International Journal of
Peace and Development Studies

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Peace and Dev. Stud
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6621
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJPDS
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 98


The era of empire or globalization? The impact of the global shift on development thinking and society

James E. Conable
  • James E. Conable
  • Development Studies, Lund University Graduate School, Faculty of Social Sciences, Sweden.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 09 October 2013
  •  Accepted: 02 December 2014
  •  Published: 31 December 2014


This study is a literature review with the ambition to answer the question, what is globalization? The myriad of perspectives, both for and against globalization theses makes it an elusive concept and can be confusing both for undergraduate students and laypersons. Hence, in this paper globalization theses reconsidered, pulling together diverse perspectives in order to provide an alternative way of understanding globalization debate, according to the manifestation of the phenomena associated with it rather than grappling with various explanations. Therefore, globalization means information age and integration, transnational movement and an intersection of global and other special qualities. This paper used two examples related to development issues: economic liberalization and sustainable development to operationalize this definition. The analysis is both descriptive and explanatory. The aim was not to develop new concepts, but to use the existing concepts to formulate a simple definition of globalization. Also, to assess the overall impact of globalization was not the ambition but to show the empirical justification of the definition. This paper concludes that this definition is useful in order for the undergraduate students and laypersons to follow the arguments about globalization and to understand the impact of globalization on development thinking and society.


Key words: Empire, environment, development, globalization, liberalization.


Are we experiencing the era of globalization or an empire? Or does it matter whether globalization is old or new phenomenon? According to Cooley and Nexon (2013), “Many commentators refer to the U.S. overseas network of military installations as an “empire”(p. 1034). For Lafeber (2002), “The first age of globalization began in the mid-nineteenth century and expanded until it hit the cataclysm of World War one. The second began with the new technologies of the 1970s and the American triumphalism of the late 1980s and 1990s; then lasted until 11 September attacks” (p.2). Hardt and Negri (2000) titled their book Empire. They argue that globalization has produced a new kind of global configuration that has erased boundaries of nation states. From this perspective, the relationship between empire and globalization becomes blurred. In other words, no distinction between empire and globalization or empire becomes globalization or globalization becomes empire. It is not the intention of this paper to engage in the debate about the existence of ‘Empire’, but to show that ‘Empire’ is not globalization. There are numerous opposing views on both ‘Empire’ and globalization; however, the concept of globalization is central to assess the existence of an Empire. It provides explanation to every topic be it poverty, migration, terrorism, economic and political crisis, corruption, gender equality, foreign land acquisitions or whatever that is happening around the world. And as such, the numerous globalization theses can be confusing to undergraduate students and laypersons. Hence, this paper contributes to reduce the ambiguity surrounding the concept of globalization by trying to answer this simple question, what is globalization?

This paper is structured as follows: section one starts with a brief introduction and ends with the idea of Empire. Here, general perspective on ‘Empire’ is presented and discussed. Section two discusses the concept of globalization to situate this paper in its analytical framework. Section three uses the three elements of globalization, the information age and integration, transnational movement and intersection of global and other special qualities to investigate the impact of globalization on the society using two themes, globalization and economic liberalization, globalization and sustainable development. Section four is the discussion/conclusion.


The idea of empire

Throughout the contemporary transformations, political controls, state functions, and regulatory mechanisms have continued to rule the realm of economic and social production of exchange. Our hypothesis is that sovereignty has taken a new form, composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united under a single logic of rule. This new global form of sovereignty is what we call Empire (Hardt and Negri, 2000, p. xi).

They add “Empire’ establishes no territorial center of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries or barriers. It is decentered and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm with its open expanding frontiers” (p. xi).Hardt and Negri prefer to associate the head of the Empire to be the United States (US). A great number of scholars have written emphatically, either in support or in denial of the Empire thesis (Cooley and Nexon, 2013; Vanaik, 2013; Jacobson, 2013; Jones, 2012; McClintock, 2009; Laxer, 2005; Ryn, 2003). The contemporary history would no doubt support Hardt and Negri hypothesis because the US military power, economic power and general influence in global affairs makes the US appear as if the country is the head of that Empire. For example, since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the collapse of the Soviet Union (1990), US foreign policy has changed from supporting countries that adopted protectionist economic policies and  authoritarian  regimes  during  the Cold War to promoting economic liberalization, privatization, democracy and good governance (Berger, 2003; Baylis et al., 2008; Stokke, 2009). After the September 11 (9/11) terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., President Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior Whitehouse officials, the Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice in a separate press releases declared that the attack on the soil of the United States has changed everything (Crawford, 2004). Dick Cheney further explained what the change in the President George Bush administration’s view entails for the world. He was quoted to have said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on September 14, 2003, that “9/11 changed everything.  It changed the way we think about threats to the United States. It changed our recognition of our vulnerabilities. It changed in terms of the kind of national security strategy we need to pursue” (p. 685). Since then, the US can even justify going to war in order to promote democracy as they have done in Iraq and Afghanistan (Ryn, 2003; Cederman et al., 2008). In the US, it is no longer unlawful for security agents to tap telephone lines of suspected terrorists and listen to people’s conversations (Brauch et al., 2008). In that sense, the US foreign policy change is also influencing the global institutions and states.

