Is Globalization in Reverse?

in this post I consider some recent examples which seem to suggest that globalisation is going into reverse.

I also evaluate each of these pieces of evidence.

Personally, I’m not convinced that there is any strong evidence of a reversal in globalisation!

Brexit

At first sight, Brexit might seem to be evidence of anti-global attitudes, especially if you are of the opinion that Brexit was mainly people wanting more control over immigration into Britain – all the time Britain was in the EU, it had no control over its immigration policy.

This ties into a theory of Globalisation advanced in the 1990s by Adrian Wood – the idea that globalisation would benefit unskilled workers in less developed countries at the expense of unskilled workers in more developed countries – and it was primarily the less educated in Britain who voted for Brexit, suggesting this could be something of a backlash against globalisation.

However, it was mainly older people who voted for Brexit, the younger generations were more likely to vote against it and younger generations tend to have a more cosmopolitan worldview, and the Brexit vote only went through – nearly as many people voted against it as voted for it.

The Increasing Number of Boarder Walls

There are currently now 70 walls border walls between countries, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 there were only 15! (Source).

One of the best known examples is the wall between the United States and Mexico, which was one of Donald Trump’s main 2016 election pledges, and is still being built!

The total build cost of this particular wall is around $15 billion. (Source BBC)

The erection of giant border walls certainly seems to be some strong evidence of globalisation in reverse, as Nation States seek to prevent the free movement of people, and presumably they need the support of their populations (or at least around half of them) to be able to put these constructions in place.

HOWEVER, while walls will certainly deter some people, they do not stop everyone from crossing them – in fact it could be giving more power to organised gangs of people smugglers – the more difficult it is to cross a wall, the more likely people are to turn to ‘experts’ to help them get across, having to pay them $thousands of dollars for the privilege, and no refund if they’re not successful.

And where drugs are concerned, there’s even less evidence that walls are effective there – Mexican Drugs cartels just use very long tunnels these days for example!

Coronavirus – will result in countries seeking to localise supply chains

This BBC article summarises the views of a number of different professors of globalisation who seem to agree that Globalisation may have peaked in 2019 and that Covid-19 accelerate a trend towards less globalisation.

One the main points is that while Gloabalisation has brought many benefits (such as rapid economic growth) it has also brought increased risks, and the pandemic has highlighted this – it showed us how dependent we are on global supply chains for example and how quickly stocks of goods can run out when supply chains are disrupted.

It is thus possible that 2021 will see an acceleration of the trend towards the trend of manufacturing taking place closer to home rather than being spread out across huge global supply chains – as companies seek more security from disruption.

The problem with this is that it is ‘future thinking’ – we don’t know if this will actually be the case!

Sources

Find out More – You might like to watch this video: Globalisation: Is it in Reverse?

Relevance of this to A-level Sociology

Globalisation is an integral part of the subject, but especially relevant to the Global Development option for unit 2.

The idea of globalisation being in reverse is useful to criticise Optimist and Pessimist theories of globalisation especially.

Land inequality as a barrier to Development

A recent report by Oxfam highlights the problem of the increasing concentration of land ownership into the hands of corporate global agribusinesses.

Historically land ownership in the colonial period was very unequal, it became more equal in the post-colonial era due to various land-reform programmes, but since the 1980s land ownership has become more unequal again, primarily driven by global agribusiness buying up huge tracts of land for mass-scale farming oriented to the global export market.

70% of all land globally is now controlled by just 1% of the population.

While this has meant cheaper food for consumers in the West, it has also had negative consequences for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world who have to live with the consequences:

  • There is less common land for indigenous peoples – be they pastoralists in Africa or forest hunter gatherers in Latin America. This puts traditional ways of life under threat
  • Intensive farming employs fewer people so this leads to local unemployment and urbanisation as people migrate to find work which doesn’t exist in cities.
  • It degrades the local environment.

Solutions

The report notes different ‘levels of solution’ – from demanding more corporate responsibility and governments enforcing minimum working standards for agribusiness to the more drastic measurements of land reform – actually giving land back to ordinary people to farm on a small scale basis.

Relevance of this to A-level sociology

IMO this is one of the most important global development reports there is – it reminds us of the bigger picture in globalisation more generally – the world is becoming more interconnected and more and more people want a greater variety of cheap food.

Global agribusinesses have emerged to meet this demand and established themselves in several developing countries, buying up or leasing huge tracts of lands to mass produce the meat, grains, and fruit n veg we consumers want.

