The Globalization Website
| Debates | Organizations | News | People |
| Books | Issues | Theories | Glossary |


About this site

 (links to links)

Data Sources

Emory Links

General Links


Site Index

Contact Us




(back to list of issues)

1. What is globalization ?

Globalization broadly refers to the expansion of global linkages, the organization of social life on a global scale, and the growth of a global consciousness, hence to the consolidation of world society. Such an ecumenical definition captures much of what the term commonly means, but its meaning is disputed. It encompasses several large processes; definitions differ in what they emphasize. Globalization is historically complex; definitions vary in the particular driving force they identify. The meaning of the term is itself a topic in global discussion; it may refer to "real" processes, to ideas that justify them, or to a way of thinking about them. The term is not neutral; definitions express different assessments of global change. Among critics of capitalism and global inequality, globalization now has an especially pejorative ring.

The following definitions represent currently influential views:

  • "[T]he inexorable integration of markets, nation-states, and technologies to a degree never witnessed before-in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before . . . . the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country in the world " (T.L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 1999, p. 7-8).
  • The compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole . . . . concrete global interdependence and consciousness of the global whole in the twentieth century" (R. Robertson, Globalization, 1992, p. 8).
  • "A social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasingly aware that they are receding" (M. Waters, Globalization, 1995, p. 3).
  • "The historical transformation constituted by the sum of particular forms and instances of . . . . [m]aking or being made global (i) by the active dissemination of practices, values, technology and other human products throughout the globe (ii) when global practices and so on exercise an increasing influence over people's lives (iii) when the globe serves as a focus for, or a premise in shaping, human activities" (M. Albrow, The Global Age, 1996, p. 88).
  • Integration on the basis of a project pursuing "market rule on a global scale" (P. McMichael, Development and Social Change, 2000, p. xxiii, 149).
  • "As experienced from below, the dominant form of globalization means a historical transformation: in the economy, of livelihoods and modes of existence; in politics, a loss in the degree of control exercised locally . . . . and in culture, a devaluation of a collectivity's achievements . . . . Globalization is emerging as a political response to the expansion of market power . . . . [It] is a domain of knowledge." (J.H. Mittelman, The Globalization Syndrome, 2000, p. 6).

Competing Conceptions of Globalization

In this Journal of World-Systems Research article, Leslie Sklair argues that globalization encompasses a distinct set of changes, which can be studied from four perspectives he labels world-systems, global culture, global society and global capitalism.

Economist Schools Brief

In a series of articles, The Economist systematically examines different aspects and views of globalization and argues that it is neither all-pervasive nor irreversible.


This brief OneWorld guide argues that globalization is a strategy of liberalization that becomes an economic nightmare for the poor.

Globalization as the End and the Beginning of History

Arif Dirlik, Duke University, argues that globalization is not only a process but also a paradigm, a novel way of thinking about the world that has contradictory implications.

Globalization: A World-Systems Perspective

In this Journal of World-Systems Research article, Christopher Chase-Dunn outlines the main claims of world-systems theory and argues that global capitalism provokes socialist forms of resistance that can lead to a more just system.

Globalization: Challenges and Opportunities

G.B. Madison, McMaster University, reviews economic, political, and cultural aspects of globalization to argue that a new form of capitalism is emerging.

Globalization or the Age of Transition?

Immanuel Wallerstein, SUNY Binghamton, argues that globalization is a form of discourse advanced by powerful groups that describes old features of the world economy but ignores the uncertain transition the world system is actually going through.

Issues and Debates: Towards Defining Globalization

Global Policy Forum links to articles on globalization.

No Globalization

Paul Treanor argues that most analyses of globalization express a mythical belief system falsely assuming that nation-states once were independent and now have collapsed.

The Globalization of Finance

Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve (U.S. central bank), argues that the expansion of efficient global financial markets is largely beneficial but also presents new risks.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Book excerpts and columns by Thomas Friedman argue that the "new era of globalization became the dominant international system at the end of the twentieth century" in an irreversible process affecting everyone.

(back to the top)


  1. What is globalization?
  2. How does globalization affect women?
  3. Does globalization cause poverty?
  4. Why are so many people opposed to globalization?
  5. Does globalization diminish cultural diversity?
  6. Can globalization be controlled?

Copyright 2000-2001 - Frank Lechner