The Green Scene

The Paradox of Globalization

Posted in Uncategorized by Teresa on December 9, 2008

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?


One Response to 'The Paradox of Globalization'

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  1. michaelb21 said,

    I do find this concept of shipping jobs overseas a problematic issue. Are companies really just shipping jobs overseas and exploiting these workers for higher profits? Or can it also be seen as means of newfound revenue for a country and its people?
    According to Ted Fishman, “the ‘China price’ has since become interchangeable with lowest possible price. China has become a cut-rate El Dorado, where the lowest prices are gold.” On the other side of this coin are the workers. In Beautiful Flowers of the Maquiladora: Life Histories of Women Workers in Tijuana. Women came from all around Mexico to work in factories that paid a higher wage than what they were currently earning. They did this in hopes of a better quality of life; instead they were given the exact opposite, working long demanding hours in unsafe and hazardous conditions. For many it resulted in health defects for the workers and their children. But when these factories would close, they did not go back to the place from whence they migrated, they instead look for work in a different factory. With world food prices on the rise these women are left with this trade off, work in these factories so you can afford to feed you and your children, or go back home and possibly starve. I guess exploitation really is the name of the game.

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