Global inequality is clearly not decreasing in all areas. The historical movement from traditional societies to modern ones and the part played by globalisation in speeding up the movement begun by the modernisation process is referred to as ‘Time-space distanciation’ by Giddens (1991) and ‘Time- Space Compression’ by David Harvey (1989). Traditional societies are said to be based upon social relations ’embedded’ in time and space. For example, time for a peasant, would be based upon the cyclical nature of the seasons due to their reliance on agriculture as a means of subsistence.
This also meant that time to different societies were different, as their neighbours would use different measurements of time. The invention of the clock is significant to this as it allows one measure of time to be universalised and not narrow and locally defined. This can reduce the sense of social distance between communities. The sense of time is now global, as there is now only one concept of time in the world. Distances appear to have ‘shrunk’ as one community is using the same concept of time as one on the other side of the world. 23. In this sense, it can be said that modernisation ‘dis-embeds’ the individual from their fixed identity in time and space.
The two mechanisms Giddens (1991) claims are processes of ‘disembedding’ are symbolic tokens and expert systems. Money is used as an example of symbolic tokens as it was not used in traditional times; economic exchange was based upon local and particularistic expressions of value. With modernisation comes money as a universal form of exchange. Money, as time, acts to make general and universal what once were particularistic and local exchanges. As the current main form of exchange, money can make the world seem as one as it allows individuals to move between local contexts and can therefore establish social relations across time and space.
As modernisation created the notion of a national currency which diminished difference within national boundaries, then globalisation removes differences between national currencies, for example, with the birth of the credit card. The credit card is accepted around the world making it easier to spend money worldwide. The introduction of the Euro in many European countries in January 2002 is another example. 25 Expert Systems are the result of scientific discoveries and technical knowledge which claim to be universal. They are not context dependent and therefore can establish social relations across time and space.
An example of this is the current model of health care which is based on universal claims of science and dominates across the globe. Other models are ridiculed or labelled ‘alternative’, such as holistic therapies. 26 A second ‘shrinking’ of the world occurred according to Harvey in 1847-8 with the economic collapse of credit. As a consequence of the collapse finance capitalists across Europe attempted to centralise capital and credit markets. Time was therefore further compressed as capital investments could move faster through the new rationalised system. The further conquest of space was made possible as investments are made in forms of transportation such as the railways and shipping.
This compression of space is given further impetus at the turn of the 20th century as investments are made in aviation and new media such as radio, photography and the cinema. 28 According to Harvey the revolution in electronic technologies, such as computerisation and the Internet have meant that ‘time’ and ‘space’ has been conquered, as instantaneous communication is a reality. 29 There are many sceptics to who all talk of the word becoming as one is simply talk. Whatever the benefits, trials and tribulations, the global economy is not especially different from that which existed at previous periods.
The world is the same as it has been for many years. They use the example of external trade, saying that for most countries only a small part of income originates in external trade. Most economic exchange is regional, such as the countries in the European Union mostly trade amongst themselves. The same is said to be true of the other main trading blocks such as the Asia Pacific and North America. 30 Sutcliffe (1995), for example, claims that global development is impossible since it would be economically unsustainable. He argues that development is going in the wrong direction, the underdeveloped countries would be better models for sustainable societies than the developed ones.
Giddens (1999) criticises these views pointing out how globalisation sceptics are often on the old political left and they believe that globalisation is a notion proposed by those who wish to dismantle the welfare state and cut back on state spending. If the concept of globalisation is a myth then governments can still intervene in economic life and the welfare states can remain intact. 32 Giddens (1999) argues that the global marketplace is much more developed than even two or three decades ago and national borders are no longer of importance. He claims that, “The era of the nation state is over”.
Nations are said to have lost most of the sovereignty and politicians have lost the power to influence events. However, Turner (1994) demonstrates how a high degree of ‘economic globalisation’ occurred during the 17th Century. Other writers claim similar points saying that the world has reversed to how it was a century ago as in the late 19th Century there was a global open economy, with a great deal of trade occurring, including trade in currencies.
Giddens (1999) criticises this saying that the level of world trade today is greater than it ever has been and involves a much wider range of goods and services, but the most important is the level of finance and capital flows. He uses the example of electronic money, money that only exists on computers. Money can be transferred around the world at simply a click of a mouse. Over a trillion dollars is said to be turned over everyday in global currency, a massive increase from ten years ago. The money an individual has personally depends on the fluctuations in the global currency markets.
Max Weber wrote on the nation state and maintained that the power to declare war or peace was one of the essential features of a state. If it doesn’t have a monopoly over was and peace, then it isn’t a state. 37 Beck (2001) takes this up saying that the power to decide between war and peace is no longer a matter for an individual state acting autonomously and uses the example of the war against terrorism to demonstrate this. 38 Developments in technology and communications are a factor in the debate. In the mid 19th Century Samuel Morse transmitted the first message by electric telegraph initiating a new phase in world history.
Morse code was discontinued as a means of communications at sea on 1st February 1999. Now we have communications satellites, which were first launched just over 30 years ago and now there are over 200 satellites creating instantaneous communications across earth. Also other types of electronic communications have accelerated over the past years. No dedicated transatlantic or transpacific cables existed until the late 1950’s. These all play their part in making the world seem smaller and more accessible. 39 The reach of media technologies also is a factor in making the world more ‘as one’.
Celebrities may be more familiar to us than our next door neighbours. I could not tell you who my neighbours were; yet many people around the world would be able to say, for example, who Brad Pitt’s wife is. Giddens (1999) expresses how far the media has reached and how cultures have globalised by using an example of a friend of his who studied village life in central Africa. On her arrival in a remote area she was invited to a local home for an evening’s entertainment and instead of finding out the traditional pastimes of the community, they watched Basic Instinct on video, which hadn’t reached British cinemas at this point.