For example, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), issued a day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks imposed binding obligations on states to prevent and suppress terrorism. For this reason, hardly anyone travelling by air from one country to another and even within a given country can expect to be subjected to all manner of embarrassments in the name of airport security checks. In some countries within the European Union, such as France and Germany, but not excluding the US, immigration authorities now demand DNA testing for would-be immigrants who wish to join their family members. Both spouses and children are obliged to undergo DNA testing in the country of origin in order to apply for their visa. This kind of testing has proved to be controversial on both ethical grounds and in terms of scientific merit (Karlsson et al., 2007). In the same manner, religious and political intolerance is on the increase and the government in power can even accuse the opposition parties of engaging in terrorist activities and so label them terrorists (Bacevich and Prodromou, 2004).


Therefore, American influence in promoting global security, democracy and privatization without occupying territories is not in doubt. Hence, Hardt and Negri (2000) among others refer to the US action as Empire without an imperialist mission because it seeks to include and incorporate minorities into the mainstream rather than simply expel or exclude them. They draw a relationship between the US led Empire to that of the Roman led Empire rather than European colonialism.  And finally link contemporary globalization as Empire lead globalization.


What is globalization?

‘Globalization’ means different things to different people. We often hear about globalization, use the word often in conversation with our friends and colleagues, and it may appear globalization means the same thing to everyone. Perhaps, the reverse is true; globalization means very different things to different people. Globalization is a complex phenomenon; there are different views about globalization, which demonstrate different concerns and emphases. The work cited here may not be the only or most popular examples, but a representative of the overwhelming views on globalization. Let us examine what the experts, institutions and scholars in various academic disciplines assume to be globalization. The views of the experts could be categorized into three elements of globalization further developed in this paper, which are information age and integration, transnational movement and an intersection of global and other special qualities.


Information age and integration

The main thesis of the Information Age and integration perspective is that the world has achieved greater integration and progress since the dismantling of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the collapse of Soviet Union in 1990, which marked the end of communism and the triumph of capitalism; which American Political Scientist Francis Fukuyama in his 1989 essay refers to as “the End of History” (Fukuyama, 1989). However, that progress is associated with mixed outcome, technological advancement and economic progress, economic failures, widening inequality between rich and poor, conflict, violence and wars (Lafeber, 2002).

The proponents of the Information Age and integration are diverse. For example, World Bank describes globalization not only as the global circulation of goods, services, capital, people and ideas, but also of unprecedented advancements in technology, communications, science, transport, industry and information (World Bank, 2011). ‘Globalization’ “refers to the increasing integration of economies around the world, particularly through the movement of goods, services, and capital across borders” (IMF, 2008). Perrons in Globalization and Social Change (2004) adds that globalization is associated with social change, some elements of the transformation occurring in information and communication technology. For Gillian (2007) in Global Political Economy in the Information Age, the world is experiencing an unparalleled era of globalization, a world of instant internet connectivity and emerging markets   in   which   borders   are  becoming  ever  more permeable and trade increasingly global. For others, globalization is the force behind the declining power of states. States now compete for power with non-state actors such as the global business actors (transnational corporations); non-business actors like Greenpeace that is fighting to protect the environment, Amnesty International that is the human rights campaigners; and even a terrorist group like Al-Qaeda is competing with states for space (Beck, 2006, p. 10).


Transnational movement

The main assumption of transnational movement perspective is that globalization is not new. It is a capitalist phenomenon that moves in circles, creating cores, peripheries and semi-peripheries, which enable transnational corporations to exploit cheap labor and resources from the countries where they are available. For this reason, according to the World-systems theory, the uneven development across the world is expected (Wallerstein, 2000). The contemporary capitalist production processes have succeeded in making a few in both North and South very wealthy; but the majority in the South live in poverty while in the North, inequality of income is on the increase.

