Steger (2009) reports that although globalization is difficult to define, it typically refers to the integration of countries, societies, and/or cultures in order to share in international trade, investment, migration, and technologies. However, in general, the term ‘globalization’ is most often used to refer to economic globalization with integrated and sharing economies being an event that is driven by diverse sociopolitical and technological forces (see: Dicken, 2000). For example, concerning technology, the common medium of the Internet could be seen as a technological factor advancing and promoting globalization in that it brings ethnically and culturally diverse people together. Similarly, a decision made by the government of an industrialized power to share commerce and/or technology with a Third World country would be a sociopolitical factor that advances and promotes globalization.
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There are several arguments in favor of globalization. According to Eitzen and Zinn (2008), advocates view the process as able to reduce world poverty and allow developing countries access to technology that they would not have access to before or at least not as great an access. Youngs (2007) reports that some also see globalization as promoting both world peace and the rights of the most vulnerable in all societies, e.g., the rights of children and widows.
On the other hand, globalization is not without critics. Many feel that it will fundamentally change cultures in undesired ways (Youngs, 2007). Still others see the globalization process as opening a door for smaller and weaker countries to be interfered with by more powerful countries or more powerful agents (Steger, 2009).
However, regardless of whether one advocates or argues against globalization, one important point must be made. Globalization is not solely the result of open market forces and trading needs; rather, it has been primarily produced as a result of political decision making in diverse countries and various diplomatic compromises concerning these decisions, all of them centering around concerns about making different countries and their governments effective, more efficient, more prosperous, and more powerful (Oppenheimer, 2008). The purpose of this essay is to examine globalization. In particular, the essay examines the relationships between globalization, power, and technology.
Technology and Power
The first step in understanding the relationships between technology, power, and globalization is to recognize the power of technology itself. Technology increases the power of the average citizen of any country, and it also increases the power of the governments of diverse countries. With respect to the foregoing, the most powerful technologies are the communication and information technologies (Brin, 1998; Dodge & Kitchin, 2001; Kluyer & Banerjee, 2005).
Regarding the connection between power, government, and the information technologies, the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer (2010) mentions this connection in a very recent blog stating that he had been invited to join 50 other CEOs at a White House Forum, an invitation that he felt was:
. …another strong signal that leaders at the very highest level of the federal government recognize that information technology has the potential to transform government by making it more efficient, more effective and more responsive. One example is the Open Government Directive, which requires federal agencies to make data available online, and as a result more than 100,000 government data sets are now available at the Web site Data.gov. We’re excited about opportunities to work with government and industry to take the next step by helping provide tools that let citizens and government agencies organize that data and turn it into meaningful, actionable information to help improve government services. (p. 1)
In other words, technology is power in that governments can use it to be more responsive to its concerns and needs as well as more productive and efficient. Here again it is the information technologies that afford great power as a result of these technologies allowing for the organization and exploitation of needed data. This need for more responsive, productive, and efficient government by Third World Countries cannot be over-estimated (Clapham, 2007).
According to Barker (2000), the reason that technology is so powerful for Third World countries centers on its impact on development and ‘sustainability,’ a term which refers to the growth of natural resources to meet both present and future needs of a country. The development and sustainability boost afforded by technology, in turn, makes the country more likely to successfully participate in globalization efforts which would lead, eventually, to even greater development and sustainability.
Barker (2000) states that there are several ways that technology helps countries with sustainability and subsequent globalization. In this regard, it accelerates development by revolutionizing industry through such technological innovations as nanotechnology, biotechnology, biomimetrics, high temperature superconductivity, network technology, and information technology. In addition, technologies makes the basic tools of prosperity more accessible and more affordable for Third World countries. It also allows countries to more quickly resolve crises because it provides for quick access to required information, information can be used to provide not only immediate but long-term solutions to crises as well as other standing problems.
In summary then, technology is a means to power both for the citizens of countries and for the governments of many countries. One important element of the power provided by technology is that of strengthening the governments of countries in terms of advancing their globalization efforts and with it improved trade
and prosperity. Another way of saying this is that technology has the power to change government (a country’s primary power source) and other elements of a society. The next section of this essay takes a deeper look at how technology and globalization make for changes in a society, country, and/or culture’s power.
Relationship of Technology to Globalization and Subsequent Changes in Power
The power changes that technology brings to any society are substantial. As noted earlier, globalization and the power shifts that are part of it is one of the major ways society is changed by technology. As early as 1998, O’Reilly and Alfred reported that technology is a strong impetus to, as well as a sustainer of, globalization. The fact is that technology cannot only assist a country to participate in globalization but globalization itself opens the door to yet more diverse technologies which drive still more changes in business, jobs, education and training. In total, these changes amount to often changing the way a given country operates as well as transforming both its business and government relationships with the rest of the world.
Early on, Friedman (1999) saw that technology and globalization would be associated with some shifting of power. In particular, he felt that globalization technologies (e.g. computerization, miniaturization, digitization, satellite communications, fiber optics, and the Internet) represented an entire system that set a new balance between citizens and their nation states, one that eradicated government limitations with respect to mobility, understanding, and the reach of citizens and, therefore, provided more direct power to individuals than at any other time in history.
