Political Economy Globalization essay

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globalization and the effects that it is having on our world. This paper will look at four different thinkers -- Robert Gilpin, Pankaj Ghemawat, Jeffrey Frankel and Moises Naim -- and discuss their thoughts on this subject, adding the author's own analysis and interpretation to build on their work.

In his The Nature of Political Economy, Gilpin delves into the perceived conflict between corporations and nation-states. He perceives these two actors as engaged in a cold conflict over the world's resources. He uses this discussion to frame his explanation of the nature of political economy. He notes that there is a reciprocal relationship between economics and politics (p.282) and that both wealth and power derive from this relationship. Absent in his analysis are people, since neither have much real power, certainly not as much as might be found in collections of people working in the apparent interests of other people -- none of whom actually seem to have real human interests.

Resources are scarce, Gilpin argues, and conflict for control over those resources is a natural consequence. This conflict typically occurs at all levels of the dynamic relationship between economics and politics, because political actors have substantial control over the forces of economics. He notes that "the basic concept of political science is power," as compared with economics, "the study of short-term allocative behavior" of resources (p. 283). Nation-states seek not power, but a variety of benefits from which the state as a whole or the people that comprise the state will gain utility. Thus, there are often competing objectives when a state seeks to increase or leverage its power. Relative power positions are therefore important to nation states (p.283).

Gilpin then explains some of the basic concepts in political economy -- different political philosophies like liberalism, Marxism and mercantilism, all of which have different interpretations of the relationship between political power and economics. It is interesting that his definition of mercantilist thought, which seems to fit well with how most nation-states view economics, is one not talked about. We are often faced in public discourse with the false dichotomy between something liberalized and something Marxist. That said, when corporations become larger than nations, the mercantilist view is challenged.

Frankel (2000) argues that as powerful as globalization has been with respect to changing our society, it is not an obstacle to changing the way that nation states address the pursuit of non-economic objectives, such as those relating to equality (I guess he means social justice) and the environment. If globalization is understood as largely an economic phenomenon -- and it has been driven by commerce and the needs of business -- then Frankel's view corresponds with the liberal view of the relationship between politics and economics.

Frankel notes that the drivers of globalization are indeed commercial in nature -- reduced trade barriers, reduced transportation costs and reduced communications costs have all brought us closer together (p.2). He does not, however, that globalization remains largely in the commercial sphere, something that agrees with Ghemawat's stance. At the core of Frankel's article, however, is the idea of international integration, which is the outcome of globalization. By understanding the degree to which integration exists, the power of globalization to affect changes to our lives, both economic and social, and to the environment, can be better understood.

Ghemawat's premise is in opposite of Thomas Friedman's premise of the flat world, where people have a high degree of interconnection, and barriers to all aspects of human endeavor have ceased to exist. Friedman of course was describing an ideal not yet achieved, but Ghemawat seized on the metaphor for his own ideas. Ghemawat argues that the world is not flat, that instead it is comprised of many spikes -- cities, mainly. Within these spikes, there is a noticeable level of globalization, but the clustering around the world means that globalization is still fairly minimal. Nation states still play a strong role in Ghemawat's view. While it is interesting that a handful of products have made their way around the world and that there are people who are moving towards a global consumer culture, this does not imply that there is a high level of globalization and indeed Ghemawat argues that such a level of globalization is actually quite minimal and could be reversed if the preconditions of globalization, such as the aforementioned cheap transportation and communication, are themselves reversed.

Naim believes instead that "globalization is here to stay." Writing within the context of a recession, he points out that globalization will withstand the economic crisis -- not exactly a bold prediction when the crisis reduced economic activity by a couple of percentage points, hardly a blip on the trendline of economic growth. He argues several points, including that the current form of globalization is substantively different from past globalization, especially in how individualized it is. He discusses that the middle class has benefitted economically, if not in terms of political power. However, he notes that even where globalization is an individual phenomenon, it has not replaced power politics. Individuals are hard to unite under formal banners for any length of time without a common objective -- something that can be granted by a corporation or nation-state but is unlikely to exist in other forms. He notes as well that globalization has not made the world a safer place, though an extended period of peace may call into question that view.


Each of these articles has its own usefulness, as they each cover the issue of globalization is slightly different ways. Naim, as a magazine editor, offers up the most digestible tidbits, engaging in argument with himself, presenting neatly-crafted straw men that certainly render his arguments the appearance of being convincing. Getting to the substance of what he is saying, it is that globalization a complex phenomenon and while there are many people who peddle simplistic answers and explanations, the arguments of such people seldom hold up to even basic scrutiny. In essence, he is selling his magazine as a source of authority against the weak arguments found elsewhere. He may be right or wrong, but he definitely has a bias from which he writes.

Likewise, Ghemawat has made a name for himself with his quasi-argument against Thomas Friedman. The problem of course is that they are both roughly in agreement on globalization, except its scope. Ghemawat's views are based on the separation of globalization of an economic phenomenon from social globalization, excepting certain major cities. Mind you, those cities are driving the world, and globally the planet's people are rapidly urbanizing. Ghemawat draws conclusions that globalization is not as powerful as we are led to believe, and that for it to become stronger more work will need to be done we will need to foster globalization. This is a reasonable position, and clearly takes a liberal view that links nation states to economic outcomes distinctly. Corporations and governments in his view are both influencing the forces of globalization. In that sense, his argument is fairly compelling, and honestly the differences between people around the world tend to be overstated anyway. We all seek the same things from life, regardless of our clothes, food or gods. Is it globalization that everybody communicates via email or mobile now? Was is globalization when everybody communicated by talking face-to-face?

Gilpin offers perhaps the most interesting perspective, because his arguments underpin most of the other discussions on the subject. At the heart of everybody's understanding of globalization has to be their beliefs about the forces that are driving globalization. I do find it interesting that Gilpin does not put much emphasis on the role of the individual. Both corporate and political actions are undertaken by individuals, even if they are acting on behalf of a collective. Furthermore, a…[continue]

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