Globalization: Key Debates, Concepts, and Perspectives

Globalization Synopsis: This article defines globalization, provides some causes for the advancement of globalization, explores the different dimensions of globalization, presents three different perspectives through which the phenomenon has been examined, explores the relation between globalization and identity, and finally examines how globalization is connected to power and politics.

globalization A and AS level sociology notes

In sociological terms, globalization can be defined as “an ongoing process that involves interconnected changes in the economic, cultural, social, and political spheres of society” (Cole, 2019). The world’s economies, societies, and cultures are becoming more and more interconnected and reliant on one another. The result of such increased connection and interdependence between regions is, therefore, and increase in the influence that the people of these regions have on one another’s lives. The vast and intricate nature of these processes makes globalization a complex event and necessitates its examination. Like all other processes involving large-scale change, globalization also includes certain factors – advances in technology, transportation, and communication being the primary ones. These have made the mobility of goods, people, and ideas across borders easier, faster, and more efficient, thereby driving globalization.

Causes of Globalization

As mentioned before, a number of factors are responsible for globalization. Firstly, technological innovations have played a huge role in the way the process of globalization has made a speedy advance. Over time, mobile phones, the internet, and social media have undergone significant advancements and are now easily accessible to a larger portion of the population. Connecting to others has, therefore, become easier and quicker – we are now able to connect to one part of the world from another and spread any kind of information in a matter of seconds. The second factor responsible for globalization is infrastructural development, particularly when it comes to transport. Traveling by air has become considerably easy and cheap (although still largely unaffordable to the majority), owing mostly to the development of the aviation industry and expansion of international trade routes due to better relations between countries. Due to these technological advancements, people from countries across the globe find mobility easier and faster from one place to another.

Additionally, trade liberalization, which involves reducing or completely removing “restrictions or barriers on the free exchange of goods between nations” (Banton, 2021), has made international trade less costly and more efficient. As a result, a space has been created to foster the establishment and growth of multinational companies and global trade.

With the growing interdependence of economies worldwide, nations are collaborating more closely in pursuit of common objectives like fostering economic growth and development. However, factors of globalization are not limited to economic factors only–several cultural and social changes have also contributed to globalization. As we will discuss in later sections, the rigidity of cultural boundaries has seen significant collapse owing to the increased exchange of people from one country to another and growth of social media and mass culture.

Dimensions of Globalization: Economic, Social, and Cultural

Globalization is often associated with the promotion of free trade, which has had both favorable and negative outcomes based on the context of the country. On one side, globalization has increased the accessibility of markets and technologies to developing countries that have been freed from the clutches of colonization very recently. This has led to economic growth and poverty reduction in many parts of the so-called ‘developing’ world. Simultaneously, it has also led to loss of jobs and worsening of wages and working conditions in, for instance, the fast fashion industry, where workers from developing countries are provided minimum wage by big firms, which leads to exploitation of their labour. Globalization, therefore, has led to greater income inequality, both within countries and between them.

Globalization also has social and cultural dimensions to it. A large part of why the world has become ‘smaller’ and people from different parts have gotten closer is popular culture, which includes music, movies, and fashion. Take for example the movie Parasite, directed bu Bong Joon Ho, which became the first movie in a ‘foreign’ language (i.e., language other than English) to win the Oscar for Best Picture, which is a result of the increased popularity of the Korean culture and entertainment industry across the globe.

However, globalization has also raised important socio-cultural concerns, such as the disintegration of cultural traditions, beliefs, practices, and values to make space for more global ones. The increased movement of people from one country to another also give rise to similar concerns. While it has created new opportunities for cultural exchange and cooperation, matters such as identity have also led to tensions and even conflict, leading to questions about the benefits of globalization.


The term ‘glocalization’ is formed by combining the words globalization and localization together. This is the same for the concept of glocalization as well, which combines elements of localization and globalization. According to Blatter (2019), glocalization is “the simultaneous occurrence of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies in contemporary social, political, and economic systems.” In other words, glocalization refers to the process of adapting global products, services, or ideas into local contexts such that the global and local domains amalgamate to create a unique phenomenon. One of the most popular examples of glocalization is the way in which McDonald’s, Dominos, or other fast food chains adapt their menu to the local food culture – for instance, Dominos in India has a menu that includes certain flavors of pizza that cater to the Indian audiences, such as Tikka Masala, Tandoor, etc. Global fast-food chains do so in order to appeal to the local masses and expand their local market reach.

