Globalization is the connection of different parts of the world. Globalization results in the expansion of international cultural, economic, and political activities. As people, ideas, knowledge, and goods move more easily around the globe, the experiences of people around the world become more similar.
Globalization in History
Globalization has a long history. Ancient Greek culture, for instance, spread across much of southwestern Asia, northern Africa, and southern Europe. The globalization of Greek culture came with the conqueror Alexander the Great. In fact, there are cities named for Alexander in Iraq (Iskandariya), Egypt (Alexandria), and Turkey (Alexandria Troas).
The Silk Road, a trade route between China and the Mediterranean Sea, promoted the exchange of ideas and knowledge, along with trade goods and foods such as silk, spices, porcelain, and other treasures from the East.
When Europeans began establishing colonies overseas, globalization grew. Many early European explorers were eager to bring the Christian religion to the regions they visited. The globalization of Christianity spread from Europe to Latin America through Christian missionaries working with the local populations.
Globalization was accelerated in the nineteenth century with the Industrial Revolution, as mechanical mills and factories became more common. Many companies used raw materials from distant lands. They also sold their goods in other countries.
Britain’s colony in India, for instance, supplied cotton to British merchants and traders. Madras, a light cotton cloth, was made in the city of Madras (now called Chennai), a major port in India. Eventually, madras cloth was no longer manufactured in Madras at all—the Indian labor force supplied the raw material, cotton. Factories in the county of Lancashire, England, created madras cloth. British factories made fabric and other goods from the cotton. British manufacturers could then sell their finished goods, such as clothing and blankets, to buyers all over the world—the United States, Brazil, Australia, even India.
Globalization sped up dramatically in the twentieth century with the proliferation of air travel, the expansion of free trade, and the dawn of the Information Age. Miles of fiber-optic cable now connect the continents, allowing people around the world to communicate instantly through the borderless World Wide Web.
Modern communication has played a large role in cultural globalization. Today, news and information zips instantly around the world on the internet. People can read information about foreign countries as easily as they read about their local news. Through globalization, people may become aware of incidents very quickly. In seconds, people are able to respond to natural disasters that happen thousands of miles away.
About 60 percent of the people in the world now use cell phones. A farmer in Nigeria can easily talk to his cousin who moved to New York City, New York. The success of global news networks like CNN have also contributed to globalization. People all over the world can see the same news 24 hours a day.
Increased international travel has also helped globalization. Each year, millions of people move from one country to another in search of work. Sometimes, these migrant workers travel a short distance, such as between the Mexican state of Sonora and the U.S. state of California. Sometimes, migrant workers travel many thousands of miles. Migrant workers from the Philippines, for instance, may travel to Europe, Australia, or North America to find better-paying jobs.
People do not travel just for work, of course. Millions of people take vacations to foreign countries. Most of these international tourists are from developed countries. Many are most comfortable with goods and services that resemble what they have at home. In this way, globalization encourages countries around the world to provide typical Western services. The facilities of a Holiday Inn hotel, for instance, are very similar, whether the location is Bangor, Maine, or Bangkok, Thailand.
Travel and tourism have made people more familiar with other cultures. Travelers are exposed to new ideas about food, which may change what they buy at the store at home. They are exposed to ideas about goods and services, which may increase demand for a specific product that may not be available at home. They are exposed to new ideas, which may influence how they vote. In this way, globalization influences trade, taste, and culture.
Popular culture has also become more globalized. People in the United States enjoy listening to South African music and reading Japanese comic books. American soap operas are popular in Israel.
India, for instance, has a thriving film industry, nicknamed “Bollywood.” Bollywood movies are popular both in India and with the huge population of Indians living abroad. In fact, some Bollywood movies do much better in the United States or the United Kingdom than they do in India.
Clothing styles have also become more uniform as a result of globalization. National and regional costumes have become rarer as globalization has increased. In most parts of the world, professionals such as bankers wear suits, and jeans and T-shirts are common for young people.
There has also been an increasing exchange of foods across the globe. People in England eat Indian curry, while people in Peru enjoy Japanese sushi. Meanwhile, American fast food chains have become common throughout the world. McDonald's has more than 31,000 restaurants in 118 countries. And people all across the world are eating more meat and sugary foods, like those sold in fast food restaurants.
