At its most basic level, globalization is a term which is often used to explain the high levels of interconnectivity – economic, political, and social – in today’s society. Now, more than ever before, geographical distances no longer serve as boundaries for day-to-day activities such as communication, trade, and the consumption of goods and services. Globalization is largely a result of economic developments which were enhanced by the promotion of neoliberal capitalism and a lax regulatory environment, especially in the 1980s with the so-called Washington Consensus being touted by Western world leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. However, to imply that globalization is a phenomenon dating only to the 1980s would be to undermine centuries worth of developments that have led to the current world order. One could look as far back as the 2nd century BCE to the Silk Road to trace the origins of intercontinental trade. More recently, the discovery of the ‘New World’ in the 15th century by European explorers and the subsequent exploitation of the people and natural resources in these new territories is a bit more reminiscent of current trends.
The slave trade and modern industrialization later on also relied on both cheap raw materials and cheap labor (forced, in the case of slavery); a feature global capitalism and, consequently, globalization itself, continue to employ for their own benefit today. While the term ‘globalization’ is used, it is important to note that not all peoples of the globe have contributed equally to the definition of a globalized society nor have all peoples benefited equally from the creation of a globalized world. John Tomlinson puts it rather bluntly:”The globalised culture that is currently emerging is not a global culture in any utopian sense. It is not a culture that has arisen out of the mutual experiences and needs of all of humanity.
It does not draw equally on the world’s diverse cultural traditions. It is neither inclusive, balanced, nor, in the best sense, synthesizing. Rather, globalised culture is the installation, world-wide, of one particular culture born out of one particular, privileged historical experience. It is, in short, simply the global extension of Western culture.” Indeed, if we look back to the discovery of Central and South America, the slave trade, and the creation of the current economic system with a resource-rich global South and an industry-rich global North, it is clear to see that the benefactor of these societal developments has been the West, and, in recent years especially, the United States. Much of what defines contemporary society is a direct result of Western exploitation or dominance over other peoples of the world politically, economically, and culturally.
This historical position of power has given the West a prime position to continue to determine the outcomes of world society today. This essay will argue that the West maintains its global dominance by determining the ‘rules’ of international affairs, creating a global system of winners and losers, promoting its own social standards even when hypocritical or irreconcilable, and defining itself by defining others. In addition, the essay will also discuss the current role of political ‘Americanization’ through the use of a case study describing the 2017 New Zealand election. To conclude, the essay will also speculate on whether globalization today is still a product of the West or if it is really the legacy of a Western byproduct- capitalism and corporate interests.