Where does globalization take place


The globalization discourse is not only very controversial from a normative point of view. From an analytical point of view, too, there is great confusion in the literature about what is meant by globalization, when globalization began historically, what the consequences for the state, society and economy are, and even whether there is globalization at all.

The term "globalization" is currently one of the most frequently used terms in social science literature. For some it is a magic word that advertises the solution to almost all social problems, for others a specter that is seen as the main cause of these problems. The globalization discourse is not only very controversial from a normative point of view, there is also great uncertainty in the literature from an analytical point of view, what is meant by globalization, when globalization began historically, what the consequences are for the state, society and the economy, yes even whether there is globalization at all.

Here, globalization is understood to mean the intensification and acceleration of cross-border transactions with their simultaneous spatial expansion - or, more briefly, the compression of space and time. Cross-border transactions are e.g. trade, financial flows, messages, letters, telephone calls, e-mails, migration movements (tourism, labor migration, poverty migration, refugee flows), emissions into air and water. Globalization takes place in particular through the international division of labor and related foreign investments, in finance, in the media sector, in popular culture (film, music), in advertising, in tourism, in sport, in the environmental sector. Technical developments, especially in the field of transport and telecommunications, are held responsible for globalization, because these have led to the removal of the location-dependent nature of commercial and service activities, as well as the imbalances in the trade relations of important global economic actors that have occurred since the 1980s, with the consequence that large flows of capital were mobilized to balance the imbalances, and the neoliberal policy of deregulation, which opened up previously closed or restricted areas of economic activity to private and / or international investors. The consequence of globalization is the integration and convergence of states, cultures, societies and national economies into the world economy, world society and world culture. At the political level, the answer to globalization is global governance.

Opposing tendencies towards globalization are the regionalization of trade and investments in the three large economic areas of Western Europe, North America and East and Southeast Asia, the interweaving of these three regions through transregional relationships (triadization) with simultaneous global economic marginalization of the rest of the world, the isolation of the countries the triad against migration processes from the south, the fragmentation of the societies of the north itself (two-thirds society, new poverty), the collapse of many post-colonial and post-socialist societies as a result of war and civil war, ethno-nationalist conflicts, refugee misery, poverty migration and the decline of the state Authority in favor of neonationalism and warlord systems. The consequence of these tendencies is not integration and convergence, but the global heterogenization of the world, so that one can speak better of globalization versus fragmentation than the new global trends as expressed in Benjamin Barber's book "Jihad vs McWorld".

Among the possible answers, when did globalization begin, eight are mentioned particularly frequently.

  1. Globalization begins since the term was used. While this either did not appear at all or only very rarely in the social science literature of the 1970s and 1980s, it has experienced an almost inflationary use with exponential rates of increase since the early 1990s. It should be noted, however, that alternative terms with a related meaning such as international system, world system, world market, imperialism, colonialism, etc. are significantly older.

  2. Globalization already began in the mid-1980s, but did not find its conceptual expression until a few years later. At least the symbolic start date could therefore have been the New York Plaza Agreement of September 1985, when it was agreed to reset the exchange rates of the major economies. As a result, the yen and the D-Mark experienced a massive appreciation against the US dollar and the British pound with the intention of correcting the inequalities in the trade balances of these countries. The actual effect, however, was the triggering of huge global financial transactions, the so-called screen economy, which in their volume have meanwhile almost completely detached themselves from the world of goods. Susan Strange coined the terms "casino capitalism" or "mad money" for this process.

  3. Globalization began in the mid-1970s, when there was a large-scale relocation of production sites for the first time, whereby not natural factors (occurrence of mineral resources, soil, climate) or market access as a result of protectionism, but cost aspects (e.g. different wages). are the motive for foreign investment. Under the term "new international division of labor", "free production zones", "world market factories" or "industrial parks" are created worldwide in so-called low-wage countries, primarily in so-called assembly industries (clothing industry, entertainment electronics, toys, sporting goods), i.e. sectors with high labor costs. The consequence is the emergence of a world market for workers and industrial locations.

