Few days back, I read an article titled, ‘Globalization and Terror’ written by Helena Norberg-Hodge. The main focus of Hodge’s extensive discussion is the side-effects of globalization on the underdeveloped and developing states, societies and people - who adopted it very contentedly in the early days - through the enthralling case study of northern part of the Indian subcontinent, Ladakh.
This fascinating piece of writing jolted me awake intrinsically to critically evaluate the repercussions of globalization in a wider context and prior to delving into critical analysis, definition of the concept of Globalization is quite important to understand. What does it really mean, and how did it really get popularity?
According to Oxford Advanced American dictionary, Globalization means a rapid integration of economic, cultural, political, religious and social system through the influence of large multinational companies and vast network of communication.
While the concept of globalization is very old which could be traced back to the imperial and colonial reigns of the old times, the modern Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China is based on the classical model of Ancient Silk Road. But the evolution of industrial units, railroad networks and induction of steam vessels in maritime domain in the early 19th century transformed the global economic, political and defense mechanisms. Whereas, the modern structure of globalization got popularity in the early 1990s after the demise of the Soviet Communist Bloc and is based on capitalist ideology of global north.
The post Second World War era birthed a bi-polar world. The United States of America and former USSR emerged as two global super powers militarily and economically. The European nations had been exhausted economically after fighting wars for so many years, and needed substantial assistance which could bail them out from their decimated economic wreckage. The US took advantage of that catastrophic situation and presented the Marshall Plan to the economically broken European states. From there, the US embarked on her journey of becoming the global hegemon but, on the other hand, the former USSR was also on the path of propagating Marxist ideology of state-owned economic model through a bit flawed technique: occupying states.
The policies of influence and coercion are two different techniques employed separately over the under-developed or developing nations by the US and former USSR in post WW-II era, respectively. The US adopted the policy of influence through the economic and military insurances to their allies that proved to be very effective in the long term. While, the USSR remained short-sighted in their approach through the utilization of coercive means for achieving their targeted goals and miserably failed and cleared the ground for the US to become the sole global superpower.
However, the inception of public communication, information and electronic media networks revolutionized and modified the concept of Globalization in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Public communication networks have been transforming every day since its inception and today around 66 percent of the total population of the world use smartphones, which means they are connected to the world through the internet and the social media outlets, most of which - we daily use primarily for communication purposes - are owned by the American capitalist blocks.
People who have never been to America, Europe, Africa or Asia, still hold a lot of knowledge about cultural, social and religious norms of these continents with the help of the world wide web on their fingertips. Similarly, vast and fast flow of opened and unchecked information has also led to sectarian and religious differences and divisions through biased and fabricated data among the multi-religious communities. Ethnic communities that had been residing side by side in harmony for years now despise the existence of each other on this planet.
Prior to the arrival of the electronic media industry, people got their news through newspapers, radio or one or two television channels. But, since the inception of private western electronic media networks in the early 1980s, the media industry grew so rapidly like never before and reached a very wide audience globally. People who knew nothing about the western culture and norms were suddenly exposed to them and the constant promotion of the western lifestyles and economic successes created inferiority complex among the people living in the underprivileged areas in global north.
In the article mentioned above, ‘Globalization and Terror’, the author said when she visited Ladakh before the modern wave of globalization, people residing in that mountainous region were living a very happy life without poverty. She then visited the same area after some years elapsed, and the changes which she observed then were very startling. The same people who were claiming few years back that everything was right, were complaining about the increase of poverty and more and more people have been migrating from the area in search of westerly idolized successful life.
Similarly, in today’s interconnected world, the young people living in the underdeveloped areas idolize the western society, culture and lifestyle and all these ideas of better and successful lifestyle are being inculcated in them through the electronic and social media outlets which are the two integral parts of our daily life. Also, in many countries people adopt English language as their primary source of communication very proudly over their local or national language because of inferiority complex.
The introduction of American dollar as default currency by the American led Capitalist Block undermined the potential of other currencies and further promoted the inferiority complex among the developing states. Capitalist system has its own flaws as well that are not discussed frequently, such as the rich getting richer (Revisionist) and the poor remain poor (Status-quo).
Eventually, it would be challenging to negate the global established economic structure, but not impossible to do so because as a realist I still believe that state has ultimate monopoly of power to shape its defense and economic directions like China, whose economy is based on self-crafted Socialist Market Economy structure, proved very effective and successful. So much so that now it is threatening the existing capitalistic block. China’s lifetime example is very inspiring for the developing states to establish their effective economic models for the welfare of their people and state. More importantly, the debate of globalization and capitalism needs to be distinguished for these are two different concepts which usually get mingled and misunderstood.
Muhammad Usama Khalid is an undergraduate student at the National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. He is pursuing his undergraduate degree in Strategic Studies field.