Globalization: A Very Short Introduction (second edition) by Manfred B. Steger is part of a series published by Oxford University Press. Each book in the series gives a quick overview of a topic and addresses key issues that may relate to the topic. Globalization is a great jumping-off point for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the subject, but it is also a brilliant overview for anyone who is purely interested in learning more about the causes and effects of globalization. This book is a concise, uncomplicated and very readable explanation of a very important process in the world today. Steger does an excellent job of remaining objective when examining the positive and negative consequences of the globalization process and astutely evaluates its role in world development.
While most writers on the subject focus on economic globalization, Steger acknowledges that the process is broken down into other key components, including historical, political, cultural, ecological, and ideological aspects – while keeping in mind its operation as an interacting whole.
The book starts out with a deconstruction of Osama bin Laden in order to illustrate the intricate and sometimes contradictory social dynamics of globalization. Steger then moves on to a definition of the concept – “the term globalization applies to a set of social processes that appear to transform our present social condition of weakening nationality into one of globality.” Globalization is not a single process but a set of processes that operate simultaneously and unevenly on several levels and in various dimensions. As background, Steger discusses five influential definitions of globalization, also considering some objections raised by “globalization skeptics.”
In chapter two, Steger examines the history of globalization. While many commentators maintain that globalization is a relatively new phenomenon, Steger contends that the answer to the question of whether globalization constitutes a new phenomenon depends on how far we are willing to extend the chain of causation that resulted in those recent technologies and social arrangements that most people have come to associate with the fashionable buzzword. In fact, he gives examples of how cultural exchanges can be traced back to the prehistoric period.
Chapter three dissects the economic dimensions of globalization. The book gives details about the emergence of the global economic order, including the internationalization of trade and finance, and the power of transnational corporations (TNCs). Steger also examines the history and role of the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. He points out that these three institutions enjoy the privileged position of making and enforcing the rules of a global economy that is sustained by significant power differentials between the global North and South. He goes on to concede that the growing power of TNCs has profoundly altered the structure and functioning of the international economy. As a consequence, TNCs are extremely important players that influence the economic, political, and social welfare of many nations.
The chapter on the political dimension of globalization (chapter 4) did an excellent of analyzing the intensification and expansion of political interrelations across the globe. Steger begins with a discussion of the origins of the modern nation-state system, which can be traced backed to the seventeenth-century in Europe. He moves on from there to discuss hyper globalization and the rise of a “borderless world.” The chapter concludes with a look at the visible rise of supraterritorial institutions and associations, using the European Union as an example.
When exploring cultural globalization, rather than offering a laundry list of relevant topics, Steger focuses chapter 5 on the tension between sameness and difference in the emerging global culture; the crucial role of TNCs in disseminating popular culture; and the globalization of languages. This chapter also considers such concepts as “Americanization” and “McDonaldization.” And, surprisingly, Steger notes that given the current rate of decline in languages, some linguists predict that 50-90 percent of the world’s languages will have disappeared before the end of the twenty-first century.
In chapter 6, the book turns its attention to the ecological dimension of globalization. Steger begins by acknowledging that the ecological impacts of globalization are increasingly recognized as the most significant. He goes on to note that the scale, speed, and depth of the Earth’s environmental decline have been unprecedented, and unless we are willing to change the underlying cultural and religious value structure that has combined with the social and economic dynamics of unrestrained capital accumulation, the health of Mother Earth is likely to deteriorate further. This chapter also does a wonderful job of identifying major manifestations and consequences of global environmental degradation and recognizes that they are all global issues.
Steger distinguishes between globalization and three types of globalism – market globalism, jihadist globalism, and justice globalism in chapter 7. Globalization is a social process, while globalism is an ideology that endows a concept of globalization with a particular concept or value. He considers market globalism the dominant ideology of our time, and believes that there are five major ideological claims of market globalism. When discussing justice globalism, the book uses, by way of example, the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 to highlight this emerging social justice movement. Steger does an excellent job of using the 9/11 attack to illustrate the devastating effect that jihadist globalism can have, highlighting the fact that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda terrorists fed on the perceived “Americanization” of the world to justify their actions.
Chapter 8, capping off the introduction, contains a brief assessment of the future of globalization. Steger ends his discussion by asking the question, “Will the global fight against terrorism lead to more extensive forms of international cooperation and interdependence, or might it stop the powerful momentum of globalizations?” Without giving an answer, the book concludes that only time will tell what path globalization takes. Steger does emphasize that nothing can be accomplished without a moral compass and an ethical polestar guiding our collective efforts.
Maureen Anderson is associate professor at the University of Dayton Zimmerman Law Library in Ohio.