An end to U.S. Nation Building, but what does that mean?

A criticism of ‘optimist’ views of globalisation

Along with the withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan last week, President Biden also announced an end to ‘Nation Building’ as part of its foreign policy.

This topic should be of interest to anyone studying globalisation and global development, as this policy shift will have global implications.

What does and end to Nation Building Mean?

Broadly speaking and end to nation building means the U.S. will no longer be invading foreign countries and keeping troops and advisers stationed in those countries for the long term with the intention of establishing ‘liberal democratic’ (sceptics might say pro-American )governments.

This is what the U.S. tried to do with Iraq and Afghanistan following the September 11th 2021 bombings, but now it seems that the case of Afghanistan has firmly put paid to the idea that America can successfully intervene and help to engineer ‘regime change’. If can’t do so after 20 years, it seems unlikely staying around any longer would have made any difference, especially when the Taliban took power so swiftly following news of the U.S. withdrawal.

So what does this mean in terms of globalisation?

This is certainly evidence against so called ‘optimist’ views of globalisation – America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan suggests its power globally is in decline, and it has less capacity now than ever to ‘export Western models of democracy abroad’.

However global pessimists might remind us that this won’t necessarily mean an end to U.S. military involvement in the region, or elsewhere in the world – it could just mean a shift to more covert forms of drone strikes on militants, and more chaos abroad, meted out from a distance by the United States.

Just about the only thing that is certain is this makes the world an even more uncertain an unpredictable place than ever!

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What is Global Britain?

AQA A level sociology revision resources | Revisesociology.com

What will be Britain’s post-Brexit role in the world?

Does leaving the EU mean we are now free to forge more truly ‘global relationship’ with other countries and regions in other parts of the world?

This is an important question for students studying the A-level option in Global Development and should be of general interest to any student studying globalisation.

The Integrated Review

In March 2021 the UK Government published what has become known as the ‘Integrated Review‘ which considered what Britains’ post-Brexit role in the world might be in the future.

The full title was the natty: ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’.

Boris Johnson and other pro-Brexit politicians are necessarily optimistic about the capacity of the Britain to still be influential in global politics, and take a leading role in the areas of climate change, science and technology and diplomacy, but how realistic are these goals?

World leaders in Science and Technology

The development of Covid-Vaccines has demonstrated that Britain is the world leader in genetic sequencing and the development of new vaccines, and we are world leaders in the life-sciences more generally.

However, ironically, a lot of our funding for scientific research has been cut now we have left the EU and the British government isn’t going to make up the short fall.

And besides life-sciences there is serious competition from other countries in most other fields of science and technology.

So while we have our ‘niche’ at the moment, this future role is far from guaranteed.

Climate Change

Britain is hosting COP26 in Glasgow in November, and the integrated review puts tackling climate change at the top of its priorities list.

Britain has a reasonably good track record on reducing emissions and could be well placed to bring other countries on board in more global efforts to deal with climate change.

International Aid

We are still one of the largest aid donors in the world, but the government recently announced it was cutting the aid budget from 0.7% of GPD to 0.5% of GPD, and this will have immediate consequences in the countries whose aid budgets are reduced.

It seems like a terrible time to have cut the aid budget if we wish to have a credible claim to this being one of our main roles in the world.

We have also recently forged a partnership with Indian companies who manufacture our vaccines in India

A world leader in diplomacy

The report points out that Britain is one of the best connected nations on earth – it has a seat in every global institution and strong diplomatic ties with many other countries.

There is scope for the UK to become a world leader in settling conflict and solving global problems.

Although this is maybe a bit vague?

Human Rights

Britain has long been a haven for those seeking refuge from oppressive regimes (at least ever since after colonialism when Britain was the oppressive regime) and IF we were to shun China and Russia we could take on a role as a defender of civil liberties, although the government’s draconian response to Covid-19 suggests we are a long way off being a model in this regard.

Foreign Policy as a response to China

Analysis has suggested that the whole of the Integrated Review is a response to China’s increasing power.

It seems that the general gist is to forge better relations with China and acknowledge they exist – hence the current 20 000 mile round trip being made by

HOWEVER, foreign policy in the future seems to be more about fostering relations with other powerful countries and leaving China (and Russia) on the other side of the equation.

We are actively pursing more commercial ties with India for example, and huge numbers of Indian students are increasingly coming to study in UK Universities, while decreasingly so from China.

