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The term globalization describes the process that worldwide interdependencies in many areas ( economy , politics , culture , environment , communication ) increase, namely between individuals , societies , institutions and states .

The term probably originated in the 1960s. From around 1986 onwards, numerous German-language books appeared that used globalization in the book title.

The main causes of globalization are:

The colonialism of many European states is regarded as the forerunner of globalization . He began by discovering new sea routes and countries. For centuries Portugal and Spain were the main actors . England became the world's leading naval power ( British Empire ) soon after Napoleon's demise . From about 1880 to 1914, many European countries tried to bring colonies under their influence or to keep them (high phase of imperialism ). The USA and Japan followed later (see also: Japanese imperialism ).

After the Second World War, decolonization began . In the " African Year " 1960, 18 African states achieved independence. Since then, the ex-colonies can have trade relations with other countries. The fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War have significantly changed the geopolitical situation and this has influenced globalization.

Concept and meanings

The term globalization was first coined in the social sciences. According to some sources, it was first used in 1944. In 1961, globalization first appeared in an English-language lexicon.

The American trend researcher John Naisbitt (* 1929) popularized the term “globalization” . In his book Megatrends (1982) he described how globalization works using the example of the auto industry. Naisbitt is considered to be the inventor of the term. The term “globalization” was coined in science in 1983 by Theodore Levitt (1925–2006), a German emigrant and former professor at the Harvard Business School in 1983 with the article “The Globalization of Markets” in the Harvard Business Review . A rapid development of the word in the book titles of German-language monographs was observed for the period from 1986 to 2000.

Another, less common name is mondialization (after the preferred French term mondialization : “Le monde” means “the world”). Some do not refer to the process described as globalization, but rather as denationalization or denationalization , in order to describe the loss of power and importance of the nation state in the course of globalization.

Globalization was discussed long before the term existed. Karl Jaspers, for example, used the term planetary in his cultural criticism Die Geistige Situation der Zeit (1932) : “As technical and economic problems, all problems seem to become planetary ”. With the unification of the planet, a “process of leveling ” began, “which one sees with horror”. Jaspers recognizes a characteristic in which the globalization of his time differs from others: The globe had not only become an interdependence of its economic relations, but the world war was the first war in which all humanity was involved. The cultures were spread out over the world, but the first “intoxication of the expansion of space” would turn into a “feeling of world tightness”.

Economic globalization indicators

There are several basic statistical data that can be taken as indicators of economic globalization

Indicator problem

Indicators are measured values ​​or indicators for certain facts, which can usually be identified with ideal-typical terms. The problem of interpreting and measuring indicators is a very complex one. For example, one can roughly (but not exactly) define when a nation is "democratic" or not. Even if there are signs (indicators) of democracy, it is difficult to pinpoint the beginning of this democracy . However, approximations are possible. That is why the use of indicators makes sense if done with caution and prudence.

When interpreting the indicators of economic globalization, there are two problems: On the one hand, it is not possible to differentiate precisely which of the indicators would actually be suitable for capturing globalization; on the other hand, it is not clearly definable which quantitative characteristics certain indicators would have to have in order to To allow conclusions to be drawn regarding the progress of globalization. However, a precise differentiation is not the task and a clear definition is not the prerequisite for the use of indicators, but an understanding of the limits of indicators helps to use them as a basis for collecting more detailed data. Then the indicator problem is not an obstacle to the use of indicators.

The reason for the criticism of indicators, in addition to their incorrect and improper use and their possible interpretative overstretching, is occasionally the unwillingness to recognize statements derived from indicators. This can be countered with good documentation of the conditions under which indicators were determined. The multi-valued logic can help in solving the indicator problem (see also data mining ).

Phases of globalization

The majority of historians cite the early sixteenth century as the starting point for modern globalization. From then on, the world was opened up politically and economically from Europe. In contrast, political, economic and social scientists concentrate on the second half of the 20th century, since from this time cross-border forces weaken national competencies.

Vijay Govindarajan , then chief innovation advisor at General Electric , dates the first phase of this new wave of globalization to the 1950s and 1960s. He connects it with the expansion of US companies into international markets, where the reconstruction after the Second World War created a great demand for consumer and capital goods of all kinds.

The second phase of the 1970s and 1980s, according to Govindarajan, was determined by the globalization of the resource base, especially of the globally operating US companies that tried to obtain the cheapest resources (raw materials, assembly plants). Ideologically this was accompanied by a neoliberal market opening, which also minimized the political risks. At the same time, new communication technologies made it possible to coordinate research and development activities worldwide; however, the most important innovations continued to take place in the industrialized countries. A worldwide market for information and communication technology emerged, marked z. B. through the rise of IBM and Microsoft.

The third phase from 1990 to around 2008 ( glocalization ) showed that no further market expansion outside the traditional industrialized countries could be achieved simply by reducing costs. This realization led to more and more products being adapted and produced regionally. This is especially true for countries whose consumption habits differ from those of Americans and Europeans (e.g. McDonald’s lamb burger in India). Part of the innovation thus shifted to emerging countries.

Govindarajan predicts a future phase in which more and more products will be developed and produced in the target countries themselves (so-called reverse engineering ). These innovations could then possibly be adopted by the industrialized countries.

Dimensions of globalization

Globalization of the economy

Development of the gross domestic product (US dollar at current exchange rates) from 1970 to 2015 for Africa (brown), Asia (light blue), North America (dark blue), South America (green), Western Europe (purple), Eastern Europe (red).

Movement of capital and goods

The worldwide statistically recorded export of goods rose more than 19-fold between 1960 and 2017; the statistically documented production of goods only increased sevenfold. The number of direct foreign investments rose between 1970 and the period 2010–2014 from 13 to around 1,400 billion US dollars. From 1970 to 2014, the world trade volume rose from 0.3 to 18.9 trillion US dollars. In 2014, approximately $ 18,900 billion in goods and more than $ 4,700 billion in services were exported worldwide.

