Newsletter Sen on globalization Tuesday, 19 May Globalization is not global westernization according to Amartya Sen in his article "How to judge globalism". There is no time like the present, when globalization is getting a bad rap because of the financial crisis, to recall some of his arguments. For Sen, globalization is neither new, nor entirely western, nor a curse. But its benefits are not shared fairly. That is the problem to be tackled. Thanks to India, the decimal system was developed between the second and sixth centuries.
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Newsletter Sen on globalization Tuesday, 19 May Globalization is not global westernization according to Amartya Sen in his article "How to judge globalism". There is no time like the present, when globalization is getting a bad rap because of the financial crisis, to recall some of his arguments.
For Sen, globalization is neither new, nor entirely western, nor a curse. But its benefits are not shared fairly. That is the problem to be tackled. Thanks to India, the decimal system was developed between the second and sixth centuries. It was picked up by Arab mathematicians and then reached Europe in the 10th century, where it played an important role in the scientific revolution that transformed Europe.
So the globalization of science and technology is as old as the hills, and the West should be grateful for this -- as much as the East should be proud! Globalization is the product of our global heritage. Sure, western history is unique with the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the development of the New World.
But there is a chain of intellectual relations that link Western mathematics and science to non-western practitioners like the 9th century Arab mathematician Mohammad Ibn Musa-al-Khwarizmi. The term algebra is derived from the title of his famous book Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah. And then there are globalized events which did not even touch the West. The technology was Chinese. And it was translated into Chinese by a half-Turk! So resistance to the globalization of ideas, science and knowledge, on the basis that it is westernization, is not only short-sighted, it is stupid!
The prosperity and development of the West is due in good part to its openess to the East. Globalization has been a blessing, not a curse, to all countries which have embraced it. It is easy to forget that the West was mired in poverty until the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. And more recently in East Asia, remarkable reductions in poverty have been achieved by countries which have opened up to global markets and knowledge. For Sen, the real issue is inequality both between and within countries.
Everyone is better off. However, in the face of such appalling poverty and staggering inequalities, can we say that there is a fair distribution of the benefits of globalization? There is an urgent need for both international and national reforms to improve the distribution of the benefits of globalization.
Internationally, we need fair trade, medical initiatives, educational exchanges, technological dissemination, ecological and environmental restraints, and fair treatment of accumulated debts incurred by irresponsible military leaders of the past. Other issues include improving access to lifesaving drugs for diseases like AIDS, and the global trade in arms and weapons which feed local wars and military conflicts.
That is, he agrees with them that something must be done. But that soemthing is not stopping globalization, but improving the sharing of its benefits.
Western governments and multinational enterprises are the usual targets of anti-globalization campaigners.
How to Judge Globalism
Print Globalization is often seen as global Westernization. On this point, there is substantial agreement among many proponents and opponents. Those who take an upbeat view of globalization see it as a marvelous contribution of Western civilization to the world. There is a nicely stylized history in which the great developments happened in Europe: First came the Renaissance, then the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, and these led to a massive increase in living standards in the West. And now the great achievements of the West are spreading to the world.