We also invited India, South Korea and Australia to the G7 meeting we hosted in June 2021 and there is talk of expanding this to the G10.

Too little focus on Europe?

it’s worth noting that the report only has 10 lines devoted to Europe, and we’re probably going to have to spend a lot more effort than this dealing with our neighbours in the future!

Sign Posting

While this isn’t the most obvious topic for students of A-level sociology it’s worth considering as part of studying globalisation – probably most relevant to ‘political globalisation‘, and hopefully this post gives you few ideas of how Britain’s role is changing globally.

Sources

This post is mainly a summary of this analysis Podcast from BBC radio 4.

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What is the Cost of Cybercrime?

Cybercrime is one of the most harmful types in terms its economic costs to individuals and businesses.

This reason alone suggests that students of A-level sociology studying the crime and deviance module should pay special attention to to this type of crime.

What are the economic costs of cybercrime?

A recent McAFee report estimated the global cost of Cybercrime in 2019 to be over $1 Trillion.

Accenture does an annual survey on the costs of Cybercrime to business and that revealed that the average cost of malicious attacks is just over $1 million to a company, with several days of downtime as a result.

In the United Kingdom, this report estimates the costs of Cbyercrime to be £27 billion every year.

This compares to the following:

  • The overall size of the global economy in 2020 was around $84 trillion, meaning global cybercrime accounts for 1% of global economic output.
  • Tax dodging by mainly corporations but also wealthy individuals costs the global economy just over $400 billion annually. (Source: The Conversation)
  • In 2015/ 16 the UK government estimated the total cost of ALL crime to be around £50 billion – besides cybercrime, fraud and theft were very high cost crimes, both made much easier with the growth of online networks.

The projected costs of Cybercrime are much greater. according to Cyber Security Ventures the global cost of Cybercrime is set to reach $10.5 trillion dollars by 2025

Analysis/ Evaluation – what to make of these figures?

These statistics suggest that the costs of Cybercrime are growing rapidly, and if you believe the projections, then Cybercrime is by far the most damaging type of crime in terms of financial cost.

However, you need to question the validity of data published by Cybersecurity companies – it is in their interests to exaggerate the extent of cybercrime so they can sell more security software!

Having said that, official statistics themselves show a HUGE increase in the amount of cybercrime in the last five years, and so it’s likely that the costs of cybercrime would have increased too.

I haven’t here distinguished between cyber dependent crime and cyber-enabled crime – I think a lot of the increasing costs are due to old types of crime (fraud and especially theft) becoming more common online (as opposed to face to face) – I guess the internent just makes it easier to attempt to commit these types of crime, en masse (as through phishing) rather than the slower and more risky physical thefts.

The depressing thing is that I find none of this surprising – we live in more networked world, and one unfortunate consequence is that it’s now easier to attempt to commit fraud and theft against faraway victims online – it’s simple rational choice theory – computer networks make it more convenient to attempt crimes such as phishing and identity theft with less risk.

And while I’m sceptical about Cyber Security companies exaggerating the extent of online crime, I’m inclined to agree with them that this is on an uptrend as that’s what official statistics from all around the world suggest, not to mention the increasing amount of anecdotal evidence from people who have been scammed, and TBH I only need compare the amount of phishing emails in my inbox today compared to five years ago to realise the increase in attempted crimes against me, and presumably millions of other people receiving such mail in their Spam folders every day!

It seems it’s more important than ever to take your online security and safety very very seriously.

The problems of controlling global crime

Globalisation has resulted in more global crime in several ways:

  • Increased trafficking of goods across across international waters – illegal drugs is the most obvious, but there is also counterfeit clothes and electronics and the smuggling of alcohol and cigarettes to avoid taxes.
  • Increased human trafficking – for example women and girls being shipped into the sex-industry against their will, but also trafficking for forced-marriage, cheap ‘slave’ labour and the role of organised crime in helping to move migrants across borders to escape dismal situations in their home countries.
  • Various financial crimes – the use of tax havens by wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid tax.
  • Cybercrimes – these are very numerous and include everything from online frauds and scams to cyberwarfare between governments.
  • Environmental crimes – illegally dumping waste in one country can easily seep across borders, especially if toxic fumes become air born.

