Liberal perspectives view the history of globalization as progressive trend towards greater complex interdependence. Complex interdependence is the concept that states are becoming increasingly reliant on each other due to free trade and technology. Liberals view this as a positive trend because it is, hypothetically, indicative of less predicted conflict between states. In order to encourage complex interdependence and free trade, Bretton Woods institutions were introduced after World War II. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group are examples of Bretton Woods Institutions designed to stabilize the global economy, and provide support for development in countries after World War II. More recently, the technology revolution has promoted complex interdependence because it has made communication so much more efficient.
One other critical aspect of how liberalism views globalization is the importance of utilizing comparative advantage in free trade. If countries are producing goods at their most efficient level and trading them to other states, the global economy will maximize production and interdependence. As liberal perspectives see it, trade and globalization positively impacts both developing and developed countries at virtually the same level.
On the other hand, critical theory perspectives are primarily concerned with what globalization means outside of the west. They theorize that the west rose through the systematic exploitation of the rest of the world, and that the global economy is the product of this exploitation. Critical theory perspectives believe that globalization depends on the marginalization of indigenous peoples, women, and developing countries. One popular theory amongst critical perspectives on globalization is the dependency theory. The dependency theory claims that there are fixed relations between the metropole (the imperialists) and the satellite (the developing countries). This theory claims that the developing world cannot rise because the metropole inhibits their growth due to the metropole’s reliance on the satellite’s raw goods and cheap labor. For example, 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, but it is shipped to places like Belgium and Sweden for the production of chocolate. In other words, the European economies benefit more from West African cocoa than West Africa itself.
There is a second popular theory among critical perspectives of globalization known as the World Systems Theory. The theory focuses on the division of labor between core states, semi-peripheral states, and peripheral states. The core states are the most developed and industrialized, the peripheral states are the least developed nations with the weakest economies, and the semi-peripheral states are somewhere in between. The world systems theory highlights the structural disparities between the three categories in connection with the unequal power dynamics that have evolved with globalization. Similarly to the dependence theory, the world systems theory also views relations between developed and developing states as fixed.
Both perspectives offer thought-provoking approaches to globalization. However, I find the critical theory perspective more realistic and useful for understanding how the international system can make future strides to improve how globalization affects developing countries. It is not reasonable for liberal perspectives to make the generalization that the entire world benefits equally from globalization. Developing countries are often taken advantage of, and not properly compensated for the raw materials they trade. While complex interdependence has positive aspects to it, questions may be raised concerning the exploitation of developing countries for their goods and cheap labor. As critical theory perspectives point out, neocolonialism is still prevalent within the international system and actively inhibits the growth of developing countries and their economies on the global scale. Therefore, I believe the critical perspective best addresses the future needs within the international system concerning globalization.