  • Some modern branches of industry today need markets for their specialized and high-quality goods that exceed the demand of their domestic economy (high economies of scale and / or high fixed costs). Most of these markets can be found in other industrialized countries, and some - especially in the consumer goods industries - also in developing countries. In terms of trade policy, industrialized countries therefore usually advocate opening up markets, especially for high-quality industrial products. The state's ability to act in these countries is restricted, for example, by the fact that locations for company headquarters and production facilities are selected according to the internationally compared tax burden. Every state is dependent on tax revenues that are paid by employees - be it from corporate taxes, direct or indirect taxes. This can contribute to political impulses for unpleasant changes (e.g. dismantling of the welfare state ).
  • Influence of the emerging countries : Through relatively low wages and relatively low cost of living, emerging countries have the opportunity to catch up with the global economy , achieve economic growth and achieve relative prosperity. Market opening and alignment for world markets can lead to drastic structural change; its downside can be the decline of non-competitive industries.
  • Influence of developing countries : Developing countries that are characterized by political instability, inadequate legal certainty and inadequate infrastructure can generally hardly attract productive foreign investment even with the lowest wages. In this way, developing countries are often excluded from the globalization process, which increases their backwardness. Many of these countries have relatively high tariffs to protect their fragile economic structures and to generate income . On the other hand, especially the competitive agricultural products from developing countries in the industrialized countries are only granted limited opportunities to enter the market due to high import tariffs or import quotas. In addition, many developing countries are only dependent on the export of one raw material, so that fluctuations in world market prices can have catastrophic effects on their economies. The concept of the "New World Economic Order" (NWWO), which was adopted by the UN in 1974, should help to restore the balance between the industrialized and developing countries. This should succeed with the help of the Integrated Raw Materials Program (IRP) adopted by the 4th World Trade Conference ( UNCTAD ) in 1976 , which prescribes fixed raw material prices for 18 raw materials (tea, jute, copper, etc.) and facilitated market access for developing countries. This program failed insofar as, despite interventions, prices could not be stabilized due to fluctuations in supply and demand.
  • Role of manufacturing companies: Many companies now produce worldwide ( global players ) and thus have the opportunity to use the different labor costs , investment, tax and other conditions in the different countries to their advantage within the company. Nationally operating smaller companies, which initially do not have these possibilities, are threatened in their existence in many cases by the competition from internationally operating companies. Many see themselves forced to relocate jobs to low-wage countries , which in turn can have negative repercussions on labor markets and domestic demand in high-wage countries if no correspondingly paid new jobs are created there. According to estimates, multinational companies are involved in approx. 2/3 of world trade and approx. 1/3 of world trade takes place directly between parent and subsidiary companies of corporations, ie "intra-firm".
  • Influence of banks and finance: Financial intermediaries are considered to be the main accelerators of globalization, because modern EDP can move billions across the globe within seconds. As a result of globalization, financial companies are themselves in intense global competition for the most profitable investment opportunities possible. This leads to the fact that they in turn make investments with the aim of high profits and so take a back seat to social aspects and, on the other hand, are forced to become cost-efficient themselves (cf. private equity companies / “ locust debate ”). The rapid movements on the foreign exchange market give rise to risks of instability for the individual currencies (see the debate about the Tobin tax ).
  • Regionalization: Globalization increases the pressure on individual countries to join together to form regional economic areas. Free trade zones created in this way are u. a .: the European Union (EU), NAFTA in North America, APEC in the Pacific region, ASEAN in Southeast Asia, Mercosur in South America, CARICOM in the Caribbean and the GCC of some Gulf states. The African Union , as an association of African states, should also be mentioned, but it is only being established.

A study by HWWI and Berenberg Bank from 2018 anticipates a decline in the trend towards the development of global value chains and the worldwide transport of finished products in the near future (until around 2030). Digitization in particular will make it possible to produce autonomously and decentrally again, e.g. B. by using 3-D printers. Production can also be carried out close to the market in emerging countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which until now have covered their demand for finished products through imports.

Mobility of people

An increase in migratory movements and the multilocal way of life since the Second World War appears to many to be the driving force behind increasing globalization. Because of national Immigration (. Eg incentives Green Card ) for skilled workers and the growing importance of multinational corporations suspect globalization theorists increased mobility of staff - especially the highly skilled . In politics and in the mass media, but also in science and business, the opportunities and dangers of an alleged shortage of skilled workers and the associated competition for the “best minds” have been discussed for a long time (“war for talents”). While such migration patterns have been observed in some cases between developing countries and industrialized nations, more recent empirical studies show that ideas of a clear and serious brain drain for OECD countries are exaggerated. Migration movements by highly qualified workers more often follow the pattern of brain circulation . This means that while short-term stays abroad are on the rise, this can be understood as the dynamic of posting that goes hand in hand with returning home . An explanation for this pattern includes culture-specific, local recruiting conditions for executives that are associated with national career systems as well as with the dominance of home careers in certain (large) companies.

Transport and passenger traffic

In 2014, 1.32 billion passengers were carried on international flights worldwide. On average, the passengers flew 2,900 kilometers - a total of 3.84 trillion passenger kilometers. The volume of air freight carried across borders was 32.8 million tonnes in 2014 (1986: 5.1 million). Since the freight was transported an average of 5,100 kilometers in 2014, the air freight volume amounted to 167.3 billion ton-kilometers at international level.