The above isn’t supposed to be an exhaustive list, it’s just to give you a reminder of the scale of global crimes.

Global Crimes: Very difficult to police!

Different countries have different norms and values and thus different legal systems – what is criminal in one country may not be criminal in another – for example dumping E waste is not illegal in Ghana, even when the toxins from that waste leach into the water and the sky (when people burn plastic to get the metal to sell for example). International Law isn’t well enough established to penalise countries for committing ‘environmental crimes’ and neither are individual nation states.

While there is an international court of justice at the Hague, but this only resides over those accused of the ‘worst crimes against humanity’ (for example genocide), it doesn’t deal with ‘lesser crimes’ such as ‘every day’ trafficking and cybercrime. There is no ‘international court’ for these crimes, it’s down to individual countries to put the criminals on trial, however governments may be unwilling to do this (See below).

Some people in those countries which supply illegal goods may actually see the activity of criminal networks as benefitting their country. A possible example of this is the Mafia in Bulgaria who ship a lot of heroine up into Europe – there will be tens of thousands of people in both Afghanistan and Bulgaria who see themselves as net winners out of the global drugs trades. There may well be a lot of victims (drug addicts) in the West but the British government has limited power to stop the supply of drugs coming from Afghanistan, all it can do is control the supply at its own borders, at customs.

In some cases the governments in those countries where global criminals are based will actually turn a blind eye to their criminal dealings because the net inflow of money benefits that country.

Cybercrimes are especially difficult to police because often the victims (of online fraud for example) don’t know who the criminals are – they remain hidden behind VPNs and so the origin of the fraud may not even be traceable.

Even if agreements can be reached between one or more countries, it takes a lot of resources to build a case against a criminal organisation operating in more than one country, so there are also practical barriers.

Finally, and possibly most simply, there is a lot space out there – both real and virtual, most governments don’t have the resources to put every inch of a border under 24/7 surveillance, let alone keep the huge areas of cyberspace under observation. There’s a lot of ‘dark space’ for crime to take place in our global real and virtual worlds!

Globalisation and Crime

The AQA Sociology Crime and Deviance Specification specifies that students must examine (among other things!) ‘globalisation and crime in contemporary society’.

Questions sociologists might ask about Globalisation and crime….

  1. How has globalisation affected crime in contemporary society?
  2. What are global crimes?
  3. What is the extent of global crime?
  4. What are the consequences of global crimes for individuals and society? (relating to crime control)
  5. Why has global crime increased? (It’s a reasonable assumption that it has as it’s relatively new on the specification, albeit 20 years out of date as is often the case with AQA A-level sociology).

You will need to be able to link your answers to these questions to other aspects of the Crime and Deviance Specification (when talking about consequences you might distinguish between effects on men and women, for example), and you need to be able to apply sociological perspectives.

Before we turn to looking at the relationship between globalisation and crime, it is worth reviewing the concept of globalisation, itself one of the most important concepts A-level sociology students need to know!

What is globalisation?

In short it’s the different regions across the world becoming increasingly interconnected resulting in increasing flows of the following:

  • economic globalisation means more global trade (the increasing movement of goods and services between countries) and more Transnational companies.
  • cultural globalisation means more communication between people and the intermixing of ideas, often resulting in ‘hybrid’ cultures.
  • There is also the increasing migration of people – for study, work, flight from wars (refugees) and (for the wealthy) holidays, which has elements of both cultural and economic globalisation.

Globalisation can be physical – the movement of people and objects across borders, as well as virtual – the increasing significance of the internet in our lives has really pushed globalisation forward.

There is thus also a ‘technological’ underpinning to globalisation – transport and communications technologies especially.

There is debate over whether globalisation is mainly a one way process from the West to the developing world, or more of a two way process; and a debate over whether it’s good (optimism) or bad (pessimism) and also those who believe it has been exaggerated, or in reverse, all of which you can apply to our coming discussion of the relationship between globalisation and crime!

For more information on Globalisation, check out my ‘Global Development and Globalisation‘ web page – there are several links which will allow you to explore the concept further!

What are Global Crimes?

There are different ways of classifying global crimes, but one way we can do this is as follows:

  • Trafficking – moving drugs, people and/ or weapons across international borders
  • Cyber Crimes – such as phising attacks, extortion and fraud
  • Financial crimes – such as tax evasion.
  • International terrorism
  • Most (if not all?) green crimes are also global in nature.

