All theories of globalization have been put hereunder in eight categories: liberalism, political realism, Marxism, constructivism, postmodernism, feminism , Trans-formationalism and eclecticism. Each one of them carries several variations.
1. Theory of Liberalism:
Liberalism sees the process of globalisation as market-led extension of modernisation. At the most elementary level, it is a result of ‘natural’ human desires for economic welfare and political liberty. As such, transplanetary connectivity is derived from human drives to maximise material well-being and to exercise basic freedoms. These forces eventually interlink humanity across the planet.
They fructify in the form of:
(a) Technological advances, particularly in the areas of transport, communications and information processing, and,
(b) Suitable legal and institutional arrangement to enable markets and liberal democracy to spread on a trans world scale.
Such explanations come mostly from Business Studies, Economics, International Political Economy, Law and Politics. Liberalists stress the necessity of constructing institutional infrastructure to support globalisation. All this has led to technical standardisation, administrative harmonisation, translation arrangement between languages, laws of contract, and guarantees of property rights.
But its supporters neglect the social forces that lie behind the creation of technological and institutional underpinnings. It is not satisfying to attribute these developments to ‘natural’ human drives for economic growth and political liberty. They are culture blind and tend to overlook historically situated life-worlds and knowledge structures which have promoted their emergence.
All people cannot be assumed to be equally amenable to and desirous of increased globality in their lives. Similarly, they overlook the phenomenon of power. There are structural power inequalities in promoting globalisation and shaping its course. Often they do not care for the entrenched power hierarchies between states, classes, cultures, sexes, races and resources.
2. Theory of Political Realism:
Advocates of this theory are interested in questions of state power, the pursuit of national interest, and conflict between states. According to them states are inherently acquisitive and self-serving, and heading for inevitable competition of power. Some of the scholars stand for a balance of power, where any attempt by one state to achieve world dominance is countered by collective resistance from other states.
Another group suggests that a dominant state can bring stability to world order. The ‘hegemon’ state (presently the US or G7/8) maintains and defines international rules and institutions that both advance its own interests and at the same time contain conflicts between other states. Globalisation has also been explained as a strategy in the contest for power between several major states in contemporary world politics.
They concentrate on the activities of Great Britain, China, France, Japan, the USA and some other large states. Thus, the political realists highlight the issues of power and power struggles and the role of states in generating global relations.
At some levels, globalisation is considered as antithetical to territorial states. States, they say, are not equal in globalisation, some being dominant and others subordinate in the process. But they fail to understand that everything in globalisation does not come down to the acquisition, distribution and exercise of power.
Globalisation has also cultural, ecological, economic and psychological dimensions that are not reducible to power politics. It is also about the production and consumption of resources, about the discovery and affirmation of identity, about the construction and communication of meaning, and about humanity shaping and being shaped by nature. Most of these are apolitical.
Power theorists also neglect the importance and role of other actors in generating globalisation. These are sub-state authorities, macro-regional institutions, global agencies, and private-sector bodies. Additional types of power-relations on lines of class, culture and gender also affect the course of globalisation. Some other structural inequalities cannot be adequately explained as an outcome of interstate competition. After all, class inequality, cultural hierarchy, and patriarchy predate the modern states.
3. Theory of Marxism:
Marxism is principally concerned with modes of production, social exploitation through unjust distribution, and social emancipation through the transcendence of capitalism. Marx himself anticipated the growth of globality that ‘capital by its nature drives beyond every spatial barrier to conquer the whole earth for its market’. Accordingly, to Marxists, globalisation happens because trans-world connectivity enhances opportunities of profit-making and surplus accumulation.
Marxists reject both liberalist and political realist explanations of globalisation. It is the outcome of historically specific impulses of capitalist development. Its legal and institutional infrastructures serve the logic of surplus accumulation of a global scale. Liberal talk of freedom and democracy make up a legitimating ideology for exploitative global capitalist class relations.
The neo-Marxists in dependency and world-system theories examine capitalist accumulation on a global scale on lines of core and peripheral countries. Neo-Gramscians highlight the significance of underclass struggles to resist globalising capitalism not only by traditional labour unions, but also by new social movements of consumer advocates, environmentalists, peace activists, peasants, and women. However, Marxists give an overly restricted account of power.
There are other relations of dominance and subordination which relate to state, culture, gender, race, sex, and more. Presence of US hegemony, the West-centric cultural domination, masculinism, racism etc. are not reducible to class dynamics within capitalism. Class is a key axis of power in globalisation, but it is not the only one. It is too simplistic to see globalisation solely as a result of drives for surplus accumulation.
It also seeks to explore identities and investigate meanings. People develop global weapons and pursue global military campaigns not only for capitalist ends, but also due to interstate competition and militarist culture that predate emergence of capitalism. Ideational aspects of social relations also are not outcome of the modes of production. They have, like nationalism, their autonomy.
