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Russia’s ‘Managed’ Democracy

Pre-script… I wrote this before the Russian elections, time-released it and then put it back so it ended up being published after the elections…which was maybe an effort on my part! Anyway, it is what it is, sort of a testament to postmodernity, sort of… Putin won of course!

Russian elections are coming up in March, and given that Russia is one of the BRIC nations, and thus relevant to the A-level sociology module on global development, I thought it worth doing a quick post…..

Technically Russia is a democracy, and has been since 1993, because presidential elections are held every 6 years, and there’s an elected parliament and an ‘independent’ judiciary.

However, in reality it’s more of a ‘managed democracy’: those in power rely heavily on the Oligarchs who control Russian business and the media to pre-determine election results. This happened initially with the first elected President, Boris Yeltsin, and even more so with his chosen successor, Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since the year 2000. If he wins this year’s presidential election, he’ll remain there until 2024.

Putin has been very successful in managing democracy – through media manipulation he remains very popular, with policies which are strong on cutting down on ‘gangsta capitalism’ and an aggressive foreign policy – however, he also uses ‘blatant corruption’ tactics to stay in power, as when he bused supporters to different polling stations to stuff ballot boxes in the 2011-12 elections, which led to protests, to which he responded by banning protests, unless you get a permit, which are often refused.

Is there any chance Putin will lose the next election in March?

His main opposition is from a guy called Alexi Navanly – a nationalist with an anti-immigration stance, his main problem being that less than half of Russians seem to know who he is due to Putin’s control of the mainstream media.

However, there is a possibility that Putin’s inability to allow any genuine alternatives in opposition could be his downfall as more and more young people turn to the online sources for their information about politics in Russia.

Sources:

The Week, 2nd Sept 2017

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Mexican government still struggling to control drugs cartels

There were 29,168 recorded murders in Mexico in 2017, or 20 murders for every 100, 000 of the population, more than at the height of the country’s drug war in 2011. (Source: The Guardian).

This dismal new record is being blamed on intense drug-related violence and turf wars – owing in particular to the rise and spread of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Jalisco Cartel

Analysts also believe the spike could be related to a number of autonomous groups emerging in the vacuum created by the capture of several major cartel bosses.

This is of obvious relevance to the Crime and Deviance aspect of A-level sociology – it demonstrates the continued power of organised (or dis-organised?) crime in countries through which drugs travel and the relative powerlessness of nation states to get this problem under control!

To put Mexico’s homicide rate in context, it’s more than 20* higher than the UKs, and yet smaller than Brazil’s and Colombia’s (27/ 100, 000) and El Salvador’s, which stands at 60.8 per hundred thousand.

Further sources used: 

The Week, 27 January 2017.

 

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Evidence of Increasing Globalisation

Just a quick round up of some of the evidence/ news items I’ve stumbled across which suggest that globalisation is happening. It’s up to you to decide how valid, reliable and representative this evidence is. 

NB – this is also my first experiment with a long-term time-release system for posting ‘shorter’ news-items – I’m going to schedule this just ahead of the time I teach globalisation in the college year) 

According to The Week (July 2017) 7/10 British children have their first experience of foreign travel before the age of five, and by the age of eight, 1/10 of them own their own smart phone (which will connect them to global media flows).

By contrast, just 12% of over-50s had been abroad by the time they were five: on average, they were 14 when they first went abroad.

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The Global Peace Index – What is it and How Useful Is It?

The Global Peace Index uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure the state of peace using three thematic domains:

  • the level of Societal Safety and Security;
  • the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict;
  • the degree of Militarisation.

Global Peace Index 2017.png

The data is collated by the Institute for Economics and Peace – a think tank which develops metrics to analyse peace and to quantify its economic value. It does this by developing global and national indices of ‘peacefulness’, analysing country level risk, and calculating the economic cost of violence, and the positive benefits of peace.

Some of the findings from the most recent 2017 report include an analysis of the most significant ‘positive peace’ factors which result in increasing peacefulness, and the finding that decreasing peacefulness is correlated with increasing populism in Europe.

The Institute for Economics and Peace says its aim is to ‘create a paradigm shift in the way the world thinks about peace. We use data driven research to show that peace is a positive, tangible and achievable measure of human well-being and development.’