The leader of the protagonists of transnational movement is Immanuel Waller stein, the inventor of the World-Systems theory, cores, peripheries and semi-peripheries. The theory is built on the assumption that development conditions of any country are structurally determined by the global economic processes, commodity chains, division of labor (Klak in Desai and Potter, 2008). According to the theory, the global structure of economic production was created during European colonization and “industrialization around 1780-90” (p. 101); since then, the structure has been maintained by a few core capitalist countries of the North. Hence, it is easier for the North to continue to prosper while the development of the South becomes difficult. In a similar way, a few capital cities in the peripheries have become like the cores, creating semi-peripheries in their domains. It means that the industrialization of every country accelerated rural change, abandoning of agriculture in search of work in the factories and industries. It led to high unemployment, poverty, displacement of workers, rapid urbanization and growth of informal economies. And as such, triggers labor migration from semi-peripheries to the peripheries’ cores while the periphery countries supply cheap labor and natural resources to the core countries. Due to cheap labor and resources availability, transnational corporations from the core countries move to the periphery countries to establish businesses. It builds on the dependency assumption that the North exploits both human and natural resources of the South which makes the North even richer and perpetuates the uneven development between North and South (Castles and Miller, 2009).

Hence, Wallerstein (2000) argues that globalization is not new but a capitalist phenomenon that moves in a circle that began in 1450 and intensified between 1967 and 1973 but contracted in the 1980s. He refers to the current movement as ‘Kondratiev B’, which started in the1990s but has entered into a systemic crisis, as happened in the late 1980s to end ‘Kondratiev A’. Though this cycle will soon end, ‘Kondratiev C‘ will start (p. 250). Therbon (2000a) agrees with Wallerstein and suggests that globalization started between the fourth and seventh centuries, but it is a “historical wave” that occurs in a chain, so that as one wave ends, a new wave starts (pp. 159-162).

It is not only world-system theorists who are critical of ‘globalization’ or that considered globalization as the movement of capital and nothing more. Scholars from diverse background argue that globalization in its current phase is the manifestation of neoliberalism in its speed and intensity. It is the increased privatization of various spheres of society and the economy with a proportionate decline in the power and the ability of the state and other political institutions to control their national economies relative to earlier periods (Berberoglu, 2008; Domosh, 2010). Feminist theorists argue that globalization is a continuous capitalist domination of the world, a means to encourage global penetration of transnational corporations and multinational corporations into regions and countries that were closed during the 1960s and 1970s (Mohanty, 2003; Loomba, 2005).


Intersection of global and other special qualities


This approach questions the idea behind periodization of globalization because that will be misleading; “it has no historical origin, in the sense of an exact starting point” (Scholte, 2005, p.87). Globalization cannot be assumed to be a mainly recent nor old phenomenon but a mixture of both with special qualities. One of the most astute scholars who promote the idea is Professor Jean AartScholte. Scholte, in his book, Globalization: A critical introduction, first published in 2000 and revised in 2005, conceptualizes globalization as ‘transplanetary’ and ‘supraterritoriality’, and distinguishes it from previous concepts that scholars applied to explain the manifestation of globalization. He considers those to be redundant concepts and argues convincingly that globalization is not ‘internationalization’, ‘liberalization’, ‘universalization’ or ‘westernization’ but “widespread incidence of transplanetary[1]  including more particularly supraterritorial[2]?circumstances across contemporary social life” (pp.54-73). He adds that internationality is associated with territoriality, which makes both the proponents of the information age and transnational movement perspectives to focus on production, governance, and identity. They see activities controlled within the nation state as a determinant of globalization. He argues that “events and developments are not global or national or local or some other scale, but an intersection of global and other special qualities” (p. 75). Scholte adds that globalization is not a territorial space as viewed by many authors, but it is a supraterritoriality?spaces defined not by regional or national government but global. He concludes that globalization is enabled by advanced communication, emails and world-wide-web. In his language, “Much of today’s globality is an ‘e-world’ of e-commerce, e-friendship, e-government, and e-mail” (Scholte, 2005, p.68).

