Internationalism and Globalisation

Globalisation is used to mean the world is becoming more closely entwined and more of a complex web. However, there are many questions surrounding globalisation. Is it a phenomenon, a process or a policy? Is it Westernisation? Is it Americanisation? Is it a new thing? Can it be stopped? Can it be reversed? Can it be controlled? Is it economic, political, cultural, technological? 

Cultural Globalisation 'McWorld'

The McDonaldization of Society 

Cultural globalisation is the ‘flattening out’ of differences in culture between countries. It is the process of increased interconnectedness between different countries and cultures, which is driven by increased communication and trade between them. Cultural globalisation is often seen as a positive force, as it encourages people to learn about and appreciate different cultures, and to share ideas and experiences. However, it can also lead to the homogenisation of cultures, as certain aspects of a culture may be lost or diluted in the process. Cultural diversity is replaced by cultural homogeneity. The world is increasingly a place where the same cultural commodities are consumed regardless of national borders. People listen to the same music, using the same technology, on the same devices. One in seven people on the planet is thought to have watched some of the 2014 Fifa World Cup final – a truly global event. The same brands can be bought throughout the world: McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Apple iPhones, Nike sportswear and more. Their trademarks are instantly recognisable to a large proportion of the world’s population. The dynamic behind this process may be transnational corporations (TNCs) using their global economic power to further their reach and sell more products the world over by exploiting the benefits of economic development. 

Linked to the cultural homogenisation (monoculture) brought about through economic globalisation, and the spread of consumerism and capitalism, is the spread of Western ideas such as democracy, respect for human rights and individualism. This transmission of values, ideas and meanings may be having an immense impact on global politics. Some see a certain inevitability about the spread of liberalism and its associated ideas around the world. For some this spread of ideas is a good thing, emphasising freedom, but for others cultural globalisation, consumerism and individualism are bad news for the environment, for local communities and traditions, and for individuals who are manipulated by the lure of consumer products. For these critics, the only winners in globalisation are the USA, the West and the TNCs that lead the cultural globalisation march. 

The Clash of Civilisations 

Socialist Internationalism


The dominance of national identities in global politics has been challenged by socialism. In the decades before World War I, when industrialization and urbanization in Europe dramatically increased the size of the working class, or proletariat, socialism, an ideology that emphasized class rather than national or religious identities, grew in importance. In this case, being a worker was the primary identity, and thus the socialist ideology typically demanded an end to private property and to the exploitation of workers. Socialism trumped religious identity, and Karl Marx referred to religion “as the opiate of the masses.” In their most famous political slogan, Marx and Friedrich Engels closed their Communist Manifesto (1848) by urging all those with proletarian identities to unite against the capitalists: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!” As World War I approached, some socialists argued that workers should refuse to fight for their countries because the coming conflict was really among capitalists seeking colonies and larger market shares for their products. Some like Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin urged workers to remain loyal to their more fundamental identity, their class, “propagating the socialist revolution, and the necessity of using weapons not against one’s own brothers, the hired slaves of other countries, but against the reactionary and bourgeois governments and parties of all nations.” However, when the war finally erupted, workers across Europe forgot their class identity, put down their shovels, picked up their rifles, and eagerly marched off to the war, arm in arm with their fellow citizens. In recent decades, as states’ dominance of global politics ebbs, other identities – old and new – are coming to the fore. 

Globalised Identities

The declining importance of territory as a source of power and prosperity and the proliferation of globalized communication networks such as the internet allow people however remote geographically to communicate almost instantaneously. Today, global politics is witnessing a revival of ancient ethnic, tribal, and religious identities as well as the invention of powerful new identities based on race, gender, and profession. This revival of identities is a direct result of the increased interconnectedness of the world due to globalization. As nations become more interconnected, individuals are exposed to a wider range of cultures and beliefs, leading to a greater awareness of their own identity. This awareness has led to a resurgence of traditional identities, as well as the creation of new identities based on shared experiences. For example, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement is a direct result of increased awareness of racial injustice in the United States. Similarly, the #MeToo movement has been fueled by increased awareness of gender inequality. In addition, the rise of professional networks has allowed individuals to identify with their profession and create a sense of community 

Today, some of the answers one might get to the question “what is your principal identity?” are “I am a woman,” “an African-American,” “a Christian,” “a Palestinian,” “a Tutsi,” “a poor person,” and so forth. And, as in the past, the question of conflicting identities can produce intense passions. 

In the 1970s Iranians were urged to overthrow their Shah in 1979 on tapes with speeches by the Ayatollah  Khomeini. In 1989 Chinese democracy protesters used fax machines to spread the news about what was happening in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Today, microelectronic technologies further decentralize information production, and networking dramatically  empowers social groups like Mexico’s Zapatistas and China’s Falun Gong. In short, technology fosters new identities, and weakens old ones.  The 'Arab Spring' which led to changes in government in Egypt, Morocco and a civil war in Syria was linked an spread by mobile phones and social media.

 China simultaneously wants to retain central Communist Party control over ideology and use new communications technologies for economic development. This is an example of a contradiction in China's policy. On one hand, the Chinese government wants to maintain control over the ideological content of its citizens, while on the other hand, it wants to use new technologies to promote economic growth. This creates a tension between the two goals, as the use of new technologies can lead to increased access to information and ideas that are not necessarily in line with the government's ideology. As long as television, radio, and the press were the sole sources of news, it was relatively easy for the regime to control information dissemination. Today, however, the Internet poses special problems in China – where there were 26 million users as of summer 2001, 17 million more than in 1999– and the Chinese government has tried hard to regulate this technology fearing the emergence of resistant identities.