Globalization or global society

Globalization – the Road towards the Global Society or to Nowhere


Today, the process of globalization with its positive and negative characteristics is the topic that people increasingly speak about. For some, globalization is a way of integration and progress of the modern world, for others it is a frightening phenomenon that threatens to distroy small countries, nations, languages, religions and cultures. Globalization arose out of the economic needs of a contemporary society, particularly the need for integration of the market, technology and finances. Globalization is moving in several concentric economic-technological circles, marked as regionally linked states i.e. regional integration. The dispute about the meaning of the term globalization, its role and significance appeared as a result of different views on globalization itself. Some see it as a process imposed from the «above», by the highly developed countries, through the international institutions (UN, IMF, WB, WTO, NATO) and as the imposing of «the new world order», or «the new imperialism». Others see globalization as a necessary process that has emerged as a result of development and the need for economic, technological and social progress, i.e. as the process of expansion and development of the society from «below», or put more precisely, as a horizontal expansion of the society. In this second sense, globalization is the process whose roots and beginnings can be found in earlier history, and it is not an issue concerning only the developed countries, or just one world power. Here, globalization may be understood as the process of development of a global society («world society»), whose elements and contours can be easily discerned. This paper will strive to support this view.

Just as any kind of development and building of something new has its good and bad sides, globalization (building of a global society) too, has its negative consequences: limiting the sovereignty of national states; the feeling that national, ethnic, religious and cultural groups are threatened; uneven economic development and unequal “distribution” of raw materials and resources; the spreading of poverty; destruction of the public sector; simultaneous development of “global barbarism” (terrorism, crime, trafficking, exploitation of women and children, war, ecological disasters). This all generates fear and distrust, and becomes the motive for resistance to globalization and the appearance of disintegrative, separatist and tribal aspirations and anti-globalization movements.

What is globalization?

Globalization can be understood as a process of continuous connecting of social phenomena, processes and relationships on global level, i.e. the level of the «Globe». It is not merely an expansion of international connections, better flow of information, goods and capital, or more freedom of movement for people – it is the creation and development of new relations in the world, the appearance of new subjects, new centers of power, disintegration of the old structures and the formation of the new ones. Globalization is a broad and multifaceted process encompassing almost all areas of contemporary civilization, such as economy, technology, natural and social environment, social relations, politics and culture. Everything is now happening on the global level: from the international division of labor, flow of information and capital to relationships between countries and peoples. Many authors point out to the complexity of the concept of globalization and the need for its precise differentiation from other similar phenomena in the contemporary society. Alan Scott thus suggests1 that the starting point in studying globalization should be its differentiation from the concepts of modernism and postmodernism, colonialism, western culture and lifestyle, «americanisation», middle logic of capitalism development (especially the open market), and the difference between globalization and partial independent processes such as economy, politics and culture. Therefore, globalization is not simply the sum of separate social phenomena; we need to speak of the inner connection between these phenomena, causal relationships and their mutual interdependance.

Globalization is also a longlasting historical process. Although the second half of the 20th century showed its full meaning and significance, globalization appeared back in the 16th century in the attempts to integrate wider areas and resources, production, trade, labor and management in those areas. At that time, the main instrument of globalization used to be the imperialistic colonization, military takeover of territories and imposing the new rule; today globalization relies on outspread market, economic and political integration and regional associations of free countries. Globalization is the process of extensive connection, mutual influence and interdependance of different social relations and structures on the global level. The connecting is happening in such a manner that local events may gain broader and more significant space and influence in the world, just as some separate world events may affect local communities regardless of their distance2. The local and the global become more and more intertwined and interrelated, while the time and space dimensions acquire a completely new meaning than they used to have during the preceding centuries, or even decades. Sometimes, the set of local characteristics, determinants and identities (ethnicity, faith, political relations, culture) present an obstacle to penetration of global ideas and practices, while, on the other hand, local relations and structures may easily fit into the global processes. In this case, globalization may appear as powerful energy which links differences, restrains intolerance, points out the necessity of togetherness and integration, but also, it may cause further deepening of local differences, envy and intolerance. Globalization implies a comprehensive connectedness of individual and collective actions and relations, everything becomes connected with everything else, everything becomes «networked», space is expanding, time is shortening, the world is «shrinking» into one whole. However, globalization has dual action: security and confidence – risk and rejection.

