Globalization and Ethiopia
By Dr. Andargachew Tiruneh (Continued from last week )
The Central Idea
Globalization is a theory which tries to explain what is happening to human affairs in the world today. It is a rather fluid concept
without consensus as to its central concept, its boundaries and its cause and effect. At the same time, it is the central theme
around which today's debate on world affairs is revolving from the Americas to Europe and Asia.
The central idea of globalization is the proposition that the world has become so closely integrated that mankind everywhere faces the same dangers and enjoys the same benefits. However, skeptics, who tend to be the traditional left, refuse to accept that such a change has taken place at all. They insist that the economy is what it has always seen: countries get only little of their income from the outside world; much of the economic exchange is between states of particular regions rather than at the global level; and governments still control the economy. They charge that globalization is a capitalist ploy intended to dismantle the welfare system and to open up the world for free trade and investment. They propose that the most that has happened is a reversion to the 19th century laissez-faire economic system.
On the other hand, those who believe that globalization is a reality in today's world distinguish it from internationalization. To them, the latter is what we had for centuries and refers to inter-state co-operation in promoting one objective or another. By contrast, globalization is something that emerged only in the last few decades and constitutes a much closer degree of integration that was the case under internationalization. It has created a cosmopolitan society, single control systems and standardized procedures in such areas as manufacturing and regulatory processes.
Thus, there is no consensus as to whether globalization has come to exist or not. Moreover, those who accept that globalization is a reality in today's world do not agree on its scope. Some believe it is limited to the world economic system whereas others maintain that is extends to recent changes in such phenomena as science and technology, the environment, culture, personal life, institutions and politics.
The topic is a complex one and can be viewed at three levels. First, each of the phenomena allegedly transformed by globalization are complex subjects in their own right. Second, there is the question of establishing whether the alleged changes concerning each of the phenomena are real. Third, there is the task of uncovering how much the changes in each of the phenomena have affected Ethiopia.
It is up to Ethiopian experts on each of the phenomena to conduct research on them and enlighten us on the likely impact of
globalization on the country. However, experts do not agree on any of the phenomena alleged to have been changed by
globalization. Moreover, the changes implied by globalization affect the lives of individuals and the latter have a vested interest in the determination of policies on them. There is, therefore, a need for oversimplification and generalisation in order to make
globalization palatable to the public. None of us can have expert knowledge on all the phenomena embraced by globalization.
In the following sections, we will focuss on the debate concerning the claimed transformations in each of the phenomena. In each case, we will raise the question of how much Ethiopia is affected, or likely to be affected, by the changes subsumed under
globalization. The point of the exercise is to contribute to the discourses of Ethiopians on globalization. Globalization is not an
established fact; it is an international debate on whether the present-day world society is organized differently from the past and
whether it now manages its affairs any differently from it.
The debatable nature of the subject is reflected by the absence of a clear position on the part of the various western political
parties on globalization. In general, the traditional left-right ideological spectrum has become distorted (according to some because of globalization) with the result that no one knows any more what each of the parties stands for. Obviously, this impacts on their position regarding globalization as much as it does on other issues.
Moreover, as globalization affects many spheres of activities, a party can have a position on each of them but not a general one
concerning the phenomena as a whole. As suggested earlier, for example, the left generally refuses to accept that globalization has come to pass and, to the extent it has, condemns it as a conspiracy of free marketeers. The right, on the other hand, warmly welcomes the deregulation of the national and international economy which globalization implies. Furthermore, the left tends to regard the disintegration of the family as progress whereas the right laments it and calls for a return to the traditional set-up.
Even more interesting is the fact that globalization has given rise to a new political culture in the West. The environmental damage believed to have been caused by globalization is precisely what gave rise to the green movement and its political parties. The focus of the movement's program, its lobby and its acts of violence is the protection of nature from the excesses of globalization.
(To be continued next week)