Globalisation is a Myth

Globalisation, this concept that everyone writes about and that many people blame for their woes or use as an excuse for their policies, is in large parts a myth.

Who am I to claim this? Having grown up in a small village in rural Bavaria, I had been to Australia through a student exchange programme, to Israel in the course of another youth exchange, and to France with the Scouts, all by the age of 16. I later did internships in the United States, worked in Germany again as a lawyer with a specialisation in international family law for clients from around the world, and now I live and study in Britain. So far, I have visited 32 countries. – You would think that my life is proof of globalisation. But it might be more of an exception.

  • One problem is that most people who write and talk about globalisation have a similar background to mine, and this might be true for most of my readers: you are university-educated, speak one or two foreign languages quite well, have travelled at an early age, done part of your studies abroad, work for an international company. Chances are that with this background you live in your country’s capital city or a main economic centre.
  • But people like us are not representative of the world, and not even of our countries. If you live in London, Berlin or New York, you will indeed think that this is a mighty globalised world. But if you just go out of this cocoon for only 50 km (far less than a day-trip) to Winchester, Rathenowor Quakertown, you will find a completely different part of your country, one that is far less international and still very homogeneous.

    The more global you go, the less people will follow.

  • Yet the people living in rural areas and small towns make up the majority of most countries: Across Europe, only 29 % of the population live in cities with over 150,000 people (and 150,000 is not really large by the standards of London, Moscow or Tehran). The percentage for the UK is 51 % (12 % of Britons live in London alone), for Germany 26 % and in France only 11 % live in large cities. And these rural folks are on average much less globalised.
  • Although 215 million people live outside their country of birth, this is only 3 % of the world population. And even of these 3 %, many only move to the country next door or to a country that shares their mother tongue, they move only temporarily or they live in “cultural ghettos”, marrying a partner and being around friends almost exclusively from their home country.
  • Even among the young of this world, the numbers are no more impressive: Only 1.8 % of students attend universities outside their home country. And this number would be much lower were it not for relatively high numbers from Sub-Saharan Africa (students escaping poverty and wars) and China and Iran (students escaping dictatorships).
  • International trade continues to rise which would indicate that globalisation is pushing ahead. Yet, most trade occurs between neighbouring countries (the two most important trading partners of the US are Canada and Mexico; 67 % of all exports by EU members are into other EU states). Physical proximity, a shared language and/or past are still very relevant factors for the amount of trade between two countries.

No protests along the Silk Road.

While there is certainly a level of globalisation, it is not the dominating factor for the world economy that it is often made out to be. Traditional economies are quite resilient against opening up – as are people. On the other hand, (a bit of) globalisation is also nothing shockingly new: Marco Polo established a trade route between Europe and China in the 13th century.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in China, Economics, Politics, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Globalisation is a Myth

  1. lucas says:

    Hey Andreas,

    Thanks for pointing me to your article. I’d be interested to hear more about the economic basis for saying globalisation is a myth. Much of this article has to do with individuals and their backgrounds. It seems like your definition of globalisation has to do more with cosmopolitanism than the shape of our world economy. I personally don’t fit your stereotype. I live in Charagua, Bolivia, about 6 hours from the largest city and work with Low German Mennonites and indigenous people in the area on water and food issues. While I agree a lot that getting out of the city is important, and the rural population is neglected, even though it’s larger, I do see globalisation where I live. The mennonites get their information from the Chicago Board of Trade on a regular basis because they grow commodity crops (see my post Low German Mennonites Go Global: I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  2. John Erickson says:

    I’m not sure whether to be complimented or insulted in not being a “typical reader” of yours. I’ve never left North America (only short trips to Canada and Mexico), I live in the proverbial middle of nowhere in rural Ohio, and except for the sake of a few non-core subsidiaries, never worked for a company with business outside the US. (I will, however, plead guilty to the university education, multiple languages – more or less – and traveling at a young age, including a fetal trip from Illinois to Washington state.)
    I don’t think the lack of globalisation can ever be completely overcome, for many of the same reasons you list as its’ failure. Americans want to “buy American” cars – even though many GM parts, and even whole vehicles, are built in Canada. Military interests will also hinder the spread – why have a different fighter jet built by every major NATO power? It will take a major shift in people’s, and especially governments’, thought processes before globalisation realises its’ full potential.

  3. edithbanda says:

    I agree with you, in fact some days ago I asked the same question: Globalization is a reality or just a buzzword?
    While it is true that globalization is attributed to the phenomenon of migration, I think that has always existed in the clusters as a need for development, globalization has been a landmark in international migration. As a Mexican I’ve always dealt with this as a reality resulting from a need for factors such as economic crises, the difference and the fall in minimum wages, unemployment and social networks / family. For me the need to learn about new cultures, lifestyles and study, is what led me to travel and pursue opportunities in another country and not necessarily by the above factors. Maybe my expression is a bit silly but every person or nation has its own sense of globalization and turn it into reality according to their needs and not a law or specific patterns.

  4. ctkathy says:

    Hi… You commented on my post on Globalization by linking it to this post of yours. Thank u for commenting and I felt that I learn a lot from this post. I came to a realization of how intense is the significance and impact of Globalization really is to the world . Honestly, I was surprised of my ignorance.

    However, I would like to point out that my post was based on the context of my country, Singapore. Singapore is a small country and it is 100% city. Thus, by and large, Singaporeans are affected by Globalization.

    Thank u for your feedback. :)

  5. Nope.

    Globalization = Markets for money, goods and services.
    Globalization = Norms for property and contract.
    Globalization != Individuals.

  6. Marco says:

    You do not know the meaning of Globalization. I agree with this definition: “economic processes associated with the near-universal triumph of the capitalist model of development after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

    It is all about economy and the developing world exerting its influence over poor nations.

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