The Traditionalist View of Globalisation

Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Karl Thompson

The traditionalist view of globalisation is that the extent of globalisation has been exaggerated and it is not an inevitable process. There is no reason why globalisation will carry on and it can be reversed.

Globalisation has been exaggerated

Six pieces of evidence which suggest globalisation has been exaggerated include:

  1. Trade is not truly global, it is regional. For example, about 50-75% of EU trade is within the EU. And Saharan Africa is largely left out of global trade flows.
  2. Transnational Corporations do not operate in all countries, only secure ones.
  3. Billions of people still live mostly subsistence lifestyles and simply cannot afford to take part in globalised western style consumption.
  4. Some countries remain cut off from ‘global democratic culture’, such as North Korea and Iran. Also, some traditional cultures still practice abuses that go against the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  5. Governments still have the power to censor social media – e.g. the great firewall of China.
  6. Local traditions still remain in many cultures – For example it is estimated that 90% of women in Somalia have been circumcised.

Trade became less global with the Pandemic

According to analysis of global trade data by the World Economic Forum the Covid-19 Pandemic clearly had a significant impact with trade shifting to being within the same continents.

If you read through their analysis however, the patterns of trade seem to be very stable, suggesting that patterns in global trade have been stable for decades. Thus there is no evidence for more globalisation of trade in recent years.

However we should be careful to note that there are VERY high levels of global trade: the share of trade that is global is still at 80%, so historically that is very high!

Russia’s War with Ukraine: Globalisation in Reverse?

Both Mcdonalds and Starbucks have pulled out of Russia since the war begun. Russia has turned off gas supplies to Europe and blockaded grain exports from Ukraine.

Since the war global relations seem to have become less global and more fragmented. Europe especially is having to forge new alliances other than Russian to secure resources.

However, an alternative interpretation of the above is that this is just a different kind of globalisation. One in which Europe becomes MORE global because it seeks out more diverse global connections.

Criticisms of the traditionalist view of globalisation

It is hard to argue against the view that the world has become more global since the 1950s. The evidence is overwhelming.

Traditionalists point out marginal cases on the edges of ‘global society’ that don’t disprove the general trend.

However, traditionalism does act as an important counter-point to the optimist view that globalisation will sweep into every corner of the globe.

Clearly globalisation has stalled, especially since the Pandemic, and it has gone into reverse in some ways.

But in my final analysis, I think probably the transformationalist view is more accurate. Recent trends following the Pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war are globalisation becoming more complex rather than a reversal.

Signposting and Related Posts 

This material is mainly relevant to the globalisation and global development module within A-level sociology.

The traditionalist view is especially against the The Optimist View of Globalisation

It can also be used to criticise the following two perspectives:

The Pessimist View of Globalisation

The Transformationalist View of Globalisation.

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