Global Justice Now is a decentralized democratic global social movement which aims to challenge the powerful and create a more equal and just world.
It’s a great example of a small, politically oriented NGO (Non-governmental organisation) so makes a great study for that part of the Global Development module within A-level sociology.
Some of their current main campaigns include focusing on promoting Fair Trade that works for people and planet and the Freedom of movement for people (pro migration).
They have a strong anti-Corporate and anti-Trump agenda.
They organize several activities every year to highlight global social justice issues, which typically involve small protests and handing petitions to ministers expressing concern about generally neo-liberal policies.
They also produce a magazine full of leftist articles focusing on fair trade and the global south and organize occasional meetings around global social justice issues.
One of things to be critical of is how effective (or ineffective) this organisation is their budget is only £1.5 million a year, which is less than the annual salaries of most of the CEOs of the companies they criticise!
Still, it’s a good NGO case study and useful source of information to keep you up to date with global justice issues.
This is a brief, bullet pointed answer to give students some ideas of how they might answer this question.
Firstly, some religious organisations have made a conscious effort to be more accepting of diversity, as a response to the increasing intermixing of cultures.
One example of this is ecumenicalism, which seeks to find commonalities across different faiths and stresses that no religion has a monopoly on the truth.
The New Age Movement is also a type of new religion which embraces the diversity of globalization. For example, it draws on many traditions from around the world, such as Buddhism, and it also allows people the freedom to pick and mix different aspects of religions to suit them.
Secondly, some religious organisations have become more fundamentalist, as they perceive globalization as a threat.
Globalization can mean rapid social change and dislocation, and fundamentalist groups are conservative and either want to resist change or take things back to a simpler, ‘golden era’.
Such groups might be appealing to those who feel like they are losing out with the changes globalization brings. They offer a sense of direction and certainty rather than chaos and anomie.
NB: This is a tough question!
Beliefs in society Revision Bundle
If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my A Level Sociology Beliefs in Society Revision Bundle which contains the following:
Mind maps in pdf and png format –covering most of the perspectives on beliefs.
Exam practice questions – 9 in total including three 10 mark ‘outline and explain’ questions, three 10 mark ‘analyse using the item’ questions and three 20 mark essay questions.
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.
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 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’
Seabrook (1) argues there are three principle responses to globalization:
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Transnational Corporations increasingly hide their money in Tax Havens, it is difficult to see how individual governments can stop this happening without some kind of global regulation in place that goes above the level of Nation States.
According to the United Nations there are nearly 80 million refugees in the world – more people who are effectively ‘rejected’ by the Nation State system.
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.
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.
One illustration of the global commodity chain can be found in the manufacture of the Barbie doll, the most profitable toy in history. The 50-something teenage doll sells at a rate of 2 per second, bringing the Mattel Corporation, based in Los Angeles, USA, well over a billion dollars in annual revenues. Although the doll sells mainly in the United States, Europe and Japan, Barbie can also be found in 150 countries around the globe: she is truly a global citizen.
Barbie is global not only in sales, but in terms of her birthplace as well. Barbie was never made in the United States. The first doll was made in Japan in 1959, when that country was still recovering from the Second World War and wages were low. As wages in Japan rose, Barbie moved to other low-wage countries in Asia. Her multiple origins today tell us a great deal about the operations of global supply chains.
Barbie is designed in United States, where her marketing and advertising strategies are devised and where most of the profits are made. But the only physical aspect of Barbie that is ‘made in the USA’ is her cardboard packaging, along with some of the paints and oils that are used to decorate the doll.
Barbie’s body parts and wardrobe span the globe in their origins:
Barbie begins her life in Saudi Arabia, where oil is extracted and then refined into ethyne that is used to create her plastic body
Taiwan’s state-owned oil importer, the Chinese Petroleum Corporation, buys the ethylene and sells it to Taiwan’s largest producer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics, which are used in the toys. Formosa plastics coverts the ethylene into the PVC pellets that will be shaped to make Barbie’s body.
The pellets are then shipped to one of the four Asian factories that make Barbie – two in southern China, and one in Indonesia and one in Malaysia. The plastic mould injection machines that shape her body, which are most expensive part of Barbie’s manufacture, are made in the United States and shipped to the factories.
Once Barbie’s body is moulded, she gets her nylon hair from Japan. Her cotton dresses are made in China, with Chinese cotton – the only raw material in Barbie that actually comes from the country where Barbie is made.
Hong Kong plays a key role in the manufacturing process of Barbie – nearly all the material used in her manufacture is shipped into Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest ports – and then trucked to the factories in China. The finished Barbies leave by the same route. Some 23 000 trucks make the daily trip between Hong Kong and southern China’s toy factories.
Out of her retail price, China gets about 4%, mainly in wages paid to the 11 000 peasant women who assemble her, 6.5% covers all of the other aspects of the manufacturing and distribution process, 10% goes back to Matell in profit, and 80% is the mark-up which companies like Toys R Us who sell the product add to the cost.
The case study of Barbie shows us both the effectiveness of globalisation, and the unevenness of the process.
Sources used to write this post.
I took this from Giddens’ ‘Sociology’ (2009) – it may be old, but I liked it as an illustration of globalisation and global commodity chains.
