Wednesday, December 5, 2012


If you really think about it, one of the earliest examples of globalization in its infancy was the Holy Roman Empire.  The Roman Empire, a collection of nation-state kingdoms, was heavily reliant on agricultural feudalism for flattening, furrowing and fertilization.  I tend to find portions of multiple schools of thought concerning the history of globalization.  The globalization process developed over three historical stages.  The first was the era of mercantilism (more exports than imports, same basic concept of a modern Gross Domestic Product) and colonialism, which included the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the colonies of North and South America.  The second phase was the era of British hegemony, Pax Britannica, which saw the birth of multinational (or international) corporations and continued through the two major European wars of the 20th century where a collective hegemony of nation-states was born under the name of the United Nations.  The third stage, prematurely named the Pax Americana phase, bore witness to the dominant globalization of international corporations and banking systems backed by the strict international regulations, depending on what nation-states are being scrutinized, and the collective military might of IGOs such as the United Nations (the collective hegemony) and NATO.

The most important factor of this three-phase globalization process is technology.  In the first phase, the power of wind and water (windmills) enhanced the exploitation of natural resources and agricultural production to the point of ending feudalism.  In the second phase, the Industrial Revolution originated in England and began to reach the shores of the young United States at the end of the 18th century.  In a few short decades as industrial technologies increased, the technologically advanced North was in a Civil War against the agricultural South and slavery in the United States was soon abolished (as an outdated mode of capitalist production due to new technology).  The third phase, which we are currently in, has been informally dubbed the ‘information age’.  The internet has flattened and shrank the globe as fiscal transactions and currency exchanges are conducted with a few strokes of the keyboard and international business meetings can be conducted through video conference calls.  I tend to view the description of Pax Americana for this era as somewhat premature.

The problem with globalization is that with each stage of advanced technology, the required amounts of manual (human) labor for capital profit are drastically lowered while the human population continues to grow.  We saw Feudalism abolished after the first stages of technological advancement with wind/water power at the beginning of colonialism (powered by new technologies in ships and sea navigation).  We saw slavery abolished under the technologies of the Industrial Revolution because slavery became an outdated mode of capitalist production.  Under the technologies of the information era, which should be called the consumer era, we see incredibly high levels of poverty, incredibly high incarceration rates and very high levels of unemployment in the majority of the western nation-states that emerged out of the Holy Roman Empire.

Globalization flattened the globe because it removed all barriers for trade and capitalist production (stripping the Earth of her natural resources through new technologies) and linking nation-states to the gold/dollar standard, international trade agreements, most favorite nation status (lower tariffs), and international banking organizations such as the IMF and World Bank.  It has furrowed and watered the global society to produce a world economy which has raised international corporations as powerful as many of the nation-states they manipulate.  But did globalization fertilize and protect the soil beneath it?  What happens to the soil when you continually use that plot of land for constant agricultural production?  The soil becomes depleted of nutrients and there is mass erosion. 

Henry Nau. Perspectives on International Relations. 3rd ed. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2012), 261-284.



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