From this perspective, “an intersection of global and other special qualities” would not mean the same as Scholte suggests but an increase interactions in different spaces enabled by advanced communication, emails and world-wide-web. This claim means that globalization is not an Empire, but globalization is taking place in your office, your room, indeed anywhere you are at any time. You only need a computer with an internet connection to be global. You could do business anywhere in the world without the need to apply for travel visas and you could harm others or be harmed without ever leaving your room. The limit of what you can do with your internet connection is determined not mainly by any regional or national government but within the global institutions. This paper sides with an intersection of global and other special qualities perspective. Globalization takes place in a wide variety of spaces, whether actual or virtual but accompanied with increasing interaction. Because language, distance and territory, which traditionally have separated the people of different lands, prolonged business negotiation, hindered interaction and prevented the dissemination of information no longer matter due to cyberspace. Therefore, as the barriers are lifted, we see the increasing movement of people; transnational corporations expanding economic activities, more economic and political interactions exist and awareness of common problems. Increasingly, the policy of global institutions such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) among others are not only been shaped by the United States and the European Union but Brazil, China and India among others are increasingly influencing it as well (Zakaria et al., 2008).

Hence, the impact of globalization differs in different spaces and societies, and that reflect the different views on globalization. The combinations of these perspectives, information age, transnational movement and an intersection of global and other special qualities would be helpful in understanding the impact of globalization on the development thinking and societies using two examples, economic liberalization and sustainable development.


Economic liberalization and globalization

In the era of globalization, governance still takes place in different places and in different levels, but the rules of trade, finance and investment are more homogenized and adherence to agreements is more easily monitored due to the flow of information. Most government institutions in the world today have established web presences and provide concrete information about their activities, whether their claims are true or false to increase their chances to interact with others. Most countries in the world today accept the neo-liberal economic policy what Arestis (2005), speaking the language of Williamson refers to as,

“the Washington Consensus or Ten Commandments: (1) fiscal discipline, (2) reordering; public expenditure priorities, (3); tax reform, (4); liberalizing interest rate, (5); liberalization of inward foreign direct investment, (6);  trade liberalization, (7); a competitive exchange rate trade, (8); privatization, (9); deregulation, and (10) property rights.” (p. 252).

It does not matter whether they are actually adhering to the Washington Consensus or taking the Ten Commandments seriously, but most governments want to associate with global institutions such as the UN, the WB, the IMF and the WTO among others. It is in these institutions where policies that shape and support globalization are made not in the United States. However, the capacity of the US to influence global policies is not in doubt, and also the capacity of the European Union to do the same is not in doubt and the capacity of Brazil, China, India and Russia to influence global policies is never in doubt. And as such world policies are shaped from different places; there is no one single Empire.

The world policies encourage the global penetration of transnational corporations (TNCs) to pursue their corporate interests in any country that is a member of the United Nations.

For example, most governments have established special economic zones for manufacturing activities known as export processing zones (EPZs) in order to attract foreign direct investment, and TNCs are located in the EPZs. In an EPZ, the host country’s prevailing labor standards may not apply, and TNCs may be exempted from adhering to environmental standards or paying typical corporate taxes and enjoy comparative benefits  in other areas such as free trade for imports and exports, infrastructure support and locational convenience for re-export (Dicken, 2007).  Information flow and interaction have enabled a single product designed by a TNC in the US to connect workers in India, Malaysia and Taiwan working simultaneously to make the final product available in the global market (McMichael, 2008). “EPZs are one of the features centrally associated with globalization and it is there the TNCs are manufacturing the world’s products such as computers, electronics, mobile phones, shoes, garments and toys, etc” (pp. 92-96).

Globalization has opened the door for increased foreign trade and foreign direct investment in third world countries that have good and functional infrastructure, highly skilled manpower and enjoy relative peace (Dollar and Kraay, 2002). And as such, most of the foreign direct investments go to a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. According to UNODC (2005), “much of Africa is geographically separated from the major northern markets, and suffers from terms of trade that are to the continent’s disadvantage. African economies are also hampered by primary resource dependence”(p. v). Yet, due to availability of natural resources and cheap labor, investors from across the world are moving to sub-Saharan Africa to acquire large hectares of agriculture lands for the cultivation of biofuel plants and production (Oane, 2011; Matondi et al., 2011; Cotula et al., 2011; Sparks, 2012).