4. Theory of Constructivism:
Globalisation has also arisen because of the way that people have mentally constructed the social world with particular symbols, language, images and interpretation. It is the result of particular forms and dynamics of consciousness. Patterns of production and governance are second-order structures that derive from deeper cultural and socio-psychological forces. Such accounts of globalisation have come from the fields of Anthropology, Humanities, Media of Studies and Sociology.
Constructivists concentrate on the ways that social actors ‘construct’ their world: both within their own minds and through inter-subjective communication with others. Conversation and symbolic exchanges lead people to construct ideas of the world, the rules for social interaction, and ways of being and belonging in that world. Social geography is a mental experience as well as a physical fact. They form ‘in’ or ‘out’ as well as ‘us’ and they’ groups.
They conceive of themselves as inhabitants of a particular global world. National, class, religious and other identities respond in part to material conditions but they also depend on inter-subjective construction and communication of shared self-understanding. However, when they go too far, they present a case of social-psychological reductionism ignoring the significance of economic and ecological forces in shaping mental experience. This theory neglects issues of structural inequalities and power hierarchies in social relations. It has a built-in apolitical tendency.
5. Theory of Postmodernism:
Some other ideational perspectives of globalisation highlight the significance of structural power in the construction of identities, norms and knowledge. They all are grouped under the label of ‘postmodernism’. They too, as Michel Foucault does strive to understand society in terms of knowledge power: power structures shape knowledge. Certain knowledge structures support certain power hierarchies.
The reigning structures of understanding determine what can and cannot be known in a given socio-historical context. This dominant structure of knowledge in modern society is ‘rationalism’. It puts emphasis on the empirical world, the subordination of nature to human control, objectivist science, and instrumentalist efficiency. Modern rationalism produces a society overwhelmed with economic growth, technological control, bureaucratic organisation, and disciplining desires.
This mode of knowledge has authoritarian and expansionary logic that leads to a kind of cultural imperialism subordinating all other epistemologies. It does not focus on the problem of globalisation per se. In this way, western rationalism overawes indigenous cultures and other non-modem life-worlds.
Postmodernism, like Marxism, helps to go beyond the relatively superficial accounts of liberalist and political realist theories and expose social conditions that have favoured globalisation. Obviously, postmodernism suffers from its own methodological idealism. All material forces, though come under impact of ideas, cannot be reduced to modes of consciousness. For a valid explanation, interconnection between ideational and material forces is not enough.
6. Theory of Feminism:
It puts emphasis on social construction of masculinity and femininity. All other theories have identified the dynamics behind the rise of trans-planetary and supra-territorial connectivity in technology, state, capital, identity and the like.
Biological sex is held to mould the overall social order and shape significantly the course of history, presently globality. Their main concern lies behind the status of women, particularly their structural subordination to men. Women have tended to be marginalised, silenced and violated in global communication.
7. Theory of Trans-formationalism:
This theory has been expounded by David Held and his colleagues. Accordingly, the term ‘globalisation’ reflects increased interconnectedness in political, economic and cultural matters across the world creating a “shared social space”. Given this interconnectedness, globalisation may be defined as “a process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial organisation of social relations and transactions, expressed in transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity, interaction and power.”
While there are many definitions of globalisation, such a definition seeks to bring together the many and seemingly contradictory theories of globalisation into a “rigorous analytical framework” and “proffer a coherent historical narrative”. Held and McGrew’s analytical framework is constructed by developing a three part typology of theories of globalisation consisting of “hyper-globalist,” “sceptic,” and “transformationalist” categories.
The Hyperglobalists purportedly argue that “contemporary globalisation defines a new era in which people everywhere are increasingly subject to the disciplines of the global marketplace”. Given the importance of the global marketplace, multi-national enterprises (MNEs) and intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) which regulate their activity are key political actors. Sceptics, such as Hirst and Thompson (1996) ostensibly argue that “globalisation is a myth which conceals the reality of an international economy increasingly segmented into three major regional blocs in which national governments remain very powerful.” Finally, transformationalists such as Rosenau (1997) or Giddens (1990) argue that globalisation occurs as “states and societies across the globe are experiencing a process of profound change as they try to adapt to a more interconnected but highly uncertain world”.
Developing the transformationalist category of globalisation theories. Held and McGrew present a rather complicated typology of globalisation based on globalization’s spread, depth, speed, and impact, as well as its impacts on infrastructure, institutions, hierarchical structures and the unevenness of development.
They imply that the “politics of globalisation” have been “transformed” (using their word from the definition of globalisation) along all of these dimensions because of the emergence of a new system of “political globalisation.” They define “political globalisation” as the “shifting reach of political power, authority and forms of rule” based on new organisational interests which are “transnational” and “multi-layered.”