You can explore the Global Peace Index and download the full 2017 report for free on the Institute for Economics and Peace’s dedicated website – Vision of Humanity

Selected Key Findings of the 2017 Global Peace Index

Trends in peacefulness since 2016

  • the global level of peace has slightly improved this year by 0.28 per cent, with 93
    countries improving, while 68 countries deteriorated.

world peace 2017

  • Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the index by New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, and Denmark.

global peace index top 30

  • Syria remains the least peaceful country in the world, preceded by Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, and Yemen.

global peace index bottom 30

The Ten Year Trend in Peacefulness 

  • global peacefulness has deteriorated by 2.14 per cent since 2008, with 52 per cent of GPI countries recording a deterioration, while 48 per cent improved.

decline world peace

  • the domain that deteriorated the most over the ten-year period was Safety and Security, with 61 per cent of countries recording a deterioration.
  • the domain with the largest improvement was Militarisation where 60 per cent of countries became less militarised over the past decade.
  • Most of the detiororation in peacefulness is because of increasing terrorism and decreasing political stability in the MENA region; if this region were excluded from global peace indicators, the world would in fact be more peaceful!
  • The heightened media attention on conflict in the Middle East, refugee flows and terrorism in Europe has meant several positive trends have not been as widely covered. Two of the more positive trends from the last decade are decreases in the homicide rate and improvements in the Political Terror Scale which measures state sponsored violence and torture, where 2/3rds of countries improved.
declining militarisation
Reasons to be hopeful? The worldwide decline in militarization.

The economic costs of violence 

  • The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2016 was $14.3 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP),
  • This is equivalent to 12.6 per cent of the world’s economic activity (gross world product), or $1,953 for every person.
  • The economic impact of war was $1.04 trillion. Peacebuilding expenditure is estimated to be approximately $10 billion, or less than one per cent of the cost of war.
  • The impact of violence for the ten least peaceful countries was equivalent to 37 per cent of their GDP. This compares to only three per cent in the ten most peaceful.

NB – What’s above is just an overview – I strongly recommend you explore the data further at Vision of Humanity!

How Useful is the Global Peace Index in helping us to understand development?

Strengths

On the plus side, the data seems to be non-partisan, in the sense that there doesn’t seem to be undue influence in the data selection process from developed countries – there is a heavy peace-score penalty which some of the most developed countries pay for high levels of military expenditure – most notably the United States.

Also, if we can trust the data and the number-crunching, then there is a clear correlation between sustained peacefulness in a country and that country’s level of development, and so monitoring levels of peacefulness and violence seems to be one of the most important goals in global development.

The Global Peace Index covers a lot of indicators – and the reports break them down to look at individual indicators, so you get a certain level of insight into the levels of peacefulness and violence.

I do like the focus on ‘positive peace’ and the fact that the report recognizes high levels of military expenditure as retarding investment in more positive aspects of development.

Limitations 

On the downside, I’m not convinced that all of the data is 100% valid – there has to be a lot of differences in the way data is recorded from country to country, especially in war-zones, so lots of missing conflict-deaths no doubt. This means making comparisons is difficult.

Also, I’m not sure they’ve included a broad enough range of indicators – the fact that Qatar creeps in at number 30 makes me suspicious, also – is violence against women included?

Also, I’m not clear about how the data is weighted – there’s lots of talk in the report about ‘multiplying factors’, and I don’t know enough about the maths behind the indices to evaluate how valid these calculations are.

 

 

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Globalisation and Global Development: Good Resources

Some useful links to good teaching resources for Globalisation and Global Development.

Good resources providing an overview of global trends and global inequalities:

Firstly, this 2016 video imagines the world as 100 people, and so illustrates what percentage of people live on less than $2 a day and so on (once you get through the ‘basic’ stuff on ethnicity/ religion etc…

A few stand-out facts are:

  • 1% of the population own 50% of the world’s wealth
  • 15% don’t have access to clean water
  • less than 50% have access to the internet

Secondly, Worldometers provides real time world statistics on population, the environment, food, health and media and society.

Global Statistics

A few stand-out facts are…..

  • The total number of malnourished people in the world is decreasing!
  • The total number of people with no access to clean drinking water is also decreasing!
  • HOWEVER, we’re losing approximately 20 HA a minute to desertification and 10 HA a minute to deforestation, which could undermine both of the above in the future.

Good resources for researching individual countries

  • The United Nation’s Country Profiles are probably the most accessible place to start – each country’s page gives you basic development indicators which you can then click on to expand.
  • The World Bank’s Open Data is also useful – follow the link and you can either search or browse by country.
  • The CIA World Fact Book is a useful source for more qualitative information on a country by country by country basis, organised into various categories such as geography, population, economics, politics and so on…

Good Resources for tracking ‘Indicators of Development’

Good Resources for other aspects of global development

More to follow shortly!

