Globalisation and Global Development

Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Karl Thompson

A Level Sociology Globalisation | A Level Sociology Global Development

Links to posts on defining globalisation, theories of globalisation; defining and measuring development, theories of development (modernisation, dependency, world-systems theory, neoliberalism, post-development); aid, trade and development; industrialisation and urbanisation, education, employment, gender and health as aspects of development; and the relationship between war and conflict, population, consumption and the environment and development.

Global development (2)

In A-Level Sociology, this module deals with some of the following questions…

Why are some countries rich and others poor, and how can it be that so many people in the world are suffering from poverty, lack of education, lack of clean water, disease and war and conflict, while at the same time others in the world lives live of relative ease and comfort?

What if anything should and can rich and poor countries do to help the plight of the poorest, and is it actually possible for global humanity to manage and control the various global challenges we face – not only the immediate problems of poverty, hunger and disease, war and conflict, but human rights abuses and international migration, terrorism and other global crimes, and the environmental crisis?

Introductory Posts

Globalisation and Global Development – Good Resources – some good ‘hub sites’ which I recommend for exploring global development further – including links to agencies which monitor global development, such as the United Nations and the World Bank, as well as a whole range of Non Government Organisations and independent development thinkers. Very much a work in progress (as of August 2017) and being updated constantly.

Trends in global wealth inequality and povertyinequalities in global wealth have been increasing in recent years – this post explores some of the statistics on global wealth and poverty and introduces some possible explanations and solutions. 

Defining Globalisation and Theories of Globalisation

Globalisation – Key Concepts and DefinitionsGlobalisation is one of the most contested words in the English language, so it should come as no surprise that sociologists have invented lots of concepts to describe it. This post provides some basic definitions of concepts such as ‘Americanisation’ and ‘Coca-Colonisation’.

Factors Contributing to Globalisation This is a relatively neutral account of the technological, economic and cultural factors which have contributed to globalisation from Anthony Giddens.

What is Cultural Globalisation? This post explores processes such as cultural aspects of migration, the globalisation of food, sport and consumption as well as the globalisation of risk. It also explores detraditionalisation and asks whether or not there is any such thing as a global culture or global village emerging.

What is Economic Globalisation? Class notes exploring the growth of international trade, the growth of transnational institutions such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, Transnational Corporations and the emergence of an international division of labour.

What is Political Globalisation? It’s a bit of a clumsy term – but the emergence of institutions such as the United Nations and the spread of liberal democracy around the world could be examples of political globaliastion.

The Optimist View of Globalisation – Optimists believe that increasing globalisation is beneficial for the vase majority of people in the vast majority of countries. This post outlines some of the evidence that supports this view, such as the relationship between increasing global trade and rapid economic development of many countries since the 1950s.

Kenichi Ohmae – Radical Hyper-Globalism – A good example of an optimistic globalist stand point

The Pessimist View of Globalisation – Associated with Marxism and Dependency Theory – Pessimists tend to see globalisation as being a one way process in which the rich get richer at the expense of the poorer. Globalisation is viewed as primarily being about increasing exploitation and inequality.

The Transformationalist View of Globalisation – probably the most sensible view – the idea that Globalisation is complex and unpredictable and that it is a two way process in which new cultural forms are continually emerging and transforming.

The Traditionalist View of Globalisation – There is some evidence that globalisation has been exaggerated – there are regions of the world which are largely excluded from global processes for example, and it might be more accurate to talk of regionalism rather than globalisation if we’re describing global trade flows.

Does Globalisation Mean the Decline of the Nation State? There are some global problems which require global co-ordination to tackle – such as global warming. This could mean the power of nation states to simply do their own thing is declining. However, there is also an argument that nation states are vital institutions in tackling global problems and helping people adjust to the changes brought about by globalisation.

Defining and Measuring Development

Defining Development – detailed class notes covering an introduction to the concepts of ‘development’ and ‘underdevelopment, exploring commonly used categorisations of countries such as more developed, newly industrialised and the least developed countries. This post also explores the cold-war origins of the concepts of first, second and third worlds and Eduardo Galeano’s criticisms of the supposed superiority of western capitalist-industrialist models of ‘development’.

Economic indicators of developmentGross National Income is often used as the primary indicator of development, this post explores some of the strengths and limitations of relying on it.

The Human Development Index – A combination of economic and social indicators of development used by the United Nations – combines GNI with life expectancy and years spent in school to provide a ‘development score’ for each country.

