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GLOBALIZATION? What globalization?

by Andrew Rossiter

Like it or not, globalization is here to stay. The question is not "Should it continue?" but "How can it work for everyone?"

 Words/phrases in red  are explained in the general word guide below: words in blue are explained in the specific economic word guide .

Mention the word "globalization", and you are likely to get a reaction.
    Globalization, the creation of a new world economic system dominated by huge corporations and the "G8" nations, is an idea that has its fervent supporters and its bitter opponents.
        For its opponents, globalization is seen as a system designed to impose the American economic model on the whole world, for the sole benefit of the USA and a few other rich countries. For its supporters, globalization is the way forward to a better world, where everyone will ultimately be better off than they are today.
    Globalization is a process about which both supporters and opponents can justify some of their arguments. Yet in spite of the hopes of many of its critics, there is one thing about which there can no longer be any doubt. "Globalization" is not a future development that we can accept or reject; it is a process that has already largely taken place; and it is one from which - in all but the most catastrophic future scenarios - there can be no going back
    The other day in Paris, I attended an international symposium on globalization that brought together politicians and economists, diplomats, academics, trade unionists and representatives of humanitarian agencies; there were speakers from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, including Umberto Eco, former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, and Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs. Each had his or her own specific views, but there was one thing on which every speaker agreed; the fact that globalization is here to stay.
    As French trade union leader Nicole Notat put it, "The market economy is certainly the best system that exists."

Historic roots

In many ways, there is nothing new about globalization; it is a process that began to spread some three hundred years ago, when European nations, and Britain in particular, developed an economic system that depended on international trade. Spices, sugar, tea and coffee were among the first commodities that were traded globally. By 1850, Britain - the most developed nation at the time - had an economy that was dependent for its survival on global trade. Unable to feed its growing population, the country was importing 25% of its basic food, most of it from America and the British empire; and even if Britain was at the time far ahead of other nations in the "globalization" of its economy, other countries such as France and the United States were already moving strongly in the same direction.
    Without the globalization of trade, no nation would have been able to achieve its current state of development; for no nation in the world, not even the USA, can supply all its own needs in raw materials, products, or services.
    Over the last two centuries, thanks to this process, living standards have increased dramatically in most parts of the world. Yet this huge improvement has not benefited every nation equally, and there are indeed some parts of the world where living standards have actually declined. In 1820, the difference in wealth between the people in the world's poorest nations and those in the world's richest nations was about 3:1. Today it is about 30:1.
    It is this flagrant inequality resulting from globalization, that is unacceptable to so many people.
    Nonetheless, it would be quite wrong to suggest that globalization only benefits the nations of the world that are already rich. In the last fifty years, a whole group of nations, including China and India, the world's two most populated states, have benefited massively from the advantages of globalization. Not to mention oil-rich states like the Emirates or Dubai.  In the 1990's, eighteen out of twenty of the fastest growing economies in the world were in the developing world; only two were "western" countries. In the 1990s the Chinese economy, thanks to a huge development of international trade, grew by a massive average of 10.7% per year, bringing jobs and a sharp rise in living standards to millions of people. Without globalization, where would they be?
    By contrast, over the same period the economy of Switzerland, one of the world's richest nations, grew by just 0.6% per year.

The way forward

In the end therefore, the question is not "To globalize or not to globalize?" It is a matter of finding ways to make sure that the riches of tomorrow's global economy are spread more equitably across the world.
    It is not going to be easy. For instance there is a large degree of popular consensus in developed countries that the "Third World Debt", the vicious circle of poverty that condemns some of the world's poorest countries to remain poor, is an injustice that must be set right; yet even though the first steps in this direction have already been taken, there is still a lot more to be done.
    Today, about 25% of the world's population live in countries that are benefiting very little, or not at all, from the effects of globalization - countries like Chad or Myanmar, countries that are often hard to reach and even harder to live in. Until recently, these countries were largely left to their own devices, left to sink further into poverty. One man who understood this well was Bin Laden, who though coming personally from a rich family that had benefited massively from globalization, recruited his Taliban and Al Qaida fighters from the ranks of those who had been left out; Afghans, poor Pakistanis, Chechens, even Burmese.
    Paradoxically - both for himself and for the developed world - Bin Laden's terror campaign may prove to be the event that reinforces globalization rather than destroying it – notably because of the dramatic way in which it has highlighted the dangers of the growing gap between rich nations and poor ones. There is only one feasible way of addressing this problem, and that is to involve the world's poorer countries more closely in the growing economy. It will have to happen, because the consequences of failure in this matter will benefit no country.
    Bin Laden wanted to destroy America, and with it the global economy; yet were the global economy to collapse, it would not be the world's richest nations that suffer most. It would be the world's poorer and poorest nations. That is no doubt the most compelling general argument in favour of continuing globalization.
    The most compelling argument against globalization, in its current form, concerns the nature of the economic forces that are at work. Of the 100 largest players in today's world economy, 49 are nations, but 51 are multinational corporations, unelected bodies whose interests can sometimes be very different from those of the people of countries in which they operate.
    The task that now faces world leaders is finding the best way to control future developments, for the greatest benefit of the greatest number of people; it is also - perhaps more importantly - to do so in an environmentally sustainable way. 

