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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 22, May 22, 2010

Understanding the Present State of Globalisation

Tuesday 25 May 2010, by Amna Mirza



Socio-Cultural Diversities and Globalisation: Issues and Perspectives edited by S.R. Mehta; Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla; pages 364; price: Rs 595.

In recent times, globalisation—the process signifying interaction and integration among the people, companies, governments of different nations given impetus by international trade, investment, and information technology—has been a topic for debate, discussion and dissection amongst academics. This has come to dominate the world since the nineties of the last century with the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the former Soviet Union. This process of assimilation and amalgamation has effects on the environment, culture, polity, economy, human resources.

The book under review, Socio-Cultural Diversities and Globalisation: Issues and Perspectives, edited by S.R. Mehta, is an attempt to understand the realities of the global era for India. It encompasses the vast canvas of globalisation by dividing it into seven segments, namely, social transformation, production of sociological knowledge, economic and political perspectives, culture, mass media, language and education, tribal development, as well as concerns over the future.

When we talk about the Silk Road across Central Asia that connected China and Europe during the Middle Ages or trading by European companies in other countries in times of imperialism, it can be pointed out that globalisation is not new. However, the neo-liberal era—which drew its features from the philosophy of neo-liberalism beginning in the 1970s and acquiring prominence in 1980—curtails government inter-vention, encouraging free-market methods and less restricted operations of business thus giving rise to a new form of globalisation.

These policies, technological advancements spurred increases in cross-border trade, investment, and migration manifold so that it was presumed to mark the dawn of the new global epoch; as Thomas Friedman has said, today globalisation is “farther, faster, cheaper, and deeper”. To comprehend this change for India the presumption of the book, which is a collection of articles as a part of the national seminar which the Institute organised at Goa, is that Indian society is seen as an independent variable while globalisation is treated as a dependent variable.

A number of international institutions established in the wake of World War II—including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), succeeded in 1995 by the World Trade Organisation (WTO)—have played an important role to persuade many governments to adopt free-market economic systems and reductions in barriers to commerce. Surinder Kumar and Sohan Sharma point out that unlike past imperialist occupation, globalisation uses its financial framework to trap underdeveloped countries under the guise of its policies to let profit flow to imperialist countries. Tied loans, privatisation, elimination of subsidies, job-cuts have a crippling effect on the former.

The quest for cheap labour and high profits have led to the practice of outsourcing. Sudhakar Panda and Prashant Ch. Panda discuss the misconceptions associated with this by citing empirical studies for the need to sustain the competitive edge and to compete at the global level. The Nehruvian ethos of rediscovery of Asia’s pride of place after years of living in the shadow of the West has been brought to light by Tapas K. Roy Choudhury underscoring that the Third World has to reorganise itself to negotiate with new global set-up, and give up prejudices.

Information technology has provided different players in the economy—consumers, producers, family—valuable new inputs to enhance the level of economic activities. Surendra Mohan captures the essence of social transformation in present times—rise of the middle class, liberalising marriage mores, changing family roles via decline of joint family, rise in consumerism, clash of tradition versus modern values. Mohan Jharta and Bhawna Jharta discuss how globalisation has thrown new challenges for the education industry in india and they have to be factored in the system by due deliberations with the experts, academicians and other stakeholders.

The emergence of dense digital, computerised, or networked information and communication technologies in the later part of the 20th century with the digital having characteristics of being manipulated, interactive, neutral yet negotiable, has led to the pressing query: where will this New Media fit in the global domain? Binod C. Agarwal sees this in terms of using satellite television to foster cultural homogenisation, provoking people for economic and political power etc. B.S. Kumar holds that the boom may have helped in interaction of people using computers across globe with English assuming a global standard as a quest for excellence, but in the process local languages have been uprooted and this is not healthy for the larger cultural milieu.


Globalization is a highly contested terrain. The proponents argue that it allows poor countries and their citizens to develop economically while the opponents argue that the unfettered inter-national free market regime has worked to the benefit of multinational corporations in the capitalist era at the expense of local enterprises, local cultures, and common people. D.K. Bhattacharya highlights these dilemmas in his arguments on the lack of development, rights over land, human rights violations, or de-tribalising the tribals in the name of development. Resistance to globalisation to gain control over management of the flow of capital, labour, goods, and ideas is demonstrated in the study of Kalinga Nagar in Orissa by Shalini Mehta and Chakraverti Mahajan, delibe-rating the saga of displacement, estrangement of indigeneous culture, misbalance in ecology etc.

A new world needs a new script. This is the biggest challenge that globalisation poses—we need to factor in the new challenges and likewise adapt and adopt ourselves solutions. The book is remarkable in its foray to portray different subtexts of the larger text of globalisation. Whether we like it or not, globalisation is irreversible, it is here to stay. As Yogesh Atal aptly sums up in the conclusive note, heterogeneity shall be the new norm, we cannot expect a linear culture or globe. This diversity will in turn impel us to debate upon the question: “Globalised World—what does it mean?” This deliberation is indeed good for chalking the contours of a healthy, sustainable world with equity and social justice. Understanding the current state of globalisation is mandatory to predict and live in future. The book is surely good in this regard.

The author is a Ph.D scholar, University Teaching Assistant, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. She can be contacted at e-mail:

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