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Globalization: Friend or Foe?

by: Courtney Steininger

As a student of the humanities, I am constantly forced to reckon with the fact that we live in a post-colonial world. While we may no longer live under imperial rule, it is a fact that between 1492 and 1914, Europeans conquered 84% of the globe (Hoffman, 2015). This fact facilitated much of globalization as we now consider it. Obviously, trade between different geographic locations existed before 1492, but these were primarily even trade deals. After 1492, slavery practices and colonization allowed for uneven trade deals that paved the way for globalization as it affects us today.

There are dozens of ways that technology facilitates our global society, and this certainly accounts for the cultural aspects of our global society. It is why “Gangnam Style,” a video from South Korea became world famous and why children in Zimbabwe dream about Michael Jackson. However, most of the tangibles associated with globalization have a much darker story. The t-shirts we wear that were made abroad reflect a modern slavery, where companies from the US and elsewhere in the developed world take advantage of the systems put in place by colonization that use indigenous peoples as cheap labor.

For my part and the part of my family, as members of the middle class in Europe and then in the United States, globalization has benefited us in lowering cost of living. We also benefitted in that we never resided in nations where labor has been taken advantage of for the sake of globalization. I am not denying that there are numerous benefits of globalization, especially for the United States. Our culture has been commoditized and spread across the world. Our companies benefit and profit off of cheap labor fund elsewhere. However, I merely implore us to think about the consequences of globalization, and to think about how we can change business practices internationally so our global economy benefits everyone.

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