  4. Globalization begins in 1945 when, with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the development of weapons technology reaches a point where the global destruction of the world is possible. But one can also argue that the American occupation and stationing of troops in many countries in Western Europe and East Asia marked the beginning of the spread of the American way of life over the whole world, as in the wake of the American soldiers also jazz and rock, chewing gum and nylon stockings, fast food and Soft drinks and other products of American mass culture began their triumphal march across the world, with American military radio and Hollywood film providing the media reinforcement. One could also argue that the East-West conflict, which escalated quickly after the end of the war, with its networked arenas in East Asia and Central Europe, was the first truly global conflict in world history that kept the world in suspense for the rest of the century.

  5. Globalization begins in the last quarter of the 19th century, when the wooden, slowly and irregularly moving sailing ship was replaced by the iron steamship, when railway construction was also advanced outside of Europe and North America, when the freezing process was invented and cold stores and refrigerated ships were built, when the telegraph spread, the submarine cables were laid and the shipping lines began their service. Only since then did international trade really take off in quantitative terms; the international division of labor extended not only to luxury goods, but also to bulk cargo, because the falling transport costs as a result of the transport revolution made it profitable. It was only now that the soils and mineral resources of the hinterland were developed overseas, and not only islands and coastal fringes were included in the global economy. In any case, so the argument goes, the relative importance of world trade, but also of international financial transactions, was no less than it is today, measured against the respective world volume before the First World War.

  6. Globalization begins with the industrial revolution when, for the first time, industrial mass production was operated on a mechanical and no longer only handicraft basis, which generated a growing demand for raw materials (e.g. cotton) and which was also intended for export. In particular, the French continental barrier of 1807-1814 ensured that English cotton textiles were diverted from the European continent to North and South America and even to Asia. What the superior competitiveness of European industrial goods could not do on its own was done by the British, French and American "gunboat diplomacy" since the middle of the 19th century to open up the not yet colonized countries of Asia such as China, Japan and Siam (Thailand).

    Globalization begins with the European conquest of the world at the end of the 15th century, when Columbus supposedly in 1492 and Vasco da Gama in 1498 actually found the sea route to India. The result was the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, the first treaty in world history with global reach. The western hemisphere of the "New World" was assigned to the Spaniards and the eastern hemisphere and thus the sea route to India to the Portuguese. This treaty was supplemented by the Treaty of Zaragossa in 1529, after the Spaniards and Portuguese had collided in the Pacific as a result of Magellan's first circumnavigation of the world, as it was recognized that the demarcation line established for the Atlantic needed a corresponding demarcation line in the Pacific. The traces of these treaties, concluded around 500 years ago, can still be found today in America, Africa and even Asia.

  7. But if, as an eighth answer, the attractiveness of Asia was so strong that the Europeans left no stone unturned in seeking direct contact with India, China and Japan instead of relying on indirect contact through Arab intermediaries, then it could even before the arrival of the first Europeans, i.e. since the 13th century, there was a flourishing world system in Asia. Globalization would then be much older, but it would have started not in Europe but in Asia had the world not been opened up from Western Europe in the sense of classical Eurocentrism. Therefore a reorientation in the histography of globalization is necessary in the sense that 500 years ago Europeans only sought to participate in an Asia-centered globalized world.


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Barber, Benjamin R., Jihad vs. McWorld. New York: Random House 1995.

Beck, Ulrich, What is globalization? Fallacies of Globalism - Answers to Globalization. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1997.

Beck, Ulrich (Ed.), Politics of Globalization. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1998.

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Held, David / McGrew, Anthony / Goldblatt, David / Perraton, Jonathan, Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press 1999.

Menzel, Ulrich, Globalization versus Fragmentation. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1999. 3rd ed.

Strange, Susan, Casion Capitalism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1986.

Strange, Susan, Mad Money. Manchester: Manchester University Press 1998.

Zürn, Michael, governing beyond the nation state. Globalization and denationalization as an opportunity. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1998.