Meanwhile, the country that enjoys the highest volume of foreign trade and foreign direct investments such as China is faced with increasing inequality which translates to another level of poverty. From China, Zhang and Zhang (2003) in their empirical investigations found that increasing regional inequality in China is associated with foreign trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). Nevertheless, the presence or absence of TNCs in a country does not spare any country from experiencing increasing inequality. TNCs’ influence is not limited to any regional or national territory but they influence the world from a single location. From transnational movement perspective, it means that capital permits TNCs to acquire lands from any country where lands are given out for free in the name of an EPZ or purchase existing government corporations anywhere in the world in the name of privatization. They can hire cheap labor in one country and avoid costly labor in another in the name of liberalization. TNCs’ products could be found in all countries across the world and used by both rich and poor such as mobile phones, computers, shoes, toys among others. These products could reach global users but not global sellers because much of today’s globality is enabled by “an ‘e-world’ of e-commerce” (Scholte, 2005, p.68). And as such, the current wave of globalization has no doubt created a few winners and majority losers. In essence, the pursuit of corporate profit has created an unequal world of great poverty and great wealth.

TNCs are perennially searching for countries where profits on investments are more lucrative than others in order to maximize their initial capital investments within the shortest possible period, and if uncertainty arises in the future of their host economies, they can pull their capital out without notice. This kind of behavior was blamed for the collapse of East Asian economies in the 1990s, when TNCs – within 72 h of receiving speculative news from the currency market about the likely crises in the Thailand, South Korean and Taiwanese economies – quickly withdrew their capital and banks collapsed (Dicken, 2007). Orestes (2005) attributes it to a failure of the structural adjustment reforms. He argues that all the developing countries that implemented the structural adjustment reforms based on an early financial liberalization aspect of the Washington Consensus in the 1980s or the “revised” Washington Consensusin the 1990s had problem stabilizing their financial market. In fact, that it rather destabilized their economies; among them are “Columbia, Uraguay, and Venezuela in the early 1970s, Malaysia in the late 1970s, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico in the mid- to late 1970s, Turkey and Israel in the 1980s, the Philippines and Indonesia in the early 1980s, and later in the 1990s along with other South Asian countries, for example, Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea” (p. 264).

Nevertheless, Wallerstein (2000) believes that the failure of the Asian economies and others elsewhere in the 1980s and 1990s were signs of the capitalist system in crises. It usually happens in order to usher in a new circle of transnational movement. Others believe that the pursuit of corporate profit by the TNCs may be threatening global security due to increasing poverty and inequality in the global South (Burnell and Randall, 2008: 42, 219, 321). According to UNODC (2005), “Income inequality is one of the most robust quantitative correlates of official crime rates, and Africa is home to some of the most unequal countries in the world: on average, the richest 10% earn 31 times more than the poorest 10%” (p.ix). Though the idea of development that Dudley Seers captured in his 43-year-old definition as reducing poverty, unemployment and inequality (Desai and Potter, 2008) is far from being realized even today but the focus has shifted to the development that should be able to provide the needs for the present and future generations or what come to be known as “Sustainable development.” Next section examines what is happening to Sustainable development with the lens of globalization thesis.


[1] Scholte(2005) suggests transplanetary to mean increase interaction of people through web based communication(Social media). In his language “more people, more often, more extensively and more intensely engage with planetary arena as a single social place. Volumes of transworld associations, communications, diseases, finance, investment, travel and trade have never been as great.” (p.61)

[2] Scholte(2005) describes supraterritorial as “cumulatively, all of the global communication, global travel, global production, global consumption, global money, global finance, global organization, global military, global ecology, global health, global law and global consciousness …” (pp. 73-74).



The Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) popularly known as the report of the Brundt land Commission defines ‘Sustainable development’ as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs” (UNEP, 2010, p. 38). The idea became popular in 1987 with the release of the Commission’s report, Our Common Future (UNEP, 2010). From Information Age and integration approach, since 1990 the World Bank has responded to support sustainable development initiatives by creating an institution known as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and identified four priority areas: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from automobiles and burning forests; promoting biodiversity mainly in tropical forests; reducing pollution in international waters and curbing ozone-layer depletion (McMichael, 2008).

However, out of the four, biodiversity protection received 50% of the funding approved for the first phase of the projects. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), through the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), encouraged national governments to allow commercial agriculture, especially in countries where natural resources are abundant and lands suitable for commercial logging are available.