We get cheap food but at the cost of increasing land inequality, poverty, unemployment, forced migration to cities, the decline or indigenous cultures and depletion of the environment.

It’s a stark reminder of how the most basic need for food for some can lead to negative gloablisastion.

It’s also a good example of how neoliberal forms of globalisation don’t work effectively – leave food production to global market forces and look at the mess!

Maybe what we need for sustainable food production is more local food systems, and LESS globalisation?

A Covid vaccine for the rich, but not the poor?

Moderna is a BioTech company that has had some recent success with a covid-19 vaccine in clinical trials – vaccine mRNA 1273.

There’s a video about it here:

Moderna says it has the capacity to produce 1 billion shots of the vaccine in 2021 and has already sold most of those shots to rich governments, and stands to make an estimated $8 billion next year from the vaccine.

In one deal the US government has agreed to pay $1.5 billion for 100 million shots (pending agreement of emergency legislation in January). The U.S. also has the option to buy a further 500 million doses (it might take two shots per person to work, so that would cover most of the US population).

More recently Modern agreed a deal with the European Union for up to 160 million doses of the vaccine.

Poor countries set to miss out?

As this article from Global Justice Now points out most of this new vaccine has already been bought up by rich world government.

There doesn’t appear to be much hope that developing countries will gain access to this vaccine in 2021, given that those 1 billion shots the company can produce have already been reserved for richer countries.

The rich benefit

Global Justice Now also report (in the article linked above) that this new vaccine has been funded with nearly $2.5 billion of public money, but with governments paying at least another $8 billion on top of this, this really does seem to be a tidy profit for Moderna.

Moderna’s stock has been increasing ever since it started leaking news about positive progress being made on the vaccine, with two leading executives having cashed out shares and made $30 million each.

The stock continues to rise on the back of the deals being struck with western governments for courses of the vaccine. It has quintupled in value since it started work on the vaccine….

Relevance to global development

This topic is clearly relevant to health and development, and also several theories of development.

This is clearly an example of a Transnational Corporation playing a positive role in development – it is developing a vaccine that will help combat a global pandemic, but we need to go further….

This is also an argument against neoliberal theories of development – governments are very involved here – tax payers money has provided a seed fund for this company and it is governments agreeing to buy the vaccine.

Finally, this seems to support global pessimist theories of globalisation – it is governments with the money and thus people in rich countries who are initially going to benefit from this vaccine, the poor in poor countries are going to have to wait.

We don’t know yet how developing countries are going to pay for this vaccine – if they have to pay? Will it be donated, will it be funded with loans?

That remains to be seen, but for now it seems like it’s vaccines for the rich, nothing for the poor!

The Economic Consequences of Coronavirus (part 1)

what are the economic consequences of covid-19?

Coronavirus has had a negative effect on economic growth. Lockdown measures imposed by governments the world over have seen disruption to global supply chains, a decrease in international trade, an increase in unemployment, and a decrease in investment and global wealth in general.

Coronavirus has decreased global wealth

Probably the easiest way to summarise the economic consequences of coronavirus is to look at the impact it has had on Global Wealth, which I’ve already summarised in this blog post here.

Global Wealth has decreased by $8 trillion compared to where it was projected it would have been before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Personally I find this the most useful individual indicator, as it just takes one static gross snap shot figure and compares it with another, it’s very easy to understand.

Coronavirus has pushed most countries into recession

The latest data from the International Monetary Fund shows most countries with less than 0% GDP growth for 2020, so negative growth, that’s all countries in red below, accessed November 2020.

However, we need to look at a lot more figures to get a fuller picture.

Further reports emphasise the near universal negative consequences of Coronavirus:

This report (June 2020) by the World Bank predicts a 5% decrease in global GDP over the coming year, the largest decline since the 1870s, with all regions and countries showing significant cuts to their expected (pre-covid) economic growth rates.

The consequences of this economic slowdown which will be declining rates of investment, job losses and a corresponding decline in the rate social development in many developing countries.

Some sectors have been especially badly hit – the price of oil fell drastically with the Pandemic, but the agricultural sector has not been so badly effected. As a general rule, you might say that the less essential the sector, then the more it has been affected!

This report highlights that no country will escape the effects of Covid-19 unscathed, but China and Asia will probably fair better than the rest.

How Coronavirus Disrupted Global Supply Chains

The immediate impact of Coronavirus was a significant disruption to global supply chains, meaning that many global retailers struggled to maintain stocks of their products.

