Globalisation Café

Reposted from our new Partner site Globalisation Café


A thin cloud of steam rises in wisps from your branded paper cup. Steam is the same everywhere. You are away from home in another country, perhaps on vacation. Yet you are relaxing at a table in a familiar setting. You are connected to the free Wi-Fi.

image from photo dictionary

Your rental car is parked nearby. The menu, though it is written not in your native language, is easily comprehensible. It lists a recognisable range of beverages. You know all the styles and all the flavours already.

Though there are free newspapers available on the counter, your smartphone brings you the stories of the day. You can scan the New York TimesLe Mondeor perhaps the BBC at your leisure.

Your reading is interrupted by a notification. Is it Mum and Dad checking in? a social media alert? or is it your boss with a reminder of next week’s staff meeting? You are tempted to scroll down but there is no time to finish. Its dinnertime. You are hungry.

So what shall it be for dinner? Pizza? Sushi? A burger? Or a sample of the local cuisine?


Perhaps the most obvious challenge the occurs right at the beginning of any discussion of ‘globalisation’ is that the concept is apparently so broad and our interaction with ‘it’ is so ubiquitous. Thus it is particularly difficult for any of us to define what ‘it’ is!

The vignette, above, demonstrates how the individual in the coffee shop might find herself connected to networks of friends, information, work etc. no matter how far she is from home. She is also experiencing a kind of globalised culture in another way. She sits in a coffee shop in a new country which apparently has many of the same styles, flavours and perhaps even decor of a similar coffee shop back home. Furthermore, when she ordered the coffee she might have paid for it using her internationally recognised VISA or Mastercard. Did she even wonder where the beans to make that coffee came from?

But what is ‘globalisation’ for her in this context? It is a cultural experience? An economic phenomenon? Is it best understood through technology? Or is it broader than that, encompassing all things tangible and intangible?


Nonetheless many prominent intellectuals and academics have attempted to define globalisation. These are some of the most relevant attempts:

Intensification of worldwide social relations which make distant events have local consequences

– Anthony Giddens, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the LSE (1990)

The integration of the world economy.

– Robert Gilpin, Professor Emeritus of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University (2001)

De-territorialization – or … the growth of supraterritorial relations between people.

– Jan Aart Scholte Professor at the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at the University of Warwick (2000)

Time-space compression

– David Harvey, Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (1989)

Expansion and intensification of social relations and consciousness across world-space and world-time

– Manfred B. Steger,  Professor of Political Science University of Hawai’i-Manoa


in 'Globalisation: a Very Short Introduction' Professor Manfred Steger makes an analogy to to John Godfrey Saxe's story of the blind men and the elephant. He suggests that approaching the issue of globalisation from too narrow a disciplinary perspective will inevitably lead to misleading conclusions.

in ‘Globalisation: a Very Short Introduction‘ Professor Manfred Stegermakes an analogy to to John Godfrey Saxe’s story of the blind men and the elephant. He suggests that approaching the issue of globalisation from too narrow a disciplinary perspective will inevitably lead to misleading conclusions.

It might at first seem as if this array of definitions does little to clarify matters. Of course one significant problem that faces anyone that seeks to come to terms with a phenomenon (if even that term is appropriate to describe globalisation) that is so broad and multifaceted, is that any definition that seeks to encapsulate its distinctiveness precisely enough to be meaningful, will inevitably miss some or other aspect that, from another perspective, might be the very thing that makes globalisation what it is!

Albert Paolini (1997), articulated this difficulty in the following:

As an overarching concept, it is deployed in various disciplines in an attempt to make sense of certain processes and movements which seem to stretch across the globe… it is hard to find common ground on how to interpret them.

Can it be that we just have to accept that, therefore we can’t really define globalisation at all? Maybe it is something that we simply know through our experience of it alone?


We don’t think so. Instead, we think that globalisation is a phenomenon that can be explored, debated and even understood by anyone who is interested in doing so. It is challenging and difficult, and we will come at it from the particular academic perspective rooted in international relations. But in this forum we hope that you will find the approach we take is accessible and engaging. Furthermore, we hope that you enjoy what you read, watch and consider as you peruse our new partner site …

… welcome to the discussion!

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