‘Until the end of the Second World War, national governments were traditionally responsible for ensuring the welfare of their citizens, however since 1945, more and more governments have become members of International Institutions, such as the United Nations and the European Union, through which they agree to stick to International guidelines on issues such as citizenship and human rights. In this way, global political ideals restrict the freedom of governments to shape domestic social policy. ‘
Anthony Giddens (2009) notes the following features of Political Globalisation
The collapse of Communism in the 1990s meant the end of the divided ‘cold war’ world, and now these ex-communist countries are themselves democracies and integrated into the global economy.
The growth of international and regional mechanisms of government such as the United Nations and European Union – governments of Nation States are increasingly restricted by international directives and laws stemming from these international bodies.
International Non-Governmental organisations such as OXFAM or Greenpeace operate in dozens of countries, and members tend to have an international outlook.
‘Cultural globalisation refers to the rapid movement of ideas, attitudes, meanings, values and cultural products across national borders. It refers specifically to idea that there is now a global and common mono-culture – transmitted and reinforced by the internet, popular entertainment transnational marketing of particular brands and international tourism – that transcends local cultural traditions and lifestyles, and that shapes the perceptions, aspirations, tastes and everyday activities of people wherever they may live in the world’
Migration is an important aspect of cultural globalisation, and in this sense, this process has been going on for several centuries, with languages, religious beliefs, and values being spread by military conquest, missionary work, and trade. However, in the last 30 years, the process of cultural globalisation has dramatically intensified due technological advances in both transportation and communications technology.
The globalisation of food is one of the most obvious examples of cultural globalisation – food consumption is an important aspect of culture and most societies around the world have diets that are unique to them, however the cultural globalisation of food has been promoted by fast food giants such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Starbucks. The spread of these global food corporations has arguably led to the decline of local diets and eating traditions.
The Globalisation of sport is another fairly obvious example of cultural globalisation – think of all the international sporting events that take place – most notably the World Cup and The Olympics, and Formula 1, which bind millions together in a shared, truly global, ‘leisure experience’.
Converging Global Consumption Patterns
Today you can go to pretty much any major city in the world and share in a similar ‘consumption experience’. Also, more and more people in Asia and South-America are coming to enjoy high-consumption lifestyles like in the West – car ownership and tourism are both on the increase globally for example. Central to this is the growth of similar styles of shopping malls, and leisure parks which provide a homogeneous cultural experience in different regions across the world.
The Global Village/ Global Consciousness
Individuals and families are now more directly plugged into news from the outside world – some of the most gripping events of the past decade have unfolded in real time in front of a global audience. According to Giddens this means that more and more people have a more ‘global outlook’ and increasingly identify with a global audience – for example, television reporting of natural disasters in developing countries result in people in wealthier countries donating money to charities such as Oxfam to assist with relief efforts. Giddens developed the concept of ‘Cosmopolitanism’ to describe this process of an emerging global identity.
A criticism of Giddens is that some people perceive increasing globalisation as a threat to their ways of life and retreat into Fundamentalism and/ or Nationalism as a defensive response, suggesting that Globalisation could go into reverse…
In his classic 1999 text, Runaway World, Anthony Giddens argues that one consequence of globalisation is detraditionalisation – where people question their traditional beliefs about religion, marriage, and gender roles and so on. He uses the concept of ‘detraditionalisation’ rather than ‘decline of tradition’ to reflect the fact that in many cases people continue with their traditional ways of life, rather than actually changing them, but the very fact that they are now actively questioning aspects of their lives means cultures are much less stable and less predictable than before globalisation, because more people are aware of the fact that there are alternative ways of doing things and that they can change traditions if they want to.
The above processes are related to growth of urbanisation, especially the growth of global cities which have highly educated, politically engaged middle classes.
Global Risks/ Global Risk Consciousness
Ulrich Beck (1992) argues that a fundamental feature of globalisation is the development of a global risk consciousness, which emerges due to shared global problems which threaten people in multiple countries – examples include the threat of terrorism, international nuclear war, the threat of global pandemics, the rise of organised crime funded primarily through international drug trafficking, and the threat of planetary melt-down due to global warming.
On the downside, the constant media focus on such global problems has led to a widespread culture of fear and increasing anxiety across the globe, which has arguably contributed to things such as Paranoid Parenting and Brexit, but on the plus side, new global international movements and agencies have emerged through which people come together across borders to tackle such problems.
Has the global Coronavirus Pandemic increased our sense of ‘global consciousness’?
It’s debatable whether Coronavirus has fostered an increasing sense of cultural globalisation – while in one sense the virus doesn’t discriminate across cultures, and many countries are working in similar ways to combat the virus (lockdowns, facemasks), it’s difficult to argue that the closing down of borders and the restriction of international travel fosters globalisation!
And people seemed to have turned to the national governments, their nation states, to guide them through the pandemic, which hardly seems like a ‘global response’…>?
Having said that Nation States have been taking guidance from the World Health Organisation, a global institution, and Bill Gates seems to be a leading proponent of vaccinating our way out of this crisis, which has to be done on a global scale for it to be effective, so there is an aspect of the global to the way we are managing this crisis!
The 2020 American Election – A Global Event, but not much evidence of a ‘unified global consciousness’
Another recent event which shows how ambiguous cultural globalisation can be is the reaction to the 2020 United States general election – while this is a national election, it certainly was a global event, watched by hundreds of millions of people the world over, so it was a global event.
However, judging by the mixed reactions, we can hardly call this evidence of a unified consciousness – there’s a lot of division amongst world leaders over the result.
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