 

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Responses to Globalization

Seabrook (1) argues there are three principle responses to globalization:

Fatalism

A fatalistic response, which states that the world is simply powerless to resist globalization. Seabrook argues that most leaders of the developed world take the position that globalization is inevitable and irreversible. He suggests these leaders are experiencing an ‘impotence of convenience’ – their confessed powerlessness disguises the fact that the forces of globalization economically advantage their countries and their economic elites.

Reasserting Local Identity

Some cultures may attempt to resist globalization by reasserting local identity. This may involve deliberately highlighting and celebrating local folklore and languages. For example the French government have banned words such as ‘email’, ‘takeaway’ and now ‘hashtag’ and imposed a ‘culture tax’ on cinemas showing non-French films. Another aspect of this trend is ‘commodification’ in which local populations package and sell aspects of their local traditional cultures – for example members of the Masai tribe in Kenya perform for tourists, after carefully removing their trainers and watches to make the whole thing more authentic.

Violent Resistance 

A final response is the emergence of violent resistance, mostly in the developing world, as some peoples interpret globalization as an assault on their identity. Seabrook argues that this is how we should understand terrorism – not as a response to poverty, but as a response to the ‘supposed miracle working, wealth-creating propensities of globalism’ as some religious and ethnic groups resist globalization because their interpret the West as having declared an ideological war on local cultures.

Sources used to write this post

(1) Chapman et al (2016)

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Globalization and Flip-Flops

flip flopThe Flip Flop Trail is a relatively recent (2014) anthropological study by Professor Caroline Knowles, in which she explores the day to day lives of the people involved with the manufacture, distribution, consumption and disposal of the humble ‘flip-flop’.

Professor Knowles has been following the flip-flop trail since at least 2006 (so that’s over ten years now!), and chose to study it because it’s the world’s most popular shoe: ‘everyone owns a pair of flip-flops’. I’d like to be smug and say I don’t at this point, but actually I do.

This has to be one of the best multi-layered resources available for introducing the basic idea of a ‘global commodity chain’ (1) a key aspect of economic globalization, while simultaneously showing how deeply-complex such commodity chains are once we start trying to incorporated the study of the people actually involved with the process.

Flip Flop.png

The web site (The Flip Flop Trail – I suggest you check it out!) offers a kind of ‘overview of insights’ into the many stages of the trail… from the manufacture of oil (‘globalization is oil!’), to ‘plastic city’ in China where the flip flops are made, and then on to Ethiopia, the country with the largest demand for cheap footwear, where consumption and disposal are explored.

The web site doesn’t even touch on the UK, but as Professor Knowles, says, this is just one of many trails, and it’s pretty much inevitable that many of our flip flops have travelled parts of this same trail.

This is a useful resource to demonstrate the complexity of economic globalization, and to demonstrate the transformationalist view of globalization, as it shows the many and dynamic ways in which flip-flops are interwoven with local cultures.

However, students may like to consider whether this kind of analysis is really that useful…. it might be better to be more critical? To highlight the extent of inequality along certain parts of the trail, or maybe focus on developing a green-critique of the whole process, for example?

NB – I haven’t read the book, it’s only just stopped being prohibitively expensive, so it might be more critical than I’m expecting.

(1) I’m fairly sure, given her transformationalist leanings that Knowles uses the term ‘trail’ rather than ‘chain’ to denote her view that globalization is precarious.

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Globalisation – Key Concepts and Definitions

Communism – an economic system in which the means of production are owned in common and wealth distributed according to need.

Cosmopolitanism – where people or societies are tolerant of other people’s or societies’ ways of life and values; this is one of the positive consequences of globalisation as people increasingly come into contact with other ways of life and make an effort to enter into dialogue with diverse cultures and find ways to ‘live together’. Related concepts include reflexivity and detraditionalisation. The opposite of cosmopolitanism is fundamentalism.

Cultural Globalisation – the movement of ideas, attitudes, meanings, values and cultural products across national borders.

Deregulation – removing restrictions on businesses, for example reducing health and safety regulations.

De-traditionalisation – where people have increasing choice about whether to stick to traditional ways of life; traditions become less stable as people increasingly question their traditional beliefs about religion, marriage, and gender roles and so on.

Economic Globalisation – the global expansion of international capitalism, free markets and the increase in international trade.

Fatalism (Fatalistic Response to Globalisation) – the view that the world is powerless to resist globalisation.

Global Commodity Chains – where networks of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services becomes increasingly stretched across the globe. The making of the physical products tends to be done in poorer countries, whereas the branding and marketing, tend to be done in the richer countries.

