Globalization

Sparke, Matthew, 2017, “Globalization,” an entry for The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology, edited by Douglas Richardson et al, forthcoming from Wiley.

Globalization is both a descriptive term used to name processes of increasing global integration and a prescriptive term that is instrumentalized politically to persuade people about the way the world should be integrated – most commonly thereby prescribing pro-market policies such as trade liberalization, privatization and business deregulation by arguing that they are required for successful global integration. Descriptive accounts of globalization by scholars tend to complicate such simplified suggestions about successful integration by underlining the historically and geographically uneven development dynamics of market integration. These are dynamics that are both increasing global interdependencies and intensifying inequality, asymmetry and volatility simultaneously. For the same reasons, they are also widely contested. Prescriptive accounts tend to ignore the conflict by hiding the complex historical geographies of uneven development behind flat world discourse about the newness, inevitability and leveling effects of global integration. Such discourse is therefore as ideological and misleading as it is simple and ageographical. Even from a purely descriptive perspective, though, it is vital to address such politicized discourse and the work it does in legitimating the pro-market policies of neoliberalism. As a historically distinct phenomenon, the discourse reflects and reinforces a ‘borderless’ business class view of the planet and the class interest of transnational business elites in entrenching the neoliberal policy norms of market rule. Globalization as a term therefore also distinguishes the current post-Fordist, post Cold War era of market liberalization in which transnational corporations have increasingly moved from balancing mass production and mass consumption nationally to pursue market opportunities globally. All the ideas about inevitability and leveling have undoubtedly helped business leaders make the political case for neoliberal policies around the world and they have also led to the rethinking of international relations and geopolitics in terms of geoeconomics, but neoliberalization and the shock doctrines of market reform have also engendered many diverse forms of global resistance too. Such struggles – often directly addressing the inequalities, asymmetries and volatilities of market-led integration – have in turn been articulated in anti-neoliberal terms that contest the simplified business discourse about globalization. Far from being anti-globalization, though, they tend to take an ‘alter-globalization’ approach that favors the globalization of global justice, global communication, global health, global environmental protection, and collaborative global protection from precarity more generally. For those pursuing these non-neoliberal kinds of globalization, the hope therefore endures of turning globalized precarity into globalized solidarity.

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