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The Impact of Globalization on the Global South

Academic Discipline: International Development
Course Name: International Development
Assignment Subject: The impact of Globalization on the Global South
Academic Level: Undergraduate-4th Year
Referencing Style: APA
Word Count: 2,001

Globalization can be defined as the unprecedented interconnectedness of people, societies and economies beyond traditional national boundaries. Although globalization is not unique to the contemporary context, its current neoliberal iteration is arguably unprecedented. The purpose of this essay is to examine the impacts of globalization on the Global South. It is important to note a few important caveats that are useful in contextualizing the present analysis and understand its intended scope. First, the Global South is a heterogenous block, and the political, social and economic realities of each country are often location and history specific. Therefore, the Global South is used loosely to capture some of the shared realities experienced by countries that are yet to achieve high levels of industrialization. Second, globalization is a continuous and ongoing process, such that its effect on a group of countries is necessarily tied to a specific time period- and not necessarily applicable across different epochs.

The next section of the paper will highlight the political implications of globalization on the Global South, arguing that most countries have lost autonomy over their economic policies- which questions the validity of democratic sovereignty to the Global South. This will be followed by a discussion of the social implications of globalization on the Global South. It will be argued that globalization has led to the Westernization of local cultures, which is not necessarily a value judgement in its own, but rather demonstrates how local cultures are becoming eroded by processes of globalization (albeit with simultaneous processes of resistance). The fourth section of analysis will examine the economic impacts of globalization on the Global South, arguing that most economies have experienced economic growth regression and de-industrialization, which fuel the cycle of dependency between the industrialized core and the underdeveloped periphery. Overall, the thesis to be defended is that globalization has been mostly negative for the Global South, although this is applicable to most Global South countries (not all), as some have managed to capitalize on globalization flows to foster their own development and growth.

The Political Impact of Globalization in the Global South
The contemporary iteration of globalization arguably began at the end of the Second World War, specifically with the establishment of the Bretton Woods system. The Bretton Woods system marked a departure from the traditional application of globalization processes, in that it led to the establishment of a new global economic order (Fioretos & Heldt, 2019). The specific aspects of the Bretton Woods institution that have shaped the political realities of the Global South pertain to the World Bank and the IMF, which have evolved to become the most recognized and widely accredited authorities of economic policy- ostensibly for both the developed and the developing worlds.

Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Bretton Woods institutions have become ideologically aligned with the neoliberal, classical economic school of thought. At its core, neoliberalism dictates that the market should be left to its own devices, as it ostensibly possesses the ability to allocate resources according to market forces and trends (Soederberg, 2005). The specific policies that are promoted by the neoliberal ideology are the deregulation of the market; minimal government control over the macroeconomy; trade liberalization; and privatization (Kentikelenis & Babb, 2019). The Global South has relied on the Bretton Woods institutions for development aid, specifically in the form of loans that can be directed towards the industrialization, economic and social development imperatives. However, the influence of the institutions has arguably surpassed their intended purpose, inferred from the practice of attaching aid conditionalities to recipient countries (Klein, 2009). This has in turn resulted in the loss of political autonomy for the Global South, as their governments are mandated to accept the neoliberal economic policies as a prerequisite to access foreign funds from the Bretton Woods institutions.

A case example that justifies this assertion is the Structural Adjustment programs that were introduced in the 1980s. In the wake of the oil and debt crises of the 1970s, Global South economies were experiencing significant economic challenges that threatened their macroeconomic performance (Mathies, 1983). However, as a condition of accessing foreign aid, Global South countries were required to implement structural adjustment- which is synonymous with the aforementioned neoliberal economic policies. This in turn implied that Global South governments lost autonomy over the nature of macroeconomic policies- for instance by being forbidden to continue the infant industry protection scheme that had been useful in driving industrialization efforts (Haslam et al., 2009). Therefore, Global South economies lost the ability to direct their own economic affairs in accordance with their development agendas- demonstrating the loss of political autonomy that characterizes an important effect of globalization.

The Social Impact of Globalization in the Global South
Globalization pertains not only to the interconnectedness of national economies, but also the unprecedented level of integration across different cultures. Technological innovation in the current digital age has paved the way for the globalization of culture, in that it has become relatively easy for cultures to mutually influence and affect each other regardless of geographic proximity. A key feature of social globalization is the increasing penetration of Western culture into localized areas of the Global South. The first example is consumerism, wherein Western commodities and goods (such as Coca-Cola) have penetrated even the most remote, rural environments in the Global South. The second example is popular culture, wherein Western media has become the idealized and dominant form of social entertainment in most countries- for instance as illustrated by the reality that local television networks in most of the Global South air content that was made in the West, and for a Western audience (Xu & Bai, 2008).

