Basic Course 1
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Basic Course 2
Basic Course 3
Basic Course 4
Basic Course 5




Overview of the Basic Course sequence

Basic Course 1: What is globalisation? (attempts at a definition)

Basic Course 2: The dimensions of globalisation (multi-dimensional)

Basic Course 3: Causes of globalisation (multi-causality)

Basic Course 4: The resulting problems of globalisation

Basic Course 5: Solution strategies: global governance

Basic Course 1: What is Globalisation?

The problem with globalisation begins when we try to define it. An accepted definition neither exists in science, nor in the broader public debate. The following table presents various conceptual approaches to defining globalisation:

Globalisation represents...

“...a process of surmounting limitations created by history. For this reason, it is synonymous with the erosion (but not with the disappearance) of national state sovereignty, and exhibits itself as the freeing up of the market economy from the moral order and institutionalised ties of societies...”
[Elmar Altvater]

“ intensification of worldwide social relations, via which far away places are linked together in such a way that events in one place are affected by processes taking place many miles away, and vice-versa...”
[Anthony Giddens]

“...a quantitative and qualitative intensification of transactions across borders in conjunction with a simultaneous spatial expansion of the same...”
[Ulrich Menzel]

“...represents the largest economic and social shift since the Industrial Revolution..”
[Dirk Messner/Franz Nuscheler]

“...the growing reciprocal interdependence and integration of various economies around the globe...”
[Meghnad Desai]

“...a process of growing links between societies and problem areas...”
[Johannes Varwick]

“...competition in the market is made more intense by globalisation...”
[Christian von Weizsäcker]

“...unleashing of the forces of the world market and the economic stripping of the power of the state...”

“...has become a catch phrase, which has been used in an inflationary manner in political, public and scientific debates for some time now, and which, on the one hand, is seen as a 'threat' and, on the other, as an 'opportunity'...”
[Johannes Varwick]

„... a social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasingly aware that they are receding (...). Globalization does not necessarily imply homogenization (...). Globalization merely implies greater connectedness and de-territorialization ...”
[Malcolm Waters]

"The dynamics of globalisation is driven by economic forces, but its most important consequences can be seen in politics" [Klaus Müller].

The complexity of globalisation as a topic also requires intense study at the definition level. The following points need to be referred to and discussed at the first opportunity here:


The central aspect of debordering and the consequences for the nation state in relation to this (keyword ‘erosion’);


The far-reaching significance frequently ascribed to the process of globalisation (analogue to industrialisation);


The question concerning whether a new process is concerned, or whether globalisation has been in existence for a long time, whereby the processes involved have merely accelerated since the end of the 80s (the version stating that globalisation is a pure 'myth' is hardly ever found in the debate today);


The differentiation between both basically different approaches to the term globalisation, namely, the understanding of the term in a narrow, economic sense (for instance, the definitions by Desai or Weizsäcker), on the one hand, and during the further course, in terms of all social relationships (for instance the definition by Giddens);


The connecting elements beyond all differences, and above all the central role ascribed to interdependency, in terms of mutual dependence in nearly all definitions.

Commentary on the Attempts at Definition

The economic dimension of globalisation undoubtedly possesses great significance and forms an important cause and driving force for globalisation processes in other areas. However, it should not be ignored that globalisation comprises much more than the growing integration of global commerce, and therefore cannot be reduced to economic processes alone, which still frequently occurs (see Basic Course 2: The dimensions of globalisation).

The various scientific disciplines involved (primarily economic, history, political sciences and sociology) have difficulty with defining the term. This is not surprising, since the task of defining 'debordering' is similar to the infamous task of squaring a circle.

The brief quotations point to the extraordinarily important aspect of debordering and the consequences for the nation state (Altvater). An understanding of globalisation in a narrow economic sense is identified (Desai, Weizsäcker). The epochal meaning of the processes, gathered together under the term globalisation, become clear when it is placed on equal terms with the Industrial revolution.(Messner/Nuscheler).

At a meta level, Varwick speaks of the function of the term in the public discourse, which clearly points out that it is impossible to talk of globalisation in measured terms without talking about how we talk about globalisation.

The fundamental importance of interdependence (mutual dependence), the link (integration), or the exchange is referred to several times (Menzel, Desai, Giddens, Varwick). Many determinative attempts find the aspect of 'growing links' to be sufficient (Varwick, Menzel), which, although, non-critical is also almost completely immaterial.

An important direction in criticising globalisation is taken by Altvater and Schumann/Martin, namely that of commerce breaking free, which can no longer be controlled or 'embedded' by politics

... to to Basic Course 2: The dimensions of globalisation

[Author: Ragnar Müller]

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