Supply chain problems also meant that manufacturers had to slow down or cease production of their products altogether, because they struggled to source raw materials.

Lockdown measures imposed in China in early 2020 were the main cause of this, because China is the world’s biggest manufacturer – it not only produces a lot of ‘end products’ (such as iPhones) but it also manufactures a lot of components that factories in other parts of the world need in the products they produce.

To find out more, this article by Bloomburg outlines how disruption to global supply chains impacted a variety of businesses all over the world – from watchmakers in Hong Kong to Lobster fishermen in New Zealand, it does a great job of highlighting the truly global effects of the Pandemic.

According to analysis of data on Tradeshift (a global supply platform) by the World Economic Forum global trade fell dramatically in February – April 2020. Chinese trade transactions fell by over 50% in March 2020, and the United States and Europe followed suit with a 26% drop in April, and a 17% drop after that.

The article suggests that as Chinese trade declined because of lockdown measures, global manufacturers struggled to source materials from other countries and so their production also slowed down.

What Coronavirus has revealed is that the world has become very dependent on China as the source of products – and when it goes into lockdown the rest of the world suffers.

The article further suggests that manufactures will probably look to diversify their supply bases in the future so as to be less dependent on China – and countries such as India, Vietnam and Mexico will probably be the main beneficiaries from this.

Another possible change might be more production in developed countries, further decentralising global supply networks,

So maybe the long term impact of globalisation will be a much more diverse form of economic globalisation (with China being less dominant) and maybe a reversal of the globalisation of manufacturing if we end up with more manufacturing taking place in developed countries?

The effects of Coronavirus on Transnational Corporations

A 2020 World Bank survey of Multinational Enterprises found that more than 90% had been negatively impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

75% reported decreasing reliability of supply chains (meaning more difficulty in producing stuff) and decreasing worker productivity.

Half of MNEs surveyed have cut investment in developing countries by an average of 30% and 40% have reduced employment by an average of 16% – so overall that’s an average reducing of 15% investment and around 7% in employment.

The report (linked above) calls on governments to provide tax breaks to MNEs as well as more deregulation, so in other words more neoliberalisation, which is unsurprising coming from the World Bank.

Not all sectors have been affected equally

As has been reported widely, sectors of the economy associated with travel and leisure, such as the oil and aviation sectors have been affected very badly, with the number of flights taken being significantly reduced.

However, one sector which is doing better, with the hope of a vaccine coming soon, is the Pharmaceutical sector:

NB – these aren’t the only economic consequences of Coronavirus – I will cover the human cost in a separate post, in which I focus on the disruption to people’s working lives – the small enterprises struggling with lockdown measures, and how so many people are struggling to cope with reduced income and job losses.

Selected Sources

World Economic Forum: Here’s how global supply chains will change after COVID-19

Bloomburg: The Virus is interrupting Supply Chains

Global Radio

One of the upsides of being on lockdown is that I discovered Radio Garden (which I keep referring to in my head as ‘lockdown radio’).

Radio Garden is a navigable world map of the world’s local and national radio stations. You can browse the globe for literally thousands of radio stations, represented as green dots, click on them and play whatever is being broadcast.

I can especially recommend ‘Arctic Radio’, the world’s most northerly radio station: ‘spinning the 78s at the 77 latitude, and ‘the best protection against hypothermia’

And I couldn’t resist checking out some of the island stations around Oceania either, which are (maybe unsurprisingly?) mostly British.

Radio Garden: The local and the global

This is a really fun (if you’re a bit of nerd) way to explore the parallel global and local worlds – if you click on enough stations you’ll realize the dominance of British music for example, but in certain countries there is a very national feel – Japan and India for example.

I get the feeling that these radio stations are a really useful way to illustrate the complex nature of globalisation, especially cultural globalisation.

There are some limitations of course – radio is not that popular as a form of global media, and this website doesn’t show you online radio, or multimedia livestreams.

So really, it is just a bit of fun, enjoy!

Credits

I discovered this wonderful site thanks to this post on the Hive blockchain.

Globalisation and migration

This post examines some of the sociological concepts sociologists have developed to describe the global patterns of migration

Globalisation is the idea that barriers between societies are disappearing and people are becoming increasingly interconnected across national boundaries.

Globalisation is the result of many processes including the growth of communication systems and global media, the creation of global markets, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the expansion of the European Union.

