Political globalization is one of 8 types of globalization. This type of globalization focuses on how the leaders of nations have integrated their laws and built alliances for their mutual benefits.
Some features of political globalization include:
- The rise of International Bodies like the WMF and WTO.
- The rise of Free Trade.
- The rise of Multinational Agreements to develop Shared Norms.
- The emergence of the Concept of the Global Citizen.
Aspects of political globalization has been around in some form or another for a long time (e.g. the complex political relationships in the Roman Empire). But generally when talking about political globalization, we’re referring to the increasing political integration of nation-states since the 2nd World War.
The most widespread definition of political globalization comes from William R. Thompson who defined it as:
“The expansion of a global political system, and its institutions, in which inter-regional transactions (including, but certainly not limited to trade) are managed.”
Primarily, it has involved the blurring of the boundaries between nation-states to decrease friction between nations. This can reach all areas of political and social life, including:
- Lowering barriers to migration.
- Lowering barriers to the movement of goods and services.
- Agreeing on common standards for labor, intellectual property and environmental protection.
Some have argued that it has also led to a declining role of nation-states, which have ceded some power and responsibility to international bodies. For example, many nations agree to accept the rulings of the international court of arbitration even if they disagree with them.
Examples of Political Globalization
1. European Union
The European Union is a trade and treaty bloc comprising of 27 nation-states on the continent of Europe. It is the successor of several other political agreements established after World War 2 to help integrate the European continent after the war.
Supporters of the EU say that the union has made Europe a safer and more harmonious place. Each nation’s economic success is more dependent on others in the bloc than ever before. This interdependence makes resorting to wars to solve disputes less likely.
The bloc also has the goal of spreading freedom and human rights across the continent. Here, you can see that there are both economic and political goals built into this union.
The North American Treaty Organization is another multi-national political treaty established after World War 2. Its primary goal is to contain Russian aggression by creating a military pact. If one NATO nation is attacked, then the rest will (supposedly) come to their defence. This deters potential Russian aggression.
3. Belt and Road Initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative is a trade initiative established by China designed to spread China’s sphere of influence across Asia and the Middle East. The initiative creates trade routes through over 70 nations and is the centerpiece of China’s foreign policy. Critics say China’s foreign affairs strategy often puts small nations in debt to China so China can leverage political power and favors in the future.
4. War Games
Many allied nations engage in yearly war games in a bid to strengthen military ties and protect their interests. The United States and South Korea do this regularly, for example, as a sign of strength against potential North Korean aggression. This sort of political diplomacy is designed to strengthen allied blocs of nations and deter foreign attacks.
NAFTA was a flashpoint of anti-globalization sentiment in the 1990s because it was seen to decrease labor standards and would lead to the exodus of blue-collar jobs from the United States. The trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico was eventually replaced by protectionist-leaning president Donald Trump and replaced by the USMCA agreement which had reinstated some provisions to strengthen the power of nation-states to protect their industries.
Advantages of Political Globalization
1. Establishment of International Norms
When nation-states sign treaties with international bodies, it’s an agreement to operate within a set of norms and standards that all signatories will adhere to. This rule-based order can help prevent a race to the bottom in regards to labor standards, intellectual property theft, and environmental standards.
An example of this is the establishment of war crimes standards that are policed by the international criminal court in Brussels.
2. Ease of Movement
Often, political agreements between nations lead to relaxing of the movement of labor across boundaries. This can lead to immigration and emigration opportunities for millions of people.
The most dramatic example of this is the freedom of movement of people around the 27 European Union nation-states.
However, in many other cases, this ease of movement is often limited to highly educated professionals and locks out working-class people from the benefits of globalization.
3. Ease of Trade
One of the key goals of political globalization is to create better trade routes around the world (in effect, to support and promote economic globalization).
The premise here is that free trade creates more efficient economies of scale.
In a free trade situation, nations that are excellent at producing a certain product or service will become global ‘hubs’, producing their product of expertise with great efficiency and at scale. This can free up other nations to produce other products more efficiently also because they will be able to re-allocate resources to industries they’re more efficient at working within.
Political agreements that create free trade agreements can help increase participatory nations’ prosperity significantly, although this often comes at the cost of jobs in vulnerable sectors.
4. Establishment of Blocs of Influence
Multinational political agreements are often designed to create a bloc of allies that are stronger than the sum of their parts. One example of this is when small African and Pacific nations gather together to vote as blocs in the United Nations.
Similarly, the West spent the 2nd half of the 20th Century holding significant leverage over multinational organizations such as the United Nations and World Trade Organizations because they effectively created a strong trans-Atlantic alliance.
5. Solve Global Problems like Climate Change
As the 21st Century progresses, the problem of climate change becomes more and more pressing to solve.
Many nations claim that they alone can do very little to solve climate change. They will often cite that they’re only responsible for a tiny percentage of global carbon emissions (this is very common to hear in Australian politics).
In this context, an effective way to solve climate change is to create a global pact where all nations (which each account for only a small amount of carbon emissions) come together and agree to targets and standards for reducing emissions.
Attempts have been made to address this – such as in the Copenhagen and Paris climate accords, although it’s widely believed that these accords fall far too short and will not prevent catastrophic climate change.
Nonetheless, if this problem will be solved, it’s likely to only occur at a global multinational level.
Disadvantages of Political Globalization
1. Loss of Power at the Nation-State Level
When nation-states make multinational agreements, they often make concessions in order to reach a middle ground that’s satisfactory to all parties. They also sign-off on certain norms and standards that restrict their abilities to unilaterally take action.
One of the many reasons Britain chose to leave the European Union was that they were unhappy that they were tied to European rules around – among other things – fishing quotas in UK waters. While within the trade block, the UK had to stick to requirements that they felt restricted their fishing industry.
Nevertheless, most European nations make the calculation that this loss of power is outweighed by the great rewards that come from being in an enormous free trade bloc.
2. Levels of Bureaucracy
Multinational political agreements can add extra layers of bureaucracy to everyday activities of businesses and citizens. For example, many global political agreements put in place standards that you need to ‘tick off’ before sending a product to market.
Another way they increase bureaucracy is through the very fact the running and administration of multinational agreements is a burden. For example, the European Union’s budget is €157.9 billion, which needs to be paid into by each nation-state.
While I don’t support many of the claims made in this documentary, it covers many compelling arguments about the problems with unelected bureaucrats:
3. Decreased Political Accountability
One of the biggest critiques of bodies like the WTO, the EU and United Nations is that they are full of unelected bureaucrats. The administrators who make decisions and recommendations, and administer programs, are not directly accountable to the people who their decisions impact.
Similarly, the decisions made in multinational agreements are (by their very nature) made not only by citizens of your nation but also leaders of competitor nations. These foreign leaders are in no way accountable to you or your fellow citizens.
Political globalization describes the ways political decisions are increasingly made at a global rather than national level. While it has enabled some significant advancements in human rights and growing prosperity thanks to free trade, many people have been displaced and harmed by multinational agreements, also.
There will always be a pull-and-push as political globalization displaces and upsets people and causes backlash. There are legitimate and genuine arguments on both sides of the advantages and disadvantages of political globalization arguments.
Cuterela, S. (2012). Globalization: Definition, processes and concepts. Romanian Statistical Review.
Lechner, F. J., & Boli, J. (Eds.). (2020). The globalization reader. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Luard, E. (2016). The globalization of politics: the changed focus of political action in the modern world. London: Springer.