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Globalization, fostered by free flow of information and rapid progress in technology, is a driving force that no country can turn back. It does impose market discipline on the participants which can be harsh, but is the mechanism that drives progress and prosperity. Globalization emerged as a buzzword in the 1990s but the phenomena it refers to are not entirely new. As a ubiquitous term, what does "globalization" mean? Some observers emphasize the rapid and free flow of capital as the essential element. Others emphasize labor-that capital flows to where labor is highly productive while relatively cheap, that different parts of the production process can be performed in various far flung places by multiple sources of labor, and that workers themselves move within and between nations often and more easily.
According to Micklethwait and Wooldridge there are "three engines" driving globalization today. The first of those three engines is technology. "Technology gives entrepreneurs... The freedom to challenge giant companies and to break up concentrations of power," (Mickelthwait and Wooldridge, 2003) Capital is the second engine. Financial markets "are not just wiring economies together and altering the structures of companies,... they're also changing entire political systems." (Mickelthwait and Wooldridge, 2003) The third engine is management. "The internationalization of business practices now has its own momentum, and it is also accelerating," write the authors. Companies can shift the content of their companies from localized, to global and maintain their competitiveness.
Seeing globalization as something which involves the transcendence of traditional industrial modes, others emphasize that the onset of an information age is defining characteristic of the world economy and that it cannot be effectively controlled by states. The implication of the mere use of the term "globalization" is that there is a paradigm shift in world politics. It is not a shift in our view of reality, but indeed a new reality. In fact, the idea of "international relations" would ostensibly be obsolete since world politics is no longer chiefly the relations between nations, but relations between interconnected economic systems which rely on the other to support themselves.
Given a pure system, one which was controlled completely by governmental and economic engines, absolutist views of the globalization process could be true. However, within the cogs of modern sociological advance is the human being, whose spirit and culture can not be dominated by the social, political, and economic monoliths of our time. The human element cannot be ruled out of the equation, and as a variable, the human element is both the hardest to predict, and can be most resistant to change. In the introductory chapter of his work Principal Themes, Townsend feels that, "we need a people-based economic component of human geography rather than 'economic geography'" (Townsend, 1997). This is the central tension that keeps the elements which control urban change out of the hands of the corporations, and just outside the reach of the global city. Because each city and social setting has their own culture, the economic forces which admittedly drive the city will not be able to drive the different socio-political regions together into a single economic unit.
Both sides fall into the trap of assuming that human forces or policies can be detached from geography. No set of people or policies will turn Rwanda into Singapore. (Bowring, 2001) It may be "unfair" that countries with easy sea communications, such as those in East Asia and coastal China, can take advantage of specialization of production more easily than inland ones. How much effort should be made to redistribute so as to compensate for disadvantage is a matter discussed at the national level but seldom at the global one. The thorny idea of redistribution of wealth should be examined long and hard before it is considered as a means to level the playing field of global economic play ground. Socialist practices such as these have not improved the peoples economic and social structure in countries which practice them. A countries successful economic engine cannot sustain the strain of taking its profits from the successful and transferring them to the unsuccessful in hopes that the latter will, or can change their lives.
This conundrum is similar to the central conflict in the recent movie, "The Matrix Reloaded." In a world where people are at war with machines which control their lives, the machines are ultimately dependant on the people to run them, and the people are ultimately dependant on the machines to provide for their basic needs as well. In a similar manner, the globalization of economic, social, and political systems are dependant on the people whom they serve, although it is the economic, social, and political engines which drive the cultures which the people enjoy. So there is a constant tension between the economic advances, the "global city" and the conditions of the people who inhabit the city.
In North America, the emergence of a slow-growth movement reflected long-standing concerns that urban revitalization was creating a sterile city of affluent professionals, tourist attractions, and chain-store franchises. Since the "Great Freeway Revolt" of the late 1950s, in which neighborhood activists persuaded the Board of Supervisors to reject the construction of new state-financed but view-obstructing freeways, assertive grassroots movements for historic preservation have arisen. Yet preservation has inevitably led to gentrification. Since the 1960s, neighborhoods once noted for their idiosyncratic local charms, ethnic cultures, and nontraditional identities have been revitalized as bland imitations of their former vibrant selves (Godfrey 1984, 1985). As new businesses opened and "Victorian" buildings were renovated, an affluent population of professionals and tourists appeared, often displacing lower-income residents and small businesses.
This is the purpose of gentrification of the inner city. People want a pleasant environment to call their home, not a sterile concrete and steel jungle. Alan Townsend comments again, even in the 1990s some, "economic geographers have tended to ignore the human aspects of economic change and to explore theories only of the manufacturing sector" (Townsend 1997, 6).
William J. Wilson, who is arguably the nation's leading urban sociologist, discussed the consequence of such action in his book, The Declining Significance of Race (1978). He exerted a profound influence on the discussions of race and urban poverty in America.. Wilson is well positioned to bring the authority of science to bear upon that nagging question of public policy: what must be done about the ghettos? He does not shrink from the task. He sets forth both a diagnosis of and a prescription for what ails our inner cities.
The problem, he says, is that "the new urban poor" lack adequate employment opportunities. The cure, he thinks, would be a federally supported social policy agenda that includes greatly expanded public works to provide jobs of last resort, employment training for unskilled or displaced adult workers, universal and publicly provided health care, greater tax credits for low-income workers, and subsidized child care.
Throughout Europe, cities and regions have launched on a path of competitive redevelopment by means of a variety of strategies, ranging from large-scale mega developments and integrated action plans to community- based local re-conversion efforts. These schemes are spread over the European urban and regional landscape, operating in a variety of regulatory, political and socio-economic contexts, welfare regimes and public policy frameworks and combine private and public initiatives and finances in a great diversity of institutional framework. However, they are comparable in the sense that they attempt to re-assert their position in the new global economic competitive climate and its associated technological, cultural and social transformations. The 1980's saw competition between European cities for mobile investment in a variety of ways. Multinational enterprises boosted this competition through looking at the location of new productive plants and offices, this therefore saw city governments promoting and marketing themselves in a more beneficial way in an effort to be…[continue]
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