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globalization is generally understood to be the expansion of businesses and corporations to foreign markets either to expand their consumer base or to utilize a cheap workforce. However, the history of globalization really dates back to colonial and even ancient time periods; when strategic and monetary aims were first being seen from an intercontinental perspective and were usually achieved to increase the power and wealth of the state. Originally, as with conquerors like Alexander of Macedonia, expansion of a more global empire was advantageous for the purpose of simply increasing the land, population, and influence of a single ruling party; riches were plundered and dissenters subjugated. Overall, in ancient times, huge empires were merely expansions of the state. This began to change at the beginning of the colonial period as it was seen as more worthwhile to not formally indoctrinate conquered lands and peoples into the ruling nation. This began the less formalized era of globalization; lands and resources were seen as aspects of an empire to be exploited for the profit of the homeland. Modern globalization has taken this one step farther -- the state is no longer officially involved in global expansion. Currently, globalization is lead by economic powers as opposed to military might. Through the ages, the notion of globalization has become increasingly broad in how far it can reach, but increasingly narrow in who it benefits. Still, a similar mentality runs through all of its forms: the idea that a singular world with a singular culture, governing body, and economy is attainable. This concept, along with the glorification of one's homeland, has driven people's urges to expand outside of domestic realms for millennia.
Commonly, the trend of globalization has always been connecting formerly differentiated nations or people by either economic, military, or governmental means -- or sometimes all three. "Over the past 13,000 years the predominant trend in human society has been the replacement of smaller, less complex units by larger, more complex ones. Obviously, that is no more than an average long-term trend, with innumerable shifts in either direction: 1,000 amalgamations for 999 reversals." (Diamond 281). This accounts for the many disintegrations of empires like the U.S.S.R., Alexander's empire, and the British Empire. Nevertheless, there is a recurring drive for nations to become a part of something larger which is continually pitted against competing desires for autonomy.
In ancient times global empires were carved out of the earth with blood and supreme military command. Many groups and tribes of less organized people welcomed the security and prosperity a ruling state could instill. Within the Roman Empire, for example, numerous Germanic clans -- most notably the Goths -- desperately sought to incorporate themselves into the powerful Roman state because it offered them economic opportunities as well as safety from invading tribes, like the Huns. Additionally, through most of Roman history, incorporating these people into the Empire was beneficial; conquered lands meant more slaves, more citizens meant more soldiers, and more lands meant more wealth. Although ancient globalization centered on military operations, the ultimate goal was quite analogous to present day globalization: increasing the wealth of the expansionists. Modern expansionists, however, achieve their aims with far less bloodshed and no longer need the people they draw their wealth from to be subjugated by their homeland. Accordingly, the primary difference between the from of globalization evident in ancient times and the form prevalent in modern times is the current absence of military enforcement and the limited role of the state.
Another, less significant, distinction between modern and ancient globalization is the scope of their influence. Presently, geography no longer limits the locations that corporations can exploit, while geography played perhaps the most influential role of all during ancient time periods. Modern global empires are much more frequently limited by the political structures of foreign nations, combined with domestic resistance to outsourcing, rather than concerns associated with traversing mountains or oceans. The Chinese military juggernaut, for instance, never reached Europe during the early middle ages; a time when, if supplied with the resources, they almost certainly could have conquered most of the continent. Today, transportation of information is almost more important than transportation of individuals. And of course, with current IT technologies, information exchange and transport is almost instantaneous. It is no longer important for corporations to physically relocate most of their operations to become a global threat, only those that present the most potential profit need to be moved overseas.
Largely, the advancement that changed ancient globalization into a form that is commonly referred to as imperialism was the development of nationalism. In other words, with the gradual decline of despotism in Western Europe, people under a single crown began to gain a sense of national identity. One result of this was a more powerful feeling of patriotism throughout a kingdom, which was no longer localized to a city or small geographic area. A secondary result was a general distrust of outsiders and resistance to the admittance of subjugated peoples into the conqueror's citizenry. Pride, in short, gave nations the moral authority to exploit the riches and labor of foreign lands while leaving nothing for the native peoples.
Consequently, Spain, Portugal, France and England became the great colonial powers of the world. Like present day globalization, this was driven by technology that made trade of goods and information faster and more reliable than ever -- Western Europe ruled the seas. "Between 1600 and 1750 the states on Europe's Atlantic seafront scrambled for colonial advantage. Their mastery was unchallenged: they had better ships and guns than the natives. . . . England benefited most: once a poor state on the fringes or Europe it became the hub of the predominant (British) global trading empire." (Legrain 84). Still, with these ever-expanding empires trade was minuscule compared to our modern economy. Granted, these powers were generating massive amounts of capital for themselves, but trade had yet to free-up as it did when industrialization finally reached Western Europe. By modern standards the ancient and colonial empires never truly achieved globalization:
'Arguably, globalization was well under way by the time the industrial revolution kicked off around 1770. But some economic historians beg to differ. Kevin O-Rourke and Jeffery Williamson do not dispute that global trade boomed in the sixteenth seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. . . . Even so, a rise in trade, they say, does not necessarily imply globalization." (Legrain 85).
After 1770 globalization proper was born. Again, like the colonial era before it this change was ushered in by technology: steamships, railways, and the telegraph facilitated economic advancements. The transportation of goods and information lurched ahead once more. "A global cycle of boom and bust replaced local economies' traditional cycle of bumper and failed harvests." (Legrain 90). Relatively few military operations were necessary to bring wealth back to the homeland, and governmental subjugation was also limited; power now was commanded by trade alone. However, global prosperity was also subject to the boom and bust cycle, and the Great Depression ended many people's dreams of a global economy.
Our current globalized economy was born in the wake of the Second World War. The architects of the new world economy were Harry Dexter White, and John Maynard Keynes. "Their aim was to recreate the international economy that had brought prosperity before the First World War while safeguarding against the 1930's that had lead to the second." (Legrain 104). Essentially, these men proposed that "international trade be gradually freed, but that speculative capital be tightly controlled." (Legrain 104). Today, multinational companies are more important than at any time in the past. Your typical product, whether it is automobiles or army men, is manufactured in different locations all across the planet.
Outside of the political factors that helped to create our economy, technological advances…[continue]
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