Some of the above global crimes are carried out by loan operators, some by organised criminal networks (some people consider ‘organised crime’ to be a category of crime in its own right), some by governments themselves (state crimes) and some my Corporations.

What is the extent of global crime?

Trafficking

The Global Financial Integrity Report on Transnational Crime estimates that the total global value of all trafficking is between $1.6 to $2.2 trillion, with drug trafficking making up the largest share, around 30% of this, with a global value of around $500 billion.

According to The United Nations 2021 Drug Report , globally in 2018 an estimated 269 million people had used a drug at least once in the previous year, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of the population. This is projected to rise by 11% to 299 people by 2030.

Most of the increase will be in developing countries, with high income countries projected to see falling numbers of drug users in the next decade.

Cyber Crime

Cyber Security Ventures estimates that Cyber Crime will cost the world $5 trillion in 2021, and estimates that cost will grow to $10.5 trillion by 2025.

NB you might want to be cautious with these statistics because I think the company which did the research sells cyber security protection, so it’s in their interests to exaggerate the risks!

Nonetheless this is something governments and companies take very seriously.

A couple of important aspects mentioned in the article are that RansomWare is one of the fastest growing types of cyber crime – where your computer is hacked and data frozen, only to be released when you have paid a ransom (this may not be too much of a hassle for an individual, but if companies or government agencies are victims this is a much bigger dea.

Also, a lot of cyber crime takes place in the Deep and Dark Web, thought to be several times greater than what we can see online (visible, accessible public networks), and that This is also related increasingly to drug trafficking – increasingly people buy and sell drugs via the deep and dark web.

Tax Havens and Tax Evasion

The IMF estimates that there are $ several trillions of dollars of Corporate Funds stashed away in tax havens, costing the tax payer from between $500 to $600 in lost tax revenue (so a similar financial cost to the value of drug crime).

Estimates for how much individual wealth (rather than Corporate wealth) are stashed in tax havens are more varied, given the secrecy surrounding these funds, but two estimates cited by the IMF are from between $8 trillion to more than $30 trillion, costing the taxpayer around $200 billion a year in lost revenue.

There is a conceptual problem with labelling the use of tax havens as ‘criminal’ – companies and individuals often use loopholes in the law to get their funds out of countries where they are taxed and into tax havens where they are not taxed, or taxed at a very low rate, so we have to use a broader definition of crime as something which is harmful (through lost tax revenue) to ensure we include the use of tax havens in our examples of global crime.

Global Terrorism

Trends in global terrorism are actually going down (so some rare good news!).

According to the Global Terrorism Index, in 2019 ‘only’ just under 14000 people died in global terror incidents, the fifth year of decline since a peak of 34500 deaths in 2014.

Most terrorism deaths are located in a small handful of war torn countries, mainly Afghanistan, where 40% of deaths from Terror attacks occur.

While terrorism is often very locally felt, many of the groups who claim responsibility for these attacks are responding to global dynamics and see themselves as part of a global network, so they are a response to globalisation.

How has globalisation affected crime in contemporary society?

This is one of the more complex questions we can ask in A-level sociology, and there are several possible ways we can break down our analysis, and a lot of interconnecting ideas where ever we start.

Below I’ve started with the concept of globalisation and considered how economic and cultural globalisation have opened up more opportunities for people and organisations to engage in certain types of crime and how the nature and extent of crime has changed as a result.

Economic globalisation and global crime

Economic globalisation refers to increasing amounts of global trade and money, the increasing role of Transnational Corporations, the spread of an international division of labour, and (importantly from a broadly Marxist point of view) increasing amounts of inequality between rich and poor regions around the world.

Increasing amounts of trade of goods across international borders and the fact that some countries tax certain goods, such as alcohol and cigarettes, have lead to increasing amounts of smuggling of such highly taxed products -organised criminal networks have emerged (e.g. think of the Mafia) who smuggle cigarettes and alcohol from countries where they are produced very cheaply to countries where they are taxed very highly, such as the UK – this is simple demand and supply, albeit illegal, and very common: there are plenty of poor people in the UK (for example) who want cheaper booze and fags, and plenty of poor people in developing countries who are willing to risk jail time to traffic non-taxed booze and fags to countries such as the UK.

