Sociology Index

Jan Aart Scholte's Globalization

Jan Aart Scholte defines globalization as Internationalization. Jan Aart Scholte describes the growth in international exchange and interdependence. To describe the process of breaking down regulatory and other barriers to trade as globalization is flawed. 'The liberal discourse of free trade is quite adequate to convey these ideas' (Jan Aart Scholte's Globalization). Globalization challenges are numerous and multifaceted. 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 theory. Important new insight can be gained from approaching globalization as the growth of supraterritoriality or transworld relations between people.



Jan Aart Scholte's five broad definitions of Globalization.


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' (Jan Aart Scholte). 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'. (Jan Aart Scholte's 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. (Jan Aart Scholte's Globalization).


Globalization as Westernization or Modernization

Here 'globalization' is understood as a dynamic, 'whereby the social structures of modernity (capitalism, swiss replica watches rationalism, industrialism, bureaucratism, etc.) are spread the world over, normally destroying pre-existent cultures and local self-determination in the process. (Jan Aart Scholte's Globalization).



Globalization as Deterritorialization. Anthony Giddens' has defined globalization as the intensification of worldwide social relations where local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa. David Held et al (1999: 16) define globalization as a 'process which embodies a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and transactions generating transcontinental or inter-regional flows and networks of activity.' (Jan Aart Scholte's Globalization).


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.  (Jan Aart Scholte's Globalization). 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).


Jan Aart Scholte, Globalization: A Critical Introduction
Martin Shaw, London: Macmillan 2000. Journal of International Studies. This book offers a critique of globalization itself rather than of ideas about it. This makes for some difficulties in locating Scholte in the theoretical discourse but it also simplifies the critical task. The author commits himself to one-sentence 'core theses' on which more complex arguments are built, but these theses are unsure foundations.
Globalization has been widely grasped in spatial terms and Scholte presents a strong version of this position. For him globalization is 'a transformation of social geography marked by the growth of supraterritorial spaces,' although he simultaneously recognizes that 'territoriality and supraterritoriality coexist in complex interrelations.'


Jan Aart Scholte argues for 'multifaceted causal dynamics, with the principal spurs having come from rationalist knowledge, capitalist production, various technological innovations and certain regulatory measures.' Yet rationalisation, capitalism and technological change are all fundamental phenomena of modernity. These spurs to globality are centuries old, at least, and all that is distinctive about them in the current period is, as Scholte puts it, 'unprecedented speeds' and 'unprecedented extents'.

One looks in vain, in Jan Aart Scholte as in most globalization literature, for a real sense that these dynamics were significant, even principal 'spurs' to historical change in general and the 'global' in particular. War is discussed primarily in terms of how it is affected by, not how it might have caused, global change. In the end, Jan Aart Scholte's book is the best available version of the globalization paradigm. But that paradigm is deeply flawed, and not in the way that its traditionalist critics have proposed.

Democratizing Globalization, Globalizing Democracy: An Interview with Jan Aart Scholte
Interview by Dennis Soron. Jan Aart Scholte is Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Warwick University, where he also serves as Acting Director of the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation.

What is 'Global' About Globalization?

Aurora Online: Perhaps we should begin our discussion with a bit of conceptual clarification. As you've argued on various occasions, 'globalization' is one of the most ubiquitous buzzwords in today's political vocabulary, but it is typically employed in very loose and imprecise ways. As a result, our use of this term often tends to collapse together and conflate a number of different historical trends and developments. In your view, what is the best way to conceptualize globalization?

Jan Aart Scholte: For me, the most helpful and distinctive way of thinking about globalization is as a process of increasing transplanetary connections between people. By 'transplanetary', I mean a situation in which people anywhere on the planet may have quite direct connections with each other, no matter where on earth they may happen to be located. This restricted meaning, I think, helps us to capture what is characteristically 'global' about globalization. So often, as you just mentioned, 'globalization' gets conflated with other notions and other terms that, although important, we actually have other vocabulary to cover. Thus, globalization is not simply about 'international' relations between territorial units such as nation-states. Similarly, it is not intrinsically about policies of economic liberalization; nor is it the same as Americanization or westernization. All of these other attributes can be connected to globalization, but the process of globalization itself is about increasing connections between people on a transworld basis.

Papers by Jan Aart Scholte

"Globalization and Governance: from Statism to Polycentrism" (2004).

"What is Globalization? The Definition Issue - Again" (2002).

"Governing Global Finance" (2002).

"Civil Society and Democracy in Global Governance" (2001).

"Global Civil Society: Changing the World?" (1999).

"The WTO and Civil Society"(1998; with Robert O'Brien and Marc Williams).

"Global Capitalism and the State" (1997)