Global Risk Consciousness – where people in different countries are increasingly aware of and affected by international threats such as terrorism, nuclear war and global warming. There are two elements to risk consciousness (it pulls in two directions) – one is that we are more fearful and wish to ‘retreat’ from such problems and the other is that we are increasingly brought together in our attempts to overcome such threats.

Globalisation – the increasing interconnectedness and inter-dependency of the world’s nations and their people into a single global, economic, political and global system.

Glocalisation – where people in developing countries select aspects of western culture and adapt them to their particular needs – associated with Transformationalism and critical of the pessimist theory that globalisation results in Americanisation.

Golden Straightjacket – Thomas Friedman’s term for the neoliberal policies countries must adopt if they are to experience economic growth and prosperity.

Ha-Joon Chang – a global pessimist who believes neoliberal policies primarily benefits wealthy countries and harm developing countries; referred to the WTO, World Bank and IMF as the ‘unholy trinity’.

Homogenisation – things becoming increasingly the same; in global terms, the erosion of local cultures and the emergence of one global mono-culture.

Hybridised Global Identities – where identities are increasingly a result of picking and mixing from different cultural traditions around the globe; implies more individual freedom to choose identity and greater diversity; associated with transformationalist theories of globalisation.

Hyper-Globalism – believe that globalisation is happening and that local cultures are being eroded primarily because of the expansion of international capitalism and the emergence of a homogenous global culture; believe that globalisation is a positive process characterised by economic growth, increasing prosperity and the spread of democracy.

Imperialism – where one dominant country takes over and controls another country or countries.

Jeremy Seabrook – a pessimist globalist who believes that globalisation is a ‘declaration of war’ upon local cultures as the expansion of western culture around the world destroys local cultures and reduces cultural diversity.

McWorld – refers specifically to the spread of McDonalds’ restaurants throughout the world; and more generally to the process of Mcdonaldisation which underpins this – i.e. the increasing standardisation of corporate products and the emergence of a global, Americanised monoculture.

Neoliberalism – a set of right wing economic policies which reduce the power of governments and give more freedom to private enterprise – the three main neoliberal policies are deregulation, privatisation and lowering taxation.

Political Globalisation – the process where the sovereignty of nation states is reduced due to the increasing power of International Institutions, such as the United Nations.

Post Industrial Economy – an economy in which the service sector generates more wealth than the manufacturing of physical products. In such an economy more people will be employed in sectors such as leisure, education, business/ finance, and creative industries rather than in manufacturing.

Postmodernity – a globalised society with the following characteristics: a technologically advanced, mainly post-industrial service sector economy, high levels of consumption, lots of individual freedom to shape identities through consumption, and correspondingly high levels of cultural diversity; media-saturation and hyperreality; high levels of insecurity and uncertainty.

Privatisation – the transfer of publicly (state) owned enterprises to private sector companies.

Social Movements – groups of people and/ or organisations who aim to help oppressed groups overcome oppression or change society in some way, believed to be beneficial. Global social movements involve co-operation of people across national borders, and their aims may sometimes clash with those of some national governments.

Thomas Freidman – an optimist globalist who believes that the world wide adoption of neoliberal policies by governments have resulted in economic globalisation, more trade between nations and increasing prosperity for all.

Time-Space Compression – where the world ‘feels smaller’ as we are able to communicate with people in faraway places more instantaneously.

Transformationalism – a theory which holds that globalisation is a complex process involving a number of different two-way exchanges between global institutions and local cultures; it can be reversed and controlled.

United Nations – an international organization formed in 1945 to increase political and economic cooperation among member countries. The organization works on economic and social development programs, improving human rights and reducing global conflicts (source: Investovepida).

Weightless Economy – refers to information based/ electronic products such as computer software, films and music, and information and financial services rather than actual tangible, physical goods such as food, clothing or cars. Such products can be produced, bought and sold much more rapidly than traditional, physical products, and thus trade in them is much more rapid, hence the term ‘weightless economy’.

Related Posts 

Factors Contributing to Globalisation (Giddens)

What is Cultural Globalisation?

What is Economic Globalisation?

What is Political Globalisation?

