Center of Postindustrial society research, Moscow
The term ‘globalization’ is one of the most popular in the present-day social studies but at the same time it is an extremely empty term. Its first mention in the literature dates back to the middle 1940s, however until the early 1980s it was only mentioned in a rather occasional way. The hour of triumph for this notion came after the end of the Cold War when it started to be used for the description of the world that was becoming more and more interdependent in economic and information dimensions.
Meanwhile, no strict theory has been developed around the term 'globalization' – first of all due to the fact that the term is meant to take away many sharp questions rather than to pose them. Having substituted the term ‘westernization’ it did not imply the necessity to search the answer to the question who is responsible for the growing interdependence of national economies and its consequences. Although the USA got the most significant benefit from globalization in the 1980s and 1990s one should not confuse globalization with 'Americanization' as global processes and trends have greatly influenced (and still do) the United States themselves.
'The theory of globalization' in the strict sense can hardly be developed – notably because of two reasons. First, nowadays this process itself is at a relatively initial stage, demonstrating a considerable progress in some spheres and almost without any penetration into the other ones. Second, the notion of 'globalization' itself seems to be so general and broad that it becomes an element of any modern social theory, bur not a center of any independent theoretical construction. Our analysis of a considerable corpus of western literature indicates that it is just the way it goes.
From my point of view, globalization should be considered as an objective process possessing no 'managing center'. It is not so much the states that benefit from it as the elites which to a greater extent are ready to refuse the nationalistic ideology. Globalization is not an ideologically laden process; the access to the benefits it provides is open for all countries ready to use them. The natural cost for the participation in globalization becomes the reduction of the scale of power of national states over the economic and social processes performed in its framework.
Emphasizing first of all the economic aspects of globalization one should admit that the given process started in the 1870s and 1880s and obviously two waves can be distinguished (the one in 1880–1913 and the other starting from 1989). The period from the start of the World War I and till the end of the Cold War may be regarded as a period of degradation of globalization trends. In the circumstances of the 'second coming' of globalization (and especially in the last 5–7 years) it becomes more and more evident that the process has no single center and more and more relatively equal subjects take part in it.
The main problem of present day globalization (in which connection it often comes under attack on the part of so-called alterglobalists) consists in my opinion in the lack of a set system of interrelations between the global players and regulating structures of certain national states. The inability (or unwillingness) of those states to strictly regulate the activity of transnational corporations (which sometimes is presented as 'almightiness' of the latter) is the reason for a frequent negative perception of globalization. The problem of some states' ‘non-fit’ in globalization is to a great degree caused by incompetence and corruptness of their political structures.
The globalization of the early 3rd millennium is the process of creation of a unified and integrated world and nobody is able to stop it by any means. One can only 'close' these or those countries from it, but such a self-isolation from the world can hardly bring some extra benefits to their citizens.