These organisational interests combine actors identified under the hyper-globalist category (namely IGOs and MNEs) with those of the sceptics (trading blocs and powerful states) into a new system where each of these actors exercises their political power, authority and forms of rule.
Thus, the “politics of globalisation” is equivalent to “political globalisation” for Held and McGrew. However, Biyane Michael criticises them. He deconstructs their argument, if a is defined as “globalisation” (as defined above), b as the organisational interests such as MNEs, IGOs, trading blocs, and powerful states, and c as “political globalisation” (also as defined above), then their argument reduces to a. b. c. In this way, their discussion of globalisation is trivial.
Held and others present a definition of globalisation, and then simply restates various elements of the definition. Their definition, “globalisation can be conceived as a process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial organisation of social relations” allows every change to be an impact of globalisation. Thus, by their own definition, all the theorists they critique would be considered as “transformationalists.” Held and McGrew also fail to show how globalisation affects organisational interests.
8. Theory of Eclecticism:
Each one of the above six ideal-type of social theories of globalisation highlights certain forces that contribute to its growth. They put emphasis on technology and institution building, national interest and inter-state competition, capital accumulation and class struggle, identity and knowledge construction, rationalism and cultural imperialism, and masculinize and subordination of women. Jan Art Scholte synthesises them as forces of production, governance, identity, and knowledge.
Accordingly, capitalists attempt to amass ever-greater resources in excess of their survival needs: accumulation of surplus. The capitalist economy is thoroughly monetised. Money facilitates accumulation. It offers abundant opportunities to transfer surplus, especially from the weak to the powerful. This mode of production involves perpetual and pervasive contests over the distribution of surplus. Such competition occurs both between individual, firms, etc. and along structural lines of class, gender, race etc.
Their contests can be overt or latent. Surplus accumulation has had transpired in one way or another for many centuries, but capitalism is a comparatively recent phenomenon. It has turned into a structural power, and is accepted as a ‘natural’ circumstance, with no alternative mode of production. It has spurred globalisation in four ways: market expansion, accounting practices, asset mobility and enlarged arenas of commodification. Its technological innovation appears in communication, transport and data processing as well as in global organisation and management. It concentrates profits at points of low taxation. Information, communication, finance and consumer sectors offer vast potentials to capital making it ‘hyper-capitalism’.
Any mode of production cannot operate in the absence of an enabling regulatory apparatus. There are some kind of governance mechanisms. Governance relates processes whereby people formulate, implement, enforce and review rules to guide their common affairs.” It entails more than government. It can extend beyond state and sub-state institutions including supra-state regimes as well. It covers the full scope of societal regulation.
In the growth of contemporary globalisation, besides political and economic forces, there are material and ideational elements. In expanding social relations, people explore their class, their gender, their nationality, their race, their religious faith and other aspects of their being. Constructions of identity provide collective solidarity against oppression. Identity provides frameworks for community, democracy, citizenship and resistance. It also leads from nationalism to greater pluralism and hybridity.
Earlier nationalism promoted territorialism, capitalism, and statism, now these plural identities are feeding more and more globality, hyper-capitalism and polycentrism. These identities have many international qualities visualised in global diasporas and other group affiliations based on age, class, gender, race, religious faith and sexual orientations. Many forms of supra-territorial solidarities are appearing through globalisation.
In the area of knowledge, the way that the people know their world has significant implications for the concrete circumstances of that world. Powerful patterns of social consciousness cause globalisation. Knowledge frameworks cannot be reduced to forces of production, governance or identity.
Mindsets encourage or discourage the rise of globality. Modern rationalism is a general configuration of knowledge. It is secular as it defines reality in terms of the tangible world of experience. It understands reality primarily in terms of human interests, activities and conditions. It holds that phenomena can be understood in terms of single incontrovertible truths that are discoverable by rigorous application of objective research methods.
Rationalism is instrumentalist. It assigns greatest value to insights that enable people efficiently to solve immediate problems. It subordinates all other ways of understanding and acting upon the world. Its knowledge could then be applied to harness natural and social forces for human purposes. It enables people to conquer disease, hunger, poverty, war, etc., and maximise the potentials of human life. It looks like a secular faith, a knowledge framework for capitalist production and a cult of economic efficiency. Scientism and instrumentalism of rationalism is conducive to globalisation. Scientific knowledge is non-territorial.
The truths revealed by ‘objective’ method are valid for anyone, anywhere, and anytime on earth. Certain production processes, regulations, technologies and art forms are applicable across the planet. Martin Albrow rightly says that reason knows no territorial limits. The growth of globalisation is unlikely to reverse in the foreseeable future.
However, Scholte is aware of insecurity, inequality and marginalisation caused by the present process of globalisation. Others reject secularist character of the theory, its manifestation of the imperialism of westernist-modernist-rationalist knowledge. Anarchists challenge the oppressive nature of states and other bureaucratic governance frameworks. Globalisation neglects environmental degradation and equitable gender relations.