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Kenichi Ohmae, The Borderless World – Neoliberal Radical Globalism

Harlambos (2013) describes Kenichi Ohmae as ‘one of the most uncompromising and wholeheartedly enthusiastic advocates of globalisation from a right-wing neoliberal perspective who sees economic change as the driving force of globalisation’

The interlinked economy 

According to Ohmae (1994) political boarders are becoming less and less important, as countries increasingly form a giant, interlinked economy – this is especially true of the most developing countries, such as America, Europe and Japan, and these being joined by rapidly developing countries such as Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Ohmae argues that in the Interlinked Economy, corporations and consumers are more closely connected across boarders than ever, and politicians, bureaucrats and the military are declining in importance.

All of this has happened because of the opening up of the world economy and increasing trade between nations, which in turn has been driven by rapid developments in communication technologies – the rise of the internet has made it easier for people to see what people in other countries consume, and has made it much easier to buy products from other countries too.

Governments are no longer able to control information coming into their country, and thus they cannot control demand for foreign goods. If people see better standards of products being produced and consumed abroad they want them, and governments are increasingly powerless to prevent international trade in goods. According to Ohmae, this is not only good for the consumer, but good for the economy as well.

Global Citizens and Regional Links

Individuals have become global citizens through their consumption habits – they want to buy the best and cheapest products where ever they are made, and any government who tried to prevent this happening would risk upsetting millions of potential voters.

On the supply side, regional economic links have become more important than national ties – many Californian companies, for example, have more ties with Asian companies than ones in other parts of the USA.

Ohmae also believes that Transnational Corporations do not see themselves as being rooted in one country – if they did, this would be to their disadvantage – in order to maximize their profits, they have to think about global markets and adapt products to fit different local demands.

Because of all of the above factors, governments have largely lost their ability to control their economies.

Governments and Consumers 

Ohame argues that the global economy also makes the use of military force less likely – if you attack your neighbour, the chances are you will be destroying some of the assets of your citizens, and their destruction will only result in a downturn in economic growth for you, since we are all economically interdependent.

Ohame believes that role and function of the nation state today is limited to that of producing the conditions in which consumers, worker and corporations can thrive in a global economy. They are still necessary to provide an infrastructure such as roads and  legal system, for example.

Above all, though, they need to provide a good standard of education for their citizens, as Ohmae believes economic success results from having a highly educated, entrepeneurial and well informed population.

Evaluation

  • Ohame ignores the role of nation states in controlling trade across their boarders – the three biggest trading blocks of Japan, North America and the EU, for example continue to restrict trade with nations outside.
  • He understates the role of military power in geo-politics. States not only have a monopoly of violence in their own territories, the USA and Russia have recently used military force abroad.
  • According to global pessimists, he overstates the power of consumers – global Corporations and bankers have more power.

Relate Posts 

Global Optimism

Sources 

Haralambos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives

 

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Does Globalisation mean the Decline of the Nation State?

In the early stages of Globalisation (1600 -1950s especially) Nation States were very powerful – Colonialism for example was led by European governments and monarchies and the most serious conflicts tended to be between nation states – culminating in World War 2. However, since then, many globalisation theorists argue that increasing global flows in trade and communications have reduced the relative power of Nation States…..

Evidence for the power of Nation States declining

  • National Governments increasingly face problems that are too big for them to deal with on their own – examples of such global problems include – dealing with these problems increases the need to co-operate and reduces the power of individual nation states environmental problems, international terrorism, drug and people trafficking and the threat of global pandemics.
Are nation states too small to deal with the problem of global warming?
  • The United Nations and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – limits the power of Nations to restrict the freedoms of individuals. Linked to this we have an international court where some dictators have been tried for crimes such as genocide.
  • Global Social Movements such as the green movement and the occupy movement are increasingly interconnected – which are critical of nation states – also part of ‘cultural globalisation’.
  • Some Transnational Corporations are bigger than Nation States – and so wield power over them – BP for example makes £25 billion profit every year and employs thousands of British workers – it is so crucial to the UK economy that the government has little choice but to keep it sweet, and the same is the case with many of our largest banks.
  • The power of United Nations to make any real change in the world is limited. The recent war in Iraq shows that powerful nations will go to war even when the United Nations does not back these wars.

Evidence for Nation States still retaining power

  • The World’s leading Nation States still maintain huge military capacity – the US spends more than $680 billion in 2010 on its military and Britain maintains a standing peace-time army of around 100 000 troops.
Only the richest nation states can afford these
  • Pessimists argue that the World Trade Organisation simply represent the interests of the most powerful nations – namely America.
  • ‘National Identity’ is still important to billions of people – there is a trend to more nation states – as present nations divide.
  • Brexit and the election of Donald Trump also suggest an increase in the number of people wanting to restrict the free-migration of people, no other institution can realistically do this, other than the nation state.