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10 August 2006 

Is Globalisation a New? (part 3)

Understanding globalisation through historical approach

Santo Dewatmoko, Sheffield

It is believed that globalisation is as old as civilisation. Globalization is an historical process that began with the first movement of people out of Africa [ancient “homo sapiens”] into other parts of the world. Travelling short, then longer distances, migrants, merchants, and others have always taken their ideas, customs, and products into new lands.

The melding, borrowing, and adaptation of outside influences can be found in many areas of human life. (http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/history.jsp). Indeed, it is a historical process that began with our human ancestors moving out of Africa to spread all over the globe. Next movement is identified by the migration of Indo-German and Aryan to Western Europe and to India. Nevertheless, we can only track the movement in Afro-Eurasian continent as the movement in “the new world” (Continent of America) is not largely tracked. In this way, the process is then followed by the vast ancient civilisation of Egypt, Greek, Romans, and China. Global flow of trade between ancient India and China was known as “sutra”. This global trade is also impacted on the socio-religion aspect, especially Hinduism and Buddhism.

It is noted that Roman Empire has a special connection with Egypt and Asia Minor, including the spread of Christianity, whereas the Jews have spread out from Middle East into the other parts of the region. From the socio-religion point of view, it is noted that the religion of Islam in 5th-10th century also has spread out form Saudi Arabia into Middle East, southern Europe, northern Africa, India (South Asia), parts of Russia and China, and South East Asia. The process of what is now called “globalisation” was notably taken place at that time.

It is clear that the biggest trigger of globalisation process is economic. Based on this perspective, globalisation has been practised for thousand years ago. Mining, oil, and gas have also been drivers for trade. Development occurred when it became possible to produce more food than for local consumption. The invention and development of matters such as coinage, language, and political and legal systems allowed a framework and a context for many nations (Rippon, 2005).

Several historians argue that the long process of globalization is considered embarked on voyage of discovery of Marco Polo (1254-1324) form Europe into the “other” continent (Horgan, 1996). Although, the initial intension of this expedition is to know how far is the “end” of the world, his follower remarkably practiced the economic expansion, trade development, and reimbursement of capital. First breakthrough in economic globalisation was practiced by Arab traders when they come to India and China, even to South East Asia (Stiglitz, 1998). It is then followed by European, especially Netherlands, Portuguese, and British. They came for “new goods”, including spices, from the land they visited. Besides that, they sooner or later opened the market for their products, although it was ultimately ended with coercion, namely to colonise the region they had visited. The discovery of America by Columbus 500 years ago has an enormous implication on the process of globalisation. In this way, it is understood that globalisation had been utilised by colonialism, in which in America developed into the practice of capitalism.

Second breakthrough in globalisation of economic is shown at the end of 19th century till the beginning of 20th century (Stiglitz, 1998). It is important to note that the changes that occurred at that time were the innovation of monetary system that has been stabilised and standardised with gold measurement. Qualitatively, these changes had some influences on the process of globalisation. Moreover, the new invention and development of science and technology was running fast, especially with the invention of telegraph, telephone, aircraft, maritime, and railway. In this second breakthrough, the flow of globalisation is said out of the nations’ boundary.

At the beginning of 20th century, after the collapse of second breakthrough, there comes the third breakthrough in globalisation. Liberalisation and stock and good market integration in world scale is difficult to avoid again. The emergence of new institutions in international scale has facilitated production expansion, trade and financial, so it is easy to spread from one region that has better production, trade and financial to another region in over the world.

With this breakthrough, information and computation technology progression has influence almost all of the human live aspects, and also with biotechnology and genetic engineer development. The most revolutionary development is the internet expansion that enters and influences all activities of business world, politic and culture. The Website has change world face and indeed, the mind way and people communication.

In line with this Stiglitz’s “breakthrough of globalisation”, Robertson divides the history of globalisation into three waves. Globalisation focus is on the past 500 years when humans experienced three distinct global waves of interconnectiveness (Robertson, 2003). It is said that the first wave after 1500 AD centred on the globalisation of regional trade, the second wave after 1800 AD gained impetus from industrialization, while the third derived from the architecture of a new world order after 1945. Each wave began with an event, sometimes a war, which gave space for its emergence as a global force for change. Each wave produced new forms of interconnections and generated new synergies that in time led to its own transformation. No wave has ever been the creature of one country alone, although at times hegemons and would-be hegemons have attempted to monopolize them for their own advantage (Robertson, 2003). It is implied that no wave has ever been the product of one "civilization" or one culture alone. In this respect, all waves encompass many cultures; they enable them to interact, although not necessarily as equals. Nevertheless, it creates instability and makes war and conquest attractive alternatives. It is said that the first wave weakened in the 18th century for this reason; similarly the second wave was failed in the early 20th century. From Robertson’s opinion, now we are in the third wave, and the destination of this wave is still unknown.

From the history of globalisation, it is believed that globalisation brings about some good effect and bad effect on our life. Some say that globalisation has to be occurred in the world, and others say that globalisation has been stepped “the wrong way”.

(to be continued : Globalisation: effects and opportunities)

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