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

Thanks to the development of digital technology, another approach to understanding the meaning of “no-distance” is emerged. Today, many internet services and handy gadgets are developed for communication between people, breaking down some space-time restriction related to distance. In fact, this development does not eliminate the existence of distance, but gives birth to the “no-distance” reality, linking up all of the people with the technology around the globe. Undoubtedly, the development can be positive because it minimizes the cost of communication. However, the “no-distance” alienates the nature of the relationship between the individuals simultaneously: when communication is too easy to be reached, few would value it, resulting in solidarity between them more difficult to be carried out, despite the means already at hand. In other words, people would tend to procrastinate in focusing on their concern: “I can always click (check) it out online at the next second”. This explains the distant, chilly and passive attitude of the developed people towards political debates and social conflicts in contemporary globalization.

(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, including international crimes, imbalanced distribution of resources, etc. When border “disappears”, the distance between states or political entities would become meaningless also. Here, it is necessary to point out that there is a close relationship between border and distance. Generally speaking, distance can separate people and prevent challenges from the foreign in order to protect political power. Therefore, if border becomes “vanished”, distance would no longer be “existed”. The serious consequence of this is: various human risks, like terrorism and new 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)

Since the modern age, political border has been a kind of bilateral arrangement between governments for population control. However, globalization breaks down this common arrangement in a one-way sense. In the name of globalization, one power or a group of powers can expand its political influence and avoid being influenced by other counterparts. Under the challenged circumstance, political leaders still have a role in serving the rise of global economy, like stimulating growth, managing the local market, creating more jobs, etc. However, they lose their active power to help realize certain important values, such as human rights, justice, equality and even democracy because of being bound by the rise of coercive globalization. That is to say, globalization, in a certain degree, successfully alters the original role of the political entities around the globe. As a result, world governments, as we can see, are operating like a profit-making company: the leaders tend to exploit more and more resources from the “external” in order to solve the “internal” problems they are encountering.

(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)

It is quite reasonable to say that another angle of analyzing the nature of globalization is needed. For this, Ulrich Beck, similar to some sociologists, argues that globalization is making the border and distance between countries “vanished”[1]. However, he points out that

[globalization] is changing [people’s] everyday life with considerable force and compelling everyone to adapt and respond in various ways. […] people are thrown into transnational lifestyles that they often neither want nor understand[2].

Clearly, this comment implies the coercive nature of globalization. Perhaps we can use the following metaphor to discuss it further: globalization is like an international train on which many rich men are aboard. These men ask the stationmasters – the heads of world states – to allow the train’s coming, promising that the arrival of them will benefit “everyone” because they have the means to create “economic prosperity”. Once the stationmasters give a green light to their coming, the “border-vanished” becomes a reality. In other words, under the condition of the absence of the opposition to globalization, the existence of border is no longer served any meaningful purpose.

(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 […]. 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. What Is Globalization? Blackwell, 2001, p. 20.

[2] Ibid.

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

In fact, the rise of globalization is connected with certain historical factors – 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 growth of commercialism, facilitating the beginning of Western colonialism. With the dominant capitalism developed, colonialism was then superseded by the upsurge of the wave of national independent movement and democratization across Asia and Africa. Despite the changes, world economy was still controlled by Western powers, especially by the United States – “neoliberalism” brought us a seriously imbalanced distribution of wealth and resources not only in capitalist states but in the former colonies of the West. Although the “developed” states have got huge economic interest from the development, the “global market” is keeping its pace to further evolve, conforming to the principle of the so-called “profit maximization”. Since then, countries in different regions have been set to play different roles in the market: the “developed” are responsible for designing the products and services, and the “developing” in charge of selling their labour and resources for manufacturing. Globalization, as we can see, lets all people play their “appropriate” roles in serving the market. The core question is still here: who makes the whole thing “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? Generally speaking, globalization is a social phenomenon with “diffusibility”, influencing the current development of human politics, economy, and culture. As we know, this phenomenon has been studied by many scholars. For example, Anthony Giddens argues globalization gives rise to the fact that “we are living ‘through a major period of historical transformation’ […] suggests that we feel ‘out of control’ in a ‘runaway world’ […] it is an unavoidable reality[1]. Moreover, Jan Aart Scholte, to go further, presents a more optimistic point of view on globalization, arguing that the phenomenon is a kind of “spread of transplanetary[2], indicating that “[w]ith globalization people become more able – physically, legally, linguistically, culturally and psychologically – to engage with each other wherever on planet Earth they might be.[3] Here, the main point is most theorists acknowledge that globalization is sophisticatedly developing that has produced many inevitable effects, such as the forming of an “unknown” future and the movement of different peoples around the world.

(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. Globalization Key Thinkers. Polity, 2010, p. 45.

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

[3] Ibid.