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Globlization

Covering a wide range of distinct political, economic, and cultural trends, the term "globalization" has quickly become one of the most fashionable buzzwords of contemporary political and academic deb...

Covering a wide range of distinct political, economic, and cultural trends, the term "globalization" has quickly become one of the most fashionable buzzwords of contemporary political and academic debate. In popular discourse, globalization often functions as little more than a synonym for one or more of the following phenomena: the pursuit of classical liberal or "free market" policies in the world economy ("economic liberalization"), the growing dominance of western (or even American) forms of political, economic, and cultural life ("westernization" or "Americanization"), the proliferation of new information technologies (the "Internet Revolution"), as well as the notion that humanity stands at the threshold of realizing one single unified community in which major sources of social conflict have vanished ("global integration").

Fortunately, recent social theory has formulated a more precise concept of globalization than those typically offered by pundits. Although sharp differences continue to separate participants in the ongoing debate, most contemporary social theorists endorse the view that globalization refers to fundamental changes in the spatial and temporal contours of social existence, according to which the significance of space or territory undergoes shifts in the face of a no less dramatic acceleration in the temporal structure of crucial forms of human activity. Geographical distance is typically measured in time. As the time necessary to connect distinct geographical locations is reduced, distance or space undergoes compression or "annihilation." The human experience of space is intimately connected to the temporal structure of those activities by means of which we experience space. Changes in the temporality of human activity inevitably generate altered experiences of space or territory. Theorists of globalization disagree about the precise sources of recent shifts in the spatial and temporal contours of human life. Nonetheless, they generally agree that alterations in humanity's experiences of space and time are working to undermine the importance of local and even national boundaries in many arenas of human endeavor. Since globalization contains far-reaching implications for virtually every facet of human life, it necessarily suggests the need to rethink key questions of normative political theory.

For rich and multi-faceted interaction with events once distant from the purview of most individuals, the abolition of distance tended to generate a "uniform distances" in which fundamentally distinct objects became part of a bland homogeneous experiential mass (Headgear, 1971 [1950]: 166). The loss of any meaningful distinction between "nearness" and "distance" contributed to a leveling down of human experience, which in turn spawned indifference that rendered human experience monotonous and one-dimensional.
Business people on different continents now engage in electronic commerce; television allows people situated anywhere to observe the impact of terrible wars being waged far from the comfort of their living rooms; academics make use of the latest video conferencing equipment to organize seminars in which participants are located at disparate geographical locations; the Internet allows people to communicate instantaneously with each other notwithstanding vast geographical distances separating them. Territory in the sense of a traditional sense of a geographically identifiable location no longer constitutes the whole of "social space" in which human activity takes places. In this initial sense of the term, globalization refers to the spread of new forms of non-territorial social activity (Ruggie, 1993; Scholte, 2000).

Second, recent theorists conceive of globalization as linked to the growth of social interconnectedness across existing geographical and political boundaries.
Globalization must also include reference to the speed or velocity of social activity. Deterritorialization and interconnectedness initially seem chiefly spatial in nature. Yet it is easy to see how these spatial shifts are directly tied to the acceleration of crucial forms of social activity. As we observed above in our discussion of the conceptual forerunners to the present-day debate on globalization, the proliferation of high-speed transportation, communication, and information technologies constitutes the most immediate source for the blurring of geographical and territorial boundaries that prescient observers have diagnosed at least since the mid-nineteenth century. The compression of space presupposes rapid-fire forms of technology; shifts in our experiences of territory depend on concomitant changes in the temporality of human action.
In political life, globalization takes a distinct form, though the general trends towards deterritorialization, interconnectedness across borders, and the acceleration of social activity are fundamental here as well.

Article Tags: Human Activity, Human Experience, Social Activity

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