Globalization and Modern Society



Globalization and Modern Society Despite the ideological platitudes of the twentieth century, it is quite possible that Marx’s economic claims and predictions were right. This is not to say that everything he wrote came true exactly. it is to say that in a broad sense much of what he said to be historically determined has in fact turned out to be the case. Marx saw history as an unfolding process of growth and development in which one form of political economy gave way to another. Thus in ancient times, there was slave-based economy. Then there was feudal serfdom. Thereafter came the rise of industry and capitalism, typified by the 1789 French Revolution. In each stage one socio-economic class gave way to the other. Today we live in the age of globalization with its unique blend of capitalists, international labor, and global bureaucratic institutions. Within the context of globalization this finds a certain amount of resonance. Globalization has in many ways spread a regulated market economy. Superficially that may seem like the expansion of capitalism. In reality, virtually everywhere today there is an extensive public-private partnership. In Europe this is called socialism. In America it is technocracy. In China it is the command economy. In India it is “developmentalism.” These all involve some level of market economy and some level of state control. Marx theorized that the economic stage after capitalism would be socialism. He of course specifically theorized that this would be a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” In reality this socialism has involved the integration of the working class, the politico-bureaucratic class, and the business class. But its results have been very close to Marx’s theories. A global system of government and economics would supersede nineteenth century capitalism wherein traditional nation-state sovereignty would be diminished. In its place would develop international frameworks and governance with a global outlook. As Marx presciently noted, “[c]entralization is a direct product of rationalization” (Berlin 200, 1963). This whole process and phenomenon is today known as globalization. Cultural and social trends are everywhere becoming homogenized. This is to say that cultural, along with political, borders are weakening. In their stead is developing a truly global world. For the average citizen, for whom culture, language, nation, and/or religion collectively form his/her identity, the notion of an expanding global financial, political, cultural, and social apparatus seems daunting. It is difficult enough in mass society to maintain one’s identity, especially with the rationalization and harmonization of both clothing and speech forms, two things which historically marked significant class and/or social distinctions. Today everyone seems to be wearing the same thing and speaking in the same way (and often in the same language). Couple that with the loss of sovereignty to international bodies and institutions and it seems that globalization cannot be stopped. The complete rationalization of the whole of human society, as Marx predicted, will continue unmitigated. The average citizen has the right and duty to resist these trends. The loss of either sovereignty or individuality, (or worse – both), is the loss of one’s freedom and humanity. People need to rediscover their lost culture and roots. They should cook at home using traditional recipes instead of eating GMO foods at fast food restaurants. They should gather at the park and have barbecues instead of sitting at home in front of the T.V. They should buy local produce and goods and not products imported from China or India where they are made with slave labor. Without this kind of approach and determination, the future of the humanity is in peril. The other dimension of resistance to the onslaught of globalization is necessarily a political one. People must first and foremost realize and appreciate that the more local government is, the more accountable and less corrupt it is. Human history aptly demonstrates that governments which are constituted far from the areas they govern are often despotic, corrupt, and/or unresponsive to the needs of its subjects/citizens. The assertion of local control ties into buying and producing locally. This is not to say that global trade or exchange should end and that we should return to the Dark Ages. It is to say that local cultures and identities need to be respected and that people should not eat or buy things which come from far away and are of dubious quality. Politically speaking, this means that citizens need to demand from their leaders that local sovereignty be preserved, that international organizations be democratic if and when possible, and that the global harmonization of markets should not come at the expense of human cultural preservation. Additionally, particularly outside the U.S.A., people need to avoid an overabundance of American cultural imports (Hollywood, pop music). These products take over local artistic scenes, pollute local languages, and spread the image of consumerist-materialism, the very thing which most threatens humanity at the moment. Without some or all of these changes, globalization will one day rob every person of what it once meant to be human and prove Marx truly right. Works Cited Berlin, Isaiah. Karl Marx. New York: Time Inc., 1963.