This essay will discuss the effect that the phenomena of globalisation has had on the world’s political stage. Whilst the term globalisation can be hard to define this essay will take the view that it explains an increasing interconnectedness between international communities through political, economic and cultural influences (Held, et al., 1999, p. 2) (Schirato & Jen, c2003, p. 21), dominated by the West. World politics, otherwise known by the term global politics usefully depicts the expansion of political relations across space and time; the broadening of political power and activity across the borders of the modern nation-state (Held, et al., 1999, p. 49). This essay will argue from a structural realist stance, in line with the work of Waltz who is argued to have revived the realist movement (Hall, 2013), that power is the most important factor in world politics motivated by the conditions of the international system and that this does not cause but instead builds upon existing disorder in world politics. Furthermore, economic interdependency fuelled by globalisation not only tends to instigate disorder but increases the likeliness of international conflict as states search for security. In the following paragraphs this essay will first analyse the economic opportunities being created by globalisation and how this is worsening a power imbalance amongst an anarchic international system. Secondly this essay will explain the structural realist theory and analyse why it can explain disorder in world politics. Finally, this essay will look at the existence of disorder due to the threat of conflict amongst states and how the role of NATO, created to resolve political disorder is failing as a result of globalisation.
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Globalisation is increasing the power imbalance in the international system. “Power is based on the material capabilities that a state control.” (Mearsheimer, 2010). This includes not only the economic resources a state possesses but also its military might. There has always been a power imbalance concerning military and economy capabilities of a state as for colonialism and imperialism to have taken place one state has to dominate another. What globalisation has done is increase this disparity by providing already powerful states with the opportunity to gain more power and stripping opportunities from less economically developed countries (LEDCs). First in the case of economy LECDs are initially portrayed to benefit by attracting the business of large multinational companies which is resulting in a decrease in poverty with the creation of jobs and an increase in GDPs. However, LEDCs are often finding themselves exploited by more economically developed countries (MEDCs) as manufacturing is moved abroad to benefit from cheaper labour due to either there being no minimum wage implemented or minimum wages being a lot lower than in the country where the company originates. A key example of this is Taiwan which is not a sovereign state and instead recognised as a protectorate of China. This has allowed China to dominate the economic and political scene by insuring that Taiwan is not recognised as independent and therefore not at the top of international hierarchy as a state. However due to increasing economic interdependence, globalisation has also dramatically increased the risk of one country entering economic failure and taking everyone else down with them. Realism argues that economic relations is merely another way to obtain power (Barbieri, 1996, p. 33). Therefore, increased economic opportunities can further contribute to inequality regarding international power which in turn promotes disorder in world politics.
Structural realism is a theory created by Kenneth Waltz (Waltz, 1979) that both shares and disagrees with aspects of classical realism. Mutually classical realists and structural realists agree that power is very important but have different understandings about the motivation behind it. Classical looks towards human nature and individual political actors as having a primal instinct to reach for power. For, example they would view the increase of Russia’s international power because of Putin’s and other state actors, personal campaign and ambitions. Whilst on the other hand, the structuralist approach argues that the aspect of human nature is insignificant about why states want power (Mearsheimer, 2010, p. 72). Instead it is the anarchic state, without a central governing authority ranked higher than that of a sovereign state, of the international system which forces states to pursue power as it is simply rational for every state to acquire enough power to defend itself if it is attacked. This system creates competition as states are forced to compete if they wish to survive. If a state fails to establish security, they can become overpowered by another both economically and territorially. This links to increased political disorder as globalisation has increased the rate of innovation which in turn has amplified global competition and economic power being available. A positive aspect of this is that without such competition there would be no requirement for innovation which has led to breakthroughs in medical research and invention. However, this can also be a negative consequence of globalisation as before the MEDCs would have to travel for this innovation but still leaving the core ideas with the original country but now due to increasing global mobility and as MEDCs are already regarded as ahead regarding innovation, they become beacons for intellectual migration leaving LEDCs without the opportunity to catch-up. Consequently, as for structural realists, power is a means to an end, and the ultimate end is survival, as globalisation is causing a greater imbalance of the power, innovation equates to economic prosperity, it is therefore endangering LECDs survival.
Power is biggest player in world politics. When the power of one state becomes too much defensive structural realism asserts that other states will unite in a collective alliance. Key examples of this include, the allied powers and Allies of WWI and WWII and the creation of NATO in 1949. NATO itself states that it “is committed to the principle that an attack against one or several of its members is considered as an attack against all. This is the principle of collective defence” (NATO, n.d.) The problem with NATO is that it then creates the distinction between states inside the alliance and states out with. Russia is therefore the “opponent”. Though NATO assures that it imposes no offensive threat, as the alliance spreads East with a growing sense of global interconnectedness and Russia begins to question the security of her borders and structural realism argues that she will look to affirm these borders with a significant gain and establishment of power. This is causing significant tensions in global politics. However, as Trump openly promotes US-American relations it can be argued that structural realism may be wrong in its dismissal of individual political actors. In rebut this essay will counter argue that as America passes the baton of global leadership to China (Monck, 2018) the state is recognising that it has spent the years following WWII helping establish international organisations as a consequence of globalisation and not focusing on self-made industry. Consequently, structural realism argues that it is predictable that America should look to establish greater independent national security and increase the material and economic opportunities as it loses industry to China. Therefore, it is not the agenda of a single political actor, Trump is instead the personification of the pressures of the anarchic system spurned by the economic demands of globalisation that are causing this political disorder.
In conclusion globalisation not only tends to cause more political disorder but outrightly increases international tensions and inequality. The economic impact of globalisation
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