The volume of goods transported by sea has also risen sharply in recent decades. In 2014, 9.8 billion tons were transported around 5,300 nautical miles. The ocean freight volume increased from 10,700 to 52,600 billion ton-miles between 1970 and 2014 alone. With the expansion of train, automobile and air traffic, cross-border passenger traffic and tourism are expanding .

Communication and internet

The number of telephone connections on the global telephone network has increased tenfold since 1960. In addition to the telephone , new communication technologies are developing with mobile phones , VoIP telephony, video conferencing via IP , fax and the Internet . Internet-based telephony enables globally networked collaboration through a cost-effective permanent communication link in high quality. Cross-border communication processes have multiplied, especially via the Internet, and the number of Internet connections continues to grow exponentially, albeit very unevenly distributed across the globe and strictly monitored in totalitarian countries. While only a few thousand computers were connected to one another at the beginning of the 1990s, there are now well over 30 million in Germany alone. While the Internet did not yet play a significant role in private use in 1990, the number of Internet users in 2001 was already 495 million. In 2010 around 2 billion people used the Internet and in 2015 more than 3 billion. In 1988 only eight countries were connected to the Internet, in 1993 there were 55 and in 1995 more than half of all countries for the first time (115). Only since the beginning of this millennium have all countries been connected to the Internet.

Globalization of politics

The globalization of politics results from the consequences of economic and cultural globalization. New problems arise which, due to the limited national possibilities, cannot be solved without global cooperation . These include the following problem areas:

  • Problem area: economy: Due to the expanding world economy , the nation states are increasingly coming into economic competition with one another, because competition between locations arises . This situation can lead to tensions between states, which is why there is increasing demand for a higher, multilateral authority to regulate economic cooperation between various economic entities.
  • Problem area nature: An increase in global production leads to increased environmental pollution. One example is the ozone problem . Since a state cannot solve environmental problems on its own, the negotiations between the states gradually create a global political structure that obliges the international community to improve the environmental situation.
  • Global security policy: The globalized world brings with it global security policy problems, because criminals mostly come from different parts of the world and cannot easily be classified according to nation states. Without police cooperation with other states, it has become almost impossible to efficiently capture criminals and take preventive measures.

Two possible solutions are discussed: On the one hand, one can try to turn back globalization in order to avoid these problems. On the other hand, one can try to install global political structures and regulations in order to be able to solve future problems and problem areas. As long as global interdependence increases, so will the pressure to find global political regulations. A frequent demand is to move away from unilateralism and to establish multilateral principles. So tried z. B. the global governance concept to find an answer to world problems and globalization tendencies at the multilateral level (synonyms for global governance: world domestic policy, world order policy, global order and structural policy).

Levels of globalization of politics

The globalization of politics takes place on three levels:

  • Increase in international agreements or contracts (also: Regimes = bundle of agreements) (depending on the method of counting, as of 2004, 26,000 international contracts);
  • Increase in international organizations (governmental and non-governmental) (depending on the method of counting as of 2004: 5,200 or 252 government organizations, 15,000 or 6,076 non-governmental organizations);
  • Increase in an international public (e.g. the World Social Forum since 2001) and media reporting focused on global events.
International legal traffic

One aspect of political globalization is international legal transactions . In addition to a large number of international treaties , the Hague Convention No. 12, passed in 1961 for the exemption of foreign public documents from authentication or legalization, is the most important legal norm. The de-bureaucratisation and simplification of legal transactions between states envisaged therein made globalization as it is today possible. Due to the high membership, it enables almost global legal relations without having to use the diplomatic services (see also apostille and legalization ).

International organizations

The increasing interdependence between societies places new demands on cooperation between states. Various international organizations are an expression of globalization and shape its shape. There are organizations with a wide range of tasks as well as very specialized organizations. Their goals can contradict each other, and they also have very different powers to enforce their standards.


The most important tasks of the United Nations are securing world peace, observing international law , protecting human rights and promoting international cooperation.


The International Atomic Energy Agency is an autonomous scientific and technical organization within the United Nations. According to its statutes, it should " accelerate and increase the contribution of nuclear energy to peace, health and prosperity worldwide" and " prevent the military use of this technology (e.g. proliferation of nuclear weapons ) through surveillance measures".


The International Labor Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Geneva . The 178 member states are represented by representatives from governments as well as from employees and employers . The ILO's work focuses on the formulation and enforcement of international labor and social standards, the social and fair design of globalization, and the creation of decent work as a central prerequisite for combating poverty.


The Food and Agriculture Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Rome . In the German-speaking world, the FAO is also known as the World Food Organization or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


The United Nations Environment Program was launched in 1972 and is headquartered in Nairobi , Kenya . Despite its name component “program”, it can be regarded as a special organization of the United Nations, in a way analogous to the German Federal Environment Agency . According to its self-image, UNEP is the “voice of the environment” at the UN, it acts as a trigger, advocate, teacher and mediator for the careful use of the environment and sustainable development . To this end, it works with various partners, including other UN agencies and other international organizations, governments, non-governmental organizations, companies and civil society.

World bank

The World Bank group , located in Washington, DC (USA) , originally had the purpose of financing the reconstruction of the states devastated by World War II. Today it has the task of promoting the economic development of less developed member countries through financial aid, advice and technical assistance.


The International Monetary Fund plays a vital role in regulating world finances and managing the international debt crisis. The main objectives are: promoting international cooperation in monetary policy, stabilizing exchange rates , monitoring monetary policy.


The aim of the World Trade Organization is the liberalization of international trade and the stabilization of the world economy.


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is an organization of the western industrialized countries and aims to promote their international economic cooperation and development aid. She is mainly active in the areas of economic and employment policy, energy ( International Energy Agency ), education and research as well as international development cooperation.

