Analysis of Globalization: Liberal Vs. Critical

The Liberal perspective explains globalization through an emphasis on reciprocal interactions. This suggests that development was the result of institution building, technology, comparative advantage, open markets, and specialization. To focus on specialization, the liberal perspective believes that this division of labor contributed to the efficiency of workers and encouraged a more sound system of exchange. This then results in a system of comparative advantage. If your country and its laborers specializes in what they do best (ex: produce, extraction, industrialize), overall, countries end up better off. If countries trade for what others do well the general welfare increases. The liberal perspective believes that comparative advantage is a product of Western ideas, institutions and competition.

Although specialization can produce efficiency, and has in some scenarios, critical theorist define this development as “a consequence of the systematic external exploitation of other countries”. According to critical theorists, exploitation contributes to growth. Growth was not the result of mutual benefit and gain, it was the result of a process in which dominant countries systemically exploited subordinate countries. Thus, comparative advantage was not created positively and the distribution of resources was not a collective agreement that focused on advantages of individual countries. Critical Theorist explain comparative advantage through a pattern of dominant relationships shaped by colonial governments and raw power. This is explained through the dependency theory- poor nations provide resources to wealthy states, which in turn, benefits the developed states and exploits the underdeveloped states. For example, colonial powers converted resources to produce cash crops. Like in Gambia where colonizers replaced rice farming (local consumption) with peanut plantations for (Europe consumption). Furthermore this system of trade pushes less developed countries into a marginalized system, where they cannot make progress and are left behind to provide their resources to countries who continually make progress.

I find the critical theorists explanation of globalization to be the most convincing. Corruption is an underlying factor in almost every institution. The liberal perspective explains concepts like “comparative advantage” as if we are all living in a utopian society. Exploitation occurs on all levels of the international system. The dependency theory feels most relevant to me, especially living in the United States- the largest goods importer in the world. Not only is there a surplus of products available for the average American consumer, but the majority of these products come from exploitation. For example, fast fashion has become increasingly popular in the United States. With the touch of a button, American consumers are able to purchase cheap products from other countries. The affordability attracts buyers while ignoring underlying corruption. This underlying corruption is sweat shops and child labor.

In discussion of globalization I think the Liberal Perspective gives a glossy perception of this phenomenon. The Critical Perspective dives into the corruption and exploitation that developed countries were founded on.  The poor feed the rich, and due to dependency, it is a continuous cycle that traps the vulnerable. Comparative Advantage does not lead to an increase in general welfare. Developed countries continue to make progress while  un-developed countries are exploited for their resources and struggle to progress.


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  1. Hi Alanna, thank you for your post! I found your points quite interesting, and I agree with you that the critical perspective is more convincing. I think it is really important for us to understand and acknowledge that globalization relies heavily on colonial roots and exploitation, and that it does not make all parties better off. I think the example of Gambia was really effective at showcasing the exploitation embedded in globalization. In my blog, I referenced that Ghanaian cocoa is exported and then made into expensive, fancy chocolate in Europe, as an example of the exploitation that comes with globalization. While I was wary of some aspects of globalization prior to taking this IR course, I did not realize just how far-reaching the consequences of globalization are. Do you think more should be done to educate the general public as to the harms of globalization and its problematic roots?

  2. Thanks for sharing, Alanna! I agree with your evaluation. Economic models are based on so many assumptions that make them difficult to apply to the real world. Exporting natural resources and importing value-added goods can trap a country in a cycle of underdevelopment if domestic institutions are ineffective – and ineffective institutions are a legacy of colonialism. The liberal perspective often prioritizes (unequal) economic benefit over immense social and environmental consequences. Do you think we can find a middle ground? Will the countries that benefit most from globalization be willing to address its drawbacks? Can international organizations facilitate a restructuring of the economic order? Thanks again!

  3. Rakshan Wazir Badshah

    November 4, 2023 — 7:31 pm

    Dear, Alanna
    Reading your perceptive viewpoint on the diverse perspectives on globalization was a pleasure. I agree with your focus on the critical perspective since it highlights the negative aspects of globalization that are frequently disregarded. It is interesting to consider the idea that globalization is fundamentally based in exploitation rather than being a process that benefits everyone. Understanding the complex nature of this phenomena is crucial.
    An effective example of how globalization historically has had negative effects on numerous nations is the Gambia and how colonial forces changed its farming techniques. It serves as an alarming reminder of how colonialism’s legacy still shapes global dynamics, such as power disparities and economic systems.
    It’s crucial that people understand the negative effects and questionable origins of globalization, as you have pointed out in your inquiry. In fact, promoting ethical trade practices and encouraging responsible consumer behavior may greatly benefit from public awareness and education. What role do you think governments and institutions should play in this process, and how should this education be implemented?
    I appreciate you giving your opinions on this intricate and important subject. I’m interested in hearing more of your future observations.

  4. Great blog post Alanna! I really liked your opinion on the two perspectives, and I did not think about it how you did. I found your post very compelling, and it makes me want to change mine! I was aware on how critical theorist think, but I was so focused on the positives of the liberal perspective, I did not think about how that was unrealistic. Exploitation is very real when it comes to globalization. I like your connection to fast fashion, as that is something I am very aware of. The problematic conditions that comes from fast fashion is pretty well known, but what other human rights issues arise from globalization? How can we make the general public aware of not just sweatshops, but other conditions?

  5. I definitely agree that the critical perspective was more convincing. I also found that the exploitation and corruption of sweatshops and child labor to be major negatives that result from globalization. I also believe any companies who use these methods of labor should be punished. What I found very insightful was the conclusion that growth is from dominant countries exploiting the subordinate countries.

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