Problems in Defining Globalization

While it is assumed that there is a consensus about what globalization entails, in reality, the complexities of the phenomenon do not allow for an easy and universal way of defining the phenomenon. Firstly, there remains the problem of assuming that globalization impacts everyone everywhere in the same manner. Along with this is the problem of assuming that globalization impacts everyone in a positive manner. These assumptions do not hold true everywhere around the globe. Globalization has several negative effects on certain communities that do not have easy access to the tools that are necessary in a globalized world, such as the internet. Those without resources such as the internet are essentially left behind in the process of globalization, leading to their marginalization and social exclusion. Therefore, not only does globalization not take place in a homogenous manner all over the world, it also has the potential to negatively impact communities and individuals, which contradicts the positive assumption that one might take while trying to define globalization. Further, there is contradiction among sociologists and other social scientists as to which aspect of globalization out of economic, social, and cultural need to be prioritized.

Perspectives on Globalization

Marxist Perspective

According to the Marxist perspective, globalization primarily benefits the capitalist class which essentially owns the production system and exploits the working class to earn profits. Globalization is seen as a process through which large firms expand their businesses and boost their profits while exploiting their workers and harming the environment. For proponents of the Marxism, rather than a people-centric focus, accumulation of capital and profits is what motivates globalization.

Karl Marx wrote extensively about the relationship between capitalism and globalization. In one of his most renowned works, The Communist Manifesto, Marx argued that capitalism’s inherent need for expansion–finding new sources for raw materials and labour and creating new markets for products–would eventually lead to the globalization. According to Marx, the “need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere” (Marx & Engels, 1848, p.16). For Marx, globalization also meant the exacerbated exploitation of workers by capitalists and, on a global scale, the uneven distribution of the way in which capitalist economies develop, with some countries becoming more wealthy and powerful at the expense of others. In brief, according to the Marxist view, globalization is advantageous for the capitalist class as it opens up new markets for their goods, fresh sources of labor and raw materials, and fresh prospects for earning profits. It also worsens certain issues of socio-economic concern, such as exploitation and inequalities, within and between countries around the world.

Feminist Perspective

It is important that “economic globalization must (also) be understood in terms of the effects it has had on women, who make up a disproportionate percentage of the global poor” (Parekh & Wilcox, 2014). According to feminist scholars, men have disproportionately benefited from globalization while women have been exploited and subjugated. For instance, when it comes to the division of labor, industries that heavily rely on the cheaply available female labor in developing countries have been augmented by globalization, therefore leading to the exploitation of female workers and their marginalization. However, industries that require higher levels of skill and also provide higher wages, such as technology, keep growing due to globalization. Such industries are primarily male-dominated and therefore disproportionately benefit male workers in economies.

Postmodernist Perspective

As per the postmodernist viewpoint, globalization is a phenomenon that entails breaking down borders and boundaries, blending cultures, and generating novel hybrid identities. Postmodernists reject the idea of fixed and stable identities and argue that globalization has created new and fluid forms of identity and cultural exchange. From a postmodernist point of view, globalization is not a straightforward or easily definable concept, instead consisting of several complexities. Postmodernists maintain that this process is characterized by a multitude of interconnected factors that interact in intricate and often unpredictable ways. Consequently, a simple or reductionist understanding of globalization is insufficient to capture its nuances and complexities.

Postmodernists argue that globalization has complex and unpredictable outcomes, and its benefits are not limited to any specific group or individual. Globalization has opened up fresh prospects for cultural exchange, creativity, and innovation. At the same time, it has given rise to several new types of inequalities, displacement, and marginalization. Postmodernists suggest that globalization has disrupted established forms of knowledge and power, presenting new opportunities for dissent and rebellion. In their view, globalization involves the crossing of boundaries and borders, the blending of different cultures, and the emergence of novel hybrid identities. Postmodernists believe that globalization does not have negative consequences only, as certain other theorists would like to argue. Instead, they recognize the complexities attached to the phenomenon, which opens up new avenues for positive change and transformation. Through these hybrid identities and cultural exchanges, individuals and groups may find ways to resist or subvert dominant power structures, leading to a more diverse and egalitarian society.

