Globalisation means different things to different people. It can mean listening to your Sony Walkman while surfing the World Wide Web in an Internet Café in Italy, then writing an e-mail to a friend holidaying in Malaysia. It can mean somebody working for Daewoo (the South Korean corporation) in Poland losing their job this year thanks, indirectly, to the Korean currency crash in 1997. The aftershock can last a long time – Daewoo was eventually declared bankrupt in November 2000. IIt can simply mean learning English, or perhaps eating sushi in Moscow made with fish from Denmark. What does globalisation mean to you?
The process of globalisation has been going on for thousands of years. It’s as old as mankind itself. People have spread around the world, and trading has expanded from village to village and town to town, to the great trading paths like the Amber Route and the Silk Road, and between the continents across the high seas. HHowever, what people usually mean when they talk about globalisation is the economic and social process that accelerated rapidly during the 1990s.
Ups and downs
The most strident proponents of this international economic policy initially came from the richest, most powerful ccountries. The US government made globalisation an official objective of its foreign and economic policy about eight years ago. Other western nations have been happy to play along. Naturally, most governments in the world want the economic and social benefits of globalisation. The reality now is that, to varying extents, all countries and people take part in the global economy. But do they all actually benefit from it?
In Europe, BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or „mad-cow“ disease) illustrates one problem of global culture. This disease first appeared in British cattle in the mid-1980s. Now it has spread across Europe, with recent cases found in Germany and France, among other countries. Attempts are being made to control the spread of BSE, with tthousands of cattle being slaughtered, and imports of cattle products to so-far unaffected countries being stopped. Not so long ago, though, when people lived in small villages, killing and eating their own animals, such a problem was unimaginable.
The turning tide – agitate, educate, organise!
Now more and more people are speaking out against what they see as exploitation in the name of globalisation: sweatshop conditions and child labour, for example, and man-made environmental disasters. The organised movement against the negative aspects oof globalisation is growing and has huge numbers of supporters and activists, not only from the poorer southern hemisphere countries in Africa and South America, but also from the North.
The most famous large protest happened in December 1999, in Seattle, USA. The World Trade Organization (WTO) conference was broken up violently in clashes between police and protesters. In the Czech Republic late last year there were big demonstrations during the World Bank meeting held in Prague. In January this year, while the annual World Economic Forum was being held in Davos, Switzerland, opponents of globalisation held the World Social Forum in ...
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