Globalization, a Force for good?

From the Daily Mirror :

By Raknish Wijewardene

Professor Chris Lingle, an American academic with extensive experience of work in the developing world, delivered a challenging and controversial lecture at the British Council on Tuesday 11th. The lecture and the animated discussion that followed covered aspects of globalization, the opportunities it presents, and specifically the cultural changes increasingly open markets might precipitate.

Speaking in defense of globalization Professor Lingle characterized it as a historical rather than a recent phenomenon dating from at least the time of the early Arabic trading civilization and thus predating colonialism. He emphasized that globalization and participation in open markets was a matter of choice for governments and people and that as such globalization was not, as is often argued, forced upon people by a cabal of big business and western government interests.

He argued that globalization through the creation of an increasingly integrated world market encouraged competition and led to the advent of better more competitive services worldwide. Further the professor maintained that globalization presented small and medium sized business with the opportunity to access technology and compete in markets throughout the world.

Criticizing both aid, international organizations such as the IMF/ WTO and governments he reiterated that the maintenance of a fully free and open markets was the most effective means of managing an economy.

He argued that reliance on governments to create jobs, opportunities, and ultimately manage economies was misguided and emphasized that people and companies who had a direct stake in the economy could and should decide and determine the direction of an economy through market forces alone. Indeed he went on to criticize the traditional developing world practice of pursuing export led growth through foreign direct investment and free trade zones, arguing that they forced nations to compete on the basis of cheap labour and thus lead to economies having an interest in keeping their own citizens poor through weak currencies and inflationary policy.

He suggested that while exports were important, focusing specifically on exports while discouraging imports through tariff policies created unsustainable economies, and said that free trade zones and policies to encourage foreign investment discriminated against local entrepreneurs and businesses. Essentially the speaker was of the view that all businesses foreign and local, large and small should compete on equal terms without either protectionism or special incentives for foreign investment.

Culturally he held that globalization by increasing competition encouraged people to select only the most effective and valuable practices leading to the adoption of strong legal systems and decreasing discrimination against women and minorities as market forces determine that these groups are necessary to maintain economic productivity. When challenged by audience members who insisted this would inevitably lead to a reduction in cultural diversity, as market forces compelled all societies to adopt similar cultural practices, the professor conceded that this might be a side effect of globalization. However he argued that globalization could also allow cultures to maintain their uniqueness by allowing them to choose and emphasize only those differences that were most important to them. .

The contentions, arguments, and topics raised during the lecture led inevitably to a heated discussion with members of the audience defending free trade zones, and export led growth, criticizing globalization as an unequal western driven process and raising concerns as to the inevitable cultural homogeneity of the globalized world. The complexity of the issues raised and the depth of feeling stirred by economy versus culture arguments was such that no final consensus could be reached. Nevertheless all who attended were grateful to the Beyond Borders volunteer organization, who sponsored the lecture, for providing the opportunity for such an open and stimulating discussion on one of the major issues of our times – balancing the obvious economic benefits of globalization with the corresponding cultural tendency to uniformity and the need to use globalization to enhance rather than eliminate cultural diversity.

Its nice to see the event generating a lot of interest.

Related Links :
Event Notice (With comments and links to other posts)


Posted on 09/14/2007, in Events-Activities-Announcements, Media, Opinions, Sri Lanka, Youth-Culture-Society. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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