The Meaning of Globalization: From Ulrich Beck’s Vision to the Rise of Anti-Globalization (6)

Because of the rise of information technology, another approach to understanding the concept of “no-distance” is emerged, which is related to the rapid development of a new communication form between people. Today, the flowering of many internet services and handy gadgets (e.g. mobile phones) has helped to facilitate the realization of the breaking-down of the space-time distance that hindered people from connecting with friends and relatives living in different countries across the world. This development does not eliminate the existence of distance, but does realize the “no-distance” reality that actually links up all of the people who have the condition to access to the technology around the globe. Obviously, the positive aspect of the development is minimizing the cost and geographical restriction on human communication. However, the “no-distance” connection simultaneously causes the alienation of the natural relationship between individuals: when real-time communication is too easy to be reached, many would tend to downgrade or even ignore the value or significance of it and human solidarity would be more difficult to be carried out, despite the “possibility for change” already at hand. This phenomenon can be evidenced by the universality of the distant, chilly and passive attitude of the developed towards the serious political and social issues in contemporary globalization. The people always think it is not necessary to hastily put an eye on the issues because we can forever click (check) it out and find out the solution online in the “next second”.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

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The Meaning of Globalization: From Ulrich Beck’s Vision to the Rise of Anti-Globalization (5)

Nowadays, world governments are so busy with tackling the unwanted side effects of globalization, such as digital crime, imbalanced distribution of wealth, etc. because when border “disappears”, the distance between any nation-states or political entities also become meaningless. Here, it is necessary to indicate that there is a close relationship between border and distance. Generally speaking, distance can cause separation and prevent communication between peoples. As the outcome of the establishment of political border, separation is a very end which helps control the free-floating of population. On the other hand, distance can be a substantial protection for the political. Therefore, if border becomes “dysfunctional”, distance can no longer be existed. The consequence of this is: various politico-social risks like terrorism and human diseases would easily spread from one country to another.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

The Meaning of Globalization: From Ulrich Beck’s Vision to the Rise of Anti-Globalization (4)

Therefore, once the “stationmasters” give a green light to the coming of the “train”, “the-border-vanished” becomes a reality. That is to say, under the condition of the absence of opposition to globalization, the existence of border, for the “stationmasters”, is to be meaningless. By origin, border has been a kind of bilateral political arrangement between different governmental powers since the modern age. However, globalization today breaks down the arrangement in a one-way sense, showing that in the globalizational name one power or a group of powers intentionally expands its influence and avoids being influenced by other counterparts. Under the circumstance, traditional politics still has its role in serving the rise of global economy, like stimulating economic growth, managing the local market, creating more jobs for citizens, etc. However, it loses its actual power to realize the humanitarian values, such as human rights, justice, equality and even democracy because of the coercive globalizational nature. In other words, globalization, especially the economic one, successfully challenges and alters the original positive role of the political entities around the world. As a result, the political, as we can see, is operating like a profit-making company: the governmental leaders get used to exploit more and more capital resources from the “external” in order to solve the “internal” economic problems they encounter (e.g. easing the money shortage of national banks, etc.).

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

The Meaning of Globalization: From Ulrich Beck’s Vision to the Rise of Anti-Globalization (3)

Therefore, it is rational to say that another thinking angle of analyzing the nature of globalization is needed. Ulrich Beck, Similar to some social science theorists, argues that globalization is developing with the characters of “the-border-vanished” and “no-distance”[1]. However, he also points out under globalization “people are thrown into transnational lifestyles that they often neither want nor understand”, “…changing [people’s] everyday life with considerable force and compelling everyone to adapt and respond in various ways[2]. These direct comments clearly indicate the coercive nature of globalization. Perhaps we can use this metaphor to discuss it further: globalization is like a “train” on which full of “rich men” are carried. These men ask the “stationmasters” – the heads of countries – to accept the “train’s coming”, promising that the arrival of the “train” will benefit everyone because they have the power to create “economic prosperity”.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] “Globalization means that borders become markedly less relevant to everyday behaviour in the various dimensions of economics, information, ecology, technology, cross-cultural conflict and civil society. It points to something not understood and hard to understand yet at the same time familiar…. Money, technologies, commodities, information and toxins ‘cross’ frontiers as if they did not exist. Even things, people and ideas that governments would like to keep out (for example, drugs, illegal immigrants or criticisms of human rights abuses) find their way into new territories. So does globalization conjure away distance.” See: Beck, Ulrich (2001). What Is Globalization? USA: Blackwell. p. 20.

[2] Ibid.

The Meaning of Globalization: From Ulrich Beck’s Vision to the Rise of Anti-Globalization (2)

Generally speaking, the form of globalization is related to certain historical factor(s): at the beginning it started its elementary development in the Age of Discovery in the fifteenth century. After that, the eighteenth-century Industrial Revolution caused the rise of international commercialism, making the growth of colonialism as well as imperialism on the globe. Then capitalism became more dominant in the human realm that indirectly caused the outbreak of World War I and II. Eventually, the Western colonialism broke down because of the upsurge of the waves of national independent movement and democratization across Asia and Africa. However, world economy was still controlled by the West, especially the United States. Through the propagation of the capitalist ideology: “neo-liberalism”, the dominant powers further concretize the “unavoidability” of the development of economic globalization, which brings us a serious imbalanced distribution of social wealth and natural resources. Although the “developed” have got tremendous interest through economic globalization, the “global market” is continuously developing in accordance with the so-called “principle of profit maximization”. Since then, different nations in the world have been set to play different roles in the single market: the “developed” are responsible for designing the “prototype” of products and for researching on the possibility of “customization”; the “developing” are in charge of selling their labour power and natural resources for goods manufacturing. Globalization, as we can see, lets all people play their “appropriate” roles in serving the market with different levels of development. The question is still here: who makes it “unavoidable”?

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

The Meaning of Globalization: From Ulrich Beck’s Vision to the Rise of Anti-Globalization

WHAT IS GLOBALIZATION? Globalization is a social phenomenon with the characteristic of “diffusibility”, influencing the development of human politics, economy, and culture, affecting the tendency of the ecological changing of the Nature. This phenomenon has been studied by many scholars in academia. For example, Anthony Giddens argues globalization gives rise to the fact that “we are living ‘through a major period of historical transformation’ (Giddens 1999:1)… suggests that we feel ‘out of control’ in a ‘runaway world’ where many of the influences that were meant to make life feel more predictable such as science and technology have had the opposite effect…it is an unavoidable reality[1]. Besides, Jan Aart Scholte, to go further, presents a more optimistic point of view on globalization, arguing that the phenomenon is of “the spread of transplanetary – and in recent times also more particularly supraterritorial – connections between people[2], indicating that “globalization involves reductions of barriers to such transworld social contacts. With globalization people become more able – physically, legally, linguistically, culturally and psychologically – to engage with each other wherever on planet Earth they might be.[3] The point here is the theorists mostly agree that globalization is sophisticatedly developing in the world which has produced many powerful effects, including the positive and the negative ones.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] See: Jones, Andrew (2010). Globalization Key Thinkers. Cambridge: Polity. p. 45.

[2] See: Scholte, Jan Aart (2005). Globalization A Critical Introduction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 50-51.

[3] Ibid.