Globalization and Identity

Globalization has had a significant impact on identity. It challenges traditional forms of identity based on nation-states, cultures, and religions and creates new opportunities for cultural exchange, hybridity, and fluidity. Identity, in a lot of different ways, has become more flexible and diverse.

There are mixed responses to how globalization has impacted and continues to impact identity. On one hand, the large-scale global exchange of people, ideas, and commodities globally due to globalization means that certain new forms of identity have emerged that go beyond traditionally-defined national and socio-cultural identities. On the other hand, globalization has negatively affected community identity by causing its disintegration.

Globalization and Cultural Divergence and Convergence

Globalization has had both converging and diverging effects on cultures around the world. Convergence of culture has mostly been in terms of the West. Western values of culture, such as individualism and consumerism, has seen a significant increase, and due to its overpowering nature owing to a history of global colonialism, it has led to a homogenization of culture across the globe. In simple terms, it means that the diverse cultural patterns have given way to a considerably homogenous one lacking variations in beliefs and practices, especially when it comes to consumption. An example of this can be the hegemonic acceptance of English as the ‘official’ language for most countries of the world, including those for whom English is not the native language.

However, mostly as a result of such cultural homogenization and convergence, globalization has also revived an interest in local cultures and traditions among people who identify cultural convergence as a threat to their unique cultural identities. Cultural divergence has been the obvious outcome of such a critical view of globalization, with people striving to maintain their unique cultural practices.

Simply put, the debate over the impact of globalization on cultural convergence versus divergence is a complex one, and varies with cultural context and the specific processes of globalization at work.

Globalization, Western Ideology and Identity, and the Concept of Westernization

According to The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (2019), Westernization can be defined as “the adoption of the practices and culture of western Europe by societies and countries in other parts of the world, whether through compulsion or influence.” Western ideas are known to have had a huge impact on the rest of the world, regardless of whether they have been forced onto other countries or willingly accepted by them. Further, Western nations are often considered the ‘ideal’ models of so-called ‘modernity’ and ‘progress’ of human civilization. Globalization has facilitated the adoption of Western ideology throughout the rest of the world, leading to homogenization of culture across domains such as politics, economics, education, and media. This trend has sparked concerns that distinct cultural identities are being eroded as local traditions and practices are supplanted by more universalized norms. Scholars such as Kaul (2012) have emphasized the potential impact of this homogenization on the richness and diversity of human cultures, and urge us to consider the broader implications of globalization on cultural identity.

Identity is a complex thing, and globalization has only made it more complicated. It has created both new opportunities and challenges in terms of cultures, traditions, and shared experiences. Western ideology has influenced the way people view themselves, with western values and practices being seen as aspirational and desirable. The adoption of western values and practices has also created new forms of identity, including transnational and cosmopolitan identities, which transcend national and cultural boundaries. However, the adoption of western values and practices can also lead to cultural hybridization, where traditional practices are blended with western ones, challenging the notion of western cultural hegemony. Identity crisis, which has become a catchphrase, is most common in non-Western countries. For instance, Doku and Asante (2011) state that “globalization increases the proportion of young people in non- Western cultures who experience a state of identity confusion rather than successfully forming an identity.”

Westernization is thus differently interpreted by its proponents, who argue that it can promote economic growth and development, and its critics, for whom westernization dismantles traditions, creating a sense of loss of cultural identity. It is important to understand and examine Westernization in the context of globalization from a critical lens.

Ethnic Revitalization

An important phenomenon in relation to globalization, ethnic revitalization is the process by which ethnic groups that are considered minority respond to the threats to their socio-cultural identity that they face due to globalization and the resultant homogenization of cultures. It is a process of renewal of their cultural identity and fighting back the aspects of globalization that lead to destruction of their local cultures and traditions. It is through ethnic revitalization that communities, groups, and cultures that have been relegated to ‘minorities’ resist the negative effects of globalization. For example, the Māori culture, which was suppressed due to centuries of colonial rule, is under the process of being revived or revitalized in New Zealand rapid spread and increasing popularity of te reo Māori, or the Māori language, through development of classes and lessons dedicated towards the language (Roy, 2018).

