Chapter 1: Phenomenon of Globalization: A Holistic Approach

Globalization and Human Solidarity
by Tissa Balasuriya

Chapter 1: Phenomenon of Globalization: A Holistic Approach

There are different strands in the phenomenon now called Globalization: they are generally continuing long term trends, heightened now, with some specificities, and impacting on one another towards exponential growth of global interdependence itself. Certain trends are centennial relation to modernization and the 500 year build up of the present world order. Certain others are recent, especially since the fall of the USSR and the greater opening of China to foreign trade and investment.

Their overall impact is to incorporate all the peoples of the world into one single world unit for production, consumption, trade and investment, information flow and culture. The processes of globalization can be technological, economic, political, socio-cultural and religious linked together.

1. Capitalistic Globalization

A unipolar system of international capitalism with many centres of power, mainly under US dominance, is now imposing itself as the only viable alternative available to economic and social life. In this we can distinguish the contribution of science and technology that can positively help all humankind, and the critical values that motivate the decision makers in power to give a direction to this process.

Globalization may be defined as the transnationalization of capital (with finance capital dangerously separated from the real world on a self- expanding path of its own), transnationalization of production and standardization and homogenization of consumer tastes. It is an extension of the principles, policies, and practices of capitalism to the global scale aided by the modern means of research, communication and transportation. The world is made one unit for production, distribution and the rapid flow of money through computerized electronic means. The present globalization is influenced and even very much determined by the financially powerful countries and groups within them.

This process is fostered mainly by the global transnational corporations (TNCs) using international agencies such as WB/IMF/WTO, the governments of industrialized states, and collaborating local elites. The TNCs control the greater share of the production, trade, finance, transportation, insurance, and mass media of information and communication in the world. They can thereby impose economic, social and political policies on poor (often debtor) countries for the advantage of capital.

TNCs try to set up production and distribution units in countries and within trading blocs like ASEAN and SAARC to be inside such tariff area, while the capital may belong in part or wholly to the parent global company. They can thus benefit from the regional market and yet transfer profit to wherever they want thanks to the liberalization of financial transfers. The entry to the growing Asian markets is now one of their prime targets.

The scientific and technological aspects of globalization are capable of being used, according to the values of those who employ them, for human betterment or human oppression and building inequality. Genetic engineering gives a certain laboratory and market control over human, animal and plant life. They are part of the reality of modern society. Human progress will not be in ignoring them, but rather in using them as instruments to serve and improve human lives. On the other hand efforts at genetic modification of seeds, plant and animal life can lead to dangers to human life itself as seen in the recent instances of the mad cow phenomenon in Britain and the pollution of chicken meat due to the dangerous chemicals in their feed.

These policies, often imposed by the IMF and the WB on debtor countries, and together called Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) and include

-     liberalization of trade with open market trade policies, and of exchange with freer movement of money as between countries

-     more opening of countries of foreign investment

-     national and foreign ownership of the means of production privatization of public sector enterprises

-     setting up of stock exchanges free trade zones

-     promotion of export crops, export industries and tourism constitutional guarantees for foreign capital

-     State to provide infrastructure of communications, roads and transportation for private enterprise and foreign companies,

-     reduction of budgetary deficits, regressive taxation reduction of taxes on capital, worsening income distribution

-     reducing public sector in the economy, and even administration

-     cutting subsidies for social services such as education and health, transportation and even water and irrigation reduction of rights of workers, easier termination of services, with harmful impact on gender, race and ethnic relations

-     recently WTO move towards “free market” in services, and intellectual property

-     there is an effort to ensure for TNCs greater power and incomes through Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) such as over patents.

-     and to open up poor countries to TNC investment under

Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) and a

Multilateral Agreement in Investment (MAI).


The public debt of poor countries gives the WB/IMF combine the leverage for enforcing their “structural adjustment programmes” on debtor countries in need of funds especially for meeting their balance of payment deficiencies.

Such SAP and WTO changes in a country’s policies are supposedly intended to bring about rapid industrialization, transfer of technology, with availability of credit, and foreign aid as loans, grants and investment. These affect a country’s entire economic activities and social relations. On the basis of accepting such terms and adjustments funds are made available, often with external debt repayment as an immediate objective. Through these policies countries are integrated within the world economic system under TNC dominance and primarily for their benefit. Corporate strategic planning under the aegis of the TNCs allied to the Washington based IMF/WB agencies and academicians is replacing the national planning by many countries.