The Millennium Development Goals – what were the Millennium Development Goals, how did they measure development, and how much progress was made up to 2015?

The Global Peace Index – What is it, and How Useful is it? The Global Peace Index scores countries on how peaceful they are – using dozens of indicators such as military expenditure, number of war deaths and numbers of protests among other things. There is a case to be made that peacefulness is a useful indicator of development because lack of peace (i.e. war and conflict) are the main things which prevent development. More debatable is how valid the GPI is!

The United States – an underdeveloped country? For some reason Americans think they live in one of the most advanced countries on earth, but by many indicators of social development, they appear to be a less developed country.

Theories of development 

Theories of development ask two basic questions: why are poor countries poor, and what strategies should they adopt to develop. For A level sociology you need to know about four basic theories: Modernization theory, Dependency (and World Systems) theory, Neoliberalism and People Centred Development, aka Post-Development. It would also be useful to have an understanding of Paul Collier’s Bottom Billion Theory and Jeffrey Sach’s work on the End of Poverty, as these build on and critique these previous four theories. 

Modernization Theory – detailed class notes –  Modernization theory emerged in America in the 1940s, and argued that the ‘third world’ was poor because of a number of internal barriers to development. They needed assistance from Western business and governments in order to provide the fuel for industrialization and to kick start the process of economic growth. 

Modernisation Theory – revision Notes – a much briefer version of the post above. 

Dependency Theory – detailed class notes –  popular in the 1970s Dependency Theory is basically a Marxist theory of development which holds that the poverty in the developing world is due to a 400 year history of slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism imposed on the rest of the world by European powers: the last 400 years of history has been a process through which Europe got rich by exploiting the rest of the world, keeping them poor. It follows that Dependency Theory holds that poor countries need to break away from the exploitative relations with the west and find their own revolutionary pathways to development – through socialism or nationalism for example. 

Evaluate explanations of development and underdevelopment put forward by dependency theoristsan essay plan designed for A-level Sociology which covers both dependency and world systems theory, with evaluations from other theories of development

World Systems TheoryProbably best thought of as an extension of Dependency Theory – suggests the world is split into three zones – core – semi-periphery and periphery – which are locked into a chain of exploitation. The periphery can rise up, but only at the expense of other countries falling back down. More than any other theory, this sees the global capitalist system of production as the problem.

Neoliberalism – Very popular as a model of development in the 1970s and 1980s – this holds that there are three main things a country needs to do to develop – deregulate, privatise and lower taxes – it sees more free trade, less government interference and fewer restrictions on business as the path the development. Neoliberalism is very critical of the role of government aid in development.

The consequences of neoliberalism in India – a summary of aspects of Arundhati Roy’s ‘Capitalism: A Ghost Story’

Post-Development Perspectives – critique the notion that what the West has labelled ‘less developed countries’ need to ‘develop’ at all.

People Centred Development – argues that development should have three main principles – social justice, inclusivity and sustainability, the former tow mainly meaning development should be led by local peoples with them setting the agenda.

Paul Collier – The Bottom Billion – In this extremely well-researched book Collier argues that the poorest 50 countries on earth remain poor because they are caught in four ‘traps’ which keep them poor…. he also considers what developing countries should do to help these remaining poor countries develop.

Why Nations Fail – A summary of a recent book which gives an alternative explanation to the above ‘standard’ theories of underdevelopment. Essentially it argues that countries are underdeveloped because they have a history of extractive institutions.

Sustainable Development – a core part of the United Nations Development Agenda, sustainable development involves attaining economic and social development without harming the environment. There are several debates about how this can be realised most effectively – from ‘technocentric models’ of development involving large scale renewable energy projects for example, to more ‘ecocentric models’ which emphasise the reducing of consumption and a return to more traditionally, locally based ways of live. NB this is a huge topic, and this post only scratches the surface!

Aid, Trade and Development

Arguments for Trade as a Strategy for Development – There is a strong correlation between high volumes of trade and development. Simply put, the more goods or services a country can sell at home or abroad, the more money it has coming in to fund social development.

Arguments against Trade as a Strategy for Development – This post explores some of the reasons why Trade doesn’t always work for developing countries. All too often, in the developing world, trade has meant extraction of natural resources, exploitation through poor wages and more recently pollution.

Double Standards in ‘Free’ Trade – a summary of one of the ways in which global trade rules work against developing countries – European countries subsidise their farmers to grow wheat, this then gets dumped on poor countries in Africa. Meanwhile the same African countries sign trade deals (often in exchange for Aid money) which prevent them from subsidising their own farmers growing similar products to wheat. This is quite a complex topic, well explained in the video I’ve summarised in this post!

