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  The term globalization, in economics, refers to the development of worldwide social and economic relationships. The world, in many crucial respects, has become a single social system as a result of the many ties of interdependence between the various countries. In recent history, men and women find that their lives are influenced by organizations and networks which are located many miles away from them. Consider, for example, the range of products available in Western supermarkets which depend on a complex system of relationships between various countries.

It is only in relatively recent times that it has been possible to speak of forms of social association which stretch across the globe. The total world-view now taken for granted is a fairly recent development. Globalization started two or three centuries ago with the expansion of Western influence as Western adventurers began to explore different parts of the globe. The gulf that then existed between different parts of the world led to the development of some bizarre beliefs about peoples from foreign parts. The Chinese, for instance, believed that the English would die of constipation if they did not eat rhubarb; 19th-century Western missionaries displayed extraordinary arrogance when they saw their task as one of ‘civilizing’ the ‘savages’ they encountered in Africa.

Globalization has, however, not taken place evenly and the development of world social relations has resulted in marked inequalities between the industrialized and Third World countries. Most Third World countries are in areas which once underwent Western colonial rule. Sufficient food may exist to feed the world population, but still millions of people die of hunger and starvation every year. Large amounts of food are destroyed or stored indefinitely in Western countries and businesses operating in the Third World are geared to export to the West rather than to satisfy local food needs.

The process of globalization has been greatly facilitated by developments in communications and transport. An important feature of globalization is the development of multinationals—companies operating in two or more countries across national boundaries. As a consequence of globalization multinational companies are able to take advantage of the diverse tax and wage rates and levels of unionization in different countries, forcing employees to compete in the world labour market. The final product can be assembled from many different units, made in a large number of different countries. Countries in the world have become largely interdependent as a result of these multinational companies. DA

See also convergence thesis; dependency theory; diffusionism; division of labour; historical sociology; labour process; society; world system.Further reading H. Bull, et al. (eds.), Expansion of International Society; , P. Worsley, The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development.



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