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Canada and Globalization, Essay Example

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Cities: According to Sassen, the ‘global city’ occupies an important place in globalization (80). Globalization, Sassen argues, depends on and is manifest through large, cosmopolitan cities that serve as hubs of international economies of scale: they are localized, strategic ‘hot spots’ for the great networks of exchange that constitute economic globalization (80-81). Thus, global cities are important sites of globalization, areas where the economic power of international supply and demand coalesces to produce great powerhouses, dynamos of economic activity (81-82). As such, global cities form the new core of the increasingly globalized world, while former centers of manufacturing fall into disrepair and decay, and rural areas continue to languish (81-83).

McDonald’s is an important part of the urban landscape in many cities, not only major global hubs of economic activity but modernized cities in general. As Goldberg so astutely observed, “McDonald’s sprouts up naturally wherever there is enough economic oxygen to sustain it” (30). And McDonald’s is, in so many ways, a paragon of globalization: on the one hand, it sources its materials from many of the same sources worldwide; on the other hand, it famously adapts itself to the preferences of customers in different cultures and countries. Li observes that “a Big Mac sold in Saudi Arabia uses lettuce from Holland, cheese from New Zealand, beef from Spain, onion and pickles from the United States, sugar and oil from Brazil, buns from Saudi Arabia, and packaging from Germany” (216). On the other hand, McDonald’s sells a potato-based burger in India, where the cow is sacred to Hindus; kosher burgers in Israel; Japanese ramen noodles as sides in the American state of Hawaii, and the batter-fried beef ragout McKrocket in The Netherlands, amongst many others (Brym and Lie 211, Smith 454). This is a good example of glocalization, a portmanteau that captures the aspects of globalization that are particular to local/national cultures, and may even tend to enhance them (Croucher 26).

Canada, of course, is an integral part of these great networks of exchange: McDonald’s is very well established in Canada, with over 1,400 Canadian outlets and some 77,000 Canadian employees (Barndt 100). For Canadians as for so many others, however, McDonald’s is divisive: for some Canadians, it stands as a distasteful or even hated symbol of Americanization, while for other Canadians it is a beloved part of the urban Canadian landscape (100-101). The great success of McDonald’s in Canada seems to evince the greater popularity of the opinion of the latter faction (101). Indeed, as Cameron and Stein explain, Canadian cities are increasingly becoming showcases of the phenomena of globalization, or even glocalization: inexorably global and local at the same time, Canada’s cities are both sites of increasingly globalized economic activity, and local-level hubs of economic activity (43). For better or for worse, McDonald’s in Canada amply represents both.

Governance: In 1997, Held observed that globalization was fostering and sustaining a new globalized elite, an upper crust drawn from “the world of politics, law, business, and science” whose differential access to power vis-à-vis those at the margins of the socioeconomic and sociopolitical order advantaged them (253-254). A key aspect of the paradigm shift represented by globalization was, Held noted, multinational corporations (MNCs), who “account for a quarter to a third of world output, 70 percent of world trade, and 80 percent of direct international investment” (256). A key question then becomes, What place is there for the traditional vision of the democratic nation-state in a world increasingly dominated by these economic behemoths? The simple fact of the matter is that MNCs can, and do, exert a great deal of influence on the policies of national governments simply by virtue of their presence (257-260). In an increasingly internationalized age, what place is there for national sovereignty and democracy?

McDonald’s is a premier example of this phenomenon, in light of its worldwide presence, and status as an icon of Americanization. In Canada, the pressures are especially astute: given its shared border, status of English, somewhat similar culture, and smaller population, Canada has felt the assimilatory pull of Americanization with particular intensity (Brym and Lie 210). With the exception of Quebec, most parts of Canada now share a popular culture of music and television with the United States, and given the popularity of McDonald’s in both countries, Canada may be said to share similar tastes in fast food (210). Indeed, one thinks of Friedman’s Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Resolution, later revised and repackaged as the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention: it does indeed seem to be the case that the economic interconnectedness fostered by MNCs functions as a counterweight and yes, even a deterrent, to international conflicts (Friedman 420, Peng 41).