Fair Trade and Development – The FairTrade Foundation emerged in response to unfair global trade rules working against developing countries, and its aim is to make Trade work more effectively for workers in developing countries – this post explores how Fair Trade works and some of the reasons why it doesn’t always work effectively to promote development!

A Summary of This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein (first five chapters) – Naomi Klein provides some very clear evidence that neoliberal free-trade policies promoted by the World Trade Organisation are causing global warming. She further argues that governments (at the national and local level) need to regulate Transnational Corporations in order to protect the environment. Basically she argues against ‘Free Trade’ policies. 

Trade and Development updates for 2021 – This is a huge topic, so worthy of an update post in itself!

Different types of Development Aid – For the purposes of A-level sociology, there are three main types of aid – official development aid (government aid), Non-Governmental Organisation Aid (from charities) and Private Aid – from businesses and individuals. The former tends to be much more significant in terms of money available.

Useful tools for tracking how the UK Government spends international development aid – a couple of sites and tools from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website that allow you to dive into how official development aid money is being spent by county and by topic area (whether it’s on health, education or so on).

Arguments for Official Development Aid – ODA is aid from governments in around 30 developed countries and is worth over $100 billion year to developing countries. Many development professionals and governments believe the West has not only a moral commitment to provide aid to poorer countries, but also that aid is necessary to help kick start economies and lift poorer peoples out of poverty traps. (NB this post focuses on aid for development, not disaster relief aid which is different!

Criticisms of Official Development Aid – Neoliberals argue that aid doesn’t work effectively in too many countries and creates perverse incentives, Dependency Theorists think Aid is really a tool to advantage the West, enabling more control over poorer countries, while People Centred Development theorists criticise aid for not always being relevant to the people receiving it.

The role of NGOs in development – NGOs or non Governmental Organisations are charities such as Oxfam. They tend to work closely with local peoples and often have a very specific focus: ‘Water Aid’ for example focuses on water and sanitation, ‘War Child’ focuses on helping children in war afflicted countries.

The strengths and limitations of NGO Aid – their strengths come from their small scale size – they are much more in touch with local peoples and know how to make aid money work for effectively because of their in-depth local knowledge. However, they also have their limitations – their budgets are significantly smaller than those of governments, for example, so their reach and impact are limited.

The role of international organisations in development

What are Transnational Corporations? (TNCs) – these are businesses that operate in more that one country. Some of them have enormous revenues and are household names – such as Walmart or Shell, for example. These organisations have considerable power and influence in global economics so it is important to understand what role they play in relation to developing countries.

Arguments and evidence that transnational corporations promote development

Dependency theorists and Neoliberals (especially the later) are optimistic about the positive role TNCs can play in development. They have the money (capital) to invest in developing countries and mine resources or establish factories for manufacturing -both of which can lead to more goods for export and more money coming into a country (hence increasing GNI). they are potentially the engines that can kick start economic growth and other forms of social development.

Arguments and evidence that transnational corporations harm developing countries – There is a wealth of evidence that rather than helping developing countries, some of the largest companies on earth are really just interested in maximising their own profits and tend to extract as much as they can get from the poorer countries they do business in and exploit them as much as possible. Thus post explores some of the most relevant case studies.

Historical Evidence of the negative impacts Transnational Corporations have on development – There is a long long history of this, so it’s worth getting some depth perspective!

The role of the World Trade Organisation in Development – The World Trade Organisation establishes World Trade Rules – Neoliberals tend to see this institution as facilitating free trade by establishing global trading rules and standards and thus promoting development. Dependency Theorists see it as working in the interests of the more developed countries who tend to have more of a say in what the rules of trade are, which tend to work in their favour!

The World Bank – a brief overview of how it aims to promote development -The World Bank is the main multilateral institution which funds development in poorer countries through channelling aid from donor countries and providing loans to developing countries who qualify. It also monitors progress in several indicators of development

Criticisms of the role of the World Bank in development – Critics see the World Bank as historically making loans dependent on countries adopting neoliberal policies which make it easier for Western corporations to extract resources from them and exploit the local labour forces.

The New Rulers of the World – summary of the documentary by John Pilger, which seems to be a pretty unambiguous dependency theory perspective on the role of the World Bank, the IMF, and Transnational Corporations in globalisation. The video focuses especially on their role in underdevelopment in Indonesia.

