Globalization, as we currently understand it, is shaped by capitalism. This is an important point to emphasize: there are potentially many different types of globalization, whereby the world could be organized according to a multiplicity of different ways. For example, consider a type of communist globalization, whereby there is a one-world government and some type of socialist redistribution and production of goods. The type of globalization we live in, however, is determined by the flow of capital, the transit of goods from one part of the world to the other. It is largely controlled by private industries, who seek cheap work and labor forces, so in order to turn a profit.
As Rothenberg describes this style of globalization in our textbook, it means a »process in which goods and services, including capital, move more freely within and among nations.« (433) Our globalization is above all characterized, following Rothenberg, by the movement of capital. This, of course, has an impact on all our lives, and the negative aspects of this globalization can thus be traced back to the negative aspects of capitalism.
Consider, hypotehtically, that you are in an economically underdeveloped country, say Bangladesh. Recently, foreign companies from the West, such as the United States, have moved their production factories to Bangladesh. For the average member of this community, this could seem like an opportunity for employment. However, from the perspective of global capitalism, this is not an instance of humanitarian aid and development: rather, it is an attempt to capitalize on the lower living standards that have to be paid to workers in the developing world as opposed to the industrial and post-industrial, digital world.
Consider this same factory movement from a perspective, say an American perspective. You are a laborer with no other qualifications, who has worked at the factory that has been moved to Bangladesh. You are now without work, unable to secure employment. The company has moved because it can create a greater bottom line by paying less to workers.
Global capitalism allows for this movement of labor power, since the very structure of our globalization is based on the free-flow of capital. In other words, the foundation of this globalization is not some type of notion of universal human rights, or the crossing of borders in an almost cosmopolitan way. Just consider how difficult it is to board a plane in the contemporary age – the endless security checks, the long lines, the hassles – and compare this to the free flow of goods and labor that marks globalization.
It becomes clear from this comparison that globalization structured along the lines of capital is not meant to improve individual lives, but instead make trade, production and profit more viable. This can be seen in the examples given above: the underdeveloped world becomes a source for cheap labor, helping ensure higher profits. The places where such work used to be done have evaporated into ghost towns, such as the famous example of Detroit. Globalization in its capitalistic form thus aggravates problems of racism (divisions between countries) and poverty, both in terms of taking advantage of cheap labor and taking away jobs from developed countries.
These critiques of globalization, in the context of the different types of globalization that may exist is therefore not a criticism globalization itself. Instead, it is a criticism of the type of globalization that is being carried out. The question is as follows: is not grounding our vision of globalization in capitalism a rejection of a more humane form of globalization, one that really takes the community of individuals as its primary goal? Through the economic hardships produced by globalization, it becomes clear that globalization is at its base an ethical question.
Rothenberg, Paula S. Beyond Borders: Thinking Critically About Global Issues. New York: Worth, 1995.