International non-governmental organizations

In addition to state organizations, international non-governmental organizations are also playing an increasing role. Their number is increasing continuously; they are often highly specialized in working on individual topics. Examples are in the environmental area Greenpeace or the WWF , in the area of ​​workers' rights e.g. B. the International Trade Union Confederation generally related to globalization attac . Their relationship with government organizations is inconsistent and changing; Depending on the actors involved, it can take the form of protests, lobby politics or cooperation.

Globalization of culture

The globalization of the western female ideal of beauty and clothing style accelerated rapidly in the 1950s, thanks to celebrities like Marilyn Monroe

The diffusion of cultural practices, forms of expression and ideas associated with globalization leads, according to Byung-Chul Han, to what he calls hyperculturality . In the course of globalization, the cultural forms of expression (images, sounds, ideas, symbols, rituals, etc.) break away from their original location and circulate in “global hyperspace”. The cultures become unbounded into a hyperculture. The hyperspace of this culture is not organized by borders, but by networks and mixtures. The coexistence and simultaneity of the different characterize the hyperculture. In comparison to cultures of inwardness , according to Han, hyperculture represents an open and thus de- internalized culture.

Proponents of a globalization of culture see this as a development towards the worldwide availability of elements from all cultures (for example restaurants with German tradition in Africa, African music in Germany, the Chicken Tikka invented in India in England, the possession of the English language by former colonies). The displacement of native cultures often only takes place on a superficial level. Influences would be modified locally and incorporated into one's own cultural values. In addition, the situation of many people or groups of people improves through contact with Western culture (for example through increased equal rights for women). The concept of hyperculturality refers to the cultural dynamics of globalization that go beyond inter-, multi- or transculturality. Furthermore, a “universal” culture is emerging, but hybrid forms are also emerging from different traditions and modernity ( postmodernism ) - and then post- postmodernism .

Tyler Cowen believes that cultural homogenization and heterogenization are not alternatives. Rather, they tended to perform at the same time. Increased cultural exchange could reduce inter-social diversity and at the same time increase intra-social diversity and individual options. Although intercultural exchange changes and damages every society it touches, it ultimately promotes innovation and people's creativity.

The globalization of culture is primarily understood by the critics (e.g. from Islamism ) of what they see as “western” dominance as the spread of “western” values ​​and lifestyles. A massive dissemination of Western values ​​is taking place above all through television , the Internet and the cinema . But music , fashion (such as the tie ) and home decor would also be influenced by the West around the world. However, according to the critics, mass tourism in the exotic holiday countries is increasingly leading to a significant decline in cultural traditions there , because in the course of growing dependency people live and work almost exclusively for tourists.

Globalization not only leads to the spread of “western” culture, but also the global influence of “eastern” cultures is becoming clearer. “Western” entrepreneurs and politicians often cite the better environmental conditions for them in “Eastern” foreign countries and thereby question what is considered “Western” to some extent. The behavior of some Asian workers, for example, is often seen in the “West” as a positive example of the effect of “Asian values”, which is understood as a dynamic from which one can learn.

Not only does the spread of Western values and lifestyles meet with criticism, but on the other hand, more conservative representatives of a culture that they characterize as “Christian-Occidental” culture are threatened by globalization effects. The effects of these fears can then be seen, for example, in the discussion about quota regulations for radio broadcasting for German and non-German music, or in Germany in the debate about “ leading culture ” or the “ headscarf dispute ”.

In connection with the potential for conflict of globalization on a cultural level, the catchphraseclash of cultures ” is often brought into play. The American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington made a prognosis in his book "Clash of Civilizations" according to which people will only be able to assert themselves in the future through the "clash of civilizations". Critics doubt this prognosis and warn against viewing the “clash of civilizations” as an inevitable fate that could take on real proportions in the course of a self-fulfilling prophecy. This catchphrase should be questioned critically, as it underlines latent conflicts and makes the possibilities of a peaceful solution seem utopian, regardless of the tolerance of different cultures among one another and the intercultural competence of the negotiating partners.

Other views contrast the globalization factor with localization , sometimes under the heading of “ glocalization ” . Globalization does not necessarily and not only mean the merging of cultures, but also a strengthening of local and traditional aspects. For example, the old imperial tomb of the first emperor of China has recently been restored in China, despite various adaptations in the technical and economic area . The ideas streaming in from abroad led to the search for values ​​that are unique to the Chinese nation. On the cultural level, diversity and diversity were partial results of globalization. This cultural diversification is also supported by corporations with a global sales market, as they are forced to compete with other providers to meet the tastes of local customers.

Globalization of language

The business language English dominates worldwide, and its use is constantly expanding. Accordingly, English is becoming increasingly popular as a second language in many countries and their school systems (first foreign language). This goes hand in hand with the frequent use of English terms for newly invented equipment, sports and fashions. At the same time, mixed words are also developing in many languages, which in their entirety are referred to as Denglish in German . The disappearance of exonyms can also be observed internationally . Diversification tendencies can also be seen here, for example when US upper-class parents have their children raised by specially flown in Chinese nannies so that they can learn the language of an increasingly important world power from an early age.

Globalization of environmental problems

Globalization has improved the perception of damage occurring globally. This applies to improved communication, which in some social milieus and in some functionaries favors a “planetary consciousness”. The environmental standards in industrialized countries are higher than in emerging and developing countries. In the course of globalization, the higher environmental standards of the industrialized countries are increasingly being transferred to the emerging and developing countries. For example, countries that want to join the European Union or export products to the USA have to adopt the stricter environmental laws of the EU or the USA or individual US states. This can lead to more efficient production, resource savings and cost advantages for companies, so that production methods will also be adapted in the long term in emerging countries. This process of unilateral setting of standards based on one's own market power is also known as the Brussels Effect or California Effect . As a result, governments and locally, regionally and internationally operating non-governmental organizations are increasingly making global environmental problems an issue due to increased global awareness.