The worldwide expansion of McDonald’s has become a symbol of globalization. Some menu items, such as the Big Mac, are the same all over the world. Other menu items are specific to that region. McDonalds in Japan features a green-tea flavored milkshake. At McDonald’s in Uruguay, a “McHuevo” is a burger topped with a fried egg. Globalization has brought McDonald’s to billions of consumers worldwide.
The international economy has also become more globalized in recent decades. International trade is vital to the economies of most countries around the world. American software companies, such as Microsoft, rely on international trade to make large profits. The economy of the country of Saudi Arabia is almost entirely dependent on oil exports.
To increase trade, many countries have created free trade agreements with other countries. Under free trade agreements, countries agree to remove trade barriers. For example, they may stop charging tariffs, or taxes, on imports. In 1994, the United States, Mexico, and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eventually ended all tariffs on trade goods between the three nations. This allowed globalization of goods and services, as well as people and ideas, between these three countries.
Most large corporations operate in many countries around the world. HSBC, the world’s largest bank, has offices in 88 different countries. Originally, HSBC stood for Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation, which was founded in 1865 to promote trade between China and the United Kingdom. Today, HSBC has its headquarters in London, England.
Economic globalization has allowed many corporations based in the West to move factories and jobs to less economically developed countries, a process called outsourcing. The corporation can pay lower wages, because the standard of living in less developed countries is much lower. Laws protecting the environment and workers’ safety are less widespread in developing countries, which also lowers costs for the corporation. Often, this results in lower costs for consumers, too.
Economic markets are global. People and organizations invest in companies all over the globe. Because of this, economic downturns in one country are repeated in other countries. The financial crisis that began in the United States in 2006 quickly spread around the world. The way globalization allowed this situation to spread led to the nation of Iceland nearly going bankrupt, for example.
Cultural and economic globalization have caused countries to become more connected politically. Countries frequently cooperate to enact trade agreements. They work together to open their borders to allow the movement of money and people needed to keep economic globalization working.
Because people, money, and computerized information move so easily around the globe, countries are increasingly working together to fight crime. The idea of maintaining international law has also grown. In 2002, the International Criminal Court was established. This court, which handles cases such as war crimes, has a global reach, although not all countries have accepted it.
Many problems facing the world today cross national borders, so countries must work together to solve them. Efforts to confront problems such as global climate change must involve many different countries. In 2009, representatives from 170 countries gathered at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, to discuss climate change. Other international issues include terrorism, drug trafficking, and immigration.
The process of globalization is very controversial. Many people say globalization will help people communicate. Aid agencies can respond more quickly to a natural disaster. Advanced medicines are more easily and widely available to people who may not have been able to afford them. Jobs available through globalization have lifted many people out of poverty. Globalization has increased the number of students studying abroad.
Not everyone says that globalization is good, however. Some people worry that Western culture will destroy local cultures around the world. They fear that everyone will end up eating hamburgers and watching Hollywood movies. Others point out that people tend to adopt some aspects of other cultures without giving up their own. Ironically, modern technology is often used to preserve and spread traditional beliefs and customs.
Opponents to globalization blame free trade for unfair working conditions. They also say that outsourcing has caused wealthy countries to lose too many jobs. Supporters of globalization say that factory workers in poor countries are making much better wages than they would at other jobs available to them. They also argue that free trade has lowered prices in wealthier countries and improved the economy of poorer countries.
Battle in Seattle
The 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was held in Seattle, Washington. This meeting was protested by thousands of people opposed to globalization. The protests turned violent. Hundreds of people were arrested. Many were injured in confrontations with police. Many buildings were damaged. The incident is sometimes called "the Battle in Seattle."
Food has long been an important part of globalization. Today, foods in Korea and many parts of China are often spicy. They get their spice from chili peppers. This was not the case before the 1600s. The fiery chili pepper is native to the Western Hemisphere. Explorer Christopher Columbus first brought chilies to Europe in 1493, and from there they spread across Asia.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry abroad Adverb
in a foreign country.
to increase speed or velocity.
