Across the media, it is common to acknowledge the growing effects of globalization and how it influences the actions and reactions of certain international superpowers. But what, necessarily, is globalization? And how do we process its growth and predict its consequences? Political scientists offer multiple views to explain how the international world works, two of which being the liberal perspective and the critical perspective.
The liberal perspective posits that globalization is a continuous process trending toward complex interdependence, which proposes that states’ are becoming more and more dependent on each other with further industrialization, technological advances, and free trade. More specifically, liberals view the spread of wealth and decline of hegemony as a positive global development, highlighting the idea that having more actors in an open market economy increases efficiency and benefits globally. The idea is that, over time, if more states have wealth than not, then global competition will decrease and more states will be satisfied. In this way, under the liberal perspective, complex interdependence is a positive trend that is projected to decrease inter-state conflict. Liberals also place emphasis on collective gains, which assert that every actor should receive equal benefits, as opposed to relative gains. Here, it is apparent that liberals value international cooperation and mutual benefit, especially in regards to economic globalization. Furthermore, liberals stress comparative advantage, which maintains that a country should produce what it is skilled at producing, in free trade. The idea here is that, if each country produces goods and utilizes resources with efficiency and skill, then production globally will increase along with interdependence. With comparative advantage, underdeveloped states also gain an equal opportunity to develop economically and globally alongside major players.
Contrary to the liberal perspective, the critical perspective sees globalization as a process fueled by competition and exploitation, culminating in Western development and eventual economic dominance. While the liberal perspective proposes that developing countries must follow Western rules, institutions, and trends in order to see global success, the critical perspective rejects this notion completely. Instead, critical theorists see Western development as the direct result of the West’s exploitation of developing countries, especially as it involves imperialism and colonialism, both of which worked toward the cultural marginalization of those countries that were imperialized and / or colonized. Furthermore, the critical perspective views capitalism as a tool to the elites, positing that the oppressive nature of factories and MNCs obstruct the profitability of laborers, and, instead, fuel the economic prowess of the elites. In summation, the critical theory claims that the West inhibits the developing world’s ability to grow due the West’s reliance on raw material and labor from developing countries.
While, in theory, the liberal perspective would describe the ideal global scenario, the critical theory offers a more realistic explanation of events. It is impossible for developing countries to be a part of an equitable, interdependent global economic system if those countries’ economic capabilities are being suppressed by Western influence. An example of this was discussed in class. While a large percentage of the world’s cacao plant is grown in West Africa, the countries known for chocolate production, Belgium and Sweden, are in the West. However, according to the liberals, comparative advantage should allow for West African countries to reap the economic rewards from their local raw good, cacao. Therefore, I find the critical perspective on globalization more persuasive than the liberal perspective.