The above also applies to the illegal trade in counterfeit goods, from clothes to electronics – all of these goods (as well as fags and booze) may present themselves as genuine, but in reality they are fake – but when there are so many containers of goods moving around the world (global trade is massive) there is significant opportunity for organised criminal networks to smuggle their cheaper counterfeit/ untaxed goods into shipping containers and get them to willing and often unwitting consumers in their destination countries.

Marxists are keen to point out that it’s not just criminal networks involved in global economic crime – so are many Transnational Corporations -it’s a bit more difficult to analyse the role of these in global crime as they are more likely to engage in ‘law evasion’ rather than actual crime – for example Shell extracting oil in Nigeria and taking advantage of the laxer pollution laws in that country, committing effectively no ‘crime’ by Nigerian standards, but an environmental crime nonetheless.

TNCs also engage in tax evasion as do many wealthy individuals by stashing their wealth in tax havens, again, not technically illegal, but harmful due to lost tax revenue.

Another way in which economic globalisation might fuel global crime is through increasing inequality – one rather horrible aspect of this is sex trafficking – there are plenty of men in developed countries looking for cheap prostitutes prepared to travel to countries such those in Eastern Europe to get what they want – and the young women they find there may well have been trafficked into sex-work on the promise of something else by organised criminal gangs – one of the darker sides of the global economy.

The supply of drugs from poorer countries to richer countries is another aspect of inequality fuelling this global trade.

Cultural globalisation and global crime

The increasing communications between cultures may have lead to more cultural clashes the world over, more ‘ordinary people’ coming into conflict with their more traditional political orders.

An obvious example of this is ‘liberated’ women in Iran posting pictures of themselves on Instagram and the State ‘cracking down on them‘, but there’s much more to it than this – radical interpretations of Islam have made their way to Britain and other European countries, shared and circulated online and contributed to various terror attacks over the last couple of decades.

However, it’s important not to exaggerate the extent to which exposure to new ideas results in ‘violent cultural clashes’, it’s quite possible that for the most part people online are just stuck in their bubbles (their social media bubbles, not meant here in the Pandemic sense of the word) and for the most part not inclined to criminal behaviour!

We could also point to the emergence of a set of ‘global human right’s outlined by the United Nations which proclaim that Nation States (governments) are not permitted to breach certain rights of individual citizens – making illegal at a global level things such as genocide, which opens up the possibilities of governments being held accountable as criminals, which couldn’t have happened before the UN HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTION immediately after World War Two.

The Internet and Global Cyber Crime

The instantaneous connectivity through the internet deserves special mention in its own right in relation to global crime.

This probably more than ANYTHING else has changed the nature of crime across societies as it creates so many more opportunities for people anywhere in the world to commit crime and for people to be unwitting victims of crime.

It’s possible for one individual to send out literally millions of phishing emails or comments to millions of people in a single day in attempt to get them to click on a link which will (variably) try to elicit their personal information from them or get them to download some dodgy software which will collect their data from their computer.

The Deep Web and Dark Web also make it easier for people to trade in illegal goods and services online and to network and have conversations which may result in very serious criminal activities – think terrorist cells and child abuse rings – all made easier to maintain via the Dark Web.

What are the consequences of global crimes for individuals and society?

Here we really need to take a global development perspective and think of winners and losers at a global level.

Certainly global crime has created many losers from developing countries – anyone trafficked into the sex industry or any drug mules caught and sent to jail, and several migrants who have paid their life savings to then NOT be transported successfully to their destination countries.

But then again, you could see this as an opportunity – drugs are part of global trade – and there is more money to made in growing Cocaine than Coffee for some farmers in Colombia – possibly opening up better opportunities than ‘free trade as usual’ – NB not to say this will always be the case as being involved in the global drugs market probably isn’t that SAFE.

And it’s not necessarily the case that the consumers in the west are the winners – they may also be victims, of poor quality fags and booze for example.

Where cyber crime is concerned it’s more hidden – there are probably more victims alive today that DON’T know about it than ever before in human history.

Finally, global crime is a problem for governments – it takes a lot of resources and co-ordination to combat global crime, especially when so much of it is online and thus not visible.

And where some of more heinous crimes are concerned, this increases our sense of fear and vulnerability and uncertainty – such as with global terrorism.

Why has global crime increased?

