Three Waves of Globalization: A Brief Overview

When we are talking about globalization, we are talking about a cross-border or trans boundary phenomenon or fact. While conceptualizing the globalization, the term border will include both subjective and objective dimensions. When I say border; I may mean the wall between the rooms in the house, borders between cities or states, as well as the psychological, mental and social boundaries.

The core of globalization is based on crossing all types of borders and “to impose” -is the nature of the fact as such. Whatever the things which are imposed, disseminated, transferred, or are the subjects of interactions, they can be traditional, political, economic and sociological. In this way, this fact has a historical background and its historical background can be traced back to the ancient times or even to the interactive relations of primitive societies. As a result of this interactivity, the supposedly stronger party used to impose something on the other side in accordance with its own objectives, interests or benefits, and as a result of this imposition, the second party used to accept what was imposed to it, either by consent or coercion. Taking this into consideration, we can say that one of the most archaic and a historical tool of globalization is war. In other words, claiming that the history of globalization is, in fact, the history of wars would be a pertinent remark.

Another characteristic of the nature of globalization is being a homogenizer. If to look at the history, we can easily observe that major intellectual movements (like main philosophical questions related to issue of existence or different perceptions of science), social structures (family structures, society, and nation, language, which is the most essential one), political institutions (city-state, state, empire, nation-state), production models (agriculture, husbandry, industry, technology), economic insights (mercantilism, liberal-capitalism, socialism, communism), and even religious-rhetorical inclinations (celestial religions) as well as worldviews have globalized. Based on this conceptualization of globalization, we can distinguish between 3 globalization waves throughout the history of humanity.

While discussing each wave of globalization, I will pay attention first, to dynamics and, secondly, to the political, economic and cultural dimensions. Each globalization wave has its own dynamics. And at the time when the wave is getting high, the power comes form that dynamism. Ancient immigration waves and ancient wars can be regarded as the dynamics of first globalization wave. Surely, wars as main dynamics of globalization are still actual up to date. The economical dimension of the first wave of globalization is represented by hunting and collecting, later on agriculture and husbandry. Such production model has appeared in the geographies of first civilizations, however, with time became a global phenomenon, since all the societies have it in their historical past. Moreover, some of societies still are affected by it. At the political level, primitive city-states, theocracy or tribal state and imperial states formations are seen. These formations, like production models also appeared in certain geographical points but with time the example could be found around the globe. At the cultural level, starting from the believes of primitive societies to polytheism and later, the monotheistic religions, which were spread through wars, primitive commercials interactions and immigration.

The second globalization wave has in its dynamics scientific revolutions and industrialization. The economic dimension of the second wave of globalization starts with the development of trade-based economy, practices of mercantilist policies and it variations and, in the light of industrialization and scientific revolution, the rise of capitalism. At the political level, the rise of nation-states as the result of a chain of event starting from sectarian wars in Europe, peace of Westphalia, after which the concept of nation-state, sovereignty, national interest and state as such became of high importance. This process has continued and through the ideas of Enlightenment was enrooted and later reached the every corner of the globe. At the cultural level we have to mention important periods in the world history like Renaissance and Enlightenment that has changed the world to 180 degree. These two periods gave rise to what was called modernism, the main characteristics of which were: rationality, positivism or scientific approach, and ampiricism. As we know, the objective of the second globalization wave was to create and homogeneous society and a single common order. The rational thinking, common approach method, common content creation were important to reach this aim. From the starting point of the second globalization up to date, scienticism is the most solid prove of globalization as the process. For example, the curriculum of the Department of Economy in a Nigerian University is almost same as curriculum in Northern Cyprus universities. During the second globalization wave, all three dimensions were disseminated through the coercive means, likewise in the first wave. Although, during the second wave this coercive method was in the form of colonization. As we all know, colonizers (usually called white men) were trying to impose their will and views under the name of making colonized civilized ones. Let not to forget that such initiative of white men is in fact exploitation.

The dynamics of the third wave of globalization, according to the orthodoxy of literature, are technological and informative revolutions. On the other side, one of main dynamics of that wave was the attempt to overcome the crisis of the economic, political and cultural structures of the second one. As you may know, the capitalist system and political regimes built-up upon it got into a deep chronic crisis. Thus, the essence of the third globalization wave was, in a way, to cure and cover that crisis. Moreover, third globalization wave ought to embrace those fields and areas, which were not yet covered by the second one. It is worth to mention that on the eve of the third globalization wave, the actors of the system were aware of their own weaknesses and, in a sense, were afraid, that they would not be able to control this wave. That is why, more attention was paid to the ideas of regionalism. Thus, most of those supranational and regional intergovernmental organizations and bodies, like EU, were the outcome of that process. Generally speaking, the third globalization wave was an outcome of the competition of the powers for hegemony after the Second World War. In this sense, it became a project of Westernization of the whole world. The third globalization wave has started in 1970s, time when US-led Western block has understood the communist block will not resist long. Through the small, let’s name them pre-globalization waves, movements, like expansion of NATO, decolonization, EU enlargement, Western block boosted up the third globalization wave.

The crisis of capitalism, I have told about, was due to the over-accumulation and that accumulation had to be distributed, otherwise, it would collapse. Thus, a financial expansion became one of main component of third globalization wave. At this point, financialization and dollarization came up to the scene and, thus, dollar became an universal, globalized currency. During this period, the transition from liberal to neo-liberal economy occurred. This transformation was felt in political and social realms as well. In summary, the neo-liberal economy has led to spread of liberal democracies, which in its turn resulted in rise of pluralistic ideas, emergence of political identities and identity politics. Moreover, the critical approach to the existing has laid down the basis for post-modern talks.

The biggest obstacle to the financial expansion were the border, generally managed and controlled by nation-states. In regards to this, third globalization wave has brought the discussion of the “wearing out” of the nation-state concept. With this, the IR and IPE debates over the shift from Westphalian to post-Westphalian system are understandable. The neo-liberal politics has paid attention to pluralism, individualism and human right and it is important to understand this importance. This point shows the main difference of the third globalization wave. While bringing the heterogeneity on the unitary level, third globalization wave was making those unitary actors a part of a complex, but homogeneous liberal system. The pluralist structure of third globalization wave and it acceptance of multivocal matters, has laid down the foundation for the identity-oriented constructivism approach. The emergence of the ethnic-based nation-states after the collapse of Soviet Union proves this point. Additionally, in the framework of the third globalization wave, the new actors, non-state actors have appeared and became important in the international system. Of course, one of the most important of those are MNCs.

By Arash Sharghi

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