The Paradox of Globalization
As we read in Week 1’s “What is Globalization?” we can define globalization as the integration of economic, political, and cultural systems. The Americanization of world affairs. A force for economic growth and prosperity. Tens of thousands of foreign investors from Taiwan, HK, South Korea, Japan, and the US are building production facilities of increasing complexity and capacity, and so it seems as if we are indeed pushing for industrialization, but in doing so, there is the development of big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, which starts to squeeze labor costs in the U.S. and abroad. At what cost is industrialism paving its path? The wage for a Wal-Mart factory worker in Shenzhen, China, is 25 cents an hour, compared to the $13 in Chicago. It is undeniable that corporations like Wal-Mart have made a global supply chain and have really revolutionized industrialism—4% of the growth of the U.S. economy between 1995 and 1999 was credited to Wal-Mart alone. The company has also increased the nation’s overall productivity since it makes other competitors try and keep up. Because they bully smaller retailers and reduce the quality of life for those who have to experience the low wages and horrible factory conditions as a result of their anything-goes, no holds barred approach—big companies like Wal-Mart epitomize just as much a regression as a progression in world society.
Even though these manufacturers run under the impression of helping to boost third-world economies and provide jobs in places in which there were none to begin with, how much of the impact left on these countries is actually positive? The powerful and supposedly law-abiding multinational corporations are going back to the traditional exploitation patterns—even as we are increasingly globalized, competition between manufacturers to drive down prices leaves the workers with the short end of the stick, making us wonder if and how industrialization has really improved the world market for the better.
In my next few posts, I’ll be exploring brands and products through a global lens. As Thomas Friedman says, the disappearance of boundaries on all levels—between politics, culture, technology, finance, national security, and ecology means that while our connection to the rest of the world expands, the world is shrinking “from a size ‘medium’ to a size ‘small.’” I will argue that globalization is representative of a world of paradox in that despite its intent to push the world forward both socially and economically, the steps taken in the development of globalization instead create competition and obstacles that in actuality hinder our overall progression. To support my thesis, I will examine the contradiction in the pretense of globalization’s goals for communication enhancement, international integration, and industrialization, when juxtaposed with the reality of our world situation—much of which is left unseen to those who only experience or acknowledge the progressive face of globalization. How do we make sure our fair trade and equal rights are not lost?