It’s easy (lazy?) to see the increase of crime as an ‘inevitable’ response to Globalisation – with more flows of goods and people and ideas, SOME of that is going to be illegal.

There’s also an underlying technological change we need to consider – the internent does make crime easier.

But to answer this question with any analytical depth, you need to be able to apply the perspectives.

From a Marxist point of view this is due to the spread of Global Capitalism – creating more inequalities which results in inequities in supply and demand – plenty of poor people who can’t make decent money growing coffee would rather risk growing Cocaine, for example.

Another aspect of a Marxist analysis is the spread of TNCs engaged in law evasion and also tax evasion by elites.

Misha Glenny has researched the role of Organised criminal networks in facilitating the rise of Global Crime (the McMafia as he calls them) pointing out that the collapse of Communism in the late 1980s resulted in a massive increase in organised crime in countries such as Bulgaria – trafficking a lot of goods to Western Europe – here it’s not so much ‘legal capitalism’ which is the problem, rather criminal gangs operating outside the law in several countries.

You can also apply Feminism in order to help understand sex trafficking in particular.

Interactionism is also relevant because changes in international law, and national laws can criminalise acts and thus ‘increase’ global crime overnight – the United Nations Human Rights Conventions did this with State crimes, for example. And the same thing is happening with many green or enviromental crimes.

Not to say that these legal changes are bad, but they do increase the amount of crime simply by making acts illegal that previously were not, such as genocide and several forms of pollution.

Are there really fewer covid-19 cases in poorer countries?

According to this New York Times heat map, Covid-19 cases seem to be much more prevalent per capita in developed countries compared to developing countries…

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The counts are especially high in America, Europe and South America doesn’t fair too well either.

But the count per capita is much lower in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Analysis from Brookings (source) shows the contrast much more starkly – People in developing countries make up 50% of the world’s population but account for only 2% of covid deaths.

The infographic below shows how many people die from covid (the circle) compared to the other main causes of death – if you look at the left hand side, they are generally poorer countries, on the right, generally richer countries…

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Are there really fewer covid cases and deaths in poorer countries?

Brookings suggests the different may not be as great as the statistics above suggest. Because….

  1. The different age profiles – Covid-19 affects the very old more severely – especially the over 70s – and to put it bluntly there are hardly any people aged over 70 in poorer countries, because of the lower life expectancy, whereas in developed countries have a more older age profile.
  2. Differences in detecting and reporting covid-19 as a cause of death. In developed countries we have much better detection capacity and it’s possible that Covid has been mis-recorded as a cause of death when really, because of co-morbidity, something else was really the cause. While in the developing world people may well be dying of (or with) covid-19 but it hasn’t been traced.

in short, remember that these covid-19 death statistics are a total social construction.

However, the statics may lack validity, but government responses the world over have been severe – and this social reaction has had very real negative consequences in rich and poor countries alike!

Relevance to A-level sociology

This material is mainly relevant to the global development health topic, but there are also some nice links here to the problems with official statistics.

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Anuta – A Case Study in Global Development

The Island of Anuta is one of the remotest places on Earth – part of the Soloman Islands, it is a 5-6 day sail from the Capital, with its nearest inhabited neighbouring island being over 50 KM away.

Boats may visit the island as infrequently as three times a year, so the islanders cannot rely on them for resources, they have to make use of what is available to them on the island and in the ocean surrounding.

Anuta is a very small island, with an area of only 0.4 square Kilometres, but with a population of around 300 it has one of the highest population densities on planet earth, similar to that of Bangladesh.

This island community should be of interest to any student studying the global development option for A-level sociology, as this case study illustrates many of the key themes of this module.

In terms of ‘economic development the inhabitants of Anuta are very undeveloped, they are money poor, but they seem to have a very high quality of life, almost idyllic.

At the very least this case study will make you question the advantages of western models of development, and the idea that advanced industrial economies are necessarily the most progressive.

Research studies on Anuta

The anthropologist Richard Feinberg has spent some time researching life on Anuta – he spent a year there in the early 1970s and returned more recently to make the film below, which is available on YouTube:

Bruce Parry also visited Anuta for several weeks as part of his Tribe documentary series, and if you can get hold of that from the BBC, it’s well worth a watch, although at time of writing this is more than a decade old already!

A summary of the video

The documentary starts on board the boat with the film makers and anthropologist talking through expectations.