Resistance: The International Forum on Globalization (IFG) laid out a number of putative ‘alternatives’ to economic globalization, which it indicted for privatization and commoditisation of natural resources (7-8). The IGF charged that the Bretton Woods system has fostered a neo-liberal program of structural adjustment for the purposes of enriching the global elite, a program that has come at the expense of the wellbeing of the very poor (7-8). A particularly relevant—and interesting—part of that report charges that economic globalization has, first of all, removed economic control from “nations, states, sub-regions, communities or indigenous societies” and vested it with “absentee authorities that operate globally via giant corporations” (12). To no small degree this is true in the case of McDonald’s and many other MNCs, as seen. However, the particularly interesting part is the IGF’s indictment of this whole program: the IGF charges that the forces of globalization have, in effect, sold us all on a lie that it is for the benefit of all society, while the reality is that it is not (12).

McDonald’s is a lightning rod for anti-globalization protests, as Goldberg explains: anti-globalization advocates and activists of essentially any and every stripe have protested McDonald’s and even committed sabotage against it (30). The most famous example, of course, is surely José Bové, the French farmer who was the ringleader of an illegal vigilante action that dismantled a McDonald’s (Croucher 26). In Canada, too, McDonald’s has engendered a great deal of protest as a symbol of American-led globalization (26). For Bové and like-minded anti-globalization advocates, McDonald’s is the symbol of everything they detest: everything mass-produced, internationalized, Americanized, and even undemocratic (26).

But another and arguably much better way of understanding McDonald’s and the economic globalization that it represents exists: economic freedom in a socio-cultural context of glocalization (Croucher 26, Marling 52). Goldberg correctly observes that McDonald’s arises wherever there is sufficient economic activity, economic ‘oxygen’, to support it (30). As seen, McDonald’s is the veritable embodiment of glocalization: it adapts itself to local and national cultures, and even enhances them by responding to their preferences (Croucher 26, Smith 454). McDonald’s is economically successful because consumers enjoy it, especially tailored to culture-specific tastes, and that is by far the most decisive rebuttal to the anti-globalization crowd.

Conclusion: McDonald’s is a fitting symbol of globalization: McDonald’s locations are practically everywhere, making the franchise a massive MNC, and yet, each location is a site of economic activity at the local level. McDonald’s is international, part of global networks of exchange, and yet McDonald’s is local, responding to the particular tastes of consumers in different countries. Those who attempt to resist McDonald’s are ultimately opposing the economic freedom of others to enjoy McDonald’s if they see fit.

Works Cited

Barndt, Deborah. Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and Globalization on the Tomato Trail. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. Print.

Brym, Robert J., and John Lie. Sociology: Your Compass for a New World. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2010. Print.

Cameron, David R., and Janice G. Stein, eds. Street Protests and Fantasy Parks: Globalization, Culture, and the State. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2002. Print.

Croucher, Sheila L. Globalization and Belonging: The Politics of Identity in a Changing World. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishes, Inc., 2004. Print.

Friedman, Thomas. The world is flat: A brief history of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Farrar, Stratus and Giroux, 2005. Print.

Goldberg, Jonah. “The Specter of McDonald’s.” National Review, 52.10 (5 June 2000): 28-32. EBSCOhost. Web. 9 March 2013.

Held, David. “Democracy and Globalization”. Global Governance 3 (1997): 251-267. Hein Online. Web. 9 March 2013.

International Forum on Globalization (IGF). “A Better World is Possible! Alternatives to Economic Globalization”. Report Summary. International Forum on Globalization. San Francisco, CA: IFG, n.d. Print.

Li, Ling. Supply Chain Management: Concepts, Techniques and Practices. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., Pte. Ltd., 2007. Print.

Marling, William H. How ‘American’ is Globalization? Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. Print.

Peng, Mike W. Global Business. 2nd ed. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

Ritzer, George. “An Introduction to McDonaldization.” Readings in Globalization: Key Concepts and Major Debates. Ed. George Ritzer and Zeynep Atalay. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. 383-388. Print.

Sassen, Saskia. “The Global City: Strategic Sit/New Frontier”. American Studies 41.2/3 (2000): 79-95. JSTOR. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.

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