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The relationship between technology, power, and globalization, according to Gompert (2005), is the interrelationship of both free market democracy and ‘power politics’ which the author defines as the interaction of diverse geopolitical powers. Globalization, as a process, is said to be associated with freedom. Gompert states that the vast interchange and interaction that is the substance of globalization is inexorably moving toward the idea and reality of Peace between countries, cultures, and ethnic groups so that commerce (especially commerce in technologies) may flow at an uninterrupted pace. However, power politics, on the other hand, is said to be a perspective that looks out for its own interests and especially its security and Gompert holds that to at least some extent, this is a drive that can interfere with global peace efforts.
Regarding the need for security, Gompert (2005) notes that the power of a country can be undermined as globalization unfolds, allowing commerce to cross geopolitical and social boundaries. This undermining is due to the fact that a certain amount of power that once was concentrated firmly in government hands is now passed on to multinational enterprises, worldwide communications systems, and other non-government entities. This shift in power places nation states in an ongoing struggle with freedom in an effort to maintain its power levels.
However, Gompert (2005) believes that the freedom afforded by technological exchanges and sharing is one that will lead to an inevitable lessening of power in every country in the world and states that this lessening of power will ultimately be advantageous to every country and every culture. Gompert also feels that this inevitable outcome will be the result of the exchange of information technologies. As Gompert (2005) puts it:
Information technology is the sine qua non of both globalization and power-the locomotive on each track. It is integrating the world economy and spreading freedom, while at the same time becoming increasingly crucial to military and other forms of national power. Information technology thus accounts both for power and for the process that softens and smooths power….Information technology connects freedom and power. The link between freedom and information technology, on the one hand, and information technology and power, on the other, explains the relationship between freedom and power-the key to world politics. In a nutshell, military and other forms of power depend increasingly on knowledge and thus on the openness and global integration that spawn and sustain information technology. (p. 59)
In a report prepared by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS, 2006), information technology was discussed as the pivotal factor in relationships between power, globalization and technology. In this regard, the report states that sharing information via technology is literally reshaping both the economy and the social infrastructures of many countries. Products, ideas, and resources are all expanded as a result of information sharing technologies. In turn, this increased expansion is said to foster increased globalization. Industrialized societies are said to be the most changed by technologies such as in the spread of mobile phones and computer produced documentation. However, these are ‘minor’ technologies according to the report because it is the Internet which is said to have truly changed the world and its countries.
The CSIS (2006) reports that the Internet has changed the world and its countries in a variety of ways. These include the Internet which is responsible for: (1) the creation of new ways for both retailers and customers to make transactions; (2) devising innovative ways to manage the flow of production inputs as well as market products; (3) providing expanded opportunities for both job-recruiters and job seekers; (4) enabling myriads of news and information gathering and exchange outlets to proliferate (e.g., websites, chat rooms, instant messaging systems, e-mail, electronic bulletin boards etc.); (5) enabling people with common interests to join with one another to pursue goals; and (6) obtaining alternative sources of educational resource and instruction.
In terms of power changes, the report by CSIS (2006) points out that not all of these are positive and not all of them push toward allowing the citizens of different countries more freedom. In some cases, the social changes introduced can be negative. For example, while new jobs can be created, new markets promoted, and increased international trade and investment can arise, there are many workers in certain sectors of the economy that suffer job loss and/or require extensive skill training before they are eligible for any new jobs created by new technologies. Furthermore, while a given society may experience many changes due to new technologies, the distribution of these are often not equal and those with money and power can, sometimes, gain even more money and power while the poor and under-trained experience few gains.
The negative outcomes can upset many governments and make them nervous about globalization. It is, therefore, important that new policies be developed to handle any negative outcomes and it is also important that they be developed through government consultation as well as with consultation from the private sector in order to ease government fears.
Drago (2001) reports that due to cultural and governmental differences as well as differences in sensitivities to any shifts in power, what is also needed is what he calls ‘adaptable technologies.’ Technology, Drago states, must be understood and valued by diverse social and cultural groups with different understandings and needs. What is needed are clear guidelines for usage and an assessment of its appropriate uses for each group. With such guidelines and assessments, groups can then adapt the technologies to fit their particular and specific needs and understandings. Drago also proposes that there be some attention paid to how various technologies tend to change a country in a negative manner once they are employed such as hurting human development or modifying the environment or social balance in various undesired ways. This would allow societies and governments to avoid drastic power shifts and changes.
Summary and Conclusions
This essay defined globalization as the integration of countries, societies, and/or cultures in order to share in international trade, investment, migration, and technologies. There was said to be a relationship between globalization, technology and power and the essay examined the nature of this relationship. Based on the analysis of the relationship between these variables several conclusions can be formulated. First, it can be concluded that technology has the power to change both countries and its governments and this is especially true of the information technologies.
Second, it can be concluded that one of these changes is that technologies can change the power levels of both the citizens and the governments of different countries. As to the nature of these changes, it can make citizens more prosperous and educated and it can make governments more responsive to its needs and concerns as well as more effective and more efficient. However, it can also lead to a power struggle between the drive for more freedom and a country’s perspective of internal consistency and security.
A third conclusion that can be formulated based on the analysis presented in this essay is that the introduction of technology into a given society will always foster globalization; furthermore, many of the technologies that come to a given society via globalization will strengthen and reinforce ongoing globalization efforts. It will also change the society by driving changes in business, jobs, education and training, thereby transforming both its business and government relationships with the rest of the world.
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