Many see globalisation as producing rapid social changes. One such change is increased international migration – the movement of people across borders. We can identify several trends in global migration.

Acceleration

There has been a speeding up of the rate of migration. For example according to the United Nations between 2000 and 2013 international migration increase by 33%, to reach 232 million, or 3.2% of the world’s population. In the same year, almost a million people either entered or left the UK.

Differentiation 

There are many types of migrant. These include permanent settlers, temporary workers, spouses or forced migrants such as refugees. Before the 1990s immigration to the UK came from a narrow range of former British colonies and these migrants tended to form a small number of stable, geographically concentrated and homogeneous ethnic communities.

However, since the 1990s globalisation has led to what Steven Vertovec (2007) has called super-diversity: even within a single ethnic group individuals may differ in terms of their legal status, culture or religion and be widely dispersed throughout the UK.

There are also class differences among migrants. Robin Cohen (2006) distinguishes three types of migrant:

  • Citizens-with full citizenship rights such as voting rights
  • Denizens– who are privileged people welcomed by the state – such as billionaire ‘oligarchs’ or highly paid employees of Transnational companies
  • Helots– the most exploited group – states and employers regard them as disposable units of labour power, a reserve army of labour. They are found in unskilled, poorly paid work and include illegally trafficked workers and legal workers such as domestic servants.

The Feminisation of migration

Almost half of all global migrants are female and the types of job they do tend to fit patriarchal stereotypes such that there is a global gendered division of labour.

Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild (2003) observe that care work, domestic work and sex work in the UK is increasingly done by women from poor countries. This is a result of western women increasingly joining the labour force and the failure of the state to provide adequate child care.

The resulting gap has been filled by women from poor countries. For example, 40% of adult care nurses in the UK are migrants and most of these are female.

There is also a global transfer of women’s emotional labour. For example, migrant nannies provide care and affection for their employers’ children at the expense of their own children left behind in their home country.

Migrant women also enter western countries as ‘mail order brides’ and some as the victims of sex-trafficking.

Transnational Identities

According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen(2007), globalisation has created more diverse migration patters, with back and forth movements of people through networks rather than permanent settlement in another country.

This results in such migrants being less likely to see themselves as belonging to one culture or another and instead they may develop transnational neither/ nor identities and loyalties. The globalised economy means that economic migrants may have more links to other migrants than to their country of origin or the country they are currently settled in. Such migrants are less likely to want to assimilate into the ‘host country’.

Sources

Sources used to write the above include information fromRob Webb et al’s  AS level Sociology book for the AQA.

Globalization and the Coronavirus

sociological perspectives on the coronavirus

Coronavirus is an extremely useful virus to illustrate perspectives on globalisation

Generally the rapidity of the spread from China to America and Europe demonstrate how interconnected we are: from the outset this very contagious virus was always going to be very difficult to stop.

Global Optimists might point to the importance of working collaboratively and internationally to share information and maybe find a vaccine: it’s pointless if every laboratory repeats work towards the vaccine goal, after all.

Global Pessimists might point to the role of just-in time supply lines in spreading the virus and how weak the capitalist economy is if a virus can cause such a profound economic crash.

This might also be a good example of the importance of the Nation State in managing the crisis, especially where health care is concerned – might vulnerable people without health insurance in the United States die if they catch the virus?

Traditionalists, or anti-globalists might use this as an opportunity to criticise gloablisation, especially the migration aspect of it, and use this crisis as a means to support view that we should be less reliant on global supply chains- they may have a point when it comes to the shelves in supermarkets being empty!

The rice isle in my local Tesco!

Maybe we need to look at becoming more self-reliant!

Whatever your perspective, this virus is certainly is a global problem!

The dumping of plastic waste – a green crime?

Only an estimated 9% of the world’s plastic waste is recycled. A further 12% is burnt and the rest, 79% is buried in land fill or just dumped.

China used to be the main dumping ground for the world’s rubbish, but it banned the import of plastic waste in 2017, which then lead to a surge in the amount of used plastic sent to other countries in South East Asia such as Malaysia.

In Malaysia, much of the world’s used plastic is either burnt, releasing toxic chemicals into the air or dumped in rivers, polluting local water supplies and ultimately the oceans.