When the boat first arrives at the island, one of the islanders comes aboard who Richard Feinberg knew from his previous visit (about a decade earlier) and they hug for about five minutes (quite unusual in itself by Western standards.

We first see the welcoming scene in which about three dozen people come out to meet – greeting by touching foreheads, quite a slow affair (again by Western standards)

We learn that population is becoming an issue – it has doubled in ten years, since the year 2000. People were even then starting to worry about their privacy, not so much the resources.

We now see the formal greetings with the chiefs – there is a hierarchical structure – based on ascribed status – if you can’t trace your lineage back to chief, you are not going to be a chief!

Anuta: emphasises compassion and equality

A core value in Anutan society is that of Aropa – which emphasises compassion for others and collaborative working and sharing.

One very tangible way this value manifests itself is through the equal sharing of finite resources – food for example is shared equally among all the islands inhabitants

There is a strong support structure on Anuta, the idea of someone being alone and unsupported is almost unheard of, something which is all too common in the west.

The entire crew of the ship is invited onto the island for a welcome feast – they get a full on welcome ceremony with dancing etc.

When you ask Anutans why they do something – there are two stock answers –

  1. Because it’s tradition
  2. Because it makes us happy

It’s worth nothing how different this is to the Western idea of doing something for the money, which often makes us miserable (Weber’s Instrumental logic!)

All of the islanders come out for the feast, and all 300 great the ship’s crew with a nose kiss, which ‘breaks down the individual personal bubble’.

Lots of the ship’s crew comment on how the way of being greeted was very emotional, with a total breaking down of barriers, and a real sense of unity being created between everyone.

Some historical context

They now go and visit with the Chief and he reflects on the past – he talks of previous famines, one in which people were forced to eat dirt to survive – he quips that since the arrival of the Christian Church there has been no famine as bad – so ‘our new God protects us better than the old gods.’

Feinberg also notes that the Christian teaching of ‘love thy neighbour’ fits in well with the Anuta value of Aropa – in that sense they were Christians before the Church got there!

Population and Environment

The Anutans seem to live a very sustainable life, recognising that everything the need comes from nature.

Despite their growing population they are not worried, at least that’s what the chief says.

The Anutans are self-sufficient for the most part – Fishing is the main activity, but they also hunt seabirds and grow food on the Island, the staple crop being Manioc

They are not entirely cut off in that they do use industrial technology to hunt and farm – steel fishing spears for example.

Some of the islanders also attend school off-island, and there is a monetary fund to pay for that, but not much detail is provided on this aspect of island life!

Interestingly, they have zoned out regions of the sea around the island which have extensive coral reefs, and they manage them sustainably, with bans on fishing in some of them for periods, to be harvested when the fish are bigger – kind of a natural sustainable management system!

Canoes

Canoes are treated as part of the family – trees on Anuta are scares, so when one is felled to make a canoe, it is a big deal.

We get to see one canoe which is over 100 years old and still used for fishing.

They are so important that if a canoe is damaged, a funeral is held, as if it were a dead relative.

Leaving Ceremony

There is an extensive leaving ceremony – in which they have a final tour of the island, and there is a group lamentation in which everyone weeps (a lot) as the guests leave.

We’re reminded that the Anutans, while very aware of the wider world, have made a choice to maintain their traditional culture as much as they can.

Anuta: Relevance to A-Level sociology

This case study can be used as a criticism of Modernisation Theory and Western Ideals of development more generally. Clearly the Anutans have a very traditional way of life, as expressed in their value of Aropa.

Aropa is quite like the collectivism mentioned in Rostow’s modernisation theory, but it is difficult to argue that this is ‘holding their culture’ back in anyway.

Of course there are challenges this community faces going forwards, and of course they benefit from modernisation in some ways (fish hooks) but it’s difficult to see how their becoming a fully fledged part of the modern capitalist industrial economy would benefit these islanders.

Sources

Anuta – wikipedia entry.

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.

The Sustainable Development Goals 2015 – 2030

In 2015, following the end of the 2000 -2015 Millennium Development Goals, all member states of the United Nations signed up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Sustainable Development Goals are part of this agenda, and they are much broader in scope than the original Millennium Development Goals and are more ambitious.