    Tomorrow's world economy will be continue to be global; but it must be green too . These two targets are not incompatible with each other; quite the reverse, they are intimately connected.


benefit: vb: take advantage of; noun: advantage -  commodities: raw materials, the products of nature or agriculture -  conference: congress, meeting -  corporation: company, firm -  debt: owing money to another person or to a creditor . Verb: to be in debt.
economic model:
economic system -  globalization: establishing an integrated worldwide economic system -  G8: The Group of Eight most important nations in the world's economy. market economy: an economic system operating according to the natural forces of supply and demand - products: manufactured goods -  raw materials: natural, unadapted substances, ingredients. services: transport, communications, advice and financial services - supply: vb: to provide, to offer; noun: the provision of goods and/or services (c.f antonym: demand)-  trade union: labor union, organisation of workers - trade: commerce -  wealth: richness, prosperity -  World Trade Organisation: The international body whose job is to establish rules for international trade, and ensure that nations and corporations respect them. Critics complain that the WTO is manipulated in the interests of the rich nations and large multinational corporations. The WTO has nothing to do with the World Trade Center, destroyed on September 11th 2001.


academics: specialists from universities - achieve: reach, attain - actually: in fact - agree: have the same opinion - all but: all except - are likely to: will probably - attending: taking part in - better off: more prosperous - bitter: hostile - bodies: organisations - compelling: forceful, irresistible - consensus: agreement, accord - environmentally sustainable: green - equitable: fair, equal - feasible: possible, realistic - feed: provide food for - fervent: very keen - flagrant: sharp, very visible - gap: difference - highlighted: underlined, shown - impose: require, force - involve: include - leave out: exclude - left to their own devices: forgotten, left without help - paradoxically: in a manner that produces an effect contrary to the intended result - potential: possible - process: procedure - prove to be: in the end be - set right: corrected - sink: fall - sole: only, exclusive - spices: plants, grains with very strong taste, such as pepper - symposium: conference - the ranks of: among - there can be no going back: it will be impossible to go back - trade: commerce - ultimately: in the end 

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© Linguapress renewed 2020.  Updated 2020 from an article originally published in 2001.
Copying permitted for personal study, or by teachers for use with their students



Note: spelling: Globalization or globalisation?
The choice of "z" or "s" in words ending ize/ise and their derivatives generally depends on whether the writer is using American English or British English. The "z" tends to be used in US English, the "s" in British English. However, there are some words such as globalization for which - due to predominantly international usage - the "z" spelling is generally used.

A. Grammar exercise:  Conditionals:

In this article, there are four examples of conditional structures in which the word "if" is not used.

1. Mention the word "globalization", and you are likely to get a reaction.
2. Without the globalization of trade, no nation would have been able to achieve its current state of development.
3.. Without globalization, where would they be?
4. Yet were the global economy to collapse, it would not be the world's richest nations that suffer most.

Rewrite each of these sentences following the prompts given, and including the word "if" in your answer: 





For conditional structures see Descriptive Grammar of English §1.5. pages 16 - 20

B: QUESTION FORMING: Interactive - can be completed on your computer

Here are the answers to some questions, based on information in the article. Imagine appropriate questions for each answer.

1. Because they believe that it is the only way to ensure a more prosperous future for most of the people in the world.

2. About three hundred years ago.

3.. Britain.

4. China.

5. It grew on average 0.6% per year.

6. Because their economies did not benefit from globalization.

7. The world's poorest nations would suffer most.



Reduce this 1200 word article to about a third of its original length.


Read the article and pick out:


a) Pair work: Working in pairs, students should script a discussion between a representative of the World Trade Organisation, and a representative of a charity working to help poor people in the Third World.
b) Using information from this article, write an (imaginary) letter to the President of the WTO, expressing your views on the future of globalization.



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