Definitions of Globalization

Thomas Friedman at World Economic Forum. Copyright by World Economic Forum. swiss-image.ch/Photo Michael Wuertemberg

The following definitions are useful in the study of globalization. They may be studied and used in academic settings. Read these definitions carefully. When you are finished, Take the Quiz for this page.

Definitions of Globalization:

1. Joseph Stiglitz, an economist, and winner of the Nobel Prize defines Globalization as follows:

Globalization “is the closer integration of the countries and peoples of the world …brought about by the enormous reduction of costs of transportation and communication, and the breaking down of artificial barriers to the flows of goods, services, capital, knowledge, and people across borders.” (from Globalization and its Discontents)

2. Thomas Friedman, a political reporter for the New York Times, defines Globalization in terms of PARADIGM SHIFTS. We can compare the contemporary world to the world of the Cold War prior to the fall of Communism (1989). The following is a partial list of contrasts derived from Thomas Friedman’s book The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

Paradigm Shifts from the Cold War to the Age of Globalization

Cold War Globalization
Division Integration
(of nations, markets, and technologies)
the Wall the Web
8% of world’s countries
have free markets
28% of world’s countries
have free markets
Different cultures Global culture
Weight (megatons) Speed (megabits)
Power of nations Power of individuals, markets

3. In the early 2000s, the UC Atlas of Global Inequality (no longer, apparently, in operation, but see https://ccrec.ucsc.edu/ for the updated site) used the following definition of Globalization:

“Globalization, global integration: ‘… a widening, deepening and speeding up of interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual’ (Held and McGrew 1999: 2). Several dimensions of globalization can usefully be identified. These dimensions can often be analyzed separately even though they may have powerful interconnections. Economic globalization means the greater global connectedness of economic activities, through transnational trade, capital flows, and migration. Environmental globalization could include the increasingly global effects of human activity on the environment. Cultural globalization may highlight the connections among languages, ways of living, and fears of global homogeneity through the spread of North American and European languages and culture. Political globalization may include wider acceptance of global political standards such as human rights, democracy, labor standards, environmental standards, as well as the greater coordination of actions by governments and other institutions across the globe.”
— Source: UC Atlas of Global Inequality

Note that in the above definition, Globalization is divided into four aspects or dimensions:

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Political
  • Cultural

Also, note that the definition cites Held and McGrew who emphasize

SPEED

as one of the general features of Globalization.

The UC Atlas definition emphasizes that while

SYSTEMS ARE BECOMING MORE HIGHLY INTEGRATED,

these trends are also leading to potential

FEAR AND CONFLICT.

In your own research on globalization, you will find it useful to note how speed, systems integration, and fear and conflict are continuing to develop.

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About Anthony Birch 11 Articles
Anthony Birch, Ph.D. has taught Business Ethics, Introduction to Ethics, Contemporary Ethics, and Introduction to Philosophy at a number of colleges and universities. He is the co-author of How to Ace Your Online Course, available at Amazon.

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