So, globalization may be more fully understood as a process, or a set of processes, rather than one separate and independent condition for development and moving forward3. It is not a linear development of the world society and the world community which would proceed smoothly without obstacles, problems, challenges, lack of understanding, or major social and political consequences. Globalization does not mean the «necessary broadening of spiritual horizons», and it is often «intensified localization» 4, the local and the global constantly changing places, overpowering and pushing out one another. Different ethnic, cultural and political groups, local, regional and other centers of power stand between the local and the global, like a network of intermediaries. No matter how it is treated, globalization is a visible and inevitable process of spreading and convergence of the unified world angles, principles, and standards in the areas of economy, social relations, politics and culture. This is the process we can seriously count on and therefore treat it accordingly; it is happening, it is present in our everyday lives, not only as an academic debate about the «modern», the «postmodern», the global and the local, but as a living practice and experience which visibly influences our everyday life.

Today, there are two main attitudes towards the process of globalization. Globalization is seen as the way to impose the model and principles of organization, development and the functioning of individual societies, from the «above». It is expressed by the attitude that the «western» model, i.e. capitalism, or the finished project of «americanization» is imposed on the rest of the world. This view goes so far as to try to portray globalization as a new ideology: globalism.

According to the other view, globalization is seen as a process which flows from «below», as interconnection of all social relations and processes important for harmonious, tolerant and rational functioning of the world. According to this view, globalization has realised itself as a real project autochthonously, independently and concretely, while the theoretical debates about its possibility, scope and consequences followed. According to this view, the world is becoming one place for the modern man to live in. All people are responsible for this «place», depending on the level of their knowledge, possibilities and moral values.

The Main Elements of Globalization

When speaking of globalization, we think primarily of economic globalization, because it is visible in its positive manifestations and negative consequences. Globalization grew out of economic needs and logic, as integration of finances, market and technology. Globalization5 implies the internationalization of trade, communications and transportation, as well as liberalization and competitive spirit in all economic segments. It is supposed to accelerate economic activities in the world, to encourage and maintain economic growth, create favorable business environment, care about the world resources, stop ecological erosion and reduce poverty. Of course, economic globalization also has its negative consequences, especially for the undeveloped societies and acquired positions of certain social groups and subjects in the world.

Free and integrated world market represents the paradigm of economic globalization. The creation of such market has well begun. It includes the market of goods, labor, capital, services, knowledge and information. In the future, world trade is going to be decreasingly international and increasingly «domestic». Transnational companies contribute to this by realising greater trade within their branches (subsidiaries), thus «pushing aside» the value of other world trade. By dispersing their business activities all around the world, transnational companies strive to become «domestic» and thus gain confidence and favorable conditions for performing their business activities (reduction of customs tax and tax rates). E-commerce, as well as production where the demand is high (production «directly in the market») contribute to speeding up the turnover of goods. This is true of the developed countries, while in the rest of the contemporary world, national countries with their borders and legal and technical regulations are going to be the greatest obstacle to further integration of the world market. However, standardization and conditions dictated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) will ensure that national borders shall decreasingly act as obstacles to international trade by increasing costs of international trade.

Global economic trends are created by acceleration of the international capital flow. Finances become «digital», «virtual», everything is taking place at great speed, stock exchanges and other forms of capital flow work around the clock and reach every spot on the «globe», money is turned into «information». Capital is becoming more and more integrated and transnationalized. Direct investments are increasing at breakneck speed in the developed countries (USA, Japan, EU), as well as in the countries successful in their transition from the state-controlled towards the market economy. The bearers of this are mostly the transnational companies. At the international financial markets, daily foreign currency turnover is increasing each year. Today, it amounts to tens of thousands of billions of dollars. Trading stocks and bonds particularly contributes to financial acceleration, complexity and dynamics.

