GLOBALIZATION: WHAT IS IT?
Globalization is the context of our times. Almost nowhere in the world can a viable set of economic, political, or educational goals (policies/initiatives) be developed without taking into consideration our new global context of free markets, New Information and Communication Technologies (NICTs), and the political and cultural consequences those dynamics create.
It is not difficult to find dozens of definitions of globalization. Carnoy (1999) argues that globalization is not merely a matter of trade, investment, or national economy, but a "new way of thinking about social space and time" and that this has occurred primarily because the NICTs have redefined distance and time (p.19). One particularly useful definition of globalization that emphasizes our interdependencies is given by Blackmore (2000) who describes globalization as "increased economic, cultural, environmental, and social interdependencies and new transnational financial and political formations arising out of the mobility of capital, labor, and information, with both homogenizing and differentiating tendencies" (p. 133). Another similar definition, which puts more emphasis on the economic, is by Gibson-Graham (1996) who defines globalization similarly as "a set of processes by which the world is rapidly being integrated into one economic space via increased international trade, the internationalization of production and financial markets, the internationalization of a commodity culture promoted by an increasingly networked global telecommunication system" (p. 121). In most cases, globalization is considered to be a relatively new phenomenon, though some critics argue that globalization is not new at all and can be traced back to the emergence of universal religions or the flowering of capitalism in the 16th century (see Robertson, 1997; Wallerstein, 1987). In most cases, globalization is considered to be primarily an economic phenomenon, though some critics examine and define globalization from a variety of social and theoretical perspectives, including discourse theory, gender studies, narratology, and multiculturalism (for overview of theoretical approaches, see Kellner, 2000; McCarthy and Dimitrades, 2000; Hoppers, 2000).
Thomas Friedman (2005, pp. 9-11) usefully describes globalization has having three great eras. Globalization 1.0, according to Friedman, occurred between 1492 and 1800--when the Old World was expanding markets and acquiring riches primarily by discovering the New World. Globalization 2.0, according to Friedman, lasted from about 1800 to the year 2000--the era when the world continued to "shrink," when multinational companies increasingly went global for markets and labor, and when technological innovations continued to reduce transportation, communication, and production costs. In about the year 2,000, says Friedman, globalization 3.0 began. What is particularly special about this most recent stage is the empowerment of the individual made possible, primarily, by NICTs. As a result of NICT, individuals no longer have to live in or travel to America or Europe to participate in educational, cultural, or business relationships. Further, while Globalization 1.0 and 2.0 were primarily in the hands of Europeans and Americans, Globalization 3.0, says Friedman, will driven increasingly by non-Western groups and individuals.
Since the point of this paper is to consider possibilities of success or failure for cross-border education, the focus here will be on globalization as a recent economic, technological, political and cultural phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In Friedman's terms, we will examine some of the successes and failures of "late" globalization 2.0, and try to understand how, during the era of "early" globalization 3.0, cross-border education can contribute to sustainable economic development in Latin America and even, perhaps, contribute to a globalization 3.1.
But whatever definition one accepts from whatever approach one might take, globalization is, obviously, a multidimensional process with, at the very least, four primary dimensions. Briefly, they are:
Without question, globalization has yielded some extraordinary successes.
Globalization has helped to produce an explosion of new technologies, an abundant production of goods and services, and increasing levels of wealth for millions. As a result of globalization, more people are living under democratic systems, more societies are recognizing the importance of human rights, and never before in world history have so many people had so many opportunities for education and knowledge. Further, because of globalization, a number of developing countries have grown far more quickly than they could have otherwise. Because of international trade and export-led economic growth, for instance, millions of people in East Asia are now far better off now than they were just a few years ago (and being "better off" is not just a function of a larger GNP, but also includes citizens living longer and living healthier).
It must be recognized, however, that for all the successes of globalization, it has simply not lived up to its promise for many developing countries (as well as for Russia). As a matter of fact, during the same time that the total world income increased by an average 2.5 percent annually, the actual number of people living in poverty has increased by almost 100 million (Stiglitz, p. 5). Globalization, which has helped to create wealth and improved living conditions for many, has simultaneously been the context for the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots. Under globalization, increasing numbers of people have been left in dire poverty, living on less than a dollar a day.