The international political system reacts to this with new specialized organizations (for example UNEP , the environmental agency of the UN ) and environmental regulations and treaties, which, however, in the opinion of critics far too slowly, also influence the approach of traditional international institutions.

History of globalization

The question of the beginning of globalization

The question of when one can speak of globalization is controversial. The following positions are represented:

  • Globalization is a completely new phenomenon that emerged in the period after the Second World War.
  • Globalization started in the 19th century, seen economically in the course of the integration of the Atlantic grain and meat markets, politically seen as a result of the war activities of European powers on almost all continents.
  • Globalization arose in the 16th century with the onset of global market trade and the beginning of the "capitalist world system".
  • Globalization began in the 15th century with European expansion across the world.
  • Globalization is an age-old trend, this integration process is as old as humanity.

Historians in particular criticize the present-centeredness of the scientific and even more of the public discussion of globalization. This contributes to a wrong picture of the phenomenon and thus to questionable prognoses. With the addition of the historian's perspective, a much more precise picture of globalization and its causes can be drawn and more plausible prognostic conclusions can be drawn.

Waves of globalization

The economic historian Knut Borchardt wants to “strip current events of their fundamental uniqueness”, in other words to investigate what is really new about what is called globalization today. He proposes a model that envisages several waves of globalization, i.e. historical phases of increasing international interdependence, which were always followed by phases of decreasing interdependence. He sees the last wave of globalization in the period from the 1840s to the First World War. During this time, the interdependence of trade, communication technology, the movement of capital and migration have increased enormously and have reached relative numbers that were mostly only reached again in the 1990s, but not in the area of ​​migration until today. With the First World War, the growth of the interdependence stopped, and with the Great Depression from 1929 the interdependence decreased again. Borchardt sees the causes of the increase in interdependence

  • significant technical innovations (production technology, traffic technology, communication technology),
  • the expansion of Europe that has been going on for centuries, it "opened up" huge areas with their deposits and fertile soils for the European centers and created large areas with very different production costs,
  • important foreign trade policy decisions of the nation states: Since the 1840s the trend towards liberalization has been observed. From the economic crises of the 1870s, this was followed by a trend towards moderate protectionism ; this was an important part of a political package of social compromises that allowed international integration to be maintained; In doing so, the globalization winners made concessions to the globalization losers. The increase in interdependence was not hindered by moderate protectionism. Borchardt even hypothesizes that moderate protectionism promoted international interdependence by cushioning social hardship and alleviating social conflict, for which there is empirical evidence.

Ancient and Medieval Globalization

Long before the globalization wave of the 19th century, various phases of increasing and decreasing economic and cultural interdependence can be observed, as has been pointed out in economic and historical research since at least the 1930s. The long-distance trade connections that encompassed all of Eurasia in antiquity , the trade connections of the advanced cultures of Egypt , China , Mesopotamia and the Indus culture as well as the interdependence of Europe in the Middle Ages are discussed ,

Long-distance trade in silk (from China) and spices (from India) between Asia and Rome, for example, already existed at the beginning of the Western calendar (see Silk Road ). The Indian trade was very lucrative and proceeded by both land and sea routes; In this context, it is viewed as an early form of globalization due to the interlinking of the different spaces associated with it.

Even though the transport time seems comparatively long today and the trade took place via several transporters from different countries, this trade was firmly established and anything but a single phenomenon. From 1405 onwards, the fleets of the Chinese admiral Zheng He also transported thousands of tons of Chinese trade goods across the entire coastal area from China to Arabia and Africa .

These examples of ancient and medieval globalization later experienced setbacks:

  • With the Song dynasty , the Silk Road became increasingly less important around the turn of the millennium, long before the establishment of stable sea routes by the Europeans in modern times allowed a high volume of trade again.
  • After Zheng He's death around 1435, Emperor Zhengtong changed the naval strategy, partially disintegrating the state fleet or integrating the ships into the imperial navy. China remained the most important maritime trading power in East Asia , but trade was no longer financed by the state and only extended to India, i.e. excluding Arabia and Africa.

Even at the beginning of the modern era, approaches to global trade and credit relationships can be recognized, for example in the work of the Augsburg businessman Jakob Fugger , who built up a trading and financial empire that was active across borders.

The Hanseatic League

The Hanseatic League , an association of cities of free citizens with stable self-governments, achieved great wealth through the free movement of goods across national borders, which is still expressed today in numerous buildings in these cities.

With the foundation of Lübeck in 1159, a flourishing trading area developed along the southern Baltic coast from the Russian trading center Novgorod via Reval, Lübeck, Hamburg, Bruges to London. The great need for natural products in the west, for furs, wax, grain, fish, salt and wood, and the east's need for western products such as cloth, wine, metal goods and finished products, was the driving force behind the exchange of goods between east and west. The development of the sea route on the Baltic Sea resulted in a steady flow of goods between East and West, from which the economic power of the Hanseatic League emerged.

In the heyday of the Hanseatic League at the beginning of the 15th century, more than 200 larger and smaller Hanseatic cities belonged to it. The Hanseatic League saw itself as a pure community of convenience to secure and promote trade. Cities could join and leave the association; if the rules were violated, they could be expelled from the Hanseatic League. According to Philippe Dollinger, the Hanseatic League had none of the characteristic features of a state, but the power of one. The Hanseatic League never took the step towards a state organization.

In its 500-year history, the Hanseatic League survived various wars between the neighboring states, survived phases of great famine from 1315 to 1317, the great plague epidemics between 1349 and 1370 and in particular the 30-year war. With the strengthening of the nation states, the free movement of goods across national borders ended and thus also an essential basis for the success of the Hanseatic League. The Hanseatic League ended with the last Hanseatic Day in 1669.