2. Globalization within world Apartheid

A basic factor englobing the entire question of globalization is that it takes place with the prevailing world order which is one of world Apartheid. Apartheid is a system or social order in which there is an imposition of superiority of one group over others, as of the white race over the blacks in South Africa. The whites took the best lands, had the best jobs and higher incomes and civil and political rights in that state. This was defended not only by political and economic power but also by theological claims of divine election. I described this situation in the 1970s and 1980s as follows:

“There is almost universal disapproval of the policy of apartheid - separation of the races - followed by South Africa. Few stop to think, however, that the whole world system is based on a sort of apartheid. Each nation state is confined to its present territorial limits and is expected to develop within them. The different racial groupings of the one human race are allotted separate ‘preserves’ in which they have to live. The yellow peoples have China, Japan and the adjacent lands. The blacks have Africa. The brown peoples are allotted India, Pakistan and South East Asia. The Arabs have North Africa and the Middle East. The rest of the world - Europe, North, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and USSR - is largely reserved for the whites. When black, yellow and brown people have been free to migrate, it has generally been as slaves or as cheap labour for whites -for example, blacks in the Americas, Indians m Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, Koreans in Japan.”

The fall of the Soviet empire did not change this aspect of racial apartheid. It is within this apartheid that economic globalization is taking place. It is noteworthy that hardly any writers on globalization, whatever their ideology, accentuate or even refer to this basic reality of the world distribution of land among the racial groupings.

The apartheid is the result of the colonial expansion of the Western people, including Russia, during the period from 1492 till 1945. During these centuries enormous resources including gold and silver were transported from the colonies to the colonizing nations. This helped in the development of Western capitalism and in building their economic power base. The present growth of capitalist globalization is the continuation of the economic and socio-cultural order built up by that earlier global transformation under Western military and colonial domination.

This is the most fundamental reality of the world order, a result of the conquests, plunder and genocide of centuries of imperialism. It is grossly unjust, though it is now legitimized under the prevailing positive international law and the United Nations Organization set up by the victors of World War II after 1945.

The events of the 20th century did not change this situation of world apartheid. Neither the decolonization of the post war era, nor the collapse of the Soviet Union changed the distribution of land among the world’s racial groupings. The situation in South Africa changed after the transfer of power to the majority blacks in 1994. But where the whites had settled as the majority their domination continues, with the native and black people having a greater say in the countries of South and central America. In the 2000 the map of the world according to racial distribution of population to land remains more or less the same as in 1900. Now this is further consolidated as the UNO is legally empowered to preserve this status quo, and the TNCs take over lands and resources of the poor peoples for the benefit mainly of the rich in the rich countries.

All our discussions of globalization, of justice and of world peace must be within this racist framework of the world system or global disorder. Every aspect of the consequences of globalization mentioned in the subsequent pages has to be placed within this perspective. But the influence of the cultural conditioning by this system is such that most universities and educational systems and even international lawyers, ethicists and moral theologians do not consider this aspect of the world injustice.

“As long as the nation-states maintain their present boundaries, it is unlikely that a just world order can be realized. In fact the growing pressures on the land in the poor countries are likely to lead to phenomenal political explosions that could ultimately overthrow the world territorial structures. We are perhaps at a stage in world history, as in the fourth, fifth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when there will be mass movements across countries and continents.”2

The foreign debt of poor countries is another factor that affects the way globalization operates today. It continues the earlier phenomenon of the transfer of resources from the poor to the rich countries. On the other hand the real debt is of the rich former colonial powers to the colonized countries. But this too is not considered seriously in the inter relationship of the nations. This longer term debt of the colonizers is several times more than the present debt of the poor countries to the rich ones.3

In these perspectives the entire rhetoric of world justice, human rights, peace, debt payment and aid has to be rethought. There has to be a deconstruction of the dialogue on development and international law and justice. But since the rich powers and their academia and media condition the cultural framework of thinking on such issues, the just interests of the poor are not taken into account in the discussion of the rich as at the summit conferences of the G 8, but is not highlighted even in the discourse among the governments of the poor peoples as in the Non - Aligned Movement.

The ideology or philosophy of capitalistic globalization is within the parameters of this world apartheid. Thus the idea of the ‘free market” does not operate in relation to people and land. There is no free mobility of people to the free and unused lands of the world. In this regard there is no invisible hand that brings about equilibrium between supply and demand. On the contrary it is the visible force and migration laws of the superpowers that keep the land hungry persons from the empty spaces of the world occupied in the days of colonial expansion.



1. Tissa Balasuriya: Planetary Theology, Orbis, NY, 1984, pp. 28-29.

2. Tissa Balasuriya: op.cit.pp 29-30.

3. Brain MacGarry: Christianity and Colonization and Globlisation: Logos, Vol. 36, Nos. 3 & 4, p.26  (Calculation of the debt of Britain to Zimbabwe for the lands taken over between 1890 and 1917).