The Globalized World

The Globalised world is a place where innovative communication technologies (ICTs) have augmented global interconnectedness. This can be seen as bridging spatial distances and altering communicable proximities, creating time-space compression of information, technology, and knowledge transferrals (Silverstone, 2006). Into the 21st Century, the proliferation and intensification of global interconnectedness has enabled economic processes, social groupings, and political agreements to be made possible over greater distance. (McGrew, 2000) Indeed, this globalisation of communicable proximities can be argued as creating new geographies of proximity and distance, no longer hampered by physical geographies, but shaped via the growing intensity and velocity of global interactions. (Barnett et al, 2006) In what ways then have the processes of globalisation shaped changes and developments of national and global scale? More specifically, how do international development theories adapt to extensively Globalised economic processes? Through the course of this essay I will explain some of the challenges for development in the wake of increasing globalisation. I will draw upon evidence indicating that changing spatial geographies of human interaction are challenging the old models of developmental theory. However, in part (b) of the essay, I will suggest that the underlying issue of national and international perspective or ‘standpoint’ of individuals bears much relevance to global interconnectedness and development.

I begin by examining the changing spatial geographies of development caused by new patterns of economic interaction. Clive Barnett (2006) suggests that autonomous bureaucratic leaderships which deploy the capacities of the state in pursuit of national economic development are becoming increasingly rare. Instead, post-developmental states have emerged in reaction to the globalisation of business manufacturing and out-sourcing, enabled by ‘time-space compression of communicable proximities’ (Harvey 1989). This approach has fundamentally shifted developmental goals from purely internal industrialisation and steady economic growth towards using the capacity of the state to attract foreign investment. For example, in China, a reconfiguration of national territory has occurred since the 1970’s in order to attract foreign transnational investment. The creation of administratively autonomous Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Special Administrative Zones (SARs) in and around key areas, such as Hong Kong, are designed to attract economic development and capital injection through promotion of relaxed regulations and incentives for foreign investment (Ong, 2004). These economic reconfigurations of the states developmental goals to meet the new demands of a Globalised world enabled rapid economic growth and urbanisation. According to World Bank statistics, since the reconfiguration of China’s economic development plans appropriated via adoption of capitalist ethics and neo-liberal idealism of market liberalisation; China has sustained economic growth of over 10% for the last 20 years (Thomas, 2000). Therefore, it becomes apparent through the example of China, that in a Globalised world, new development challenges are met which may require a nation’s transition. This requires ‘thunderous social change’ (Amsden 1989) caused by increasing industrialisation and the associated spread of urban sprawl. Neoliberals see this transition as essential in order to compete and prosper in an age where global flows and interconnectedness are often no longer limited by physical distance or spatial barriers.

However, as Alice Amsden (1989) describes, with reference to South Korea’s rapid post-Second World War industrialisation; developmental transitions from relatively closed traditional and agricultural economies to industrialised and globally interconnected ones have fundamentally altered the citizen’s lives. (Bromley, 1997). Rapid societal changes have been observed, which ‘transform old hierarchies by forging new patterns of inclusion and exclusion’. In a Globalised world, it is noted that this transformation can ‘cut across all the countries and regions of the world’ (McGrew, 2000) as transnationals move manufacturing to areas where labour cost advantages can be gained, and profit margins heightened (such as in the SEZs of China). Hoogvelt (1997) describes this phenomenon as a rearrangement of the very architecture of world order, transforming the old North-South hierarchy to create new arrangements. Therefore, globalisation can be said to create new problems for development, as growing spatial differences between the winners and losers, dominant and subordinate, included and excluded of global capitalism are forged in a new world order of interconnectedness. (Castells, 1998) A world order where the geographically proximate societies can be made distant (excluded) whilst the distant can become proximate (included), depending upon their economic viability.

Although, if development is to be defined primarily as the alleviation of poverty (Thomas, 2000), or as the ‘realisation of human potential’ (Seers, 1979) then a different perspective of the challenges to development can be gained. If neoliberal ideals are left to provide immanent development, then economic disparities between established hierarchies of entrepreneurial capitalists and the excluded and un-empowered populations will continue to increase. (Castells 1998). Thus, Cowen & Shenton (1996) suggest that in order to develop, nations must ‘ameliorate the social misery’ which arises from this ‘immanent process of capitalist growth’. Therefore, several strategies have gained political traction when attempting to manage globalisation’s neo-liberal tendencies, which ‘serve the interest of the dominant capitalist powers‘ (Burbach et al, 1997). Regulation, regionalism, and resistance, are reactions to these challenges, with a view towards a more sustainable development of a Globalised world.