The BBC recently made a documentary about the harmful effects of the vast plastic-waste mountains in Malaysia, caused by wealthier countries such as the UK not dealing with their plastic waste at home, but rather outsourcing its disposal to a poorer country, because it’s cheaper to do so.

green crime plastic waste
A pile of plastic waste somewhere in Malaysia

From a traditional criminology perspective there is nothing necessarily ‘criminal’ about a company in one country engaging in ‘law evasion’ by exporting plastic waste to a second company in another country with slacker environmental protection laws and then that second company burning or just dumping the waste –   it is up to each individual country to establish its own environmental laws, after all.

However, this case study may well be an example of a ‘green crime‘ from a green-criminological perspective – in the above example company A is knowingly doing something that will result in pollution and thus do environmental harm – even if it is thousands of miles away.

NB Malaysia recently announced that it will no longer accept imports of foreign rubbish, and has threatened to return 3000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste back to the U.K. other countries.

Sources 

The Week, 8 June 2019

 

Huge increase in Chinese students studying at UK universities – a funny kind of ‘globalisation’

The U.K. now issues more than 100 000 student visas per year to Chinese students studying at British universities, with the numbers of Chinese students studying in the UK increasing at about 5% a year since at least 2013-14

Chinese students are by far the largest non-European student group living temporarily in the UK for 3 years or so while they pursue their degree courses. The next largest university feeder country outside of Europe is India, but only 20 000 student visas are issued to Indian students per year.

Moreover, if you look at the stats below, taken from the Higher Education Student Statistics Authority (nice ring to it that!) you can see that Chinese students are the only group from outside Europe who are coming into the UK in increasing numbers. Every other country is sending very similar numbers now compared to 2013-14.

Now to my mind this seems to be more a trend towards increasing bilateralism between China and UK universities, and if anything evidence of stagnant or even a decline in the ‘globalisation of British Higher Education’.

Relevance to A-level Sociology 

This is most obviously relevant to the sociology of education module, especially useful as some quite nuanced evidence against the globalisation of education (IF like me you don’t think just two countries enhancing links between them is globalisation)

Problems of researching globalisation

Globalisation refers to the increasing interconnectedness of different regions across the world. Globalisation is one of the core themes within AQA A-level sociology, while research methods is a compulsory element.

It follows that the exam board could legitimately ask a question about the problems of researching globalisation. This post is just a few thoughts on how you might answer an exam question, which would probably be in the form of a 10 mark ‘Outline and explain two problems’ type question.

problems researching globalisation.png

Two problems of researching globalisation

The first problem is that globalisastion is a difficult concept to define and operationalise. Sociologists disagree over what aspects are the most significant and worthy of study – economic, cultural and political globalisation are all possibilities. There is also disagreement over whether it’s a one way or two way process and whether it necessarily means the decline of the nation state.

This partly stems from the fact that it’s such an enormous process, reaching across the whole world,

Even within one aspect of globalisation such as economic globalisation there are so many things that we could look at to study – such as TNCs, GDP, the international division .of labour, free-trade policies, the WTO and so on, that it’s difficult to decide what to select as an indicator of globalisation.

These differences of opinion over what aspects of globalisation to focus on means that everyone ends up defining globalisastion differently and researching different things.

This means it’s hard to make sense of all the research on globlisation, hard to make comparisons, and hard to escape from the biases of the people who have selected different things to focus on.

As a result, new researchers can pretty much find justification for researching anything in relation to this topic, which can make the study of globalisation a bit ‘postmodern’ and lacking objectivity, direction, clarity and certainty.

A second problem is that it’s difficult to get data from every country, let alone every region in the world. There might be lots of official statistics collected in developed countries, but this is not the case in less developed countries.

In poorer regions of the world, there might not even be reliable information on birth and death statistics, making it difficult to keep track of even the most basic information. Another example is that school enrolment stats in many regions of Africa are notoriously invalid as an indicator of how many children attend school – they may enrol, but many fail to attended afterwards, meaning such stats could not be used to measure the quality of education globally.

Stats might also be collected in different ways – categories of crime might be different in different countries, or not even recorded in the case of lawless states. Governments are also well known for under-reporting war-deaths, especially civilian casualties, meaning it’s a problem to measure trends in global peacefulness.

If you’re doing qualitative research to make global comparisons, some countries might be hard to access because of conflicts, or simply time it would take to adjust to local cultures and languages and it would be difficult to do research in several countries at once within an appropriate time frame.

This could be overcome by employing teams of researchers in different countries, but this would mean more expense, be difficult to co-ordinate and you’d have to make sure everyone is researching in a similar way, which, given the problems with defining globalisation, could also be a tough call.