Globalization Theory: The Playoffs

“One  man’s imagined community is another man’s political  prison”  (Appadurai, 295). Especially if he’s a woman…
By Ben Heine

Today, we cover just a little more on the nation-state in reference to globalization theory and the “who’s” and “what’s” of globalization theory.

What is globalization? For a word so regularly tossed around, I was surprised to learn that no common definition exists among globalization scholars. Instead, the lens of each scholarly viewing gives some insight into what the concept could mean. As a novice to international communication theory, I thought I would simplify the globalization movement through sports metaphors.

The Teams (schools of thought):

Hyperglobalizers – These are the pro-globalization advocates who support a more economically centric definition surrounding evolution of the international communication movement.

Ex: Thomas Friedman, Kenichi Ohmae

Skeptics – These are the watchdogs of globalization, pointing to the downsides or less-than-transformative experiences that globalization extracts for some. They do not say globalization is inherently wrong, but that it is more problematic than hyperglobalizers would theorize.

Ex: Colin Sparks

Transformationalists – These are breaking the status quo and calling globalization a NEW phenomenon that calls for a new taxonomy altogether. Globalization to these scholars is not simply economic growth—the social and cultural structures and influences are equally as important and affected.

Ex: Arjun Appadurai, John Sinclair, Jacqueline Gibbons

The Key Players:

Arjun Appadurai argues globalization has transformative significance and understands the globalization phenomenon through “scapes” of the world that lead to a more heterogeneous world (ethnoscapes, technoscapes, mediascapes, etc). Appadurai’s theory suggests a level of flow and intersection of developing global trends and a transcendence of space. Globalization presents new opportunities for conflict as well as domination.

Appadurai alley-oops to Manuel Castells, who similarly focuses on space and flows and conceives globalization as an overlapping set of flows where the space of flows determines prosperity, power, agency and ability to act.

Karl Marx shaped many interpretations of media flows and cultural imperialism. Marx provided a vocabulary for the discipline of economics and labor in relation to capital. His ideology was part of superstructure of capitalist relations that also came with rise of political values and has merit in the ongoing academic debate concerning globalization. Are we all just puppets to the cheap thrills of capitalism?

Sinclair points out that not all consequences of globalization are about the economy, while Colin Sparks disagrees, saying that the economic impetus for globalization became increasingly obvious when shifting from national to international world.

David Held describes globalization as a series of developments or processes that have increasing extensiveness and intensity of flows of information. Over time, he says, what we’re passing between us in these relations picks up velocity with an increased degree of impact to the previous three developments.

Roland Robertson says we know the world now and that we are part of it and Doreen Massey says power geometry, or time-space compression of globalization, is still powerful and dominating despite the “rising tide lifting all boats.”

Put these players on a court together and we would certainly have a “good game.” Whatever your view of globalization, we must recognize its importance to how it affects the changing nation state power structure and those at the top and bottom of the economic and social sphere.


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