From the perspective of transnational movement approach, the developing countries with large populations, their governments used force eviction to remove the native populations who had occupied the lands for generations in order to make way for foreign investors to take over the lands for commercial farming (McMichael, 2008).For example, in Brazil 44% of the agricultural lands belongs to less than one percent of the population and 32 million people are officially certified destitute. In South East Asia, the estimated figure of forest dwellers is between 200 and 300 million; these people are regarded as second-class citizens by their own countries and are given a range of names in each country. In India, forest dwellers are called  ‘scheduled tribes’ or ‘adivasis’, Thailand ‘hill tribes’, Indonesia isolated and alien peoples, Taiwan ‘aboriginal tribes’, and Malaysia ‘aborigines,’ among others (p. 242).

The pursuit of corporate profit minimized the expected gain of sustainable development. Sustainable development in other word means sustainable consumption and production (SCP). ‘SCP’ is defined as “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations” (UNEP, 2010, p. 44). However, the current phase of neoliberal development is unsustainable both in its method and operation. In terms of operation, a passage in a report by the International Labor Organization (2012) titled Working Towards Sustainable Development reads, “The current develop-ment model is also inefficient as regards productive employment and decent work. It has failed to create sufficient decent work opportunities and has generated increasing systemic instability induced by the financial sector, which has high costs for enterprises and workers in the real economy” (p. vii).

In terms of method, information Age and Integration approach reminds us that after over a decade of repeated calls for sustainable development, investors are now responding by developing alternative technologies that would be environmentally friendly. For example, Timmer (2003) in his Presidential lecture “Biotechnology and Food Systems in Developing Countries” argues that biotechnology has the potential to offer the world double benefits, what he calls a “double green revolution.” Timmer insists that biotechnology is environmentally sustainable, ensuring economic growth and greater food production. He claims that with biotechnology, farmers could grow food in the desert, reduce hazardous chemicals and increase productivity. He adds that biotechnology will solve the problems of “salinity, aluminum toxicity and chronic drought” (Ibid: 3319-3320). In his view, the “genetic revolution will continue no matter what the result of the biotechnology debate”. (p.3319). Similarly, ILO (2012: viii) believes that ‘greening the economy’ is the answer to sustainable development. It will lead to increase employment and reduction in job loss in every country, but especially in the industrialized countries.

The transnational movement approach disagrees, the potential of biotechnology to contribute to poverty reduction, employment and environmental sustainability remains in doubt. For example, recent empirical researches from sub-Saharan Africa show that the cultivation of biofuel plants requires arable land suitable for food crops and to feed cattle (Nhantumbo and Salomão, 2010; Cotula et al., 2011). Besides, the rural farmers in Tanzania who are incorporated in the supply chains of the biofuel companies have become chronically poor. In the words of Habib-Mintz (2010), “Often, these extremely poor farmers are able to cultivate only 2–4 acres of land with their hand tools and no irrigation, replacing their food crops like maize and cassava for a biofuels jatrophacrop” (p. 3990). Early, Jacques Diouf, the Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations during the World Summit on Food Security in Rome (16-18 November 2009) called the world poor “our tragic achievement”, an indication that the measures adopted to achieve sustainable development since the 1980s no doubt have harmed the poor. Diouf stresses the need to produce food where the poor and hungry live and to boost agricultural investment in these regions. For Rosset (2009), the spread of biotechnology is even a threat to livelihood security of the small farmers. He advocates for ‘food sovereignty’, which means that every country should manage its own food production in line with local requirements.  In essence, Rosset would prefer that the global food trade should return to the 1960s and 1970s, an era of a dependency approach where protectionism was the overarching policy of international trade.  In this era of globalization, free trade plays an important role for the development of any country. 

Rosset has forgotten, however, that food sovereignty is possible only if states are not dependent on others in ways distinct from agriculture. But third world countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa are not sovereign because sovereignty is not mainly flying national flags with many colors but technology and economic powers which give a voice to the leaders. The world leading nations are sovereign because they possess both technological and economic powers in the era of globalization. For example, the United States and many European countries are sovereign nations and as such could protect their farmers even if in debt, but most third world countries are debtors to the IMF and World Bank and as such are obliged to follow conditions of those loans (Desai and Potter, 2008; Allen and Thomas, 2000). Since they need to service their loans, their focus is not on growing indigenous food crops to feed their populations, but to grow export crops like coffee, cocoa, groundnut, banana and sugar among others (Nhantumbo and Salomão, 2010; Habib-Mintz, 2010). FAO, in a special report titled “Greening the economy with climate-smart agriculture” notes that because economies of most third world countries at both the micro and macro levels depend on agriculture (FAO, 2012), therefore, there is no means of escape from dependency. Countries that mainly depend on their natural resources will undoubtedly receive more of the deficit of globalization than its benefits and that would include high unemployment, increasing poverty and the states would remain the periphery of all the countries that are globalizing which include the advanced world but also Brazil, China and India among others.

