Globalization in the 21st Century

in Theoria
Author: David McLellan
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The theme of this article is the threat—and the opportunities—posed to progressive aspirations by the phenomenon that has come to be known as globalization. A decade ago the term globalization was a novelty both in academic circles and in the popular press. Now, no discussion of economics or political debate seems complete without reference to it. And the recent attacks of Al Qaeda and the invasion of Iraq push the problems of an international legal order and the potential universality of the rights of man to the top of the agenda. Yet in its essence globalization is not a recent—or even a 20th century—phenomenon. The view that globalization is no new phenomenon has some substance. Many commentators have pointed to the level of international trade in the decades before World War.1 And some have thought of ancient Greco-Roman civilization as an instance of globalization— was it not appealed to by St Augustine in his opinion that ‘secrus judicat orbis terrarium’? This is true in the sense that the Roman Empire provided political and legal systems in which diverse nations and cultures could be to an impressive extent integrated. But it was not global: consider the contemporary but separate empires in China, India and possibly South America. Globalization in the literal sense of the word has to do with the rise of capitalism.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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