Industrialisation, Urbanisation and Development

Industrialisation and Development – Modernisation theorists argued that industralisation was a fundamental aspect of development (according to Rostow’s 5 stages of growth), while People Centred Development argue it is not necessary at all. Dependency, World Systems and neoliberal theorists have more nuanced perspectives which are also covered in this post.

The Industrial Capitalist model of Development – capitalists aim to maximize returns on investment and industrialisation helps with this because it brings efficiencies in production. This post is an accessible summary of how industrialism and capitalism have developed hand in hand over the centuries.

The Rise and Fall of Detroit – Detroit is where Ford used to manufacture cars in the early 20th century. It is an excellent case study to demonstrate how industrialisation can be a positive force for development, but also shows its limitations in a global system, because cheaper manufacturing becoming available in other countries (such as China) has meant the decline of industrial manufacturing and corresponding social decline in Detroit since the late 1960s to the present day.

Urbanisation and Development – the world population is moving from rural to urban areas more rapidly than at any other time in human history. In some senses cities are fundamentally related to development, but the sheer pace of urbanisation also has problems as slums develop. Urbanisation also has its critics – is this really the kind of development we want?

Education, Employment, Health and Development

Education as a Strategy for International Development – A-level students in England and other developed countries will probably take their education for granted, but education can be very different in the developing world. This post explores some of these differences, looks at how education promotes development, the barriers to improving education further and some of the reasons why a western style of education might just not be relevant to some developing countries!

Assess the View that Western Models of Education are not Appropriate to Developing Countries (20)- a 20 mark question that has come up in a previous A-level Sociology 7192/2 Global Development paper. This post provides an extended plan as a suggestion for answering it!

Gender and Development

Global Development Statistics – An overview of some the main differences in life chances between men and women in several areas of social life including political and economic life as well as domestic life.

Statistics on gender inequality in the UK – According to international statistics on gender equality in the UK, we’re the 18th most gender equal country in the world, but is this actually true? This post looks at some limitations with international statistics on gender and development

Modernisation Theory Applied to Gender and Development – From a Modernisation Perspective, the best way to combat gender empowerment is to challenge traditional values and focus on economic growth and getting women into the workplace – they have a point there is a strong correlation between economic development and gender empowerment.

Dependency Theory Applied to Gender and Development – point out that economic development may not promote gender inequality because Corporations can use the second class status of women in some countries as a source of ‘disempowered labour’, and even pay women less than male workers.

Radical Feminism Applied to Gender and Development – this post focuses on the challenges remaining globally for women despite economic development, and especially those forms of gender based exploitation which increase with globalisation – such as sex trafficking.

War, Conflict and Development

Ongoing wars and conflicts in the world today – an overview of the current major wars, according to Wikipedia, including the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in comparison to other global conflicts.

How war and conflict harms development – war does more to harm development than anything else, this post looks at the direct, immediate negative effects of war on development, and the longer term, indirect effects.

The role of developed countries in war and conflict – A summary of the views of Noam Chomsky and David Harvey who argue that some individuals and organisations in developed countries actually benefit from waging war on poorer countries!

The United States Military – Some Recent Examples of Their War Crimes

The Global Peace Index (GPI) – The GPI measures peacefulness using over two dozen indicators and it clearly shows a correlation between peacefulness and positive economic and social development.

The Environmental Crisis and Development

The relationship between the industrial capitalist model of development and environmental decline – industrial capitalism may have led to economic growth over the last two centuries but there is also a clear relationship by its reliance of fossil fuels and rising CO2 emissions, global warming, resource depletion and pollution.

How pollution and toxic waste harm development – there are lots of case studies but this mainly focuses on pollution in rural China.

Country Case Studies

America as a Less Developed Country?

Global Development Revision Notes

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Global Development Revision Notes

Global Development Notes Cover

53 Pages of revision notes covering the following topics within global development:

  1. Globalisation
  2. Defining and measuring development
  3. Theories of development (Modernisation Theory etc)
  4. Aid, trade and development
  5. The role of organisations in development (TNCs etc)
  6. Industrialisation, urbanisation and development
  7. Employment, education and health as aspects of development
  8. Gender and development
  9. War, conflict and development
  10. Population growth and consumption
  11. The environment and sustainable development

As a final word to teachers of A Level Sociology – I’m gonna put this out there – Global Development offers you the only chance on the whole syllabus to actually teach proper, contemporary sociology, rather than A-Levelled sociology. You should give it a go.

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