Alexander the Great Noun
(356-323 BCE) Greek ruler, explorer, and conqueror.
unable to pay debts.
Battle in Seattle Noun
(1999) protest of the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Wash.
mainstream Indian film industry.
natural or artificial line separating two pieces of land.
Encyclopedic Entry: border cell phone Noun
device that uses radio signals to transmit and receive voice and other data.
chili pepper Noun
plant native to the Americas whose fruit and seeds are cultivated for food and spice.
people and culture focused on the teachings of Jesus and his followers.
Christopher Columbus Noun
(1446-1506) Italian navigator.
complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.
Encyclopedic Entry: civilization climate change Noun
gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.
Encyclopedic Entry: climate change colony Noun
people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.
sharing of information and ideas.
to address a problem or person directly.
questionable or leading to argument.
business made up of a group of stockholders, or people who own interest in the business.
traditional clothing of a region or country.
cloth made from fibers of the cotton plant.
food associated with India that features spicy sauces, vegetables and sometimes meat.
drug trafficking Noun
buying, selling and transporting of illegal drugs.
economic downturn Noun
part of the business cycle when the exchange of goods and services slows down. Also called a recession.
system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
to form or officially organize.
process of enlarging.
good or service traded to another area.
a building or room that serves a specific function.
one or more buildings used for the manufacture of a product.
having to do with the transmission of light through transparent fibers.
burning or having to do with heat.
financial crisis Noun
situation where banks, credit unions, and other institutions suddenly lose much of their value.
finished good Noun
item assembled and ready for sale.
free trade Noun
international exchange of goods and services without taxes or other fees.
connection of different parts of the world resulting in the expansion of international cultural, economic, and political activities.
Encyclopedic Entry: globalization HSBC Noun
(HSBC Holdings plc) one of the largest banks in the world.
process of moving to a new country or region with the intention of staying and living there.
good traded from another area.
event or happening.
Industrial Revolution Noun
change in economic and social activities, beginning in the 18th century, brought by the replacement of hand tools with machinery and mass production.
Information Age Noun
nickname for the current era of humanity, starting with widespread public access to the internet (the World Wide Web) in the early 1990s. Also called the Computer Age.
International Criminal Court Noun
organization that tries people accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
vast, worldwide system of linked computers and computer networks.
labor force Noun
workers or people who are physically and legally able to work. Also called the workforce.
Latin America Noun
South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
type of light cotton cloth. Madras is also the former name of the city of Chennai, India.
central place for the sale of goods.
largest restaurant chain in the world.
person who sells goods and services.
migrant noun, adjective
person who regularly moves from place to place, usually in search of work.
machine used for grinding or crushing various materials.
natural disaster Noun
an event occurring naturally that has large-scale effects on the environment and people, such as a volcano, earthquake, or hurricane.
series of links along which movement or communication can take place.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Noun
(1994) treaty between the United States, Canada, and Mexico that reduced tariffs and made trade easier between the countries.
fossil fuel formed from the remains of marine plants and animals. Also known as petroleum or crude oil.
process of moving jobs and factories to developing countries in order to lower costs.
dough rolled or made into shapes and then boiled.
popular culture Noun
goods, services, ideas, and patterns of their use in a population.
place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.
Encyclopedic Entry: port poverty Noun
status of having very little money or material goods.
money earned after production costs and taxes are subtracted.
very rapid growth or increase in production.
raw material Noun
matter that needs to be processed into a product to use or sell.
a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.
Silk Road Noun
ancient trade route through Central Asia linking China and the Mediterranean Sea.
alike or resembling.
electronic programs of code that tell computers what to do.
standard of living Noun
amount of goods and services a person in a specific community or geographic area is able to afford.
bite-sized rolls or balls of sticky rice topped with seafood or vegetables.
tax imposed on imports or exports.
money or goods citizens provide to government in return for public services such as military protection.
use of violence and threats of violence to influence political decisions.
to develop and be successful.
person who travels for pleasure.
buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.
trade route Noun
path followed by merchants or explorers to exchange goods and services.
movement from one place to another.
money paid to a person for providing goods or services.
World Trade Organization (WTO) Noun
group that works with governments and international organizations to regulate trade and resolve trade disputes between countries.