The clarification of the causes for the centuries-old existence of the Hanseatic League is still the subject of Hanseatic research.

19th century

The people of the 19th century were well aware of the growing global interdependence: it was discussed intensively in public. As early as the middle of the 19th century, in the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto, one can find a description of the boundless expansion of the world market in the course of capitalism's competitive mechanism .

“By exploiting the world market, the bourgeoisie has made production and consumption in all countries cosmopolitan . To the great regret of the reactionaries, it has pulled the national soil from under the feet of industry. The ancient national industries [...] are being displaced by new industries, the introduction of which will be a vital question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer process domestic raw materials but rather raw materials belonging to the most remote zones and whose products are made not only in the country itself, but in be consumed in all parts of the world at the same time. […] Instead of the old local and national self-sufficiency and seclusion, there is mutual intercourse, an all-round dependence of nations on one another. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual products of the individual nations become common property [...] and a world literature is formed from the many national and local literatures . "

- Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels : Communist Manifesto , 1848, MEW 4: 466.

Since the end of the 1860s, the use of fast steamers with propellers , the opening of the Suez Canal and the First Transcontinental Railroad in the USA, the laying of the first transatlantic cables and the establishment of the Universal Postal Union - the second oldest global organization ever, the Regulation of the international mail, parcel and money-sending traffic served to significantly accelerate the exchange of goods and information, with greater involvement of the expanding colonized or semi-colonized regions in Africa and Asia and against the background of a free trade ideology that was gaining ground worldwide.

This surge in globalization was, however, dampened by the consequences of the founder crash and the Great Depression (1873-1896) , when numerous countries switched to protectionist protective tariff policies in the late 1870s and 1880s (in Germany since 1878/79) and the colonial powers in the phase of Imperialism sealed off their areas of influence, but in order to exploit them all the more intensively.

20th century

The magazine Die Woche , which was most widely read in the German Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, repeatedly paid great attention to the internationally linked financial markets, especially in the section entitled “The Stock Exchange Week”:

“The intimate connection of the economic conditions in the individual civilized states is presently once again quite clearly evident in the great difficulties which afflict the United States. Large fluctuations in one or the other part of the world market are promptly expressed in more or less sharp curves in the other markets. American over-speculation and over-financing has again driven its waves to the European shores in the last few days. But, it should be noted in advance that our domestic markets have not experienced any major shocks from the American events; for their constitution is relatively healthy. […] The great American claims made on the European money reserves naturally resulted in a tightening of the discount screw, and the Bank of England has now been followed by the Deutsche Reichsbank with a one percent increase in its discount rate. [...] The business activity of our market is, however, at first quite paralyzed by the uncertainty of American conditions. "

- Die Woche, number 41 of October 11, 1902, pp. 1889f

But the financial markets remained, i.e. H. the foreign exchange market, the credit market and the securities market until the 1970s were predominantly nationally organized markets. After the end of the Bretton Woods system in 1973, with its fixed exchange rates, there were free rates that fluctuated according to supply and demand in the currency markets. Also, capital controls were largely gone, swelled greatly which international capital flows.

21st century

The state of globality postulated by Ulrich Beck in 1997 , of world society, in which national borders no longer play a role, has not yet been reached. Since the financial crisis in 2007, there have been increasing tendencies towards isolation and economic, political and cultural counter-movements against globalization. In response to changing consumer preferences, onshoring has increased and the trend towards global product convergence ( McDonaldization ) has tended to decline. Many companies no longer relocate their production to low-wage countries, but closer to the markets in which the products are sold.

Instead, more workers are moving to the states and metropolises with the highest capitalization. Immigration to the USA in the decade 1991–2000 reached 9 million, the highest level in the 20th century. In Europe, the number of immigrants rose by 35 percent between 2000 and 2015. According to the International Migration Organization, the “stock of migrants” of the first generation, regardless of citizenship, was 76 million in Europe in 2015 and just under 47 million in the USA.

Thus, by right-wing populist opponents of globalization either in the first line of the international trade nor in Europe or North America today capitalism , but the influx of migrants rejected. The many short interactions caused by mass tourism have done little to reduce xenophobia and cultural distance. “The symbol of modern tourism is the cruise ship, from where passengers can spend a few hours on land, but then always return to their beds. The aim of the new ship Harmony of the Seas of the shipping company Royal Caribbean is to reproduce all climatic zones of the world. ”But many people defend themselves against the unreasonable demands of global products and values ​​(“ one billion Barbie dolls ”). Countries like Japan or South Korea refuse immigration entirely and are extremely protective of external influences on their traditional culture.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the problem of the collapse of the state has also been on the political agenda, which may also be a consequence of globalization. This enables informal networks of the elites and warlords to receive permanent pensions from the permanent war economy and raw material monopolies even without state organization . This can lead to persistence or relapse of those not in power into the shadow or local subsistence economy , if they do not even have to emigrate. Effective international agreements can hardly be concluded with these states.

Closely related to the problem of failing states is the problem of the (actual or threatened) tribalization of many regions in Africa and Asia, but also in Europe (aspirations for independence in Catalonia , Scotland , northern Italy or the break-up of Belgium ).

At the same time, the failure of TTIP and other multilateral agreements as well as the growing fears about Chinese industrial policy show that global markets could tend to become more fragmented again. In this case, companies will continue to have to deal with competing technology, data protection and governance standards as well as inconsistent regulatory models. It is also predicted that global supply chains (as in the case of Brexit, for example ) will be shortened due to growing protectionism and will move closer to consumers. Modern technologies make it possible, especially in the consumer goods sector, to accelerate and shorten supply chains from design to delivery. Many experts and companies are prioritizing delivery speed over cheaper global supply chains. Localization advantages will thus possibly gain in importance compared to economies of scale .