The trend in business and economy is the creation of «megaintegrations», whereby a network6 of companies and economic integrations7 as well as connected economic and business entities is created. In the development of the global economy, transnational companies play a decisive role. The fact that the annual turnover of some multinational companies8 is larger than the gross domestic product of the majority of national countries speaks about their power and influence on countries, governments, territories. It is important to note that 100 largest companies control about 70% of the world trade. They are increasingly becoming international economic subjects instead of the «weak» national countries, while the countries struggle to create as favorable conditions as possible in order to attract attention and gain the «favor» of the well-known multinational companies. The exchange and spreading of technologies is also becoming accelerated, equalized, standardized, available and applicable in all societies and under different conditions (information technology, telecommunications). Here, too, the large world companies play a decisive role. Beside the positive things they bring, (capital, technology, employment, revival of economic activities), transnational companies often come into conflict with the local communities and sometimes with the governments of certain countries (layoffs, ecological problems, change of branch locations, exhausting resources, increased draining and outflow of capital). This could be the «signal» for some local groups and their anti-globalization actions.

The best index of the «contours» of the global societies are the regional economic associations, economic blocks (EU, APEC, NAFTA, ASEAN). Within the frame of economic globalization, one should follow the new principles in management and marketing, which are becoming standard and applicable in all sucessful economies and free economic areas.

Globalization is also developing in the area of social relations, the standard of living (world average) is on the increase, social mobility has increased, the conditions are created for people to move in order to find better employment and more creative work (we are speaking of those with knowledge and information), entrepreneurial and business spirit is spreading even in the closed and undeveloped societies.

In the economically developed areas, a «two third society» is being formed (two thirds of the citizens are in the well-off to rich category, one third is in the solid to poor category). In the undeveloped areas there is also a «two third society» but with the opposite proportions. The global society (the world as a unified society) will become strong when the proportions of the economically developed areas are achieved.

Political globalization is evident in the building of political pluralism, certain standards in politics, development of democracy and democratic procedures, rule of law, respecting human rights, development of social movements and civil society around the «Globe», and removal of nondemocratic, militaristic and totalitarian regimes.

Culture is another field where the formation of a global society is evident. The need has emerged to have «one» language for global communication (English has the greatest pretentions at this point), education is standardized and the results and principles of modern and successful education are becoming increasingly available. Scientific knowledge constantly expands and becomes accessible to a large number of users, helping the modern man to cope better with the problems and issues from the local to the global level. The media, information and communications are the part of culture which represents the most significant instrument in creating the global society.

A global society must have its global resources and take good care of them. Such resources are people, fuel, raw materials, environment, water, atmosphere, cultural heritage, scientific and economic goods on the entire territory of the «Globe». A resource which is increasing day by day is the awareness that it is not only inevitable, but that there is a need to create a global society – the awareness of the «global man» and his global needs and interests.

The Consequences of Globalization (development of a global society)

Just as any kind of development and building of something new has its good and bad sides, globalization (development of a global society) too, has its negative consequences. The first consequence is related to development and the role of national countries (countries-nations). The concept and the meaning of sovereignty (inner and international) of individual states, significance, the role and influence of those countries in their immediate or broader surroundings are all being changed. Nations and national relations, the position of ethnic groups, patriotism, identity – they all acquire a different dimension and are viewed through the prism of cooperation, mutual relations, tolerance and integration. If there is a movement in the opposite direction, then the small countries, nations and ethnic groups appear as an obstacle to development of a global society. Even today, this provokes different reactions, fears, mistrust, and becomes the motive for resistance to globalization («conspiracy theory» and the «victim» syndrome appear) and for the activities of disintegrative, separatist, and tribalist aspirations and movements.

Unequal distrubution of economic achievements and wealth, uneven economic growth and «distribution» of raw materials and resources is another consequence, problem and an obstacle to development of a global society. The key social issue of the global society is how to deal with world poverty which is becoming so visible and unbearable. Development of a global society has consequences on other numerous social groups and institutions such as family, religious groups, schools, etc.