In particular, resistance and ‘globalisation from below’, has strategically become a societal way of attempting to ‘make markets work for people, not people work for markets’ (UNDP, 1997). Social movements and even ‘virtual communities of global representation’ (Rheingold, 1993), made possible through Globalised mediation, have formed to lobby and protest against increasing disparities of global liberalisation and new international divisions of labour which can be suggested as taking advantage of developing nations. (Allen, 2006) For example, The Multilateral Agreement on Investment, a proposed market liberalising international treaty, failed in 1998 due to protests and organised opposition. (McGrew, 2000). Therefore, resistance and ‘Globalisation from below’ are possible societal reactions which can create opposition which challenge developmental actions.

Conclusively, globalisation has altered the possibilities of communication and interaction around the world. In turn, this increased the possibilities of global economic, social and political connections over distance. (McGrew, 2000) The intensification of these processes creates new geographies of proximity, distance, inclusion and exclusion, which transformed old North-South hierarchies (Hoogvelt, 1997). In light of this, the challenge of development depends on the ability to adapt and attract international investment. A characteristic exemplified by China’s ability to sustain rapid economic growth since its market liberalisation (Thomas, 2000) However, I suggested that if development is defined less in economic terms, then a different perspective of the challenges to development can be gained. A point of view which suggests that strategies are needed to combat some of the negative effects of global capitalism. Through political regulation and regional management, the ‘thunderous social change’ (Amsden 1989) of Globalised development can be made manageable. ‘Globalisation from below’ can also provide resistance to immanent developments, proving another challenge for nations when trying to transition and augment economic incentives for foreign investment. Consequently, the major challenge with globalisation is how to achieve economic growth and transition through sustainable development (McGrew, 2000), A hard process considering capitalist neo-liberal ideals which portray rapid economic improvement, albeit at the cost of some social inequality for those not able or wanting to adapt.

(b) As mentioned within part (a); different perspectives of globalisation present different standpoints and theories towards how development should react. Standpoint varies wildly between those who have and have not benefited from processes of globalisation, i.e. between societies who are made communicably proximate or distant, included or excluded and dominant and subordinate. These varying accounts from differing social grouping can be characterised as Neoliberal, Radial or Transformationalist (McGrew, 2000).

A Neoliberal standpoint of globalisation implies that the movement towards global liberal capitalism and the reconfiguring of states is a natural progression of basic human competitiveness. It does not deny that the dynamics of global markets will create winners and losers, the included and excluded, but instead suggests that a ‘trickle down effect’ can occur. Neoliberal analysis often point out that global poverty has decreased significantly within a short period of history, and exemplifies the rapid economic successes of Asia Tiger economies who adopted neoliberal development policies (Thomas, 2000).

Conversely, a Radical account of globalisation points to the failings of neoliberal policies. Radicalism suggests that the Globalised world reinforces historical patterns of domination and subordination established in colonial times by Western imperialism. This standpoint uses evidence such as the marginalisation of many un-strategic or poorly resourced corners of the world, such as Sub-Saharan countries, which continue to be excluded and subordinate through globalisation. The example of the East Asian crisis of 1997 is also used to demonstrate that even stronger developing countries are susceptible to the changing interests of world hegemonic powers. (Burbach et al., 1997)

The Transformationalist standpoint argues that globalisation has reconfigured global hierarchies of old. Hoogvelt (1997) suggests that, ‘to talk of North and South is to overlook the ways in which globalisation’ has created ‘new patterns of inclusion and exclusion’. With these new patterns come new challenges for development and a changing role of the nation-state. However, a Transformationalist account does not suggest that the role of the state is less important in a globalised world, but that their functions are changing and adapting to multi-layered frameworks of governance, providing regulation of global capitalism.

These examples of differing standpoints suggest that globalisation is a highly contested subject with many different opinions which often depend upon the attitudes of the individual theorist’s beliefs. This can therefore pose the question of whose knowledge counts? More specifically, if development is about the alleviation of poverty, then whose standpoint of social progress should be accepted?

Robert Chambers’ (2000) opinions concern ‘Globalisation from below’ and the implementation of ‘grass-roots’ participatory approaches to development. This method attempts to help alleviate social exclusions and inequalities caused by the ‘thunderous social change’ and transitions required in a globalised world. Chambers suggests that people need to be their own agents for development, instead of having it thrust upon them. Empowerment of the people would lead to creation of personal networks which adapt the benefits of globalisation towards their own societal needs. He claims that outsider (or western) knowledge, proliferated through globalisation, can damage local development goals in poorer nations. Accordingly, Chambers (2000) states that ‘empowerment cannot be achieved through imposing external knowledge, but must be grounded in local understandings’. Neoliberal advocates, such as Tony Brett, often criticise Chambers perspective, thus indicating how different underlying standpoints of the same big issues can occur. Hence, it can be suggested that standpoint is influenced by ‘individual positions in socio/historical landscapes, at specific points in history’ (Bart, 1998). Consequently, how much political traction is gained from an individual standpoint or theory, determines which policies are used to tackle the various challenges of development in a Globalised world.