The effects of globalization are discussed very controversially. In addition to the aspects already mentioned, further advantages and disadvantages should be mentioned.


Globalization is often welcomed, especially from an economic perspective. In particular, it is expected that more trade and a greater division of labor can fight poverty. The policy of import substitution , with which countries in Latin America and Africa in particular, but also India, for example, tried in the 1960s and 1970s to secure the domestic market through high tariffs on imports from their own industries and thus trigger economic growth, is viewed as a failure. Countries such as China, India and the Asian tiger states were only able to increase their economic output and fight poverty through an increased export orientation of trade policy .

An increase in inequality, which was observed in industrialized countries in the past in the form of falling wages for large sections of the population, is seen by many experts as being induced less by globalization and more by technological change.

The frequently voiced criticism that globalization is undermining the ability to shape politics is rejected. Companies seldom choose their locations according to political guidelines, the ability to shape politics is much greater than what is perceived by the politicians themselves in a kind of anticipatory obedience. In some cases, political changes are also clearly positive: the number of armed conflicts fell by around 40% between 1992 and 2005.

According to an empirical study, economic globalization has a robust positive effect on life expectancy (even in poor countries), but not political and social.


A fundamental cause of conflicts that arise from globalization processes in principle is the difference in the speed and intensity of these processes in the different categories that are relevant to people's living conditions.

The argumentation of the globalization critics

The criticism of globalization is only in rare cases directed against the phenomenon of globalization itself ("anti-globalization"). Most critics of globalization (including those from the World Social Forum , Peoples Global Action , attac , WEED and BUKO or the International Trade Union Confederation ) are directed against what is termed neoliberal globalization and in some cases capitalism or the market economy itself.

What is meant above all is the opening of markets and the creation of free trade zones . Not all goods and services, including educational institutions, public transport and basic services, should be allowed to be sold and bought everywhere, according to the demands. It is criticized that globalization concentrates on markets and business relationships, but that globalization of human rights , labor rights , ecological standards or democracy is not taken into account. In contrast to business lobby groups, citizens are having a dwindling influence. In many cases, the introduction of worldwide social and ecological minimum standards is required. The critics continue to criticize the lack of transparency and democratic legitimation of international bodies such as the WTO , the IMF or the World Bank .

In the opinion of critics, modern globalization has not fulfilled the hopes placed in it. The accelerated economic growth expected by liberal economists has not yet occurred. From 1980 to 2000, the global economic and social development of countries in all stages of development would have slowed down compared to the previous two decades.

Critics of globalization also claim that liberal globalization leads to an increase in worldwide social inequality both between and within individual countries (cf. Stolper-Samuelson theorem ).

In particular, income and the relatively high level of income equality in industrialized countries come under pressure according to this reading. For example, the US gross domestic product increased 39% between 1973 and 1995. However, this gain was almost entirely attributable to top earners. In contrast, the incomes of employees without a managerial function (around 80% of employees) fell by 14% in real terms during the period. In most industrialized countries, above all in the USA , the EU-15 countries and Japan , the share of wages and salaries in national income has also steadily declined since 1980 . Between 1980 and 2000, inequality increased in 48 countries and decreased in 9 countries worldwide.

The Gini coefficient , which can be used to express the degree of inequality between different countries, rose from around 0.43 in 1950 to around 0.45 in 1978, only to increase significantly from then on to just under 0.54 in 1998 . This is mainly due to the poor development of Latin America and Africa, which could not keep up with the rapid economic growth of the industrialized countries. However, this development is put into perspective if the countries are weighted according to their population size. Then the Gini coefficient has been falling since the mid-1950s, which in turn is mainly due to the positive development in China and India, while African and Latin American countries in particular are falling behind.

According to the UNDP , however, the global inequality of income rose sharply: in 1960 the bottom 20% achieved 2.3% of incomes, while the top 20% achieved 70.2% of incomes (Gini coefficient ≥ 54%). In 1989 the bottom 20% had an income share of 1.4%, the top 20% had a share of 82.7% (Gini coefficient ≥ 65%). In 1997 the bottom 20% earned only 1.2% of the income, while the top 20% earned 89% (Gini coefficient ≥ 70%). In long-term studies , a slight increase in income inequality was recorded as early as the year 1000, but this only increased sharply in the industrial age.

Many critics see that the establishment of transnational institutions based on the model of Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation (1944) - the creation of the welfare state to contain an unleashed capitalism - called for institutional re-embedding of a radical market globalization - did not work even after more than 20 years: the national and global institutions were in no way prepared for globalization risks such as international terrorism, climate change, financial crises and large migratory movements. Conversely, the neoliberal democracies weakened the cultural prerequisites and institutions for mastering globalization: The “marketing push” (according to Donatella della Porta ) destroyed pluralistic media, intermediary associations such as trade unions and the education system, i.e. institutions in which people could experience self-efficacy. As a result, the right-wing populist, radical ethnic-religious, separatist-regionalist and authoritarian-nationalist currents have been strengthened. In this respect, one should not speak of the risks of globalization, but of the risks of neoliberalism and commodification .

Also Heiner Flassbeck and Paul Steinhardt assume that the globalization project due to rising social inequality and the political turmoil after the election Donald Trumps and due to the United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union membership referendum had failed. There are neither viable concepts for a new international cooperation nor for state intervention, since state policy is largely discredited by the abuse of power. The current market economy discourse is no longer a scientific discussion, but is permeated with lobbyism.

