Globalisation – Dystopia or Utopia?

It is indisputable that globalisation is defining the 21st century, but whether it is beneficial or detrimental is very much debatable. The effects of globalisation are felt very differently across the globe, some countries flourishing within it, and others experiencing increasing disparity and poverty.

The ideal image of globalisation is a world in which democracy flourishes, information is free, media transcends the nation state and everybody’s voices are heard equally (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler 2012). Print capitalism (Appadurai, 1996) was revolutionary, allowing for mass literacy, large scale production and cross-cultural correspondence without needing face to face communication. The world wide web, however, is perhaps one of the leading factors in globalisation – information is available within seconds on just about everything, communication across borders is instant and cultural exposure is inevitable, supposedly creating a more multicultural global village. This environment is an “agent of empowerment, education, democracy and equality” (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler 2012), creating global responsibility for things such as natural disasters and war crimes, so they are dealt with immediately and countries are not left in strife.

However – while this is ideal, is it realistic? Globalisation has been very beneficial for developed countries and the Western world, with a better cultural experience and increased wealth from international trade, but the developing world has not seen the same benefits. One of the most prominent examples of the effects of globalisation is ‘Americanisation‘, and more specifically, ‘McDonalisation’.

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The nutrition transition epitomises the downfalls of Americanisation. McDonalds and other fast food chains have dominated the world and are attributed to the increasing obesity levels globally. Thus, countries generally correlated with poverty and malnutrition are not only suffering from health issue to undernutrition, but also have rapidly increasing levels of obesity and related health issues such as diabetes and hypertension.

Furthermore, financial disparity is only increasing. According to O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, in 2005 the 50 richest people had a combined income higher than the poorer 416 million; clearly globalisation has not done much for the millions living below the poverty line – although economic output increased by 50% over the past decade, this disparity has only worsened. This is even true for the low income earners in the developed world – in 2013 the richest 1% of American’s earned almost 20% of the total available income.

Essentially, the rich are getting richer and the poor are no better off. Globalisation promises to promote democracy, equality and to be universally beneficial, but evidently it falls short on all accounts. Globalisation, while promising to create a utopia in which cultures interact seamlessly, democracy prospers and everybody’s voices are heard, perhaps it is more accurately explained as a euphemism for dystopia, disparity and inequality.

References

Appadurai, A 1990l ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Economy’, Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 295-310

O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J 2008, ‘Globalisation’ Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471

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