A number of critics (Sachs, 2005 ; Stiglitz, 2002; Carnoy, 2000; Stromquist, 2002; Apple, 2000; Sunkle, 2005) blame, in varying degrees, the failures of globalization on neoliberalism--or, more specifically, on the ideological fervor and cookie-cutter mentality that neoliberal policies were imposed on developing countries by the World Bank and the International Monetary fund.
In essence, neoliberalism is an economic ideology (closely identified with the economic policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s) centered around the beliefs that free markets, free trade, decentralized governments and increased privatization will produce the greatest social, political and economic good. Neoliberalism advocates minimal regulations, minimal taxation, as well as minimal government spending and direct involvement in the economy. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the World Bank and the International Monetary fund imposed neoliberal policies on developing countries as conditions for loans. These neoliberal condition-laden loans were called structural adjustment programs. In almost every case, the developing country ended up worse off than before.
Sachs (2005, pp. 74-79) points out that the IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programs were designed to address four primary problems assumed to be the cause of the developing countries' economic ills: (1) poor governance, (2) excessive government intervention in markets, (3) excessive government spending, and (4) too much state ownership. Sachs acknowledges that there was some truth to this diagnosis, but the structural adjustment policies belied a simplistic (if not simpleminded) view of poverty. Clearly, there had been economic mismanagement. And clearly, a number of developing economies did need to reorient themselves to more global market-based systems. But such policy and governance problems were only a part of the problem--often not the central problem.
Sachs argues (pp. 56-74) that a society's economic system has too many "moving parts" for us to presume that only one or two things can go wrong. Different problems can occur in different parts of the "economic machine" in different ways in different countries. The causes of poverty could include: (1) physical geography, (2) debt overhang, (3) governance failures, (4) cultural barriers, (5) geopolitics, (6) lack of innovation culture, and (7) demographics. Only one, possibly two, of those reasons ("governance failures" and possibly "lack of innovation culture') are addressed by neoliberalist policies.
According to Sachs, geography is, perhaps, the most frequently overlooked cause for economic failure. For instance, many of the world's poorest countries have high transportation costs because they are landlocked and/or mountainous, or they lack navigable rivers, or good coastlines and harbors. Other geographical factors that impede economic growth might be an arid climate prone to drought, or a tropical climate that cruelly favors killer diseases. None of these conditions are fatal, argues Sachs, but they must be recognized in planning for economic development so that appropriate investments can be made to overcome them. If the country is landlocked, then perhaps a program of deregulation and decentralization is appropriate, but certainly a program to invest in roads needs to be implemented. If the country is assaulted by tropical diseases, then perhaps a plan to reduce tariffs and increase privatization would be appropriate, but certainly a program to invest in healthcare needs to be done. The point is that an effective development economics should be able to address problems of, say, closed trading systems and poor governance without ignoring the other very real (and often very specific) problems that are causing poverty.
Globalization has often failed for developing countries because its economic agents (IMF and World Bank) consistently imposed wrong solutions for the wrong problems. Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize Winner in Economics wrote:
Stiglitz points out that if markets are opened up to competition too soon (before strong financial institutions can be established), then old jobs will be lost faster than new jobs can be created to replace them. Mistakes in sequencing and pacing, Stiglitz argues, have done much to contribute to the rise in unemployment and increase in poverty. In other words, it is not globalization per se that has increased poverty, but economic strategies imposed by those "agents" of globalization--the World Bank and the IMF.
While the neoliberalist ideology of the 1980s and 1990s may have had much to do with globalization's acceleration at the end of globalization 2.0, it has also had much to do with globalization's failures, especially concerning the economies of developing countries. Our argument here, in terms of cross-border education and sustainable economic development, will be for a kind of globalization 3.1, where developing countries (specifically in Latin America) are not subjected to the same cookie-cutter neoliberal policies, but, rather, allowed (even under loans and support from the World Bank and IMF) enough sovereignty to set their own appropriate pace and sequencing in market liberalization, and enough freedom to work with a state-specific set of economic initiatives (roads, sanitation, e-Readiness, etc.) appropriate to their own specific set of economic conditions.