Globalization: Constructivism, Commercial Liberalism and Marxism

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