Another variant of the globalization criticism is not directed against a "liberal globalization", but has its basis in political liberalism: Ralf Dahrendorf described the emergence of a new "global class" and the emergence of a new authoritarianism as an effect of globalization, which frees that endangers people if this development is not counteracted by a sufficiently strong political counterforce. In addition, he warned strongly against the resurrection of authoritarian, fascist systems for the maintenance of law and order. Only the democratic nation state with its borders is a functioning form for democratic conditions. Any forces going beyond this would escape democratic control.

Globalization and the Gender

Another point in the analysis and discussion of globalization is its interconnection with and impact on gender relations. Globalization is described ambivalently in gender-sensitive research: On the one hand, it changes the gender division of labor on a global scale and uses women as a new flexible “ reserve army ”. B. in the textile processing industry of Latin America and Southeast Asia. At the same time, flexible and precarious employment relationships, which were previously occupied by women, are being extended to all societies and all classes (see: housewifeisation ). Here there is also talk of a 'feminization of the labor market'.

On the other hand, globalization opens up new possibilities for international cooperation and networking for women due to new media of communication and the increasing importance of international organizations.

Public opinion

The public opinion with regard to economic and cultural globalization has been investigated in several studies.

Scheve and Slaughter (2006) summarized the most important findings from public opinion research on globalization in many industrialized and developing countries in the following points:

  • In many, but not all, countries, a majority believe that globalization is good for their country.
  • The benefit is seen mainly with consumers and businesses, not workers.
  • There is some evidence that public support for globalization is declining in individual countries.
  • In most countries, a majority prefer protectionism over free trade.
  • Opinions hostile to free trade are based primarily on threats to jobs and high wages.
  • In most countries there is a majority in favor of limiting immigration, not expanding it.
  • Anti-immigrant opinions are often motivated by labor market concerns.

Economic globalization

A common approach to the analysis of public opinion derives from standard models of trade theory. Scheve and Slaughter (2001) use the Heckscher-Ohlin theorem to test hypotheses in the United States. The theorem implies that workers in industries that use non-scarce factors of production benefit from free trade and would therefore support it (sector hypothesis). The highly qualified can also benefit more from economic integration than the low-skilled and are therefore more open to immigration (qualification hypothesis). Scheve and Slaughter found empirical evidence against the sector hypothesis and for the qualification hypothesis. However, Mayda and Rodrik (2005) found support for both hypotheses based on a cross-section of 23 countries.

Another variable examined is political bias. Garrett (1998) found no indication that the political left and the welfare state could not develop in a globalized economy. Scheve and Slaughter (2001) found, based on surveys carried out in 1996, that conservatives are more inclined to protectionism. Rankin (2001) showed that supporters of the Democrats were more likely to support the NAFTA free trade agreement . Scheve and Slaughter (2001), on the other hand, found no connection between partisanship and protectionism on the basis of survey data collected in 1992. Mayda and Rodrik also found no connection.

Studies of the effects of public opinion on economic reforms from the United States and Europe show that the effects of the reforms on personal income are less significant than the effects of the reforms on the overall economic situation.

Values are also a factor in public opinion. Rankin (2001) found that respondents with strong patriotic values ​​consistently rejected NAFTA. In an international cross-sectional study, Mayda and Rodrik (2005) and O'Rourke and Sinnott (2001) found that nationalism tends to lead to protectionism.

Cultural globalization

Economic globalization goes hand in hand with cultural exchange, but the language dependency of many cultural activities still constitutes a barrier to exchange. This applies to a lesser extent to music and image-based media. Many states have partially left out cultural sectors when dismantling trade barriers. Critical responses range from concerns about the content of films to internet bans. There are also public concerns about the effects of cultural integration. When asked if access to films, television and music from other parts of the world was rated poorly, the answers ranged from 7% in the UK and France to 40% in Bolivia. Overall, developing countries appear to be more concerned about cultural globalization than industrialized countries. In each of the 17 countries examined, however, the majority of those questioned felt that cultural exchange tended to be positive, not negative.

As in the case of economic globalization, the empirical question arises as to which variables can explain the variation in opinions. Edwards (2006) found in a study of 2002 survey data from 17 developing and industrialized countries that different values ​​have a major influence. Ideas about the free market, consumerism, and modern life were more explanatory than assessments of economics or political preferences. Qualifications were as explanatory as values.

Globalization and education

The connection between education and globalization is discussed from several perspectives in the educational science debate. On the one hand there is a critical discussion about deregulation and the introduction of market mechanisms and new forms of control in the education sector as a result of globalization. This is also about the competition between globally active education providers with the criticized consequence that education is more and more from a public good to a private service.

There are also discussions about how to deal with the phenomenon of globalization in an educational manner. The concept of global learning summarizes various discourses on global issues and stimulates a critical examination of globalization, whereby global learning is still far from an established research area. The question of which competencies are becoming more important in a globalizing world is increasingly being discussed. The term globalization is now well anchored in social science discussions. A debate about how to deal with the phenomenon has only started in political education in recent years. At the same time, the Standing Conference, with the support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation, endeavors to integrate global developments more strongly into the curricula of the federal states.

In history didactics , too , thought is being given to the extent to which globalization should have repercussions on the content and presentation of historical thinking within the framework of organized historical learning. As early as 2002, Susanne Popp criticized the fact that the link to a nation-state core curriculum was unbroken and that this link was not seriously questioned in the current, anyway rather reserved, historical-didactic discussion about the potential consequences of globalization for the design of future historical learning. Recently, Andreas Heuer has been advocating an expansion of the term historical awareness to include the term global historical awareness . The expansion of the term is intended to express that the content in the organization of historical learning is still based on a one-sidedly West-oriented interpretation of history. The content of historical learning is thus decoupled from the real developments in a world that is increasingly less influenced by the West.


Web links

Commons : globalization  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Globalization  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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