Globalization is nice, but……

Most people endorse free trade, multinational corporations and free markets, but they are also concerned about inequality, threats to their culture, threats to the environment, and threats posed by immigration, depending on which country you come from.

These latest findings of the latest Pew Global Project Attitudes survey of more than 45,000 people in 47 countries are not startling, but in fact a sober confirmation of what many political analysts and economists have been saying all along. Globalization is accepted as inevitable today, and how you respond to it depends on how you are impacted by it.

Thus India and China whose economies are benefiting from large scale outsourcing of software and contract manufacturing from the US, Europe, and other countries, are positive about economic globalization. “There is near universal approval of global trade among the publics of rising Asian economic powers China and India”, reports the Pew Research Center.

In contrast, “there are signs that enthusiasm for economic globalization is waning in the West — Americans and Western Europeans are less supportive of international trade and multinational companies than they were five years ago”, according to the survey results released October 4.

As Americans and Europeans find their jobs moving to India, as multinational companies look for lower cost locations, they are bearing the brunt of economic globalization, and they are not unexpectedly resenting it.

Even as the response to economic globalization is along expected lines, there are some worrisome pointers too. In nearly every country surveyed, people worry about losing their traditional culture and national identities, and they feel their way of life needs protection against foreign influences, according to the survey. They are also worried about immigration, and a lot of that worry comes from concerns about losing their culture and traditions, it added.

A number of authors including Benjamin R. Barber in “Jihad vs. McWorld” have said that confronting “McWorld tied together by technology, ecology, communications, and commerce” is Jihad defined by the resurgence of “parochial identities”.

Until recently, it was thought that the re-assertion of parochial cultures and identities was primarily happening in the Middle East, Asia, and part of the Balkans, buffeted by globalization and multinational companies aiming at global homogenization and neutralizing local culture, in favor of mass-produced culture, usually of American origin.

The assertion of local identities has now spread to the West too where sections of traditional populations feel alienated and threatened by the culture of migrants. Even in the US there have been reports of small towns trying to control the expanding influence of Hispanic culture. In Germany, a proposal for a new mosque sparked of a debate on the rights of Muslim women, and the need to meld Islamic and local, predominantly Christian, culture.

Fully eight-in-ten in Italy and 72 percent in Spain agree that their way of life needs protection from foreign influence, according to Pew Research. Narrow majorities in Great Britain (54 percent) and Germany (53 percent) agree that their way of life needs protection. Opinions are almost evenly divided in France, a country famous for vigilantly protecting its language and culture, according to the survey. In the US and Canada 62 percent believe that their way of life must be protected.

Even as the world wants to be economically close knit, it still wants to be culturally separate and maintain its identity. That could potentially be a source of tension and conflict moving forward.

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