Cultural Defense

According to Kim (1997), cultural defense is a “a legal strategy that uses evidence about a defendant’s cultural background to negate or to mitigate criminal liability (with a concomitant sentence reduction)” (p. 102-103). In other words, the usage of cultural defense necessitates that individuals should not be held accountable for certain actions or behaviors if they are consistent with their cultural beliefs and practices. In the context of globalization, cultural defense can be seen as a way in which individuals resist homogenization of legal instruments by putting forward their particular cultural context into consideration. However, such a ‘benefit’ of cultural defense also means that acts of crime, such as violence, assault, murder, and sexual offenses, are defended for by using this concept. In the context of globalization, by citing a ‘loss of culture’ or ‘harm to cultural beliefs’, cultural defense can potentially be used to justify actions that violate basic human rights or harm others. Broeck (2001) gives an example of a case in Netherlands where an act of throwing flowers into a river by a Hindu person was considered a crime because Dutch law mandates pollution of waterbodies to be a criminal offense, but for the Hindu, it was simply part of a religious ritual. Such an act can easily be defended on cultural grounds.

Hybrid Identities

Cultural hybridization refers to the process by which “a cultural element blends into another culture by modifying the element to fit cultural norms” (Bell, 2014), which has become a common occurrence in an increasingly globalized world. Since cultures are a huge factor in creation of identities, in an increasingly culturally hybridizing world, identities are also become hybrid. Hybrid identities can therefore be described as the way in which multiple cultures, traditions, and experiences influence the identities of individuals as a result of the cultural blending due to globalization. For instance, Bell (2014) suggests that the language of Louisana Creole which resulted from a mix of African, French, and English languages is an example of cultural hybridization, which means that the lingual identity of the people who speak the language is also hybrid.

Globalization, Power, and Politics

The Spread of Liberal Democracy and Human Rights

 Globalization has led to the spread of liberal democracy and human rights.  According to Dalpino (2001), one of “the most tangible evidence of globalization’s impact on democratization has been the infusion of democratic norms, and the principles of human rights that support them, into many international and regional institutions.” A complex interplay of power, politics, and cultural values has been central to this. Citizens have increasingly demanded for more political freedom and accountability from the government. Governments also face pressure for the same from international organizations – the UN, for instance – and other governments. These can and have led to changes in the way governments work around the world. International organizations and advocates have worked to promote human rights norms and standards. Unequal power dynamics among countries can, however, hinder progress. More powerful countries can marginalize and exploit less powerful countries.

Power and Politics

In terms of power and politics, globalization has had a significant impact on the power bestowed upon nation-states (Jotia, 2011). Traditional power structures have been questioned and dismantled, making way for newer forms of power to emerge. According to Jotia (2011), the globalization of trade, finance, and technology has created new opportunities for corporations and wealthy individuals to accumulate wealth and power on a global scale, often at the expense of national governments and local communities, such that “the nation-states’ sovereignty remains in limbo as power steadily shifts to the most powerful financial and corporate institutions” (p. 246).

Globalization and Social Movements

Globalization has also had an impact on political activism and social movements. It has created new opportunities for the same to accommodate for the rising need among people for more equitable forms of globalization. The phenomenon has “opened new spaces for communication, allowing ideas to flow freely across borders” (McKane, 2014). For example, the global climate strike movement started by Fridays For Future in 2018 gained widespread attention and support from all across the globe, and helped to put pressure on governments and corporations to take more action on climate change.


Upon thorough examination, globalization therefore emerges as an intricate phenomenon with several complexities surrounding it. The impact of globalization can be felt most when it comes to identity, whether individual or community. While there might be positive effects of globalization, the phenomenon needs to be evaluated critically to ensure that its negative outcomes are understood, examined, and effectively eliminated. Through the various facets connected to globalization, it can be easily concluded that there is no singular way of examining the complex phenomenon that is globalization.

Also Read: Globalization- Contemporary: Issues


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Soumili is currently pursuing her studies in Social Sciences at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, focusing on core subjects such as Sociology, Psychology, and Economics. She possesses a deep passion for exploring various cultures, traditions, and languages, demonstrating a particular fascination with scholarship related to intersectional feminism and environmentalism, gender and sexuality, as well as clinical psychology and counseling. In addition to her academic pursuits, her interests extend to reading, fine arts, and engaging in volunteer work.