Speech on Globalisation: Meaning and Forms of Globalisation!
The profound social changes, including the economic and the political, that we are witnessing today, are to a great extent the result of the forces of globalisation. Globalisation is a term which refers to the process whereby political, social, economic and cultural relations increasingly take on a global scale. It operates beyond or above the national level and has profound consequences for individual’s local experiences and everyday lives. Two most glaring examples are the media and the transfer of money.
Defining globalisation Malcom Waters (1993) writes:
“A process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasingly aware that they are receding.” in other words, physical distance and obstacle have become less important in communication and exchange in social, economic, political and cultural matters. Echoing more or less the same ideas, Anthony Giddens (1990) has used the phrase ‘time-space distanciation’. In David Harvey’s phrase it is time and space are compressed.
Thus, a message that 200 years ago took several weeks and considerable physical effort to deliver, now only takes few seconds. Some scholars have argued that globalisation is primarily a cultural phenomenon and only secondarily an economic and political one. Here it is worth quoting the ideas expressed about globalisation in Concise Oxford Dictionary of Sociology (1994):
Globalisation theory examines the emergence of a global system. It suggests that global culture is brought about a variety of social and cultural developments; the existence of a world satellite information system, the emergence of global patterns of consumption and consumerism; the cultivation of cosmopolitan lifestyles; the emergence of global sport such as the Olympics Games, world football competitions, and international tennis matches; the spread of tourism; the decline of the sovereignty of the nation-state; the growth of a global military system; recognition of a world-wide ecological crises; the development of world-wide health problems such as AIDS; the emergence of world political systems such as the League of Nations and the United Nations; the creation of global political movements such as Marxism; extension of the concept of human rights; and the complex interchange between world religions. More importantly, globalism involves a new consciousness of the world as a single place. Globalisation has been described, therefore, as “the concrete structuration of the world as a whole”.
The above ideas reflect the broad sweep of theories of cultural globalisation which embrace political and social as well as cultural developments.
Forms of Globalisation:
There are three main forms of globalisation, viz., economic, political and cultural. We will delimit our discussion only to cultural globalisation which has far-reaching effects on our social and cultural life and day-to-day activities.
Is there a common culture (global culture) developing across the globe? This is a huge and very complicated question. In general usage, the term ‘culture’ refers to a whole way of life, including patterns of consumption of media, dress style and leisure activities etc. Mike Featherstone in his book Consumer Culture and Postmodernism (1991) suggests a number of ways in which the globalisation of culture is occurring.
One only has to see the global familiarity of Mickey Mouse, Levi jeans. Coca Cola, McDonald’s hamburger, Kentucky chickens, or Madonna’s latest hit single video to realise the globalisation of culture. When we buy a Coke in India, Pakistan, Singapore, Britain or Iran, we are all sharing in common transnational form of consumption.
One of the first ‘Western’ stores in post-socialist states is the boutique selling Nike and Reebok sport/fashion shoes. A whole range of ‘problems’ such as Tsunami, earthquake, famine, bird’s flu, environmental deterioration, global warming, pollution of all kinds and events like Rugby World Cup or publication of Prophet’s cartoons routinely have a global dimension. Not only this, a kind of global humanism is also developing. All these examples suggest that the world has increasingly become a one place. Both the media and increased personal geographical mobility feed this perception.
It is not possible to understand the cultural globalisation without linking it to media. Exposure to and consumption of media products has become an integral part of the everyday lives of most members of contemporary society. The media occupies a considerable proportion of our leisure time, providing us to a considerable extent the picture of the wider world.
Television, for example, represents the major and most pervasive mass medium of today. It is the principal leisure activity of most urban adults and children—the organiser of their entertainment and social life. By carrying advertisements and other images of ‘desirable’ consumer styles, the media helps to make global market.
Vast amounts of research have been done to try to assess the effects of media, especially television. Most such studies have concerned children given the sheer volume of their viewing and the possible implications for socialisation. Young people are socialised to pursue activities apart from the family.
Because youngsters have learned to be active and competitive, they prefer movies that show action and competition, and movies in turn reinforce the aspect of socialisation. Violent horror films have been particularly popular over the last few years. Studies indicate the children can learn new techniques for being violent from watching a movie.
Sociological studies done in America revealed that a substantial proportion of the population does not read newspapers. For them TV news has become a key source of information about what goes on in the world, especially about people, places and events. At school, work, university, in the home or the friends circle last night’s ‘tele news’ makes for lively and easy conversation.
Given these high levels of exposure, the media (especially TV) constitute important agencies for socialisation. They represent an institutionalised channel for the distribution of social knowledge and hence a potentially powerful instrument of social change and social control sustaining or challenging the status quo.
The globalised media allow us to travel virtually without moving from our chair to receive our home programmes on satellite TV or the internet. Although media products are no doubt entertaining, they also help construct and reproduce a broad range of social norms and values. As a result, traditional customs and patterns of family and overall lifestyle are undergoing a lot of change.
All above discussions apparently suggest that slowly but steadily we are heading towards a homogeneous, uniform ‘global culture’. But, this is not so, we have failed to see the uneven and unequal impact of the globalised modernity on different societies. Global dynamics have at the same time created a countervailing localisation of culture.
We are witnessing a dramatic global change, which only means that we have entered a period of transition to a new global context but whose character remains uncertain. Anthony Giddens has warned that the dynamics of globalisation are so complicated that it is very difficult to predict about the destination of the globe where it will reach.