Along with the development of a global society, «global barbarism» has also been developing (crime, terrorism, trade with illegal substances and people, war threats and wars, exploitation of women and children, ecological problems, decline of moral values). One of the most significant consequences of the development of a global society and globalization is the «impatience» that this phenomenon provokes in some political and economic centers of power. They would like to «speed up» this process, to impose themselves as the leaders of the global society, to use the starting positions and advantages, to have a «monopoly» on globalization. This provokes quite real and expected reactions from those who suffer the most, and who are «outsiders» in the main flows of globalization.

The opponents of globalization (global society) have already «identified» themselves – they are members of numerous anti-globalization movements, countries and governments who openly speak about the need to resist globalization, they place everything under the term «the new world order» which is being imposed on the small and the powerless. Then, there are the small nations and major religions (especially Islam), multitudes of other groups who feel threatened in their autonomous lives and freedom. A special kind of resistance to development and progress of a global society and globalization is «globaphobia» (irrational fear of globalization). Of course, there is another specific danger coming from the manner in which the global society is being created, acceleration of global processes and the arising difficulties – the danger called globalism (turning globalisation into an ideology, as was the case with communism, nationalism, localism).

Conclusion: Lessons for the Southeast Europe

There are numerous problems and questions to be answered in the course of further research on the topic of global society. How to form the institutions of a global society? Can the existing international organizations grow into the institutions of the global society (UN, IMF, SB, STO, UNICEF)? Who could be the “controllers” of the development of global society institutions (non-governmental organizations, civil world parliaments, social movements, important people)? How to create global partnerships and global protection (struggle against crime and terrorism, global partnership for drinking water, healthy environment, against violence, poverty)? How to solve the problem of global courts and global justice?

Can southeast Europe, as a region, enter the phase of continuous economic growth? All contemporary developed countries and their economies depend on continuous growth. What are the possibilities of growth and how to achieve it? What hinders continuous economic growth? Continuous economic growth depends on social, cultural, political and administrative flows. It is connected with the influence of tradition, customs, way of life, ethnic and religious relations, possibility of a dialogue and tolerance. It is necessary to make comparisons with other world regions. What is the level of social capital in Serbia and the Balkans?

The possibilities of regional cooperation in southeast Europe: development of free market, removal of all obstacles which hinder free flow of goods, capital and people, permanent multilateral initiatives, formation of councils (economy, ecology, safety, social relations, standards, education and information).

The basic question related to the process of globalization and the southeast Europe may be: what is the connection between them and how dependent is southeast Europe on the economic and political centers of power in Europe and the world?


1 Alan Scott, The Limits of Globalization, Routledge, New York, 1997.2 Antony Giddens writes about that in Posledice modernosti, Beograd, 1996.3 David Held &Antony McGrew, Global Transformations, Stanford University Press, 1999.4 Richard Jenkins, Rethinking Ethnicity: Arguments and exploration, London, 1997.5 In its annual report (1997) UNDP defines economic globalization as a process spreading horisontally and in depth, and which “includes international flow of trade, finances and information in a single, integrated global market”.6 A network is the paradigm of a modern society, everything is connected into a network (not only in economics), “networked”. (see: Manuel Castells, The Rise of The Network Society, Blackwell, Oxford, 2002.

7 [i] Today, large economic mergers are a characteristic phenomenon. They are created with the goal of realising numerous advantages over the competition (savings, market, rationalization, technology). However, financial indices of one of the largest companies created by merging two years ago, Aol Time Worner (the world’s largest media company), show the possible dark side of these processes and warn us. That company suffered a loss of almost 100 billions of dollars and questioned the justifiability of the performed merger.

8 So, for example, the annual turnover of General Motors was larger than the GDP of Poland and Portugal together, Ford’s was larger than the GDP of Norway, Toyota’s than the GDP of Malasia, etc. However, the companies are showing the other face of Janus. Machinations performed by “Ernon”, “Worldcom” i “Vivendi” in the year 2002 which created chaos in the stock market speak about the lack of trust necessary for the global economy.

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