From an intersection of global and other special qualities perspective, despite the challenges, there is increasing interaction among various stakeholders on how to achieve sustainable development. For example, a United Nations collaborative programme known as UN REDD?Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation is aimed at abating deforestation and degradation in the developing countries in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission. Environmental scientists warned that deforestation and degradation of rainforest contribute up to 17 - 20% to Ozone layer depletion during the period 1990 to 2000 (Pfaff et al., 2010; Corbera and Schroeder, 2011; McDermott et al., 2012). Besides, a joint report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (2011) note that the world has warmed by about 0.8?C from pre-industrial levels. Quote from that report reads,

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agreed that warming should not exceed 2?C above pre-industrial levels and scientific evidence and new analyses demonstrate that  control  of  black  carbon  particles  and  tropospheric ozone through rapid implementation of proven emission reduction measures would have immediate and multiple benefits for human well-being” (UNEP and WMO, 2011, p.1).

It is assumed that not cutting down trees and burning bushes will retain carbon stocks that otherwise would have emitted into the atmosphere which deplete the ozone layer (Corbera and Schroeder, 2011; Thompson et al., 2011; Nielsen, 2014). The UN has gone further to introduce the UN-REDD+ mechanism which hopes to achieve a 25 percent reduction in annual global deforestation rates between 2010 to 2015, if an estimated funding between US$22-38 billion is available to support a results-based incentives, capacity building, complemented by other bilateral and multilateral REDD+ efforts (The UN-REDD, 2013). The REDD+ programme received important supports in May 2010 with the establishment of the interim and country-led REDD+ Partnership and the first financial pledges to implement REDD+ was over US$4 billion. The pledge was made at the fifteenth round of the United Nations Climate Change Conference known as “Conference of the Parties (COP-15)” held in Copenhagen, Denmark on 30 December 2009 (pp. 2-6). Therefore, increasing interaction is enabled by globalization, which helps to keep focus on a sustainable environment.


From the above discussion, it is evident that the manifestation of globalization cannot be explained by using a single approach but diverse approaches. Globalization does not mean Empire, economic boom, economic collapse or crisis in diverse places but information age and integration, transnational movement and an intersection of global and other special qualities. Though the United States is influential in shaping the world economy and politics but the World Economy and Politics are shaping the United States as well because Brazil, China and India among others who are globalizing have become influential in shaping the policies of the UN, the WB, the IMF and the WTO. Hence, there is no single Empire headed by the United States but these phenomena are a capitalist system contradiction that has to be managed in some ways in order to hope for peace and progress in a divided world.

Globalization produces both winners and losers. The winners are few in the South but losers are the majority; in the North, the winners are the majority while the few are the losers. Berberoglu (2008) asserts that the growth of the US transnational investment abroad in 1950 amounted to a mere $19 billion, whereas by 2005, it had reached nearly $10 trillion, while US corporate profits increased from less than $75 billion in 1970 to $1.4 trillion in 2005: “This level of investment and profits by U.S. corporations, especially abroad, illustrate  the  magnitude of economic activity that global capitalism has come to achieve—one that requires a high level of protection by the imperial state” (p.2).

Yet, according to the United Nations Human Development Reportin 2006, the masses of the South (more than 2.6 billion people) are making less than $2 per day, with over 800 million malnourished and 1.2 billion lacking access to safe drinking water. Nevertheless, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in Asia but the fundamental and pervasive problems of poverty, exclusion and inequality persist in spite of unprecedented economic growth (HDR, 2006). By contrast, less than 5% of the world’s population (primarily in the US) accounts for 30% of all income and 25% of all energy consumption. The losers in the era of globalization are invariably found among the masses of the South. There is no third world country featured in the Esping-Andersen (1990)’s  analysis of the welfare state; the only alternative to welfare benefits for third world countries is built on the so-called poverty reduction initiatives like the Millennium Development initiative known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This initiative is supported by foreign aid, a miniscule amount of support that does nothing to alter the situation of those living in poverty.


The author has not declared any conflict of interests.


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