There are 17 Sustainable Development goals (which split into a further 169 targets):

Five main themes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

  • People – many of the goals focus on lifting people out poverty and hunger and providing a decent education for all
  • Planet – there is a lot more focus on protecting the environment compared to the original MDGs – for example with the ‘life under water’ goal.
  • Prosperity – there is a focus on improving lives through enterprise and innovation, linking into partnership below
  • Peace – the agenda recognises that there can be no effective development without peace.
  • Partnership – there is much more focus on the agenda for sustainable development being a partnership between developed and less developed countries than with the original MDGs.
NB – The most important goals?
Note how goals 7 and 8 from the MDGs are now a lot more prominent in the updated SusDev goals…

Tracking progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals

You can click on any of the goals on site linked above to find out about progress towards achieving them.

This link will take you to the progress towards goal 1, for example. The latest 2020 update doesn’t look promising. It notes that:

  • Even before the Pandemic, the rate of reducing the percentage of people in extreme poverty had slowed (it was around 14% in 2010, 8% in 2015 and just down to 7% in 2019.
  • With the Pandemic, another 50 million people will be pushed back into poverty, pushing that figure back up to 8%.

The Sustainable Development Goals: Peak Bureaucracy but little Progress?

One possible criticisms of the Sustainable Development Goals might be that there seems to be A LOT of organisations involved with being ‘partners’ for development, but not so much actual progress being made! Lots of talk, LOTS of words, LOTS of info and pretty colour coded targets, but not so much actual progress…?!?

About this post

This post was written primarily for A-level sociology students studying the Global Development Option in year two.

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

Global Value Chains and Globalisation

The 2019 World Bank Development Report highlights the importance of ‘global value chains’ to helping poor countries develop.

Global trade has increased significantly since the 1990s and global value chains today account for more than 50% of global trade.

Those countries which have high levels of participation with Global Value Chains have generally developed more quickly than those countries which have limited or no participation with global value chains.

Vietnam would be a good example of a country that has increased its export links to GVCs over the last 30 years and has seen a corresponding rapid economic development.

What is a Global Value Chain?

The report defines a global value chain (GVC) as ‘the series of stages in the production of a product or service for sale to consumers. Each stage adds value, and at least two stages are in different countries.’

The bicycle is used as an example of a product with an extensive global value chain, with many countries being involved in the many stages of its production.

Global Value Chains and Development

Those countries which have moved from simply exporting agricultural goods to manufacturing parts for products such as bicycles have seen higher levels of economic growth since the 1990s:

What I find most interesting is this map here:

We see that those countries which are more involved with global manufacturing – China and India for example have seen the highest rates of economic growth

The negative consequences?

The report also has chapters on increasing inequalities which have emerged as a result of development through increasing manufacturing – GVC firms tend to be highly concentrated in only a few regions in every country, and women are less likely to be employed in managerial positions.

And there may also be some negative environmental consequences for countries more involved in global value chains.

Future challenges

The report suggests that recent technological innovations which bring manufacturing closer to the end-consumers of GVC products (3D printers) may mean that manufacturing for GVCs is no longer a viable path to development for poorer countries.

The limitations of this report

You have to question how objective this report is – it is from the World Bank, an organisation dedicated to increasing World Trade.

The report also doesn’t seem to acknowledge the problem of what happens to those countries which are ‘left behind’ or ‘left out’ of global value chains.

That map above kind of reminds me of an updated version of Wallersteins’ ‘three zones’ in his World Systems Theory – and in that theory, one country can only move up into a higher zone at the expense of another moving down – there always has to be one country (or regions within countries) at the bottom, or maybe even left out altogether, which seems to be the case here.

It might be that integrating into GVCs is a great way to develop for SOME people in some regions of some countries, but not necessarily even for the majority of people the world over.

It might even be the case that the expansion of GVS are the cause of more inequality and thus, despite increasing economic growth (which are very limited indicators of development) we actually have equal amounts of losers (or more) than we do winners from the expansion of GVCs.

Relevance of this report for Global Development within A-level sociology

  • This seems to be a good case for global optimism – those countries which get more involved in global trade
  • The map of countries seems to be a modified version of Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory‘s ‘Zones of Production’, although interpreted here in an entirely positive light!
  • This seems to be a positive example of increasing trade leading to positive development.
  • HOWEVER, you need to be critical of this report because of the biased source – the World Bank, which is pro-trade!

Sources/ citations

You can read the full report here.