Family and Gender Relations


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Assignment One – Short Essay

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Topic: Family and gender relations

Drawing on the concepts of globalisation and globalism discussed in your textbooks and the Reader, address the following question:

Does globalisation represent a radically new period in human history?



Jan Scholte (2000:39) wrote about globalisation, that the only consensus is that it is contested. “People have held widely differing views regarding definition, scale, chronology, impact and policy (Scholte 2000:39). Use of the term globalisation is high and yet a common understanding of its meaning and where it fits in the history of mankind is frequently vague and based on assumption rather than evidence (Scholte 2000:1). Using one definition from many, of globalisation and globalism and the changes through history that sociologists have used to make sense of the phenomenon, this essay will demonstrate that while globalisation represents both a new and old period in human history, it can only be called radical in its recent state.

The working definition of globalisation used in this essay, has been separated from Jan Scholte’s five broad definitions (2000:15). Deterritorialisation or supraterritorioality is based on the process of change to geography in which territorial boundaries become less important (Scholte 2000:16). This concept encompasses all other definitions that Scholte identified, as it has a wide focus which allows each to be occurring because of this change in geography.

Robin Cohen and Paul Kennedy’s definitions of globalisation (Cohen and Kennedy 2000:11) are not in opposition with the concept of supraterritoriality, describing it ‘as the ways in which the world is being knitted together’ and ‘the objective, external ties that bind us together’.

To fully understand globalisation it is necessary to differentiate it from globalism. It is described as the ‘subjective realm’, unlike globalisation which refers to a series of ‘objective changes in the world that are partly outside us’ (Cohan and Kennedy 2000:34). To simplify, this describes the collective way in which the world views itself as a result of globalisation. Globalism is seen as a result of globalisation and as such quite a new phenomenon (Cohan and Kennedy 2000:34). It is quite important to make this differentiation as many times when writers are referring to globalisation as new phenomenon they are using examples that are in fact forms of globalism, a distinctly different concept.

Is globalisation a new or old? Opinions on this tend to cross over while identifying different phases. Cohen and Kennedy believe that globalisation can be traced back through history, but that its processes have accelerated in recent years (Cohan and Kennedy 2000:34).

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Scholte (2000:62) separates the history of globalisation into three stages, the emergence of a global imagination which started as early as the fifth and sixth centuries to the eighteenth century, incipient globalisation from the 1850s to the 1950s, and full scale globalisation from 1960s to the present. While Scholte concedes that evidence of globalisation can be traced backward through history, he still refers to it as ‘mainly new to contemporary history’ (Scholte 2000:87).

The emergence of a global imagination truly was baby steps in terms of globalisation, as the lack of structure to facilitate frequent international transactions of trade or finance kept it so (Scholte 2000:64). This period was instead an awakening in the minds of people, to the notion of one world through religion, literature, travel, and capitalism (Scholte 2000:64). This emergence period encompasses three phases identified by Cohan and Kennedy (2000:42), proto-globalisation, the emergence of capitalist modernity and Europe’s global dominance and the colonial racial domination by European powers.

Incipient globalisation was a period where globalisation laid huge, lasting foundations. The invention and implementation of communications such as transborder telephone connections and air transport, market places to distribute, price, and promote metals, primary produce and packaged goods, such as Coca-cola, international banking and organisations such as Interpol steadily increased the globalisation of the human world (Scholte 2000:66-72). Global consciousness was fired up with World Fairs and the modern Olympic Games and the growth of the feminist movement as a global entity (Scholte 2000:72).

With all of its advances, incipient globalisation pales in comparison to the rapid acceleration during full-scale globalisation from 1960 onwards. The improvements in communications have been incredible with transoceanic cables for telephone, communications satellites, intranet and internet, the world wide web, direct telecast television via satellite and massive increases in air transport. (Scholte 2000:75) Likewise markets, production, money, finance and the organisations to control these have undergone incredible changes including the emergence of transnational corporations (Scholte 2000: 76-82). A new development for this period is that of social ecology. As a result of the global changes above, the natural environment has also changed spurring a world wide concern for the sustainability of natural resources and the environment (Scholte 2000:83).

Cohan and Kennedy (2000:42) group incipient globalisation and full-scale globalisation together into a phase of transformation following the Second World War, with the rise of the USA.

This impact has both fans and critics, described by Greig (2000:121) as globaphiles and globaphobes. Globaphiles need only point out the huge range of goods and produce available, and the mass knowledge available at the press of a button, or huge advances in communications to herald the praises of globalisation (Greig 2000:122). Globaphobes point to the uneven impact of globalisation as a downside (Greig 2000:124) Impact can depend on location, class, race and gender (Scholte 2000:85). Another downside highlighted by globaphobes is the erosion of state power, which can cause nations to become interdependent on large economies for their very survival (Axford 2000:246).

While evidence of globalisation can be found as early as the fifth century, its rapid acceleration since the Second World War, represents a radical new period in human history. The changes occurring in processes that affect the lives many in the world are happening so fast that in one lifetime it is possible to experience an entire transformation of the world you live in. This of course is dependent on where you live, your race, gender and class background. Some tribes in southern Africa have experienced only minor changes over the past decades both by choice and geography while European nations have been in its epicentre. An interesting insight into the process of globalisation was produced by Hollywood ten years ago. It was a movie in which an African tribesman heard a plane fly overhead and was hit in the head by a coca-cola bottle when he looked up to see it. Although he had no idea of the use for the coca-cola bottle, communications, markets, finance and production, the key elements affected by globalisation had all played a part in this product of a global world, landing on his head.

REFERENCE LIST
Axford, B. (2000) ‘Globalization’, in G. Browning, A. Halcli and F. Webster (eds), Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present, London: Sage

Cohen, R. and Kennedy, P. (2000) Global Sociology, Basingstoke: Palgrave

Greig, A. (2000) ‘ Globalisation’, in R. Juiredini and M. Poole (eds), Sociology: Australian Connections, (Second edition), Sydney: Allen and Unwin

Scholte, J.A. (2000) Globalization: A Critical Introduction, Basingstoke: Palgrave


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