Sociology Index

Jan Aart Scholte's definitions of globalization

Globalization Challenges, Globalization Books Reviews

Jan Aart Scholte's five broad definitions of 'globalization'.


Globalization as Internationalization. Globalization is viewed 'as simply another adjective to describe cross-border relations between countries'. It describes the growth in international exchange and interdependence.



With growing flows of trade and capital investment there is the possibility of moving beyond an inter-national economy, where 'the principle entities are national economies', to a 'stronger' version - the globalized economy in which, 'distinct national economies are subsumed and rearticulated into the system by international processes and transactions' (Hirst and Peters 1996: 8 and 10).



Globalization as Liberalization. In this definition, 'globalization' refers to 'a process of removing government-imposed restrictions on movements between countries in order to create an "open", "borderless" world economy' (Scholte 2000: 16). Those who have argued with some success for the abolition of regulatory trade barriers and capital controls have sometimes clothed this in the mantle of 'globalization'.



Globalization as Universalization. Here, 'global' is used in the sense of being 'worldwide' and 'globalization' is 'the process of spreading various objects and experiences to people at all corners of the earth'. An example of this would be the spread of television etc. The notion of globalization as universalization also fails to provide new insight.

Globalization as Westernization or Modernization (especially in an 'Americanized' form). Here 'globalization' is understood as a dynamic, 'whereby the social structures of modernity (capitalism, rationalism, industrialism, bureaucratism, etc.) are spread the world over, normally destroying pre-existent cultures and local self-determination in the process.


Globalization as Deterritorialization. Here 'globalization' entails a 'reconfiguration of geography, so that social space is no longer wholly mapped in terms of territorial places, territorial distances and territorial borders. Anthony Giddens' has defined globalization as ' the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa. (Giddens 1990: 64). David Held et al (1999: 16) define globalization as a ' process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and transactions - assessed in terms of their extensity, intensity, velocity and impact - generating transcontinental or inter-regional flows and networks of activity'.

Globalization as Deterritorialization, offers a clear and specific definition of globalization. The notion of supraterritoriality, or trans-world, or trans-border relations, Scholte argues, provides a way into appreciating what is global about globalization.

To describe the process of breaking down regulatory and other barriers to trade as globalization is similarly flawed. 'The liberal discourse of "free" trade is quite adequate to convey these ideas' (Scholte 2000: 45).

The understanding of globalization as westernization has developed particularly in the context of neocolonialism and post-colonial imperialism. It is difficult to see what advance the notion of globalization provides as against the discourse of colonialism, imperialism and 'modernization'.

Important new insight can, however, be gained from approaching globalization as the growth of 'supraterritorial' or transworld relations between people.