3 The Elusive Concept of Globalisation

Cees J. Hamelink


In order to explore the meaning of the globalisation concept, it is worth distinguishing between its use as an analytical tool and as a political programme.

Globalisation: The Analytical Tool

The concept of globalisation is used to describe and interpret contemporary social processes. In this application, it has both supporters and sceptics.

  • Supporters argue that since the 1980s (with the deregulatory policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and the demise of communism) more and more people around the globe have been living in, or are indirectly affected by, free-market economies. Capitalism has spread from covering some 20 per cent of the world population in the 1970s to some 90 per cent in the 1990s. Large numbers of people have become integrated into the global capitalist economy.

    Sceptics respond that this is superficially true, but claim that the “global economy” is in fact the economy of just a few rich countries, in particular those belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). They point out that if the world were a global village of one hundred residents, only six would be Americans. Yet these six would have half the village's entire income, with the other ninety-four existing on the other half.

  • Supporters argue that today there is more global trading than ever before. Sweeping reductions in the cost of air travel and shipping have facilitated a phenomenal expansion ...

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