The first impact of the penetration of Western culture in the Global South is the resurgence of orientalism and Ethnocentrism. That is, non-Western cultures are continuously and increasingly judged against Western cultures, and necessarily using the lens of the latter to form a value judgement about the customs, practices and traditions of non-Western cultures. An example pertains to the Muslim societies, whose religious tenets and their social application are often perceived as lacking ‘liberalism’- which is a Western notion (Xu & Bai, 2008). The impact of ethnocentrism is that it can lead to the inadvertent erosion of cultures that do not resonate with the Western iteration, thereby leading to a sense of alienation and loss of cultural heritage. It is important to note that despite the penetration of Western culture across the Global South, there are ample examples of resistance and defiance in local cultures- which continuously try to establish their own relevance and legitimacy in myriad ways. However, the crux of this argument is that Westernization of Global South cultures creates a range of challenges for most societies in the Global South, which can undermine the real and perceived legitimacy of their own traditional customs.

The Economic Impact of Globalization in the Global South
Much of the discussion on the political effects of globalization on the Global South have relevance to this section, primarily because globalization has become aligned with the neoliberal economic ideology. Since the 1980s to date, Global South economies are continuously ‘encouraged’ to adopt ‘prudent’ macroeconomic policies and good governance practices that are consistent with neoliberalism (Haslam et al., 2009). This has translated into policies such as trade liberalization, the abandonment of the infant industry approach to industrialization; privatization of the most lucrative sectors of the economy; deregulation of the market; and the minimal involvement of the government in directing the macroeconomic affairs of the country.

The first broad economic impact of globalization in the Global South is economic growth stagnation or regression. Except for some countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, most of the Global South has failed to capitalize on the opportunities inherent within the global capitalist system. For instance, some African countries have continued to rely on the agricultural or extractive industry for export revenue- necessarily in the absence of any value addition activities (Elbadawi, 1992). The reliance on the agricultural and extractive sectors is problematic for Global South economies, primarily because of the declining terms of trade that are necessarily attached to those sectors (Elbadawi, 1992). In contrast, the imports from industrialized economies are often value added, thereby not only being more expensive, but also presenting a much more sustainable focus for export-oriented sectors in the Global North. Overall, most Global South economies are yet to establish viable avenues for economic growth in the context of the global economy, which has led to stagnation and in some instances, regression. The Economic Impact of Globalization in the Global South

The second broad economic impact of globalization in the Global South is deindustrialization. Prior to the 1980s, most Global South economies adopted a state-led model of economic development, wherein the government had the prerogative and authority to control various aspects of the macroeconomy. One of the most important approaches that was used was infant industry protection, whereby the government would protect the domestic manufacturers from international competition, in order to harness their manufacturing capacity and ensure that they can gain enough traction in the local economy to foster manufacturing and industrialization (Haslam et al., 2009). The infant industry approach was in turn contingent on trade protectionist policies, such as import quotas and tariffs on goods that were produced locally. However, the Washington Consensus of the 1980s reversed this approach, as governments in the Global South were ‘encouraged’ to abandon protectionist measures and embrace trade liberalization- necessarily as a prerequisite to access international funds from the Bretton Woods institutions (Klein, 2009). Consequently, several countries experienced deindustrialization, as the flooding of cheap foreign inputs drove several local manufactures out of business (Noorbahksh & Paloni, 1999). De-industrialization was equally facilitated by the other neoliberal tenet of minimal government involvement in the macroeconomy, as most manufacturing and industrialization was driven by state-owned enterprises (Noorbahksh & Paloni, 1999).

It is important to note that not all Global South economies have had a negative experience with globalization. Indeed, countries in southeast Asia, parts of Africa and parts of Latin America have managed to gain from the global economy. This success has been predicated on embracing the neoliberal economic tenets, and to some extent, ensuring that the national government still maintains some degree of control over macroeconomic affairs (Kai-wen et al. 2020). However, even countries that have experienced positive growth and industrialization have also experienced significant challenges. For instance, one of the main problems in export-oriented economies in Southeast Asia pertains to the lack of adequate protection for employees, who are often subjected to harsh working conditions and minimal wages (Liu, 2015). This demonstrates that although some Global South economies have benefited from globalization at the aggregate level, there remains some challenges that can be equally attributed to globalization.

In conclusion, the purpose of this analysis was to explore the political, social and economic impacts of globalization on the Global South. It was noted that although the Global South is a heterogeneous group, a lot of countries in that category share common historical and contemporary realities that affect political, social and economic realities. Moreover, not all countries classified as the Global South are included in this analysis, as there are a handful which have managed to extricate themselves from the cyclical trap of underdevelopment, to become important and influential actors within the global economy. The main political impact of globalization on the Global South has been the loss of political autonomy, especially in the context of implementing macroeconomic policies that are concomitant with the development imperatives of the Global South countries. The main social impact of globalization has been the penetration of Western culture, which often leads to the loss of cultural prestige among societies whose values are inconsistent with Western notions of liberalism. The two main economic impacts of globalization have been stagnant or receding economic growth, as well as deindustrialization. Overall, the analysis has demonstrated that globalization has been mostly negative for most Global South countries, primarily because of adherence to neoliberal economic logic that has been detrimental to achieving and sustaining economic growth and development.


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